John B. Gaddis, Superintendent, Somerset County Public Schools, Westover, Md., and Theresa R. Alban, Superintendent, Frederick County Public Schools, Frederick, Md.
Maryland: Leaders Matter
Nominated By: Renee McGuirk-Spence, Executive Director, Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland
John B. Gaddis, Superintendent, Somerset County Public Schools, Westover, Md. https://www.somerset.k12.md.us/
John Gaddis (https://www.somerset.k12.md.us/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=269300&type=d&pREC_ID=642182) has led a charge for change in early childhood education. When he arrived in Somerset County six years ago, there were no Judy Centers (only county in state not to have any) or programs to help address pre-school aged children. The district only offered preK to qualifying children for a half day. Presently, SCPS has two Judy Center sites with a full staff, an early childhood coordinator, full-day universal preK and has realigned two schools with large populations to create an early childhood (preK-1) school.
Leadership can be seen in many forms. It is the ability to move people toward a common goal. In this situation, Gaddis provided a vision for early childhood education and presented a plan that would help the county grow their program but also provide better services for early childhood aged students.
On the local level, the plan included buy in from teachers, administrators, parents and board members. On the state level, leadership was also seen and heard in the Maryland state capital, Annapolis. In SCPS, 75 percent of the annual budget comes from the state. Because of the leadership shown by Gaddis, the school system is now one of only four systems in the entire state to offer pre-K for all students. Currently, the program is fully funded by the state which saves the local budget approximately $900,000.
Leadership was also seen in work done with the staff and the community. This allowed the realignment of the two schools for the creation of an early childhood center. This process allowed the largest group of elementary students in the county to have focused instruction and more direct instruction in developing the skills they need to be successful. In the end, student data has placed Somerset County in the top five in Maryland regarding the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment administered to students over the last three school years.
Exemplars of Leadership:
- Demonstrated leadership in promoting high quality early childhood education programs including innovation with early childhood assessments.
- Active leadership at both local and state levels producing the fiscal support needed to sustain and grow essential programs.
Theresa R. Alban, Superintendent, Frederick County Public Schools, Frederick, Md.
The Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland nominates Terry Alban (https://www.fcps.org/centraloffice/superintendent-and-legal-counsel) for recognition in the AASA Leaders Matter campaign.
Maryland’s 2017 Superintendent of the Year, she leads a diverse school district with nearly 43,000 students and 70 schools to continued achievement outpacing state and national averages on SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement results. She earned the National Center for Children and Families’ Neediest Kids program 2018 Exceptional School Superintendent Leadership Award for removing barriers to achievement for students affected by poverty, and AASA recently featured her in its nationwide video series, Women in School Leadership: Navigating Pathways to the Superintendency.
What truly distinguishes Alban’s leadership, however, is her commitment to innovation. Alban consistently demonstrates courage and vision by breaking the status quo in the interest of student achievement. The story of Alban’s leadership in launching Maryland’s LYNX program—Linking Youth to New Experiences—is an exceptional example of courageous leadership that matters in Maryland and beyond.
Superintendents across the country, including Alban, have recognized for years that the 20th century model of secondary education was becoming more and more outmoded.
Under Alban’s forward-focused leadership, teachers, administrators, parents, business leaders and others came together to try to revise and redesign that old model. She called for a new approach to secondary education that emphasized flexibility, individual learning and community partnership.
The results that were achieved under Alban’s leadership were truly innovative. Under the new LYNX model, students develop individualized Student Success Plans, starting in the 8th grade year before high school. They choose among flexible schedule options (with the cafeteria serving dinner in addition to breakfast and lunch) to take an extra course, receive support, access online learning, pursue college credits or engage with business partners. Student interest drives career preparation focused on the highly skilled occupations prized in today’s global marketplace. Innovative competency-based learning can earn credit via demonstrated mastery rather than seat time.
The LYNX program’s ability to award credit for competency-based learning required changes in Maryland law. This innovation was achieved as a result not only of Superintendent Alban’s thoughtfully prepared and effectively presented testimony but also her extensive collaboration with a former Maryland state superintendent, current school leaders, teachers and many others. Launching LYNX was a process that took leadership with considerable foresight and ability to follow through on groundwork that included legislative changes.
An expanded and flexible school-day schedule and broadened teacher role going beyond lecturer to coach, project manager and research resource doesn’t come without significant collaboration, professional development and buy-in from staff. Knowing that change can be stressful, Alban found ways to allow teachers the opportunity to transfer to another school without consequence. The fact that not one teacher requested a transfer attests to the substantial preparation, training opportunities and communication that preceded the school’s launch.
Have Alban’s innovations with LYNX been effective? Early results show a significant increase in attendance, the highest rate in the county’s most diverse school’s very long history, with significant gains also for English learners and special education students. In the first year, 65 business partners signed on to provide career exploration in which every student participated. In LYNX’s second year, every 10th grader is matched with a business partner to begin to develop “soft skills” critical to workplace success. Juniors and seniors will complete internships, apprenticeships and other work-based learning experiences. The LYNX program is on track to accomplish its goal to graduate every student on a trajectory toward a chosen career path, whether it leads through college, career and technical training or some other workplace experience.
The positive outcomes LYNX sustains will help Alban determine how to adapt LYNX innovations in additional schools. Her leadership—partnering with businesses and collaborating with state education leaders and legislators, parents, teachers, students and the community not only matters, it is crucial. The work to achieve America’s “next generation” high school, a comprehensive public school with a diverse student body, delivering on the promise of public education to equip every student to be an empowered learner and an engaged citizen, demands leadership of the highest caliber.
Exemplars of Leadership:
- Developed innovative programs supporting student achievement.
- Recognized as national leader among superintendent.
- Focused reform efforts on workplace preparation garnering significant business support.