Spotlight on Wendy Y. Robinson, Ed. D., FWCS superintendent

| March 12, 2014
Jeanie Summerville

Jeanie Summerville

UP CLOSE WITH JEANIE

Whatz up, babies?

As always, I hope that all is well with you and yours and that, you’re still taking the time to bring yourselves and others some joy, happiness, beauty and some form of peace of mind as we travel on our journey to get to know one another better—in the name of love.

This Women’s History Month, we bring to you another spectacular women whom we salute and I’m quite sure that everybody knows or has heard of her. But today, you’re going to learn more about her and from a personal perspective. You’ll learn what she stands for as she shares how she became who she is and learn about her love for life, family, education and why she has compassion for your children and your grandchildren’s education. I know that she’s making a wonderful difference in lives. So at this time, all we want you to do is sit back, relax and enjoy—or stand and jump and shout if you want to! You can do that because Frost Illustrated is gonna take you there right into the heart of Mrs. Robinson as she shares her journey with us and this is what she has to say:

FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson

FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers. I’m Wendy Robinson and I’m the superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools. That basically means, I’m the chief academic, financial, operational officer of the district and I’m responsible for the day to day operations to make absolutely certain that kids learn. And, I said it that way because most people who had any experience with superintendents have images of them sitting in their offices and maybe potentially, they’ll see them at a board meeting or maybe at a public event. Well now, the superintendent is so involved in budgeting, policy, legislation, community and it covers far more than just, can kids read.

“I became superintendent on my 30th anniversary in the district and also of my wedding anniversary. So, it’s been since 2003 and it’s the best job that anybody can ever have. I say that because we work with the future and on a, day to day basis, we see miracles happen, kids learning. We still are blessed to be in a city where people value education so we have community support and partners so for me, it’s the best job ever! I’m the first African American and I’m the first female in this position as FWCS superintendent but, more importantly, I’m the first graduate of the district to be superintendent. Normally, superintendents don’t stay in one place long enough for all three of these things to happen. So for me, I wouldn’t say it’s history, it’s just a matter of pride for me that I’m able to fill all of those different boxes.

“I was born in Birmingham, Ala., and I came to Fort Wayne when I was probably four years old because I started school here and so all of my education occurred in Fort Wayne. I graduated from the best high school which was Central that’s now the Anthis Career Center. So, I know lots of people here in the city that I went to school with. I left to go away to school in Greencastle, Ind., at DePaul and I didn’t really intend to come back. And, all of my teaching and administration career has been here in Fort Wayne so it’s an excellent place and it’s been good to me and it’s been a good place to work. Both of my children went through the FWCS and now I have four grandchildren, so I have a lot of reasons to want to be here and all of them are extremely personal which is a good situation for me.

“Growing up, my mom was the driving force and focal point in our house for all of us because she had a really strong religious background and she believed that it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself and to get an education. So, I have never had a time in my life when I wasn’t expected to do the right thing for the right reasons and get an education. I mentioned my mom because she didn’t have an opportunity to have an education since she was born in 1919 and was raised in the deep south. Back in those days, there just weren’t opportunities for African American women and African Americans period but women in particular, so for her, education was important. And, I remember that everything I ever wanted to do or wanted to try, I was able to because there were times when my mom didn’t eat and she’d work extra hours to make sure that we could take advantage of opportunities. So it was just always known to us that college is for us because school is for us because she didn’t get a chance, so we needed to. “When I attended Hanna School, I was blessed with people like Mary Ray, Mrs. Chambers and people who were members of our community that influenced me and wanted me to be an educator. So, I had that strong, community base role model all throughout my elementary and I think I’ve been very blessed. While attending Fairfield School, I had Mrs. Murphy and every time I see her I thank her and I had teachers that took it upon themselves to make sure that, not only did I get an education but they encouraged me and made sure that I did things outside of the classroom as well, such as student counsel and science.

“When the doors of the school opened, I was there because that’s just how important school was to me. When I look at my highschool career I had people like Patty Martone, my math teacher Leona Plumanns, Mr. Tricolas and I can just name teacher after teacher, after teacher that took a personal interest, not only in me but in my family as well. Patty Martone knew everybody’s mother and probably had your brothers or sisters. So I have been blessed in Fort Wayne Community Schools to have support and that’s really what I want to have happen for kids and that’s what I’m trying to create with the staff here now, so that kids feel there’s a support family.

“When it was time to decide what to do after graduation, I had people like Helen Lee, who was my English teacher and helped me to understand that I can go to college through scholarships because my parents didn’t have money. I have had instilled in me that you have opportunities if you pay attention to your classroom work and if you come to school. I was involved in activities, so I actually had an opportunity to go to college because of what I had done every single year in school. I was a nerd and very proud of it because it was important for my parents to see that all the sacrifices they made for me were appreciated.

