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District Leader

District Leader: Transforming Education is a podcast about moving and inspiring educators and non-educators alike to believe in the power of education, its leaders, and its transformation. Each week, host Luis Valentino interviews district leaders who share their stories.
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Feb 8, 2017

My guest this week is Dr. Michael Lubelfeld, Superintendent of the Deerfield Public Schools, in Deerfield, IL.  Originally, also had Dr. Nick Polyak, Superintendent of the Leyden Community High School District #212, in Franklin Park, IL scheduled to join the conversation.  Unfortunately, he was called away, and was unable to join us.  


If the the names sound familiar, it is because both Mike and Nick were previous guests on our program.  Nick was our guest, Episode 07, and Mike was our guest, Episode 13.  I invite you to listen to these episodes.   Mike and Nick have just published  The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today, and I invited them to join me in a conversation to discuss their new book.   I am excited to have Mike on District Leader.  But before we talk with Michael, I would like to take a moment thank our sponsors.

Feb 1, 2017
My guest this week is Dr. Fred Navarro, Superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, in Costa Mesa, California A career educator, Fred  started his career as a teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District.   He has a wide range of experience having served in several positions during his career, including activities director, assistant director of human resources, middle and high school principal, and assistant superintendent of instruction.  He served as superintendent of the Lennox School District in Los Angeles County before returning the Newport-Mesa Unified School district.  At Newport-Mesa, Fred served as the principal of Costa Mesa High School and as director of secondary education at the district office, before being selected to serve as its superintendent, where he has served since August, 2012.  Fred earned his teaching credential at California State University Dominguez Hills and obtained two advanced degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles.  Fred has been married for over 29 years to his wife Lauren and they are the proud parents of two young men, Gregory and Kevin.
Jan 25, 2017

My guest this week is retired superintendent Ricardo Medina.  Ricardo has had an extensive career in education.  He has served as teacher,  site administrator, and district leader.  Ricardo served as Superintendent with the Coachella Valley Unified School District, and the Central Union High School District in California, and the Bridgeport-Spaulding Community Schools in Michigan.  He later served as Chief Human Resource Officer with the  Alum Rock Union Elementary School District  in San Jose, California. After retiring from public education,  Ricardo joined Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as Vice President of Strategic Relationships.  He recently shared with me that he was retiring from this position, as well. 


Ricardo received bachelor degrees from Saginaw Valley State University and Eastern Michigan University, in Sociology and Career/Industrial Technology Education, respectively.  He obtained his Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Michigan State University.   Ricardo has led or participated in numerous leadership programs, including  the Association of California School Administrator's Superintendent’s and Personnel Academies, the University of Michigan: Center for Educational Improvement through Collaboration, and the Ohio State University: Administrative Intern Summer Residence Program.  Ricardo has received numerous awards for his service to education, and contributes to its causes as a leader and member of numerous civic and educational organizations.

Jan 18, 2017

My guest this week on District Leader is Dr. Phil Ertl, Superintendent of the Wauwatosa School District, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.  Phil has served as the Superintendent of Schools in Wauwatosa School District, in Wisconsin, since 2005. Wauwatosa is an inner ring suburb of Milwaukee that serves a diverse student population of 7,300 students.  Phil started his career in education as a teacher and coach in the Marble Falls Independent School District in Texas and the Tomah Area School District in Wisconsin.  He was a middle school principal in the Menasha Joint School District in Wisconsin, as well as an associate principal at the High School in Menasha.  Prior to his superintendency in Wauwatosa, Phil was the Superintendent of the Kiel Area School District, where he served for 5 years.    Phil obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, at LaCrosse, and his master’s degree in educational administration from Winona State University.  He received his doctoral degree in Education from Columbia University in New York.

Dec 21, 2016
Hi everyone, and welcome to District Leader.  We’re taking a break for the holidays, but will be returning with incredible guests in the new year.  In the meantime, I invite you to listen to our past District Leader podcasts.  For educators this is a special time to power down from the work of school and district, and all of the challenges faced on a daily basis.  The respite comes with an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, read a good book, watch all of those shows that have been recorded, but not yet seen, sleep late, sleep early, eat better, take a walk, and just relax.
 
As we close out 2016, I have to tell you that this experience has been incredible. I have met some amazing leaders with great stories to tell. And I have not only enjoyed talking with them, but have learned a lot from listening to them share their experiences.  And I hope that you have, as well. The guests that we have scheduled for 2017 will continue to move and inspire us to consider the power of education in helping to transform society, by helping to create a great future for all of the students these leaders serve.  
 
