Setting up to step down

Perry Township superintendent retires


Grace Elder

Superintendent Patrick Mapes discusses his time in Perry Township and his plans for the future. Mapes will have been Superintendent for seven years by the time he steps down from office.

Superintendent Patrick Mapes was sitting in the comfort of his home watching TV on Oct. 7 when the phone rang. After 30 years of being an administrator, Mapes had gained dozens of connections and friends in the education world, and one of those friends, Reece Mann, was calling him now.

Mapes received the call after he had been on NBC National News to highlight how the township worked to bounce back academically from the COVID-19 pandemic. Mann wanted to know why he’d been on such a large news platform, and Mapes responded that he was just helping kids, as he always does. Mann went on to thank him for all the work he has done and helping kids all over the state, and Mapes praised him for doing the same. Mann responded by saying that his success was only due to what Mapes had shown him.

That was the last conversation Mapes had with his friend.

On Oct. 28, Mann passed away from complications with cancer. This final conversation played a major part in Mapes making a huge decision.

“It really made me think, ‘Woah, it might be time to go live some life and do something different,’” Mapes said.

After working at Perry Township for twice as long as the typical township superintendent, Mapes is retiring. Though many students may not realize it, this could mean a huge change for SHS and the township as a whole.

The October after he graduated high school in 1982, Mapes was coaching 7th grade boys basketball in Daleville Jr. Sr. High School while going to college. While coaching boy’s varsity basketball in 1988, Mapes started out in the education world by teaching Social Studies for five years, but the simple classroom setting wasn’t satisfying enough. While he was a social studies teacher, Mapes would collaborate with the English department to teach history method, just because he was bored of teaching the same topics.

“I wanted more,” Mapes said. “(I) wanted to be moving, wanted something different every day, and the school administration was going to give that to me, so that’s why I jumped into it.”

In 1993, he became an assistant principal while still coaching boys varsity basketball, and in various townships through the years, he moved up the ladder from principal, assistant superintendent, superintendent, to the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board.

By February 2016, Mapes was the chairman of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board when Perry Township opened up a position for an associate superintendent. He decided he wanted to return to the typical school setting, so he applied and was accepted for the job.

Ken Mertz is a secretary on the Perry Township school board and played a role in Mapes being hired in 2016.

“At the time, when Mr. Mapes came on, the board at the time recognized some abilities that he had that were different (from) our existing superintendent …” Mertz said. “We saw some value in him.”

The previous Perry Township superintendent, Dr. Thomas Little, had been having health troubles and eventually took medical leave in July 2016. This required Mapes to take on some more responsibility, and two months into his job as Associate Superintendent, he simultaneously began to do the work of a superintendent, and on July 1, 2017, he officially gained the full title.

“This place is special,” Mapes said, “I didn’t know that until I got here, but once I got here it was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got a real gem here. How can I polish it up and make it even better?’”

After Mapes’ first year in Perry Township, the construction of the kindergarten academies had been completed, a township police force had been launched and three-tier bussing was implemented.

Mapes’ time at Perry Township has created many changes, some of his most significant accomplishments being in the academic field.


He says his proudest accomplishment is providing all the unique learning opportunities, including the creation of the Compass Education Center in 2019 and the implementation of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program into every Perry Township school starting in 2017. These programs allow for students who don’t thrive in the typical school setting to try another path of learning and graduation.

“Those are the reasons I’ve done this for 40 years,” Mapes said. “How can we help kids? How can we help them achieve so they can go be successful once they leave the high school setting?”

The basic description of a superintendent’s job is to oversee everything that happens in the district, but in reality it is an extremely multifaceted role. It includes managing finances and food services, hiring school staff, making academic decisions, overseeing building maintenance and expansion and more. Over the course of seven years, Mapes has completed all of these responsibilities.

For him, however, the most significant experience he had working in the township took place at SHS: hosting President Donald Trump for a political rally in 2018.

There had been a plan for President Donald Trump to support Senator Mike Braun in a rally near central Indiana. Tony Bennett, who was the State Education Superintendent, had connections to Mapes and called him just a week in advance to find a location.

No matter his political stance, Mapes couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring the president to students.

“I just think that is such a cool thing,” Mapes said. “If they called us today and said they wanted to bring Joe Biden in here, okay, it’s the President of the United States. Let’s go.”

The whole day, SHS, Principal Brian Knight and Mapes were surrounded by secret service and law enforcement. The Fieldhouse hosted around 10,000-11,000 people and SHS earned $20,000 in concessions. Press from SHS and Perry Meridian were able to stand 15 feet away from the president along with professional news reporters. Mapes and Knight were even able to shake Trump’s hand and meet with him in the Cardinal’s Nest after the event.

