MARY MATTINGLY PHOTO
Dr. Dave Wintin is the new principal at South Ripley High School
“Do right. Do the best you can. Treat other people like you wanted to be treated.” David Wintin on the morning announcement the first week of school quoting legendary Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz.
By Mary Mattingly
Calm. Easy-going. Committed. Those are the three words Dr. David Wintin, the new South Ripley High School principal, has heard in how people describe him. He admits he doesn’t get angry, rattled or excited easily. “My wife says I got excited three times in my life…Once was at the birth of my son, the other two were when I coached and we went to the state finals in wrestling and football.”
Wintin simply expects people to do their job, whether it is to teach, attend school, and to follow the rules. “I appreciate people, the staff and the students who come to work...It’s what we are supposed to do.” He gives an example of his laid-back attitude. “Today, I have a kid suspended because he did something stupid in science lab. And I took away the driving privileges of two others. I wasn’t mad at any of them. But I told them ‘this is what you did, and these are the consequences’. Follow the handbook. I just don’t get all excited.” He admits sometimes his attitude can throw a student. “I’m smiling while I chew them out!”
You could attribute his mild demeanor to over 30 years as an umpire. “You can’t call me something I have not been called before!” he says and laughs. Or perhaps his personality was developed as a former high school and college wrestler, or as a long-time head coach of wrestling and assistant football coach, or from 26 years in the classroom, or even as a father of three.
The 6’3,” 58-year-old, Wintin will be easy to recognize for the South Ripley staff as he is the only new adult in the building. He comes to South Ripley after retiring from teaching in May, 2012. His last stint was as principal at Eastern High School in Pekin, Indiana, just south of Jackson County. He was looking for a small school and South Ripley being close to Lawrenceburg schools, where his wife of 35 years oversees curriculum, was ideal. They had been apart during the week for the past six years while both were working in education.
While in Pekin, he lived with his parents in Seymour. “I was in the same bedroom I had as a kid,” he likes to tell people. He stayed with them two nights a week, his brother the other two, so he wouldn’t wear out his welcome. He and his wife have a home in New Palestine and rather than sell it, their daughter and her family from Charleston, South Carolina, moved in. In July, the Wintins moved into a patio home at Summerset Point, just about a mile from the school.
Wintin has been in education in some form for 35 years. He spent 20 years in the classroom at New Palestine where he taught “everything” from health and PE, to science classes. “At times I thought I was a better health teacher than anything else. I just enjoyed it. It covered everything. It was a good conversation to have with kids.”
Education is in his genes. His mother was a kindergarten teacher, his father a math teacher, most of it at Seymour where he grew up. His siblings are also educators, with one brother at Austin and another at Bedford North Lawrence. “ We didn’t know there was anything else!” Two of his own kids went into education; his son Josh works at the eligibility center for the NCAA and his wife is a teacher; Sarah teaches in Shelbyville. Daughter Mary lives in Beech Grove. Wintin and wife Carole enjoy being near their three grandchildren.
Sports is also in his genes. His dad coached him in wrestling. Although tall and lanky, he also was an offensive lineman on the football team.
Last month, he lost his beloved father, and chokes up when asked who is his role model, “All I ever wanted to do was be like my dad.” His dad’s teaching philosophy –“to treat each kid as if they were your own” - stayed with him.
A graduate of the University of Indianapolis (it was called Indiana Central back then) Wintin was encouraged by the New Palestine staff to go into administration. He got his master’s in education from Ball State, and his doctorate from IU in 2008. His first job was at a school where he also coached wrestling. After he left New Palestine in 2004, he served as a consultant for five years in the Center for Excellence for Indianapolis Public Schools, and was also assistant principal at a magnet school and at Arsenal Tech. His work in Indy was to try and break larger high schools into smaller units. “The whole concept behind it is that schools need to be small enough so we know our students well and their needs,” he said.
He prefers small schools, like South Ripley’s with 360 students. One Indianapolis school he worked at had 1,900 enrolled. If you had an English teacher you liked freshman year, chances were you would not see that teacher the rest of your high school years, Wintin commented.
‘Not a cake walk’
Wintin knows the school family went through a difficult time last year, with the tragic loss of students. But Wintin knows a bit how Bob Meyer, the former SR principal, may have felt. At Eastern, three parents of his students died suddenly. “We were 540 kids and even if you didn’t know everyone well, you knew who everyone was. That stuff hits you in the face.”
And he was principal there when the March tornado came through in 2012, the same one that destroyed nearby Henryville school. “We went to the tornado drill stations at 2:40. School lets out at 3 p.m. But I’m standing in the main entrance and the athletic director says, ‘it’s right here.’ It looks like it’s coming right at you.” Debris hit the nearby elementary school.
It proved to be a good move to keep the kids there. Thirty of them lost their homes. “Henryville sent them home and that was the best thing because you saw how the school was hit. If they had been at school, it would have been a disaster.” He pauses, reflecting. “There’s no rhyme or reason. It worked out. Because it was supposed to…Stuff happens wherever you are. No place is a cake walk. That’s just life. That’s not school.”
When he’s not supporting the school, Wintin likes to exercise—bike, run, weight lift. He also likes fishing, and says we have a lot of good ponds around here. When he has spare time, he works on his Hall of Fame baseball card collection project. He’s also making a shadow box of his dad’s fishing tackle for each sibling and grandchildren. The back bedroom shows off his collection of sports memorabilia from favorite teams, the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and IU. He also follows a former New Palestine student’s football coaching career at North Carolina State.
Wintin believes the family-like atmosphere at South Ripley works for him. “The advantage of small is that everyone knows everybody. The disadvantage is that everyone knows everyone. But I think there are more pluses in small than minuses at least from the teaching staff looking at the needs of students,” Wintin said.
He doesn’t foresee making big changes initially, but admits “I’d like to see the 82 percent graduation rate climb.” So his short-lived “retirement” will be helping southern Ripley County students see the value of education for their future much like he did.
“Have perfection as your goal, but realize there is no easy way or shortcut to get there.”—David Wintin’s quote on the daily announcements the third week of school from coach John Wooden.
Businesses asked to join in
The Versailles Lions Club will again sponsor a house-decorating contest to celebrate the Versailles Pumpkin Show and this year they are opening up a category for businesses.
The rules are simple. Decorate your house or business in a theme related to the Versailles Pumpkin Show. It can be simple or elaborate. The contest is open to residents and businesses in the town limits.
Winners in the categories will receive a framed photo of their display, a certificate of appreciation and cash . First place will receive $75, second place $50 and third place $25.
Those interested should complete the entry form and drop it off at Ripley Publishing Company, 115 S. Washington St., Versailles, by 4:30 p.m., Thurs., Sept. 19.