School District Reform: Leadership in Uncertain Times

MON, APR 24, 2006 (1:30:23)

This panel, moderated by Robert Peterkin, Francis Keppel Professor of Educational Policy and Administration and director of the Urban Superintendents Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, gives Tom Payzant and Arlene Ackerman, two outstanding Superintendents, an opportunity to share their experiences and reflect on how to improve some of our most challenging districts.

Both Tom Payzant and Arlene Ackerman have proven that a superintendent committed to a theory of action can make a difference in some of our nation's most complex districts. Both Payzant and Ackerman have also shattered the "urban myth" that large city superintendents only remain in office for less than three years. Payzant's 10-year tenure in Boston and Ackerman's six-year tenure in San Francisco have been characterized by real change focused on improving teaching and learning in schools. Both superintendents have demonstrated that it is possible to adopt a plan for reform and find the needed talent, resources, and support to make it happen.

+ BIO: Robert Peterkin

Robert Peterkin has been the director of the Urban Superintendents Program for 18 years. Prior to HGSE, Peterkin held school superintendencies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and had a long career in educational leadership, from special education teacher to deputy superintendent, mainly in the Boston Public School system.

Current work focuses on the restructuring of urban public schools for educational equity and higher student achievement, most recently as a court-appointed monitor in a federal case settlement agreement involving an urban school district and plaintiffs of color.

+ BIO: Arlene Ackerman

Dr. Arlene Ackerman has served in public education for more than 30 years and is currently serving as Superintendent Emeritus, San Francisco Unified School District until 2006. She arrived in San Francisco in 2000 and under her leadership, the district has thrived experiencing five consecutive years of improved achievement for all groups of students while also holding the distinction of the highest performing large urban school district in the state of California for the last two years. In fall 2006, Dr. Ackerman joined the staff at Columbia University's Teachers College holding the prestigious Christian A. Johnson endowed chair and serving as a professor of practice.

Dr. Ackerman has received numerous honors and awards, including appointments to the President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the College Board's Commission on Writing in America's Schools and Colleges, and the National Teaching Commission. Academic awards include Uniquely University City Award for Outstanding Service, Iota Lambda Sorority's Apple for the Teacher Award, Harris Stowe Teachers College's Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Harvard Urban Superintendents Program's McDonnell Douglas Fellowship. Dr. Ackerman received her doctorate in administration, planning and social policy through the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Urban Superintendents Program. She holds a Master of Arts in Education from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in Educational Administration and Policy from Washington University, St. Louis, MO and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Harris Stowe Teachers College.

Harvard Graduate School of Education
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