Michael C. Duell

For School Board

Who is Michael C. Duell, and what qualifies him to serve on the Noblesville School Board?

I am a husband and father of three. I am a co-founder of S.O.S. Noblesvillle. I am an educator, having spent my professional life serving in both the secondary and post-secondary classroom setting. I pursued a Master of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and then I earned my M.Ed. in Social Studies Education from The Ohio State University. I have had a state teaching license in both Ohio and Indiana. During my transition from Ohio to Indiana, I worked at the old Noblesville Middle School. I have also served as an adjunct professor in Indiana Wesleyan University’s College of Adult and Professional Studies, and have worked in Western Governors University’s (WGU Indiana) Teachers College for the last eight years, where I serve as a faculty manager in the Elementary Education licensure programs. My role at WGU is that of a student advocate who strives daily to invest in and support individuals pursuing their calling to teach and impact the lives of their own students someday. Just as I encourage, support, and advocate for prospective and newly licensed teachers, I will be equally driven to do the same for Noblesville teachers, students, and staff. 

What is your vision for the future of Noblesville Schools?

My vision for Noblesville Schools is to cultivate a 21st century learning environment that encourages curiosity, fosters creativity, embraces classic fundamentals of learning, and innovatively applies new ideas and technologies. Noblesville Schools is not currently among the top ranked in Indiana, but it most certainly has every potential to be included among the very best. While I acknowledge the flaws inherent in the U.S. News school rankings, taking them with “a grain of salt,” I believe there are still some areas of opportunity evident in the data.

Noblesville is blessed to have outstanding educational professionals teaching, inspiring, and mentoring our students. It is imperative that supporting our teachers is included in everyone’s vision for Noblesville Schools. Noblesville Schools is not just ten buildings, but instead is over 500+ teachers and a strong supporting cast of staff and administrators. While I like our buildings, Noblesville Schools is and always will be about the people.

A 21st century learning environment also necessitates a 21st century school security system “designed to improve technology and infrastructure on school property that may be used to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from a man-made or natural disaster or emergency occurring on school property.” My wording comes directly from Indiana Public Law 27.

During the March 20 School Board Meeting I said, "Some may accuse me of being 'Chicken Little,' and I deny it. I’m not running from phantom fears, but am being grudgingly realistic. While none of us wish for such a school shooting to ever happen anywhere and to anyone, we can no longer afford to naively believe that 'It would never happen here.'" 

School violence is the defining moral issue of our time. We must ignore the propaganda, and focus on what we see. We must come together in common cause, and while we cannot solve it all here in Noblesville, Indiana, we are accountable for what we do or do not do to reasonably safeguard our students, staff, and faculty. 

This is a defining moment for us, for Noblesville, for our values; for the culture that we live in. In the spirit of Tennyson’s Ulysses, we must be strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

The Emergency Response System* proposed by S.O.S. Noblesville, an organization I co-founded three months prior to the May 25 shooting, in response to the Parkland massacre, complies with every single one of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security Guidelines found in Public Law 27, which is endorsed by: 
 

*Indiana Department of Homeland Security
*Thor Eells, National Tactical Officers Association Executive Director 
*Curtis T. Hill, Jr., Indiana State Attorney General
*Indiana Department of Education
*Indiana Sheriff’s Association
*Stephen Luce, Executive Director of the Indiana Sheriff's Association

*Sheriff Tim Troyer, President of the Indiana Sheriff's Association
*Indiana School Resource Officer Association
*National Association for School Resource Officers
*Indiana Superintendents Association
*Indiana Association of Principals 
*Indiana State Teachers Association
*Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police
*Indiana Fire Chief’s Association

 

S.O.S. Noblesville has been actively requesting an independent threat assessment of all ten-school buildings since February, which will highlight the opportunities for improvement. No one solution is without its limitations, of course, which is why an independent threat assessment will help to introduce the best layering of security measures unique to our specific school infrastructure.

 

Among these other layers, I would certainly support the inclusion of mental health initiatives and real anti-bullying policies that go beyond lip service and provide actual "teeth." 

Noblesville Schools reported ZERO incidents of bullying at the High School for the 2017-2018 school year to the Department of Education even though this reporting is mandatory. Although I would love nothing more than to believe that we in Noblesville have overcome bullying, I've spoken to many parents and have heard many heartbreaking and frustrating accounts of bullying, and those expressed concerns falling on the deaf ears of administrators. The following constitutes the reported incidents of bullying in Noblesville Schools for the 2017-2018 school year:

  • 1 incident of physical bullying at Promise Road Elementary. Zero incidents at all other schools

  • 3 incidents reported of verbal bullying at East middle school. Zero reported for all other schools.

  • 1 reported incident of social bullying at West. ZERO reported at all other schools.

  • 3 incidents of electronic bullying at Hinkle Creek and 1 reported at Noblesville Crossing. Zero reported for all other schools including the middle schools and the high school.

  • ZERO reported incidents of combination types of bullying at all 10 schools.

  • ZERO bullying incidents of ANY KIND reported at the High School.

