Education Week Leadership Forum speakers are expert practitioners in the field of education. Our speakers share unique professional insights and personal experiences that provide attendees with the confidence to implement strategic improvements in their districts. Please check back frequently for speaker updates.
The blue links under each speaker’s name and title enable you to discover more about who you’ll be networking with at Scaling Up Student Success 2012.
Alan M. Blankstein
Author, Failure Is Not an Option® and
The Answer Is in the Room,
and President, The HOPE Foundation
View Bio | Gallery | EW | EW2 | EW3
Senior Partner and Founder
View Bio | Video | TEDx Video
Superintendent of Schools
Fulton County Schools, Ga.
View Bio | Gallery | Video 1 | Video 2
Director of Professional Issues
Cleveland Teachers Union
View Bio | Webinar
Daniel A. Domenech
American Association of School Administrators
View Bio | Gallery | Video
Hillsborough County Public Schools
View Bio | Gallery | More Info | Video
Office of Innovation
St. Louis Public School District
Gene T. Harris
Superintendent, Columbus City Schools
2012 Ohio Superintendent of the Year
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Ohio Department of Education
View Bio | Video 1 | Video 2
Division of Learning,
Ohio Department of Education
Adrian B. Talley
Office of Shared Accountability
Montgomery County Public Schools, Md.
Mary Jane Tappen
Deputy Chancellor for Curriculum and Instruction, Florida
You will be energized by practical solutions to issues you face every day:
- Using technology to maximize teacher PD and student engagement
- Organizing a “deep dive” into common standards and developing new curriculum
- Meeting state and federal demands for student progress
- Identifying the data that matters for improving achievement
A Day-Long Interactive Forum for Education Leaders. Register today.
Alan M. Blankstein
Author, Failure Is Not an Option and The Answer Is in the Room,
and President, The HOPE Foundation
Alan M. Blankstein is the founder and president of the HOPE Foundation (Harnessing Optimism and Potential through Education), a not-for-profit organization whose honorary chair is the Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The HOPE Foundation has a more than decade-long track record of helping leaders create school cultures in which “failure is not an option” for any student.
Blankstein launched the “professional learning communities” movement through HOPE, first by bringing W. Edwards Deming and, later, Peter Senge into the educational arena, and then by publishing seminal works on the topic through Solution Tree, which he founded in 1987 and directed for 12 years. His Failure Is Not an Option: Six Principles that Guide Student Achievement in High Performing Schools won the National Staff Development Council’s Book of the Year award. With more than 300,000 copies in circulation, it is now the gold standard in creating and sustaining learning communities.
Blankstein also is the publisher of four Failure Is Not an Option® (FNO) video series and, with Paul Houston, is senior editor of the 13-volume The Soul of Educational Leadership series. His most recent publication, The Answer is in the Room: How Effective Schools Scale Student Success has met with international acclaim. In addition, he has delivered keynote addresses throughout the United Kingdom, South Africa, the Middle East, and Canada, as well as for virtually every major education organization in the United States.
A former “high risk” youth, Blankstein began his career in education as a music teacher and has worked since 1983 in such youth-serving and educational organizations as the March of Dimes, Phi Delta Kappa. He has served on the Harvard International Principals’ Center’s advisory board, as a board member for the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, as co-chair of Indiana University’s Neal Marshall Black Culture Center’s Community Network, and as adviser to the Faculty and Staff for Student Excellence (FASE) mentoring program. He also served as a trustee of the Jewish Child Care Agency, where he was once a youth in residence.
Senior Partner and Founder, November Learning
Alan November, an international leader in education technology, began his career as an oceanography teacher and dorm counselor at an island reform school for boys in Boston Harbor. While November was a computer science teacher in Lexington, Mass., he was probably the first teacher in the world to have a student project online in 1984—a database for people with disabilities. He has been the director of an alternative high school, a computer coordinator, a technology consultant, and a university lecturer. He has helped schools, governments, and industry leaders improve the quality of education through technology.
