HSEngaged – Hamilton Southeastern Schools
The Hamilton Southeastern Schools have gotten a lot of attention in the last few years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve led a PTO, volunteered in classrooms, been a member of the Superintendent Advisory council, and/or followed the board for over a decade, there are still things to be learned. The HSEngaged program attempts to provide insights into the inner workings of this quarter of a billion dollar organization focused on educating tens of thousands of kids.
Many people have preconceived ideas of what schools, the district administration, and board members do. Many don’t really understand the full scope, let alone what various positions and areas really do. Over the last decade, I’ve watched many people run and get appointed to the HSE school board only to find out within a few months that what they thought the board did was very different from what they do. They also discover the massiveness of what the fourth largest district in Indiana and the largest employer in Fishers does. The HSEngaged program shines a light on all of this not only for people who might want to run for the school board someday, but also for community members within the district.
Like the other academies, the program requires registration and tends to have more people interested in attending than available slots. The initial launch of the program in 2021 had 29 slots. The third year of the program had over one hundred people register and had 41 participants selected that are either parents/guardians of current or former HSE students, alumni, or people who reside within the district itself. HSE has stated that “Participants were selected through an application process based on their affiliation with HSE Schools, their understanding of issues and challenges, their involvement in the community and their desire to assist in sharing HSE Schools’ vision with others.”
The registration tends to open up just prior to a new session starting, so you have to watch the HSEngaged page on the HSE Schools site or be aware of district announcements.
The HSEngaged program is the longest of the three programs spanning roughly 9 months. The program seems to be running in alignment with the school year by starting in August and then going through April with meetings happening once a month. The meetings vary in timing with most being in the morning (9:00am or 11:00am) thus requiring people to be available during those hours.
Overall, the focus is on providing a first-hand peek behind the curtain of what is happening at HSE schools to provide knowledge on how the district functions. This includes all facets of the district, including business management, academic programs, student services, operations and more. Each session is given a focus and includes time for interactive dialog with educational leaders and those working in various areas of the district. The meeting locations also bounce around the district giving the attendees insights into the various schools and other facilities that HSE maintains. For example, in the 2023-24 session happening now, the participants will have meetings at the administration building, a junior high school (Fall Creek), at Conner Prairie (which the schools have a program with), at a both high schools, at a couple of intermediate school, at a couple of elementary schools, and more.
Some of the session topics include:
- A look at the administration
- A look at the cost of educating. It’s not just books and computers, but also asphalt, LED lights, gas for buses, and much more!
- Preparing students for the future
- School safety and mental health
- Educational support
- Tools for success
- And more
When I attended, we did sessions that ranged from learning some of the interesting approaches that teachers take to engaging kids to sitting on a bus and seeing the issues with transporting thousands to school safely.
We also toured several buildings including the high schools as well as Deer Creek Elementary (which was under construction at the time), Southeastern Elementary, and others. Those tours included learning how the buildings were aligned for education, as well as several backrooms. At Sand Creek, this included touring the solar farm and much of the equipment used to do basic things like heating, cooling, and filtering. At the high schools, the tours included seeing some of the areas used for special programs such as the Welding area, some of the advanced placement classrooms, and more. You can skim through the Live notes page on this site and look for HSEngaged to find some of my notes from session I attended. These include:
- 2021 – August 26th – HSEngage – First Meeting
- 2021 – October 28th – HSEngage: The Cost of Education: The School Board
- 2022 – March 8th – HSEngage: 2.9 Million Miles – A Chat with the HSE Transportation Department
- 2022 – March 2nd – HSEngage: Three Million Meals: A Look at HSE Food Services
The program has been through another iteration since my notes, so the program has likely evolved. Overall, the program helps to emphasize not only the importance of educating the next generation, but also how much is involved in doing so. While everyone will agree that the teachers, the curriculum, and the classrooms are the key to success, the HSEngaged program helps to show that things like coordinating hundreds of busses, fixing potholes, having electricity, ordering food for lunches, managing the dollars, and a lot of other things are also needed to keep things functioning.
If you want to truly know what it takes to run the fourth largest district and if you truly want to see what the administration and 2500+ staff is responsible for doing, then this program will definitely give you not just a peek, but a huge eye-full of what is involved.
If you have ever considered running for a school board position, you should try to do this program first. It will help you know what you are getting into.