Park named after Scecina Alumna Kathy Steele

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Class of 1966 graduate Kathy (Shaver) Steele‘s 42-year career in Crawfordsville Community Schools, including 13 years as superintendent, inspired city officials to name a park after her when she retired.

Why does she work so hard on behalf of Crawfordsville children and the community? She quickly tears up a bit in response: “It all started at Scecina and the motto to ‘give that little extra.’ ” She strived to earn her letter jacket. Her older brothers, Jim ’60 and David ’62, earned letter jackets by participating in varsity sports, unavailable to Scecina girls at the time.

“Absolutely nobody has ever fought harder for the children of our community,” Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton said of Steele at the 2021 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Kathleen J. Steele Park.

The park features playground equipment, a basketball court, shade trees, benches, cornhole, and picnic tables. All ages can share the basketball court, because there’s a lower basketball goal on one end for the younger kids and a higher one for the bigger kids.

After teaching at Indianapolis Public Schools, Kathy was recruited by Crawfordsville schools in 1972. She started a program for gifted
and talented students, one of the first in the nation, and was a national leader in the field. She has written a book, “Involving Parents,”
and co-written another, “Creative Teaching.” She also has led efforts to improve school nutrition.

She was coordinator of gifted education and the gifted education model site director for 10 years and coordinator of curriculum and innovation for six.  In 2001, the Crawfordsville school board chose her as its superintendent. One of her legacies is the Crawfordsville Middle School. She knocked on doors herself to convince residents to vote for the referendum to build the school, which passed with nearly 80 percent approval.

“During three decades of covering news in our part of Indiana, I’ve interacted with dozens of school superintendents,” said her Scecina classmate Mike Piggott, a longtime Lafayette, Ind., radio newsman and later Purdue’s director of community relations. “Kathy Steele is a class act and, certainly, one of the most respected. Even as an administrator, Kathy was first a teacher, and that approach served the Crawfordsville community well.”

Beside her through all of it was her dedicated husband, John Steele, a 1962 Scecina graduate who died in April 2021. “He was a good guy,”
said Kathy. The couple was tickled when the Crawfordsville Main Street Board of Directors honored John with a trash can and plaque. It complemented the nearby park bench installed in Kathy’s honor in Marie Canine Plaza at Crawford Place. The bench is inscribed: “In honor of Dr. Kathleen J. Steele, dedicated and skillful educator who encouraged others to lead.”

Kathy, who is a member of the Scecina Women’s Circle, continues to give back to Crawfordsville, currently serving as the local United Way campaign chairman. Although Kathy has earned local and national awards and distinctions as an educator, she proudly points to a special one on the wall of her home: Distinguished Alumni Award, Little Flower Catholic School, 2016. “Little Flower, Scecina, and my parents were the building blocks that shaped my future,” she said. “I feel fortunate. I’ve had a great life.”

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