I will endeavor to work with our administration and school board to address and rectify the ongoing concern of bullying, and seek to partner directly with the Indiana Department of Education to amend and/or develop administrative best practices, ensure proper understanding and adherence of reporting bullying incidents, and the serious consequences that will arise if this is not taken seriously. Inadequate reporting isn’t just “bad bookkeeping,” but causes devastating consequences to our children and can, and should, result in serious consequences for administration. Accountability is essential to help equip both teachers and parents alike to truly address bullying, knowing they will be heard and supported by that school’s administrator. Knowing that bullying is no longer just “lip service,” and that such concerns will actually be taken seriously and acted upon, will empower students to report it knowing they won’t be quickly dismissed and ignored. Also, it will send a clear message to bullies that Noblesville Schools will no longer turn a blind eye to their actions, and that there will be repercussions to bullying. I do believe that publicly addressing ongoing bullying concerns, taking it from out of the darkness and putting it squarely in the light for all to see will further help to ensure accountability, as human nature teaches us that people tend to act and react differently when they believe someone is watching; and for far too long no one has been watching. Reporting bullying to the Department Of Education is mandatory, ethical, and it’s about time we start enforcing REAL anti-bullying policies. We need increased accountability of our administration and school board. Our children deserve nothing less.

My vision for Noblesville Schools is attainable and necessary. We are certainly capable of accomplishing comparable academic results as neighboring districts. We must also seek to follow the lead of Southwestern High School in adopting an Indiana tested and proven school security system that entirely complies with Public Law 27, which has earned Southwestern High School the national reputation as the “safest school in America,” to help safeguard the students, staff, and faculty of Noblesville Schools.

What will you do to help attract highly qualified teachers to Noblesville Schools? What will you do to help retain highly qualified teachers in Noblesville Schools?

Retaining and recruiting teachers is a “hot topic,” but frankly, it’s always been vitally important to the health of any school district. I’ve been a classroom teacher, having experienced the recruitment process and also finding my calling to teach at odds with where I was teaching. Prior to more recent and welcomed public opportunities to address the teacher compensation disparity between Noblesville and our neighboring districts, I was already witnessing its impact in my home.  My daughter came home from NWMS one day last year sad because she learned that Brandon Crawford was leaving Noblesville to go to Carmel because they were offering him around $10,000 more than Noblesville.  Mr. Crawford is one of those teachers I greatly appreciate and admire, as both a parent and as an educator, and I was disappointed and frustrated for Noblesville to be losing a treasure like Mr. Crawford.

 

Beyond the pending referendum, which may ultimately address the salary aspects of teacher recruitment and retention, I would simply start by noting that successful teachers and happy teachers are more likely to remain in their placements. It’s crucial that we ensure that recruits are a good fit for the school, and share our vision, passion, and commitment for our students. We must continually ask both new and veteran teachers what they need, and what they want to help facilitate their success and satisfaction. Also, from my experience, teachers, like doctors and lawyers, are ever practicing their craft, and tend to really crave professional development opportunities. 

 

My understanding from studies and my takeaway from personal experience is that working/teaching conditions are the major predictor of retaining or losing teachers. School safety is a vital concern impacting teacher recruitment, which I have personally witnessed at the Teachers College where I work, with idealistic and thoughtful prospective students on the verge of completing their program reconsidering their options on account of high-profile school violence. We need to provide a reasonably safe teaching environment for both students and teachers alike.

 

I can personally cite from my experience and the experience of others, that school leadership and administrative support, or the lack thereof, is frequently the main reason teachers identify for leaving or staying in the profession or in a given school, outweighing even salary considerations for some teachers. Even in the university setting, one’s professional satisfaction is almost always tied for better or for worse to one’s manager. We really need to invest in training our school leaders to be more supportive, encouraging, and embrace the approach adopted by corporate leaders who strive to create a “Great Place To Work.”

 

A recent study I read noted that approximately 25% of public school teachers who left the profession reported dissatisfaction with their lack of influence of school assessments and accountability measures of their teaching or curriculum.  Others noting that the focus on testing, test preparation, and a narrower, mandated curriculum have reduced their ability to teach in ways they feel are more effective. We really need to encourage the participation and collaboration of our veteran and innovative teachers, including them, hearing them, and allowing them to have more influence on the subjects they teach.

 

Unquestionably, recruiting and retaining excellent teachers is critically important for Noblesville Schools. I think we can do a lot to help ensure that teachers, new and veterans alike, are professionally satisfied, enjoy a good relationship with their administrator, feel safe, and have genuine influence on their curriculum and assessments. If we follow through on these themes, I think we will have done quite a bit to help retain and recruit quality, well-loved teachers. 

How do you view your role as a school board member within the Noblesville community? In what ways would you promote an inclusive environment between the community and Noblesville Schools?

I will approach my role as a school board member as that of a Servant Leader.  I am a practitioner of Robert K. Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership philosophy. I would make no pretense of ever speaking from atop of a mountain to those below, but rather converse with others in a shared valley. In order to lead, one must be willing and able to serve. Far too many entrusted to positions of authority and influence have failed to understand this, and tend to view those whom they serve as their servants.

 

Every successful school has the support of its community. I would strive to promote an inclusive relationship between the community and Noblesville Schools, because each voice enriches us and ennobles us and each voice lost or unheard diminishes us. How does Noblesville Schools garner such support? It is earned through transparency, which creates trust. Trust is inherently necessary for any healthy relationship to develop and thrive. Noblesville Schools has such an amazing community from which to draw support. I do believe that with more transparency, and more accessibility the School Board can tap into a variety of different opportunities to promote a more inclusive culture in the community.

*Please note that while I am strongly in support of the Emergency Response System outlined here and proposed to the Noblesville School Board, I am certainly open to considering any and all safety initiatives that meet all of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security guidelines as outlined in Indiana Public Law 27.