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|Name||State||Photo & Bio|
Kerry Boyd is the superintendent of Yukon Koyukuk School District based from Fairbanks, Alaska. YKSD is the 2nd largest district geographically in the state covering 70,000 square miles. Many of the schools she serves are not accessible by road and require flying in seven seat planes. The small Athabascan villages she serves have communities ranging in size from 80 to 350. She also supports a statewide distance education program serving students in all areas of Alaska. She became the district’s superintendent on July 1, 2008.
Kerry Boyd has been an educator for 24 years. Before becoming superintendent of YKSD, she served as a special education teacher, a grant writer, federal programs director, and coordinator for an International Department of Defense Homeschool operated from Alaska.
Some of her career highlights include her leading the district out of the State’s intervention status after years of hard work and a system of professional development for teachers. Her work around equity in education through the Moore Case settlement was a milestone in Alaska education, addressing Alaska's lowest-performing schools and most disadvantaged students.
Through the use of technology, Native Language and culture is taught daily to students in all ten schools so that the Athabascan culture will thrive.
She developed and implemented pre-K programs at every school in YKSD and built partnerships with Head Start to support children birth to age three.
Currently she is piloting a high school diploma program for students between ages of 18-22 who have otherwise aged out of high school.
I have lived my entire life in the state of Alabama. I was raised in rural Alabama and was fortunate to have parents who emphasized hard work including traditional manual labor, as desirable character trait for success. I am a first generation college student and the first in my family to earn a degree. I attended 2-year community college on academic, and athletic scholarships and at the university level on academic and leadership scholarships. Though fortunate enough to be afforded multiple scholarship opportunities I worked throughout my undergraduate degree in variety of jobs including commercial and home construction, farm labor, and as a staff member at residential home for boys ages 5-19. After my wife Khristie and I married we became relief house-parents at the residential home at ages 21 and 22 respectively. This time working with needy children proved to be invaluable for my life as an educator. The experiences of being a parent to multiple children many of whom had traumatic life experiences gave me an understanding of the origins of the issues that plague children and schools nationally. My career as a teacher began at Oxford High School in 1990. While on the faculty at OHS my teaching duties included Earth and Life Science as well as coaching varsity football and varsity girl's basketball. My son Taylor was born while I was working as a teacher and coach in 1994. In 1995 I left Oxford to take a promotion as an Assistant Principal position at Childersburg High School in Talladega County. One year later I returned to Oxford in 1996, as an assistant principal for two years, moving up to become principal in 1998 at age 30. During my first inservice week as principal my daughter Ashleigh was born. For the next five years I worked to create a collaborative instructional environment at the secondary level focusing on collaboration and differentiation while dealing with a 30% and rising surge in enrollment district-wide, the closing of a local military base Ft. McClellan in Calhoun County adjacent to the district and the requirements of the newly minted No Child Left Behind iteration of the Elementary and Secondary School Act. In 2000 I was selected to serve on Alabama's first ARI (Alabama's Reading Initiative) Secondary Advisement Team based on the achievement levels of the students at OHS. In 2003 after being offered a district leadership position I was named the Director of Operations in Talladega County. As the Director of Operations I had the responsibility of overseeing multi-million dollar construction projects for the district as well as oversight of all major purchasing decisions for the district. During this time Talladega County Schools built 4 new schools and renovated several others. When the superintendent's position became available in April 2005 I again returned to Oxford to assume the duties of the office. At the time of my appointment Oxford's nearly unchecked growth had created massive overcrowding throughout the district as well as a host of financial and academic issues including the labeling of portions of the district as failing, as well as an unaccredited elementary school purchased from a neighboring system. Immediately recognizing the need for decisive action and with the support of the School Board, City Council and community leaders, I began an immediate process to address multiple issues. This was a challenging and rewarding time as I was required to complete my contract with Talladega County through June, while simultaneously transitioning in as the new superintendent of Oxford. For eight weeks I had an office in two different school districts at one point representing both districts in the same week in two different publications. From day one as the superintendent of Oxford I began working on a robust strategic plan revolving around instructional quality, financial stability, safety and operational excellence of facilities and technology. Components of this plan included: a complete overhaul of the accountability and professional development standards within the district for administration and instructional staff, rezoning all elementary schools to create "neighborhood" schools and creating an exploratory, Pre Advanced Placement model at the upper elementary (grades 5-6) and middle school levels, submitting a plan to the city to explain the need for a new funding stream resulting in a one-cent sales tax for the district and a debt-free bond issuance for the system valued at 26 million dollars, and completely re-tooling instructional practices to emphasize effective intervention, core instruction and enrichment by way of strategies built on growth, differentiation and student directed learning. Within the first 8 months of my tenure as superintendent, our system began the process of requesting of the US Department of Justice consideration for being declared Unitary (removing all vestiges of Segregation). This highly involved process, which stems from Desegregation efforts in the South dating back to the 1960s, is a comprehensive examination of multiple factors that include hiring, assignment of staff, discipline and achievement and requires a good faith declaration and substantial evidence of results. The courts had denied Oxford this status previously. In October of 2018 Oxford was declared Unitary ending nearly 50 years of Federal Court oversight. This designation, a matter of pride for the school district and community as a whole reflected equity of opportunities for all children and an environment where all students can achieve to their fullest potential.
Benny Weston was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas on March 11, 1961 and raised in the small rural community of Alamo 15 miles southeast of Mount Ida, Arkansas. His parents were hard workers. They were loggers and pulpwood haulers by trade who also owned and operated a small sawmill. In addition to this, his mother cooked at the Mount Ida School cafeteria and his dad drove a school bus. Mr. Weston drove a school bus as a Junior and Senior in high school. At that time, anyone who was 16 years old and had a driver's license could drive a school bus. Since he had log truck driving experience, the superintendent asked him to drive the longest bus route with the most dirt roads in the district. He credits these childhood experiences, quality public school teachers, and encouraging coaches to be the motivating factors that enabled him to be a first generation college graduate.
Mr. Weston attended Arkansas Tech University and majored in Health and Physical Education. He received local scholarships along with the Basic Educational Opportunities Grant. While in college, he returned home on the weekends to work in the log woods to earn money for college expenses. After his sophomore year, he received a student loan that allowed him to earn his degree. After graduating in 1983, he was off to Harrisburg, Arkansas for his first job. This was a shock to move from the mountains to the flat land of east Arkansas. After a year, his father was crippled in a logging accident. He chose to return home after one year in education to take over the family logging business and save the family 95 acre home place. After a year, the family business had gotten back on track. Mr. Bobby Barrett, his hometown superintendent, called and asked if he would be interested in returning to education in the Mount Ida School District. He gladly accepted this opportunity and taught social studies, science, and coached football for seven years. In 1986 Mr. Weston married his wife of 32 years Sherry. They are the proud parents of a daughter Brittany, son-in-law Walt McCarter, grandson Weston, and son Kevin.
In 1991 Mr. Weston accepted a job in Greenwood, Arkansas teaching six classes of science and coaching Junior High football. After only one year, he was promoted to the Senior High football staff. While there he was promoted to Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach along with Head Senior High Girls Track coach. In 1995 he and a few coworkers decided to start driving to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to work towards a master's degree in administration. In his final summer of graduate school, he received three different offers. Greenwood offered him an assistant high school principal job, Paragould offered him a head football and athletic director's job, and Mount Ida School Board offered him a position as superintendent. After considering his options, he and his family decided to return home to Mount Ida where he could give back his experience and knowledge to the school system from which he graduated. Two out-of-town superintendents had been hired after Mr. Barrett had retired and the district had lost community support and was in financial trouble. Mr. Weston hit the ground running and began knocking on doors of all the local patrons asking for support. In return for their support, he assured them that he would be committed to the process of "righting the ship" and would stay at Mount Ida for the long haul. After getting top notch staff and board members in place, he was able to start making a positive difference in Mount Ida students' lives. New courses were added to the high school schedule and concurrent classes were offered. The facilities were upgraded and a new middle school/gymnasium complex was constructed. This allowed for a grade-level restructuring of a Pre-K through 4th grade building, a fifth through eighth grade building, and a ninth through twelfth grade building. A new field house was built in 2007 to replace the 1969 field house. Mr. Weston constructed a new bus compound on the elementary campus. Mount Ida offered a world class education in excellent facilities at a small, rural Arkansas school district.
As with everything, there is a season. Mr. Weston was somewhat restless after 14 years as superintendent in his hometown and felt a desire to work in a larger district. When the Mena superintendent position was advertised, he applied and was hired. He brought his passion, experience, and determination to provide all Mena students the same quality educational opportunities afforded to any urban Arkansas student. His beginning plan of action was to utilize the district leadership team to develop a unifying motto and logo. With his financial expertise, he informed and educated the four campus principals on the local, state, and federal budget process. His firm belief that a quality education can bridge any barrier prompted him to seek innovative methods of instructional delivery that would offer students a more personalized learning experience. As a visionary and motivational leader he continues to spur others into action. As the district academic leader, he has guided the following implementations of expanding the Alternative Education/HUB Academy, introducing Blended Learning Cohorts, aligning the literacy curriculum K-12 and math curriculum K-9, and funding alternative seating options K-9. In efforts to support the individual needs of teachers, he has advocated for personalized on-site and off-site professional development to meet the professional growth goals. Another positive student service opportunity has resulted from his implementation of food service outsourcing. His most recent innovative program is opening the Polk County Virtual Academy for the 2018-2019 school year.
For 36 years, Mr. Weston has dedicated his life to the education of children. He is an integral change agent who advocates for the best interest of students.
Dr. Sandvik’s Leadership Mission is: To ensure every student is learning every day in every classroom and leaders are equipped to deliver equitable outcomes in meaningful ways. She believes…leadership is defined as the ability to encourage people to do the right thing for the right reason because they want to do it…and that together we succeed. With 23 years in education, Dr. Sandvik has held the position of Superintendent in BESD since 2013 and came to the district in 2010 as Assistant Superintendent. She has been a teacher, principal as well as an adjunct professor at Willamette University and Lewis and Clark University in Oregon. Dr. Sandvik graduated summa cum laude with a doctorate from George Fox University, a Masters Degree from Portland State University and a Bachelor Degree from Texas Christian University (TCU). Dr. Sandvik was a Division I Collegiate Golfer and received a full athletic golf scholarship to TCU. Dr. Sandvik was the VH1 National Superintendent of the Year in 2015. She is the newly elected President- elect for the AASA and the Superintendent Division President for ASA. She is also the President of the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN). She serves on the (ABEC) Executive Board AZ Business and Education Coalition Board, the Arizona Alliance Trust Board and the Education Foundation for Buckeye Board of Trustees. She was a recent chairperson of the North Valley Educational Consortium and Chairperson of the Greater Phoenix Educational Management Council and a Governing Board member of AASA. Dr. Sandvik serves on the AASA's Executive Board as the incoming President-Elect.
Dr. David Hansen took the helm as Riverside Unified School District’s (RUSD’s) 11th Superintendent on July 1, 2014. For the past 30 years, he has educated and led thousands of staff and students throughout the region.
Prior to becoming Superintendent, he served as an Assistant Superintendent in nearby Corona-Norco. For the first 19 years of his career, he worked in RUSD as a teacher and administrator, serving as an Assistant Principal at both Central Middle School and Poly High School. He has also served as a Principal at Matthew Gage Middle School and Arlington High School. Dr. Hansen started his career as a teacher at Central Middle School.
Dr. Hansen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Technology Education from Brigham Young University; a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from California State University, San Bernardino; and a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) focusing on Educational Leadership from the University of La Verne. Dr. Hansen and his wife, Diane, have six children and seven grandchildren.
Currently serving as Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Swanson has been with Westminster Public Schools (formerly Adams County School District 50) since 1995. Prior to her current position she served as Deputy Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources as well as a Principal in Westminster Public Schools. Dr. Swanson also served as a Principal and Assistant Principal in the Boulder Valley School District. Before moving to Colorado in 1991, she worked as a staff developer and teacher in Europe with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DODDS) serving second language and highly diverse and mobile communities. Dr. Swanson received her undergraduate degree in piano, pipe organ, and harpsichord performance from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her teaching credential was awarded from Cameron University in Oklahoma and she received her M.A. in Supervision, Curriculum, and Administration from University of Colorado at Denver. Dr. Swanson earned her doctorate from NOVA Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in educational leadership and organizational development. She also holds a national industry designation of Senior Human Resource Professional (SPHR). Dr. Swanson and her husband, Randy, also a career educator, live in Westminster, Colorado. Together, they have three daughters, and five beautiful grandchildren (possibly six by the end of September). Pam and Randy also enjoy traveling, playing golf, and getting back to Pam’s hometown of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina every chance they get.
|Kathleen C. Greider||CT||
Kathleen C. Greider has served as the Superintendent of Schools for the Farmington Public Schools since May, 2009. The Farmington Public Schools is a nationally recognized, high-performing and innovative school district located in Farmington, Connecticut. Superintendent Greider’s collaborative work with the Board of Education, administration, faculty, staff, students, and community has led to innovative improvement practices and programs aligned to Farmington’s Framework for Teaching and Learning (FTL), Vision of the Graduate (VoG), Theory of Action (ToA) and core beliefs. The FTL promotes an active student-centered approach with a strong emphasis on authentic and meaningful instruction and learning. In turn, Farmington students are agents of their own learning, mastering the knowledge and transferable thinking and learning skills outlined in the VoG throughout all grade levels. Farmington's core beliefs; effort, expectations, equity, instruction, relationships and results matter guide the work of all members of the school district each day. The school district’s ToA provides a compelling direction for the school district with an emphasis on purpose-driven, mastery-based, socially-constructed and self-directed learning. The Farmington Public Schools has been designated as a national P21 Exemplar District for innovative teaching, learning and programming and Farmington High School consistently ranks as one of the top high schools in Connecticut. The Farmington school district has been highlighted in national publications and in the book, School-Based Instructional Rounds by Lee Teitel for its strategic and innovative implementation of the rounds process in promoting continuous improvement at all levels of Farmington’s learning organization.
