On March 10, the District 65 School Board announced that there were five final candidates for the next Superintendent of District 65: Ms. Julie Glazer, Dr. Paul Goren, Dr. Nathan McCann, Dr. Quintin Shepherd, and Mr. Marty Smith.
The five finalists were invited back for further conversations, each on a separate day during the week of March 17. Each of the candidates answered questions posed by District 65 faculty and staff during an hour-long forum starting at 4:15 p.m. and then by community members during an hour-long forum starting at 6:15 p.m.
The forums were attended by an average of approximately 75 teachers and 60 community members. The community forums were broadcast (the day after the forums) on ECTV cable television and will be rebroadcast on ECTV.
The candidates each supported a collaborative approach; incorporating the arts into the curriculum; offering a continuum of services for special education students, including self-contained classrooms and Park School, if it were the least restrictive environment; and focusing on early childhood education. Their backgrounds, management style, personalities and approach to various other issues differ.
In an attempt to give a flavor for each candidate, the RoundTable provides below a summary of the backgrounds of each candidate and selected comments made by the candidates at the forums and in their written statements provided to the School Board. A video of the forums is available online on ECTV’s website. (A link is provided below). A link to each candidate’s bio and written responses to questions provided by the Board is also provided below.
Julie Glazer holds an M.A. in teaching and learning from DePaul University, Chicago. (2002). She is a doctoral student in educational leadership, at St. Peters University in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Ms. Glazer has been Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Summit, New Jersey Public Schools since Aug. 2008. The District has nine schools, 630 staff members and a budget of $65 million. She said 43% of the students are from low-income households, and a high number are English language learners. Her responsibilities include curriculum, instruction, and program development. She said some of the District’s initiatives include full-day kindergarten, STEAM and Science Research, Mandarin at grades 6-12, media literacy, a reading and writing workshop, inclusion, and a teacher and principal evaluation.
In her current position, Ms. Glazer says she is also part of a leadership team that developed a three-year plan with district-wide Focus Areas and that participates in yearly goal-setting and a zero-based budgeting process.
Ms. Glazer taught fifth-grade at Lincolnwood School in Evanston (1997-June 2002) and at Laura Donovan School in Freehold, New Jersey (Sept. 2002-June 2004). Between Sept. 2004 and July 2008, she worked at a school district of 10 schools in the City of Orange Township, N.J., first as a school instructional facilitator at a school, then a teacher on special assignment/professional development, and then a Supervisor of Instruction and Professional Learning.
Before becoming involved in schools, Ms. Glazer was president of her own company, Mittman Productions, Inc. in Chicago, which she says did arts and educational programing for clients.
When asked what she would do when she arrived in Evanston, Ms. Glazer said, “My whole goal would be to become part of this community again. … I would spend time meeting the stakeholders – not just teachers, principals, board members, but all the learning community, the whole community of Evanston.”
She said when she went to Summit, she interviewed 100 people in the community and developed three themes, which were developed into goals and became her action plan for the first year.
Back to Evanston, she said, “If I come in July, I will not be changing everything by September. Change is incremental. Successful change is systemic and over time. As I’ve come to learn – trial and error. It’s evolution, not revolution.”
In describing her leadership style, she said, “I’m an inclusive leader. I believe in collaboration. I believe in shared decision making, shared responsibility. I believe if we’re all on the same page, we can all move in the same direction.”
She added, “I’m a very accessible person. You will find I’m a leader who is in the classroom. I’m in the schools. I’m a leader who is in the community. Sometimes I’m reading to kids. Sometimes I’m co-teaching with a teacher. Sometimes I’m covering a classroom, so a teacher can do what they need to do. I think those things are critical.”
On closing the achievement gap, she said, “The achievement gap is typically due to the effects of poverty, the effects of English language learning, due to opportunity gaps. The best success I’ve seen in a number of districts is a strong foundation of early childhood education for everybody, and building on that early childhood foundation with opportunities, field trips, museums, books.
On gifted education, she said it’s necessary to identify students who are gifted, which she said is a student two years above grade level. In her current district, she said a team of educators develops an “individual academic plan” for each gifted student, which includes a project-based learning lesson to help the child take their knowledge and go deeper. The student is monitored and the student shares the results with other students.
