Seattle Chief Leaves Legacy of Achievement
Mourning the loss of their popular superintendent, John Henry Stanford, school leaders in Seattle have pledged to keep his legacy alive.
Mr. Stanford, a retired U.S. Army general credited with revitalizing the 48,000-student school system, died Nov. 28 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center after a seven-month battle with acute myelogenous leukemia. He was 60.
The Seattle schools are at a key point in several reform efforts begun under Mr. Stanford, and his departure leaves a leadership void in the district, said schools spokeswoman Annemarie Hou. But district leaders aim to ensure that Mr. Stanford's efforts are maintained, she said.
"He changed our vision from 'every child can learn' to 'every child will learn, and everybody needs to do whatever it takes to see that through,' " she said. "A John Stanford only comes once in a lifetime, but the whole community is committed to keeping that focus."
The school board has not said when it will officially launch a search for a new superintendent. Until it does, Joseph Olchefske, the district's chief operating officer, will continue serving as acting superintendent, Ms. Hou said.
After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor's degree in political science, Mr. Stanford signed up with the Army, where he served for 30 years and rose to the rank of major general.
After retiring, Mr. Stanford served as the top administrator in Fulton County, Ga. He was named to head the Seattle school system in June 1995, becoming the district's first black superintendent. ("A Military Man Takes Charge of Seattle Schools," Oct. 11, 1995.)
His appointment as one of the few noneducators to lead a big-city school system drew national attention.
During his tenure, Mr. Stanford reworked a student-assignment plan so that more students attended their neighborhood schools. He also came up with a new funding formula for district schools, based on enrollment and demographics. Test scores, especially those of elementary and middle school students, began to climb.
Mr. Stanford's passing was marked locally and nationally.
Hundreds of mourners turned out for a memorial service at the Seattle Center Nov. 28, and schools were offering counseling to students.
President and Mrs. Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, and Washington Gov. Gary Locke were among those who issued messages of appreciation and sympathy.
"The general brought his own infectious brand of courage and optimism" to Seattle, Mr. Clinton said in a written statement. He inspired "an entire community to believe once again in their public schools."
A memorial service was held at the University of Washington Dec. 2. Mr. Stanford was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Vol. 18, Issue 15, Page 3Published in Print: November 25, 1998, as Seattle Chief Leaves Legacy of Achievement