Yorktown Community Schools – Yorktown, Indiana, Delaware County

June 27, 2024

Yorktown Community Schools

A top-rated public school district in central Indiana


Providing all students with an excellent educational opportunity

Yorktown Indiana, a town of just under 12,000, is located some 35 miles northeast of Indianapolis, and only six miles from Muncie, in Mount Pleasant Township, Delaware County. It’s a quiet, suburban community that evinces small-town Hoosier charm while also offering easy access to big-city amenities. Yorktown is also a relatively well-off and well-educated community. Over 95% of its adult population graduated high school and over 37% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Its median household income tops $76,000 per year. So, it’s not surprising that the town is also home to Yorktown Community Schools; a top-notch, high-performing school district.

Yorktown Community Schools serves approximately 2,800 students over four campuses: Pleasant View Elementary School (K-2), Yorktown Elementary School (3-5), Yorktown Middle School (6-8), and Yorktown High School (9-12). Its mission according to Superintendent, Dr. Greg Hinshaw, is “to provide all students an excellent educational opportunity. ‘Commitment, Excellence, and Opportunity’ – that is the vision statement we adopted some years ago,” he recounts.

The early years

In Yorktown Community Schools, the commitment to its students begins in a child’s earliest years, those between kindergarten and third grade, when they develop their foundational skills in reading, writing, math, science and technology, social studies, and language and literacy. Building a strong base early is critical to future academic success. For example, students who can read at grade level by third grade are more likely to graduate from high school than those who cannot.

In addition to staying abreast of the current research and literature on best practices for K-3 education, including what is known as PBL (Problem-Based Learning), Dr. David Sturgeon, the district’s Director of Education Initiatives, reports that Yorktown has been at the forefront of implementing Indiana’s most recent statewide science and reading legislation. “Our stated goal is a 95% passing rate for all third graders to be reading at third-grade level,” he avers. “We’re on the cusp of it; we fluctuate between 90 and 93%. And I believe our teachers and administrators have the passion and drive to do what we can to ensure that no student is left unserved.”

Leading the way in STEM education

In addition, STEAM education that integrates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM subjects) with the arts starts in elementary schools and continues through high school. “We have added a STEM special class at our elementary with art, music, and PE on the rotation,” notes Hinshaw. “And we now have a full-time STEM teacher on the elementary level. Every one of our general-ed elementary students has a STEM course nearly every year of elementary school at Yorktown. That is a commitment that has been made. And all of our general-ed teachers have been trained to implement STEM project-based learning in teaching the core curriculum in their regular classrooms.”

Yorktown also utilizes curricula created by Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a developer of an innovative project-based learning program that incorporates science, technology, engineering, and math. PLTW empowers students to develop and apply in-demand, transportable skills by exploring real-world challenges excitingly and engagingly while it also prepares and supports teachers as they strive to make every child in every grade STEM successful. “At our Middle School, we have three different PLTW opportunities for students,” Sturgeon shares. “In high school, we focus on engineering as one of the pathways of PLTW.”

Yorktown High School

At Yorktown High School, the academic opportunities are varied, as well as rigorous. “Yorktown has a very strong tradition with advanced placement,” Hinshaw says. “And Indiana has a real focus on dual enrollment. So, we work very hard to create a hybrid model that blends the advanced placement program with a dual-credit model. We are a dual-credit partner with Indiana University, which is a four-year, premier, world-class university. It allows students to complete 30 hours of college credit to be applied to any state university in the State of Indiana – the big four universities and all the other regional campuses that are state-funded take those credits. So, we have a really good process in place there. We don’t offer an Associate’s degree per se, but this is almost the equivalent of an Associate’s degree in terms of the number of credit hours.”

E-learning hits its stride

When COVID hit a few years back, many school districts across the country were not set up to implement e-learning options for homebound students and teachers. Fortunately, Yorktown schools were ready, having been one of the first districts in the state to set up e-learning protocols for anticipated snow days when schools would be closed. “So, when we had to pivot in March of 2020, we had the entire district under a plan within four days,” says Sturgeon. “Our teachers were positioned and had already been trained. Other districts that might not have been in the same position were greatly impacted by not being able to keep up consistently. We were very prepared.”

Luckily, Yorktown is also a 1:1 district, which means that each enrolled student has an electronic device to access the internet, digital course materials, and digital textbooks. “We’ve been a 1:1 district since the 2018-19 academic year,” explains Technology Integration Specialist, Jo Cox. “We’re the only district in our area that is an Apple District, as well, with all Apple devices – Ipads in K-5 and in 6 and above, we have MacBooks. We bought professional development through Apple; we brought them here in person to provide in-classroom training on the devices.”

Hinshaw agrees: “We have invested a lot of professional development and time and energy in making sure that our teachers are well-trained and equipped. So, it’s second nature to them to turn to the technology. We’re better at it now than we were in COVID. But in comparison to other districts in this region, we were much better prepared to seamlessly move to e-learning.”

Regarding the use of electronic devices, Cox maintains that it’s not only a tool for remote learning. “We put a lot of emphasis around problem-based learning and within that, students are allowed to be creators,” she shares. “I don’t believe in just consuming time on devices; that is problematic. Our efforts have been around students using technology for creative purposes, critical thinking, and the type of problem-solving that their teachers are promoting in classrooms. So, the expectations are high that students are not consuming; they’re creating with technology.”

