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UPDATE: DeKalb Superintendent Candidates: Who They Are and Where They're From

More information on the three finalists.

The three finalists for DeKalb County Superintendent were released yesterday. They are: Dr. Gloria Davis, Superintendent of Decatur (Illinois) Public Schools, Arthur R. Culver, Superintendent of Champaign (Illinois) Community Unit School District #4, and Dr. Lillie Cox, Superintendent of Hickory (North Carolina) Public Schools.  All come from considerably smaller districts than DeKalb County, and most of the schools within those districts are smaller than those projected in the school board's 2020 Vision Plan.  Many questions remain. Here is a little more information about each finalist.

Dr. Davis has served as superintendent since 2006.  While there, she has “endeavored to promote the philosophy that all children can and will learn when given the ingredient of high expectations, care, and the adult belief that they are capable of achieving success.”  Her philosophy has led to her “totally changing the academic framework of the school system by making tough decisions that put children first.”  The results of this plan have included an increase in the high school graduation rate (from 71% to 92.4%), an increase in available advanced placement classes (from 3 to 14), and doubling the number of honors classes.  During her term, 13 of the 17 elementary schools have received awards from the state of Illinois based on superior achievement despite low socio-economic backgrounds and diverse enrollment.

Prior to her role as superintendent in Decatur, Ms. Davis was an educator for 31 years, climbing the ranks from teacher to elementary and middle school principal and then assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the University City School District near St. Louis, Missouri.  From 2001 to 2006, she was superintendent of the Dodge City Public Schools in Kansas.  While there, she oversaw a complete restructuring of the district which resulted in increased academic achievement across the board. 

Her current district, Decatur (Illinois) Public Schools serves approximately 9,000 students with two high schools (averaging 1,150 students each) and 13 elementary schools (averaging between 250 and 350 students).  There are four K-8 schools and two middle schools, all with less than 500 students.

Ms. Davis holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Southern Illinois University, a Masters Degree from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and has completed all post Masters of Arts courses from St.  Louis University. She is an active member of her community, currently holding memberships in several civic as well as professional associations.  

Mr. Culver was hired as superintendent of the Champaign (Illinois) Community Unit School District #4 in 2002 with a five-year contract which has been extended by the school board twice to 2013.   He has focused on narrowing the achievement gap for African American students in his district, which has resulted in African American math and reading scores improving by 30 and 26 percent, respectively; middle school scores have improved by over 50 percent; and enrollment of African American students in Honors and Advanced Placement courses has tripled. This led to the settlement of a 10-year Federal Consent Decree in July 2009.  Academic achievement for all students improved at the same time – the graduation rate of the Champaign District #4 has increased from 89.6 to 95.7 percent and Champaign’s ACT and College Readiness scores are above state and national averages. 

In addition to academic achievement successes, Mr. Culver has also restored financial stability to his district after ten years of overspending.  Key to this was passing the “largest referendum for facilities funding in district history,” and he has seen an increase in grant monies awarded to his district from $350,000 to over $1 million in the last year. 

Mr. Culver’s success record began when he was serving as an elementary school principal in Texas, where he took his school from having some of the lowest achievement scores in the district to achieving state Recognized status.  He went on to become Director of Elementary Programs for La Marque Independent School District (ISD) and then Area Superintendent in Fort Bend ISD, followed by Superintendent of Longview (Texas) Schools, where he continued to bring economically disadvantaged, minority populated schools to high academic achievement status, including several state designations for schools as Recognized and Exemplary.  He was recently recognized by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who asked him to be part of a “Blue Sky” Turnaround team providing ideas for school reform. 

Mr. Culver holds a Bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University in Texas and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from the University of Houston.  He has completed all course work for a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Cultural Studies at the University of Houston.

His current district, Champaign (Illinois) Community Unit School District #4 houses two high schools (averaging 1,300 students each), 11 elementary schools (roughly 400 students each) and three middle schools (about 650 students each). 

Dr. Cox has served as the Superintendent of Hickory (North Carolina) Public Schools since July 2009.  Over the last eighteen months, she has taken the district from the highest dropout rate in the state at 8.65% down to 5.23%.  She has also closed the under-performing alternative school, opened a new career and arts magnet high school, and implemented a literacy process in all elementary schools.

Before accepting the position in Hickory, she worked as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction for Alamance-Burlington Schools, where she supervised 35 principals as well as a number of other offices, led the system’s curriculum and instruction program, and worked with facilities planning and budget preparation.

She began as a middle and high school teacher, and she moved on from there to hold assistant principal and then principal positions at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in Greensboro and High Point, NC.  She is “most proud of closing achievement gaps between subgroups as a principal at all three levels.”  She also served as the Executive Director of Organizational Development, Professional Development, and Curriculum in Guilford County Schools (serving 73,000 students). 

Dr. Cox earned her Bachelor of Arts degree (English) and Master of Education degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and her Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She completed the North Carolina Principal Fellows program, where she earned her Master of School Administration and became a National Board Certified Teacher.

Her current district, Hickory (North Carolina) Public Schools, serves two high schools (one is a public school with 1326 students and the other is a career and arts magnet with 450 students).  There are five elementary schools (around 400 students each, but one has just over 600) and 2 middle schools in the district (both with about 500 students).    

To compare, DeKalb County School System is comprised of over 102,000 students in 143 schools.

The DeKalb County Board of Education invites parents and community members to a Public Forum on Thursday night at the Administration and Instructional Complex at 6 p.m.  At that , the audience will hear from each of the , and questions will be answered.  Those wishing to submit a question should do so in writing at the AIC prior to 5:30 pm.

Gayle Smith March 30, 2011 at 04:14 PM
My initial concern is that neither of the candidates have managed school districts that are the size of DeKalb and therefore have no hard data to compare or project their achievements with . The students of the DeKalb County School System have no more time left for someone to "practice" on. DeKalb Schools needs a strong proven leader that has the experience to hit the ground on skis. Either that or beg Ms. Tyson to remain!
Faith Dunlop April 03, 2011 at 12:05 PM
I agree with Gayle. None of these candidates have had control over as many schools as we have in Dekalb. I am sure there is a lot of pressure that goes along with undertaking a school district this size. We need someone who can hit the ground running and be able to keep up the excellent work that Ms. Tyson has put into play already. We can't afford to go backwards with someone who doesn't know what to do next. We must keep going forward for the children.

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