• Good Day All,

    I write to formally introduce myself as your Interim Superintendent for the 2019-20 school year. While in the minds of many this move was simply a case of ‘fait accompli’, given my current role as the assistant superintendent and former roles as principal and curriculum director. However, I can attest to the fact that for the board, myself and members of the executive team, we considered many possibilities as we thought through ‘Who’ might lead this transition and ‘How’ might this transition be navigated.

    The Board of Education formally took action to place me in the position as Interim Superintendent for 2019-20 school year (See Board Agenda). Prior to this action, while the executive team and myself were working hard to support all our transitions, it would have been presumptuous of me to communicate in the role of superintendent. I apologize if the act of governance presents confusion about how district leadership is determined. I often joke that the act of governance is not unlike rock climbing in that, in climbing, we often choose the hardest possible way to go the least amount of distance (when distance is measured horizontally :-). However, governance - like climbing - is hard, not for the faint of heart, and not always intuitive.

    The Board has had conversation regarding what the process for seeking a permanent superintendent might look like. Stay tuned for additional communications that will ask you to participate in that process as we move from summer into autumn.

    I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge and thank John Maloy for his efforts. Dr. Maloy worked tirelessly for 12 years to position this district for excellent fiscal and pedagogical health. John was explicit is asking that he remain out of the limelight as he exited the system - and as hard as it was to do - I have honored his request. If you would like to celebrate John’s efforts, please craft a note, symbol, or artifact and drop it off with Angela Rittenhouse, secretary to the Board of Education, at our district office on campus. When John returns later in the summer to the valley, we will have a small gathering to celebrate his efforts at ASD and will gift him your creations at that time.

    Moving Forward: I approach this interim position with two profound beliefs; this remarkable school district is at a turning point in its development, and it is time to reimagine public education in this country. My Fulbright-Japan research in Education for Sustainable Development, my work with National Board Standards for Principals, and my doctoral work at the intersection of improvement science and educational evaluation has only deepened these beliefs and reinforced for me that ASD is the place to design a new model of education that serves our students and the world in new ways.

    This is a district that has struggled with various levels of trauma throughout the school year. Our work is human-centered, and sometimes this focus gets lost in the ‘Noise’, be that noise one’s bias or perceptions about coursework, projects, systems, structures or processes. In these difficult times, we can lose sight of the power of pausing, listening, and connecting to self, children, teachers, and community members on a personal and human level. Leaders sometimes want to jump in and ‘fix’ things, to create new structures and processes and try to solve problems without building communities of care. Meg Wheatley’s (2010) analogy of leadership as hero or host (CLICK HERE for ARTICLE) addresses this dynamic. We are as strong as our faculty and staff. It is staff contributions – in creative work, teaching & mentoring, in administrative & student support, school resource & law related support, food service, accounting, maintenance, housing, travel, and coaching – and it is in parent and community engagement contributions such as our DAC, SAC, Booster Club and sundry events that make us a great school district. Please take the time for self-care and reflection as you engage with the community this summer; let empathy and listening guide your actions.

    As we move forward, I wanted to bring you all up to speed on several things in motion that will support this district to move from a State of Transition to a State of Repose & Confidence.

    Strategic Planning: A deep dive into the many survey responses over the past couple of years clearly shows a need for:

    1) Informed Decision Making and Clarity across the District

    2) A Vision with Values that include Excellence

    3) A Process to Engage, Improve and Amplify a Culture of Trust and Respect

    A Strategic Planning process to address the above-mentioned challenges had been in progress with school principals and assistant principals since January 2019, and began in earnest on June 6 with our entire Administrative team, which was followed by presentations to the District Accountability Team (DAC) on June 7, the Board of Education (BOE) on June 17, and was expanded today on June 26 to include building leadership staff, BOE and DAC, and will grow yet again with a strategy session on July 12 and a focus conversation with all staff on August 16. As we move into September, Autumn and early Winter, the strategic planning process will merge with our Facility Planning process as we get voices in the room from all stakeholders. There will be many, many opportunities for our community to chime in and construct meaning from this work.

    This is vibrant and necessary work that can at times get a bit messy. When we plan for solutions without first understanding what we value, the ‘tail can wag the dog’, which creates all kinds of unintentional consequences. William O’Brien, past CEO of Hanover Insurance Companies, posed an important question, “Many business leaders espouse ideals like vision, purposefulness, and growing people to grow results. If these aims are so widely shared, then why are such organizations so rare?” O’Brien’s answer was simple, “I think it is because very few people appreciate the nature of the commitment needed to build such an enterprise.” (Senge, Hamilton, & Kania, 2015, Pg. 4) I believe this insight also applies to those in public education who are seeking to help build collaborative networks for systemic change.

    The nature of commitment needed to support this district to move from a State of Transition to a State of Repose & Confidence is not small. I would encourage all of you to participate in any way that you can as we reimagine what the future of ASD can look like and craft a  ‘Road Map’ for this district. Please OPEN THIS SLIDE DECK to view a presentation made to our Board of Education about WHY Strategic Planning is needed.

    Systems Design: In moving into the role as an interim superintendent and with counsel from the executive team and BOE, it was determined that we would not fill the assistant superintendent role for the 2019-20 school year. Instead, members of the executive team have reimagined the work they do, and through an alignment of strengths and needs, identified a ‘Systems Approach’ to getting the work done in order to support staff across the district to perform at their best. Please OPEN THIS SLIDE DECK  to view a brief presentation for how all of our efforts are designed to support student learning and meaningful student activities.

    Chief Financial Officer Search: After seeking input from Board of Education members, administrators, community members, parents, and staff via focus groups interviews, The search team of Hazard, Young and Attea prepared a profile and advertisement process to recruit an experienced Chief Financial Officer who will work collaboratively with the Board and leadership team in maintaining and enhancing the district’s excellent educational programs. A summary of the profile follows: “This open and transparent candidate will build strong, productive, fiscal relationships while cultivating a customer-oriented focus and instilling confidence in the district’s financial status. Guided by a commitment to the district and community, we seek a self-starter and resilient person driven by a growth mindset who will increase organizational skills and efficient processes within the finance department.” You can read the entire profile that includes comments by staff and community by CLICKING HERE. We hope to have a short list of qualified candidates by early July and will begin the first stages of the interview process that will reflect the interview process we have used with principals.

    To those who have read to this point - I congratulate you! Your curiosity and tenacity is exactly what will be needed to craft a thoughtful Strategic Plan with impact for the future.

    Please remember that you are part of an educational community that values inclusivity, relationships, and critical inquiry. I look forward to being a thought partner with you all as we imagine and reimagine our systems and as always, if you have questions, concerns, comments or counsel send me a message or ring me up at (970) 925-3760 x 4005 or at theald@aspenk12.net 


    Have a great summer!

    Tom