The Masterminds

Photo by Sarah Liu

Each day at CHS, hundreds of students and teachers walk down the hallway, abide by the rules and go about their day, but rarely do they think of the masterminds behind the running of the school and school district. The superintendent, principal, administration, teachers, parents and even students are all fragments of the decision-making process that results in what classes are available, the daily schedule, the food that is served, extracurricular activities—in other words, a day at school.

Principal’s Advisory Committee

The Principal’s Advisory Committee (PAC) is a group of 16 members that consists of the student body president, speaker of the House, class presidents, senators and students representing various aspects of the school. According to Henry Curts (pictured above), member of the PAC and speaker of the House, the committee meets with co-chairperson and Principal John Williams every other late start to discuss issues pertaining to the school and issues that students are facing.

“It’s a lot of discussion based off of our own experiences and experiences that we see from other kids,” said Curts. “So it’s a lot of … throwing ideas out on the table and seeing what we think would work best for everyone.”

Matthew “Matt” Klineman, member of PAC, president of Carmel Mayor’s Youth Council and senior, said if any of the members think something could be improved, then it ends up on the agenda and Williams will go out and do preliminary work. Then, during the meeting, members will discuss, give suggestions and figure out what is best for the students.

Klineman said, “It’s really free in that if someone comes up to a member of PAC and has an idea or something that they think should be better in the school, then we actually bring that up which is really cool for us students because we have a voice in what can be changed.”

According to Curts, not all changes end up happening.

“Some changes are made on the spot while others begin as a suggestion and then later become a reality,” he said.

Curts said all changes are made at an appropriate time to benefit the students.

“Sometimes we decide something needs to happen or we decide what’s best. If we decide that it is for the best for everyone to change something, then we will change it. It’s all about if everyone’s benefitting from the decision we make,” Curts said. Williams said a main purpose behind PAC is being able to go up to members of PAC when things are going on in school and saying, ‘This is what we’re doing. What do you think about that?’

Williams said the thing PAC has has students some kind of a voice. He said students also get to put together an agenda for the meetings.

“You try not to sit here in this office and just make decisions. When things come up or when decisions have to be made, you try to get input from the various constitutions, so you can make the very best decisions. That’s kind of the whole purpose behind PAC,” Williams said.

“Sometimes we decide something needs to happen or we decide what’s best. If we decide that it is for the best for everyone to change something, then we will change it. It’s all about if everyone’s benefitting from the decision we make.”Henry Curts, member of the PAC and speaker of the House


Superintendent Nicholas Wahl said a common theme in every decision that is made is what is best for Carmel Clay Schools. In his 13 years of being a superintendent, he has seen two kinds of methodologies in decision making.

The one that he has most commonly seen is a top-down adult-centered decision making model, in which decisions are generally adult friendly. This indicates a top-down, command-and-control model that is usually seen in the military, according to Wahl.

Wahl practices the opposite, which is a very student-centered decision making model and not top-down. It includes collaboration, team-building and people on a team who are trustworthy and service-minded and want to serve the needs of the schools and the students. Wahl said this model is about what is best for the students and how to engage the students.

Williams said making decisions is fairly simple because, like Wahl said, they are made in the best interest of the students.

“There are a lot of different decisions that we have to make and quite a few different considerations that we have to take into account, but for all of us—for parents, for teachers, for administrators, for cafeteria workers, for bus drivers, for everybody—our main consideration is very clear,” Williams said. “That is what is best for our kids from safety and curriculum to extracurriculars. All that (centers) around how we best serve our kids.”

Both Wahl and Williams said the decision-making process varies depending on the decision that needs to be made. According to Williams, decisions, such as new classes, need to be approved by the school board, while other more specific decisions, such as PSAT schedule, are made at the high school only.

Wahl said that decision making is all about a process and what the goal is of something being changed. He focuses on creating a process around necessary changes.

“It’s how we go about making decisions that I’m interested in. I am an advocate of participatory management which is having an opportunity for people to have a say, not a vote. Those are the opportunities that I created,” Wahl said.

Williams said, for him, getting input, having a process that involves getting input and having a clear focus for schools are the golden rules he follows in decision making.

“I remember when I first started doing this, I was talking to a really smart guy that I respected, and I said, ‘I’m kinda nervous about this.’ He said, ‘You know if you just make every decision based on what is best for kids, you will be fine.’ I know that that sounds like a simple ‘duh’ but it’s really not because often times we get caught up in decision making and we try to make parents happy, we try to make teachers happy or we try to save money,” Williams said. “We do all sorts of things and sometimes it helps me to just take a step back and say ‘What’s the best thing for our kids?’”

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Sreeti Ravi