Why is it that Batesville area public and private schools have superior reputations? Is it the exceptional administrators and teachers? The boost in technology thanks to the CREATE Foundation? The efforts of the Rural Alliance for the Arts to integrate arts with curricula?
To get a winning combination, those assets have been mixed together with an under-the-radar initiative, the John W. Hillenbrand Vision Fund for Quality Education.
From its inception in May 1998 until now, fund leaders have distributed over $225,500 in the form of 140 grants to all six schools – Batesville primary, intermediate, middle and high; St. Louis School; and Oldenburg Academy.
Local education’s secret weapon has a new name – the Joan and John Hillenbrand Vision Fund for Innovation – but the same mission: “The Vision Fund is committed to advancing the quality of education in the Batesville community by providing the means for teachers to improve instructional skills, seek excellence, foster creativity in the classroom, create a better learning environment and encourage students to become life-long learners.”
The fund is managed by board chairman John Hillenbrand II; co-chairman Peter Hillenbrand, a new addition; director Jolene Rockwood; secretary/treasurer Bonnie Boyce; and Connie Nobbe and Charm Seright. Previous board members included Gayla Hegwood, Debbie Herman and Secretary Carolyn Hahn.
At a recent lunch meeting, Rockwood presented the Hillenbrand family with a booklet called “Highlights from the 2013 Grants.” A photo of two Batesville Primary School boys’ faces almost hidden by mounds of lettuce from a garden funded by the Hillenbrands has the words “Thank You!” emblazoned across it.
In addition to photos of equipment, a BPS garden, SLS kindergarten play and nationally-known guests, letters from teachers expressed gratitude. BHS Project Lead the Way teacher Craig Hughes wrote that a 3-D printer made possible by the Vision Fund “allows us to better teach engineering concepts and provide students with authentic experiences in prototyping, making them better prepared for their postsecondary educations .... Your contribution has given BHS a great asset ... Truly, this helps the Engineering and Technology Education Department become one of the best programs in the area.”