Carmen I. Ayala, the former superintendent of North Berwyn School District 98, State Board of Education, Ill. and Jeff Dosier, Superintendent, Belleville Township High School District No. 201, Belleville, Ill.
Illinois: Leaders Matter
Nominated By: S. Brent Clark, Executive Director, Illinois Association of School Administrators
Carmen I. Ayala, the former superintendent of North Berwyn School District 98, Illinois State Board of Education
The Illinois Association of School Administrators nominates Carmen I. Ayala due to her extraordinary leadership and dedication to maximizing the success of all students. Her dedication and commitment to equality is not only amazing, it is inspiring and is changing the lives of a generation of students.
This leader is very systemic in her approach. She has leveled the silos that can sometimes exist in education (special education, English learners, gifted, etc.) and has connected the district around five key areas. A long-range plan outlining the activities in each focus area was developed and implemented. The focus area that is intertwined and present in all aspects of the district is the attention to equity and cultural responsiveness.
As a result of these efforts, the middle school in District 98 has earned exemplary status. The middle school’s student population is 90 percent low income and 95 percent children of color. Exemplary status in Illinois represents the top 10 percent of schools with the greatest growth. There are more than 4,000 schools in Illinois and to reach exemplary status is no small feat!
The education climate needs leadership like this, to advocate and champion to deliver world class education to each child regardless of sex, ethnicity, national origin and/or socio-economic background. Ayala has dedicated her career to see that all children have access and are provided not only the education they deserve but it is their right.
Exemplars of Leadership:
- Demonstrated leadership in a diverse district with proven results.
- Modeled the importance of a carefully developed and executed long term plan.
- Focused on success of each child.
Jeff Dosier, Superintendent, Belleville Township High School District No. 201, Belleville, Ill.
Illinois Association of School Administrators also nominates Jeff Dosier (http://bths201.org/office-staff/) due to his innovative leadership and commitment to maximizing the success of all students. His collaborative leadership and the building a strong administrative team has led to implementing strategies with the entire certified staff in order to provide equitable opportunities to close achievement gaps.
When Dosier became the superintendent of Belleville Township High School District 201 in Belleville, Ill., he quickly realized that leaders matter. Building a team of strong leaders would be paramount to the success of a high school district of nearly 5,000 students. Supporting those leaders meant looking at new ideas. Emphasizing that the district should not continue doing something because “we’ve always done it that way” helped leaders to be innovative in bringing positive changes to District 201. In order to have continuous improvement for students, a strong administrative team and high-quality teacher leaders who feel supported by their superintendent would be necessary to meet the goals set by the Board of Education.
Dosier and his team focused their efforts on making the district a relevant and integral component of the success of the community. The first emphasis was to improve student achievement and address the achievement gap. He encouraged educational leaders within the district to seek out new ideas and creative instructional strategies that would sustain growth. Assistant Superintendent, Brian Mentzer, principals and department chairpersons would budget resources to support the strategies.
With leadership from director of student services, Melissa Taylor, administrators and teacher leaders set out to improve student achievement by renewing focus on instruction and assessment. Additional electives were developed to address changing student interests. New courses in agriculture, health occupations, science, math and technology have been implemented in the district. More opportunities for students to earn dual credit hours have also been offered.
Dosier also facilitated the formation of a mentoring program for male students to address the achievement gap. The focus of this group is to connect at risk students with older, successful members of the student body. These relationships have paid huge dividends to mentors and mentees alike.
Addressing the achievement gap and the needs of minority students has been a priority since Dosier became superintendent. For him, the issue hit close to home when a talented student told him he did not want to take the chance of being the only African-American student in the class. Sharing this story with other leaders in the district provided a reminder of the sense of urgency needed to address the gap.
Administrators and teachers recognized that minority students may need additional support to achieve academically. They also recognized there were roadblocks for students taking higher level academic courses. Historically, minority representation in these courses was significantly lower. After discussions among leaders, a focus on addressing the achievement gap by improving the opportunity gap began. First, with Equal Opportunity Schools and today with AVID, Belleville high schools now offer a significant system of support for their students. Dosier, Mentzer, Taylor, principals, teacher leaders and administrators led the focus of this support to promote access to and ensure the success of minority students engaged in the district’s most rigorous curriculum.
The success of the push for equity will be determined over time. Dosier credits the teachers and administrators who continue to lead the push for the sense of urgency they have shown in creating opportunities for students. Bringing change to a district can be difficult; but a team of committed leaders acting as agents of change can make it happen.
As superintendent, it is important not only to lead, but to support teachers and administrators in transforming school culture. This is truly when leaders matter.
The above is an amazing story of vision, shared leadership and implementation. It takes strong leadership skills to be able to work together to implement educational strategies that will forever change a student’s trajectory. Through a shared working collaboration, Belleville THSD 201 was able to see the issue, work together for solution and implement to drive change at every level, administration, certified staff and students. This type of share collaboration and drive will forever drive change for the betterment of all students.
This is exactly why leaders matters. Leadership takes vulnerability and authenticity to problem identify and solve. It takes a leader to bring together a strong team to effectuate change. Change is hard but when you build consensus and surround yourself with strong leaders, amazing results occur, and lives are forever changed.
Exemplars of Leadership:
- Demonstrates strong collaborative leadership.
- Developed strong community alliances.
- Encouraged innovation from the leadership team.
- Encouraged strong achievement among diverse community.
- Provided teachers and administrators the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the school culture to the benefit of students.