What a pleasure it was to sit down and talk with two gentlemen for NewsNite that airs this Friday. Their impact on the lives of our school children is extraordinary since they are the superintendents of two of the state’s eight large, urban school districts – David James with Akron Public Schools and Adrian Allison with Canton City Schools.
It was just about a month ago that Adrian Allison became an historic choice as superintendent of Canton City Schools. Nearly 64 years after his grandfather became the district’s first black employee, Mr. Allison came back to his home town and to the Canton City Schools last May. Due to the unforeseen and untimely death of his friend, district Superintendent Chris Smith, this past November, Mr. Allison is now the district’s youngest superintendent ever, its first black superintendent and the first with an unprecedented five-year contract.
David James has been superintendent of APS since August 2008, after coming to the district some 21 years ago. Mr. James has been the driving force of the state’s fifth-largest school district through his oversight of the district’s building plan even before becoming superintendent. He has also been responsible for belt-tightening measures in the past few years that have seen millions of dollars in cuts as far from the students as possible and he spearheaded the successful passage of APS’ new 7.9 mills levy last fall.
With each of them, we talked about finances and funding public school education, and they shared their perceptions of Gov. John Kasich’s recently unveiled school funding/education plans. They addressed the myriad challenges facing urban districts – from unfunded mandates, like the third-grade reading guarantee, to the exponential growth of charter schools and voucher programs – neither of which yet face the kind of accountability measures expected of public schools.
We spoke with them separately for the program, but I was struck by the similarities in the two … neither is trained as a classroom teacher; both are committed to the jobs they now hold; and both are soft-spoken, yet passionate in their own ways about education and the business of preparing today’s students for career and work.
I hope you’ll join us for a most insightful discussion with two very effective school leaders.