Superintendent Search: Evaluating Fred Clarke
First, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank the RCS Board of Education for inviting me as to participate in the Parent/Community superintendent interviews this week. A small number of parents and community members were given the opportunity to ask the superintendent candidates questions as part of the interview process and the Board believed that an advocate of advanced and gifted education would provide valuable input. I had the opportunity to ask a couple questions of each candidate.
Mr. Fred Clarke of Albion Schools is the third of the three superintendent candidates. While my other posts have been after the nightly interviews, the Board will be voting immediately after tonight’s interview, so I cannot provide meaningful and timely input about Mr. Clarke. He is truly a candidate I would like to know more about. He is not a definite no nor a definite yes.
For the pluses, Mr. Clarke may be the most open to various forms of advanced and gifted education. In his role in Champaign, IL schools, the district had both magnet gifted classrooms and pull-out gifted programs. He also helped establish Renzulli Learning, a differentiated learning program. I believe many parents of gifted children would prefer magnet classrooms and pull-out programs to the differentiated instruction currently in Rochester Community Schools.
Mr. Clarke also stated that they had considered the programs so important that he worked to protect them from budget cuts. This is in contrast to what has happened here and in other districts. Protecting gifted programs is a definite plus.
Another plus is that MEAP scores in math have risen, often dramatically, in his district. For 7th grade math, the percentage achieving at least basic proficiency rose 42 percentage points from 25% in 2006 to 67% in 2009.
But there are some minuses.
While ACT scores in the state have primarily increased, in Albion they have decreased in many areas. They are still abysmally low in all areas.
And even though Math MEAP has risen, Reading has generally decreased. 7th grade reading dropped from 80% in 2006 to 55% in 2009. Have the reading programs under him been ineffective or has no attention been paid to reading?
It is quite possible that Mr. Clarke could be a great superintendent in Rochester, particularly for gifted learners. However, there are too many questions about overall academics to support a recommendation at this time. However, he doesn’t merit a no either.
Therefore, I have no recommendation, yes or no, on Mr. Clarke for superintendent.
In the interviews tonight, Mr. Clarke explained that there was a decision to focus on math and bring those scores up first and then focus on reading and the other subject areas. While this is understandable, it bothers me that there could not be focus on multiple areas at once.
I also asked about what courses he had taken on gifted learning and he had none. He also had not read much specifically about gifted students. If he is the collaborative leader that he says he is, he should be open to input from parents of gifted students and gifted experts to implement the best gifted program possible.
He did provide answers to many of the questions about whether he can meet the academic needs of Rochester students, but I would still like to know more about him.
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