“It was unbelievable,” Mapes said. “I don’t know how much I slept that week to be honest with you.”

Some of Mapes’ more recent accomplishments include helping to pass a referendum to increase teacher salaries last May, defining elementary school boundaries to simplify transportation and making Perry Township the first district recipient of the National Award of Excellence for Educator Effectiveness from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching.

“He’s done some tremendous things for Perry Township and has been a great advocate for Perry Township,” Mertz said.

Even with all of these accomplishments, Mapes has never won any awards himself for the success of the township. However, this is just as he expects. Mapes has been taught a philosophy that he still follows today, which is that the student’s success is the teacher’s success, the teacher’s success is the principal’s success and the principal’s success ultimately reaches the superintendent, so he believes any awards that individual people and buildings receive are a reflection of his own work.

“I think I’ve been able to bring Perry Township a long way from when I walked in here to be recognized as a leader academically, in the state and nationally,” Mapes said. “And I want people to understand that that wasn’t done alone.”

To Knight, the effect of Mapes’ leadership on the school and its staff is obvious.

Little was the superintendent who first moved Knight from the middle school to the high school, but Mapes joined administration shortly after Knight’s transition. In the time that he’s been under Mapes’ supervision, Knight says that one of the best things about his leadership is his trust in his employees.

“He hires good people and then he trusts them to do the job … ” Knight said. “Does he talk to you at times and does he provide guidance at times if it’s needed? Yeah, absolutely. But he trusts you to do the work.”

When Mapes announced his retirement, he got a myriad of text messages and emails from his friends and colleagues, Knight being one of them.

Another one of these messages came from SHS Associate Principal Amy Boone.

Boone was the first administrator that Little hired as superintendent in December 2008, and experienced two different leadership styles from two different superintendents. Since she aspires to pursue a principal role someday, she has taken their examples to heart. One of the main traits she desires to mirror from Mapes is his approachability and ability to converse with almost everyone in the township.

This approachability not only affects her work life, but her home life as well. When Boone moved her family from Noblesville to Perry Township five years ago, she coincidentally moved in next door to Mapes. Throughout the years, she’s been able to witness Mapes helping out his neighbors, including her by helping to clear her driveway and sidewalks after a bad snow storm. She has seen the superintendent not only as her boss but also as a member in his community.

“That’s kind of a cool thing for me to see, the boss boss of the district is a real person too,” Boone said.

Just as Mapes has affected the people around him, his colleagues have a major influence on the decisions he makes, including the ultimate decision to retire.

A primary factor in Mapes’ decision was his phone call with Mann.

In 2006, Mapes hired Mann to be a guidance counselor at Delta Middle School and they quickly became friends. Mann continued to pursue administrative roles and Mapes continued to be a mentor for him.

I don’t want to be … that guy that doesn’t do anything but work and doesn’t go live.

— Superintendent Patrick Mapes

On Oct. 28, Mann passed away due to difficulties with cancer but not before they’d shared one last phone call together.

“And that’s the last time I heard from him,” Mapes said. “I don’t want to be that guy who’s here too long or that guy that doesn’t do anything but work and doesn’t go live.”

Two weeks after this conversation, Mapes reported his retirement to the school board and made a public announcement on Dec. 13.

After he retires, Mapes isn’t sure what might be next. He still plans on serving on the State Board of Education, but the rest is up in the air.

“At 58, (I’m) scared …, ” Mapes said. “(It’s the) first time I’ve never had a plan.”

In retirement, it’s likely that Mapes will be able to spend more time participating in his hobbies and being with his family, time that hasn’t been available during this demanding job. His most prominent hobbies include playing golf and going to concerts.

As for the family aspect of his retirement, Mapes is expecting to receive his first grandchild within the next few months.

“That timing is fantastic,” Mapes said.

Mapes’ last day working for Perry Township will be June 30. He has set up the process for finding a new superintendent, and from here on out, he will be stepping away from influencing the process.

“I’m not gonna be the shadow over the top of whoever they pick,” Mapes said. “I want them to pick who they want to lead this place, not who I want to lead this place.”

According to Knight, there’s an uneasy feeling among the administration as the decision comes closer.

“There’s a little bit of anxiousness there,” Knight said. “All the good stuff that we have going, we hope the new leader allows us to do some of those things.”

However, Mapes is confident in his team and the people that he’s hired. He knows that they have the ability to choose a great leader and keep up Perry Township’s reputation, no matter what.

No matter who gets picked to sit in his chair next, Mapes’ impact will always have a lasting effect on the students and staff of Perry Township.