EACS schools chief announces retirement

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East Allen County Schools Superintendent Kenneth Folks will retire after this school year. Folks announced his decision at a School Board meeting April 11.

The board issued a statement thanking Folks for his service and announced its goal to have a new superintendent in place by next school year.

Folks said he will leave the office June 30. “It is bittersweet for me because although I am looking forward to spending more time with Kay, and to the new challenges that I am sure await me out there, it is sad for me to leave East Allen,” he said in a statement. “Even though only four of my 36 years in education were spent here, East Allen is very special to me. I am very proud of the impact our board and our staff has had on East Allen during my tenure.”

New Haven Mayor Terry E. McDonald said Folks has elevated the reputation of the school district.

“We can say with enthusiasm that East Allen County Schools is a top-notch program and we’re always improving,” McDonald said. “Dr. Folk and his staff and the building administrators are always striving to find new ways to help the city be successful. As a constituent and graduate, that’s the way it always was. But we’ve got it back and Ken Folks has had a lot do do with that.”

School Board President Bob Nelson issued a statement on behalf of the board, which also includes Chris Baker, Todd Buckmaster, Gayle Etzler, Tim Hines, Terry Jo Lightfoot and Paulette Nellems: “… we would like to publicly thank Dr. Ken Folks for his service to East Allen County Schools and wish him the best of luck on his retirement. Ken, through his leadership, enthusiasm and energy, has returned EACS to a level of distinction that has not been achieved for some time. This board would also like to thank Ken for being our friend and for always administering an open door policy.”

Also addressing the replacement process, the board set a goal of developing criteria, meeting with service staff and the central administration, and posting and marketing the position by April 28.

“The board takes the process of placing a new superintendent very seriously and is committed to conducting a search that is as open and transparent as possible,” the board statement said. “The board will not rush this process as we strive to find the best candidate to lead the school district. Rather than adhering to a strict time line, we have set time frames for reasonable objectives we would like to see materialize.”

Screening of applicants is to begin May 29, with interviews beginning in June. A new superintendent will be named in midsummer, or an interim superintendent will be appointed — if necessary — on July 31. The 2017-18 school year begins Aug. 8.

“EACS has an exceptional and dedicated staff in place and we are very confident in its ability to lead us through this process until another superintendent is named,” the board’s statement said. The board pledged to search within the staff and among outside candidates.

“It has been a privilege to have had the opportunity to be part of the great accomplishments we have made over the past few years,” Folks said in his announcement. “I know you took a chance four years ago when you hired me, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your superintendent. It has been a life-changing experience for me. I wish you all the best moving forward into the next era in East Allen, and I am confident that this board will continue to make decisions that are best for kids!”

Mayor McDonald said he worked with Folks on many projects, including the pending New Haven school building improvements. “I’ve had quite a bit of input with Dr. Folks on that issue,” McDonald said. The mayor also cited progress on an entrepreneurship program for all EACS high schools seniors. “He’s been very instrumental in helping to get that started for the 2018 school year,” McDonald said.

“I would say that he has been a pleasure to work with and he’s made a big impact in the short amount of time he’s been with us and has helped us to build the reputation of East Allen County Schools and the quality of our education. I think he’s very highly respected in East Allen and in education circles.

“One of the first things I noticed about Dr. Folks was his willingness to talk with anyone about anything. He was never afraid to talk with somebody about their concerns about a policy or the direction of the school, and I consider him a friend to our community.”

McDonald, whose city has marked several economic development accomplishments, said quality schools are essential to recruiting those industries. “Employers want to know that the education system where they’re going to locate is going to be good for their employees and they’re going to find a solid base of future employees,” McDonald said. “And they want to know that their tax dollars are being used properly.”

New Haven Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Charlie Hatten applauded Folks for his focus on networking. “He was everywhere, and if I asked him to go someplace he never, ever said no,” Hatten said. “The person who comes in (to that job) is going to inherit a very well run organization.

In April 2016, state Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, appointed Folks to a 23-member panel tasked with recommending an alternative to the state-mandated ISTEP exam.

Folks became EACS superintendent in August 2013, after serving as an assistant superintendent for the Marion Community Schools, where he helped to improve the district’s state rankings. He came to East Allen pledging to continue that same focus on academics. In the most recent round of grades, the State Board of Education awarded EACS a “B” grade, the same mark awarded to Northwest Allen County Schools and the Southwest Allen County Schools.

Folks has been visible at many school school functions and has represented the schools in the community, including at parades and as an adviser to the seven-community NewAllen Alliance.

Folks is a native of Allen County, and a former Northwest Allen County Schools principal.

Folks replaced Karyle Green, who had been superintendent just under four years. Green now is principal at Cocoa Beach (Fla.) Jr./Sr. High School.