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School Administrator, August 2015 

Advantageous Teacher-Librarians

Steve Webb and Mark Ray’s “Teacher Librarians: Mavens in a Digital Age” (May 2015) was a wonderful account of how school districts can empower a hugely important asset -- librarians.

Vancouver Public Schools’ strategic plan is to enable librarians to connect schools throughout the district, curate content for educators and mentor students and teachers to become digital citizens. That plan is a driving force behind the district's goal to create a population of future-ready students. This piece is an important resource for any district looking to leverage the know-how of its librarians for a successful digital transformation.

Having met many of these teacher librarians and having witnessed the work they are doing firsthand, I can say that this approach is groundbreaking. At a time when many other districts are cutting back on the position, Vancouver’s teacher-librarians seamlessly wear the hats of district technology ambassadors, teachers, ed-tech leaders, peer mentors and content curators.

This is an important read from an important school district. You can learn more about Vancouver's teacher-librarians at:

Sara Schapiro
Director, League of Innovative Schools,

Digital Promise,

Washington, D.C.


A Skewed View of Special Education

I was saddened by the limited perspective on assessing the health of a school district's special education program as expressed by Lewis Collins in his My View column, "One Insider's View of Special Education" (May 2015).

The author claims that any district with a 15 percent or higher eligibility rate is in trouble, but that comment only speaks to a disregard for the specific needs present in a school community and a disregard for individual learning issues. A review of literature and research on specific categories of disabilities shows increasing rates of identification. It also is widely recognized that schools have under-identified populations, such as students with emotional and behavioral disorders. With growing sophistication and understanding of these conditions, it is likely that identification of students increase.

The column also falls short in what it does not address. It should be stated that a healthy special education program is one where students achieve, where remediation is effective and where students eventually are able to be declassified or, when eligibility remains, they graduate to positive post-secondary outcomes.   

James V. McLaughlin
North Plainfield Public Schools,

North Plainfield, N.J.



Theme Park Parallels

I really enjoyed James VanSciver’s My View column about his summer work in the Wild West (March 2015).

I fully support the role of the superintendent becoming more involved just like Shane Karson, the owner of the Frontier Town theme park whom VanSciver describes. Superintendents are the voice of all the children in the district and to be an effective voice they have to roll up their sleeves and connect with their students.

I found such a strong connection between Karson's role running a “multimillion-dollar operation with grace, dignity and panache” and the effective superintendent who states, "I don't have to do it; I want to do it." 

Gary M. Anderson
Read To Them,
Richmond, Va.


Pioneer Women

In your special 150th anniversary issue (February 2015) , I paid special attention to the article on diversity by Glenn Cook. I was one of the 75 women selected to participate in the 1977 Ford Foundation grant that he references. Until her death, AASA administrator Effie Jones kept tabs on each of us, but at least I have lost track of most of the other women in the cohort.

I am wondering if AASA has any information regarding the careers of these women?  I went on to become a superintendent in the Kelso School District in Washington. Upon retirement from that position, I began a second career teaching and coordinating leadership programs for Washington State University.

Gay V. Selby
Educational Leadership Program Chair,
Washington State University,
Vancouver, Wash.



Ed.D. Versus Ph.D.

Compliments to Jill Perry on her article, “The Ed.D.and Scholarly Practitioners” (March 2015). She clearly points to a direction that higher education and K-12 school leaders must jointly pursue for the benefit of students.

Sometimes when educators work in “our own little world,” we tend to emphasize accumulating more degrees and diplomas because we value learning. In the case of higher education, we can be criticized for emphasizing theoretical work and clinging to tradition, while the needs of school leadership rapidly evolve in response to a changing world. 

Having spent more than two decades in school leadership positions in middle and high schools, I have voiced my share of criticisms of higher education for not serving the needs of practicing school leaders. I now view this issue from the other side as dean of the Ross College of Education at Lynn University.

There is a time and place for scholarly research better to understand the process of learning. 

However, the challenges that school leaders currently face in trying to move complex school organizations are a greater obstacle in improving achievement. A well-designed Ed.D. program can and should be a positive learning growth experience for school leaders to help develop skills to change the organization.

When differentiating an Ed.D. program from a Ph.D. or other traditional scholarly higher education degrees, that are three aspects the practitioner uniquely needs from higher education.

First is learning with and from peers. Schools are complex people organizations and using cohorts of leaders in an Ed.D programs helps to model the aspect of learning from peers that should be replicated in school organizations. The graduate cohort and collaborative research is a key of a practitioner focused program.

Second is adding to organizational knowledge.  Traditional research seeks to add to a body of knowledge in a field of study.  In schools, leaders have a overwhelming body of knowledge about learning but often less knowledge about the organization and the values, emotions and passions that defines it culture and drive its behaviors. It is appropriate that the research in Ed.D. programs emphasize building this organization knowledge through thoughtful research.

Finally is the contextual application of knowledge. Research seeks answers to pressing questions and we value single solutions to better understand our world.  However, school leaders do not need a single solution, they need multiple solutions to draw upon that fit the unique needs of their school or district, at that point in time. Ed.D. programs must avoid focusing on single “best” answers but develop skills in leaders to enable them to apply the appropriate contextual application of knowledge for that organization and situation.

The term “scholarly practitioner” is an appropriate one that reminds us as higher education leaders how we need to keep our graduate programs balanced in thoughtful and reflective research as well as devoted to the unique learning needs of school leaders in their daily practice as agents of change in complex organizations.

Kathleen Weigel
Dean, Ross College of Education,
Lynn University,

Boca Raton, Fla.




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