Audiences enjoy November’s wit and humor as he pushes the boundaries of how to improve teaching and learning. His areas of expertise include planning across the curriculum, staff development, new school design, community building, and leadership development. He has delivered keynotes and workshops in all 50 states, across Canada, and throughout the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, and Central America.
November was named one of the nation’s 15 most influential thinkers of the decade by Tech & Learning magazine. In 2001, he was listed as one of eight educators to provide leadership into the future by the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse. In 2007, he was selected to speak at the Cisco Public Services Summit during the Nobel Prize festivities in Stockholm, Sweden. His writing includes numerous articles and two best-selling books, Empowering Students With Technology and Web Literacy for Educators. November co-founded the Stanford Institute for Educational Leadership Through Technology and is most proud of being selected as one of the original five national Christa McAuliffe Educators.
Director of Professional Issues, Cleveland Teachers Union
Mark Baumgartner has been a teacher for 23 years in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). For the last 21 years he has taught 7th grade English at Luis Munoz Marin School. He is currently an elected officer with the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) and also the director of professional issues for the CTU, a position he has held for the past 4 years.
In the role of director, Baumgartner works with the chief academic officer and the chief executive officer on the academic reforms for CMSD. He has co-led the roll-out of the Scope & Sequence Pacing Guide, the writing of the Gates Foundation Grant for the Common Core implementation, co-chairing the Peer Assistance and Review Governing Board, and co-writing the Race to the Top (RttT) Scope of Work, and co-leading the RttT Transformation Team.
His responsibilities in his CTU post also include being the co-chair of the Promoting Education Advancement in Cleveland/Peer Assistance and Review (PEAC/PAR) Governing Board and co-chair of the Cleveland Race to the Top Transformation Team.
Associate Superintendent, Office of Shared Accountability,
Montgomery County Public Schools (Rockville, Md.)
Talley serves Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools as the associate superintendent for the Office of Shared Accountability, which provides information and analysis to support continuous improvement of both academic and operational services. The Office of Shared Accountability (OSA) has used predictive analytics to create the 7 Keys to College and Career Readiness, SAT/ACT monitoring tool, and a Maryland State Assessment prediction tool to help school staff support student achievement. OSA was created to develop a system of shared accountability at all levels to promote equity and excellence and ensure college readiness. It was important to move from a culture of individual responsibility to a system of shared accountability.
His office oversees the Department of Policy, Records, and Reporting, the Applied Research Unit, the Program Evaluation Unit, the Internal Audit Unit, and the Testing Unit. Montgomery County is the 16th largest school district in the United States, with more than 146,000 students and 200 schools.
Before beginning his current job in 2011, Talley was one of six MCPS community superintendents, a role in which he directly supported and supervised 40 schools with a total of some 30,000 students. He was a community superintendent for five years after serving for one year as director of school performance.
Before he became a central-office administrator, Talley was the principal of Rosemont Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Md., and the principal of Hutchinson Elementary School in Pelham, N.Y. He has taught in Montgomery County and in Fairfax County, Va.
Talley has presented at local and national conferences on a variety of topics, including effective use of Title 1 funding and systematic approaches to closing the achievement gap.
Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators
The executive director of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) since July 2008, Domenech has more than 36 years’ experience in public education, 27 of them as a superintendent. Before starting his current job, he served as senior vice president for national urban markets with McGraw-Hill Education. In that role, he was responsible for building strong relationships with large school districts nationwide.
Domenech served for seven years as superintendent of Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, the 12th-largest school system in the nation, with 168,000 students. Domenech began his teaching career in New York City, where he taught 6th grade in South Jamaica, Queens. He then became program director for the Nassau Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the largest intermediate school district in New York State.
He subsequently served as superintendent Deer Park and South Huntington school districts, both on Long Island. From 1994 to 1997, he was district superintendent of the Second Supervisory District of Suffolk County and chief executive officer of the Western Suffolk BOCES.
