Interview with Superintendent-Elect Hutchings

The Shakerite exclusively interviewed Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, the next superintendent of the Shaker Heights City School District, via Skype April 23. Below are audio excerpts from the interview. Read the upcoming print edition of The Shakerite for analysis.

Question: Have you started looking at houses in Shaker?

Question: The Shaker Heights school district was recently ranked 803 out of 832 public and charter schools districts by the Ohio Department of Education on the new value-added ranking system. How reliable do you think this system is as a measure of a school’s quality, and what concerns does that number raise for you?

Question: The middle school in particular received the second-lowest possible rating of “Continuous Improvement,” failing every value-added ranking measure. You emphasized the need to spend significant time listening to people before acting when you begin your tenure, but as an award-winning middle school principal now responsible for this district’s wellbeing, what immediate changes do plan to make at the middle school?

Question: Do you plan to enact other changes in the district in order to raise Shaker’s overall value-added ranking?

Question: How much of the district’s current staff will you keep in place? Are there any people, like your secretary, that you know right now you will be bringing to Shaker?

Question: Do you think there are any challenges being younger than the principals and staff you are supervising?

Question: At your public session you said a good teacher can effectively teach 50 students in a class. Balancing finances with the importance of quality teaching, what is the ideal number of students in each class?

Question: How do you hope to engage the community in the work of the school district so they will be supportive of the schools when it comes time to vote on the next levy?

Question: In your public session at the high school you talked about how you moved high-achieving CP students into honors- and AP-level classes in Alexandria. Will you initiate a similar policy in Shaker? Will students be forced to take a higher-level course if they meet the benchmarks?

Question: You also said that to avoid compromising the rigor of honors classes, Alexandria created a standard honors curriculum and provided wrap-around services for those students. Can you explain how the curriculum was modified and what services were created?

Question: How will the IB Diploma Programme reduce the achievement gap if only the most advanced students participate in it?

Question: Although all Shaker elementary schools are now authorized IB World Schools, and the high school was authorized for its Diploma Programme in 2010, the district has not yet earned IB Middle Years Programme authorization. You wrote your dissertation on effective teaching practices in the MYP. What challenges do you anticipate with the MYP in Shaker when it spans from grade five to grade nine, across three different Shaker schools?

Question: Will you be involved in the MAC Scholars program at the high school?

Question: The Shaker school district has a small preschool program at Onaway. What do you think of the role of preschool in the district? Would you support expanding preschool services? Do you believe providing more children with quality preschool could help reduce the achievement gap?

Question: Are there specific types of professional development you’d like to see Shaker teachers involved in?

Question: In Virginia you probably don’t have to worry about snow days too often, but here people are very opinionated about them. What weather conditions do you think merit a snow day?

Question: Your contract is for five years, but your application shows that you are haven’t held a position for longer than 4 years (teacher in Manassas, VA. 2000-04). One of the teachers you worked with in Nashville said that she thought you would be Secretary of Education when she was retiring. Do you want to be Secretary of Education? How long can we expect you to stay in Shaker?

Question: How have you previously sought student input? Will you do it the same way in Shaker? What kinds of decisions would you want student input about?

Question: Do you think Shaker has enough technology and is using it the right way?
What role do you think technology can play in reducing the achievement gap? Should the district provide laptops or tablets to middle school and high school students as other local school districts do?

Question: Do you still plan on visiting all the classrooms in the school district? How long do you think this will take you?

Question: Shaker has used a variety of educational models to try to reduce the achievement gap over the past two decades. At one point or another, Shaker implemented programs based upon theories of Drs. Ogbu, Ferguson and Payne. Which educational paradigm do you believe is the best solution?

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