Prior to her role as Superintendent of the Farmington Public Schools, she served as the Deputy Superintendent of the Greenwich Public Schools in Greenwich, Connecticut. In that position, she led curriculum and instruction initiating numerous strategies to improve outcomes for all students. She established a leadership development program that provided capacity building structures and a professional learning plan to support administrators as instructional leaders. As a tireless advocate for transforming classroom practice, she focused upon advancing data driven decision-making, enhancing observation of classroom instruction, streamlining organizational systems, and providing clear expectations and goal-setting processes to inform school and district improvement.
As Lead Principal for the Hartford Public Schools from August 2005 until her appointment in Greenwich in 2007, she had leadership responsibilities for nine schools and initiated innovative leadership development routines to promote instructional leadership. Prior to becoming Lead Principal, she was Principal of Dwight Elementary School in Hartford, Connecticut. Dwight Elementary School, a high poverty urban school, received recognition for significantly raising student achievement outcomes during her time as principal. Dwight became the top performing Hartford elementary school in 2005. In recognition of these results, the school received the national NCLB Blue Ribbon Award and the Connecticut Vanguard School Award in 2004-2005. Prior to taking on the role of Principal at Dwight Elementary School, she served as a reading teacher and elementary teacher in the Hartford Public Schools.
Kathleen C. Greider
Sandra “Sam” Himmel has served as Superintendent of Citrus County Schools for the last 15 years. She started her professional career teaching at Crystal River Middle School in 1977 and expanded her studies, earning a Master’s in Business Administration. She managed a local business prior to her decision to become a Board Member for Citrus County Schools in 1996. After 8 years in this position, Sam was elected Superintendent of Schools.
Over 15,000 students attend Citrus County’s elementary, middle and high schools. Sam believes in the importance of providing specialized and unique opportunities beyond core instruction to meet individual needs. Citrus County offers multiple options for college and career readiness for all students such as the Academy of Health Careers, International Baccalaureate Program, Advanced Placement Program, School of Art Program, Computer Science Academy, Academy of Environmental Science, Citrus Resources for Exceptional Students in Transition (CREST School), PACE School for Girls, the Marine Science Station, and a dual enrollment program with the Withlacoochee Technical College and College of Central Florida.
As superintendent, she established expectations and processes that led to Citrus County Schools ranking in the top third of all Florida districts in all subject areas for the past 12 years. Her data-driven focus and positive spirit with students, staff, and community contributed to many extraordinary accomplishments, including the following:
· All Citrus County high schools are recognized as schools in the Washington Post’s list of America’s Most Challenging High Schools and US News and World Report-Best High Schools in America.
· The Citrus County Schools District is the first school district in the nation to be named an official Purple Heart School District.
· Citrus County was one of the first schools to initiate a 1:1 technology initiative. Currently, every student in grades 4th through 12th utilizes an iPad.
· Citrus County’s International Baccalaureate Program is ranked in the state’s top 5.
· Sandra “Sam” Himmel was the recipient of the Lavan Dukes District Data Leader Award 2014-2015 which recognizes superintendents who lead the way using education data to drive student improvement.
While carrying out the mission of educating all students in an environment “where learning is the expectation and caring is the commitment,” Sam Himmel continues to place the well-being and safety of children as her top priority. Mrs. Sam Himmel has a proven record of leadership focused on forward-thinking and a proactive approach to all circumstances.
Mrs. Samantha Fuhrey is currently serving her seventh year as Superintendent of the Newton County School System. She is the first female superintendent since the inception of the school system almost 150 years ago. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, Mrs. Fuhrey was named one of four finalists for Superintendent of the Year for the state of Georgia. Additionally, Mrs. Fuhrey’s outstanding leadership abilities were recognized by the Georgia School Superintendents Association when she was awarded the President’s Award in 2016. Marywood University in Dunmore, Pennsylvania recently recognized Superintendent Furhey with the Distinguished Alumni Award in June 2019.
Having extensive experience at the executive level, Mrs. Fuhrey previously served as the Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, the Executive Director for Secondary Education, the Director of Secondary Education, and the Director of Professional Learning for the Newton County School System. Mrs. Fuhrey also served as the principal of Indian Creek Middle School in Newton County after having been promoted from the assistant principal position. Prior to her employment with the Newton County School System, Mrs. Fuhrey worked with the DeKalb County School System as an assistant principal and an English teacher.
Mrs. Fuhrey earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Marywood University and her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from State University of West Georgia. She added an Education Specialist’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia College and State University.
Serving on education and community board is important to Mrs. Fuhrey. She serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Georgia Piedmont Technical College; the Newton County Chamber of Commerce; the Gwinnett, Newton, Rockdale Board of Health; the Arts Association in Newton County; Newton County Tomorrow; and Griffin RESA. She is also a member of a community steering committee that works to reduce the incidences of domestic violence in Newton County. Mrs. Fuhrey serves as a member of the Superintendent's Advisory Council for the Executive Director of the Georgia School Boards Association, the Georgia School Boards Association Rural Community Task Force, the Georgia Education Coalition and is also a chartering member of Ford Next Generation Learning Communities’ Superintendent’s Council. She has served on the State School Superintendent's Innovative Assessment Pilot Task Force.
Mrs. Fuhrey is a certified poverty coach and has served as a Leadership Preparation Performance Coach. She has led many presentations throughout the state and across the country regarding the utilization of cameras in the classroom to impact student achievement and eradicating poverty. She has presented at the Georgia Association for Educational Leaders conference, the Georgia School Boards Association conference, the Georgia Association of Curriculum and Instructional Supervisors, the Georgia School Superintendent's Association, the WestEd conference, the Alabama Association of School Boards conference, the International Reading Conference and the National Council of Teachers of English conference. Mrs. Fuhrey has conducted workshops on Leadership Development, Teacher Leadership, Corrective Reading, Literacy Across the Curriculum, and Reading Fluency. She has volunteered for many organizations including the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Covington Relay for Life, and Newton County Literacy Volunteers.
When not at work, Mrs. Fuhrey enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter.
Mr. Joel Pedersen has been a strong leader in the areas of building positive school culture and reducing bullying behaviors while presenting at several schools across Iowa. While at Davis County Middle School, his leadership in the areas of promoting positive school culture and bully prevention were stated as chief reasons for his selection as the 2010 Iowa Middle School Principal of the Year. Mr. Pedersen has been the Superintendent of the Cardinal Community School District in Wapello County for the past 10 years, where he has lead the district to make great strides to enhance school culture. Mr. Pedersen understands the powerful connection between positive school culture and student achievement.
Joel became the superintendent of Cardinal Community School District in 2010. Over the past 10 years, under Joel’s leadership, Cardinal CSD total student enrollment has increased by 43% and district has invested over 11 million dollars in school infrastructure projects. Cardinal High School students/families saved $193,970 while earning 1,141 college credits during the 2017-18 school year. Cardinal CSD has grown their early childhood programming from 36 children be served in 2010 to 128 3 and 4 year olds being served in 2018. Finally, Cardinal posted a 98% graduation rate in the latest report.
Joel has been honored by a number of organizations for his leadership efforts. Joel was awarded the 2010 Iowa Middle School Principal while serving as principal at Davis County Middle School, Joel was honored with the inaugural 2014 Dr. Jim Lindmeyer Leadership Award for Exceptional Leadership, the 2015 Iowa Fine Arts Administrator of the Year award and most recently Joel was named the 2020 Iowa Superintendent of the Year.
Mr. Joel Pedersen is a proud graduate of Indian Hills Community College class of 1996. It went on to earn degrees from Buena Vista University and Drake University. He resides in Ottumwa, IA with his beautiful wife Jamie and his twin 15 year old sons, Reece and Grant
Writing a biography may be my biggest challenge of this application. I am able to tell you that I come from a family that has found fulfillment and success in the world of education. It all began with an older brother who was the first in our family to graduate from college and begin a teaching career. After teaching for 2 ½ years, then 1 year as a ½-time Principal and ½-time Teacher, I have been a full-time Administrator for the past 25 years.
I believe my greatest accomplishment has been the ability to surround myself with excellent people. Recruitment and retention of quality people contribute to the success of the school and to my success as an Administrator. We have mentored several school leaders in Bliss that have gone on to serve as leaders around the State including; Wendell Middle School Principal (former), Lowell Elementary Principal (Boise)(former) Homedale Superintendent, Rockland Superintendent (former), Sugar Salem Superintendent, Boise School District Human Resources Director, and two of them serving as Deputy Superintendents to Tom Luna.
One of my passions is athletics. High School Athletics has always played a huge role in my education and the education of my own children. I have always believed that lessons learned on the field and on the court were as much a part of a student’s success as the classroom curriculum. I watched my four kids earn 14 individual State titles and each of them were participants on State Championship Teams. This work and dedication has contributed to their successes after graduation.
Because of my interest in High School sports, I was nominated and elected to serve on the District 4 Board of Control for approximately 14 years. After serving as President of that Board, I was elected by the Region 4 Superintendents to represent them as a member of the IHSAA Board of Directors for approximately 8 years from 2007-2015. Serving on that Board was one of the most fulfilling assignments of my career.
My original decision to come to Bliss was to gain experience and move on to bigger and better things in the future. Little did I know that this is where my career as an Administrator would begin and possibly end. I have had many opportunities to move on, to climb the ladder, but I have chosen to stay the course and help the students and teachers of Bliss do the climbing. I have been fulfilled as maybe the longest tenured Superintendent in the State at my original position. This year we will celebrate 100 years in our old building and I have been here for more than a quarter of its life. I am so glad that I stayed; I wouldn’t change a thing.
Much of my fulfilment in education has been the association with other Superintendents. Because of my youth in the beginning (age 36), many of the “old guard” took me under their wings and would not let me fail. I have been able to rely on their support and wisdom and still have contact with many of those legends that have mentored me so well. Through the IASA yearly meetings, friendships across the State were developed and continue today.
Outside of education, I do have a life that is full. I love spending time with my family and it usually involves hunting, golfing and fishing. My wife says I am obsessed with fishing and there will be no reason for her to retire because I will be gone fishing all the time. (I love the Madison River in Montana) Looks like I need to get her into a fly fishing class. My son and I have a pack-goat string and we love archery hunting for deer and elk. After my retirement I plan to spend time in his taxidermy shop.
To sum it all up I have a few rules that I like to apply to all parts of my life. First, keep things simple. We have figured out how to complicate our lives to a level so stressful that we lose sight of what’s important. From day one I have asked the staff to keep things simple and concentrate on teaching the students to read and write and do a little math so that all the doors of the future are open to them. That’s what happened for me as I was 11 years out of High School before I earned my AA degree. Because I had those basic skills the door was always open. I just had to walk through it.
The second secret, “happy teachers make happy students make happy parents make happy me”. We have tried to always create a place that teachers love to come to work. I hate to say it but if you can’t be happy teaching in Bliss, you will struggle anywhere you go. We pride ourselves in the fact that we have the best staff and the best teaching environment in the State (my opinion). Some have stumbled on to the place and some have waited in line to get here. But no matter the path, we’re the lucky ones.
I still have a few years to make a difference. With the end in sight it would be easy to coast, but I have chosen another route. My goal is to have Steven Covey’s 7 Habits become part of everyday life for all of our staff and students. We have adopted a program called the “The Leader in Me” with the generous donation from a personal friend. This will make a difference! I don’t want this to be a feather that I stick in my hat, but a gift that I leave with our District that will change generations in the future.
Dr. Kevin Blankenship serves as dual superintendent of the Scott-Morgan and Winchester School Districts located in rural, west central Illinois. Dr. Blankenship has served as superintendent for 8 years of his 25 years of education. In addition to superintendent, he has served in leadership roles as building principal, athletic director, teacher, and coach.
Dr. Blankenship serves as a director on several boards including: Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), Prairie State Insurance Cooperative (PSIC), The Purchasing Cooperative (TPC), and Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) program. Dr. Blankenship is a proponent for expanding CTE and work placed educational opportunities for students. Dr. Blankenship served as CTE instructor in business, marketing, computers and technology.
Dr. Blankenship received his doctorate from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and his Bachelor and Master's Degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He also completed coursework and Chief School Business Official certification from University of Illinois at Springfield. In addition to his educational degrees, Dr. Blankenship is also a certified police officer with certifications in Active Shooter Training and Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management.
Dr. Blankenship has worked with his local school communities to improve district wide scores on state assessments, creation and implementation of a1:1 digital conversion program, development of district and school based leadership teams, coordinating district wide curriculum design and mapping, and facilitating long range district planning with the Board of Education.
Dr. Blankenship and his wife, Julie, have two high school aged daughters, Madisyn and Meghyn and reside in Southern Illinois.
Phil Downs is the superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools. He began his teaching career in Fort Wayne Community Schools where he taught social studies and language arts, and coached soccer for ten years. After a year at Blackhawk Middle School as an administrative intern, he moved to Northwest Allen County Schools in 2001 where he was assistant principal at Maple Creek Middle School and opened Cedar Canyon Elementary in 2006 as its first principal. He became the assistant superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools in 2010, and earned his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 2012. He has been married to Joleen since 1989 and they have two children.
