School superintendency is a family business for the Prusators. Todd Prusator leads Community Consolidated School District 231 in a small community 70 miles west of Chicago. His two brothers, Bob and Jeff, also are Illinois superintendents, all within about 30 miles of each other in the northwest corner of the state.
Superintendent Yolanda Valdez takes messaging seriously. Not emoji-filled texts or IMs, but messages that convey a goal for 4,000-plus students at Cutler-Orosi Joint USD in rural California: That they will attend college.
For decades, the J. Sterling Morton High School District in the Chicago suburbs was in bad shape. In 2008, when Michael Kuzniewski became superintendent, he vowed to change all that, with help from a new school board.
Superintendent Genevra Walters introduced a new philosophy for elementary education at Kankakee School District in Illinois. Her model calls for a focus on college and career prep from a young ages—students do a minimum of four hands-on, career-oriented projects per year that are based on a specific career strand.
Within a few months of becoming superintendent of New Haven Public Schools a couple of years ago, Garth Harries had already attended too many teenagers’ funerals. After Harries left these grim ceremonies—and in other occasions when students were shot but survived—his office went back over the victims’ academic records for signs of trouble.
Beth Schiavino-Narvaez has led Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut for two years. But it’s been two decades since a landmark state court case ruled the district had violated the U.S. Constitution by isolating children based on race and socioeconomics. And despite new budget woes, Schiavino-Narvaez continues to fight for better schools.
Meria Carstarphen is a team player—literally. She has played football in the hot summer sun alongside varsity players at Atlanta Public Schools. The district superintendent also gives her personal cell phone number to staff and students alike. They can text her or call her—any time. In addition, they follow each other on Twitter.
Instead of one superintendent making all decisions, three leaders in Colorado Springs leverage areas of expertise—and save the district money. Peter Hilts, Jack Bay and Brett Ridgway divide roles of chief academic officer, chief of operations and chief financial officer.
Tucked among the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia is a high-poverty school district that looks a lot like the United Nations. And helping Kurdish, Eritrean and Paraguayan refugee students become part of the social fabric is something Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner is most proud of.