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Education was natural fit for Miltz

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Kathleen Miltz has been principal at Shelbyville High School for the past five years. Prior to that, she was the school’s assistant principal and spentone year working in the Shelbyville Central Schools office as the curriculum director.
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By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

It should be no surprise that Kathleen Miltz has devoted her career to education.

Her father taught at Howe High School in Indianapolis for more than 30 years in the science department, teaching chemistry and physics. And her mom was the secretary at the elementary school.

Miltz, the principal at Shelbyville High School, is one of seven children in her family.

She is the only one to become an educator, though.

“I was just in that environment from infancy on,” she said. “I think it just felt natural for me. It was just an occupation I felt comfortable in.”

She attended Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis, then went on to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. From there, she went to work in the Frankfort school district. Toward the end of her sixth year there, an administrator suggested she go into the administration to be an assistant principal.

“So it kind of sparked, ‘well maybe I could do this,’” she said.

She started working on her master’s degree and could have taken a job at Frankfort from a position that had recently been created. But the distance from her family convinced her to move closer to home, and she found a job as an assistant principal at Shelbyville High School.

That was 16 years ago.

After 10 years as the assistant principal, she went to the Shelbyville Central Schools office and worked for a year as the curriculum director. When the principal job opened, she decided to go for it.

“I did not think I would be principal at a (Class) 4A high school,” she said while reflecting on her early years at Frankfort, located in Clinton County southwest of Lafayette. “After the first three or four or even five years of teaching, you’re just kind of like in this fog. You’re just trying to figure out the content, you’re trying to get comfortable with being in front of kids and management and those kinds of things.”

Over the years, the accountability of schools has changed dramatically, she said. The emphasis was previously on seeing the improvements made by each student.

“But I think the biggest thing is the pressure now of schools getting letter grades, what kind of pressure that puts on the teachers and that it puts on the students,” she said. “There was never a gateway test. It was always just a measurement. But when they turned the ISTEP test or ECA test, take your pick, into a graduating qualifying exam, it kind of changed things, in the direction of certain subjects and the way you teach it.”

Technology has also been a positive change in education. The ability to quickly pull up information helps students become better engaged in whatever they are learning.

“It’s never going to replace teachers,” she said. “There’s always that fear, but it’s just a tool. It’s a resource, and I think it makes information so much more timely than when I started, in terms especially with the nonfiction piece. Information is at a student’s fingertips.”

When she came to Shelbyville as the assistant principal, the landscape in education was quite different. Some self-imposed regulations at the high school made it more difficult for some students to graduate that she said weren’t necessary.

The school shifted its philosophy to make sure the decisions made assured that students came first.

She credited Superintendent Dr. David Adams, who at the time was the high school principal, with making that change.

“That was a big shift, I think, where we made sure that everything we did was with the student in mind and not necessarily the convenience of the adults,” she said.

Shelbyville Central Schools’ mission is “Every Student, Every Day, No Exception, No Excuses,” and Miltz keeps that in mind when she hires a new staff member.

She said she makes sure they understand that philosophy.

“We know that we have to be forgiving, that we have to be able to give kids second chances, that we challenge them, that we have the right supports in place for everybody across the board, from our high end to our low end, to our kids in the middle that we’re not missing anybody,” she said.

Miltz takes pride in the school’s 94 percent graduation rate, which she said is the result of the school’s programming, curriculum and other factors in place.

“It’s just progressed each year so that we continue to move the bar in terms of how many kids we get out of here successfully,” she said. “(The graduation rate is) always the goal. You challenge kids to their full potential.

“The challenges are looking at each kid when they get to us, knowing where they are when they get here, and then how much they need to advance, and then figuring out not an individualized program, but something like that to say this kid will fit here.”