I've been privileged to work in school settings since I was fifteen years of age, my path to becoming a school superintendent is much different than most school leaders. This was summarized in the article, "From Sweeping to Leading" which appeared in the Wichita Business Journal in 2012. Growing up with a father who suffered from substance abuse for the first five years of my life put me academically at-risk and behind my peers when I entered kindergarten. Right before I entered kindergarten, my father walked out of my life and never returned. I grew up in a single-parent household during all of my elementary school years in Dodge City, Kansas. Although luxuries were limited, my mom firmly believed that education was the path that would lead me to a better way of life. My grandparents provided me a safety net and guidance in those early and formidable years. At age fifteen, I was offered a position as a night custodian in a local elementary school, I continued that work until I graduated high school. As a teenager, I was named one of the two top young inventors in the state, and I enrolled at Pittsburg State University with the intention of obtaining a degree in a technology-related field. During my first semester, I began to second guess my field of study as I continued to receive letters from students in the class that I had served as a classroom aide in high school. The principal and teachers of that same elementary building kept in contact urging me to consider becoming a teacher. My direction eventually changed to elementary education. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. During my first year of teaching, I was encouraged to begin my master's degree in administration. Following three years of teaching, I was solicited to become a principal/counselor in Miami, Oklahoma (the youngest principal in the state at that time). I served a high poverty building of around 95% free/reduced lunch status. Before my arrival, the building's principal had left during spring break and chosen not to return, the staff was spread throughout the community as the school had burned to the ground, and was in severe need of leadership. In just one year, we were able to transform that school into a well known and respected school. Much of my own personal experiences growing up helped me relate to at-risk students and families. I returned to Pittsburg, Kansas to serve the district for seven years (three years as an elementary principal, two years as a middle school principal, and two years as assistant superintendent). Throughout my time in Pittsburg, we obtained new levels of achievement and implemented many new programs. One of my highlights was being honored on the Senate floor as the state's exemplar reading program. While serving the Pittsburg School District, I returned to college to complete the hours necessary for district-level license and to obtain an Educational Specialist Degree with an emphasis in leadership.
Over the course of the last decade, I've been blessed to serve two districts as superintendent. Despite fiscal constraints, student achievement and opportunities have increased in the years I've served as a superintendent. I have also earned an educational doctorate at the University of Arkansas, with an emphasis in leadership and policy development. My experiences and education have allowed me to serve three colleges as an adjunct professor to help facilitate the learning of future generations of building and district leaders in education. My wife and two kids are supportive of my work and recognize that I am driven to improve the educational opportunities for all students, particularly those that have historically underperformed due to life circumstances. My mom was correct when she stated that education is the way to a better life, and it is for that reason I serve I am proud to serve in a role that can have a profound impact on student learning and opportunities. It was because of my own experiences that I feel so passionate about the difference quality educators and a robust educational system can make on the lives of students. Although opportunities outside of education have presented themselves, I do not believe there is a better job on the planet than being a school superintendent.
Brian Creasman is currently superintendent of Fleming County Schools in Kentucky. His Twitter profile (@FCSSuper) says he has the best job in Kentucky. He has the honor and privilege of leading, learning and collaborating in an award-winning school district with over 2200 students, 300 faculty and staff members, and the best community in the nation each day. His areas of interest are student voice, teacher leadership, school and district turnaround, and strategic planning. He became superintendent of Fleming County Schools, a rural, agricultural community, in September 2014.
He has served as a teacher, an instructional technologist, middle school assistant principal, middle school principal, high school principal, and assistant superintendent. He was named principal of a turnaround high school and in two years led the school to exit the turnaround process and greatly expanded the Advanced Placement program all while facing severe budget cuts due to the Great Recession.
As superintendent, working closely with members of the Board of Education, school and district administrators, faculty and staff, teachers, parents and the community, Fleming County Schools has gone from a school district that was state monitored for financial instability, leadership capacity and student achievement, to one of the best school districts in Kentucky in four short years. Fleming County Schools is recognized for its work focused on AdvancED’s Standards for Quality, strategic planning, management efficiency, curriculum and assessment, student success and student voice.
Since being appointed Superintendent of Fleming County Schools, Brian has worked closely with all stakeholders to accelerate the progress of its students and better serve the Fleming community. Over the past four years, the district has posted record student achievement, greatly expanded access to technology, expanded access and opportunity, and empowered teacher leaders and students. A proud moment came in June 2017, when the district, for the first time, became an Accredited School District by AdvancED and also exited “State Monitoring” status by the Kentucky Department of Education.
Since the start of Vision 2021, the district’s five-year strategic plan, Fleming has gone from being a district that was state monitored by the Kentucky Department of Education for low student achievement, financial instability, and leadership ineffectiveness, to the district with among the highest student achievement, financial stability and operational efficiency, and statewide strategic leadership effectiveness. The district has also increased students taking Advanced Placement courses, launched an elementary STEAM program and greatly expanded preschool.
Fleming County Schools has received state and national recognition during this time for its exceptional focus on continuous improvement through the use of the district developed Formative Quality Review; development of a Strategic Framework, creation of National Board Certified Teacher Cohort to empower teacher leaders, eleot Cohort to improve student engagement, and Stakeholder Communication using social media and other forms of correspondence.
Superintendent Creasman has completed several specialized leadership training opportunities such as AASA’s National Certification for Superintendents, National Institute for School Leadership, The Leadership Challenge, Next Generation Leadership Series for On-boarding New Superintendents and many others. He has an Associate of Science in Education, a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration, a Master of Education in Instructional Technology, an Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership, and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership.
He is the co-author of The Leader Within: Understanding and Empowering Teacher Leaders; Growing Leaders Within: A Process toward Teacher Leadership; and Can Every School Succeed? Bending Constructs to Transform an American Icon.
Brian and his wife Valerie, a school counselor, live in Flemingsburg, Kentucky. The couple tries to keep up with their five-year daughter, Georgia who attends kindergarten in the district.
In 2011, Dr. Kelli Joseph was hired as Superintendent for St. Helena Parish School District where she has been the leader in developing a system that has improved educational outcomes for students. Her vision to ensure that all students have access to a quality, equitable education is the driving force behind all her efforts. She believes that we must improve the educational and environmental deficiencies for our student population by making instructional improvements in the classroom, providing our teachers with meaningful support to be effective, and giving our community a reason to have confidence in our school system.
Dr. Joseph is an educator with 21 years of experience. She served in various capacities starting as a substitute and social studies school teacher in St. John the Baptist Parish School System. She also served as Site Director for the Catholic Charities Summer Witness Camp for four years before advancing to assistant principal and later a school principal. In 2010, Dr. Joseph was named Principal of the Year for St. John while serving at Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School.
As superintendent in St. Helena Parish, she led the effort to get two new tax measures passed after over twenty years of unsuccessful attempts. She also forged ahead to ensure that everyone in the school system operated under research-based best practices by going through the AdvancED District Accreditation process. She was named the St. Helena Advocacy for Parish Enrichment (SHAPE) Person of the Year in 2014. The District Administration (DA) National Organization identified her as an Outstanding School District Leader, and she was named a 2017 Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Louisiana East.
Dr. Joseph began her educational journey at Southern University in Baton Rouge and completed her program of study at Southern University in New Orleans in 1998, where she majored in Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Studies. She continued her education at Southeastern Louisiana University where she obtained her master’s degree in 2003, master’s +30 and Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership, in 2011. She also attended Harvard University's Leadership Institute for Superintendents.
Dr. Joseph is engaged in numerous professional and community organizations: AASA School Superintendent’s Association, Immediate Past President of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS), Louisiana Association of School Executives (LASE), Superintendent's Advisory Council, Louisiana Accountability Commission, Capital Area United Way Board of Directors, Capital Area United Way Community Impact, Capital Area United Way Marketing Committee, Krewe of Agape, and Rho Pi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Brad Jackson is the Superintendent of Schools in Holliston, Massachusetts, a position he has held since 2004. Prior to joining Holliston, Brad served a number of communities both in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as a Central Office administrator, serving as an Assistant Superintendent of Schools, a Director of Administration and Finance and a Business Administrator. In addition to his 26+ years of experience as a Central Office administrator, Brad has also served as an elected member of his local School Committee and as an appointed member of his local Finance Committee.
Brad holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Babson College, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Babson College, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership from the University of New England, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. Brad also serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Educational Leadership Graduate program at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine
Brad and his wife, Tricia, have 4 adult children, all of whom have chosen careers in public service with 3 serving as teachers and 1 working on Capitol Hill for a member of Congress.
|Daniel (Dan) Curry||MD||
Dr. Curry is originally from Fairmont, West Virginia. He majored in Elementary Education and minored in Speech and Drama at Fairmont State College (1974). He earned M.A. (1977) and Ed.D. (1995) in Education Administration from West Virginia University.
As a first-year teacher fresh out of college, he taught 42 6th graders in a self-contained classroom – the same room in which he attended 6th grade. He taught 4th grade in Charles Town, Jefferson County, West Virginia before moving to Pocahontas County, West Virginia to be principal of Marlinton Middle School at age 24. In Pocahontas County, he also worked as an elementary principal and district office administrator before being named Superintendent at age 34. He served West Virginia for 15 years as superintendent in Pocahontas County, Hancock County, and Wood County (1987-2003). In 1990 he worked for the West Virginia Department of Education as Assistant Bureau Chief - 2nd in command for such areas as finance, federal programs, school construction, child nutrition, public relations and worked directly with the West Virginia Legislature. In 2003 Dr. Curry moved to Delaware to serve as Superintendent of Schools for the Lake Forest School District in Felton until 2014. He has been with Calvert County Public Schools since 2014. He is now in his 32nd year as a school superintendent.
Daniel (Dan) Curry
Dr. Dave Murphy is a first-generation college graduate, who spent nine years teaching at the elementary level and ten years as a member of his town’s school committee in Massachusetts before moving to Maine in 1984. He has spent his entire administrative career in Maine School Administrative District 44. He first served as an elementary principal for 17 years before being asked to step in and take over the role of the middle/high school principal position in 2001, when the previous administrator resigned in mid-August. This experience allowed him to reconnect with all of his previous students and parents and proved to be an exceptional year from both a professional and personal perspective. At the end of that year, the School Board asked Dr. Murphy if he would be willing to step into the Superintendency. This fall marks his 18th year in that role.
An active member of the community, he has served on many local boards including the Sunday River Charitable Fund, the Stephens Hospital Board of Trustees, the Bethel Family Health Center, the Bethel Datification Committee, the local YMCA board and others. As a volunteer auctioneer, he has helped to raise well in excess of $1 million for local schools, non-profits and community organizations. As a Bethel Rotarian, he initiated a Christmas for Children Campaign to assist needy families in the area when he joined the club in 1987. He has continued to lead that effort for the past 31 years and it now provides assistance to well over 100 local children annually. He also initiated a fund-raising scholarship auction through Rotary that same year and has also chaired that effort since 1987.
Dr. Murphy believes in linking the schools to the communities as tightly as possible and has promoted that belief throughout his administrative career.
In addition to tackling the many pressing issues that constantly challenge school superintendents, he finds pleasure in initiating new programs and challenging the status quo. During his superintendency, he has created an experiential, place-based learning requirement for all high school freshmen that sees them spend part of every academic day at the Maine 4H Learning Center engaging in team building and hands-on activities. Not only is this program designed to provide exceptional academic experiences but it allows all members of the freshman class to get to know each other and form friendships designed to last throughout their high school years. Now in its sixth year, this successful program was recently the subject of an article in the Hechinger Report, a national publication (copy attached). An important three-minute, student focused video about this program can be viewed as an uploaded attachment to this application until October 1 or after that date at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLEk4C68Axo&feature=youtu.be
Another program that he created to benefit Telstar High School students was a unique dual enrollment program that sees qualifying seniors complete their remaining high school credits, while attending a full time on-campus academic experience at Central Maine Community College in Auburn, Maine. in 2018-2019, 25% of the senior class participated in this program and excelled in their academic accomplishments there. Through a focused effort, nearly the entire tuition amount for all students who have participated in this program over the past five years has been obtained through donations from community businesses and organizations that Dr. Murphy has solicited and grants that he has initiated. Students are responsible for their cost of books and transportation but 100% of all tuition costs are covered. It should be noted that participation in this program requires a true level of commitment since students must travel approximately 90 minutes a day in each direction in order to attend these on campus classes. Still, many students see the value in the program and have spoken eloquently about the opportunities this experience has provided in terms of acclimating them to college life.
Other examples include a recent visit by Chinese students and faculty that led to the development of a sister school agreement with Wenzhou 51 high school in China and a $600,000 Lerner Foundation grant written in cooperation with the Maine 4H Learning Center that resulted in the creation of the North Star program, an effort to provide mentor support for identified students in grade 7 that will continue through their graduation from high school.
MSAD 44 is also one of the few districts in Maine that currently provides 1:1 technology support for all of its students in grades K-12. All Kindergarten through second grade children have access to individual iPads, while students in grades 3-12 are assigned personal Mac Airs. All classrooms in the district are equipped with Smart Boards and professional development in technology has long been a priority. To allow the district to maintain an ongoing commitment to upgrading the available technology, Dr. Murphy designed a lease purchase plan that allows for a consistent amount to be dedicated to these purchases on an annual basis, without creating the need for fluctuations in the district budget.
As the result of its participation in a $5 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant obtained by Dr. Murphy, the district has also been able to develop in-house administrative training opportunities for its teacher leaders who are interested in moving into administrative roles. In the fall of 2019, all building based administrators in the school district will be products of those leadership opportunities and this approach will continue to be a focus to ensure additional school system leadership for the future. In a time of heightened administrative turnover, this program should provide a level of consistency that will be of continued benefit to the district, its staff and its students. As one its recent annual goals, the MSAD 44 School Board recently endorsed the continuation of the type of out of the box thinking that has led to the development of these programs.
In addition to his role as Superintendent, Dr. Murphy has served as an adjunct faculty member for the University of New England since 1999 and has developed several of the online courses for its Masters and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies programs in Educational Leadership. He was recently elected by his peers to represent the school's adjunct faculty members on the University of New England's College of Graduate & Professional Studies Faculty Assembly.
He has been actively involved in the Maine School Superintendents Association (MSSA), where he has served on the Executive Committee for many years and currently chairs the MSSA Nutrition Committee. He has also represented MSSA on the New England Association of School Superintendents for 17 years, serving two terms as president of that organization. His association with Superintendents in Maine and throughout New England has provided him with countless positive conversations, many personal and professional relationships and experiences that have helped to shape him as an administrator.
