School & District Management

Newly Named Superintendent of the Year Focuses on Seeing Students as Individuals

By Caitlynn Peetz — February 17, 2023 2 min read
Soft focus image of business people at table.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Kevin McGowan, superintendent of the Brighton Central School District in Rochester, N.Y., has been named the National Superintendent of the Year, considered the most prestigious award for district leaders.

McGowan has led the New York district for 14 years, since 2009, a particularly long tenure for superintendents. During his tenure, he has advocated for changes to state funding formulas for schools and the need for anti-racist curriculum, according to The Democrat & Chronicle.

During a panel of the finalists for the Superintendent of the Year award in January, hosted by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, McGowan said he’s seen increased politicization of education issues drive away qualified teacher candidates. He also sees every day the impact the rhetoric has on students.

Kevin McGowan, superintendent of Brighton Central Public Schools in Rochester, N.Y., speaks after being named the 2023 National Superintendent of the Year.

“It’s affecting students when their identity, their humanity, who they are, where they come from, what they believe in, and essentially who they are as a human being is being questioned by individuals,” McGowan said during the event in Washington. “Everything we do as a school district is a learning opportunity for our students. I hope what they’re learning is the courage of school boards and of superintendents who are respectfully listening to different conversations and trying to find space in the middle, not a space that covers up the humanity of an individual.”

During the panel, when asked what part of public education is most in need of change, McGowan said it is imperative that districts remember they are responsible for educating individual students, rather than thinking of their student body as a collective.

The impact of the pandemic really underscored that every child is unique and needs different things to succeed, McGowan said.

“The pandemic reminded us that we really need to think about the access every child has to resources, rigorous coursework, and technology,” McGowan said. “We have to revisit our policies and strategies so we’re answering that question every single day: What would we want for our own children, and how are we … breaking down barriers for every child?”

McGowan is also the president of the New York State Council of Superintendents.

Finalists for the award are chosen from winners of the state superintendent of the year contests. They’re evaluated on four criteria: how their creative leadership meets students’ needs, communication skills, professionalism, and community involvement.

A $10,000 scholarship is given in the winner’s name to a student attending the high school from which the superintendent graduated or a school serving the same area.

The other finalists were PJ Caposey of Meridian Community Unit School District in Illinois, Matthew Hillmann of Northfield Public Schools in Minnesota, and Trent North of the Douglas County School System in Georgia.

AASA, the School Superintendents’ Association, made the announcement Feb. 16 at its conference in Austin, Texas.


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.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

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 How to Have a Hard Conversations With Your Teachers: 3 Tips for Principals
Here are three small steps that can ease the pain of a difficult conversation between a principal and teacher.
3 min read
Photo of two women having discussion.
School & District Management How Have School Leaders Responded to the Trump Shooting?
When a tragic national incident happens in the middle of the summer, do school officials feel compelled to respond?
4 min read
A crowd waits for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump to speak at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024.
A crowd waits for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump to speak at the campaign event in Butler, Pa., on July 13, 2024, before a shooting took place.
Gene J. Puskar/AP
School & District Management What Do Superintendents Do in the Summer?
In their own words, superintendents describe what keeps them busy while students are on break.
4 min read
Photo of woman working at office desk.
School & District Management Principals' Unions Are on the Rise. What Are Their Demands?
Across the country, principals are organizing for better working conditions.
8 min read
Illustration of hands shaking with smaller professional people standing on top, with hands in the air, celebrating.