Executive Perspective                                     Page 47


Four Who Epitomize the

Work of Many 



 Daniel Domenech

The superintendency is a very special job. Having done it for 27 years, I believe it is one of the toughest jobs in America.

Every year, AASA honors the women and men who do the job and especially the 49 individuals selected as the Superintendent of the Year in their states. From that group, a prominent and respected Blue Ribbon Selection Panel chooses four individuals to be the finalists in the selection of a National Superintendent of the Year and then interviews the finalists to pick the winner.

We are very grateful to our two sponsors, Aramark and ING, for underwriting the cost of this program and helping us to shine the spotlight on the outstanding leaders who are responsible for the outstanding school systems they serve. The highlight of the process, of course, is the ceremony at the AASA national conference when the 49 state winners walk across the stage and the National Superintendent of the Year is announced.

But prior to that event we have the opportunity to meet with the four finalists and showcase them to the news media and Capitol Hill staff at an event at the fabled National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Individual Accomplishments
This year the four finalists were Susan Bunting from the Indian River Schools in Delaware, Diane Frost from the Asheboro City Schools in North Carolina, Lorraine Lange from Roanoke County in Virginia and Heath Morrison from Washoe County in Nevada. The four finalists comprised a panel moderated at the press club by our good friend and executive director of the National School Public Relations Association, Rich Bagin.

Rich begins the proceedings each year by introducing each panelist and then asking them a series of questions.

Susan identified herself as a servant leader who sees principals as learning leaders rather than building managers. She has established leadership institutes and professional learning communities in her district and her administrators are trained to crunch data, constantly evaluating results and making the system more effective and efficient in the process. She also expects her principals to abide by the “5x5” rule that requires them to visit five classrooms each day for a five-minute visit to ensure all systems are go. She has also employed the balanced scorecard to focus efforts on the achievement of rigorous academic goals.

Diane has focused on high school reform and has implemented small, thematic, learning communities to meet the needs of her diverse student population. One community focuses on the successful transition to high school. Another one provides a flexible, online resource for credit recovery for students who have dropped out or fallen behind. And the other one offers the North Carolina Zoological Park as the venue for a project-based, science-focused environment. She also has implemented a 1-to-1 laptop initiative, so every student in grades 4-12 has access to a laptop.

Lorraine has been in Roanoke her entire professional career. She also has focused on the use of technology in the classroom and assigned a laptop to every high school student. Whiteboards are prominent in her classrooms, and virtual courses are available in the summer. For the coming school year, students will be able to take at least one virtual course. She also has developed a relationship with the local community college, which allows the participating students to graduate high school with an associate degree.

Catch Phrases
Heath was selected as 2012 National Superintendent of the Year. He focused his efforts on improving the graduation rate. He implemented something he described as a “door to door for student achievement campaign” to reach into each home and bring back to school students who had dropped out. To further reach the goal, the district implemented the “every child, by name and face, to graduation” initiative.

The unusual but catchy phrases helped to galvanize the community and focus on reducing the dropout rate and increasing the percentage of students graduating from Washoe County. Within two years the graduation rate jumped from 14 percent to 70 percent, an accomplishment that has earned superintendent Morrison a number of awards this year.

These four superintendents epitomize the great work that is done by superintendents nationwide. They evidence the commitment they have made to their communities and the reality that quality education can be provided to all students. We are proud of Susan, Diane, Lorraine and Heath, and we congratulate them on their accomplishments.

Daniel Domenech is AASA executive director. E-mail:



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