School & District Management

Know a Leader to Learn From? Education Week Is Searching for Standout District Leaders

By Alyson Klein — July 28, 2023 2 min read
From left, 2023 Leaders to Learn From Chimere Stephens, Dean McGee and Tonya Clarke.
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A community engagement manager who gives students a direct say over how her Arizona district spends tens of thousands of dollars.

A parent engagement chief jumped over hurdles to allow students to do art and literacy projects with their incarcerated fathers.

A tech leader who worked with other community groups to build a first-class broadband network in rural Kansas—decades before a global pandemic would make high-speed internet a national priority.

Those are just a few of the district leaders Education Week has recognized in recent years through its annual Leaders to Learn From report. The next iteration of the report will publish in February 2024, with nominations due September 5, 2023. (See below for the nomination form.)

Nominees must be district leaders, and anyone—teacher, parent, community member, business partner, nonprofit organization, vendor, current or former colleague—can submit a nomination.

In the past, Education Week has highlighted superintendents, arts supervisors, nursing directors, food service directors, curriculum leaders, and more.

The next report will build on a more-than-decade-long tradition of shining a spotlight on some of the innovative and effective ways leaders around the country are improving students’ academic achievement and well-being, smoothing the transition to college and careers, and bridging yawning equity gaps.

John Kuhn, the superintendent of the Mineral Wells Independent school district in rural Texas nominated Natalie Griffin for her work in improving bilingual education, including recruiting and retaining bilingual teachers. Her efforts helped English learners perform on par with, or even better than, their peers who are not still learning English in core-content areas like English and math.

Before Griffin took over leadership of the district’s bilingual work, Kuhn said “we were just kind of going through the motions” when it came to that population. Kuhn let Griffin know he wanted these students to be a priority and “she just took my expectations and left me in the dust.”

Kuhn had been looking for ways to lift up her work but found “there’s not enough opportunities to pat people on the back in a meaningful way,” he said.

“As a small town [leader] you do all this hard work and blood sweat and tears and you know, you get a paycheck and you get people locally saying, ‘Hey, we like you. We appreciate what you do.’ But [Leaders to Learn From is] just a level of attention and celebration” that leaders like Griffin “aren’t used to getting,” Kuhn said.

Terry Grier, a 2015 Leader to Learn From, has nominated two others: Andrew Houlihan and Ben Thigpen, both superintendents in North Carolina.

“It’s one of the premier recognition programs in the country,” Grier said, in part, because it offers takeaways for others. “As a leader, you should constantly be searching for best practices. It might not fit your district exactly the way that someone [has] done it somewhere else. But you might be able to modify it to where it helps you get great results.”

Fill out the form below to submit a nominee.

Nominate a Leader

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