Ms. Glazer says she believes strongly in using data and student work to inform and drive instruction, and to monitor students’ educational progress. She says she has been a leader in the use and development of authentic and alternative assessment.
“I have maintained my connection to Evanston, and have long hoped to return,” said Ms. Glazer.
Paul Goren has resided in Evanston for 16 years. His three children attended Oakton School, one now attends Chute Middle School and two attend Evanston Township High School.
He holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University, and has spent 25 years in education. He was a middle school teacher for several years, and after that held leadership positions in three school districts and in organizations whose mission is to improve educational opportunities and the instruction of children.
In the forums, he pointed to his tenure at the Minneapolis Public Schools, where he was Executive Director (Deputy Superintendent) and was responsible for the district’s budget and finance departments and worked with the director of instruction to align curriculum, instruction and assessment across the district (1995-98). More recently he served as Interim Chief, Chicago Public Schools Office of Strategy, Research and Accountability, where he developed a Continuous Improvement Workplan for principals and their leadership teams and led the departments focused on improving academic improvement (2010-12).
He currently serves as Senior Vice President of CASEL, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (2012-present). In that position he coordinates a national effort in eight urban school districts to embed social and emotional learning into the instruction. He said one friend characterized the work CASEL does as going from “no child” to “whole child.”
Mr. Goren has also served as Executive Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research (2010-12); Senior Vice-President of The Spencer Foundation, which investigates ways in which education can be improved (2001-10); and Director of Child and Youth Development, Program on Human and Community Development, MacArthur Foundation (1998-2001).
Mr. Goren serves on the Board of the Center for Teaching Quality in Carrboro, N.C. which is dedicated to improving teacher leadership and instruction. He serves or has served on the Board of other national organizations whose mission is to improve instruction in science and math. Closer to home he serves on the Boards of Youth Organization Umbrella (2002 – present), and on Foundation 65 (2009 – present).
He said much of his past experience has been at the intersection of policy, practice and research – research to improve instruction.
“All students deserve the best possible educational opportunities available. We must first and foremost set high expectations for all students so that they have opportunities to succeed and will succeed at the highest levels. We must also intentionally and aggressively address the achievement gap that exists.” He said he has led initiatives to close the achievement gap, and believes the District can simultaneously raise the achievement of both low- and high-performing kids.
Dr. Goren described his management style saying, “I’m a team builder.” He said he sets high expectations for his staff, and “leads from behind,” encouraging and coaching others to be responsible for decisions, initiatives and outcomes. “I have extensive experience identifying and nurturing talent.” When needed, he said he leads from the front.
He said he listens, and will focus on building the capacity of principals, teachers and support staffs. “You are all experts,” he told the faculty and staff, adding “I would like to be in the schools as often as I can,” to learn where principals and teachers need help and how administrators can provide supports. His approach might be summed up in his words, “I look at this as a deep partnership.”
He said he would be a “real advocate and very intentional” in hiring new teachers, and pay attention to how teachers are doing in the first three or four years to make sure the District is keeping the best teachers. Human resources “is the name of the game,” he said, adding that he would draw on his many contacts throughout the country in an effort to recruit great teachers whose diversity reflected that of the student body.
He said a great superintendent needs to maintain a “relentless focus on instruction.” He said he favors developing professional learning communities in the schools, and site-based management at the schools with supports from the central administration. He said professional development should include “project based learning” and he favors embedding the arts, and social and emotional learning, into instruction. Perhaps as a cautionary note, he said there are programs that have a “grand design” and a “grand purpose. Execution and implementation make all the difference in the world.”
He endorsed District 65’s community school initiative, the cradle to career initiative, and a focus on the earliest years. He the District “should be taking advantage of the community we have” and create what he called “a learning ecology.”
In commenting on the projected budget deficits, he said he would first examine the projections to make sure the projected deficits are “actually what we think.” In addressing deficits, he said his “guiding principle” would be “all of the focus has to be on the classroom,” and preserving “what’s having success.” If there was no way to address deficits without having a detrimental impact on instruction, he said he would go out for a referendum. He said he managed a $500 million budget for the Minneapolis School District.
