District II – Sherry Grate, Superintendent of DeKalb County Central Schools
- What program(s) or activities in your school district that focus on improving student learning do you feel are the most successful?
DeKalb Central Schools has developed a systematic approach to instruction, with an emphasis on consistent practices for literacy and math throughout the district. Our K-12 comprehensive Response to Instruction framework provides diverse support systems to ensure the academic, social, and emotional success of all students. We have invested our resources wisely in a well-established instructional coaching model that thrives on fostering continuous improvement throughout the district in all aspects of operations. Our motto of “Excellence, Everyone, Everyday” significantly impacts the role that each employee plays in improving student learning.
- What have you been your most significant challenges as a superintendent and how have you dealt with them?
The greatest challenge that continues to exist is navigating through what seems to be an annual process of district budget reductions. Weathering this process can become draining and at times mind-boggling. Our approach has been transparency and open lines of communication. Each year we assess our gaps and determine the primary needs of our students as we plan for their future. We openly share our “state of the district” and encourage input from all stakeholders. We have become very efficient and resourceful and have expanded community partnerships that support our district initiatives. Employees have diversified their skill sets and areas of licensure and we have maintained a focus on growing as professionals to accomplish our mission.
- If you could improve one aspect of K-12 education today, what would it be and what changes would you make?
I would develop a purposeful and developmentally appropriate system for assessing learning/progress at all levels. Research-based assessments would be strategically incorporated at the elementary, middle, and high school levels and would be limited to opportunities for informing instruction, measuring growth/progress, and to provide data for making curricular decisions K-12.
- What advice would you give to an aspiring or beginning superintendent?
Becoming a superintendent is one of the most incredible opportunities in the world for making a difference in the lives of many children. Infuse your passion for education into the fabric of the school community and embrace the relationships you establish. Many decisions will be made in your tenure and keep in mind that the right decisions are not always the easiest. We are here for the students!