“I was also a member of Progressive Church with Rev. White and people like Sim Nelson. These were people who were the godfathers and the grandfathers of so many of us in this community and all of them had the same message, you are capable but you have to work hard for it. So I worked every summer throughout college because I was on scholarships because for me, education is a privilege. But, it’s something that you have to commit to, as much as, we expect for schools to commit to the students and I know that I’m where I am because of that.

“So, when I came back to Fort Wayne, I was very blessed to see Dr. Adams, who I called my fairy godmother. She has always been such a gentle women and an educated women who carried herself well and I wanted to be like her. So I had role models on how you do this school business and how you conduct yourself and I have had, what I believe, is a very blessed life. Because I’ve had the right people in my life at the right time and I believe that I’m where I am because of hard work and I had to commit to that myself but I was also blessed to have mentors all along the way.

“Now, I’m blessed to have a family and my husband Jim and my sons support me. Being a superintendent and being an administrator, my principals understands this clearly, it dominates your life. It’s a seven day a week, twelve hour a day even though we only have eight, it’s all consuming. I have a very strong support system at home too or else I wouldn’t be able to do this. I think the best part of my job is that I work with administrators, teachers and classified people who love this district and no matter how hard it get’s, I can count on them to do the right thing for the right reasons so it’s easy to come to work. It doesn’t matter what issue we have to tackle, we always figure out a way to get it done because I have a strong school board, I have strong administrators and strong teachers and I think the best part is, we still have parents who think we can get this job done.

“I feel that it’s absolutely important for children today to have a mentor and I say this every chance I get. If I could just wave a magic wand, I would instill in every parent the understanding that their children can only be as much as you push them and support them to be. There has been people, all over the world, who overcame hardships and everybody’s not going to have a charmed life but every time I reached a hard patch, I remember the support from my mom, my church or my mentor’s. So for kids to survive with all the things in today’s world, no child is going to make it alone without having somebody. Even if, it’s only one person to help them through and mentor them over rough spots but more than that, encourage them when they’ve done something well. I think we spend so much time talking about what’s wrong with children and that we don’t celebrate the things that are right. We have very bright energetic kids that are going to help you and I when we get older and so I think that mentors are very important, I wouldn’t be here without them.

“After learning all of this beauty through sharing, I asked her this question. They say that there are a lot of keys to success so do you feel that education is one of those keys? She responded, absolutely! And, there have been people who have made it without formal education but that’s something that my mom and grandmother used to call, mother’s wit. They are survival skills and there are people who have become very successful that didn’t know how to read but they taught themselves. However, I believe that being educated in a formal structure is the right thing to do in the public schools for children to experience. Because they can’t make it unless they’re consistently learning through education. We doom children when we don’t give them the right education, that’s our responsibility as a society.

“This Women’s History Month I’d like to say to women and young girls in particular, the first thing that you have to do is, love and respect yourself and understand clearly that women are the cradle of civilization, we have babies. We are the nurturers but women have to begin by seeing themselves as important, as intelligent and as beautiful human beings who has something to offer. My mom use to always say to me, I want you to grow up, get married, have a family and I want you to have kids but I want you to always be able to take care of yourself. No matter what else happens, you have to get it for yourself and you have to be educated.

“I think that sometimes we’re sending the complete wrong message to young girls by saying, what’s on the outside is what people are really going to pay attention to. But you need to know how you feel about yourself and your own spirituality. How do you feel about the world? You’ve got to get yourself balanced and understand yourself before you can be any good to anybody else and it’s possible. No one would have predicted that I would be superintendent sitting in this office, even 30 years ago, let alone when I first started school. I didn’t think that I wanted to do this but Dr. Adams and others told me, that when you have education, that’s the ticket and it can take you anywhere and that‘s what I live by. So if you’re at peace with yourself and you know yourself and you do what’s right for yourself then, that puts you in a position to do well and to do things for others.”

Now in closing I say, fantastic job Mrs. Robinson, I’m so proud of you and I thank GOD that you did come back to Fort Wayne because we need you here, in the name of love. So until next week, when we bring to you some more beauty this Women’s History Month with Your Women’s History Month Specialty Page that shares messages for women from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Eta Upsilon Zeta Chapter and some Pastors honoring their First Ladies, you’ve been Up Close with Jeanie. Bye, bye,

P.S. If you would like the Spotlight shined upon you or someone that you know, all in the name of love, just send me an e-mail to upclosewithjeanie@yahoo.com. I’d love to hear from ya.

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