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Leadership Profile: David Doty

Superintendent, Canyons School District (UT)

August 2009

Job: Leading a brand new school district, the first new district in Utah in more than a century

Salary: $175,000

On (not) Showing His Age: The 44-year-old father of three Twitters, blogs, and runs ultra-marathons.

Motivation: It’s a unique and interesting opportunity to start a school district from scratch. You don’t have too many opportunities like that.

Upsides: We can be innovative in ways you just couldn’t be in an ordinary district, where you inherit the cultures and practices that have been unchanged for decades.

Downsides: The creation of this particular district resulted from the splitting of an existing district. The way it was done caused a lot of political, legal, and financial acrimony.

Roots: I started as a high school Spanish teacher in California, and from there went to law school and also got a Ph.D. in educational leadership. I worked in Davis (UT) School District for several years, in Utah and South Carolina as a lawyer representing public schools, and spent four years working for the Utah State Board of Regents.

Goal: I would like every student who graduates from this school district prepared to attend their college of choice, whether that’s a technical school, community college, or four-year, selective institution.

On Small District Structures: One of the first things I did was visit all 44 schools in the district... I lost track of how many times I heard people tell me, ‘This is the first time the superintendent has been in this building.’ I don’t say that as criticism of the former superintendent. He’s a fine man. I just don’t know how you would get to 100 schools a year. You wouldn’t. You couldn’t.

On No Child Left Behind: I think NCLB had its place. And if it did nothing else, it shined a bright light on the achievement gap. But the problem with the policy is it sets a minimum threshold, asking children to come up to some level of proficiency. And it completely ignores high schools.

On Closing the Achievement Gap: I’ve never felt like education needs to be a zero sum game, that if you give certain attention to a lower-achieving group, you can’t give it to a higher-achieving group. We ought to provide an outstanding, world class education to every student.                        

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