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In December, President-elect Barack Obama selected Chicago’s Dodge Renaissance Academy, a 400-student pre-K8 school, as the backdrop for choosing Arne Duncan, the Chicago Public Schools’ CEO, as the nation’s new secretary of education. Touted as a “turnaround school,” Dodge represented the idea that if change could come to a high-poverty, failing school with low test scores and most students on free or reduced-price lunches, then there was hope for all schools.

Joel L. Voytoski, veteran superintendent of the Evergreen School District 50 in Kalispell, Mont., has been named the state’s 2009 Superintendent of the Year for his success in morphing programs around student assessments.