Like many full-time college students, Kent DeKoninck also worked fulltime while obtaining his undergraduate degree in finance. Growing up on a farm in northern Indiana, he had developed a strong, family-oriented work ethic and considerable stamina.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he attended college. Then Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, he worked as a bank teller. That was because Dr. Kent DeKoninck, the future Greenwood Community Schools superintendent, aimed at becoming a banker.
Detour No. 1
But life had secrets to unfold. During those busy years, DeKoninck began coaching high school basketball on the side. As anyone who lives in Indiana knows, basketball is part of growing up Hoosier. DeKoninck found he had a knack for connecting with his ballplayers. He liked working to bring out the best in them.
Thus, a degree in counseling followed. DeKoninck became the Guidance Director in the Westfield-Washington School District 20 years ago. He expected to be a guidance counselor his entire career.
Detour No. 2
But his high school principal urged him to get his administrative license. Eventually agreeing, he added Assistant Principal to his duty roster for that district. “I never intended to be a school administrator,” he confesses.
Over the years, his qualifications led him to hold varied school administrative positions, ranging from the middle school principal in Perry Township and Carmel to Assistant Superintendent in Avon and eventually Greenwood Schools Superintendent. “I’ve really valued all the variety of people I’ve met and worked within each district,” says Dr. DeKoninck. “I’ve learned things that I carry with me.”
You are More than Your Work
Developing into a strong family man while also building his career has kept him challenged. Learning to balance his work and family life has been an ongoing process, says DeKoninck.
In Avon, the superintendent showed him how important a quality family life is to a person. He was shown some of the “how-tos” of creating a balance between work, family and personal pursuits. DeKoninck saw how attention to those areas built stability and strength into life, not that he hadn’t tried to juggle all the demands fairly before.
When his daughters were growing up, he had left a good position with Perry Township Schools to take a job closer to home in Carmel. DeKoninck says he was there for his daughters but feels he unintentionally neglected his wife, Amanda. “She’s a strong partner. You can take them for granted.” Appreciatively, he adds, “She keeps me grounded and keeping it real.” They will celebrate 28 years of marriage in November.
Now Dr. DeKoninck leads his teachers each school year through a pledge that states they know their job is important but to never let it define who they are or to let it impact their family or personal health.
Role Models in his Youth
DeKoninck played competitive volleyball during his middle school years, and his coach had behavioral standards that had to be met. One time, DeKoninck was told to get a haircut, but he chose not to. His coach had him sit out the next game.
“I knew what was expected of me,” DeKoninck remembers of his coach. “He never wavered.” His coach also helped all his young players to know that ‘salty’ language was unacceptable. “That not how young men act,” his coach would say.
Perhaps the man who laid the groundwork for reliability and integrity was his father Arthur (“Art”). As the youngest son, DeKoninck realizes now, more than in earlier years, what a significant impact his father had on him. Art was one of 11 siblings. He worked in a factory all his life while also running a farm. His humility and unpretentious way instilled a solid pattern. “He wasn’t a warm, fuzzy guy. But after the fact, I realized how he had a big impact and how he handled himself in life.” Art died in 1987.
Vision for the School District
Working to build solid foundations with community organizations is part of who DeKoninck is. As Rhonda Ochs, school corporation secretary, notes, Dr. DeKoninck “takes to heart the name Greenwood Community School Corporation, realizing how families, extended families, neighbors, service providers and businesses impact the success of GWS students.”
Since becoming Superintendent, Dr. DeKoninck has invested time with Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce and is its chair-elect. He also has become co-chair of Aspire Johnson County, a board member of Johnson County Development Corporation and a member of both Sertoma and Rotary Clubs of Greenwood. “You can’t do good things if you don’t have good relationships” with the community, he notes.
Dr. DeKoninck regularly schedules time to visit all the schools and buildings to touch base with the students and the staff. He puts before and after school events in his schedule, and he enjoys celebrating people and their accomplishments. He then shares that news on his Twitter feed (@greenwoodsupt) and on the corporate website (gws.k12.in.us).
A second goal for the district is to have the parents feel their children are taken care of. Although Greenwood School Corporation boundaries are landlocked, numerous out-of-district parents are willing to pay to have their children attend Greenwood Schools. “It’s amazing the number of parents wanting to send their kids here. There are about 475 out-of-district transfers attending Greenwood Schools,” he says.
Dr. DeKoninck observes that the smaller district has created a caring learning culture. “Academics are important, but those parents also want their kids to feel loved and cared for – that they matter. Yes, we fail sometimes, but the goal is always to help kids feel that they are part of something.” Recognizing that the teachers are key, he adds, “There’s no substitute for really good people. We have it here. I’m so proud of our staff and what we do.”
School Board Relationships
Dr. DeKoninck is pleased with the good working dynamic he has with the school board. They are supportive, but he likes that they also challenge him at times. “We work through it, and we’re the better for it.”
Interestingly, Dr. DeKoninck’s doctoral dissertation was about a surprising dynamic that alters student progress. When a school board and the superintendent have a good, long-term, supportive relationship, student academic success improves. Harmonious leadership unity builds student success.
It really is all about building community. Dr. Kent DeKoninck lives it.