Dr. Murphy is the proud father of LCDR William Murphy, an Annapolis graduate and submarine officer, who currently serves on the United States Navy's Nuclear Examination Board and Erin Murphy, a graduate of the International Business Master’s program at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a current Direct Channel Merchandiser for LL Bean. He and his wife Nancy, a former Adult Education Director, live on an old dairy farm in Bethel, Maine, not far from the Sunday River Ski Resort.
ROBERT SHANER, Ph.D.
Superintendent, Rochester Community School District
Robert Shaner serves as the Superintendent for the Rochester Community School District where he provides executive management for 13 elementary schools, four middle schools, three comprehensive high schools, one alternative high school, and one childcare center.
Dr. Shaner oversees a workforce of more than 1,500 teachers, administrators, and support staff. He manages an annual operating budget of $173 million, in addition to a $185 million bond initiative. The district services a population of more than 91,000 residents, primarily within the City of Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Charter Township. Along with the Board of Education, Dr. Shaner sets the strategic direction for the organization so students can be provided with a world-class education.
Dr. Shaner grew up in Sterling Heights and is a 1986 graduate of Sterling Heights High School. Upon graduation from the University of Detroit, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps where he proudly served on active duty with units attached to the 1st Marine Division. Dr. Shaner was deployed with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit to Somalia and the Persian Gulf. Following active duty, he attended the Oakland Police Academy, while continuing to serve with the Marine Reserve at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base and the Individual Ready Reserve.
After graduating from the police academy, Dr. Shaner worked as a police officer with the St. Clair Shores Police Department where he served as a patrol officer, DARE Officer, and as a member of the Special Response Team. In 1998, Dr. Shaner transferred to the Troy Police Department, working as a patrol officer and then as a youth bureau detective and a member of the Tactical Support Team.
In August 2000, Dr. Shaner earned a Master of Arts Degree in Education from Central Michigan University and began teaching history and leadership at Sterling Heights High School. In September 2003, he earned his Education Specialist Degree in Administration from Wayne State University and the following year was appointed Assistant Principal at Grissom Middle School. In August 2006, Dr. Shaner was selected as Principal of Sterling Heights High School.
Dr. Shaner earned his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Oakland University in 2009 and was inducted into the esteemed Gerstacker Fellowship program at Saginaw Valley State University in 2010. He was then appointed Executive Director of Instruction and Technology for the Warren Consolidated School District in 2011.
In March of 2013, Dr. Shaner was appointed Superintendent of the Rochester Community School District. Dr. Shaner is married to his wife, Kimberly, and they have three children.
David Law is the superintendent for the Anoka-Hennepin School District. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Hamline University with a major in mathematics and a minor in education. He began his career as a middle school math teacher in 1991 in the Murrieta Valley School District in Murrieta, California. From 1992 to 1998, he taught math in the school he graduated from, Coon Rapids High School. In 1998 he began his administrative career working as a Dean of Students at Edgewood Middle School in the Mounds View School District. David earned his Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law and also completed his K-12 Principal Licensure from the University of Minnesota in 2000. He became Assistant Principal at Sandburg Middle School in Anoka-Hennepin in 2000.
In 2007 he became the Principal at Sunrise Park Middle School in the White Bear Lake Area School District. David completed his superintendent license at the University of Minnesota in 2010 and was promoted to the position of Assistant Superintendent for White Bear Lake where he stayed until 2014.
He has been an adjunct professor at both Bethel University in the Graduate School of Education and at the University of Minnesota in the Organizational Leadership and Policy Development department.
David has partnered with the University of Minnesota on several research projects focused on education reform and improvement. He has been on the executive board for the Minnesota Association of School Administrators for four years and currently is president of this association. He also serves on the Anoka Ramsey Community College Advisory Board, the American Heart Association Board and the Board of Directors for the Greater Twin Cities YMCA. Locally, he is involved in the Blaine Rotary and the North Metro Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Most importantly, David is the proud father of three amazing young men. Jack is a junior at North Dakota State University. Brock is a senior and Gage is a freshman at Andover High School in the Anoka-Hennepin school district.
|Dr. Scott Spurgeon||MO||
Dr. Scott Spurgeon is a twenty-Eight -year educator who has spent the greater part of a very successful career in educational leadership in the “mainstream” of public education. A career whose beginning suggested he was somewhat of a “prodigy”, Dr. Spurgeon demonstrated a seemingly innate gift of an analytical mind for data, the dissection of the theoretical frameworks of pedagogy, and its impact on the cognitive webs of learning. What perhaps was more uncanny was his natural ease with translating those deep understandings of the systems and the people he leads through developing deep-rooted cultural norms. His ability to lead buy-in and group genius appeared relational in a way that is usually seen in motivational speakers or a few faith-based leaders of today’s mega-organizations. Dr. Spurgeon provided that very leadership over the last 25 years in school administration while serving the needs of scholars in rural, suburban, and urban school districts. Spurgeon’s record as one of the preeminent leaders of the educational landscape then led him to the national stage, as he became a trainer, mentor, and presenter for Dr. William Daggett’s International Center for Leadership in Education.
In 2013, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was working to unlock the solution to ensure all its districts were a viable part of their Top 10 by 20 goal. Just three short years into its state oversight, one of the state’s failing districts, the Riverview Gardens School District, was still searching for the right formula to galvanize a strongly committed staff and unlock the immense potential of the over 5,700 scholars the district served. With a state appointed special administrative board and the consistent and embedded support of regional and state departments, the missing variable seemed only to be a leader. In stepped Dr. Scott Spurgeon.
Spurgeon brought all of the knowledge and skill of his years of educational leadership and a proven record of “model schools” practice. However, his experiences had largely been in “right-sized” systems. Could this gifted and genuinely personable educator successfully “turn the ship around” in a climate of broken systems further weighed upon by the urgency of turnaround? With a pace not commonly seen in the nation’s story of urban transformation, and with a strategic plan that is both simple yet has deliberate intentionality, Scott set a foundation of successful urban transformation.
Dr. Spurgeon immediately recognized the untapped potential of the Riverview Gardens district that appeared to be at best “asleep” from years of failed leadership and unsuccessful practices and performance. His approach was two pronged and simple: one: overlay the simple, consistent behaviors of excellence, and two: provide wrap-around services and a remedy for a community who was “not needy” but had specific and unique “needs” to level the playing field for his scholars. The first and most immediate of those needs was to bring in deliberate and focused recipe for teaching and learning. The “Spurgeon-ism” became Literacy is Our Leverage, and it governed every action. The non-negotiables were rigorous accelerated methods of strengthening scholars’ core foundation while pushing them to and through their levels of “frustration” to levels of “excellence”. It was the same theory and cognitive webbing upon which the video game industry drives these same young minds…through rigor and relevant bursts of success they will strive more and more to reach the next level. Dr. Spurgeon paralleled this with another key focus: Access to Literacy (a book in every learner’s hand, increased library circulation, and materials for home); Literacy in Everything (increased reading and writing across all content); and All Hands on Deck (scholars, parents, and community were enrolled in the value and awareness of every student knowing their reading level, setting their goal level, and progress monitoring their growth).
The formula, again, was simple: the data leads to actionable behaviors, the practice is strategic and research based, and the monitoring is consistent and constant to ensure that we identify, practice, and replicate only what works. He implemented The Classroom Mosaic, an aligned and consistent tool for classroom walkthroughs and instructional walks, along with a non-negotiable that every administrator (he and all district level administration) observed classroom practice in every building twice a month. This presence in scholars’ learning was even more impactful than the classroom, grade level, and town-hall meetings he held with student groups. The practice has made him not only known by every student, but has given every student the assurance of someone’s belief in them that they do not want to disappoint.
However, was the solution to success that simple, in a community where the graduation cohort rate translated to the number of non-completers that often had more to do with scholars leaving to become co-providers for their families than anything to do with their abilities or aspiration? It was not that simple for those scholars whose learning gaps had everything to do with a rhythm of constant mobility caused by socio-economic factors and not their creative potential and intellect. Even as Dr. Spurgeon lead his organization to a synchronized paddle to “turn the ship around”, he could not disassociate the district’s work from the impact of the unexpected waves of student transfer legislation that cost the district more than 27 million dollars over the past six years or the death of Mike Brown and Ferguson effect which occurred within the Riverview Gardens School District boundaries.
Scott recognized the need of his district did not mean a “give me”, an excuse, nor a “hand out”. but rather a “hand up,” a balance of resources, access to those resources, and the equitable leveling of the “playing field”. Spurgeon’s charged to his staff was to eradicate barriers to success. Simple yet strategic, his lead was the non-negotiable of attendance data task force teams at every school site led by a district level administrator to attack 90/90 attendance. And when perceptual data, including the Advanced Questionnaire” indicated the greatest barriers to school attendance were the absence of clean clothing or transportation issues his remedy was simple. His “ask” was for team members to solidify meaningful connections with external partnerships. By the end of year three, the district’s partnership with Whirlpool had put washers and dryers in eleven of his thirteen schools, the partnership with the Assistance League had provided school uniforms and filled book bags for every child, and the partnership through the Children’s Education Service Fund had placed a wealth of wrap-around community services and support personnel at every school site. Newly formed partnerships with The Little Bit Foundation, YMCA, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Boeing, Lindenwood University, University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL), Boys and Girls Club, Apple, and Maryville University, just to name a few, afforded his scholars and parents more educational opportunities before and after school and during the summer. These partnerships also brought additional after hours and summer school opportunities for RGSD scholars that his district could not afford due the great loss of financial resources because of the student transfer program. The student transfer program was mandated by state statute after the Missouri Supreme Court ruling in June 2013 that allowed scholars in unaccredited school districts to transfer to an accredited school district in their current or adjacent county with tuition expenses paid by the unaccredited district. Nearly 1,400 scholars signed up to transfer out of the district in the summer of 2013 and to date, the district has paid out over twenty-seven million dollars in transfer tuition; resources that could have been extremely helpful in the successful turnaround of his then unaccredited school district.
In the face of already over-burdening transportation costs associated with the transfer legislation, Scott was unbending in that if transportation for mothers/families reluctant to have their primary aged children walk through often unpredictable circumstances to get to the school house, then the solution was to relax the one-mile requirement for bus ridership. And in the now historic connection to the Mike Brown/Fergusson effect, Spurgeon forever solidified the partnership with the community when Riverview Gardens School District, that includes the Canfield Apartments, became a dependable provider of resources, food banks, support services, including not only the district’s local health and social service partners, but also the national support of Iyanla Vanzant of the Oprah Network, as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr. King’s Center for Non-Violence education.
Spurgeon’s lead-in was if low attendance or anything other than student learning and success is the barrier, “equalize it, and get it done. Fair enough?” Moreover, despite intangible yet undoubtedly leading indicators and impact, Dr. Scott Spurgeon has returned the Riverview Gardens School District to an organization of pride and an organization with a dedication to a return to academic honor and excellence. The data tells that story: The Attendance (69.6% in 2013 pre-Spurgeon) to 75.4% in 2018; the increase in graduation rate of 69% in 2013, to 83.5% in 2019; and the decrease in the district mobility rate of 66.4% in 2013, to 41.9% in 2018. The greatest impact has been the story as it comes off the paper. The return to excellence for RGSD scholars has meant over 4.2 million in college scholarships for our graduating seniors in 2018, over 1.7 million more than in the 2012-2013 (pre-Spurgeon) school year, both regional and national recognition of our RGSD Jazz band, nationally recognized men’s step team Gentlemen of Vision, Dr. Spurgeon receiving the prestigious NAACP Legacy Award in 2016, receiving the 2016 East/West Gateway Outstanding Local Achievement Award for Exemplary Accomplishment by a Local Government Individual, receiving the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Epsilon Lambda Chapter 2016 John D. Buckner Citizen of the Year award, receiving the Apple for Teacher Award from Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc.’s Alpha Zeta Chapter, receiving the 2019 Community Hero’s Award from the Emerson YMCA, the securing of three of Missouri’s four Apple ConnectED Grant Awards, and invitations to participate on the national stage by organizations such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation and the United States Navy. One of Dr. Spurgeon’s proudest moments came on October 26, 2018 when the partnership of the Foundation of Christian Hospital Northeast, Care STL, Show-Me School Based Health Alliance of Missouri, and Riverview Gardens opened the first school-based health care center at Riverview Gardens High School. The buildout expansion of the center will begin in the fall of 2019 and when completed, will be one the most state of the art centers in any school in America.
While as educators, we truly know, understand, and value the work of all superintendents to lead the education of our nation’s future. We believe we can say without doubt, that few-to-none, have done so facing the same variables, with the same steadfast grace and humility, and certainly not with the same early wins and promise of success as Dr. Scott Spurgeon, Superintendent of Riverview Gardens School District. His uncompromising conviction in regaining accreditation became a reality when the Missouri State Board of Education voted unanimously to provisionally accredit the Riverview Gardens School; effective January 4, 2017, then granted a second consecutive year of provisional accreditation in December 2017, and now a third in March 2019. This achievement is nothing short of spectacular in light of the fact that our district had been unaccredited since 2007.
Another great highlight of Dr. Spurgeon’s tenure occurred on April 3, 2018 when 79.87% of our communities overwhelmingly passed an $11.7-million-dollar bond issue. If you look back at 2013 when Dr. Spurgeon began and know that more than 1,400 scholars signed up transfer out of the district because of their lack of trust and belief in our school system to April, 2018 with the bond issue support of nearly 80%, this speaks volumes for the collaborative work Dr. Spurgeon has accomplished in his first five years as our leader. In addition, from 2007 to 2016 the district lost nearly 93 million dollars of assessed valuation, nearly 33% of the total assessed valuation, due to the loss of accreditation and the financial downturn of our country in the mid 2000’s. The district is assessed every odd year for funding purposes. When the State awarded RGSD with a classification upgrade to provisional accreditation, effective January 4, 2017, the district assessed valuation growth increase by nearly 6% in the spring of 2017. In the spring of 2019, with the third year in a row for provisional accreditation, the district-assessed valuation grew a whopping 23.57% or a $45,885,090 increase. These two positive increases brought the district within $35 million of the original assessed valuation in 2007. Spurgeon believes their great work in the school district has been the driving force in the recovery of our communities.
