Even after more than a decade in K-12 education administration, Rob Haworth, Ph.D. ’04, still describes himself as “a social studies teacher who found his way into school leadership” by way of Indiana State University.
Haworth returned to Terre Haute in July to assume the superintendent’s position for Vigo County School Corp. after his contract was approved by the Vigo County School Board in June. He succeeds Indiana State alumnus Danny Tanoos, who announced earlier this year that he would step down from the post after 20 years with the school corporation.
“Dr. Tanoos’ career is historic, and we’re going to keep him around as long as we possibly can,” Haworth said. “When the position came open, it wasn’t a very long conversation with my family that we knew we would make an application to come here.”
Haworth and his wife, Amy, who will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in 2019, have a daughter who attends Purdue University and a son who is entering high school.
“I’m excited to be here. What a unique place Terre Haute, Ind., is,” he said. “Its location in the state, centrally located on the state’s far western border, is surrounded by great academic institutions, a strong blue-collar work ethic with a crossroads of cultures. We’re blessed to be here, and I can’t wait for the school year to start.”
For the past six years, Haworth served as superintendent for Elkhart Community Schools, where he oversaw the development of “The Elkhart Promise,” which will reorganize the school corporation.
“But my educational career started in a little community outside of Valparaiso, Ind., at Washington Township Schools, which was a K-12 school all under one roof,” he said. “It was a very small school, and I was the entire social studies department — teaching freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.”
The bulk of Haworth’s educational experience, though, took place in Dubois County, Ind., at Northeast Dubois High School, where he served as a macroeconomics and government teacher, as well as the varsity basketball coach.
Haworth decided to pursue his first administrative position in early 2000 at Springs Valley Community Schools in French Lick, Ind., where he wore several hats, including basketball coach, physical education teacher and director of transportation.
When the district’s superintendent retired in 2003, the school board asked Haworth to assume the position, an opportunity that led the Paoli, Ind., native to Indiana State, where he pursued a Ph.D. in educational administration. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Greenville College in Illinois and a master’s degree in education at Indiana University Southeast.
“Looking back, that superintendent position has afforded me and my family endless opportunities that have multiplied ever since,” he said.
Haworth also served as superintendent in Warsaw, Ind., for a few years before he pursued a position with the National Association of Interscholastic Athletics in Kansas City, Mo., helping the organization with its Champions of Character program to change the character of sports, one student-athlete at a time.
“That opportunity was very rewarding, but I decided to get back into public education because I missed the connection with students,” he said. “It’s one thing to create curriculum in an office in Kansas City, but it’s quite something else to be part of the community in which you are trying to help young people.”
Haworth credits strong role models throughout his life – coaches, teachers, a band director – for leading him to a career in education when he was in his sophomore year at Greenville College and decided to follow his passion for teaching and coaching youth, something he’s been doing since 1988.
“I was also very blessed to have the ability to learn from some of our state’s best educators while attending Indiana State – Dr. (Robert) Boyd, Dr. (Brad) Balch, Dr. (Steve) Gruenert, Dr. (Terry) McDaniel, and maybe my greatest mentor, Dr. (Todd) Whitaker,” Haworth said. “My Indiana State experience caused me to look at things in different ways, challenged me to be a cause-driven leader and to be a coach of character response, which in leadership are the things that drive the mission and how you will respond to that mission.”
Haworth’s goal now is to enrich the lives Vigo County children so they can be ready to contribute to a community in which they want to live and eventually raise families.
“My goal is always to put purposeful, meaningful adults in the lives of children, and it’s why I get up every day. In school business, many times we jump right to the teacher, but meaningful, purposeful adults are found at all areas of a child’s school day,” Haworth said. “There are the bus drivers who are the first people many of our children met in the morning, cafeteria workers who serve students breakfast at the start of the day. There’s a paraprofessional who will assist them with homework and the elementary, middle school or high school administrative assistant staff, who really know the buildings.”
Haworth wants to make Terre Haute a “destination location” that attracts 18- to 34-year-olds to be a part of the community and help it grow by providing a world-class K-12 education, but he knows it’s a challenge that can’t be done in isolation.
“We will need to partner with Indiana State and other educational institutions in the community, city and county councils, and I look forward to those opportunities,” he said. “Right now my hope is to listen and learn for a while and help this board create a strategic vision that will help carry them through the next several years.”
Having children of his own, Haworth understands the parents of Vigo County are entrusting him and the school corporation staff with their children’s futures. He’s up to the challenge.
“When school starts, we have 15,000 most precious gifts come to us, and they come in all forms – the child who is coming to school for the very first time, the student looking to continue their education and the students who are looking or a fresh start,” he said. “My hope is that we treat each one as we would want our own precious gift to be treated, and that excites me because I think we have a staff that will do just that. I have come to find that we have an outstanding staff, many of whom are products of Indiana State, and we have a common background and approach that was fostered through Indiana State.”