Leaders matter

Memphis educator named Tennessee’s principal of the year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis.

A Shelby County Schools high school principal is Tennessee’s 2016-17 principal of the year.

Docia Generette-Walker, who leads Middle College High School in Memphis, received the honor Monday evening in Nashville at a statewide conference for educators. A popular selective school, Middle College High was recognized as a Tennessee reward school for academic performance and progress in 2015, as well as a National Blue Ribbon School.

“Under her five years of leadership at the school, expectations were raised across the board and now all students participate and succeed in high-level courses,” according to a news release from the State Department of Education.

That leadership also included embracing the push to give teachers in Memphis more frequent feedback. “If you needed a coach, it used to have a negative connotation,” she told Chalkbeat earlier this year. “Now, the teachers are getting used to having someone observing them every week. It’s a break in the isolation. We all need that support.”

The state also announced that a Middle Tennessee educator has been named Tennessee’s supervisor of the year.

Jennifer Brown, assistant director of instruction in Sumner County Schools, has led the district’s teacher leader work. Under her leadership, the school system achieved its highest graduation rate and is among 10 Tennessee districts recognized by the College Board on the National AP Honor Roll.

Generette-Walker and Brown were selected from a field of nine principals and nine district supervisors, respectively, after being nominated by their peers.

“Leaders matter. They have been critical to our children’s success in Tennessee, and both of these women represent excellence in how they lead our schools,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said.

The winners for Tennessee’s three grand divisions were also recognized Monday. In additional to Generette-Walker, principal-of-the-year honors for Middle Tennessee went to Robin Newell of Mitchell-Neilson Schools in Murfreesboro City Schools. For East Tennessee, the winner was Susan Trent of Surgoinsville Elementary School in Hawkins County.

For supervisor of the year, the winner for West Tennessee went to Michelle Elliott in the Trenton Special School District, while Phillip Swanson, supervisor for McMinn County Schools, won for East Tennessee.

meet the new boss

Nikolai Vitti has been chosen to lead Detroit schools. Read the application that got him the job

PHOTO: Duval County Public Schools
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti meets with students on the first day of school in Duval County, Florida in 2016. He was selected in 2017 to lead Detroit schools.

In his job application to run Detroit schools, Florida superintendent Nikolai Vitti wrote that he was motivated to apply by his “deep and unwavering belief in urban public education” and his “love” for the city of Detroit.

Vitti, who grew up in in Dearborn Heights but has spent his career working in North Carolina, New York and Florida, wrote that the success of the new Detroit school board “will rest upon its decision to select the right leader who has the vision, track record,experience, commitment, strength and perseverance for the job. I believe that I am that leader who is ready to collaboratively own the success of DPSCD’s future.”

He then lays out his qualifications in a 26-page application that spells out his experience in great detail, including specifics on the work he’s done as superintendent of Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville since 2012 and in his previous jobs. Read the full application below.

The Detroit school board voted last week to negotiate a contract with Vitti, though those contract negotiations won’t start until at least this week due to a challenge from an activist who claims the search process was illegal.

Vitit beat out another finalist, River Rouge Superintendent Derrick Coleman for the job. To read Coleman’s application click here.

And then there were six

Jeffco school board narrows pool for superintendent search

Jefferson County school board President Ron Mitchell. (Photo by Nicholas Garcia, Chalkbeat)

The six remaining candidates for the Jeffco Public Schools superintendent job are all sitting superintendents, the board chairman said Friday.

“I think we clearly will have a difficult decision to make,” said Ron Mitchell, Jeffco’s school board president.

The application for the superintendent of the second largest district in Colorado closed earlier this month. Mitchell said 69 people submitted complete applications.

The Jeffco board voted in January to launch a national search for a new superintendent, six months before the contract with Dan McMinimee, the superintendent at the time, expired. In choosing not to renew McMinimee’s contract, the board cited concerns about the process that a previous board used to hire McMinimee, and members said they wondered if they could find a better leader.

In launching a new search for a superintendent, the board has expressed a desire to hire someone who is experienced. McMinimee came to the Jeffco job having been an assistant superintendent in the Douglas County School District, but without experience as a superintendent. In feedback gathered by a search firm hired by the district, community groups rated leadership and people skills as important traits for the job.

Last month, McMinimee left the position after reaching an agreement with the board to redesign his role with the district until his contract expires at the end of June.

The search firm, Ray and Associates — the same one used to find McMinimee — narrowed down the candidates to 11. At their board meeting Thursday night, Jeffco school board members reviewed the contenders until past midnight until they narrowed down the pool to six.

The remaining candidates will be interviewed in private by the board starting Wednesday. Only when candidates are designated finalists is the district required to identify them publicly.