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superintendents

Brigadier General Anthony "Tony" Tata of the U.S. Army had one of those "ah-ha" moments in April 2006 when, on the eve of an operation he was heading in Afghanistan, an Al Qaeda rocket shattered a nearby school. The attack killed a teacher and seven students and wounded dozens more. "It occurred to me then that our enemy really sees education of the population as their enemy," says Tata (pronounced TAY-tuh). "They know that once young men and women have access and can think on their own, they will seek liberty and freedom and more opportunities."

For Michele Hancock, the recently hired superintendent of the Kenosha (Wis.) Unified School District No. 1, her job is not business as usual. When she took the position last summer, she had a vision to transform the district, including questioning all practices, programs and policies to ensure they meet the needs of all students.

 

Neil Leist is fond of saying that his office, filled with perfectly usable repurposed goods, is a snapshot of the money-saving mission he has pursued in the four years since he became superintendent of rural Clermont Northeastern Schools (CNE), east of Cincinnati.

"My desk is from a federal building in downtown Cincinnati, which shut down," explains Leist. "My computer, fax machine and copier are from a closed Ford plant. My desk and chairs are from a facility shut down by the Ohio Department of Education. My filing cabinets are from the Social Security office in Batavia."

According to the national Assessment of Educational Progress' Long-term Trend Assessment (NAEP), since the 1970s, gaps among under-performing demographics have been slowly shrinking, while the gap has widened at the top end of student achievement.

Minnesota is among many states trying to close this "excellence gap" through innovative curricula. In 2009, Minnetonka Public Schools Superintendent Dennis L. Peterson helped to launch the Navigator Program, which offers charter- school-like access to programming for gifted students aged 8-11.

A district is as stable and grounded as its superintendent, according to some leaders and education experts. And given findings in a recent report from the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS), which specifically states that the average tenure of urban superintendents increased from 2.3 years in 1999 to 3.6 years in 2010, an increase of 56 percent, educators across the nation are celebrating.

There is nothing new about the fact that school superintendents come and go. Some retire, and some are recruited into other school districts or opportunities. But let's face it, some are let go.

There is nothing new about the fact that school superintendents come and go. Some retire, and some are recruited into other school districts or opportunities. But let's face it, some are let go.

I've been personally and professionally blessed to have had the opportunity to serve some very diverse and large urban school communities in several states as superintendent of schools. These varied locales have given me the unique opportunity to look at the world of system reform through a broader range of lenses. These multiple perspectives have provided me with insights into the role state policies and infrastructure play in the pace at which systemic reforms can be implemented and accelerated.

A microcosm of the global education movement has materialized in Oxford (Mich.) Community Schools, home to 4,739 students in northern Oakland County. When Superintendent William Skilling started in 2007, he had a vision for a district immersed in global learning, foreign language, science and technology that resonated with the board of education—a vision the district didn't have, according to Colleen Schultz, school board president.

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