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Profile                                                                Page 47

 

Reculturing a System for a

New Century 

 

BY LIZ GRIFFIN 

ProfileFrost
Diane Frost

Diane Frost has mastered the art of making the best of the situation at hand. When she was a high school student in eastern Nebraska, her father was the principal, a scenario she admits was “not a lot of fun.” Still, she excelled academically and followed her father into the education field.

Later, when her husband’s banking career led her to Greensboro, N.C., Frost landed a position as a regional coordinator for mathematics. The job ended after just a year owing to the governor’s shift in funding priorities.

But when one door closed, she says “a big window opened” as curriculum director in the Asheboro City Schools, launching what’s now a 21-year tenure in the 4,600-student district. She’s been the superintendent since 2000 and was one of four finalists for the 2012 National Superintendent of the Year award.

Asheboro, located 90 miles east of Charlotte, has seen jobs at textile and furniture industries move overseas in the past two decades; yet the arrival of multinational companies Goodyear and Energizer have attracted a well-educated workforce. At the same time, the community is seeing its population diversify; Hispanics now account for 36 percent of student enrollment.

These transitions have not always been pretty, Frost concedes, but the community has come a long ways, especially in the past 10 years dealing with a multicultural, multilingual and economically diverse population.

As superintendent, Frost has set higher performance expectations for Asheboro students and staff. She’s aligned the district’s career and technical education programming to regional market demands, students’ interests and 21st-century careers. The district has launched industry-based certification programs in information technology and nursing.

Frost also has pushed for greater rigor in courses for the college bound. She marks 2007 as a turnaround year in that regard, when two Asheboro seniors were admitted to Ivy League colleges, including a Hispanic student who won a full ride to Harvard.
Even more impressive, 85 percent of graduates pursue college or community college, despite the fact more than 40 percent of those taking the SAT have parents with at most a high school education.

The superintendent convened area employers, community college leaders and the economic development board behind a five-year strategic plan, which is retooling the high school experience. Asheboro opened the Blue Comet Academy to serve only 9th graders during a key transition year and started the Zoo School program for those interested in science and hands-on learning. Students visit the local zoo to work with horticulturalists, veterinarians and other professionals as part of their coursework.

Despite the district’s dwindling budgets, Frost leveraged $2.5 million in federal funds to upgrade Asheboro’s infrastructure. Last year, all 1,300 high school students were provided with a laptop, and another 3,000 laptops were secured for elementary and middle school students who lacked such access at home. Digital cameras and interactive whiteboards are available in every classroom, and each campus has wireless Internet access.

Frost says her goal was to level the playing field for the growing percentage of students whose families cannot provide technology resources that are vital to learning.

“She drives people, but she’s lots of fun,” says Linda Cranford, a board of education member who has known Frost for more than 20 years. “She’s a straight shooter who is just determined that we’re going to be good.”

Liz Griffin is managing editor of School Administrator. E-mail: lgriffin@aasa.org


BIO STATS: DIANE FROST

Currently: superintendent, Asheboro, N.C.

Previously: associate superintendent, Asheboro, N.C.

Age: 56

Greatest influence on career: My father, a 40-year education career including superintendencies in Nebraska, was a great role model. His advice has stood the test of time — surround yourself with great people, make a plan and work your plan, and above all, serve the children well.

Best professional day: Graduation Day every year! It is a terrific privilege to hand each graduate his or her diploma, personally shake hands and wish each one a successful future.

Books at bedside: Focus by Mike Schmoker; Awakening the Sleeping Giant by Marilyn Katzenmeyer and Gayle Moller

Biggest blooper: Trying to adjust school start times without sufficient community input.

Why I’m an AASA member: The excellent advocacy that AASA provides on Capitol Hill for public school issues, the professional development opportunities through conferences and publications and the networking opportunities with colleagues.

 

 

 

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