The District Leader podcast has grown since launching in June, 2015, when I interviewed my first guest,  Richard Carranza, who was then the Superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, and is now serving as the Superintendent for the Houston Independent School District.    The District Leader podcasts have been downloaded over 54,000 times.  In November, our last full month, the podcasts were downloaded 15,852 times.  I thank you, our District Leader community, for spending time with us.  Through the podcasts, I believe that together we contribute to the edification of those interested in education, leadership, and in the men and women who make the superintendency an important part of their life’s work.
 
On behalf of District Leader, and all our guests, on this, our 25th episode, an appropriate coincidence, I would like to wish each and every one of you a happy holiday.  May 2017 become the canvas for you to continue to do incredible things, in incredible ways, producing incredible results
Dec 14, 2016

My guest this week is Dr. Randy Ziegenfuss.  Randy currently serves as Superintendent in the Salisbury Township School District, in Allentown, PA.  Prior to his current position, Randy was a classroom teacher, Department Chair, Technology Integration Specialist, Director of Technology and an Assistant Superintendent.  Randy is also Clinical Adjunct Professor of Education at Moravian College, teaching courses in inquiry, assessment and technology in the undergraduate, graduate and principal certification programs. He graduated from Moravian College with a B.Mus. degree, earned his M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University in technology leadership, and an Ed.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in educational and organizational leadership. In 2014, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA) recognized Randy as the Outstanding District Administrator for the state of Pennsylvania. In 2015, Randy was recognized by the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology (PAECT) as the Outstanding Leader of the Year.  You can read more of Randy’s work in his blog WorkingAtTheEdge.org and you can listen to his podcast, TLTTalkRadio, which he cohosts with Lynn Fuini-Hetten at TLTalkRadio.org.

Dec 7, 2016

My guest this week is Dr. Hector Montenegro.  Hector taking a sabbatical from his work as Superintendent, but yet appears to be as busy as always.

Hector is President and CEO of Montenegro Consulting Group, and a Senior Associate for Margarita Calderon and Associates. He provides training on English learner teaching strategies, and leadership development for administrators and instructional coaches. Hector specializes in the teacher coaching process through the use of technology, video recording and observation protocols. He is also a Senior District Advisor for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and works with districts on systemic implementation of SEL.
Hector's teaching career began in San Jose, California where he taught math at the junior and senior high school levels. He later taught and served as a site administrator in Washington, DC and in Virginia. He later served as Chief of Staff of the DC Public Schools before moving to Texas where he served as a principal and an Area Superintendent in Austin, Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services in Dallas, and Superintendent of Schools for three school districts in Texas: San Marcos CISD, Ysleta ISD and Arlington ISD. Hector was later an Area Superintendent for the San Diego School District in California.  He received his masters degree from Stanford University and his doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.

Nov 30, 2016

Cindy started her career in education as a high school teacher for at-risk youth. She gained experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in urban education. She served as an assistant superintendent and superintendent of suburban school districts. Her last assignment was as Superintendent of the Abridge Area School District in Abridge, Pennsylvania. Years after her discovery that school culture was the key, Cindy created the first “Whale Done!” school. She communicated her vision to staff and parents of “catching students doing things right”. She then led the development of the new Whale Done! culture, transforming an unruly school into a national model. Cindy encouraged all stakeholders to employ three principle elements: Build Trust, Accentuate the Positive, and Redirect errors and negative behaviors when they occur.

Nov 23, 2016
Hi everyone, and welcome to District Leader.  Thank you for joining us. You know,  I had a great conversation with Superintendent Zurchin to share with you this week.   But instead,  we're taking a hiatus, with the hope that you have begun to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.  We will be returning next week with my guest, Dr. Zurchin.
 
There is much that we can be thankful for in life. Certainly there is much that I am thankful for. We are thankful for our loved ones, our health, and more importantly, the opportunity to make a difference in the world.  As educators, the work that we do is of a higher order - transforming lives - a gift bestowed upon a few.
 
As you know, gratitude and generosity are values that I believe drive great leaders and great people.  Elkhart Tolle said that "It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.”   I truly believe that our calling demands nothing less.
 
 John Wesley once wrote, “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”   How lucky are we that as educators we get to be in this space every day.
 
