Dr. Scott Robison’s Impending Retirement: In His Own Words
Over the past decade plus, I’ve had the pleasure of reporting on several Zionsville Community School (ZCS) district matters and have sat down with ZCS Superintendent Dr. Scott Robison and several members of his leadership staff, including ZCS Associate Superintendent Rebecca Coffman, for countless discussions.
As announced after the ZCS board of trustees regular meeting in June, Coffman is poised to succeed Dr. Robison as superintendent when he retires Feb. 1, 2023, as confirmed by board vote at the meeting.
I sat down with Dr. Robison and asked him to share his reflections on the goals achieved throughout his tenure that began June 2006, as well as his insight on what issues and challenges lie ahead for ZCS and for his successor.
Upon Reflection of His Tenure at ZCS
“It’s hard to not be bullish about the Zionsville Community Schools,” Dr. Robison stated. “It is such a resourceful and well-resourced community. From my experience, working in a lot of different communities in Indiana, this tends to yield high quality first teachers in terms of parents—who are the first teachers of young people and then the handoff happens as school begins.”
Dr. Robison emphasized that he and the entire ZCS try to match those hopes and dreams that parents have for their children with teachers who “nurture the notions of helping young people become well-rounded individuals.”
“What I have seen in the 16 years here, is that [ZCS] is a resilient community,” Dr. Robison said. “When I do leave [ZCS], I will have a big smile because I can remain bullish on ZCS and that’s just a wonderful thing, given the challenges that everyone in this community has seen and everyone in this world has seen.”
Hitting The Marks While Pushing Through The Challenges
During his tenure, Dr. Robison has worked with the ZCS Board throughout some historically challenging times.
“I am most proud of the team and the ‘team’ includes elected board members who had the right notions about the robustness of this community school district and making sure that it stayed strong and was on the right trajectory,” Dr. Robison stated. “We built an administrative team—all appointees—and we work at the pleasure of the elected board who have had to make some really tough decisions.”
Dr. Robison and the ZCS Board have had to navigate property tax reform, passing operating referenda, the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. I, myself, spent several hours over the years meeting with both Dr. Robison and the late, long-serving ZCS chief financial officer Michael “Mike” Shafer learning about the school funding formula and its many shortcomings as well as why the operating referenda are essential to the health of the district and quality of education for our community’s school-age children.
“Funding is always the foremost challenge, given that almost 40% of our teachers and those people who deliver the core mission are paid from an operating referendum,” Dr. Robison shared. “That’s the way the state decided funding occurs for local so-called ‘traditional’ public schools, and so that’s the way we must do it.”
Dr. Robison continued, “Difficult [matters] such as redistricting and adopting a new calendar are never fun. I’ve always said about [school] calendars and having done maybe 25 or 30 over my career is that you can put 10, 15 or 100 people in a room about [planning] a calendar and those folks won’t agree that the sky is up let alone which day gets on the calendar. It is a hotly contested and personal issue for a lot of people. A lot of considerations have to be made and you can’t make all of those come out in the wash—just like redistricting. We welcome so many new people every year and redistricting was a fact—just like a beautiful fact of Trailside Elementary and the renovation and addition of the high school. These are good things and are bellwethers of positives. In the future, people still want to be here.”
Dr. Robison reflected over many of the district’s achievements as well as the many challenges that it still faces as the transition from one superintendent to the next has begun. Issues such as growth within the district, school funding, mental health, student health and student safety remain at the top of the priority list for the school administrators and board members.
Dr. Robison expressed his confidence in Coffman’s leadership abilities and is pleased with the board’s vote to have her succeed him as superintendent upon his official retirement in early 2023. Dr. Robison explained that he will be working in tandem with Coffman at the start of the next school year, the opening of Trailside Elementary School and up until his last day at ZCS, ensuring a seamless transition.
When asked what he is most proud of, Dr. Robison shared, “At the end of the day, what I am proudest of is that we have continued to build a team of people whose mission is to serve students and help them grow. The [students] do not grow at the same pace, and we have to calibrate for the individual needs of children. It’s really hard to do and we don’t always get it right as it is a human organization but, by gosh, we have focused—with the help of board members and parents—on having the right people to connect with the young people so that this remains an excellent school community. I’ve had a really good run. It’s been the joy of my career to work in the Zionsville Community Schools and I appreciate that opportunity.”