Among other leadership posts in education organizations, Domenech was the elected president of the AASA from July 1998 to June 1999. In addition, he has served on the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment Governing Board, on the advisory board for the Department of Defense schools, and on the board of directors of the Association for the Advancement of International Education. He currently serves on the board of overseers for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and on the boards of the Institute for Educational Leadership, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the Education Policy Institute and is the chair of Communities in Schools of Virginia.
Superintendent, Hillsborough County Public Schools
Elia has been the superintendent of the Hillsborough County Public Schools, based in Tampa, Fla., since 2005. Under her leadership, this demographically diverse school district—the eighth-largest in the nation, with 193,000 students—has emerged as a hub for innovative approaches to K-12 learning.
Hillsborough County is a national leader in implementing the Common Core State Standards at the classroom level. To support that initiative, the district has created a site-based learning model and developed an assessment protocol to determine which methods for implementation are most effective.
After Elia’s first year as superintendent the district earned its first overall grade of A under the state’s school grading system, and it has earned three more since.
Elia began her career as a social studies teacher in upstate New York in 1970. In 1986, she relocated to the Tampa Bay area and became a reading resource specialist. She served as the Hillsborough County district’s first magnet schools supervisor, as its general director of secondary education, and as its chief facilities officer.
Her many honors include the College Board’s District of the Year Beacon Award, the Florida Department of Education’s Data Leader of the Year award, the Inaugural Governor’s Business Partnership Award from the Florida Council of 100, and the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations’ 2007 Superintendent of the Year.
In 2009, her district was awarded what appears to be the largest grant ever given to a school district: $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support teacher effectiveness.
Secretary of Education, DelawareAppointed state education secretary in January 2009, Lowery directs the work of the Delaware Department of Education. In that role, she oversees federal and state policy and regulatory implementation and leads technical assistance for the state’s districts and charter schools.Lowery facilitated a statewide strategic-planning and grant-application process that resulted in Delaware’s selection in March 2010 as the first state awarded a federal Race to the Top grant to put aggressive, systemic education reform into practice. That process brought together teachers, administrators, representatives from employee unions and associations, members of the state’s Vision 2015 coalition, business leaders, parent and family advocates, and representatives of higher education, philanthropy, the governor’s office, the legislature, and the state board of education.Thanks to her extensive teaching and local administrative experience, Lowery is sensitive to the challenges that Delaware’s districts and charter schools face and works di rectly with local leadership to effectively implement state and federal initiatives.Lowery previously served as superintendent of Delaware’s largest school district, Christina, with some 2,200 employees and 17,000 students. She was responsible for enhancing educational programs and improving student achievement. She also identified, through her request for a comprehensive audit, and closed a $17.5 million year-over-year budget deficit and led the district back to solvency.Before coming to Delaware, Lowery worked as assistant superintendent of Cluster VII for the Fairfax County Public Schools, in Virginia, and as an area administrator for the Fort Wayne Community Schools, in Indiana. She has experience as a building administrator and middle and high school English teacher in school districts in Virginia and North Carolina.
Delaware joins dozens of states in helping write a framework for new national science standards.WDEL’s Amy Cherry reports.“Mediocrity is not a good place where we want to be. Delaware usually falls right in the middle of the pack,” says Education Secretary Lillian Lowery.That’s why the First State will help draft what’s called the Next Generation Science Standards — content that all students must know before they can graduate.Lowery says the change is similar to what the Common Core Standards did for English Language Arts and Math.“We have to put rigor where our children are really college and career ready by the time they graduate from high school,” Lowery says.Because she says…“We know that if children in other countries can step up to high expectations early on, our American children can certainly do the same,” says Lowery.