It is with a grateful heart that the District Leader team wishes you, our guests, and our listeners, a happy Thanksgiving.  May it be filled with great joy and peace. 
Nov 17, 2016

    Dr. Kristan Rodriguez is the Superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District in Groton, Massachusetts.  Kristan has served in a number of district leadership positions through out her career, in the area of curriculum and instruction, including Assistant Superintendent, Director of Curriculum, and Curriculum Coordinator.  Kristan began her career as a High School English Teacher, and later served as a successful Principal and Assistant Principal.   She is currently an adjunct professor in educational leadership for three local colleges.  Kristan earned her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Boston College, a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Gordon College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English Education from Boston University. 
     Kristan is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for the
Rodriguez Educational Consulting Agency. For the past fifteen years, she has been a consultant on leadership and learning, and has traveled nationally to share her expertise. Kristan has been the recipient of numerous honors including the Ansin Intercultural Research Award from Boston University.  She specializes her consulting in the application of Universal Design for Learning in educational leadership.  She co-authored a book, Universally Designed Leadership, which  is the premier title for implementing UDL in systems and schools, and was ranked in the top 100 books in Educational Administration on Amazon. 

Nov 9, 2016

Hi Everyone.  My guest this week is Dr. Ray Queener, Superintendent at Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools located in Cambridge, Minnesota.  He is a career educator who began teaching in 1990, with the Luck Public Schools, in Luck, WI, where he taught secondary math and was a K-12 Computer Coordinator/Coach. He has held positions throughout Minnesota as a Technology Coordinator and Director in South St. Paul School District, a Coordinator of Technology in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley School District, the Director of Support Services in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley along with Director of Finance in Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley. He later became Director of Finance for Stillwater Area Public Schools, then onto Assistant Superintendent in Stillwater where he served until June, 2013. Ray was selected as the Superintendent for the Cambridge-Isaniti Public Schools beginning July 2013, which is the position he holds today.  Ray has had an incredible educational career, and I am excited to have him as my guest this week.

Nov 2, 2016

Hi everyone, and welcome to District Leader.  Thank you for joining us.  I wanted to do something a little different this week.  Instead of  posting an interview with one of our  guests,  I wanted to take the opportunity to talk with you, and begin to reflect on the experience of the podcast, and what it is like to have such incredible guests each week.  The insight they have provided has been generous,  and the learning that their sharing offers has been priceless. 

Oct 26, 2016

My guest this week is Eve Kaltz, Superintendent of Center Line Public Schools in Center Line, Michigan.  Eve has served as the Superintendent of Center Line Public Schools since 2009, but has spent all of her nearly 30-year career in the district.  She began her education career as a teacher.  After teaching for 13 years, Eve was hired as the Elementary Learning Consultant for Center Line. She later served as principal of two different elementary schools, and as Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.
 
Eve received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from
Oakland University, and her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Saginaw Valley State University.  She is an active member of many educational associations such as the Galileo Institute for Teacher Leadership, the District Administration Leadership Institute, the Michigan Institute of Education ManagementMichigan CoOp, the Michigan Association of School Administrators, Oakland University’s Superintendents’ Academy, the Southwest Macomb Technical Education Consortium, the Macomb County Association of School Administrators, and the Macomb County School Boards Association. She also participates in many local civic organizations such as the Center Line Lions’ Club, the Warren Rotary Club, and the Center Line Educational Foundation and supports many organizations that put children first, such as My College Options, CARE of Southeastern Michigan, Health Heroes, and Playworks.
 
Eve believes that she is blessed to serve the students and community and has instituted many changes that have led to greater opportunities for all students.  One of her most ambitious projects has been the restructuring of Center Line High School to the academy model backed by
Ford Next Generation Learning.  Four years ago, Eve and her team began the groundwork for this vision by launching a 9th Grade Academy; this fall marked the launch of the Academies of Center Line including two career academies: the Academy of Industry, Technology & Innovation and the Academy of Health and Human Services.  Eve was honored to present the etiology of Center Line’s transformative model and her ideas for the future of secondary education at the Fall MASA Conference as well as the MAS/FPS 2016 Fall Directors’ Institute.  Other forward-thinking innovations she has brought to Center Line Schools include Academy 21, an alternative program which offers a blended environment with a flexible structure. This program has proven to be very successful for both students with credits to recover as well as advanced students; the authorization of Rising Stars Academy, an incredible culinary arts, farm-to-plate program that serves students who are cognitively impaired who are between the ages of 18 and 26 years; and the Homeschool Partnership, a cooperative arrangement that provides local students with opportunities to take multiple elective courses with others that has grown exponentially.

