Profile

Wayne M. Carle

He Models Civil Leadership by JAY GOLDMAN


What will Wayne Carle’s colleagues miss most when he retires June 30 from the superintendency in Jefferson County, Colo.?

Carle himself got a hint of the answer when colleagues began scrambling several months ago to find a successor to take over the valuable, eight-page "Jeffco Issues Scan" he personally has compiled each month for the past 10 years. The newsletter, distinguished by its blue stock and distributed to several hundred individuals, summarizes new books and long articles from sundry sources on educational practices, technology, brain research, diversity, and other forces affecting K-12 schooling.

"My belief is to be effective, educational leaders, including teachers, need a wide understanding of what is impacting education," says Carle, who turned 67 in March. "I used to fret that coming out of education school, educators tend to close the books and just go on with their work."

Although the reading and compiling for the newsletter typically occurred in the wee hours or over weekends, he relished the task since it drew on his old skills in journalism, the field he first entered in the late 1940s while an undergraduate at Brigham Young University. He served as student body president and newspaper editor at Provo High School in Utah.

Carle is bowing out with grace after 10 years of public service in the burgeoning Jefferson County school system, the past three as superintendent. During his distinguished career, he served as district superintendent in Hammond, Ind., and Dayton, Ohio, and assistant state superintendent in Ohio, and spent nearly a decade as a vice president and professor at Texas Southern University.

At every stop he has brought along a cool, calm sense of rational thinking—a talent put to the test in Jefferson County, a district ravaged by ideological politics during the 1980s and early ‘90s.

"Wayne took over a school district with a very, very philosophically split board and got them to work together, which was amazing since this was a board known for its 3-2 votes," says Tony Messenger, editor and columnist for The Canyon Courier. "With Wayne, you never know what side he’s lining up on. He’s very diplomatic and comes up with a practical solution that doesn’t necessarily make either side completely happy."

Richard Weber, who directs the Colorado Association of School Administrators, calls Carle "the consummate gentleman."

He has earned such plaudits by deftly restoring a dose of civility to the Jefferson County school board—an accomplishment the National School Boards Association recognized in April by giving the board a Magna Award for its peacekeeping efforts.

Carle, whose battle scars date back to his racial integration work in Dayton almost 30 years ago, says he first tried to "create an atmosphere in which every viewpoint could be heard and respected." Later, he got board members to agree on a code of conduct for themselves, which he then printed on cards to be placed at the board table and copied on each meeting agenda.

Civil behavior has reigned for the most part during the three years Carle has directed the development and implementation of standards-based reform in his 87,000-student district. Competency skills already have been put in place in a half dozen content areas, including math, science, and history, while higher standards are being tested in another six subjects, such as civics and economics.

"The conflict is behind us," he says. "We’re now into how teachers use standards to focus on results."

Carle also lists among his accomplishments in Jefferson County the completion of the largest school building program in the state’s history, the result of a $325 million bond issue in 1992. With two new high schools and three elementary schools being opened in 1996-97 alone, the superintendent says it feels as if "I’m going to a dedication every week or two."

In the weeks leading up to his departure from school life, Carle says he expects initially to miss "not answering the firehouse bell," but he’ll gladly relinquish the fishbowl existence that he’s lived for so long. He has no specific plans for retirement, beyond a hunch that he’ll do some teaching on the graduate school level.

The district’s communications director, Marilyn Saltzman, suggested wishfully that maybe the superintendent would like to continue producing his environmental scan to keep a hand in educational affairs. But, she quickly added, "I don’t think he’s buying that idea."

Jay Goldman is the editor of The School Administrator. E-mail: jgoldman@aasa.org