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New FWCS Superintendent: Reopening schools a team effort, but no guarantee of on-time return to class

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - The incoming superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools tells ABC21 that he will bring together teachers, administrators, health professionals and other community leaders in deciding how and when to resume in-class teaching.

Dr. Mark Daniel sat down with Brien McElhatten for a special live interview in Tuesday night's edition of "Political Radar."

The discussion took place at Parkview Field preceding a reception for Daniel, who was formally announced three hours prior.

After asking Daniel about his background as an educator, McElhatten turned his attention to the COVID-19 outbreak and the debate over when to resume traditional on-campus teaching.

"I think everyone needs to be planning for what if school doesn't start. So you need to look at options A, B, C... and probably option D..."

"We need to bring our best minds together," Daniel answered, listing the kinds of people he wants to include in the discussion.

But he nodded to the possibility that August may not signal a return to the classroom.

"I think everyone needs to be planning for what if school doesn't start. So you need to look at options A, B, C... and probably option D that you haven't even thought about, would be the one to be implemented," he said.

McElhatten noted the lack of a comprehensive eLearning system at FWCS -- something neighboring districts already had.

Daniel acknowledged that challenge.

"And I understand there are plans in place here in Fort Wayne, at Fort Wayne Community Schools in particular, to address those needs of our students," he said.

Recent changes in standardized testing statewide created headaches for FWCS and other districts even before COVID-19 complicated matters.

Daniel said improving performance was only one way schools should be assessed.

"Our teachers are doing the best of their ability. Our kids are also thinking of, well, 'how do I improve my scores?'" he said. "However, testing is not the only measure of success. I look at, 'how do we create communication skills? How do we create critical thinking skills? How do we create collaboration skills, teamwork skills?' Those to me are as important as a test score."

Daniel, a North Side High School graduate and a math teacher there earlier in his career, returns to FWCS following terms as superintendent of school systems in Michigan and Illinois.

He takes the reins at a challenging time, as the district navigates the COVID-19 outbreak and plots an uncertain course for the upcoming school year.

PREVIOUSLY: FWCS names new Superintendent; New FWCS superintendent faces challenges leading state’s largest school district

FWCS is also awaiting the returns on a spring ballot referendum to fund $130 million in school improvements. Previous ballot measures have passed, providing much-needed capital for campus upgrades.

The election is being done largely through mail-in voting, but Election Day is actually June 2.

Daniel officially begins his tenure as superintendent on July 1.

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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