 

Eve is a leader of great faith, and believes that it has guided her along her leadership journey, and plays an important role in her daily work.

Oct 19, 2016
My guest this week is Nicholas Henkle, Superintendent of Channahon School District 17, in Channahon, Illinois.  Nick began his teaching career at Downers Grove North High School as a long-term substitute teacher.  He then taught for three years at Rockdale School near Joliet, IL, teaching Language Arts and Reading and also coaching football and basketball.  He later became the principal in Oak Lawn, IL in Atwood Heights District 125 where he served for six years. Nick accepted his first superintendency in Rockdale, IL in 2013, at the age of 32.  He now serves as the superintendent of the Channahon School District 17, where he serves 1,300 outstanding Pre-k - 8th grade students.  Nick has served as an adjunct professor for aspiring administrators through Saint Xavier University and has provided professional development at state conferences through the Illinois Association of School Administrators.  
 
Nick earned his bachelor's degree in English with a teaching endorsement in Language Arts at Northern Illinois University. He obtained his masters degree from the University of St. Francis in 2007, at the age of 26.  While serving as principal, Nick enrolled in the doctoral program at Illinois State University.  He  expects to defend his dissertation in January, 2017. His dissertation is a comparative case study of high achieving school districts in Illinois serving economically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse student populations.  Nick also obtained his superintendent endorsement in 2013.      
 
Nick is an active member of numerous organizations, including the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the American Association of School Superintendents, The Suburban Superintendents' Association (Chicago suburbs), and the Illinois Association of Christian Administrators, which he co-founded.  Nick earned two university academic awards for his work at Illinois State as well as the Illinois Association of School Administrator's Moon Scholarship for aspiring superintendents.   Links to these organizations as well as other information shared in his bio will be available on the District Leader website.
 
His interests and passions revolve around service leadership, innovation/creativity, classroom differentiation through technology, community-focused schools, and meeting the needs of a diverse learning community.  Nick is an advocate for 21st Century Learning and helped to introduce the 21st Century Learning initiative in  Channahon District 17.  
Oct 12, 2016

Diann Kitamura is the superintendent of the Santa Rosa City School District, in Santa Rosa, California.  Since February, 2016, she has served as superintendent of the Santa Rosa City School District, where she also served as the associate and assistant superintendent.  She previously served as the assistant superintendent and director in the Grant High School District, and a coordinator in the Hayward Unified School District.  Diann began her career as an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Maxwell High School. She was a school counselor at Maxwell High School and then at Galt High School.  While in the Galt High School District, she became a vice principal and a principal. Diann earned her bachelor’s degree in plant science from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and a master’s degree in counseling from California State University, Sacramento.  Among her many accomplishments, Diann was named Sonoma County Assistant Superintendent of the Year for 2015, the KRCB (NPR) American Graduate Champion in 2015, received the California School Boards Association (CSBA) Golden Bell Award in 2014, was selected to the California School Board Association Superintendents' Advisory Council, and was awarded a 2016 Brandman University Doctoral Fellowship.  Diann is committed to serving students and their families by ensuring that quality educational opportunities are provided for all students.  She believes that "sense-making learning experiences" and "support systems that engage students" will inspire them to dream big, to persevere, and to thrive.  She is the proud mother of two adult children, and the wife of a middle school teacher.

Oct 5, 2016

Rich Merlo is the Superintendent of the Corcoran Unified School District.  He began his career in education in 1977 as a biology and physical education instructor and coach. He became an assistant principal in 1994 and served as principal for the next eight years. Rich also taught at Kings River Community College, and is currently an online instructor for the University of Phoenix.

     His education includes a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in education from Stanford University. Rich also holds a master’s degree in education administration from Fresno Pacific University. He completed the Superintendent’s Academy from the Association of California School Administrators.   He also obtained his community college teaching credential. 
     Rich has served as Corcoran’s Superintendent since 2004. He is passionate about raising the achievement level of all Corcoran students through “motivating people to motivate students.” A key part of his mission is ensuring that staff and students have the most innovative tools and technology available to enhance student learning and to prepare students for success in this Information Age.
Twice, Rich has been honored Central Sequoia Football Coach of the Year, and has served as head coach of the County All Star Team.  He has been Selma Unified School District Teacher of the Year and Fresno County Administrator of the Year finalist. He received the Association of California School Administrators Region 11 Administrator of the Year Award in 2011, and was a Lexington Institute Leadership Fellow in 2015.
     Rich is very active in his community, as a member of the Corcoran Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and Community and Schools Together (CAST).  He is also a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee for California State Prison - Corcoran and Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and Prison at Corcoran.  he sits on the President’s Advisory Committee for the School of Education at California State University, Fresno, and is Executive Leadership Council for the Central Valley Educational Leadership Institute.  He is a member of the Rural Schools Network for the Central Valley.

