Job: Retiring principal and executive director of Signature School
Her Story: After more than 10 years as principal of Downtown’s Signature School, Vicki Snyder is ready to pass on the reigns. Retiring at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, the 2011 Rotary Civic Award winner is ready to enjoy some downtime after a tough, yet rewarding battle in creating Indiana’s first public charter high school.
Her Resume: Graduating with both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Evansville, Snyder took her first teaching job at Reitz High School. She taught history for 26 years at Reitz before coming to Signature in 1999, when it still was a part-time program with the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.
Her Perspective: “It’s been hard — a lot of tears and a lot of exhaustion — but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”
On her responsibilities at Signature: We included the title executive director/principal because the job really went beyond what a principal does on a day-to-day basis. I work on developing and maintaining the budget and managing operations of the school. I work with teachers in developing our curriculum, I hire teachers, and I have a lot of community activities that I’m involved in.
On leaving the classroom for administration: When I came into Signature in ’99, I loved the teaching atmosphere. I planned to teach here until retirement. But the principal at that time (Dan Durbin) took a job outside of Indianapolis, and so he came to me and said, ‘You need to consider putting in for the principal’s job.’ I began to think about it and I decided to put in for the job and I got the appointment.
On the journey to forming a charter school: I was the principal for one year when we began to think of becoming a charter school. When we opened (August 2002), I did not anticipate the kind of resistance and animosity that we dealt with in those early days. But I don’t focus on the obstacles. We were very excited and committed to providing an academic environment that put academics as the focus.
On the aftermath of becoming a charter school: I look back on the first couple of years and I don’t know how we did it. The hours were so long and there were many nights I was here until 9:30-10 p.m. I remember going home in the evening and just falling in bed. There was a lot to it. It was like starting a business from the ground up.
On the future of Signature: I’m very proud of what the teachers and the kids have put together here. As I look back and get ready to retire, it’s in a good place. I have the utmost confidence in my successor, Jean Hitchcock, who is an academic and believes in quality and high expectations. She also will be a good disciplinarian. I don’t think there’s any magic formula to the success that we’ve had. It’s just that the teachers have worked very hard and we have tremendous support from the parents
On her future: I’m going to take a vacation in October and I’m going to really enjoy myself. I will try to wind down and get away from multitasking so that my brain can be rewired to sit down and read a book without falling asleep.
One more thing: The support and the direction of the school board has been key to our success because they’ve always supported me in day-to-day operations. They depended on me to make decisions, but then they backed me. Our Signature School Foundation board has been phenomenal in their financial support, and also their insights into running the school. It’s been a successful merger between business and education.
According to the U.S. News & World Report, Signature School is ranked the 35th best public high school in the country, the fifth best charter high school, the 49th best in math and science, and No. 1 in Indiana. Also this year, Signature ranked in the top 10 of Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s listing of the best 1,000 public high schools in the nation.