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Center Grove leader, educator dies at age 66

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A Center Grove school board member and longtime educator died this week after a battle with cancer.

Susan Mullendore, who had served on the Center Grove school board since 2011, died at Community Hospital South in Indianapolis on Tuesday, according to a news release from Center Grove schools.

Mullendore, 66, will be remembered for her dedication to education and her goal to put children first in all decisions, fellow school officials said.

“She was so focused on students in everything that we did. She was really kind of like a beacon for that when it came to the board. She would always ask: How does it affect the child?” Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

Mullendore was a Franklin Community High School graduate and lived in the Center Grove area for 14 years. She spent her career in education and had worked as a teacher, guidance counselor, principal and superintendent. Most recently, Mullendore was an adjunct assistant professor at Indiana University, the news release said.

She was also a loyal Indiana University basketball fan, Arkanoff said.

Mullendore was known for being extremely frugal with both her own money and taxpayer funds, former school board member John Steed said.

“Susan, if you knew her, was very frugal, and she expected to be that way when she was handling someone else’s money,” Steed said.

She was the only school board member running for office when voters were making a decision on a referendum to increase property taxes for Center Grove schools who didn’t take a stand on the referendum.

She wanted voters to decide, Steed said.

Before serving on the school board, Mullendore became widely known in Center Grove for her work on a committee that studied a plan for redistricting, which included closing West Grove Elementary School, Steed and Arkanoff said.

Typically, those meetings prompt heated discussions and arguments, but not when Mullendore was leading the group, Steed and Arkanoff said.

“She had that ability to see both sides of an issue and help people reach common ground,” Arkanoff said.

Mullendore also was known for asking lots of questions and having a strong opinion.

She and Steed didn’t agree on all issues, and sometimes he struggled to get her to change her opinion, Steed said.

“What I liked about her and sometimes what I didn’t like about her was she was convinced and convicted of her beliefs, and it was hard to change them,” Steed said.

“Susan and I had our ups and downs, but we were pretty good friends.”

Mullendore’s legacy will be the stability she brought to the board and her passion for children, Arkanoff said.

He got to know Mullendore when he was starting out as a superintendent. He asked her questions and trusted her experience and guidance, he said.

“Her knowledge over the years, her experience, she was a great mentor to me,” he said.

Arkanoff admired Mullendore for her honesty and integrity and always knew that, if he was working with her on a project, she would do what she said she was going to do.

“I will miss her as more than a board member, she was also a friend and peer,” he said.

Arkanoff said he would remember Mullendore for her smile, her laugh and her sense of humor as a jokester.

Mullendore had a son and daughter. No services are planned, and memorial donations can be made to the American Cancer Society and Center Grove Education Foundation, the release said.

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