Desmond Blackburn, the superintendent of the Brevard County, Fla., school district, will be the next chief executive officer of the New Teacher Center, a nonprofit well known for its work mentoring incoming educators across the country.
Blackburn, who will step into the role in August, will replace founder Ellen Moir, who had announced in October her plans to retire after leading the nonprofit for 20 years. The group partners with districts to support new teachers in their first years on the job. Eight percent of all new teachers in the United States work with NTC, according to the group.
“The New Teacher Center, over the last 20 years, has done a phenomenal job uncovering the standards for mentorship, the standards for induction,” Blackburn said, adding that his role now “is really about doubling down on all the good work that’s been done and scaling up.”
Blackburn has been the superintendent of the 73,000-student school district since 2015. Before then, he was the chief school performance and accountability officer for the Broward County school district, which serves about 270,000 students and is one of the largest school systems in the country. He began his career as a high school math teacher.
“I have spent a couple decades in public education and have seen it from every vantage point that exists,” he said.
Blackburn has also seen the New Teacher Center’s work firsthand at the ground level—the nonprofit partnered with the Broward County district to build an instructional coaching program. In fact, that work in Broward County was part of an independent study that found the students of new teachers who receive NTC-provided mentoring may receive the equivalent of up to five months of additional learning.
Blackburn said while he wasn’t the direct point person for that work, he helped execute the initiative as a member of the district’s senior cabinet, and he attended two NTC symposiums, which are annual conferences on teacher induction and support for district partners, researchers, policymakers, and other interested parties.
Blackburn has garnered national recognition during his time as superintendent. In 2016, he was named a member of Chiefs for Change, a national advocacy group for district and state leaders that supports school choice, the Common Core State Standards, and implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, among other issues. Last year, he was named a fellow for the Broad Superintendents Academy—a program run by the Broad Center that’s dedicated to training promising district leaders.
Broad Center-affiliated superintendents have shorter tenures than other superintendents—a recent study from the Broad Center found that superintendents who completed Broad training programs stay on the job for about 3.5 years (which is in line with Blackburn’s tenure at Brevard County). Meanwhile, superintendents of districts with more than 100,000 students stay on the job for 5 years on average, and leaders of smaller districts have a tenure of about 6.6 years.
When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was searching for the next chancellor of his city’s schools this winter, Blackburn’s name came up. Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of Success Academy charter school network, included Blackburn on her list of 14 candidates she deemed as a strong choice to lead the school system. Moskowitz, who has clashed with de Blasio and the previous chancellor over the role of charter schools in the city, had included Blackburn for his work boosting his district’s graduation rate and “realign[ing] the district’s resources with student need.” (De Blasio ultimately selected Houston Superintendent Richard Carranza for the job.)
“Desmond’s first-hand experience as a practitioner, coupled with his transformative leadership, will directly benefit the educators and students we serve,” said Lance Fors, the NTC board chairman, in a statement. “Having our organization led by someone who understands and represents the communities we prioritize is critical for our future.”
Image via the New Teacher Center
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.