LEADERS TO LEARN FROM
February 6, 2013
J e n n A c k e r m a n f o r E d u c a t i o n W e e k
Five leaders featured in this report describe ininterviews their leadership models and thestrategies they use to achieve school- anddistrict-level goals. The leaders featuredrepresent districts large and small, urban,suburban, and rural: St. Paul Minn.; Newcomb,N.Y.; Jefferson County, Colo.; Columbus, Ohio;and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, Texas.
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Daniel P. King
Steve A. Simmons III
Cynthia M. Stevenson& Kerrie Dallman
Patricia A. Ciccone
Jeffrey K. Platenberg
Linda S. Hicks
Lessons From District Leaders
IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF TIGHT RESOURCES, tough academicchallenges, and increasingly stiff competition from new educationproviders, smart leadership may matter more than ever for thesuccess of America’s school districts. Against this backdrop,
introduces the ﬁrst of what will be an annual
Leaders To Learn From
report—a way to recognize forward-thinking education leaders and share their ideas.The importance of effective educational leadership goesalmost without saying: Some research suggests leadership issecond only to classroom instruction among all the school-related factors that contribute to student learning.
Leaders ToLearn From
aims to draw attention to the importance of goodleadership and spread the word on strategies and tactics fromleaders in some of the nation’s 14,000-plus districts that othersmay want to adopt or adapt.This 2013 report proﬁles 16 district-level leaders—superintendents, assistant superintendents, and others, includinga union president—who seized on creative but practicalapproaches and put them to work in their school districts.
To help ﬁnd these leaders,
put out a callto readers for nominees, starting last June. We also soughtnominations from the leaders of administrators’ groups in mostof the 50 states, as well as from members of the EducationWriters Association, a Washington-based organizationthat includes local education reporters around the country.
’s own reporters identiﬁed leaders who aremaking a mark within the topical areas they cover. Membersof the editorial staff made the ﬁnal selections. (
To make anomination for the 2014 edition, go to www.edweek.org/ leaders/nominate or send an email to email@example.com
The leaders featured here include an Ohio superintendent whodrove a successful effort to move 16 low-performing schools outof “academic emergency” status; a Minnesota superintendentwho spearheaded a push to more inclusively educate English-language learners; a technology specialist in Missouri whohelped organize social-networking events to further teachers’professional development; and a district chief from upstate New York who recruited tuition-paying international students to helpkeep his single school aﬂoat.
Urban districts, such as Boston and Baltimore, arerepresented. So, too, are Texas’ Rio Grande Valley; ruralcommunities like Garrett, Ind., and Duplin County, N.C.; and Virginia’s Loudoun County, an upscale outer-ring suburb.While some of the leaders proﬁled are nationally known fortheir accomplishments within their own slices of the educationworld, they are not the high-proﬁle superintendents who mosttypically make headlines. In fact, only nine are superintendents;the rest have worked most of their careers just below the publicradar, as directors of special education or transportation, forexample.One common characteristic among the group is that most of them have long-standing ties to the communities they serve.Another connection is that all had a clear vision of how theywanted to improve their districts or areas of responsibility,and they followed through on it. As Theodore Hesburgh, thepresident emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, has said,“The very essence of leadership is you have to have a vision.”“It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefullyon every occasion,” he added. “You can’t blow an uncertaintrumpet.”Within their school systems, these leaders have blown somestrong, clear notes.—
LEADERS TO LEARN FROM was produced with support from The Wallace Foundation. The New York City-based foundation helpsunderwrite coverage of leadership, extended and expanded learning time, and arts learning in
COVER PHOTOS BY:
Jenn Ackerman; Heather Ainsworth;Nathan W. Armes; Joshua A. Bickel;Christopher Capozziello; Sara D. Davis;Matt Eich; Ryan Henriksen; Lisa Krantz;Rick Lohore; Charlie Mahoney; Swikar Patel;Matt Roth; Stephen Voss; Brian Widdis
Valeria Silva, thesuperintendent of theSt. Paul, Minn., publicschools, visits withchildren at a community-outreach event in January.