Mark Gia-Quinta, a Fort Wayne attorney, was president of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board for more than 10 years.
Every now and then, something happens to remind us just how good we have it in Fort Wayne. Dr. Wendy Robinson is one of four finalists for National School Superintendent of the Year, an honor bestowed by her peers and a reminder that strong, caring leadership can transform any organization. Dr. Robinson, and the team she leads, deserve to bask in the national spotlight as the rest of us delight in yet another source of Fort Wayne pride.
Wendy Sanders Robinson graduated from Central High School in 1969. She grew up in a household where the values she requires in our schools were modeled every day. The Sanders family was respected in Fort Wayne long before Wendy married Jim Robinson. Her generation included her first cousin, former Deputy Chief Hank Sanders, who shared her kind-hearted intelligence and community devotion, all Sanders family traits passed from generation to generation.
Our superintendent navigates confidently between her professional role to the woman many of us call Wendy. She doesn't insist on power bestowed by her position, but earns respect through her selfless leadership style. Those who attribute her success to her easygoing demeanor do so at their peril. When it comes to bold, creative decision-making, Wendy Robinson is the gold standard.
I recall a meeting with the CEO of a local business. He brought his management team to the Fort Wayne Community Schools administration building to discuss shared opportunities, then proceeded to “teach” her how to make business decisions.
Wendy listened patiently until one of the men asked whether she understood the lesson. I sat back and smiled as she pointed out the flaws in their model compared to the systems approach to decision-making – an MBA-level lesson she clearly knew inside out. They never knew what hit them.
As the saying goes, “Never underestimate a smart person.” And believe me, Wendy Robinson is a very smart person.
Dr. Robinson has performed a miracle in our own backyard, balancing boldness with fiscal prudence. She has demonstrated that public education, when supported and nurtured, changes lives in ways other schooling doesn't. She resists the theory du jour, the quick fix, the fad program. She will not start a program without assurance of long-term funding. She is happy to wait for the results of others' costly experiments before committing your tax dollars. Yet her willingness to innovate with programs such as New Tech, Montessori and now STEAM have paid off handsomely for our students. But as keen as her management is, it is her love for our students that drives this woman to fight for them every day, while politically driven outside forces work to deprive the district of the funding it needs to meet the unique challenges confronting urban districts.
Dr. Robinson's success at FWCS is a model for every public school district in the country. She is the country's top school administrator regardless of which of the four finalists walks away with that plaque in Nashville on Thursday. Dr. Wendy Robinson, one of our homegrown heroes, reminds us that Fort Wayne is a special place to live, but a very special place to go to school.