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Professional Development

Staff-Development Group to Lose Veteran Leader

By Jessica L. Tonn — May 23, 2006 | Corrected: February 22, 2019 2 min read

Corrected: This article initially stated the number of copies of “Standards for Staff Development” in circulation to be 10,000. It is 100,000.

Dennis Sparks, the executive director of the National Staff Development Council for the past 22 years, has announced that he will be stepping down from the position.

Taking his place as of July 1, 2007, will be Stephanie Hirsh, who currently serves as the Oxford, Ohio-based organization’s deputy executive director.

Dennis Sparks

During his tenure, Mr. Sparks, 59, has overseen an expansive growth of the nonprofit organization, which is devoted to school improvement through professional development.

The council’s membership has skyrocketed from a few hundred to more than 10,000, and attendance at its annual conference has jumped from 500 to 3,500.

In an interview last week, Mr. Sparks said that increasing the breadth of the council’s audience has been the organization’s greatest accomplishment during his time as executive director. The NSDC conferences reach out to an array of people, including teachers, principals, and district administrators, who now understand the connection between professional development and student learning, he said.

Over the past two decades, Mr. Sparks also helped the organization increase the number and types of its publications. When he took the helm in 1984, the council published a single newsletter and journal. It now publishes four newsletters, a quarterly magazine, and an online journal. It also has a Web site.

Standards in Use

In 1995, the organization published its “Standards for Staff Development,” which was revised in 2001. More than 100,000 copies are in circulation, and 40 states have adopted written staff-development standards based on the council’s work.

Mr. Sparks co-authored A New Vision for Staff Development with Ms. Hirsh in 1997. He has written or co-written five other books, the most recent being Leading for Results: Transforming Teaching, Learning, and Relationships in Schools in 2005.

Stephanie Hirsh

He said last week that he is unsure what his next venture will be. “I’m keeping my options open,” he said.

Ms. Hirsh, 52, has been deputy executive director of the organization since 2000. She joined the council as associate executive director in 1988.

Since then, Ms. Hirsh has managed the annual conference and established the summer conference, now in its second year.

Of Mr. Sparks, she wrote in an e-mail last week that “he was the first person I recall to envision results-driven, standards-based, and job-embedded professional development for all educators.”

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A version of this article appeared in the May 24, 2006 edition of Education Week as Staff-Development Group to Lose Veteran Leader


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