Report, Book Probe a Districtwide Scale-Up EffortBy Sarah D. Sparks on May 16, 2011 6:13 PMChanges in student demographics can play havoc with a school’s instructional model, but a school can weather transitions better if it builds in structures that promote trust, experimentation and feedback among adults and children, according to a study by the American Institutes of Research and the Bloomington, Ind.-based HOPE Foundation.Researchers tracked the three-year implementation of the Mansfield Independent School District’s “Courageous Leadership Academy,” which developed leadership teams at each school focused on improving student engagement and instructional leadership as well as developing decisionmaking protocols.The teams focused on identifying what HOPE Foundation President Alan M. Blankstein calls “positive deviants”—sites or even individual classes or teachers that seem to be outliers at the top end of test performance, student engagement or other measures, based on their student demographics and school characteristics. Over time, the teams districtwide cull best practices based on these outliers and expand them to other schools.Researchers studied three-year implementation of 14 intermediate, middle and high schools that began the program in 2007-08, plus 20 elementary schools that started implementation in 2008-09. They tracked the state reading and math assessment scores of the students from 2004-05 to 2009-10.Over the three years, AIR found implementation of the system was associated with higher test scores across the schools studied during the first but not the second cohort of students, with closer implementation associated with better achievement. Neither cohort beat the state average scores in math or reading, but in 2011, while the 40,000-student district continues to see rising low-income and English-language learner students, it was recognized for achievement by the Texas education agency for having 88.5 percent of students overall above proficient in math and language arts.
Rebecca Herman, AIR’s managing research analyst, has called the results “promising,” and she, Mr. Blankstein, and a slew of education watchers met earlier today to discuss next steps for the research at a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. Mr. Blankstein plans to dig into both Mansfield’s and other districts’ experiences in a new book, The Answer Is In the Room; How Effective Schools Scale Up Student Success, coming out later this month.
Superintendent, Fulton County Schools
Avossa became the superintendent of Georgia’s Fulton County school system in June 2011. As the district’s leader, he is responsible for approximately 93,000 students, 100 schools, more than 13,500 employees, and an $819.5 million general fund budget.
Before coming to Fulton County, Avossa served as the chief strategy and accountability officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in North Carolina. In that role, he led the district in driving key performance-management initiatives. He also previously served as one of the district’s area superintendents and as chief of staff to the superintendent. He earlier spent more than a decade in Florida as a teacher and principal.
Avossa has a diversity of experience, with key roles at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He has been a teacher in middle and high schools, the principal of a large Title I elementary school, and the principal of a comprehensive high school with more than 3,250 students. His work in those positions earned him the designation of Young Educator of the Year by the state of Florida in 2003.
Avossa holds a bachelor’s degree in exceptional education and behavior disorders as well as a master’s degree in special education. He also holds a specialist’s degree in educational leadership and is a 2011 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.
Superintendent of Public Instruction, IndianaSince becoming Indiana’s state schools chief in January 2009, Bennett has worked to create a department of education focused on student learning and to implement his vision that “the academic achievement and career preparation of all Indiana students will be the best in the United States and on par with the most competitive countries in the world.”His goals include creating and promoting a statewide culture of academic excellence in which at least 90 percent of students pass both the math and English/language arts sections of the state’s ISTEP+ and end-of-course assessments; at least 25 percent of all graduates receive a score of 3, 4, or 5 on at least one Advanced Placement exam, a 4 or higher on an International Baccalaureate exam, or the equivalent of 3 semester hours of college credit during high school ; and at least 90 percent of students graduate.In the first legislative session after he became state chief, Bennett actively encouraged the Indiana General Assembly to accelerate the state’s school accountability timeline to allow the state to step in earlier to provide resources to chronically failing schools. Bennett has opposed efforts to impose moratoriums on public charter schools. In March 2011, he announced that the state education department would, for the first time in years, enforce a law requiring students to receive 180 full days of instruction.Bennett also created the Graduation Rate Performance Program to reward principals and educators whose guidance and leadership result in increased graduation rates. The program awarded up to $20,000 to staff members of 12 public high schools with the greatest increase in 2009-10 graduation rates.For more than 20 years, Bennett has served Indiana schools as a teacher, coach, and administrator. He began his career in administration after nine years in the classroom as a science teacher.
Associate Superintendent, Office of Innovation, St. Louis Public School District
In 2010 Michael Haggen joined the St. Louis Public School District as an associate superintendent to manage the district’s 11 lowest-performing schools chosen for the federal School Improvement Grant program, effectively creating the Office of Innovation.
