Westfield Washington Schools superintendent addresses growth


Westfield Washington Schools Supt. Paul Kaiser doesn’t think much about his own legacy. However, he has one strong wish.

“This is my 41st year. I hope over my previous 40, and the next five, six, seven, whatever, that I’ve impacted kids,” said Kaiser, who was named superintendent in May. “These people (Westfield teachers) impact kids every single day. That’s why we do what we do.  We’re here because we care about kids.”

Kaiser said educators have to not listen to all the “noise” from the outside.

“Ninety-eight percent of the kids in our school, they just want to come to school and get a top-notch, first-class, All-American education that we provide,” Kaiser said. “Get the kids involved in extra-curricular activities and they want to be safe.”

Kaiser said he was humbled to give the State of the Schools Oct. 14 at Westfield Chamber of Commerce luncheon at The Club at Chatham Hills in Westfield.

Kaiser has lived in Westfield since 1995 and has experienced the city’s growth.

“I think we had 1,400 housing starts in this summer alone,” he said. “The good thing about growth is, we get more money from the state. The bad thing about growth is, down the road we’re going to have to build some buildings. Don’t panic, it’s good news on tax rate. So, our biggest challenge is growth. What do our buildings look like? How do we configure them? Where do we need to build? In all seriousness, if anyone has 75 acres to the west, drop me a card, because sooner or later, in my lifetime, we’re going to have to build something out there.

“We are looking to buy land out to the west. We do own a couple parcels of property but they are only big enough for an elementary school.”

Kaiser said 75 acres is needed for a middle school and 100 acres for a high school.

“Nobody has any desire to build a second high school, so don’t put that on Facebook,” he said. “We want to keep one high school. The growth is not stopping and they are building those neighborhoods pretty quickly.”

 Kaiser said the new early learning center is going to help free up space in the elementary schools.

“If you walk in our buildings, we got kids tucked in all over the place,” he said.

Among elementary schools, Shamrock Springs is at 100 percent capacity and Carey Ridge is at 94 percent.

“We going to look to do upgrades and other things to our elementary buildings,” Kaiser said. “We like the community rooms we put in some buildings, but other buildings don’t have them. You’ll see some construction the next three to four years.”

Kaiser said in the future the district will have to explore the possibility of a seventh elementary school and what to do about the intermediate school and middle school. Westfield High School is at 82 percent capacity with 2,621 students.

Kaiser said officials are careful to keep the tax rate as low as possible.

“At least in my lifetime, we should not have to do a construction referendum because of the growth,” said Kaiser, who teaches school finance at Indiana State University in the spring.

Kaiser said the district is ranked in the top 5 percent nationally in academics, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The high school has added programs in health sciences, construction, coding and hospitality/tourism.

“Our high school is like a small university on the inside,” Kaiser said. “A lot of kids can go straight to a job without post-secondary education, and they can make great dollars. Schools should not be a place where young kids come watch adults work. We (take) pride on getting our kids hands-on experience doing the things that make them successful in life.”

Kaiser said the school does not have an orchestra.

“We know we have parents that don’t choose our school corporation because we don’t offer this,” Kaiser said.  “The high school and the middle school are going to be working on this, so we can transition over the next three years.”

Kaiser said the district loses students to Sheridan and Hamilton Heights because Westfield doesn’t offer agricultural science classes.

Kaiser said the district has a great choir program and is working to add a show choir.

Other proposed new classes include landscape management, welding and firefighting.