Profile

The Top-Shelf Pick of Librarians

by Jay P. Goldman

An educator who has spent the past two decades in the superintend-ency would seem an unlikely choice to become the poster boy of school librarians everywhere, but that’s the curious berth Nate Greenberg has captured in the twilight of his career.

Greenberg, now in his ninth year heading the public schools in Londonderry, N.H., managed to land on the cover of last October’s issue of School Library Journal that declared him “Nate the Great.” While the magazine’s moniker made him the target of what he calls “merciless ribbing” from colleagues, the flattering coverage — along with the state and national honors he collected for substantial support of educational media centers — was well-deserved, recognizing a lifetime commitment.

The Brooklyn-bred school leader, who previously held superintendent posts in Portsmouth and Somersworth, N.H., and Cave Creek, Ariz., can trace his personal interest in the school library’s role to a vice principalship at Squadron Line School in Simsbury, Conn., in the mid-1970s. A progressive media center there included a wireless setup for audiovisual equipment. “The library was in the center of the school — a not-so-subtle message that a library was a core for learning,” he says.

In Londonderry, a school system with 5,800 students about 45 minutes from Boston, Greenberg has promulgated the same philosophy through strong budget support. Susan Ballard, the district’s director of library media, says his all-out promotion of action research (Greenberg offers $750 to any staff member willing to plan and carry out a project) has enabled the schools to demonstrate to the community the integrity of its instructional practices.

Adds Greenberg: “We’re long past the day when people will accept our claims based on anecdotal information.”

One internal research project in the past year examined whether personal computers could deliver elementary-level curricula as well as the Macintoshes that the district had been using. Convinced they were up to the task, Greenberg received approval from the school board to integrate lower-costing PCs into the elementary grades.

The superintendent is a formidable force on fiscal issues. On the state level, he and his school board president, Steve Young, spearheaded a potent coalition of 18 school districts and communities that successfully sued the state, in a case that reached the New Hampshire Supreme Court, over the unconstitutionality of funding public education. Acting initially out of self-interest because of the $7 million Londonderry stood to lose under a proposed rollback of aid, Greenberg says he quickly concluded, “If you look at yourself as an educator and you see unfairness in the funding of public education, it becomes a bigger issue, a cause for the entire state.”

He’s also developed new programs to return to Londonderry schools half of the 30 students with disabilities who’d been sent to other communities at tuition costs of up to $100,000 per child. A partnership with an energy consulting firm, started seven years ago, has already saved the district $2.4 million in consumption costs.

On the revenue side, Greenberg brought in a new food service director to introduce innovative cafeteria offerings, such as taco bars, that have contributed to a 20 percent increase in school lunch buying and a 40 percent boost in meal grosses.

The School Library Journal, in lauding its choice of Greenberg as the first superintendent to ever win the Administrator of the Year award, said Londonderry’s support of action research projects has given teachers and the eight library media specialists new insights into how students today learn best.

The magazine’s account included praise from a 30-year library worker, who said of Greenberg: “It’s so nice to work with an administrator [who] is so supportive. You know what it is? He gets us.”

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


BIO STATS: NATE GREENBERG

Currently: superintendent, Londonderry, N.H.

Previously: superintendent, Cave Creek, Ariz.

Age:
61

Greatest influence on career: When I worked as an assistant principal in Simsbury, Conn., the principal, Walter Dunn, instilled in me through word and deed the importance of developing and nurturing relationships with students, faculty, staff, parents, community members, school board members and administrators.

Best professional day: Jan. 13, 2005, was our first adult-education graduation, and the first bloom on the extensive work begun four years prior in developing alternative education programs at our high school. Since then, 157 individuals have graduated with more than 60 percent going on to postsecondary schools.

Books at bedside:A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink; Generations At Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace by Ron Zemke, Claire Raines and Bob Filipczak; and An Incomplete and Inaccurate History of Sport by Kenny Mayne

Biggest blooper: At 5 a.m., I cancelled school in Portsmouth for a snow day and it did not snow. Our private weather service and the local forecasters had predicted a big nor’easter to hit around 9 a.m. It started to rain and continued to rain. I knew I was cooked. After the 10th complaining phone call, I told the caller I was the custodian and I agreed with him that the superintendent was a jerk.

Why I’m an AASA member: AASA, through its online services and publications, keeps me abreast of national trends and provides connectivity to colleagues nationwide. Too, AASA’s voice in Washington has positively impacted federal education legislation.