Dr. Spurgeon’s record of accomplishments did not start in Riverview Gardens. He has also led the efforts to achieve five consecutive years of distinction in performance awards in a district that saw all of its performance in the lowest thirty percent of all schools in the State of Missouri upon his arrival, two National Blue Ribbon Schools, and a three Missouri Gold Star awards in previous districts. As a frequent local, state, and national presenter, Dr. Spurgeon continues to speak his belief that ALL children can learn by asking the question, “Who Said Poverty and Success Can’t Co-Exist?” We just proved that it could when the playing field is leveled and resources are equitable and accessible.
In addition to his current position, Dr. Spurgeon’s experience includes fifteen years of senior level leadership in the positions of Assistant Superintendent for curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development, Associate Superintendent for curriculum and school leadership, and Superintendent. He has been an administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, including alternative education and has taught graduate courses for Lindenwood University. Dr. Spurgeon received his Educational Doctorate Degree from St. Louis University in Educational Leadership. Prior to Dr. Spurgeon’s Educational Career, he played professional baseball with the Houston Astros Organization.
He is married to his wife Dr. Julia Spurgeon and is a proud father of four children, Alysia, Austin, Connor, Emily and his grandson Ryan.
Dr. Scott Spurgeon
Wayne Rodolfich has served as superintendent of the Pascagoula-Gautier School District for the past 15 years.
Under his leadership, the PGSD recently won 24 PREPS Value Added Awards recognizing schools deemed as “adding value” because they are performing significantly better than other schools with comparable socioeconomic circumstances. Rodolfich was also awarded the 2018 Mississippi Computing Education Association’s Technology Administrator of the Year award and the 2018 Mississippi Association of Partners in Education Governor’s Award for Exemplary Partnership for the district’s Tech Camp for Teachers.
Named to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Alumni Association’s Hall of Fame, and the St. Martin High School Hall of Fame, Rodolfich won the National School Public Relations Golden Achievement Award for his READ! READ! READ! campaign, the Above and Beyond Award from the Mississippi Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves, and the Mississippi School Public Relations Golden Medallion award for the district’s #be great campaign in 2017.
A Terrel H. Bell National Leadership Award winner, Rodolfich has won a number of national, regional and state awards including the Spirit of Mississippi Main Street Award and the Miss. Association of Partners in Education Governor’s Award for his creation of the Aaron Jones Family Interactive Center, an interactive children’s museum where parents and children can learn and play together.
Rodolfich won the National Crystal Star Award for Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention and Recovery for his Destination Graduation dropout prevention program and led the school district in winning America’s Promise 100 Best Communities in America for Young People for three consecutive years.
I have had the good fortune to work in the Fairfield School District since 1997. In 2002, I became the 7-12 Principal, then in 2013 I was named Superintendent of Fairfield Public Schools. I have also been the head football coach for Fairfield High School each of those twenty two years. This community and school district helped Jolyn, my wife of 25 years, raise two boys, Tucker and Ryder. One is a college graduate and the other is beginning his college career this fall. We have seen many changes and yet much has stayed the same in our school and community. I grew up in the Seeley Swan Valley and had a two year stint in St. Cloud, Minnesota. My wife and I consider ourselves lifetime Montanans and work everyday to make our little piece of the world a better place. We are so fortunate to have lived in the Fairfield community for the past twenty two years and hope that we are able to give back even though we can never give back what has been given to us.
Anthony D. Jackson, Ed.D, Superintendent of the Vance County School System in Henderson, NC, serves at the helm of 15 schools educating 6000 students, with 1,000 employees. Prior to coming to Vance County Schools, Dr. Jackson served for 4 years as the Superintendent of the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, in Rocky Mount, NC and 3 years as division Superintendent of the Henry County Public School System located in Collinsville, Virginia.
Dr. Jackson’s career in public education spans 30-years and began as a teacher’s assistant, and has matriculated through the public school ranks as a music teacher, assistant principal, principal, and various central office administrative posts in several Virginia and North Carolina school districts. Prior to returning to North Carolina in 2011, Dr. Jackson worked as the principal and Chief Administrative Officer of the Arts and Technology Academy Public Charter School (ATA), a highly successful public charter school in Washington, DC. He also served as a Regional Vice President for Curriculum and Instruction with a charter school management company headquartered in New York City.
Since his arrival in Vance County, student achievement has improved positively. The district designated a low-performing district when Jackson arrived has improved its performance enough that the designation was removed. The district currently boasts two A schools and several schools have improved their performance as defined by the state accountability system. The graduation rate has increased dramatically under Jackson's leadership from 77.6%in 2015 when he arrived to 86.7% in 2019. Conversely, the dropout rate fell to 2.02% from a five year high of 5.25%. The district is currently implementing a full scale digital transformation – training all staff to implement blended learning strategies in classrooms. The WeInspire Digital Transformation initiative is being funded by a $200,000 Golden Leaf grant to cover professional development and a special appropriation of $400,000, from the Vance County Board of Commissioners to purchase new devices for staff.
Under Jackson’s leadership, the district has implemented several innovative instructional programs including the Youth Empowerment Academy for at-risk middle school students, the AdVance Academy, a program that provides both credit recovery and credit acceleration opportunities for high school students, and the Vance Evening Academy, a program for at-risk high school students that serves as an alternative to long-term suspension. The district opened its first Restart school in July 2017. E. M. Rollins STEAM Academy is Vance County’s first themed schools and its only year-round school. Additionally, Jackson,and his team, has led the districts implementation of Opportunity Culture strategies in eight of the ten elementary schools, the AVID program at the middle and high school levels, World Languages for elementary students, restored music and fine arts programs at the elementary and middle school levels and developed a partnership with the Wake Forest Orchestra Foundation that led to the start of the Vance County String Orchestra program at the elementary level as well as a partnership with Wolftrap Performing Arts Center providing arts infused curricula delivered by artists-in-residents in all Pre-K classrooms across the district.
In 2013-2014, while Superintendent of the Nash-Rocky Mount School System, Dr. Jackson was named the N. C. Central Region’s Superintendent of the Year. Jackson is also a 2017 recipient of the prestigious Friday Medal for his leadership with implementing technological innovation in school systems in North Carolina. This award is given annually by the Friday Institute for Innovation at North Carolina State University. In July 2019, Dr. Jackson was again, named the N. C. Central Region’s Superintendent of the Year for leading the effort to transform and improve the Vance County School System.
Dr. Jackson has a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from East Carolina University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from N. C. Central University and a doctorate degree in education from Walden University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He serves on the boards of the local Economic Development Commission and the Vance County Public Schools Foundation. Jackson holds membership in many professional and civic organizations including Rotary International and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Dr. Jackson is married to Dr. Tawannah Allen-Jackson, a professor of educational leadership at High Point University. He has two adult children and one grandchild. He enjoys singing, playing the piano, listening to jazz, fitness, traveling and spending time with his family.
I was born and raised in Napoleon, ND. My family was in the livestock business and as the oldest of five children, I spent much of my early years helping out on the farm and at the livestock auction that my family owned. I graduated from Napoleon High School in 1984.
After graduating from high school, I attended the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, majoring in elementary education and minor in coaching. Throughout college I worked as a lifeguard, at several different restaurants, and as a baseball and basketball coach in Bismarck.
After college, I was offered an elementary teaching job in Des Lacs – Burlington, ND. I spent three years teaching third grade and coaching football and basketball at DL-B. While at DL-B, I began working on a master’s degree in School Administration at the University of Mary.
I was offered a job as elementary principal and counselor of the Emerado Public School District in Emerado, ND in 1991. Emerado was a small K-8 school with that did not employ a superintendent. As elementary principal, it was assumed that I would handle the superintendent duties as part of my workload. I had several excellent superintendent mentors who helped shape me as an educational leader while I was in Emerado. I will forever be indebted to Dr. Mark Sanford, the superintendent of Grand Forks, Mr. Terry Bartness the superintendent of Larimore, and Mr. Kevin Keenaghan, the superintendent of Northwood for the support and guidance they showed me.
In 1996, I accepted a position as a shared superintendent between the Minor School District and the North Sargent School District in Gwinner, ND. Working as a shared superintendent between two neighboring districts taught me about the importance of delegating responsibilities and trusting my co-workers. It was during my time in Gwinner and Milnor that I competed my Ed. Specialist Degree from the University of North Dakota.
In 1999, my family and I moved to Hillsboro, ND where I accepted a job as superintendent. We spent eleven great years in Hillsboro. In Hillsboro I became much more active in with the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders (NDCEL) and the North Dakota Association of School Administrators (NDASA). I served on the board of directors for both organizations, including serving as president of NDCEL in 2008-2009. I also completed a Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Dakota in 2008.
In 2010 I applied for and was offered a job as assistant superintendent in the Mandan School District. Working as the assistant superintendent in Mandan allowed me to work closely and learn from the Mandan superintendent, Wilfred Volesky. Mr. Volesky reinforced the concept of treating people with respect and dignity for me. Regardless of the situation, he treated everyone well. When Mr. Volesky retired in 2012, I was fortunate enough to be offered the superintendency of the Mandan School District.
On a personal level, I have been married to my wonderful and supportive wife Kristi for almost 24 years. Kristi is a psychology professor at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. We have been blessed with four children; Ryan is a seventh grader at Mandan Middle School, Adam is a Junior at Mandan High School, Micayla is a junior at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, and Morgan, who is married to Todd Olson. Morgan & Todd live in work in Grand Forks with their 2 sons, Landry & Dalton.
Dr. Mark Adler is currently in his eighth year leading Ralston Public Schools as Superintendent. Dr. Adler has devoted more than 25 years to the success of Nebraska’s public schools, serving students and families in Petersburg, Elgin and Nebraska City before arriving in Ralston. Mark graduated from Hastings High School in 1987 and served six years in the United States Army. Dr. Adler earned his Doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2008. Dr. Adler was a first-generation college student as he earned degrees from Kearney State College and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Through the years, Dr. Adler has served many roles in education, including time as an industrial technology teacher, football coach, basketball coach, bus driver, high school principal, activities director, assistant superintendent for business and now superintendent of schools. Mark and his wife, Joni, have been married for 29 years. They have three children: Jade, 22, is a senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Reid is eternally 15 and Kamille, 15, is a 10th grade student at Ralston High School. Mark enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, working in his yard and coaching his children in sports. The Adler family loves Nebraska, Army and Kansas City Chiefs football as well as anything involving the Ralston Rams!
Dr. Adler has, and will continue to be an advocate and voice for all students and staff under his care. In a very diverse urban school district with high needs, Dr. Adler and his team are focused on providing an environment dedicated to achieving excellence through purposeful instruction, while nurturing a climate of hope for students and families. Dr. Adler is committed to cultivating quality relationships and trust at all levels of Ralston Public Schools. That dedication supports and nurtures new leaders each year through the Ralston Leadership Academy for administrators and teachers. Since the death of their son Reid in 2016, Mark and Joni have spoken with more than 50,000 people about bullying, appropriate use of technology, suicide and spreading kindness and hope to everyone you meet. #bekind
By birth order, I am a middle child. I have never really thought of myself as that before; however, I am the seventh of nine children. To be noticed in the melee of so many siblings, you had to find ways to stand out. Perhaps therein lies the source of my intrinsic motivation? I was a very good student, a good athlete, I am proud of where I am professionally, and (most importantly) I have a terrific family. I am so fortunate to have two great children, Olivia and Camden, and an extremely supportive and understanding wife, Kelly. Our eccentric dog, Baxter, rounds out our nuclear clan.
I am definitely an overachiever and I am comfortable in leadership roles. I attempt to use my competitive nature, assertiveness, confidence, and energy for good. When I graduated from the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore School of Business (WSBE) in 1993, I had no idea what I wanted to do. With a business degree in hand, I began scouring the help wanted section of the Boston Globe. Ultimately, I landed a job as an assistant manager of a retail store. It did not take me too long to figure out that I wasn't meant for retail management. With admittedly poorly developed executive functioning skills (at the time), I had my first truly introspective moment; I needed to find a profession that would be fulfilling! During my undergraduate college tenure, I had occasionally worked as a substitute teacher. I truly enjoyed that, but had never considered education as a career (prior to this landmark moment of self-awareness). With a future-focused plan, I enrolled in graduate school and soon thereafter entered the professional world of public education. A career in education was an immediate fit! I quickly discovered a fervent desire to bring innovation, creativity, effective relationships, and technology to my classes and colleagues. This mindset has served me well throughout my career. I never envisioned myself becoming a superintendent of schools; however, to this day I have that same spirit I discovered in my early days of teaching.
I believe the fact that I embrace risk positions me well as a systems administrator (as long as I am cognizant that others may need a safety net). As a former computer instructor, I have the unique ability to live comfortably in the analytical domain (programming) as well as the creative realm (graphics and multimedia). The juxtaposition of these traits provides me with cognitive flexibility and agility in my leadership style. Effective systems, frameworks, and processes provide opportunities for learning and teaching to flourish! Twenty five years ago, that sentence would not have excited me the way it does today! I believe that as a superintendent and systems level leader, among the most important aspects of my job is to continually fan the embers of innovation and creativity in educators and students alike. Education is a strategic profession that requires relationships, trust, and well designed plans for success (in all aspects and at all levels). With established systems, crafted to leave "room" for student and professional agency, a systems leader can collaborate with their educational communities and magic can happen!
