Weigh In: Who are the unsung heroes in your district?
Celebrating the people behind the scenes.
"Our plant supervisor, Carlos Monzon," says Pamela Crain, assistant principal of instruction at East Bakersfield High School in California's Kern High School District. "He works hard to make sure everything is running smoothly. We're in a school that's almost 75 years old, so tons of little things come up. People don't realize that a school is a little city, a community. We sure miss him whenever he's not here."
"Our literacy facilitators," says Jean Briggs Badger, superintendent at New Hampshire's Dover School District. "There are five of them and their primary job is to provide professional development for our teachers in the area of literacy.
"Three years ago, we created Dover's Growing Readers (DGR), our K-8 reading instruction program. We wrote our own curriculum with the help of our teachers, reading specialists, and literacy facilitators. Because it's not a program that has a teacher's manual, there's room for a lot of teacher autonomy, flexibility, and judgment.
"This is not an easy, off-the-shelf program to implement. Two of our schools made the benchmark in reading. We think it's because DGR personalizes the teaching of literacy for student needs.
"Literacy facilitators have to walk a fine line that balances modeling, supporting, and coaching. They're instructing principals and are the liaison between the classroom and administration. It takes a lot of expertise, tact, and training to implement the program."
"The head of our technology department, Neil Charlet," says Audrey Haugan, the principal at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Illinois. "Any technology question, Neil is the guy we go to.
"All of our staff members have laptops. Neil makes sure they're all working and helps to design curriculum in terms of getting technology into the classroom.
"There are people in the building who are good with technology but they are not at the expert level that Neil is. He can troubleshoot something in half the time it takes other folks."
"It's our CFO, Bill Covington," says Paul D. Stapleton, superintendent at Halifax County Public Schools in Virginia.
"We have only 6,000 students but we've lost more than $9 million in three years. It's a tremendous reduction in revenue for the administration to have to adjust to. Over the past three years, we trimmed everywhere we could and reduced every area we could. In many rural divisions like ours, 80 to 85 percent of the budget is tied up in personnel.
"Bill has done a masterful job with our budget, finding ways to eliminate as few personnel and programs as we can. He came up with a system for using our money, particularly federal stimulus money, and put forth cost-saving ideas on hospitalization and insurance. He's been able to pool the money and find ways to stretch it as far as possible."
"Our volunteer coordinator, Cathryn Girard," says William E. (Rob) Roberts, superintendent at Nye County School District in Pahrump Valley, Nevada. "She is a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, and she donates about 30 hours a week of her time to ensure that all of our volunteers have background and fingerprint checks and are placed where they are most needed.
"So far, for this calendar year, 300 volunteers have donated 15,147 hours. These are often paid positions in other districts. There's a large population of folks that come with their RVs [recreational vehicles] and settle in Pahrump in the wintertime. Cathryn actively tries to get those people involved.
"She goes about her activities quietly, effectively, and efficiently. As a result, she's not often recognized for all she does. But I certainly appreciate what she's doing and how hard she's working."
Principal is Key
"There's not an effective school I've been exposed to that didn't have an effective leader at its heart-and that's the principal," says John J. Pedicone Jr., superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona.
"Years ago as a principal I worked for the U.S. Department of Education helping to identify ‘blue ribbon' schools. At one school, the principal had some personal and emotional issues, so he was put on leave. When I got to the school, they were really worried that I was going to look at what was going on and that it would in some way affect whether or not they were going to be selected for this award. But the leadership of that principal had been so strong that he had developed leadership among everybody, at all levels."