Can a person be both humble and still confident in his or her abilities at the same time? Sure. For proof look no further than Monte Moses, the superintendent of Cherry Creek Schools in Greenwood Village, Colo. When Moses was named Superintendent of the Year at this February's American Association of School Administrators conference, he went to the lectern in front of thousands of peers, district personnel and family, and began his short speech with a self-deprecating joke. "When I told my father I was up for this award, he said, 'You must have one hell of a staff.' "
Within five minutes of his press conference that same morning, Moses mentioned his board, his community and even the bus drivers in his district. The closest he came to bragging was to say the award "seems validating that I made a good choice of career and I've done a good job."
So where's the confidence? Just the day before getting his award, Moses had been part of panel of superintendents from seven high performing school districts that have banded together formally as the Western States Benchmarking Consortium. This exclusive group of self-selected districts pushes each other to improve management and student performance. "There's a powerful desire to get better," Moses says.
"He has a ferocious will. I think he's brilliant, but he contains it so well. He is constantly shifting the spotlight to his team," says Wendy DeBell, Cherry Creek's board president.
Staying the Course
Being an effective leader doesn't include a lot of noise and motion for Moses. In fact, he has had the same six district goals for years. Three goals deal with students: high achievement for all; creating solid citizens; and establishing an environment where students feel physically and psychologically safe. On the management side, his goals include: getting the most funding he can; improving facilities; and bettering the district's organization. "He's steadfast. His continuity brings credibility, DeBell says.
While many superintendents have education backgrounds in their family, predictably, the Moses clan takes its education roots a step further. Monte's father, Morgan, spent 20 years in public education in Texas, then served another 20 as the professor of educational leadership at Stephen Austin State University. Apparently, his message reached at least two people, Monte and his brother Mike. (For good measure, Monte's wife Kathy has worked as a high school administrator.) Two years ago, Mike Moses, then the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, was one of the four finalists for the AASA's top superintendent award. Monte's passion flashes when he and his brother tease each other about their golf game. Speaking of the solid build of his brother, the slighter (and younger by three years) Monte says, "I'm about half the man my brother is--literally."
Wayne D'Orio is editor-in-chief.