I have spent thirty years as an educator in New Jersey, but it was in Washington, D.C. that I experienced a professional epiphany. It was November of 2014, and I had been invited to the White House ConnectED to the Future Convening—an event that brought together the nation’s “exemplary superintendents” in recognition of leadership in digital learning. The previous spring, I had participated in the U.S Department of Education’s Superintendents Technical Working Group, which contributed ideas in the creation of the Future Ready Pledge as well as shaped the agenda for the ConnectED Convening now taking place. Prior to the Convening, I had been asked to join 11 other superintendents to contribute to the National Education Technology Plan. As part of the introductory dialogue that prefaced our working session, we told our individual stories. At the time, I was superintendent of a regional school district that served several predominantly affluent, culturally homogenous communities. I had moved this district forward toward a future-ready vision through technology integration and a comprehensive blended learning initiative; implemented an IB Career Academy Program; redesigned the ELA curriculum and attendant staffing and professional development, which yielded unprecedented student growth in reading and writing; and led a collaborative effort to conceptualize and develop a new vision of a graduate that encapsulated our shared definition of a lifelong learner. Our district ranked among the top in the state.
While the work I had undertaken in this district had been rigorous and rewarding, I often thought about what it would mean for me to be the educational leader of a community where students faced serious barriers to success because of poverty, racism, trauma, and other challenges that subordinate school learning to one’s efforts to merely get through the day. In other words, could my values, interests, and strengths as an educator make a greater impact in a district where maximal academic achievement had been impossible for (or even denied to) many of its students?
I had started my career in public education as a high school history teacher and basketball coach in a racially mixed district where students’ backgrounds spanned the socioeconomic spectrum. Their experiences as students could not be separated from their experiences in the world; at times, the latter significantly impinged on their academic success. Yet conversely, the positive strides my students made in the classroom and on the court offered a way to mitigate, even by small degrees, some of the difficulties they faced in their own lives. Helping my students access social and intellectual capital through the study of history, or build relationships and learn important collaborative skills on the court, was extremely gratifying for me. It gave me a firm sense of purpose as an educator that matched my sense of purpose as a member of a democratic society. I felt that I was directly involved in preparing my students to launch into a world that required they be equipped not only with knowledge and a set of academic skills, but ways to navigate and counteract the barriers to success many of them would inevitably face.
And so, on this November day at the White House, sitting among 11 other chief school administrators from districts large and small, I found myself paying particularly close attention to what leaders in places like Miami-Dade, Macon County, Georgia or even Sitka, Alaska had to say about the unparalleled challenges and immeasurable rewards of the work they were doing, and I was inspired. I knew that I wanted the next phase of my professional life to involve the deep consideration of issues that mattered both within and outside students’ educational careers; I wanted to grapple alongside other passionate educators with how to effectively and equitably fulfill the social imperatives of our discipline. In short, I wanted to find the context in which I could meld my leadership skills, my investment in supporting students’ academic, social, and emotional growth, and my abiding commitment to the foundational purposes of a universal public education: ensuring the continuation of a democracy in its most profound sense.
As good fortune would have it, there was a superintendent opening in the Morris School District, and I returned from D.C. and announced to my wife that I was going to apply for the position. The interview process and related conversations with the MSD Board of Education and Central Office administrators confirmed for me that this was indeed the place where I belonged. I think the spirit of my aspirations was well captured in a statement from my CSA Evaluation last year: “Mackey, along with his staff, has been able to develop and articulate a vision and plan for the district in a remarkably short period of time. It was as if he was waiting his whole life for the right organization to apply these deeply held values and beliefs. They dovetail with what the board has long been looking for.”
The Morris School District is part of a vibrant, engaged community that is proud of its diversity and its unique legacy. It is the only school district in New Jersey to have been created by a court order, which mandated the merging of Morristown and Morris Township schools to promote racial integration. The community embraced this vision, and throughout our nearly 50-year history as a district, has worked hard to maintain it. Parents, teachers, administrators, board members, alumni, community leaders, and students alike are committed to protecting and perpetuating the ideals that spawned the district’s founding. This commitment has facilitated the partnerships that support and enhance my work as educational leader. We continue to build a healthy, pluralistic community, move toward greater equity and inclusion, diminish achievement gaps, and raise the bar for educational excellence precisely because the fundamental values that underlie the district’s enduring aspirations are shared values.
At no time has the import of this collective investment been more apparent to me than when an inadvertently offensive image was published at our middle school. The principal and I convened a townhall-style meeting to which we invited all district stakeholders so that we could listen to and learn from our community. The result was a much-needed dialogue on the complexities of race relations, intercultural competency, and disenfranchisement that ultimately led to the development of a multifaceted Equity and Inclusion Action Plan. I worked in productive partnership with fellow educators, students, parents, and community leaders to create an actionable blueprint for comprehensive, district-wide equity and inclusion initiatives that both reflects and reinforces our community’s most sacred values—foremost among them the belief that education is a right to which all human beings deserve equal access.
The exigencies we face as educators, particularly in districts that serve diverse constituent groups, require innovation and lateral thinking; creativity has been a hallmark of my professional life. Throughout the past four years as superintendent of the Morris School District, I have continued to build on my previous experience developing innovative practices, leveraging progressive technology systems, and cultivating new partnerships to promote students’ lifelong success. I have held fast to the belief that the right kind of technology integration will empower students and teachers and revolutionize learning outcomes. Accordingly, we have implemented blended learning methodologies at all levels of schooling throughout the district, provided universal wifi to all of our students without exception, and thoroughly operationalized a one-to-one chromebook program for grades 6-12.
Furthermore, in order for students to be prepared for an increasingly competitive global economy and an uncertain future, there needs to be a method to judge the impact of actions and programs on student learning and experience. For this reason, I have focused on leveraging digital platforms to collect data, align resources, refine methods of analysis, and, most importantly, make data accessible to faculty and administrators so it can become actionable. This purposeful use of data has culminated in an exciting new venture for the Morris School District: the creation and implementation of what we call a “Learner Positioning System”—the instantiation of the transformative potential of data interoperability, which we can harness to yield a comprehensive, multidimensional picture of student learning. The advent of this systemic use of “date in service of learning” is a highpoint of my career. Our demonstrably effective, equitable approach to reimagining learning environments in order to propel student success enabled the Morris School District entry into the highly selective League of Innovative Schools. As a member since 2016, I have benefited tremendously from this ongoing opportunity to network with some of the most forward-thinking educational leaders as we pursue innovation with impact.
I view my career trajectory as the fortunate alignment of several professional experiences, which, in the aggregate, have allowed me to coalesce my ideas and interests into a well-defined, extensive educational vision. My fifteen years in the classroom as a history teacher furnished me with an irreplaceable knowledge and a credibility concerning the most important function of a school district—teaching. My two years as a guidance counselor helped me develop an astute understanding of the college admissions process as well as the impact of district programs and policies for students in relation to this important area. Being a K-12 district supervisor enabled me to develop strong delivery skills. And serving as Director of Staff Development gave me invaluable insight into personnel management and professional training. All of these experiences have allowed me to critically observe and understand education from many angles. I continue to enjoy the close, regular interactions with students, faculty, and administrators that my previous positions afforded. Whether my day involves discussing how to achieve operational excellence with my administrative team, leading a professional development session for teachers on the importance of human relationships and face-to-face interactions in the classroom, holding a community forum on safety and security initiatives, conducting focus groups with parents on district communications, or meeting with high school students on ways to identify and correct implicit bias, I conduct my role as superintendent in a manner that allows me to be a fully engaged participant in, rather than a detached steward of, everything that makes the district go round. It may not always be glamorous, but it keeps me grounded in what matters most and what brought me to the field of education in the first place: providing the very best opportunities to all students so that they are truly prepared for life.
It has been edifying to reflect back on the four and a half years since the White House ConnectED to the Future Convening as I trace the path that brought me to the Morris School District. Now about to officially begin my fifth year in the district in a matter of days, I am nothing less than thrilled to be superintendent here, grateful every day for the decision I made on that November day in 2014 to pursue an opportunity that has proven even more meaningful than I could have imagined at the time. Our community is ascending, our students are ascending, and I am excited to be a part of this thriving collective enterprise.
Melrose Schools was founded in 1907. I am the 13th superintendent in the history and the first alumnus of Melrose High School in this position. I started as an agriculture teacher and never thought about administration. However, when I was 34 years old, after 10 years of teaching, I had a tremendous superintendent who encouraged me to seek and administrative position. I soon became the superintendent at House, New Mexico and served there for two years. During this time the aforementioned superintendent mentored me and encouraged me. After two years at House, I was fortunate to be selected as the High School Principal at Melrose where I served for 13 years before being named Superintendent. This has been one of the most rewarding jobs I could have ever envisioned. I get to be the captain of the ship at the same high school where I graduated. I am honored to be superintendent and am very proud of the success we have achieved. I know that our staff and students have been the driving force behind our success. As an old agriculture teacher I have always believed in learning by doing, so we have experiential learning in all facets of our school environment. I have been in public education for 34 years, 10 years as a teacher and 24 as an administrator. I am the last of 11 children, all graduates of Melrose High School. My wife, Robin, a bank vice-president, and I have been married for 33 years and have four children, all graduates of Melrose High School. Our children are: Lauren - a real estate appraiser in Lubbock, Texas; Lainey - a doctor of Physical Therapy in Albuquerque; Lance - the agriculture teacher at Melrose High School; and Landry - a broadcast journalism major at Eastern New Mexico University. Lauren's husband Tyler Tatum was an agriculture teacher and just recently took a job as account manager in the oil field around Lubbock. Lainey's husband Kevin Estes is completing his dissertation as a PhD candidate in Economics at the University of New Mexico. And Lance's wife Cydnee is a licensed Athletic Trainer and works in an orthopedic doctor's office in Portales, New Mexico. Finally, we are grandparents to Stockton, Harlee, and Mayvin. Our children and grandchildren are the lights of our life. It is truly an honor for all of us to be members of the Melrose Community and Melrose Schools.
I am in my 33rd year as an educator, working over 20 years in Northern Nevada. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona and my Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University.
I began my career as an elementary school teacher in Nogales, Arizona and worked in Arizona until my family moved to Virginia City, Nevada in 1997.
My administrative work has been in serving as a school administrator at all three levels, as an Associate Superintendent of Educational Services in Lyon County, Nevada, as the Superintendent in Mineral County, Nevada, as the Human Resources Director in Douglas County and now the Superintendent in Douglas County.
I served as President of the Nevada Association of School Superintendents and as a Gubernatorial appointee to the Nevada Teachers and Leaders Council and the Nevada State Board of Education. I have also recently been appointed as a member of the National Council on Digital Convergence.
I am proud to be an educator and believe that the work our teachers engage in each day is work that provides students with the relationships, knowledge, skills and abilities that will enable them to lead our tomorrow. Teachers not only teach content to young people, they help them to learn to communicate, collaborate, problem-solve and persevere. Educating is a demanding profession and one that is doing some great things in the State of Nevada. Those things are not always measured by or reflected well in national reports, but rather best viewed in our classrooms and reflected in the performance of our teachers and our young people.
Michael P. Nagler, Ed.D., has held many positions in his 32 years in education. Before assuming his current position as Superintendent of the Mineola Public schools, he began his career as a school teacher in NYC while completing his Master’s and earning his professional diploma. Dr. Nagler then went on to earn his doctorate from Columbia University and accepted an administrative position with Mineola in 1999. Believing strongly in the district’s mission to create lifelong learners who contribute positively to a global society, Dr. Nagler rooted himself in the Mineola School District and never left.
During his nineteen years with the district, he has been a big proponent of using technology to engage students in rigorous content. Mineola was one of the first Districts to implement a 1:1 ipad initiative. Mineola’s innovative use of the ipad has led to the rare feat of having all five Mineola schools to be recognized as Apple Distinguished Schools. Mineola is a member of the League of Innovative schools; one of only 104 districts nationwide. Being a member affords Mineola the ability to be at the forefront of nationwide initiatives such as Open Educational Resources (OER), the Maker Movement and computer science for all, #CSforall.
Mineola was one of the first schools in the State to implement a comprehensive computer science curriculum starting in kindergarten. Mineola is also at the forefront of digital student portfolios. Dr. Nagler recently utilized the Districts coding platform to create his own digital portfolio. http://michaelnagler.oyosite.com/mainpage.html
Mineola’s current initiatives include replacing Kindergarten report cards with a ‘badge book’, launching a new integrated curriculum in grade K-7 and the imminent launch of a new social studies video curriculum web page Mc2oer@oyoclass.com
Mark A. Murphy has served as superintendent of the Tuscarawas Valley Local School District since July 2005. He is the 10th and longest serving superintendent of the district since its consolidation in 1957.
Prior to accepting this role, he served as an elementary principal for Green Local Schools in Summit County from 1997-2005, as well as an elementary principal for New Philadelphia City Schools in Tuscarawas County from 1994-1997. His professional career in education began as a fifth grade teacher for Wadsworth City Schools from 1991-1994.
Mark is a 1986 graduate of New Philadelphia High School. He obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Akron and his Master’s Degree in Elementary Administration from Ashland University, where he went on to acquire his Superintendent’s License.
Mark is a dynamic, energetic, creative, and versatile public school leader with a reputation of integrity, character, and fortitude. Communication, kindness, and fairness are strengths that set him apart from others. Like mentors to him, Mark strives to see the best in others and encourage their God-given potential.
As superintendent, Mark seeks to empower those around him to provide the best possible learning environment and educational opportunities for all students. He enjoys working with the dedicated, hard-working staff of Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools, and firmly believes that teaching is one of the highest and most honorable careers a person can hold. His top priority has always been students, all that they are, and all that they can become.
Mark and his wife, Tammy, reside in Bolivar with their two children who are students of the district, Emma (15) and Aaron (13).
