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Five Urban Educators Selected As ‘Leaders to Learn From’

  • A chief financial officer, a director of school library services, a deputy chief of family and community engagement, an assistant superintendent, and a manager who oversees translation services were recently profiled in Education Week’s 10th class of “Leaders to Learn From” report.

    The big-city school district leaders were among 11 honorees selected by the newspaper for their innovative and effective leadership of the nation’s schools.

    They were chosen from nearly 350 nominees submitted by readers, education journalists, school administrator groups, and experts in elementary and secondary education.

    “This year’s honorees are the epitome of resilience,” said Education Week President & CEO Michele Givens. “They have overcome myriad challenges to support students who have disconnected from learning, engage families in children’s education, and respond to students’ mental health needs.” 

    Here are the 2022 Leaders to Learn From in school districts represented by the Council of the Great City Schools:

    Melissa Jacobs is the director of school library services for the nation’s largest school district and was honored for supporting instruction for students and teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including securing more than $4 million to build a digital library of more than 20,000 books in multiple languages. And in effort to get more media specialists to serve high-need New York City public schools, she partnered with Syracuse University to create Teacher2Librarian, a pathway program for teachers to earn a master’s degree in library and information science.

    Jenna Monley is the deputy chief of family and community engagement for the School District of Philadelphia where she works to build partnerships between families and schools. Under her leadership, she nearly doubled the number of bilingual aides to 98 who provide interpretation services in schools, developed “family academy” courses at 11 locations throughout the district, and created a program for incarcerated fathers to do art and literacy projects with their children who are students in the district’s schools.

    As the chief financial officer for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Derek Richey was instrumental in helping persuade voters in 2020 to pass the district’s roughly $65-million funding levy to cover the district’s operating budget of 10 years and maintain small class sizes, upgrade technology and provide internet connectivity. In addition to ensuring the Cleveland school system is on sound fiscal footing, he has implemented several initiatives, including spearheading an effort to change bell schedules and transportation plans for elementary and middle schools and updating pay scale for athletic department employees.

    Marifer Sager is the senior manager, language access services and multicultural affairs for Oregon’s Portland Public Schools., where she oversees translation services for the 47,000-student district. The school system is home to families that speak more than 130 languages and Sager has transformed the district’s language-translation offerings so that parents who don’t speak English receive more timely and accessible information. She has also created new tools for them to learn about the special education and mental-health services available to their children.  

    Lateshia Woodley is the assistant superintendent of student support for Missouri’s Kansas City Public Schools, where she has  implemented a series of initiatives to help students feel safe and welcome in school. Under her leadership, the district has hired licensed clinical social workers and professional counselors to monitor students’ well-being and is hiring restorative-justice coordinators to respond to student behavior. Within the next four years, the district aims to put a restorative-justice coordinator in every one of its 35 buildings to work with students on resolving conflicts—physical, verbal, in person, online—before they are disciplined.

    Read the full profiles of the leaders or access: edweek.org/leaders/