“It would be an honor to serve as superintendent of the Evanston and Skokie public schools,” says Dr. Goren.
Nathan McCann, a resident of Tucson, Arizona, holds an Ed.D. in educational leadership from the University of Arizona (2011).
Since July 2010, he has been superintendent of Altar Valley School District, which is located just outside of Tucson, and covers 640 square miles. There are approximately 600 students, 90% of whom are eligible for free- and reduced-fee lunch. The largest group of students is Hispanic, said Dr. McCann, followed by white, Native American, and African American students.
The district contains two schools, one a pre-k to 4th grade and the other 5th -8th grades.
Before Dr. McCann became superintendent at Altar Valley, he was a social studies teacher in grades 7-12 and an administrator at middle and high school levels between July 1999 and June 2010.
Dr. McCann said when he started at Altar Valley, “trust in leadership was fractured” and “concerns about transparency, decision-making processes, and community-connectedness had damaged the district’s integrity and public perception.” He said he was able to change that by engaging different voices and building meaningful community connections. He said he was able to build “a culture of increased expectations.”
“I believe successful superintendents serve as their district’s instructional leader,” said Dr. McCann. “I also believe that means far more than just possessing a strong knowledge of curriculum and instruction. It means possessing the vision to direct the instructional program to meet the needs of all students. It means changing perceptions and raising expectations where necessary. It means celebrating the amazing work teachers do on a daily basis and providing them the resources and supports necessary to do their job.”
He said listens to people before making a decision, and his guiding principle is to do what is in the best interest of the kids.
At the faculty forum on March 18, Dr. McCann was asked about a statement in his answer to District 65 School Board questions, “I believe all children can accomplish great things and I do not wish to work in an organization accepting of mediocrity.”
He said he would be the last one to blame teachers, which he said does not help teachers to achieve. He said, though, that he expects teachers to have lesson plans, and to provide “bell-to-bell instruction.” He added he expects the “teaching staff to bring their game to school every day.” Conversely, he said, “It’s a two-way street.” Teachers have a right to expect supports.
Dr. McCann says he views the achievement gap as an “opportunity gap.” He said Altar Valley address one aspect of that by providing dental, health and social work services at the schools on a periodic basis through partnership he established with community organizations. “It doesn’t matter how the lesson is taught if some of the basic needs haven’t been met for that child,” he said.
“Let’s be honest,” he added. “If we’re collectively committed to closing the opportunity gap, the District cannot do that by itself. I don’t know if I can appreciate the resiliency some kids have to come through the door.”
Dr. McCann said he supports incorporating the arts into the curriculum. At Altar Valley, he established a full-day gifted/talented program. He says he established a national recruiting presence to hire exceptional teachers.
He said his district has developed its own in-house tests which are given to students at the end of each week. He described the tests as short, three-minute, five-question tests. The only reason for the tests is to help teachers determine if students are on track or if they need to switch gears.
He has served as the district’s chief financial officer and has been responsible for developing an annual budget. Despite significant financial challenges, “I believe there is always money for what is important.” During his tenure, he said, they have been able to increase starting teacher salaries by 11.5% in three budget years, upgrade technology, triple pre-K enrollment, and offer after-school programs. He said he was able to this by securing grants, some of which he wrote himself.
Dr. McCann cites as some of his accomplishments that the district has earned a “B” grade from the State for the last two years, up from being designated for school improvement five years ago under NCLB).
He said he facilitated a community-wide collaborative effort to develop Altar Valley 2020, a long-range planning guide that has five overarching priorities. “The process was nearly as important as the outcome, as it allowed the District to build relationships with individuals and groups who had not been previously engaged.
When asked what he would do when he came to D65, he said, after reading the Leadership Profile report, “Maybe we should just take a pause and really start to listen a little bit more to our staff, our community, all the various stakeholder groups want for the District and spend more time getting out listening. That’s a core strength for me.”
“There’s a genuine passion here in Evanston to close the achievement gap. That’s what I’ve dedicated my professional life too. … As a father and husband, I can’t think of a better place to raise my family than right here.”