Empowering teachers

The spirit of creativity in Yorktown also applies to the teaching staff. “We don’t want teachers to lose the sense of freedom and innovation,” Hinshaw proffers. “What I want is for every teacher to meet and exceed the minimum standard for their grade. That’s been an intentional effort. The other side of it is that we have invested in professional development that allows teachers to meet those standards in different and innovative ways. We want teachers to give real thought to how they can teach most effectively and to work to be innovative and inspiring. So, our philosophy is to try and recruit and retain the best, make sure that everybody understands what the core curriculum is, and then give them the freedom to teach in the way that they’ve been trained to.”

In addition to compensation levels that are the highest in east central Indiana, plus competitive benefits, Yorktown’s professional development options are responsible for a very low teacher turnover rate and a school system that is fully staffed. “We do not lose teachers to neighboring districts,” Hinshaw relates. “We’re a net importer of labor in that regard. We’ve had all of our teacher positions filled for years. And everybody has been fully licensed for the subjects they’re teaching. We’ve been fortunate to have had the resources to do that.”

“On teacher retention, and teachers that come into our district, I have many say that they were not allowed to learn in their former districts,” Cox adds. “That’s a draw for people because they know that they are going to get opportunities to learn — either here in the district or through grants to go to conferences. About six years ago, we developed something we call a personalized, professional learning platform for our teachers. We have four buildings, and for each of the buildings we put out a monthly calendar of offerings. Some of those are face-to-face; some of them are seminars; some of them are with companies; and some of them are online modules, where teachers can work at their own pace. I think that’s very important. Just like we like to give students ‘voice and choice,’ it gives teachers ‘voice and choice.’ And in that professional learning, we try and model ways that we would like to see teachers engage students. So we try to engage teachers at the same level. That has been popular. For instance, last year, our teachers attended 1,100 professional learning sessions throughout the year and that’s with a little over a hundred participants. So, we’re attending those sessions at a pretty high level. It’s a vast array of different offerings and it’s been popular.”

A priority on safety

School safety has become an overriding important issue over the last several years, and Yorktown is meeting the challenge. “When I came to Yorktown seven years ago, we did not have any safety resource officers in our district,” Hinshaw recounts. “Currently, we have a head SRO and we have an SRO in every one of our buildings. We require that our SROs be Level 1 Indiana Police Academy trained. All of them are also NASRO (the National Association of School Resource Officers) trained, and several of our SROs are SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) trained. So, that level of professionalism has increased.”

In terms of the schools’ physical characteristics, Hinshaw reports that the district plans to retrofit the front entrances of all four school buildings to provide better sight lines, better ability to isolate visitors as they enter the buildings, and enhanced scrutiny protocols. “We have recently implemented a new visitor system, so any visitor that comes into any school office is immediately checked into a system that runs a limited criminal history check on them and gives them a badge that expires at the end of their visit. And we upgraded our security cameras. We also can share those cameras with law enforcement, with whom we have a great relationship. They used one of our buildings for SWAT practice last summer.”

“In Indiana, every district has to designate someone as a Certified School Safety Specialist for the District,” Hinshaw continues. “The person we have is an administrator at the high school; he’s been in that role for well over a decade. And we have an additional four or five people who are also trained. You are only required to have one; we have four or five. So, it’s something that we take very seriously. We have the ‘I Love You Guys’ Reunification Protocol and all of the things required for that, and we have practiced that a couple of times. (The I Love U Guys Foundation’s programs for crisis response and post-crisis reunification are used in more than 50,000 schools, districts, departments, agencies, organizations, and communities around the world.) One time, we had a gas leak and had to dismiss early, so that gave us an opportunity to use the evacuation process and the reunification process. So we were assured that every student was sent home in the right way to the right person.”

Building for the future

Schools must grow as student populations increase, and Yorktown has experienced enrollment growth every year for about 14 years, except for a small decrease during COVID-19. The total capital investment in classrooms, office space, and better security has been about $55 million since 2018. “We’ve built an elementary gymnasium where there was none before, and our next project is going to be focused on our high school science labs, which will be renovated,” Hinshaw states. “And we’re also going to be improving some sports performance space and strengthen the conditioning space at our high school.”

Going forward, Hinshaw says that, in addition to the upcoming construction projects, the top focus in Yorktown will always be on student achievement: “In the K-5 setting, we were the recipient of an almost $300,000 early literacy grant from the State of Indiana. We have very high literacy scores, but that is just to bolster and shore them up and provide continuous improvement. In our middle and high school settings, my goal, always, is to try to provide as many opportunities for as many different kinds of kids as we can. For example, our Board just heard a report from our FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) and our FACS (Family and Consumer Science) teacher. And that’s a niche opportunity for kids to flourish in a way that they might not flourish somewhere else. At the same time, this is Indiana, and our boys’ basketball team just won the county tournament and beat our arch-rivals across the county. So, that’s an opportunity that those kids have to achieve differently.”

“This is a high school that graduates roughly 200 kids a year,” Hinshaw says, in conclusion. “And we have a senior who just signed to play softball at Yale. We have an undergraduate currently at Stanford, which is the hardest school to get into. We still have an undergraduate at Columbia and in recent years, we’ve had kids at all the military academies. We’ve had kids at the University of Chicago and Northwestern and all the Indiana schools you would think of. So, it’s about building a system that provides opportunities and places for kids to fit in, places for kids to be successful. That’s always our area of focus. We’ve got a $20 million building project in front of us, which will take time and energy, but the academic focus is always first.”


Yorktown Community Schools

WHAT: A top-notch public school district

WHERE: Yorktown, Indiana in Mount Pleasant Township, Delaware County

WEBSITE: www.yorktown.k12.in.us


Brown & Brown of Indiana – https://www.bbrown.com/us/

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