School & District Management

Rural Administrators Recognized as ‘Leaders To Learn From’

By Diette Courrégé Casey — March 05, 2014 2 min read
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An Alaskan assistant superintendent and a Mississippi Delta superintendent are among the most innovative district-level leaders highlighted in a new report.

Dan Walker of Lower Kuskokwim School District in Alaska and Dennis J. Dupree Sr. of Clarksdale, Miss., were profiled as part of Education Week’s second annual ‘Leaders To Learn From Report.’ Educators and education writers from across the country nominated district leaders, and the magazine’s editorial staff selected 16 from 14 states.

Walker helps to lead a remote, 18-student district in Alaska that’s accessible only by propeller planes. He stood out for his efforts to strengthen the district’s technology infrastructure and to increase the number of distance-learning courses taught by certified teachers. Those changes are especially significant in a district where 90 percent of the population lives in poverty.

“Technology becomes an equalizer for kids in these small, remote communities,” Mr. Walker said in the story. “I saw the Internet and technology as a way to bring down those barriers and to get kids a broader experience and access to the wider world.”

Dupree leads a district the Rural Education blog has written about in the past. Clarksdale Municipal School District was one of two rural winners in the most recent federal Race to the Top district competition.

Dupree has received recognition for his efforts to transform the district over the past seven years. Most of its schools were failing or at-risk for failure, and Dupree has worked to change that. He used a multi-part strategy that included: creating themed magnet programs in every elementary school, giving parents citywide choice, building rigor into its middle and high school college-prep curriculum, and aggressively pursuing millions to pay for more prekindergarten classes and other initiatives.

“My sense of urgency was around getting students and parents in this community excited about education again,” said Mr. Dupree in the story. “To do that, we needed to offer a whole lot more than what they had been getting.”

Check out the full stories to read more about Walker and Dupree.

Photos, from top:

Dan Walker, assistant superintendent of the Lower Kuskokwim School District, stands on the shore of the frozen Kuskokwim River in Bethel, Alaska. (Mark Meyer for Education Week)

Superintendent of the Clarksdale School District Dennis Dupree in his office in Clarksdale, Miss. (Matt Eich for Education Week)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.