During the first year of the grant, Haggen focused efforts on creating conditions for improvement, which included technology improvements, professional development, a three-tiered scholastic reading program, and extended-learning opportunities. Forty-six new positions were also created to support students and faculty at the schools. Notably, the SIG schools made numerous academic gains during the 2010-11 school year.
Because of Haggen’s proven success in restoring academic stability, the district decided to add 14 additional low-performing schools under the Office of Innovation to implement comprehensive school improvement models that require significant staff changes, professional development, and revamped curriculum to improve student achievement.
This is the not the first time Michael Haggen has restored academics and schools. He earned his rank after spending years in the classroom as a teacher and principal in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, he started a charter high school and soon thereafter became the chief academic officer of the Recovery School District before eventually earning the title of deputy superintendent of the Office of School Management.
Superintendent, Columbus City Schools
Gene T. Harris is the superintendent of the Columbus City Schools, Ohio’s largest school district, with more than 53,000 students and over 7,700 employees. She is a Columbus native with deep roots in the local community and direct experience with public schools as diverse as those of Ghana and China. Harris began her career in the district as a teacher of English and drama, moved from the classroom to become a supervisor of principals, and became deputy superintendent in 2000 and then superintendent in 2001.
Harris has worked on a variety of fronts to raise student achievement and better prepare Columbus students for postsecondary success. In the 2010-11 school year, for example, the district opened two gender-based middle schools, one for boys and one for girls; started a new international high school; and launched a K-8 international studies program. These programs are in addition to the STEM-focused schools districtwide that use technology, classroom lessons, and industry internships to prepare students for work in science, technology, engineering, and math. U.S. News & World Report ranked 12 of the district’s high schools among the nation’s best in 2010.
Columbus’ academic initiatives also include a no-cost summer institute to help students pass the Ohio Graduation Test; K-12 summer programming available to all students; a Virtual High School Program; a credit-recovery program; and the CCS Higher Education Partnership. The partnership provides a single point of contact between the district and 10 central Ohio colleges and universities to develop programs that boost achievement and college readiness.
Since 2002, Columbus has invested more than $521 million in new facilities, with the work completed on time and within budget. In 2008, voters approved a combined mill levy and bond issue, generating $77 million a year in operating funds. The district is using $123 million from the bond issue to replace or renovate 10 more schools and $41 million to buy new buses, textbooks, and computers—while making $76 million in reductions to remain fiscally responsible. Other initiatives target increased parent and community engagement and higher standards of customer service.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ohio
Stan Heffner is focused on the future of Ohio’s 1.8 million public school students and the impact they will have on our state. Knowing of the direct link between our state’s economy and its education system, he is committed to renewing Ohio’s position in the world through our public schools. Although he has not completed a full year as Ohio’s 36th State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Heffner has dramatically changed the conversation among educators about what it means to prepare students to be ready for their choice of college or career. He is leading efforts to reform how Ohio holds schools and districts accountable for student success. In addition to enhancing instructional efforts, he is mindful of fiscal challenges. By working collaboratively with state and local leaders, Superintendent Heffner is advocating for a greater degree of shared services among districts, municipalities and regions. He also understands the unique set of challenges and needs across Ohio’s school districts and community schools. Upon assuming his new role, he streamlined the Ohio Department of Education to be customer-focused and results-driven to better serve the education community.
Superintendent Heffner has worked at the Ohio Department of Education since 2004 previously serving as the Associate Superintendent for Curriculum and Assessment. A lifelong educator, Superintendent Heffner began his career as a classroom teacher and has served the roles of principal and local district superintendent. He completed his doctoral course work at the University of Idaho after receiving his master’s degree in school administration and his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Northern State University in South Dakota.
Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Chancellor
New York City Department of EducationPolakow-Suransky oversees all of the New York City school system’s instructional work. In that role, he leads the Division of Academics, Performance, and Support, which manages the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, design and administration of summative and formative assessments, school accountability initiatives, leadership development, and direct operational and instructional support to schools. Previously, as deputy chancellor for performance and accountability, he led the city education department’s efforts to provide schools with professional development and tools to accelerate student learning, and to use data to evaluate school quality and improve student performance.Polakow-Suransky has worked in the New York City public schools since 1994, when he started his career as a teacher of mathematics and social studies. In 2001, he became the founding principal of Bronx International High School, a highly successful school for students who are recent immigrants. He has worked in several roles at the education department focused on building instructional capacity for teachers and principal; he has served as a Leadership Academy facilitator, deputy CEO for the Office of New Schools, and chief academic officer for Empowerment Schools. He is a 2008 graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy.
Acting Commissioner of Education, New JerseyAs acting state schools chief, Cerf oversees a system encompassing 2,500 public schools, 1.4 million students, and 110,000 teachers in more than 600 school districts. A nationally recognized expert in comprehensive school-system reform, Cerf is focused on closing New Jersey’s academic achievement gap while substantially raising the achievement level of all its students. He is working to make the state’s education system one that accelerates student learning, offers expanded high-quality choice, and better prepares students for college and careers.Before his appointment by Gov. Chris Christie on January 18, 2011, Cerf was the CEO of Sangari Global Education, which offers programming to more than 500,000 students worldwide. From 2004 to 2009, he was deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, a job in which he oversaw organizational strategy, innovation, labor relations, and all matters pertaining to the recruitment, support, development, and evaluation of the nearly 80,000 teachers and 1,450 principals in the nation’s largest school district. Previously, as a partner in the Public Private Strategy Group, he served as then-Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s chief adviser on transformation; in that role, he led efforts to redesign the financial and organizational structure of the city school district.Cerf served for eight years as the president and chief operating officer of Edison Schools Inc., the nation’s largest private-sector manager of public schools. He earlier served as associate counsel to President Bill Clinton, as a partner in two Washington law firms, and as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. A graduate of Amherst College, Cerf spent four years as a high school history teacher in Cincinnati before attending and graduating from Columbia Law School. He graduated from the Broad Urban Superintendents Academy in 2004.
Deputy Chancellor of Curriculum, Instruction, and Student Services, Florida
In her position as Florida’s deputy chancellor of curriculum, instruction, and student services, Tappen is focused on moving the state to be among the nation’s leaders in preparing students for the future through national common-core standards and assessment.
Tappen’s three decades as an educator in Florida includes more than 11 years as a middle-grades teacher in the Wakulla and Duval county school districts. She then worked as a teacher trainer at the district level. From Duval County, she moved to the state department of education and served as the mathematics coordinator of Florida’s Statewide Systemic Initiative, a nationally funded program for science and mathematics.
She began her work with the department in 2003, serving over the years in a variety of capacities: research associate and bureau chief in charge of school improvement in Florida; deputy chancellor for K-12 public schools/student achievement; and director of Florida’s Office of Mathematics and Science.
Associate Superintendent, Division of Learning, Ohio Department of Education
Herrholtz joined the Ohio Department of Education in September 2011 as the associate superintendent for the newly created Division of Learning. His areas of responsibility include the offices dealing with curriculum and instruction, assessment, exceptional children, early learning, instructional technology, educator effectiveness, educator licensure, professional conduct, and educator equity and talent.
He served more than 10 years as a district-level superintendent, most recently with the Auglaize County Educational Service Center near Lima, Ohio. He has served at all levels of administration in rural, urban, and suburban settings, and was an adjunct faculty member in the graduate school of education at Bowling Green State University. Earlier in his career, he was a high school teacher and coach with a special interest in Model United Nations programming.
Herrholtz has extensive experience in licensure as a board member and past chair of the state Credential Review Board, which reviews alternative pathways to educator licensure. As a member of the board since its inception in 2005, he has helped shape its direction and structure.
He has presented on extensively on various topics, both in Ohio and nationally. He has conducted professional development for teachers and administrators on topics ranging from Baldrige in the Classroom to Teacher Collaboration.
Columbus, OH April 16, 2012