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COMMUNITY VOICE

John Weicker's strong influence on student management, school security

Friday, April 26, 2013 - 12:01 am

If you were a student at Northrop High School between the late ’70s up through the early ’90s, then you had to have known and thus held a variety of viewpoints regarding John Weicker, who served as the dean of boys during that period.

You may have seen him as sort of a Darth Vader stalking the hallways of Fort Wayne’s largest high school. If you had been sent to his office for some misbehavior, then perhaps you noticed the infamous hangman’s noose that hung prominently from his office wall, leaving you to wonder if, in fact, you were actually standing in judgment before Roy Bean. Being a student in those days you might even have believed that he was in fact the personification of J. R. R. Tolkien’s all-seeing Eye of Sauron.

Simply, if you were a student who was up to no good, you darn well knew that Mr. Weicker was looking for you. On the other hand, if you were a student who wanted to better yourself and get an education, then you knew that Mr. Weicker was looking out for you.

Weicker’s association with Fort Wayne Community Schools has deep roots dating back to his graduation from Elmhurst High School in 1965. I should also make mention that John is the son of Jack Weicker, who served a lengthy tenure as principal of South Side High School from 1963 to 1990. After a stint as an M.P. in the U.S. Army during the turbulent ’60s, John earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Indiana University. Even while attending college he was cleaning up student messes, so to speak, as he worked as a custodian at Elmhurst. He started his teaching career at Blackhawk Middle School and then taught three years at Northrop before being appointed Northrop’s dean of boys in 1978.

These were the days that left some wondering if our nation wasn’t turning a blind eye to the temptations that confronted the youth of America as well as the deterioration of the family. Certainly, Fort Wayne was not exempt, and increasing numbers of our children were becoming involved in drugs, gangs and other dangerous and self-destructive behaviors.

Believing that kids wanted discipline in their lives and strong direction, John brought a solid philosophy and strong presence to Northrop. That presence assured that students could attend classes knowing that he would be on the prowl while making sure that teachers could teach and students could learn with little distraction. His philosophy was based on accountability. Whether you were a freshman, a teacher, an administrator or a parent, you were responsible for the choices you made and the actions you committed. John simply saw accountability as a method of teaching valuable lessons to all who needed to learn how to navigate their own lives through life’s rough seas.

Over the many years of John’s involvement with Fort Wayne Community Schools, he secured many friendships, formed numerous partnerships with both educators and those in the law enforcement and school security fields, as well as inspired many students.

Sam DiPrimio, who was a longtime teacher at Northrop and who now serves as assistant principal at Carroll High School, remembers when John was in his first years of teaching and Sam was still a student at Blackhawk Middle School.

“In spite of his no-nonsense approach, he was without question an advocate for kids,” Sam says. “It would not be uncommon to see him take a troubled student ‘outside’ for a walk so as to allow for decompression of emotions and provide the student an opportunity to vent, seek counsel or just provide a time to discuss ‘life options.’ Bottom line was that even though students knew that John would hold them accountable, he would do it fairly and consistently as so to keep their trust.”

When in 1991 John was chosen to take on a new position that ultimately led to his current title of director of security for Fort Wayne Community Schools, it seemed to all who knew him to have been a result of natural selection. Drawing from his past experiences in both law enforcement and education, John brought innovative programs into our schools in order to assure that all students would be safe. He has not only provided direction to Fort Wayne Community Schools in their approach to safety and security, but has also advised many other schools throughout Indiana and beyond.

Such programs included overseeing introduction of the school resource officers’ computer-based intelligence for emergency responders to access every school efficiently. Included in his many achievements were forming a strong partnership with the Indiana Department of Education and being one of the original board members for the Indiana School Safety Specialist Academy that started up after the Columbine tragedy.

Ken Trump, president and CEO of National School Safety and Security Services, based out of Cleveland, has known and worked with John for many years.

“John Weicker walks the walk of school security,” says Trump. “His professionalism, integrity and character are unmatched. There is no doubt that John touches lives for the better — for the many that interact with him firsthand and for the many more by the standard he advocates on their behalf.”

Certainly, the John Weicker that I and so many others have had the opportunity to know is without a doubt — well, let’s just say he is unique. He can be tough, his words stinging and his humor dry, but to know him is to love him.

Another former student who walked those Northrop halls when John was dean was Mark Russell, now the director of education, family services and housing with the Indianapolis Urban League. I think Mark sums up Weicker’s personality and dedication best: “John is much like an egg. A hard exterior covers and protects a very valuable, giving and multifaceted protein that lies inside. John cares about people, especially young people, and his experiences and outlook give some the impression that he is hard-boiled, but I know he only projects that to protect what is inside, which is a side he allows few people outside his circle to see.”

Mark adds: “Having known John as a student and then as an adult friend, I can truly say that his yolk is unique as is he, and we are all the richer for having him in our lives.”

Weicker is retiring at the end of this current school year. He will quickly tell you that he is ready. I’m not so sure. Nevertheless, his leadership in the areas of student management and school security has influenced many throughout the years and will continue to provide direction and inspiration for many in the years to come. He may not be missed by everyone when he leaves his post, but he will be missed enough to make it count.

Bob Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne.