Hindy Gruber: hero.

When I first met Hindy Gruber through my work on a local film festival, I knew right away that at least one Dayton Public School was in good hands. They made a movie about one no-nonsense school principal from New York (Joe Clark, Lean on Me) and we could make one about Mrs. Gruber and her work at Van Cleeve/ McGuffy/Allen.

From uniforms to painting white lines with arrows in the halls, there is no question of what is, and isn’t, acceptable behavior in her school. Students walk on the line, with hands behind their backs, to keep things neat and orderly in her buildings. Structure, order, discipline have to be in place before learning can take place.

But, that doesn’t mean school is a drag. Inspired by the movie “Mad Hot Ballroom” Mrs. Gruber brought a little ballroom to the bario, asking inner city kids who like to dance more like Janet Jackson, to start being Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Yesterday, the championship went to her school, but, because we’re lucky enough to have a dedicated educator in Dayton doing the right thing, it wasn’t just her school, but seven others in the competition.

Middle-schoolers showcase skill at ballroom dance competition
DAYTON — On an otherwise sleepy Sunday afternoon, seventh- and eighth-graders from Dayton Public Schools brought the Dayton Masonic Center to life at their annual ballroom dance competition.

With hundreds in a cheering crowd packed around the dance floor and ringing the upstairs railing, the 56 two-person teams did the rumba, tango, merengue, swing and hustle in formal attire with plenty of teenage enthusiasm.

“You’ve got to get into it,” said Dahnae Brown, a Van Cleve Elementary eighth-grader. “You’ve got to move like you want to win.”

She and partner Chris Clark did that on all the dances, but Clark, a Van Cleve seventh-grader, said the hustle and the rumba stood out as their favorites.

Eastmont eighth-graders Thomas Allen and Jeri Myers agreed the rumba was fun after practicing for nearly two hours a night all last week.

“You had to be really dedicated,” Myers said. “It’s really exciting and fun.”

Judges, some of them professional dancers, graded the students to determine who would advance to the finals.

The event has been organized for three years by Van Cleve principal Hindy Gruber and Jefferson principal Czerny Buxton. Gruber was inspired to start the program after seeing the documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom,” about a similar program in New York City.

“Everybody in the 7th and 8th grade (at Van Cleve) has to do it at least three times, and there’s groaning and moaning and complaining, and then we end up with couples and teams,” said Gruber, who is looking for more event sponsors. “I couldn’t be prouder of the kids. It’s just amazing.”

Buxton said the dancing program can give the students a real lift.

“You never know what it’s going to be that’s going to make the difference in that child’s life,” Buxton said. “One person might have football, another basketball, but for some of these it’s ballroom dancing.”

Gruber said the competition had four schools last year, seven this year and wants to grow in future years.

For that hope, all Gruber had to do was look over at 4-year-old Matthew Holloway, who was dancing while he watched his brother Jeremiah compete.

Matthew said he’s too small to follow in his brother’s dance steps now, but he definitely wants to do it when he gets older, because “you get to move.”

It’s stories like these, that have gone untold. The Chess teams that Riley Driver sponsored, the Serious Young Musicians with Tumust Allison, the kids that Michael and Sandy Bashaw, Bing Davis and other local artists have inspired and guided all the way to Stivers, with Erin Dooley at the helm.

Dayton Public Schools may have it’s problems- but, if you look a little deeper, it has it’s heroes.

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10 Comments on "Hindy Gruber: hero."

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Teri Lussier
Teri Lussier

Great story! Yes, I’m a huge fan of dancing, particularly Fred and Ginger, but more than that, Dayton Public Schools does have its gems and they so deserve to be recognized and celebrated.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this. It doesn’t solve every problem but it does create pockets of beauty and joy, and that is worth a lot!


The Ballroom Dance contest is a fabulous event – but in talking about heroes, Westminster Church has been a hero for Van Cleve at its original site and in its various iterations. Their partnership is literally a model for church/school partnerships throughout the Miami Valley.There were years where their congregation funded a full time social worker in full and other years where they contributed one half the salary. Their year end celebration of the students who participated in the after school program and as well as the school staff is an inspiring event. My point? There are good things going on in DPS and it is the community that surrounds us that makes alot of this happen. Remember – you don’t have to have a child in school to make a difference to a student.

Alan Scott

I fail to see the heroics in an administrator pouring energy into an extracurricular when the building she is in charge of is NO WHERE NEAR the bare minimum the state requires to rate a school anything but rock bottom. In over half the classrooms of this hero’s building, 3 out of 4 students can’t pass a reading test. Check it out yourself, http://www.ode.state.oh.us/reportcardfiles/2006-2007/BUILD/038257.PDF. Frankly, I want to know why she spends time running ‘Dancing with the Stars’ for Junior High students while her school is in Academic Emergency. And why are you giving her credit?

Just as I wouldn’t congratulate an athletic coach who wins championships but fails his students in the classroom, I won’t call Hindy a hero for teaching kids to dance. I would be happy if she just taught them to read, isn’t that what she is paid to do?

Teri Lussier
Teri Lussier

Test scores nearly always indicate income levels, and are not always a good measure of learning. For example, where did these students start at, and what did they learn from that starting point. Not all students begin at the same place, to measure them at the same end, or expect them to be at the same end point does little to tell us how much actual teaching is going on.

Dancing requires the brain to engage and think and perform, firing neurons and challenging it in new and unique ways. There is learning, and brain growth going on, particularly during a performance, as opposed to simply learning steps.

Dancing should, in no way, take the place of teaching students academics, but by forcing the brain to think in new ways, dancing can be a very helpful part of an overall learning process.

Engage the brain, tests scores should follow, ultimately however, studies have shown that a child’s outcome on standardized tests can be accurately predicted by looking at the income level of the parents. Sad, very sad on multiple levels, but true.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Mr. Scott,
I’m in agreement with Teri on the test scores, but, I’m also going to add, that just getting these kids to show up for school is a major accomplishment.
Most people I know in the business of educating, call the “No Child Left Behind” the “No Child Left Untested” program.
Trust me, you’d want Hindy Gruber in Oakwood too- she’s that kind of person.


Alan – you may be right, however 99% of a kids who have problems learning is due to the fact that he or she has garbage for a parent(s), and this applies to many kids in DPS. Sorry folks, it is true. You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap, …….. oh, well, you can, it just tastes like…… well, you know.

Better parents solve most of our problems, but we fail to “judge” these people (we would not want to hurt anyone’s feelings.) These teachers are doing more for those kids than their parents do – get off their backs.

Alan Scott
My friends, I respectfully submit to you Facts, Dave says that Mrs. Gruber is a hero because of her work at a local film festival, the ballroom dancing program and being a ‘Joe Clark’ ‘Lean on Me’ type Principal at her urban school. I point out (much like the fabrications in the movie) that all the tough talk and what some teachers call grandstanding, the test scores were still dangerously low. So low, that I argue honoring this teacher as heroic is intellectually dishonest. Especially from someone like you Dave, who talks so much about what needs to be done to fix the Dayton Public schools. I am familiar with Mrs. Gruber’s and her work, and I wouldn’t want her in Oakwood based on her record in Dayton. Terri mentioned the poverty factor; I would point out a school very similar to Van Cleve. Patterson-Kennedy has the same number of poverty cases and the largest percent of English-second-language students of nearly any Dayton Public school. But P-K has considerably higher percentages of students reading at grade level than Van Cleve. Nolan Graham, P-K Principal until last year brought a culture of achievement without grandstanding to the Wyoming street campus. And he would be the first person to say he is not a hero. He was doing his job. Dave you also say that just getting these kids to show up is an accomplishment and Terri falls back on the poverty issue as a reason Van Cleve kids can’t achieve, I call that the soft bigotry of low expectations. If we keep telling these kids that because there parent’s income is below a certain line we don’t expect them to learn anyway, what do you except to happen? As for No Child Left Behind, surely you have a better argument that “most people you know in education call it No Child Left untested”. What are we supposed to do? In every aspect of life these kids are going to be evaluated, tested and assessed; would you institute the equivalent to ‘everybody gets a trophy day’ when it comes to advancing to… Read more »
Teri Lussier
Teri Lussier

>Terri falls back on the poverty issue as a reason Van Cleve kids can’t achieve,

No sir. You’ve made assumptions. I did not say that children “can’t achieve” (your words) because of income. I said that standardized tests are not always the best indication of achievement.

I question what is being measured with these tests, and for the record, I also question these same tests from the opposite end of the spectrum. Those schools that do well year over year- is it truly the schools, or is it the environment/income level of these parents?

I make the argument that these tests do not give accurate measures of teaching in any school. If these tests should be measuring the quality of teaching, then to that end, they are mostly inaccurate, as they measure what a child knows, not what a child has been taught. This is not one and the same.

Here’s one view of this. http://dbacon.igc.org/Students/05TestMoney.htm I don’t agree with everything in the link, but it does bring up some food for thought.

David Esrati
David Esrati

Mr. Scott-
“Patterson-Kennedy has the same number of poverty cases and the largest percent of English-second-language students of nearly any Dayton Public school.”
There is a difference between ESL students (immigrant) and American bred poverty. Not making excuses here- but, reality is, standardized tests don’t tell the whole story.
I didn’t care when I took my SAT’s and got a mediocre score. I cared when I took my ASVAB and was off the charts smart. So, which standardized test indicates my ability and my intellect?
I’m all in favor of testing- INDIVIDUALLY- to see progress- but, the moment you start talking averages and means- the trees get lost for the forest.


Has anyone here ever attended Oakwood? The teachers there are good, but for a LONG time many of the teachers were a joke. Teachers can make a difference, but having parents who care is 98%-99% of the game. Many teachers at Oakwood are no better than those in DPS or elsewhere, it just so happens the parents in Oakwood care more. I know poverty plays a role in educating, but parents who should not be parents plays the bigger role.