My “Educational Leaders” of the year

by Steve Wyckoff on January 3, 2011

I decided to write this post to honor those educators that I believe are actually doing something to change the educational experiences for significant numbers of kids. So my criteria was, did they actually do something that changed the educational experience for their students for the better? These leaders are actually engaged in school change.

Dr. Randy Watson: Randy is the superintendent of schools in McPherson USB 418. Over the last several years Randy has facilitated a discussion with the Macpherson community to define what they collectively wanted for their students. They’ve decided that the three most important things for their graduates are citizenship ready, college ready, and career ready.

Dr. Mary Jo Taylor: Mary Jo is the superintendent of schools in Stafford Kansas. Stafford high school has a student population of about 70 kids. In spite of that small number. Mary Jo and her staff have implemented three innovative programs that benefit her kids, and their local community. They have a health sciences program with almost 20 students that leads to the students being certified as CNA’s, CMA’s, or EMT’s. Next year they will add certified pharmacy technician as an option. Each of the students is also receiving college credit along with their certification. In addition they have an entrepreneurship center where students are running their own businesses, and a construction program where the students last year built the first new stick home in Stafford and almost 25 years.

Dr. John Morton and Mrs. Natise Vogt John is the superintendent of schools in Newton Kansas and Natise is the principal of Walton Elementary School which has been transformed into a rural life charter schoolOver the last several years. The school epitomizes what a learning by doing experience can look like for elementary school children.

Dr. Diane DeBacker: Diane is the Commissioner of Education in Kansas and after initially being named interim Commissioner of Education, the interim was officially dropped. Diane formed the Kansas Education Commission made up of 50 individuals from across the state to thoroughly examine the key priorities found in the Blueprint for Reform. Diane gets it, the only question is is any individual powerful enough to change the direction of public education. Only time will tell.

Mr. Mike Carson: okay Mike retired two years ago so this is kind of an honorable mention. Mike was the superintendent of Erie public schools. Mike lead the transition to a project based curriculum. This may be the best job of leading I have personally observed in public education. Mike truly lead systemic change. Again, time will tell if the change sticks.

I truly wish this list was a lot longer. There are several people worthy of mention for implementing programs that made a difference for some kids but lacked the systemic impact of these four individuals. Perhaps next year and looking at school change for 2011 this list will grow significantly. – Steve Wyckoff

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