In addition to his family and school responsibilities, Mark actively serves in a leadership role at his church as well as a number of professional and local community organizations including the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools, and Community Business Association of Northern Tuscarawas County.
In his spare time, he enjoys working outdoors, reading, camping, and spending as much time as possible with his family and friends.
A dream that began in a first grade classroom has carried Dr. Stacey Butterfield all the way to the role of Superintendent at Jenks Public Schools, one of Oklahoma's largest and most successful districts. Her extensive experience as a teacher and administrator provides Stacey with a unique understanding of the needs of students and teachers, as well as the knowledge required to effectively manage all business aspects of the school district. Dr. Butterfield's entire career has been devoted to collaborating with colleagues to shape students and their educational experiences.
Through her involvement in a variety of state and national organizations, Dr. Butterfield serves as an advocate for public schools. She currently participates on State School Superintendent Hofmeister's Advisory Council, ImpactTulsa Leadership Council, and Junior Achievement of Oklahoma and Tulsa Board of Directors. Stacey recently concluded her service as former Governor Fallin's appointment to the State aid Funding Formula Taskforce for Oklahoma, a state where ongoing cuts to public education led to a statewide teacher walkout in 2018. With a commitment to lifelong learning and continuous improvement, Dr. Butterfield seizes the opportunity to share ideas and learn with others.
Stacey engages with students, families, teachers, staff members, administrators, as well as community and business leaders to identify needs, direct resources, and ensure all decisions align with the District's strategic plan. Under the guidance and vision of Dr. Butterfield, Jenks Public Schools stands at the forefront of educational technology, opportunities for students, and professional development for staff members. Stacey works diligently to forge strategic partnerships to support our diverse community of learners and continues to emphasize the importance of innovation and collaboration to prepare our youth for the new economy.
Dr. Gustavo Balderas is the superintendent of Eugene School District 4J in Eugene, Oregon. He became the district’s 23rd superintendent in 2015.
Dr. Balderas began his life as the child of migrant farm workers in eastern Oregon and developed his love of learning and passion for education in Oregon public schools, from kindergarten through his doctoral degree in educational leadership at the University of Oregon.
Dr. Balderas has been an educator for nearly 30 years. He started his career in education as a high school teacher and counselor in the Hillsboro School District. He moved on to elementary and middle school administrative roles and then served as an area executive director overseeing a cluster of K–12 schools and coordinating district curriculum, as well as serving as an assistant superintendent of support services, also all in the Hillsboro School District. He served as the superintendent of two California school districts, Madera Unified School District in Madera, California, and Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach, California, before returning to Oregon to assume the superintendency of Eugene School District 4J.
His career highlights include improving equity and cultural proficiency in the state’s K–12 instruction through the Oregon Leadership Network and the Oregon State Action for Educational Leadership Project, and developing equity systems around instruction, student behavior and hiring practices in the school districts where he has worked. He is a founding member and past president of the Oregon Association of Latino Administrators, and currently serves as the northwest regional representative and treasurer for the national Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. Dr. Balderas was appointed to serve on the Oregon State Board of Education in 2018.
Being engaged with the community is important to Dr. Balderas, and he serves on several local and state educational and civic boards to develop and grow community partnerships. In addition to serving on the Oregon State Board of Education, he is a board member of the Oregon Department of Education English Learner Advisory Group, Connected Lane County and Early Learning Alliance. He serves on the boards of United Way of Lane County, Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, Trillium Connected Care Organization and PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center's Community Health Board. He also is a volunteer consulting superintendent for national organizations including the Educational Research and Development Institute and the Suburban School Superintendents. Dr. Balderas collaborates with other government agencies, area businesses and nonprofit organizations to provide the highest quality of education and care for students.
Dr. David E. Baugh is the longest serving superintendent in the Centennial School District in 15 years. In Dr.
Baugh’s four years, the District has focused on three rails to improve outcomes for students: Academics and
the Arts, Innovation and Personalization, and Equity and Family Engagement, which underpins all the work in
“the best kept secret in Bucks County.” Dr. Baugh said, “I am proud and humbled to be a part of such a
fantastic district. Our kids are great, our staff is hardworking, innovative and passionate, and everyone is very
Dr. Baugh has been a special education teacher, a coach, an elementary teacher, an assistant principal, a
principal, an assistant superintendent and, in 2020, is beginning his 10th year as a superintendent.
Concerned with the rising levels of mental illness in youth, Dr. Baugh has recently trained a therapy dog to work with students in the district.
“This allows me to see our most vulnerable kids in a very different way. I have faces to names, issues to children. It lets me be a part of the
solution. I think the only way we can combat the surging levels of youth anxiety, depression, stress, and emotional illness is if we all commit
to being part of the solution. One service dog isn’t a panacea, but it is a beginning.”
Equity has been a primary driver in Dr. Baugh’s educational career. “A child simply shouldn’t be defined by her zip code. Public education
has to be about creating opportunities for all children, which is why we work on addressing implicit bias in our leadership team, work to
eliminate subjectivity from decisions affecting students, and are committed to personalizing the education of our students.” The District
undertook an equity audit in FY 2018-19 to create a path for the District to address equity issues. “I am fortunate to be leading a team that is
committed to this work. We have great people.”
Dr. Baugh was born high in the Andes Mountains. His parents were in the foreign service and returned to his father’s home in Indiana when
David and his younger brother were beginning elementary school. Raised in the heartland, Dr. Baugh had fantastic teachers whose influence
continue to inspire him. He sends a heartfelt thanks to Ms. Sandra Redden, who held him to the highest standards, Mr. Walter Bunner who
taught many life lessons in shop class, and Mr. Les Miley, who taught a young David the importance of the arts.
A lifelong learner, Dr. Baugh brings a personal passion for athletics, the arts and academics to his work. He continues to engage in master’s
level rowing, ceramics (his amateur ceramic pieces are popular items at fundraisers throughout the region), and he recently co-authored
Maverick Teachers (Routledge Press, 2018), a celebration of innovative teaching across the country. Dr. Baugh said, “Writing Mavs was
extremely energizing. There is so much great teaching going on across the country. I’m beginning work on my next book, ‘Walking the
Tightrope: a guide to the Balance Leadership Mindset’.” Dr. Baugh has also published in Phi Delta Kappan and contributed to a white paper
on charter school reform with PASA colleagues.
As a state leader, Dr. Baugh serves on a number of boards including the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), he was
recently selected as treasurer, and continues to serve in the role of chair of the Research and Development Committee as well as a member
of the Legislative Committee. He serves on the 21st Century Cyber Charter School Board as a school director. Regionally, Dr. Baugh is a
member of the Penn Study Council and serves on its planning committee. He recently finished a multi-year role as the Superintendent of
Record for the Middle Bucks Institute of Technology. On occasion, he can be found teaching a course in Educational Leadership in one of the
Dr. Baugh is a passionate advocate for public education. He can often be found advocating for or against pieces of legislation locally, in
Harrisburg or Washington, D.C. Centennial School District recently hosted a Town Hall in support of the bipartisan H.R. 1878, IDEA Full
Funding Act, to restore funding to special education. Dr. Baugh was recognized for his ethical leadership by the Bensalem Rotary and AASA
as Pennsylvania: Leaders Matter.
Dr. Baugh came to South Eastern PA in 1988, originally for the rowing, and then to start a family and a career. While the Olympic dreams did
not come to fruition, family and career did and are the highlights of Dr. Baugh’s life. He is the proud father of Hayley, an adventurer, currently
living and working in the mountains of Colorado.
Kathryn Mary McNamee was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island with two younger brothers. She was graduated from St. Mary's Academy, Bay View, and attended the college of St. Elizabeths at Convent Station, NJ where she received a degree in biology.
After marrying and starting a family, Kathryn began working as an education consultant for a parochial school. She then began her career in the Smithfield, RI, schools serving as a math and science teacher, department head, high school assistant principal, middle school principal and high school principal. She then moved to a larger high school serving as principal to a more diverse student population. Kathy's next move was as assistant superintendent in the Johnston, RI, school district.
During the time described above, she became involved in the RI Interscholastic League. While there she was instrumental in merging the committee on boy's sports and the subcommittee for girl's into one unified committee. Kathy was League manager for several sports. She rose to be co-chair of the League, the first and only woman to have held that position. She was president-elect of the RI Association of School Principals when she was appointed an assistant superintendent. She then began her involvement with the RI School Superintendents Association.
Kathryn's next assignment came after she took a retirement and became part-time superintendent of a small district. While there she oversaw the renovation of an old school building that necessitated housing students off-site in modular buildings for two years. After serving in that role for five years, she was recruited by the East Providence School District. The District had been through some difficult years. The recruiting team was looking for someone who could turn the District around. Kathy finally agreed to accept the challenge.
Having now served for almost four years in the post, Kathy and her team have been able to optimize staffing, upgrade curricula, improve physical plant, better district/union relations, upgrade technology, improve teacher salaries, and get community support to build a new $189,500,000 high school.
During this same time, Kathy has maintained involvement outside of the District. She has served as chair of the executive committee of the East Bay Special Education Collaborative. Her involvement with the RI School Superintendents Association includes moving through the chairs of the Executive Committee to the current level of president-elect. She has led the Association's legislative committee and served as the Association's representative on the RI Interscholastic League.
In 2019, Kathy was selected Rhode Island's Superintendent of the Year and the RI Public Expenditure Council's Robert M. Goodrich Award for Community Service
to a Municipality.
Kathryn is married to Joseph Crowley, they share four children and thoroughly enjoy their eight grandchildren.
Dr. Joanne S. Avery began her tenure as Superintendent of Anderson School District 4 on July 1, 2015. She previously served the district as the Deputy Superintendent from 2006 until 2015.
Dr. Avery grew up in Anderson County, Tennessee, before earning her Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from the University of Tennessee. In 1980, she began her career as a biology teacher before returning to earn a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology where she served as a health industry teacher/trainer, corporate fitness director, and co-owner of a health facility. For the past 30 years in public education in SC, she has served as a teacher and has held numerous administrative roles.
On the state level, she has co-chaired the SC NCTAF (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future) Coalition, which designed and opened two schools of the future. In addition, she served as President for the SC Association for School Administrators (SCASA) as well as for its Personnel Division. She has been honored as the Personnel Administrator of the Year by SCASA’s Personnel Division and was a finalist for the Award of Professional Excellence in Human Resources Management by the SC Chamber of Commerce and the SC Society for Human Resource Management. Most recently, she was named the 2020 SC State Superintendent of the Year.
She is a graduate of the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative, served as a National Healthy Schools Ambassador for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and was selected for the Anderson Independent Mail’s 15 over 50 Class of 2018. She served as the 2018 and 2019 Chairman for the Anderson County March of Dimes March for Babies Walk.
A lifelong learner, Dr. Avery earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Education Leadership from Clemson University. She and her husband live in Pendleton, SC.
As a long serving superintendent in the state of South Dakota over the past twenty two years, Joel Jorgenson is a passionate advocate of K-12 Public Education.
Jorgenson knows education is the basic foundation for student success in life. He is a life long resident of South Dakota and a graduate of the University of Sioux Falls with a Educational Specialists degree.
Jorgenson has served as Superintendent of Schools in three school districts in South Dakota. He started his administrative career serving as the Superintendent of the Arlington School District for four years until his move to the Hamlin School District were he served as Superintendent for the next fourteen years. In 2016 he moved to Madison, South Dakota where he serves as Superintendent of the Madison Central School District.
The Madison Central School District serves as a model of developing partnerships with local businesses in creating new CTE opportunities for students. The community of Madison is also home to Dakota State University, one of the nations leading universities in Cyber Security. The Madison Central School District is involved in many partnerships with the university to offer advanced level course offerings to our high school students.
Jorgenson works with a dedicated and proactive school board in the development of facilities and expanding course offerings for all students. The school districts benefits from a strong community support for the school district. Jorgenson continues to develop open lines of communication among all stakeholders in the school district to always strive for improvement for the students of Madison Central. He utilizes many different options of media communication to keep community members and parents informed of school information.
Graduated BS Degree 1985 - Northern State University, SD
Graduated Masters 1999 - South Dakota State University, SD
Graduated Ed. Specialist 2002 - University of Sioux Falls, SD
See Resume attachment
Dr. Wright has served in many roles in her nearly forty year career as a public school educator. She has positively influenced the educational field as a classroom teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal, Deputy Superintendent in the Knox County School System, and prior to being selected as the Superintendent for Wilson County Schools in July 2014; she served as the Assistant Superintendent in Williamson County Schools.
Dr. Wright earned her Doctorate in Leadership Studies from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She has earned many awards, including the Women of Achievement Award, named “Superintendent of the Year” by the Professional Educators of Tennessee in 2016, and received the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce “Wilsonian of the Year” award in 2017. Recently, the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents recognized her as the 2019 Mid-Cumberland Superintendent of the Year. She sits on the TOSS (Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents) Legislative Committee and works tirelessly as an active vocal advocate for public education. She has been published in several educational journals and serves as Adjunct Professor at various institutions of higher learning.
Under Dr. Wright’s leadership, for three consecutive years, The Center for Digital Education and The National School Board Association have recognized Wilson County Schools for its innovative use of technology and its impact on teaching and learning, and most recently hosted the AASA Digital Consortium, comprised of forty superintendents and CTOs from around the country.
She and her husband, Gary, have two children, Kelly and Matthew; and are the proud grandparents of Spencer, Reagan, and Ella.
Keith Bryant is a Lamesa, Texas native who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas Tech University before realizing his calling was education. After a few years in the financial workforce, he returned to his hometown to teach and coach at Lamesa High School while pursuing a Masters in Education from Texas Tech. After several years in administration at the district, he became Superintendent. In 2008, he left Lamesa and West Texas to serve as Superintendent of Bullard Independent School District in Bullard, Texas. After six years at Bullard ISD, Mr. Bryant returned to the plains of West Texas, and has served as Superintendent of Schools at Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District in Lubbock, Texas since August 2014.
