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District Dialogue

Superintendent Michael Kuzniewski has increased graduation, testing and proficiency rates.

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 has brought a new philosophy for elementary education to Kankakee School District in Illinois.

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.

Learning to use the mind: New Haven Superintendent Garth Harries enjoys inspiring students, interacting with them, and giving them knowledge outside the classroom.

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.

Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez's initial spending plan was cut by $3.2 million by the school board.

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 came to lead Atlanta’s troubled school system in 2014 after 20 years of experience in education in districts in Texas, Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

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.

From left to right: Brett Ridgway, Peter Hilts, Jack Bay.

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.

Mesquite ISD Superintendent David Vroonland says he has worked to give teachers more autonomy.

Mesquite ISD Superintendent David Vroonland says his own atypical childhood has driven his focus on teachers and improving the culture for students in need.

 Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner has seen the refugee population more than double in six years.

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.

Cleveland City Schools Director Martin Ringstaff saw a personalized learning opportunity in a school trip to Nicaragua.

An engineering project in a Tennessee high school grew into a mission to build an innovative dome to grow fresh food for a Central American orphanage. The adventure inspired Cleveland City Schools Director Martin Ringstaff to spread a personalized, project-based learning approach to more of his students.

Madera USD Superintendent Edward Gonzalez has given his 2,000-plus employees $500 each to pick their own professional development programs.

Superintendent Edward Gonzalez says teachers—and classified employees—can make wise decisions about the classroom and technical training they receive.So he gave each of his roughly 1,100 teachers $500 to spend as they choose on PD in 2014-15, and this year he extended that to classified employees.