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Having loved libraries since she was a child, Deputy Superintendent Mary Kolek of New Canaan (Conn.) Public Schools was truly happy when the staff of the New Canaan High School Library Media Center won the 2010 National School Library Program of the Year Award, presented by the American Association of School Librarians. "Everything that our library media center is producing," she says, "is reflective of what we're trying to do as a district: create critical thinkers, problem solvers, creative collaborators."

Kathleen Regan came to Glen Rock Public Schools four years ago thinking she would work only six months as the interim director of curriculum and instruction. Instead, she has stayed and succeeded—helping place the affluent, 2,500-student New Jersey district 20 miles northwest of Manhattan in the national spotlight for its science, technology, engineering and math program that extends from kindergarten to college-level work in high school.

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.

Diane Lewis began building her popular virtual education program in a storage closet. The drab room, just big enough to squeeze in a tiny table, was her office at the headquarters of Seminole County (Fla.) Public Schools. She had a computer and a small staff of temporary workers. “We had pretty much no money, no people, no space,” recalls Lewis, director of instructional technology for the district. “One of the myths is, if you’re virtual, people don’t think you require anything.”

It came as no surprise to the residents of Mankato, Minn. last fall when Forbes magazine called the city a great place for raising a family. The population in the area served by Mankato Area Public Schools, which straddles three counties in the southern part of the state, has reached more than 50,000, thanks to business and recreational opportunities, a low cost of living, state-of the-art health care, great schools, and a welcoming attitude toward newcomers.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, addresses employees at a district recognition program.

Schaumburg consolidated School District #54, located in Chicago's northwest suburb, is one of only 18 districts nationwide to receive the highest credit rating by Moody's—the gold star in global credit scores. The elementary district, with 15,000 diverse, middle-income students dispensed across 27 schools, earned this rating for its low debt burden, rapid balance payback, and ample reserves, including a working cash balance of $63 million.

Superintendent Bradford Saron has always had a passion for technology. "My family makes fun of me because my iPod Touch is attached to my hip at home," he says. But even his family gets in on the act, as his children use the device to listen to music, watch movies or play educational games at different times.

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.

In the six years since her appointment as superintendent of Volusia County (Fla.) School District—a district that has 63,000 students in 16 cities, including Daytona Beach, in the heart of Florida's east coast—Margaret Smith has had her share of success. But what makes her so different from other superintendents is her ability to reach out.