William R. McNeal Jr. is the new National Superintendent of the Year.
Mr. McNeal, 57, who has served as the superintendent of the 109,000- student Wake County, N.C., public school system since 2000, accepted the award at a San Francisco conference last month.
His first three years as superintendent were focused on reaching a goal he helped establish in 1998 as the district’s associate superintendent for instructional services. The object of “Goals 2003" was to have 95 percent of Wake County’s 3rd and 8th graders performing at or above grade level, primarily in reading and math, by 2003.
Although that mark has not yet been reached, 93.5 percent of 3rd graders were at or above grade level last year, compared with 75.4 percent in 1998; and 92.2 percent of 8th graders were at or above grade level in reading, up from 86.4 percent in 1998.
Mr. McNeal has been with the Wake County schools since 1974, when he became a social studies teacher at what was then Carroll Junior High School in Raleigh.
In addition to bolstering student achievement, Mr. McNeal has made it his mission to make the community an integral part of the school system, he says.
“I think the schools tend to be as strong as the community makes them,” Mr. McNeal said last week. “And community expectation drives the quality of a school district.”
Last month, the Wake County district, which includes the city of Raleigh, was ranked third on Forbes.com’s list of the best education systems in the nation’s big cities. (“Top 10, Minus 2,” Take Note, March 3, 2004.)
As the Superintendent of the Year, Mr. McNeal received a $2,000 U.S. savings bond and a $10,000 scholarship to give to a student at his high school alma mater.
The American Association of School Administrators, a 14,000-member professional organization based in Arlington, Va., for district-level educational leaders and principals, bestowed the award, which is co-sponsored by Philadelphia-based Aramark ServiceMaster Facility Services.
—Catherine A. Carroll
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