Minnesota superintendent wins "Civic Imagination" award

By: | November 4, 2015

Kathy Kelly, superintendent of Columbia Heights Public Schools in Minnesota, received the 2015 L. Anthony Sutin Civic Imagination Award from the U.S. Department of Justice. The award recognizes Kelly’s efforts to build trust between law enforcement and students.

Working with the local police chief, Kelly instituted youth outreach programs designed to provide students with opportunities to interact with law enforcement and create an open dialogue. Juvenile arrests in the town dropped from 243 in 2007 to 106 in 2014. And K12 suspensions are down 130 percent.

Richard Machesky, superintendent of the Troy School District in Michigan, was named 2015 Outstanding Superintendent Communicator by the Michigan School Public Relations Association in October. Machesky has held coffee groups with parents, and has met and spoken with many service organizations.

He also spearheaded various communication programs, including a districtwide branding initiative, a monthly newsletter, two video podcast series and a weekly email for district staff.

Former Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Brenda Blackburn began her new position as superintendent of South Carolina’s Berkeley County School District in November. Berkeley County, a district of 32,300, is growing by 1,000 students per year, with enrollment expected to reach 55,000 by 2035.

Blackburn says the growth will be a challenge, but her top goal is increasing student achievement. She plans to use social media to keep the community involved in the district’s work.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo won unanimous approval from the state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education for the allocation of $20 million in special capital funding. The money will be used for school building renovation projects across 20 communities.

While some schools need just a coat of paint, others have serious problems such as leaking ceilings. The projects range from costing $10,000 to $1 million.

Deborah L. Wortham was named interim superintendent of East Ramapo Central School District in New York. Last fall, a state investigation found that East Ramapo school board members diverted money from public schools to children attending private religious institutions, leaving the district in financial trouble.

A state-appointed team studying the district’s operations will offer recommendations this school year. Wortham is the former superintendent of Long Island’s Roosevelt Union Free School District, which had been run by the state for 11 years. The high school improved during her tenure, but the state declared the middle school “struggling.”