Before being named executive director of the Jackson County Education Coalition, Dan Hodge spent 16½ years working for a pharmaceutical company in Seymour.
After spending nearly four years with the coalition, he has decided to go back to the industrial sector.
Hodge recently announced he has accepted a senior-level position at a pharmaceutical company in Louisville, Kentucky, and is resigning from the coalition, which he has headed since October 2012.
Hodge said a former colleague approached him a few weeks ago about a job opportunity, and he couldn’t pass it up.
“It was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. It was and it is a great opportunity for me,” Hodge said.
“I have always loved the job that I have been in, and I have loved being able to make a difference in the community that I live in. But this is just such a phenomenal opportunity, and I just really couldn’t pass it up.”
Coalition board President Darren Wildman said the organization’s next steps currently are being assessed.
“The Jackson County Education Coalition board of directors will evaluate our needs moving forward, and of course the good work of the coalition and learning center that is already underway with our many community partners will continue to help move education forward all across Jackson County,” Wildman said.
“We are pleased for Dan and his new endeavors,” he said. “We appreciate Dan’s hard work with the Jackson County Education Coalition and Jackson County Learning Center and wish him the best.”
Hodge has been the coalition’s only director.
“I am very grateful to the board and for this opportunity that I’ve had with the education coalition. I truly stepped outside of my box and went into a totally different career,” he said. “It was really neat to forge a new trail. … We were able to blaze a new trail in Jackson County. That has been very exciting.”
Hodge said he starts his new job Monday. He and his family will still live in Seymour, and he plans to continue being a part of the community.
“I know that my new role is something that I’m also extremely passionate about,” he said. “Now, I’m going to go back to what I started doing in a senior-level position that is a really great opportunity for me.”
The Jackson County Education Coalition is a countywide partnership of education, business and community leaders focused on aligning and integrating the county’s learning system with economic growth and a high quality of life.
It was incorporated in 2010 to manage the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour, expand educational opportunities in the county and serve as a supporting organization to the Community Foundation of Jackson County to help carry out its interests in education.
The coalition’s initial funding and the executive director position were paid for through a $5 million gift from Cummins Inc. as part of its Seymour Engine Plant expansion project.
The organization has taken a “cradle-to-grave approach” with the goal of providing programming to preschool, kindergarten through 12th grade and post-secondary students and adult education.
Establishing a countywide preschool program, ensuring that every student graduates from high school and making it possible for everyone to have a good-paying job were among the goals set at the beginning.
The coalition was the convening and spearheading organization for the On My Way Pre-K program. Jackson County was one of only five counties and the only rural county in the state awarded a state grant to offer that program.
“As a result, in the past two years, more than 150 children have had the opportunity to have free preschool throughout the county,” Hodge said.
The coalition also has led the charge to increase capacity and quality of preschool opportunities in Jackson County.
“This is evident by going from three high-quality child care programs in the county prior to the grant opportunity to 14 high-quality programs today that can serve almost 200 children,” Hodge said. “There has also been a push to increase capacity of our providers and to provide more options for families, including extended care.”
During Hodge’s tenure, the coalition added and funded programs to get students engaged and prepare them for a career or college.
One example is the iGrad tutoring and mentoring program that soon will roll out at Brownstown Central High School. With funding from a Skill UP Indiana! grant, the education coalition and several other partners, including Ivy Tech Community College, worked together to get the program started.
As executive director, Hodge also oversaw and managed the operations at the Jackson County Learning Center.
He was instrumental in the development and planning of the construction upgrade of a science lab and an advanced manufacturing and technology lab at the learning center.
“These additions have helped local businesses by providing them a better skilled workforce,” Hodge said.
Another accomplishment in the adult education and workforce development area has been the collaboration with WorkOne to provide funding for unemployed or underemployed workers.
“Since 2014, more than 50 people have been helped, with more than 40 people finding jobs as a result,” Hodge said.
When the coalition started, Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., said having that organization in place would help retain companies in the county and recruit companies to the area.
He also said the coalition’s leader would help improve and expand education and the workforce, which companies say is important in their expansion decisions in today’s market.
“Education and workforce development are extremely key components of economic development,” Plump said. “Dan’s work with the Jackson County Education Coalition in conjunction with the JCIDC Workforce Partnership has been extremely important, with various programs now underway that will make a difference in the future.
“Dan came from an industrial background, so he ‘got it’ in terms of what was needed,” Plump said. “I wish him the best of luck and thank him for all he did during his tenure at JCEC.”
As he moves on to his new job, Hodge looks back on his time with the education coalition with pride.
“Our pre-K motto is, ‘All good things start with a great foundation,’” he said. “I hope that as the driver of the bus for the education coalition over the almost four years that I served as executive director that I have provided the learning system from pre-K through adult learning with that great foundation and helped move the needle forward in Jackson County.”