School & District Management

Catching Up With Past Leaders To Learn From: Where They Are Now

February 16, 2022 3 min read
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With the 10th Leaders To Learn From class, Education Week decided to catch up with former honorees on their leadership journey. Some Leaders are no longer in K-12. Others have made huge strides in their careers, moving up the ladder. But the common thread among these Leaders remains their commitment to helping students reach their full potential—regardless of whether they still work in school districts.

Christie Jo Adams

Christie-Jo Adams

Coordinator, K-12 Arts Education, Richmond Public Schools, Richmond, Va.

Year Honored: 2019

Expertise: Integrating Arts Instruction

Highlights: Published “The Arts as a School Motivator” in the October 2021 edition of School Administrator magazine; successfully completed a $1.3 million arts integration grant from the federal Education Department to support the district’s Turnaround Arts schools. 

As a leader, it is my job to take people’s passion and help them find a pathway to their purpose. Leaders must be fair, authentic, and brave.

Read about her work: "Elevating the Arts to Improve Student Achievement

Mark Benigni

Mark Benigni

Superintendent, Meriden Public Schools, Meriden, Conn.

Year Honored: 2015

Expertise: Extended Learning Time

Highlights: Connecticut Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (CALAS) Outstanding Educational Leader Award, 2021; CoSN and AASA EmpoweredED Digital Superintendent of the Year Award, 2019; The Bushnell William A. Yandow Educator Award, 2019; Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness Social Justice Award, 2017; President of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, 2021.

Leadership is all about building respectful relationships, and learning what motivates and inspires others to do more, be more, and achieve more.

Read about his work: "Extra Time Yields Promising Results for Struggling Conn. Schools

Shari Camhi

Shari Camhi

Superintendent, Baldwin Union Free School District, Baldwin, N.Y.

Year Honored: 2020

Expertise: Closing Gaps

Highlights: 2021-22 president-elect of AASA, the School Superintendents Association; member of the board of trustees, Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center, Garden City, N.Y.; member of AASA’s American Rescue Plan Committee.

I believe that we need to reimagine an educational system that is future focused and encourages a deep love of learning while preparing all of our students for the future world of work. We need to rethink how we ‘do school’ so that we teach our children the skills needed to succeed not in the world we grew up in, but in their world, their future.

Read about her work: "An Unorthodox Strategy Closes Academic Gaps

Chris Chatmon

Christopher Chatmon

Director and CEO, Kingmakers of Oakland, Oakland, Calif.

Year Honored: 2015

Expertise: Supporting Boys of Color

Highlights: Deputy chief of equity and the first executive director of the office of African American Male Achievement at Oakland Unified School District; Coalition of Black Excellence, Community Champion Award, 2020; Oakland Unified School District, African American Male Achievement, Oscar Wright, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2020.

Black boys possess innate greatness. However, societal inequities and inherent racism in our education system ignore their lived experiences and unique needs, which hampers their ability to flourish. Kingmakers of Oakland is rebuilding systems, structures, conditions and culture of school in order to elevate the genius in all Black boys. Creating lasting change by 'healing the fish while treating the toxic ecosystem' requires a multi-faceted approach. Specifically, we work to heal Black boys by engaging, encouraging and empowering them. Simultaneously we collaborate, coordinate and convene adults to transform toxic learning environments into healthy, affirming ones.

Read about his work: "Educator Leads Campaign to Transform Lives of Black Boys

Mohammed Choudhury

Mohammed Choudhury

State Superintendent of Schools, Maryland

Year Honored: 2018

Expertise: Expanding School Choice

Highlights: Appointed Maryland State Superintendent of Schools in 2021; expanded schooling options for students and developed strategies to retain master teachers at underperforming schools as associate superintendent and chief strategy, talent, and innovation officer in the San Antonio Independent School District; NextGen Network Leader, The Pahara-Aspen Institute, 2018.

Don’t fear consequences. If what you are doing is right and just, don’t fear the consequences. Managers see risk and try to carefully mitigate it. True leaders see risk—and if their values or principles are at risk—they run into the fire.

Read about his work: "Giving Families an ‘Equal Shot’ at Finding the Right School

Josh Garcia

Joshua Garcia

Superintendent, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma, Wash.

Year Honored: 2015

Expertise: Whole-Child Accountability

Highlights: Appointed superintendent of Tacoma Public Schools in 2021.

We have been in a storm, relentlessly supporting our students, staffs, and community. Our belief in the whole child, the whole educator, and the whole community has served as our beacon. We may never be the same as we entered this storm. We may not have been perfect, but we know our efforts have been worth it. Throughout this time, we have reminded ourselves and each other that we are truly better together.

Read about his work: "Tacoma’s Deputy Chief Helps Pioneer Expansive Measures of School Success

Aaron Grossman

Aaron Grossman

Multi-Tiered System of Supports Specialist (MTSS), Washoe County School District, Reno, Nev.

Year Honored: 2014

Expertise: Common Core

Highlights: Washoe County Teacher of the Year Finalist, 2017; Nevada Teacher of the Year Finalist, 2018; co-developed, a website that provides no-prep, standards-aligned teaching resources and lessons for teachers.

Hope is not a plan. We will be confronted with known and unexpected challenges. By taking time to consider what these situations might be, by planning instead of hoping, we will all be better positioned to support our families, staff, and students.

Read about his work: "Teachers Lead the Way in Nevada Leader’s Common-Core Project

Cesar Morales

César Morales

Superintendent, Ventura County Department of Education, Camarillo, Calif.

Year Honored: 2017

Expertise: Literacy

Highlights: First Latino and person of color to serve as Ventura County Superintendent of Schools; El Concilio Latino Leadership Award, 2021; Excellence in Educational Leadership Award, University Council for Educational Administration, 2019.

I have a fundamental belief that successful leaders must be fully aware of the context in which we serve. You must have a deep understanding of the people you are serving and an awareness of their backgrounds and lived experiences. You should also have a firm commitment to respond to their revealed needs in a timely manner. Finally, you can’t do it alone. You must commit to collaborating with others to build momentum and create exponential, sustainable change.

Read about his work: "Superintendent Fosters Love of Reading

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A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2022 edition of Education Week as Where They Are Now

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