With a touch of disappointment yet understanding, the public learned officially last week of Felix Chow’s intentions to step down as superintendent of Anderson Community Schools.
The board voted 4-2 to accept Chow’s notice that he did not want an extension of his contract beyond June 30, 2014.
Chow came to the financially troubled school district in January 2010. At that point, finances had turned so sour that teaching jobs were being cut, buildings closed and the historic 9,000-seat Wigwam gymnasium would be shuttered in 2011.
Chow continued to take on the hard decisions, weathering the financial storms that were presented to him in his first year. Where companies would be forced into bankruptcy under the scenario of declining revenue, Chow took a business-like approach in handling the budget. From 2009 to 20102, the budget dropped by $10 million. Expenses were cut by more than $11 million in one year, from $94.6 million to $83.2 million.
As in so many Hoosier school districts, the superintendent and the school board had to keep Anderson schools afloat as families began leaving the district, some to take advantage of Indiana’s open enrollment and charter school programs. Enrollment fell by more than 2,000 students during a two-year span.
So Chow, who is actively involved in the schools and in relaying his principles to his staff, helped the district survive a tough period and helped guide it into stability.
But during the next year, there can be no coasting for Chow.
Under Chow’s leadership, there has been some general improvement in test scores and other measurements, but much more improvement is needed. Continuing progress can be made. The community counts on him to work as hard on student improvement and in collaborating with others including the board, the Anderson Federation of Teachers, parents, students and community leaders.
Few of us expect this to be Chow’s last stop in education. He could become a force in the state education department; he could easily write about school policy and direction — just read some of his communiques to the community and staff.
So the public will likely view Chow’s departure with disappointment yet understanding of the wear-and-tear the role takes on an individual. Most in the community will give Felix Chow a thank-you and a show of respect.
Anderson Community Schools Superintendent Felix Chow will be leaving in 2014, but work still needs to be done.