School & District Management

Maverick Streak

By Lesli A. Maxwell — June 20, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

See Also

Return to the main story,

Challenging the Status Quo

Read the other story profiles:

Answered Prayer

Historic First

Into the Fray

Position: Superintendent, Pittsburgh public schools, since July 2005

Former jobs: Managing director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education; member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives

Pittsburgh: Mark Roosevelt, a former Democratic state lawmaker in Massachusetts, is using his political skills to shake up the Pennsylvania school district.
—Photo by Jason Cohn for Education Week

Pittsburgh: Mark Roosevelt, a former Democratic state lawmaker in Massachusetts, is using his political skills to shake up the Pennsylvania school district.

Broad Superintendents Academy, 2003

Mark Roosevelt is a skilled politician, at ease in the media fishbowl. His maverick streak runs deep—his great-grandfather was President Theodore Roosevelt.

Perhaps that explains why this former state lawmaker and one-time Democratic candidate for governor of Massachusetts has had no qualms about shaking up the Pittsburgh school system in his rookie year as a superintendent.

In just 10 months, Mr. Roosevelt, a 50-year-old Harvard University-educated lawyer, pushed through a plan to close 22 schools. He negotiated an overdue contract with the teachers’ union, and, in May, he announced a strategy to raise achievement, especially among African-American students.

He has aggressively pursued his initiatives despite a fractious school board that did not unanimously support his appointment. Viewing his outsider status as an asset, he has not flinched. The 32,000-student district, which was facing a $40 million deficit in its $533 million annual budget and the threat of state takeover when he started, needed some audacious decisionmaking, he said in a recent telephone interview.

“Everything here has been so dramatically dramatic,” he said. “I think what has helped me most is my eagerness to get outside players involved, and my willingness to marshal forces to overcome the status quo.”

He acknowledges his lack of classroom savvy, but believes that hiring veteran academic chief Lynn Spampinato (who is a fellow Broad Academy graduate) to oversee curriculum and instruction should ease worries about his inexperience.

At his request, the Broad Foundation paid for four veteran school leaders—Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant of Boston and former district chiefs Arlene Ackerman, Ramon C. Cortines, and Eric J. Smith—to go to Pittsburgh and advise the new superintendent on strategies to improve the curriculum and student achievement.

“There they were, some of the best minds in public education, focusing entirely on Pittsburgh schools for two full days,” Mr. Roosevelt said. “It was off-the-charts helpful to me personally, and to the district.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2006 edition of Education Week as Maverick Streak

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Photo Essay PHOTOS: A Superintendent Who Exudes Joy in All Things
EdWeek photographer Sam Mallon reflects on her day with Richard Tomko, a 2023 Leaders to Learn From honoree.
2 min read
During a visit to the new Belleville Indoor Training Facility, Richard Tomko, Superintendent of Belleville Public Schools, speaks with Carolyn Guancione, Indoor Training Facility Support Staff, about how the space continues to transform, in Belleville, N.J., on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. The new training facility was built to facilitate and accommodate general physical activity and training for sports teams within the school system and the greater Belleville community.
Richard Tomko, the superintendent of Belleville public schools, speaks with Carolyn Gancione during a visit to the district's new indoor training facility, which is shared with the community.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
School & District Management Opinion Your School Leadership Needs More Student Voice
When one Virginia principal moved from middle school to high school, he knew he would need to find new ways of soliciting student feedback.
S. Kambar Khoshaba
3 min read
Illustration of students holding speech bubbles.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management First Latina Selected to Lead National Principals Group
Raquel Martinez is a middle school principal in Pasco, Wash.
3 min read
Raquel Martinez, the principal of Stevens Middle School, in Pasco, Wash., was named president-elect of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. She’s the first Latina to hold the position.
Raquel Martinez, the principal of Stevens Middle School, in Pasco, Wash., was named president-elect of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. She’s the first Latina to hold the position.
Courtesy of the National Association of Secondary School Principals
School & District Management Four Things to Know From a State's Push to Switch Schools to Heat Pumps
Installing a heat pump is complex, but the payoff is well worth it, says an expert in Maine who's pushing their adoption in schools.
4 min read
Close up of a heat pump against a brick wall
E+/Getty