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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
John Weicker, director of school security for Fort Wayne Community Schools, is retiring next month after 40 years in the district.

Head of security for FWCS to retire

As John Weicker finishes his final two months of school, he’s counting down the days with a small ticker in his office.

On Thursday, the counter read 44 days, plus a few hours, minutes and seconds.

Weicker grinned as he read the numbers aloud.

“Not that I’m counting,” he added.

As this year’s graduating class departs from Fort Wayne Community Schools, so too will Weicker, who has overseen school security for the district since 1992.

Last week, Fort Wayne schools said farewell to 73 retiring teachers, bus drivers, classroom assistants, administrators and others who have served the district for between 12 and 49 years.

Weicker said there’s no doubt he has been surrounded by education throughout his life.

Weicker was born in 1947, the same year his father, Jack Weicker, was hired by Fort Wayne Community Schools.

Jack Weicker was principal at South Side High School from 1963 to 1990. John Weicker’s grandmother was also a teacher.

As a first-grader, Weicker struggled to learn to read. His teacher told him he would need to reach a certain reading level by the end of the summer or he wouldn’t be allowed to move on to the next grade.

“I came home and told my grandmother that if I didn’t learn to read, I wouldn’t go to heaven,” Weicker said, with a wink. “She taught me to read that summer.”

Weicker graduated from Elmhurst High School in 1965 and went on to study at Ball State University.

After a year, he had flunked several classes and decided to return to Fort Wayne and study at IPFW. When that didn’t work, he joined the U.S. Army. He then returned to Fort Wayne and obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from IPFW. He holds life teaching and administrative licenses in Indiana.

Weicker was a military policeman for several years and eventually returned to his roots in Fort Wayne and took a custodial job at Elmhurst.

For several years, he was a custodian and then social studies teacher at Portage High School. In 1975, he became a history teacher at Northrop High School.

“I never thought I made much of a teacher,” Weicker said, although admitting that students seemed to appreciate what he called his “no bull” approach to learning.

In 1978, Weicker was named dean of boys at Northrop, where he stayed until 1991.

His first decision as the new dean was to bring in a young police officer to help keep drugs out of the school and bring a sense of control and safety to his students.

“I wanted someone with a big heart, but who wouldn’t take bull from anybody,” he said.

His choice was a young Rusty York.

York now is police chief for the Fort Wayne Police Department.

“We were young in our careers back then,” York said. “But we’ve stayed in touch all these years later.”

York described Weicker as one of the few people in life he trusts completely.

“As a dean, he was all about fairness. All of the students were to be treated the same. John stood firm in fairness,” York said. “I always admired that about him.”

Weicker said he and York had a great time working together and were successful at reducing student drug use at the school.

In their first year together, they expelled 77 students. The second year, 87. And by the following year, students wised up, Weicker said. Only 13 were expelled.

“When I sit and think back, those would be the best years of my life.”

In 1991, Weicker was chosen to take on the job of manager of discipline and attendance, a position that eventually led to his current job as director of security at FWCS.

Safe schools

Throughout his time as a teacher and administrator, Weicker said much has changed in school security but also in the way students are managed.

“We went through this period of time, kind of like we’re in now, where the shootings and gang stuff were a major concern,” he said. “But it comes and goes.”

Weicker said one of his greatest frustrations with students over the past 20 years is the way they’ve become desensitized to violence. Today’s students learn to shoot guns from a television screen and take in graphic scenes in films, he explained.

“The thing is, they can’t push the ‘start over’ button,” Weicker said. “Once the violence is done, that’s it.”

Weicker said he believes the key to reaching students is simple – hold them accountable for their actions, even at an early age.

And although discipline is an important part of a child’s growth, so is using common sense, he said.

Weicker described a student who drove to school in her father’s vehicle and had a flat tire. After asking Weicker for help, she popped the trunk, only to reveal a cooler with several warm beer bottles floating inside.

The young woman was terrified and explained that her father had used the car over the weekend. Weicker said he listened to the student’s story, phoned her father and, after discovering the story was accurate, allowed her to leave without a write-up.

“That’s the sort of thing when you need to use common sense,” he said.

The future

Thursday night, Weicker and 72 of his retiring colleagues were recognized for their service in Fort Wayne Community Schools. Weicker’s name was near the top of the list for total years served.

When he retires next month, he will have worked in the district for 40 years.

Superintendent Wendy Robinson honored Weicker during the district’s annual retirement dinner .

“ ‘Always speak the truth and you’ll never be concerned with your memory,’ ” Robinson said. “Whether you liked what he had to say or not, these were words John lived by.”

Although Weicker is looking forward to retirement with his wife, Pat, their two dogs, Lucky and Cooper, and his various barn cats, he will also miss his job at Fort Wayne schools.

“I’ve been so blessed, and I feel so fortunate,” he said.

Weicker and his wife enjoy annual trips to the Caribbean, where they have visited schools and learned about the cultural differences in other countries.

This summer will mark the end of his career in education, but his dedication to youth is far from over.

Weicker plans to continue to work in education in some capacity, perhaps by sharing some of the discipline and security policies he’s had a hand in creating with other school districts.

To explain his dedication, Weicker quoted the words of William Whiting Borden.

“No retreats, no reserves, no regrets.”

jcrothers@jg.net

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