Keith is a former president of the Texas Association of Midsize Schools (TAMS) and currently serves on the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Executive committee. He has been appointed to the P-TECH Advisory Council and also serves on the UIL Legislative Council, the Fast Growth Schools Coalition Steering Committee, the TASB Lone Star Investment Pool Board of Directors, the Equity Center Board of Directors, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and the Lubbock Area United Way Board of Directors. He was recently named the Texas Association of School Boards 2019 Superintendent of the Year. Keith is also involved in a number of community and church activities. Keith and his wife, Tanya, a transition specialist at Lubbock-Cooper ISD, have three adult children.
Nebo School District Superintendent, Rick Nielsen, was named Utah School Superintendent of the Year for 2020 by the Utah School Superintendent Association. He is in his 30th year in education and is honored to serve Nebo District’s 33,500 students in 46 schools and programs as Superintendent since 2010.
Prior to his appointment as Superintendent, Nielsen’s career included service as a sixth-grade teacher, elementary school principal, and district-level administrator. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education and a Master of Education Degree in Educational Leadership from Brigham Young University.
Mr. Nielsen serves on a number of boards, including Utah Valley University Board of Trustees, Co-Chair of the UVU/MTECH K-16 Alliance, and Chair of the BYU/Public School Partnership. He is also the current president of the Utah State Superintendent Association.
Superintendent Nielsen is well known for his unwavering focus on student success, commitment to positive energy and kindness, optimistic attitude, strong work ethic and professionalism. His colleagues say:
“Mr. Nielsen is uncompromising in his quest for quality educational opportunities for all young people and sets a high standard of excellence for himself and for others. He is one of the best ‘idea’ men in the business, constantly creating ways to make education more rewarding and personal to the students and staff of Nebo District. Rick is respected by his colleagues and peers and has a way of inspiring everyone around him to become better.”
“Mr. Nielsen’s ability to interact with people is unparalleled. He is a good listener with exceptional people skills, a good sense of humor, and a congenial personality. These great interpersonal skills, coupled with his intelligence and wisdom to make appropriate decisions when the stakes are high, make him one of the best problem solvers in the business.”
Rick is a proud Nebo District product, having graduated from Spanish Fork High School. He and his wife, Karen, reside in Spanish Fork today and are the parents of five children, with one daughter-in-law. In his leisure time, Rick enjoys reading a wide-variety of books, going to the theater, providing church service, and supporting student activities.
Dr. Smith began his tenure as superintendent of Hampton City Schools (HCS) on July 15, 2015. Prior to his employment with Hampton City Schools, he served as the superintendent of the Town of West Point Public Schools for seven years.
Under his leadership as superintendent with the Hampton City Schools, academic success is the highest it has been in decades. For the first time in Hampton City Schools history, 100% of the division’s 29 schools are accredited without conditions. The school division has strengthened its dual enrollment program with Thomas Nelson Community College, to date yielding a 642% increase in the number of dual enrollment credits taken by HCS students. The on-time graduation rate has increased from 88% for the class of 2015 to 92.73% for the class of 2019. The dropout rate has decreased from 5.1% for the class of 2015 to 1.26% for the class of 2019. In addition, the Hampton City community has earned the distinction of being the first Ford Next Generation Learning Community in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Dr. Smith firmly believes in the school division’s mission of ensuring academic excellence for every child, every day, whatever it takes. As such, over the past three years, he has co-chaired the Academies of Hampton’s operating and steering committees to transform the four high schools from five pocket academies to 16 wall-to-wall academies and from 18 to 41 career pathways. The Academies provide young people opportunities based on high-demand, high-wage jobs aligned with regional and state workforce data. He believes this transformation will ultimately prepare young people to be college, career and life ready. This important work was featured in the 2018 State of the Region report for Hampton Roads as The Next Generation of Learning in Hampton Roads, as well as The Center for American Progress as one of the four models working across the country in high school redesign.
Dr. Smith's civic engagement is one of continued leadership. He strongly believes the school division has a greater impact when there are strong community partnerships. To this end, he is a member of the following boards: Sentara Healthcare, Smart Beginnings of the Virginia Peninsula, Virginia Air and Space Center, VersAbility Resources, and a member of the Region V GO Virginia Council. He served as the president of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) from May 2018 to May 2019 and was the superintendent-in-charge for New Horizons Regional Education Centers from July 2017 to June 2019. Smith is a 2017-2018 graduate of the Civic Leadership Institute.
Dr. Smith served 12 years on the Board of Trustees for the Williamsburg Health Foundation with an endowment that exceeded $115 million and held the offices of vice chairman and chairman of the Board of Trustees respectively. He has also served as president of the Rotary Club of West Point and Chairman of the School-University Research Network (SURN) for the College of William and Mary.
Dr. Smith is a recipient of the 2019 Peninsula Humanitarian Award from the Peninsula Chapter of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (February 2019) and the recipient of the 2019 Trailblazer Award from the 100 Black Men of Virginia Peninsula, Inc. (April 2019). He was also named the Region II Superintendent of the Year (2018-2019) and the 2020 Virginia Superintendent of the Year.
Dr. Smith is married to Lorianne Samuel Smith of Caroline County, a public school educator. They have two children, a daughter who is a graduate of Christopher Newport University and Eastern Virginia Medical School with a Master's Degree in Public Health Policy and Management and a son who is a senior at Bridgewater College.
John Pandolfo was born and lived in central Connecticut until age 28. John attended James Gates Percival Elementary School and St. Paul’s Junior High School in Kensington, and then St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Britain. John earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut in 1985, and soon after began working at International Fuel Cells, a division of United Technologies Corporation. John worked on fuel cell research and development, culminating his employment at UTC in 1992 as a test engineer on the first batch of commercially available 200kW power plants for ONSI, a spin-off from International Fuel Cells. John left Connecticut in 1992 and spent one year in Italy, working as an engineering consultant and then with Ansaldo Ricerche S.p.A. on their prototype fuel cell power plant program.
John returned to the U.S.A. in late 1993 and settled in the San Francisco Bay area, beginning his teaching career in early 1994. John had no preconceived plan to becoming an educator. He walked into the district office in San Francisco to hand in paperwork to become a substitute and five days later found himself a full-time teacher in a high school math classroom at John O’Connell Technical High School. After one and one-half years at John O’Connell, during which time John completed the Alternative Employed Teacher Program at San Francisco State University and earned his single subject teaching credential and also served as the Math Department Chair at John O’Connell for the last year, John moved to Berkeley High School where he taught for four years before relocating to Vermont.
In 1999 John came to Barre, Vermont and taught for nine years at Spaulding High School, the last five serving as Math Department Chair. John received the first Milken National Educator Award given to a Vermont educator in October 2005, and served as a union negotiator and later president. From 2008 to 2012, John taught at nearby Union 32 Middle/High School, earning National Board Certification in 2009 and also serving as Department Chair for his last two years and as lead negotiator for two negotiating cycles. In that role, John helped bring the Interest-Based Bargaining approach to the Washington Central Supervisory Union.
In his nineteen years as a teacher, John taught every high school math subject from Pre-Algebra through Calculus. John taught A.P. Calculus for twelve years and A.P. Statistics for four years, served as an A.P Calculus Exam Reader for the College Board from 2006 to 2013, and was twice recognized as a nominee for a Siemens Advanced Placement Teacher Award. John also served as a mentor and mentor program coordinator, and participated in the Northern New England Co-Mentoring Network from 2003 to 2005. Additionally, John was appointed by then-Governor Jim Douglas to Vermont’s Licensing Hearing Panel, part of the Vermont Standards Board for Professional Educators, and later served as Chair of that panel. John’s top goal throughout his teaching career was to instill a love for education, particularly math, in students directly through high quality engaging instruction and indirectly through improving systems that support student learning. One of John’s favorite quotes is from a student on the back of her graduation picture, on which she wrote: “Mr. P, I still don’t love math, but at least I don’t hate it anymore.” Another of John’s goals was to support teachers entering the profession.
In 2012, John returned to Barre to begin his administrative career as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment for the Barre Supervisory Union. After three years in that role, John was hired as the Barre Superintendent of Schools. John has led the Barre community through a contentious and challenging four-year effort to merge from a supervisory union of separate school districts to a single supervisory district under Act 46 of 2015; the newly merged district became successfully operational in July 2019. In his four years as Superintendent, John has successfully negotiated three teacher contracts, three para-educator contracts, and three custodial contracts, and is currently introducing the Interest-Based Bargaining process to Barre. John has put critical systems in place in Barre including Human Resources and Communications Departments where none previously existed, and comprehensive staff evaluation systems at the administrative, teacher, and support staff levels. While he has done none of this alone, John has worked tirelessly to put the right people into the right positions and empower every stakeholder to improve the educational system in Barre for children.
Additionally, John has worked at the regional and state level to improve education in Vermont. This includes testifying before the Vermont General Assembly on issues ranging from universal prekindergarten to school district mergers to education health care, working collaboratively with his regional counterparts to establish a Regional Coordinator position to better implement universal prekindergarten, and serving on the Vermont Health Education Benefits Commission and the Vermont Education Health Initiative Board of Directors.
For his leadership and efforts to make Vermont a better place for students and education, John was recognized by his peers as the 2019 recipient of the Frederick H. Tuttle Superintendent of the Year Award, which stands as one of his proudest accomplishments.
When he is not working, John loves to spend time in the outdoors, and has been an avid hiker, skier, biker, and paddler. John has climbed all one-hundred and fifteen 4,000 foot peaks in the Northeastern U.S., and has led National Outings for the Sierra Club in California, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Alaska, and Italy. John loves to hike and ski with his 21-year-old son. John’s dreams for his retirement are to travel the world, and also to open his own restaurant to satisfy his other life-long passion for cooking.
Dr. Greg Baker became superintendent of Bellingham Public Schools in July 2010. As Bellingham’s superintendent, he has spent time getting to know our school system and community through a comprehensive Entry Plan process. This provided part of the foundation for the development of The Bellingham Promise. In spring 2014, Dr. Baker earned Washington state’s Crystal Apple Award, presented to an individual who has given tirelessly of themselves to enhance positive stakeholder perceptions of K-12 public schools. He received this honor in recognition of his commitment to inclusive and transparent communications and The Bellingham Promise. Prior to Bellingham, he served as a deputy superintendent for Portland Public Schools. He has also served as an intern and special assistant to the superintendent of Boston Public Schools and as an administrator for Spokane Public Schools. He began his career in Alaska as a teacher and assistant coach. Dr. Baker received his doctorate from Harvard University; a master’s degree in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University; and a master’s degree in secondary education from Western Washington University. He earned his bachelor’s degree with distinction from Gonzaga University. He and his wife live in Bellingham with their three children, who attend Bellingham Public Schools.
Dr. Robert (Bob) Mayfield is a 27 year educator from the Kimberly Area School District (Wisconsin) who has spent the last 11 years as Superintendent of Schools. As a child, Bob realized the power that public education had to transform the lives of the most vulnerable members of society. He set his mind on becoming a teacher and was the first member of his family to attend college. With his teaching degree in hand, he entered the profession as a special education substitute teacher serving students with specific learning disabilities. It was challenging work but he excelled and was offered a position full-time.
Never one to accept the status quo, he realized that through his own continued education he could increase the reach of his impact on students. He pursued a master’s degree and earned his principalship certification. After serving as a principal for several years, again, he decided to further his own education in order to improve his leadership ability.
While attending the doctoral program at Cardinal Stritch University he studied Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service. The program inspired him to develop an educational culture of adult learning to serve student needs. Out of a desire to encourage a culture of adult learning to improve student learning, he developed his key leadership phrases:
Our learning for theirs.
Give students what they need when they need it.
Take care of one another.
Bob has performed a wide variety of educational roles including: special education teacher, athletic coach, associate principal, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent. His educational experiences instilled a belief in transparency, collaboration and continual learning. Today, he sets high expectations for his staff and empowers them to do exceptional work.
After 11 years as a Superintendent, the lowest performing and highest poverty schools in the Kimberly Area School District demonstrate sustained student achievement gains and improved staff efficacy. Additionally, all staff are developing a continuous improvement mindset and students are engaging in problem-solving to improve their own learning. The results include outstanding student performance and positive staff engagement.
I was born and raised in a small town north of Pittsburgh, PA. Upon graduation from high school I attended college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I attended there for two years but felt that it was too large of a school for me to get the most out of my education so I transferred to a small college in West Virginia to complete my undergraduate work. I graduated from Salem College with a B.S. in Elementary Education and Math and returned there twice later, first to complete my Masters Degree and then to complete their program in Administrative Leadership. I taught Elementary Education for fourteen years before moving to the middle school to teach Math. I remained there until a principalship opened and became the Principal of an elementary school in 2010. I remained there for four years before becoming the Superintendent in that same district. I served in that position for the next nine years until my retirement on June 28, 2019 after forty years in education.
I grew up in small town North Idaho and graduated from Kellogg High School in 1992. I am a third generation teacher; my father was an industrial arts teacher and created a passion in me for education. I attended the University of Montana Western in Dillon, Montana where I played college football, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Education. In 1998 I began my teaching career in Salmon, Idaho and taught elementary physical education, high school physical education, and health. I served as a head football and wrestling coach, and was the 6-12 activities director. Teaching in such a rural place limited my options for my master's degree to online options, but I graduated with a Master's in Education Administration in the spring of 2007. I accepted my first principal position in Thermopolis, Wyoming in 2007 and served as the Hot Springs County High School Principal until the spring of 2011, and was appointed to serve as the Superintendent of Schools at that time K-12. I consider the Cowboy State of Wyoming as special place to serve children, with an amazing small group of talented colleagues that share a culture of sharing best practices to benefit the moral purpose of serving children. My wife Heidi is a teacher in our elementary, and my four children Cody, Tanner, Tahja, and Dazlynn are the best blessings a man could receive.