Dr. McCann is also a finalist for the position of Superintendent of the Ridgefield School District in Ridgefield, Washington
Quintin Shepherd, a resident of Skokie, Ill., received a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Foundations from Illinois State University in 2012. He has been Superintendent of Skokie/Morton Grove District No. 69 (Skokie 69) since July, 2010. Skokie 69 has three schools: a pre-K to second grade school, a 3rd – 5th grade school and a 6th – 8th grade school. The Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE’s) report card for Skokie 69 says there are a total of 1,707 student in the district, 55% of whom are eligible for free- or reduced-fee lunch. The breakdown by ethnicity is 35% white, 28% Asian, 19% Hispanic and 12% black.
Dr. Shepherd was previously the Superintendent of Amboy Consolidated School District No. 272 in Amboy, Illinois, for three years. In that same district, he also served as the principal of the high school, the elementary school, and as a music teacher across grade levels. The Amboy district has three schools, and, according to ISBE’s report card had 797 students, 95% of whom were white.
In response to questions posed by the District 65 School Board, Dr. Shepherd said in a written statement that between 2006 and 2010, Skokie 69’s “ISAT scores show a significant decrease in every tested area and in every school building.” Starting in 2010, he said, the District made large scale curricular changes, began intensive professional development and used individual student data to measure success. “By reorienting our instructional approach we have shown tremendous student achievement growth and are closing the achievement gaps for every sub-group in our District.”
Last year ISBE raised the level to “meet standards” on the ISATs to about the 42nd Illinois percentile (District 65 uses the 50th percentile as its indicator for grade-level performance, and higher percentiles to measure college readiness). According to ISBE’s report card, the percent of students in Skokie 69 who met/exceeded standards on the ISATs in reading was 59% in 2011, 60% in 2012, and 64% in 2013. For math, the percentages are 54% in 2011, 54% in 2012 and 55% in 2013.
Comparable data is not available for prior periods.
When asked what he would do if he were Superintendent of District 65 to make measureable progress on the achievement gap, he said the research shows that a program that’s wildly successful in New York may not work in Florida; sometimes KIPP works and sometimes not. He said the right question was not what can be done to close the “achievement gap,” but what can be done to close what he called the “engagement gap.” He said, “Why aren’t we engaging our students so they can achieve?” He said he would talk to people in District 65 and see what was working to engage students and implement that.
When asked what he would do to combat racism, he said it is such a “charge word,” and “when you talk about things in an ideological way it becomes combative.” He said he thinks it makes much more sense to have a conversation “about a vision.”
He said one thing Skokie 69 implemented was “WIN Time” which stands for “what I need time.” He called the district’s “secret sauce” and a way to provide individualized programming for students. Under the program, “Every single person in the building is available for kids” during a 30- or 40-minute period every day. During that period there are no classes, and students “have an individual pathway.” Every student ends up with a teacher or a librarian or a principal, and some students may get remediation, others enrichment, in a small group.
When asked about how he would address the projected deficits facing District 65 he said one of the first questions he would ask is how much is in reserves and how much can the District spend our of reserves to avoid catastrophic responses. He said he would talk to teachers, union leadership and principals and ask questions about programs, staffing and possible cuts.
When Skokie 69 was facing deficits a few months after he became superintendent, he said, “What we felt the issue was right from the outset – and it’s weird in talking to the teachers, they were even saying this in non-financial terms – but what our situation was, because we were solely a pull-out program for our ELL, that we had a lot of ELL teachers to do the program. For a decade we had seen our ELL population explode. And we had just evolved with the change. So what we needed to do is we needed to change our model from a pull-out to a push-in model, which then there was going to be a lot of displaced classroom teachers. I hate that. I really hate that that was the conversation. But the reality was we know there was going to be a RIF, we knew that there were going to be layoffs. It was the only way we could salvage the district.”
He said the District subsequently negotiated an agreement with the teachers’ union under which some “serious changes” were made. “In [Skokie] 69, we don’t even have a salary schedule anymore. We negotiated away for a salary schedule to a percent of the CPI.”