Sep 28, 2016

Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D. is the Superintendent of Schools, Deerfield Public Schools, in Deerfield, IL (DPS 109). In addition, he has worked as an adjunct professor, advisor, and supervisor at Chicago-area Universities in the Department of Educational Leadership. A public school educator and educational leader for nearly 25 years, Lubelfeld has served as an assistant superintendent, a middle school associate principal, a principal, and a middle school teacher, teaching social studies, reading, and civics. Earning his doctorate in education in curriculum and instruction allowed Lubelfeld to test theories of learning in action. He was named one of the top 5 Bammy Superintendent Finalists, he is a fierce advocate for Illinois Vision 20/20, he was honored as one of three finalists for the 2015 NASS (National Association of School Superintendents) superintendent of the year award, and he is the co-moderator of #suptchat the first Wednesday of every month at 7PM (with Nick Polyak of Leyden High School District).

Sep 21, 2016
Dr. Shane Hotchkiss is the Superintendent of the Bermudian Springs School District, York Springs, PA. Shane went earned his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a M.ED. in Education with a certification as a Reading Specialist, from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. He obtained his principal certification from Pennsylvania State University and his Doctorate from Widener University.
 
Shane began his teaching career as an elementary school teacher in the New Kent County School District, in VA.  He has served as a teacher and administrator in the Central Dauphin School District, in PA. He is in his 5th year as superintendent of the Bermudian Springs School District, where he also served as an assistant superintendent.
 
Shane has been a member of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) since 2011, serving on the Professional Development Committee since 2013. He has participated in and presented at association sponsored professional development programs including the New Superintendents’ Academy, and has represented the Association on important issues. Most recently, he advocated in Harrisburg for a fair state budget that supports the needs of the students of Pennsylvania. Shane has been an active member of the American Association of School Administrators since 2012, having completed the National Superintendent Certification Program and now serves as one of the Pennsylvania representatives on the AASA Governing Board. Shane was also recognized as a 2010 ASCD Emerging Leader.
Sep 15, 2016

David Tebo is the Superintendent for the Hamilton Community Schools, Hamilton, Michigan.  David is a passionate superintendent. He is a father, husband and avid reader who relentlessly seeks ways to meet the needs of ALL students. David has been an elementary teacher, a building principal, and is now in his second superintendency, serving students. A life-long learner, David constantly looks for ways to connect education to the world around us. He sees today's technological resources as a way to design new learning experiences that meet ALL learners where they are, giving them skills and context for their learning.

Sep 7, 2016

Dr. Danna Diaz is the Superintendent of the San Juan School District in Washington. Danna has served the interest of public schools spanning 4 decades in various positions in both large and small school systems. Her administrative career includes 20 years as an Administrator in eleven districts across four states - Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and Washington.

Known for her no non-sense attitude and unparalleled work ethic, Danna’s reputation in the education community precedes her - which is why she was asked to join the San Juan Island School District.  Prior to joining the San Juan Island School District, Danna worked as an Area Superintendent for the El Paso ISD, as Director of Student Engagement for the Fort Worth ISD.  She was instrumental in the development, implementation and evaluation of district programs and services that address academic achievement, student leadership development, school completion and college readiness.

In addition, for all the years she tirelessly worked her way through the ranks, her proudest moment includes not one, but two Teacher of the Year awards earning the respect of her peers and high level administrators.

Aug 31, 2016

  Dr. Xavier de la Torre is the Superintendent of the Ysleta Independent School District (YISD) in El Paso, Texas.  Prior to joining YISD in 2014, Xavier served as the Superintendent of Schools in the neighboring Socorro Independent School District (SISD), and as the County Superintendent of Schools with the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE).

     During his three-year tenure at SISD, Xavier emerged as a dynamic instructional leader and nationally recognized superintendent who was credited with securing two consecutive Broad Prize award nominations (2009 and 2010) and three consecutive Texas Education Agency (TEA) Recognized District distinctions (2009, 2010, and 2011). In 2010, 37 of the 39 eligible Socorro schools were rated “Recognized” or “Exemplary” on the state of Texas Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS). 

     As County Superintendent of Schools at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, Xavier led a regional service agency that provided leadership, instructional services, student services, and business services to 32 school districts and more than 270,000 students. His advocacy for universal pre-kindergarten programs led to the building of the first Educare facility in California.

     Xavier began his career in education as a teacher, coach and principal in various school districts in California before serving as Associate Superintendent of Human Resources in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, where he managed all aspects of personnel and labor relations. He then served as Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and Chief Labor Negotiator in the Elk Grove Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif.

     Xavier has a baccalaureate from California State University, Chico, a master’s degree from the University of San Francisco, and a doctorate degree from University of California, Davis. Born and raised in northern California, Xavier is married, and has five beautiful  children.

Aug 24, 2016
Derk Garcia is Superintendent of Schools of the Roseville City School District, in Roseville, California.  He began his career in education as a teacher at La Entrada Continuation High School in the San Juan Unified School District.  He transitioned to the Elk Grove Unified School District where he served for eleven years as a teacher, vice principal, and principal.  Derk returned to the San Juan Unified School District as a Director, Assistant Superintendent, and Interim Chief Academic Officer prior to making the move to Superintendent within the Roseville City School District.  He believes that education has the power to elevate individuals and families for generations.  To that end, he focuses the energy and efforts of the Roseville City School District on three main drivers:  improving instruction, building capacity,  and strengthening collaboration. 
 
Derk was born and raised in Sacramento where he attended public schools within the Sacramento Unified School District. He earned a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from California State University, Sacramento.
 
He and his family live in El Dorado Hills, CA. He and his wife Jen have two boys, ages 9 and 7. Derk believes strongly in the potential of all children and therefore, dedicates a significant amount of time volunteering in his personal and professional communities. Within the personal community, he coaches youth soccer and baseball and volunteers monthly at his children’s church. On the professional side, Derk serves as board member for the Roseville City School District Foundation, Tommy Apostolos Fund and KidsFirst.
Aug 17, 2016
Dr. Polyak holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Supervision from Loyola University Chicago where he received the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award. He holds a Master of Arts Degree and Chief School Business Officer (CSBO) license from Governors State University.  He received  Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics and Secondary Education, from Augusta College.
 
Nick began his educational career in Lincoln-Way High School District 210 as a high school Math Teacher and Tennis/Soccer Coach. He has served as Dean of Students, Assistant Principal, and Director of Instruction and Staff Development. He then began his superintendency in the Peoria, for Illinois Valley Central School District #321.
 
Dr. Polyak is proud to lead an award winning school district. Over the past few years at Leyden, the district has received many honors. They were named the 2014 National Advanced Placement District of the Year by the College Board. In addition, the district has welcomed over two thousand visitors to learn about teaching and learning in a 1:1 environment. Leyden’s School Board’s support and vision for digital transformation was recognized with a Magna Award from the National School Board Association (NSBA) and a Digital Content and Curriculum Award. Both Leyden High Schools were recently named Illinois Democracy Schools. Leyden has also been named to the 2014 and 2015 Top 100 Workplaces by the Chicago Tribune.
 
Dr. Polyak believes strongly in community involvement. He is the Past-President of two different Chambers of Commerce, served four years as a School Board Member in Manhattan School District 114, coached youth sports, and has been involved in a variety of other community groups and charitable efforts. Nick completed the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) School for Advanced Leadership in 2014 and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) National Superintendent Certification Program in 2016.
Aug 10, 2016
Dr. Hightower has worked for over 20 years in education in various roles as a: teacher, mentor/coach asst. principal, principal, district level director, asst. superintendent and superintendent. Lupine holds a Bachelor’s Degree with a Bilingual Endorsement from the University of Arizona, a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Supervision and a Doctorate in Leadership and Innovation from Arizona State University.
 
Dr. Hightower was the Winner of the Jane Romatzke Out-of-School Time Leader Award in 2014 and received the National Education Leadership Award from Jobs for Arizona Graduates (JAG) in 2015. She is especially proud of her two daughters and the support of her husband. 
Aug 3, 2016

Steve Holmes, Superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District, in Tucson, Arizona.  Steve serves as the top administrator in Southern Arizona’s second largest school district.  Steve is a champion for equity, and has built a reputation for his strong advocacy of equitable services for English Language Learners. He has had multiple opportunities to provide clarity and insight to national education audiences. Steve was a facilitator on an educational panel for the National Congressional Hispanic Caucus Conference, where he spoke on policy implications for English Language Learners in relation to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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