Superintendent Candidate Gregory Hutchings Addresses Community

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Superintendent Candidate Gregory Hutchings Addresses Community

Andrew Boyle

Andrew Boyle

Andrew Boyle

Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings addresses approximately 150 teachers and community members March 14 in the Upper Cafeteria.

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Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, one of three final candidates selected by the Board of Education to be the next superintendent of Shaker schools, delivered remarks and responded to community questions in a public session at the high school March 14.

As director of pre-k through twelfth-grade initiatives for Alexandria, VA Public Schools since June 2011, Hutchings, 35, is a member of the superintendent’s executive staff. The Alexandria schools belong to the Minority Student Achievement Network along with Shaker. His application states that in this post he developed an “action plan for authorization of International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme for grades 6-10.” His previous experience includes directing the five Alexandria middle schools (grades six through eight), which were candidates for IB Middle Years authorization; serving as principal of a Nashville Public Schools middle school that was fully authorized for IB Middle Years under his watch; working as an assistant principal in a high school in that district; acting as an assistant principal in a Richmond, VA public middle school, and teaching science in Manassas, VA.

During his five-minute introductory comments, Hutchings said that although his background is in the east coast, he has an Ohio connection ­­­­— as a child he visited his grandmother in Dayton every summer. Before applying for the Shaker position, Hutchings said he visited Shaker Heights with his wife, who called the community “a perfect place to raise our family.” Hutchings noted that Shaker schools are similar to those of his current district, Alexandria, but for the difference in size. Alexandria is larger, with 13,000 students and 19 school buildings. He said that Shaker as a whole is “passionate about education,” a philosophy he shares. Hutchings said that if chosen as superintendent, his two children would attend Shaker schools. “We will be committed to this community, not only as a superintendent, but also as community residents,” he said.

The majority of the hour-long afternoon meeting was devoted to questions from the audience, written down and posed by a moderator. One of the first things Hutchings said he would do if given the job would be to conduct an “efficiency review” of district finances to find “some of the things we can live without.” However, he stressed the need to start with non-instructional cuts in order to maintain academic excellence. Other areas Hutchings said he would focus on immediately included improving the quality of education at the middle school, ensuring that all schools are IB authorized, getting to know the community and visiting all of the schools and sitting in on classes.

Hutchings made clear his support for IB, saying that it is “definitely the right way to go” because it gives students more control of their learning. While talking about the issue of teacher evaluation, Hutchings drew applause from the audience when he said, “I think that teachers should just be paid good money . . . teaching is one of the hardest professions.” When asked about online learning, Hutchings pointed out that Shaker schools might not have enough technology to implement it effectively, and that Alexandria schools provide their students with laptops.

Hutchings said that working on closing the achievement gap should include “raising the bar for all students,” including the standard that every child be able to read by third grade. Another way to approach this problem, he said, was to provide “wrap-around services” to under-performing students in low-income families. “There needs to be social workers, and psychologists and therapeutic services and counseling,” he said.

Hutchings shared with the crowd of about 150 parents, teachers and residents his own personal success story. Growing up in a poor family, Hutchings was on a reduced price lunch program in school and went on to become the only member of his immediate family to graduate from college. He now holds an Ed.D. “A lot of that was because I had people who believed in me from kindergarten,” he said, noting that his kindergarten teacher inspired him to become the person that he is today. Hutchings said, “If any school district in the country is capable of closing the achievement gap, it is Shaker Heights.”

Hutchings spent the day with board members, touring schools and meeting with administrators, teachers, parents, students and the Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The board interviewed him again after the public session.

Following David A. Bowlin and Hutchings, the final candidate, Demond A. Means, will have his public session March 15 in the high school Upper Cafeteria from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. All three sessions are being recorded and will be posted on YouTube by the board. Community members can send their thoughts on the candidates to “[email protected]

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