Conceptually, because a school district’s property tax revenues are limited to the lesser of 5% or the CPI, the District 69 agreement may keep teacher salary increases within revenue increases for the period of the agreement. He cautioned, though, that the teachers’ unions in other school districts may not be willing to agree to this approach.
At both forums, Dr. Shephard gave a statement about who he is. He described the work of teachers as “superheroes” and said, “I see myself sometimes as the defender of superheroes. I take great pride in that. I’m the one who gets to motivate superheroes as well.” He said he has “an indomitable sense of optimism, and an almost endless supply of energy.”
Marty Smith, a resident of Alexandria, Va., received a Masters of Arts in Educational Leadership from George Mason University in 1999. He is a candidate for a Doctors in Education Leadership and Policy Studies at Virginia Tech. His Virginia Superintendent’s license is pending.
Mr. Smith has been Assistant Superintendent of Cluster 1 Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax Va. since 2009. There are eight clusters. Cluster 1 has 22 schools and 22,000 students. There are 16 elementary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools.
As assistant superintendent, Mr. Smith says, “I am responsible for ensuring that Cluster 1 teachers and administrators provide high quality instruction for all students. My primary responsibilities include hiring effective principals, promoting collaborative practices among K-2 principals, and engaging with community stakeholders. I regularly review assessment data and collaborate with principals to establish program objectives that promote student success.”
Mr. Smith was previously a second grade teacher for four years, and also served as an assistant principal. He says he is a “people person.”
Mr. Smith said his “entry plan” to Evanston would be to get to know the stakeholders, including parents who have students in the District as well as others in the community. He said he would engage in “listening tours” and listen to what people have on their mind and any questions about moving forward. As part of the process, he said he would meet with “advocacy groups,” faith-based organizations, the chamber of commerce, businesses, and others to get their input.
He said, “It’s important to meet people where they are,” rather than having them come to the administration building. “It’s important for me to come to you.”
Mr. Smith said he is not a “micromanager.” He says he believes in the power of people and trusting them to do their job. He says he monitors to see if they go down the wrong path, and if they do he brings them back onto the right path, with supports. He said, though, there are only so many times a person can go down the wrong path.
“When you lead from this perspective,” he said, “It permeates the entire system.”
He said he believes some decisions should be made at the District level and some made at the school level. He said the expectations for all students throughout the District should be the same and this should be a District decision. He also said the reading, math, social studies and science curricula should be consistent throughout the District and a central decision. He said, though, the “how” – how the curriculum is delivered – should be a school-based decision. Teachers may have to approach how they deliver the curriculum in different ways to engage students, he said.
He said he also supports promoting Professional Learning Communities in the schools. He expects teachers to use formative data in their lesson plans.
Mr. Smith says as part of this management style, “I like to get out to schools two days a week. It’s important to meet people where they are.” He said it’s important to see teachers in the schools, to tell custodians they are doing a good job.
When asked what breakthrough strategies he would implement to address the achievement gap, he said he looked at all the plans the District has in place and said, “I think you have all the pieces to make this work. … It’s all about bringing everything you have right now and bringing focus to the work.” He said a key is setting high expectations for all students.
He lists as one of is major accomplishments increasing access of students to “higher-level coursework” and exposing students to “rigorous learning opportunities” in a program referred to as advanced academic (GT) strategies. He says, “I take satisfaction in this accomplishment because it is tied to my core belief that all students should be afforded access to higher-level coursework and have the opportunities to reach their fullest potential. Exposing students to rigorous learning opportunities only increases their ability to exercise creativity and think critically.”
He said it was important to create a curriculum or guidelines for early childhood providers and set expectations for students when they enter kindergarten, so early childhood providers will know what the District expects.
When asked how he would address projected deficits, he said it was important to talk to teachers, principals, parents, and other stakeholders. Because 80% of the District’s expenses are for salaries and benefits, he said any major cuts would likely impact staff. “If you can make those decisions in a collaborative way, a respectful way, in a way that’s in the best interest of our students, then I think we can all move forward.”
“It would be a true honor to serve a district that is committed to improving the lives and opportunities for all students, families, and community members,” said Mr. Smith.