April 16, 2013

Putting The Super In Intendent

Communities In Schools and our host of partners could not do the work we do without the support, vision and leadership of Dr. Michael F. Rice. As both the Superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools and as a board member of CIS, Dr. Rice helps us align our community resources with KPS to increase our collective impact on children. Superintendents have one of the most challenging jobs in the world and yet, as CIS founder Bill Milliken has said, “Superintendents are under siege in this nation.” If someone you know doesn’t agree with that statement, my guess is they are probably living under a rock. Or, maybe even throwing one.

Speaking of superintendents, I want to relay a conversation I had a few weeks ago with some of Ms. Furney’s second grade students at Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School. Before I start my volunteer work with one of two reading groups, Ms. Furney always reviews the day’s schedule with the class. On this day, she shared that their Superintendent, Dr. Michael F. Rice, would be visiting Parkwood that day to visit third grade classrooms, as he does throughout the district, to talk college with them.

As I passed out the books we were going to read, one of the children asked me what a Superintendent was.

“Who can answer that question?” I asked the students.

One little girl immediately thrust her hand in the air. “They like to read. Superintendents go to the library. That’s where I met Dr. Rice. We had a really long talk. He is the NICEST man EVER…I hope I see him today because my mom said I could go up and talk to him next time I saw him. We’re not strangers anymore, you know.”

“I’ve seen Dr. Rice lots of times at the library,” another kid piped up.

Another offered, “Superintendents are basketball players. Ours is really good. I’ve seen him play at Hoopla.”

“Dr. Rice is in charge of all of the Kalamazoo Public Schools, right?” asked another girl. “He’s like the boss?”

“That’s correct.”

“But not Loy Norrix,” a boy said. “Right?”

“Loy Norrix High School, too,” I replied.

“No way!” he said, mouth hanging open, obviously impressed. This, for him, was the pièce de résistance.

As we all got on with the business of reading, their excitement lingered. It was clear to them that their superintendent walks* his talk when it comes to the importance of hard work, reading, and preparing for college. These second graders can’t wait to be about the business of being third graders. That means they will get to talk college with the nicest man in the world—a seasoned reader, basketball player, and Superintendent of Loy Norrix. “Read louder!” one of the children instructed. “We want him to hear what good readers we are.”

*and sometimes even hoops it up!

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