Vicki Snyder 2011 Civic Award Winner
Rotary Civic Award for 2011
Presented to Vicki Snyder
By the Rotary Club of Evansville
April 17, 2012
Our community is fortunate to have had a model teacher and administrator,Vicki Snyder, guiding Evansville’s and the State of Indiana’s first charter school.
In 2001 it appeared as if the Signature School was approaching the end of its life. At that time, Signature School was a half-day school program. Students would come downtown to take challenging, stimulating classes in subjects that were not offered at their home schools. Signature School had just received a rejection to its application to participate in the International Baccalaureate Program because it was not a full time high school. This news was not viewed favorably in our community. Moreover, the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation was under financial strain, and some school board members were considering the elimination of Signature School. The initial principal of Signature School announced that he was leaving in order to become principal of a high school in Northern Indiana, and Signature School had a new principal,Vicki Snyder, who had spent 26 years in the classroom at Reitz High School prior to coming to Signature School.
However, there were those who wanted to bring this school back to life, not the least of which was Vicki Snyder. The teachers who taught at Signature loved teaching there. The students who attended Signature loved being there. The parents of those students were also aware that their children were in a unique learning environment.
That very year the State of Indiana had passed new charter school legislation. Signature students and their parents started attending school board meetings with regularity in amazingly large numbers. The school board, by the narrowest of margins, 4-3, voted to explore the possibility of the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation becoming the sponsoring organization for a Signature charter school.
When the new school board convened in January of 2002, it voted to become a sponsoring organization and authorized the creation of Indiana’s first charter high school, Signature School. Vicki Snyder worked with a dedicated team of teachers to develop a common vision of what Signature could and should become. Vicki Snyder and those core teachers wrote the school’s charter, applied for admission to the International Baccalaureate Program, developed curriculum, applied for grants, worked on budgets, and developed forms, policies, and procedures for the new charter school. The teachers and the new board of Signature School developed the following mission statement:
The mission of the Signature School is to meet the needs of self-motivated learners in a progressive environment driven by global concerns. We emphasize rigor and excellence in academics, the arts, integrated technologies, and community service.
Ten years have now passed for Signature School under Vicki Snyder’s leadership. While Indiana is working to improve its Advanced Placement exam pass rate from 14% to the state goal of 25%, the Signature School had an Advanced Placement exam pass rate for the school year ending in 2011 of 90%. In Indiana, Signature has been ranked as a four-star school and categorized as exemplary under Indiana Public Law 221.
In 2011, the Washington Post ranked Signature School as the number eight high school in the nation and the number one high school in theMidwest. In that same year, Signature School was ranked the number seven high school in the nation by Newsweek Magazine.
In 2012 it is anticipated that 67% of Signature’s graduates will receive International Baccalaureate diplomas. The average SAT score of Signature seniors last year was 1212, which is nearly 200 points above the national average. During that same year, Signature had five National Merit finalists. Last year’s sixty one graduating seniors received almost forty eight million dollars in scholarships offered. These achievements were all the more remarkable because Signature is a public school which must, subject to space requirements, admit all applicants.
By any academic standard you choose, one of the very best high schools in the nation is located in Evansville,Indiana. This is a fact that is of great potential benefit to our community as we seek to attract vibrant people and new businesses to Evansville. Signature is a beacon light that shows what is possible in public education.
Vicki Snyder is retiring at the end of the school year, after serving as executive director and principal of Signature School for its first ten years. Vicki Snyder has been extraordinary in her ability to attract and lead a team of remarkably dedicated and capable teachers, her ability to earn the respect of students, her ability to work with parents, her ability to work with school board members and members of the Signature School Foundation, and her ability to work with the members of the broader community.
Vicki, with limited secretarial support, has had to do nearly everything. She leads the teachers in their cooperative effort, she does difficult class scheduling, she fills out countless reports for the government, she completes information for national recognition, she keeps track of charter school legislation, she works closely with the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, she hires teachers, she evaluates teachers, she is the human resources department, she enforces school discipline, and she even handles some matters of a legal nature. She is always available for students, parents, and teachers. She listens thoughtfully. She is articulate and professional. Vicki Snyder has worked tirelessly for the success of Signature School. Her work, and the work of the other administrators and teachers at Signature, and their sacrifices, cannot be adequately enshrined in a citation, but rather, are best enshrined in the lives of all the Signature students.
Vicki, leading a small group of teachers took great risks, leaving the comforts of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and starting the first Charter High School in Indiana with few guidelines and no models to follow. With true American entrepreneurism, based on their vision of what could be, they took the risks and turned their dreams into reality.
Today, in recognition of her civic service as an exemplary educator in our community, for the state and national recognition she has bestowed upon her school and our community, the Rotary Club of Evansville honors Vicki Snyder for her tireless dedication to the success of the Signature School, and more importantly, to the success of its students.Posted by julie | 0 comments