April 25, 2016  

Purdue names first head of school for Polytechnic High School

Scott Bess

Scott Bess 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Scott Bess, currently president and chief operating officer of Goodwill Education Initiatives in Indianapolis, will become the first head of school for Purdue Polytechnic High School, which is to open in August 2017 in downtown Indianapolis.

The Polytechnic High School, a STEM-focused school designed to provide a bridge for inner-city students and others to succeed in high school and to be admitted directly to Purdue University, received its charter from the city of Indianapolis in December after Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced in June the university’s intention to create the new institution.

“We are out to bring a totally new kind of educational opportunity to IPS students and to build a pipeline that brings many of them to Purdue,” Daniels said. “Scott Bess is absolutely made to order for making this vision real.”

Bess, who will officially begin his new duties on July 5, said, “I am incredibly honored to be selected as the first head of school for Purdue Polytechnic High School. I would like to thank the leaders of Purdue and the board of the Purdue Polytechnic High School for creating the vision of an innovative school offering opportunities for students that are not present today. Starting a new school is always a challenge, but partnering with a world-class institution raises the bar for what is possible.”

Maureen Weber, the high school’s board chair, said Bess will bring great experience and knowledge to the position.

“We are thrilled to have a leader of Scott’s caliber as we launch the Purdue Polytechnic High School,” Weber said. “Scott has had great success helping to grow Goodwill Education Initiatives, and we know the high school will flourish in his hands.”

Among Bess’s early goals will be to work with Brooke Huntington, assistant dean for K-12 outreach for Purdue Polytechnic Institute, on future collaboration with Indianapolis Public Schools. Purdue Polytechnic Institute is one of 10 academic colleges at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. Bess and Huntington will meet with the IPS board on Tuesday (April 26) to discuss the vision for the Purdue Polytechnic High School and how it could become an IPS Innovation Network School partner, a collaboration that would allow both the school and the district to benefit from the expertise and services that each organization offers.

Bess comes to Purdue after 16 years with Goodwill Industries, first as chief information officer and, since 2004, as president and chief operating officer of Goodwill Education Initiatives, which under his leadership grew from a single school with 117 students to a school network with more than 3,000 students. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from Purdue and a master’s in teaching from Marian University.

“I am fortunate beyond belief to have worked for an outstanding organization like Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana and Goodwill Education Initiatives,” Bess said. “And I look forward to continuing to be able to create educational opportunities that make a real difference in the lives of students in Central Indiana.”

The school board of directors anticipates announcing a downtown Indianapolis location for the high school in the next few months, and it will enroll its first students, beginning with 150 ninth-graders, in fall 2017.

The curriculum for the innovation-focused charter school will mirror the transformed Purdue Polytechnic Institute on the West Lafayette campus and will serve as a pipeline to the institute. The school in downtown Indianapolis could also serve as a springboard to eventually allow for expansion into other Indiana cities where Purdue Polytechnic Institute offers Purdue degree programs.

Purdue Polytechnic Dean Gary Bertoline said Purdue faculty, primarily from the institute, will contribute to developing the high school’s curriculum and teaching methods.

“Our success will depend on the great developmental work of our Purdue faculty, blending K-12 and postsecondary education with an infusion of industry leadership and partnerships to provide our students with groundbreaking opportunities,” he said.

Planning for the school has been in the works for more than a year under the direction of a steering committee composed of leaders from Purdue, the city of Indianapolis, USA Funds and EmployIndy. USA Funds has provided a $500,000 planning grant, administered by EmployIndy, for the school’s start-up. 

How it will work

Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will have open enrollment for a technology-based curriculum in which the first two years will encompass problem- and project-based learning focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics with a connection among those subjects and real-world challenges. Students entering 11th grade will select a specific pathway to master skills, earn college credit and gain industry credentials while learning in the high school classroom, at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus and in the workplace. In the 12th grade, students will complete an internship in their chosen pathway. As part of the program, Purdue also will provide programs that help students transition from high school to college and college-level courses. Additional information is available online at https://polytechnic.purdue.edu/indianapolis-high-school

Sources: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

Gary Bertoline, bertolig@purdue.edu

Brooke Huntington, bhunting@purdue.edu

Scott Bess, 317-490-7265,sbess@purdue.edu


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