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There are plenty of statistics available for measuring the performance, potential and problems of school districts, from standardized test scores to the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

If you didn't get the raise you were hoping for recently, you're certainly not alone. Almost every day, it seems, school districts coping with budget shortfalls are announcing freezes or cuts to administrative salaries and benefits as part of the solution, a trend that began during the past school year and is becoming more prevalent around the country.


Carlos A. Garcia, born in Chicago to Mexican immigrants, learned about pride in his heritage when he was in kindergarten. As a student at Magnolia Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District in the late 1950s, Garcia came home one day with a name tag on his shirt. His father asked, "Who is Charlie?" Garcia said Charlie was a boy at school who caused some trouble. His father visited the school the following day to ask the teacher and principal about this boy.

Kathy Cox, the superintendent of schools for Georgia, believes "excellence is not an accident."

She made a name for herself by winning $1 million proving she was smarter than a fifth-grader on a popular television show. And since her election in 2002, Cox has earned complaints and kudos for tackling testing and implementing new curriculum standards and graduation requirements for Georgia.

As she prepares for possible reelection next fall, she remains committed "to be part of the solution"— a promise she made to her students when she entered politics over a decade ago.

The 2010 National Superintendent of the Year ceremony, which commemorates the contributions and guidance of public school superintendents, will be held February 11 at the National Conference on Education in Phoenix. We asked the four finalists what their number-one priority is for 2010.



Superintendent Frank S. Porter of Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif., is the 2010 recipient of the Leadership through Communications Award for his enhancement of school-to-parent communication.


Activist Passes

Author, advocate, and defender of public education Gerald Bracey died Oct. 20 at age 69. Renowned as an expert on standardized testing, he released his final book, “Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality,” earlier this year.

Michael Smith admits he doesn’t talk much about his Web site or weekly blog with the staff, school board or community in his rural Oakland, Ill., district, because most folks probably don’t know what a blog is. That’s not a disrespectful dig, but reality: In his agricultural district 200 miles south of Chicago’s bustle—comprising only 300 students, 50 staff, two schools, and one principal—tending a Web site isn’t as high on anyone’s task list as teaching, farming the corn and soybean crops for which the region is known, or football.

With more than four decades of experience in both urban and suburban districts, Gerald Kohn knows how difficult it can be to change the culture of a school district beset by poverty, social issues and politics. Yet he accepted the challenge of bringing change to the Harrisburg School District in central Pennsylvania eight years ago, because, he says, “nothing gives me more satisfaction than being able to succeed.”