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New Leaders in Houston, Denver and Toronto

  • The Houston, Denver and Toronto school systems have new superintendents, while other districts have begun searches to fill vacancies at the top.

    In Houston, the school board voted unanimously to name Millard House II as its next superintendent. 

    Since 2017, House has been director of schools of Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, a fast-growing district in northern Tennessee with enrollment of nearly 40,000. By comparison, the Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas, serves about 200,000 students.

    “I am honored and humbled to have this opportunity. I do not take this responsibility lightly. This work will be difficult. There will be tough decisions, but it will be worth it for our children,” House said upon confirmation.

    He previously served as chief operating officer of North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and deputy superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools.

    House will succeed Grenita Lathan, Houston’s interim superintendent since 2018, who has been named superintendent of the Springfield Public School District in Missouri.

    In Denver, the Board of Education tapped Alex Marrero as that district’s next superintendent. Marrero most recently was interim superintendent of the City School District of New Rochelle, N.Y., and previously held posts with the New York City Department of Education.

    “Dr. Marrero rose to the top as the best leader for the students, staff and community of Denver Public Schools,” said Carrie Olson, board president, according to a news release.

     “Students in urban districts face unique challenges related to issues such as poverty, acceptance of the status quo, and the general under-serving of many students. True academic success requires not only raising the bar but also closing the gap,” Marrero said in a district news release.

    “Never would I have imagined that the son of an immigrant mother and refugee father, who was expected to be another statistic in the quest for the American dream, can now lead a nationally top-performing school district to continue to raise the bar for all students, and to eliminate any opportunity gaps between identifiable groups of students.”

    Marrero will succeed interim superintendent Dwight Jones.

    Toronto Gets New Leader

    Colleen Russell-Rawlins has been named director of education for the Toronto District School Board, moving from a top post with a school board in Ontario. Toronto is Canada’s largest school system, serving approximately 247,000 students. 

    Board chair Alexander Brown noted that Russell-Rawlins faces “the enormous task of leading Canada’s largest school system out of the pandemic with renewed optimism,” according to a district news release. “Colleen brings with her a strong commitment to student learning, achievement and success and exceptional background in addressing anti-Black racism, oppression, and equity.”

    Russell-Rawlins was quoted in the release as saying that throughout her career, equity has been “my foundation for improving student engagement, well-being and achievement.”

    “I welcome the opportunity to continue to work with trustees, students, families, and dedicated staff to ignite learning and innovation and focus on the success of students who are currently underserved,” she said.

    In 2020, Russell-Rawlins was recognized as one of 100 Accomplished Black Women in Canada by a national educational publication.

    In New Orleans, Henderson Lewis Jr., superintendent of NOLA Public Schools since 2015, recently announced he would not seek to renew his contract when it expires this summer.

    In a letter to the community, Lewis said that in his six years at the helm, “we returned our schools to [from state] local control. We built frameworks that hold schools to high standards of quality education while also delivering districtwide support to students most in need.” And, he said, “we successfully negotiated an unprecedented pandemic, keeping our schools safe, open and our children engaged with learning in a year like no other.”

    School board member Nolan Marshall Jr. commended Lewis for his leadership of the 44,631-student school district.

    “He fit exactly what we needed,” Marshall told NOLA.com. “He provided the stable leadership we needed to give the Legislature confidence to return our schools, and he managed the framework that was needed to hold those schools accountable.”

    In Cincinnati, superintendent Laura Mitchell announced her resignation after 27 years in with the district, the last four as superintendent.

    "I have literally spent an entire lifetime in this district," Mitchell said at the board meeting, according to Cincinnati.com. "So, while not my final destination, as (you) continue on this journey for Cincinnati Public Schools, please know that I will always call and consider Cincinnati Public Schools my home and my district."

    Mitchell has been named president and CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center in Cincinnati, which offers foster care and adoption, parenting support and other services.

    Deputy superintendent Tianay Amat has been named interim superintendent.

    In other developments at the superintendency level, Mississippi’s Jackson Public Schools unanimously approved a four-year contract renewal for Superintendent Errick Greene, who has led the district since 2018.

    Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot named Jose Torres, a former regional superintendent in the city, as interim CEO for Chicago Public Schools while the search continues for a permanent replacement for Janice Jackson.

    In Rhode Island, Gov. Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green named Javier Montañez interim superintendent for the state-controlled Providence Public School District. Montañez, principal of Leviton Dual Language School in Providence, replaces Harrison Peters.

    In Hawaii, the state board of education recently appointed Keith Hayashi, principal of Waipahu High School on the island of Oahu, as interim superintendent of the Hawaii State Department of Education. Christina Kishimoto, superintendent since 2017, declined to seek renewal of her contract.