by Sarah Einselen Pharos-Tribune
---- — When Michele Starkey started teaching second grade at Fairview Elementary, she hadn’t planned on moving into administration.
But that’s just what she did five years later — and she’s still on the administrative end now, in her 21st year in the Logansport Community School Corporation.
Starkey, LCSC superintendent, was named Businesswoman of the Year last month by the Logansport-Cass County Chamber of Commerce after being nominated by a chamber member, then selected by a secret committee of other chamber members who were not part of the chamber’s board of directors.
Chris Armstrong, the chamber’s outgoing board president, congratulated Starkey at the chamber’s annual dinner where Armstrong presented Starkey the award.
“Michele Starkey is truly deserving of this award,” Armstrong said, alluding to Starkey’s involvement in the United Way of Cass County, an advisory board for Indiana University-Kokomo and the Logansport Rotary Club.
“She’s very passionate about what she does,” Armstrong added.
It was the second year in a row that the chamber’s Businesswoman of the Year award went to a representative of a nonprofit organization. In 2012, the award went to Joyce Mayhill, executive director of United Way of Cass County.
Nonprofits are not often recognized in the same class as for-profits. However, the schools operate on about $35 million per year, said Starkey, and follow the same fundamental principles.
“You need to be fiscally responsible. You need to have a strategic plan of where you’re going and how you’re getting there,” Starkey said, illustrating similarities to doing business in the for-profit sector.
Starkey, a 1987 graduate of Logansport High School, returned home in 1992 to teach. She’d chosen a career in education, she said, because “I like working with kids and people. Basically, that’s why.”
She hadn’t planned to switch to an administrative role, she said, but after a few years decided she should because of the larger impact she thought she might be able to make.
Now, as superintendent, she feels she has “arrived.”
“I love Logansport and I love this school corporation,” Starkey said. Not only is it her alma mater — she has two children, ages 10 and 14, now attending, too. “For me it’s not a stepping stone.”
“It’s more of, like a calling,” she explained. “I’m supposed to provide the stability and leadership for this school corporation.”
Starkey said she was “shocked” when chamber representatives walked into her office with balloons to inform her of her selection for one of the chamber’s highest awards.
“Getting awards is not something I ever think about,” she explained. “It’s not about me. It’s a reflection of the great people we have at the school corporation and all the great things going on.”
Since Starkey took the superintendent’s helm three years ago, she’s seen the schools take “great steps forward,” she said, including expanding opportunities for both at-risk and high-ability students, improving test scores and strengthening relationships with other organizations in the Logansport area.
The schools’ relationship with Four County Counseling Center, she explained, “has just blossomed over the past three years.” This year, the center installed staff counselors at Logansport High School, Lincoln Middle School and Columbia Middle School.
Relations between the school and local law enforcement have grown stronger, too, with the addition of several school resource officers and the launch of the PATHS program this year — “Police And Teachers Helping Students.” Through that program, one Logansport police officer rotates between the elementary schools conducting safety programs and building positive relationships between police and elementary students.
“That’s been a positive impact for everybody,” Starkey said.
One principle she says has influenced her work in the school corporation is treating people how she’d want to be treated herself.
“I think the best thing to do is follow the Golden Rule,” said Starkey. “I try to be a good listener, treat people with respect” — even if she doesn’t agree with them.
“Am I going to do everything right? No. But if I screw up, it’s not because I’m doing anything mean.”
She also tries to do her best, she added.
“If you’re going to do something, do it as best you can.”
Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME