Follow the Leader – A New Series

We are excited to announce the premiere of a new Learning Matters production, “Follow the Leader,” a web-only series that will, we hope, reveal a great deal about the men and women who lead American education. Your guide in this new series is Sam Chaltain, an educator and writer of great sensibility and intelligence. The first leader we chose to follow for a day is Josh Starr, the current Superintendent of Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland–and someone on the short list, we hear, to be Chancellor of the New York City schools.

Here’s the link to the 2-part series.

Here’s what Sam sent to his contacts: “Since his surprising victory last month, New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has sparked curiosity around the country as to whether his education policies will be the sort that make a progressive like John Dewey proud.

Speculation abounds as to whom he might choose to become the next schools chancellor of NYC — and recently, I spent a day with one of the leading contenders, Josh Starr, as part of a new web series for Learning Matters called “Follow the Leader.”

I did everything he did — from 5:30am workouts to 3-hour budget meetings. Along the way, I learned a lot about what it’s like to be an urban superintendent and got a preview of the type of leadership he might bring to the top job in New York City.”

Of course, we would love to hear your reactions to the premiere edition (post them here, please). And we want your recommendations. What other leaders would you like Sam to follow for a day? We’re operating under a big umbrella, meaning that we are defining ‘leader’ very broadly. We look forward to hearing from you.

10 thoughts on “Follow the Leader – A New Series

  1. Josh Starr was a great place to start! I hope this means you plan to look at real educators, not the phony out-of-field stand-ins representing corporate “reform.”

    Yes, absolutely include Ravitch. Also include John Kuhn, Superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Independent School District in Texas. And how about Carol Burris, Principal of Southside High School in Rockville Center, NY?

    Since you “are defining ‘leader’ very broadly,” John, I would imagine that means you are also defining “educator” very broadly. If so, and ultimately you will be including the non-educator corporate “reformers” aiming to privatize public education who have been allowed to tell actual, formally trained experienced educators how to do their jobs, (i.e., Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, hedge fund managers, Wendy Kopp and her troops of 5 week trained “teachers” with 2 to 3 years of novice classroom teaching experience, like Michelle Rhee, Kevin Huffman, John White et al., and all the charter school leaders taking in big bucks, like Ron Packard, Geoffrey Canada, Eva Moskowitz etc.), then please be sure to include pertinent background information on them, such as regarding their true status as non-educators and neophytes, training and experience or lack there of in education and educational leadership, funding sources and conflicts of interest.


  2. How about Chris Steinhauser Superintendent of Long Beach which received an award for one of the three best jurisdictions in the world. Or Mike Kirst who is President of the State Board of Education and who is one of the architects of the California alternative to high stakes testing and accountability. The California initiatives place Common Core standards and their implementation at the center of an instruction first, capacity building, and revitalize the profession strategy- a strategy pursued by the best school systems in the world.


    • For now, Bill, we have to be local (NYC area, where we are, or DC area, where Sam is), while I search for the funding to pay for taking this nationwide. I think this idea has legs, however, particularly because we are defining ‘leader’ very broadly and because the large–and growing–world of education wonks is curious about what leaders do.
      Thanks for the suggestions….


  3. How about an interesting RURAL superintendent?

    James Johnson, who heads up the Hollandale school district in the Mississippi River delta, has done a lot while dealing with many of the challenges entrenched in rural communities across the country. I could fill you in more, if it’s of interest. (I met him via my work at Scholastic.)


  4. My son and his wife are both educators. Two years ago they asked “real teachers” to tell their story about teaching. If you want a true insight to America classrooms pick up this book and share the stories in “What Teaching Means: Stories from America’s Classroom.”

    Praise for What Teaching Means:

    “Daniel Boster and Marni Valerio have created a timely and provocative book that will be a catalyst for meaningful conversations . . . Teacher education programs will benefit from these concrete experiential accounts as reflective studies of classroom practice. Additionally, this book will interest all concerned with productively addressing the complexities of classrooms and building education policies and practices which value and are informed by the insights and experiences of practitioners in the field.”

    Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta

    Professor, Teaching, Learning, & Teacher Education

    University of Nebraska at Lincoln


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