Chiefs for Change announced six superintendents have joined the bipartisan network of state and district education leaders, including Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Iranetta Wright. All six are participants in or alumni of the Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs leadership development program and began their positions as superintendents in the past year. The new members are:
- Thomas Taylor, Superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools in Virginia.
- Heather Tow-Yick, Superintendent of Issaquah School District in Washington.
- Maria Vazquez, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Florida.
- Avis Williams, Superintendent of NOLA Public Schools in Louisiana.
- Theresa Williams, Superintendent of Plano Independent School District in Texas.
- Iranetta Wright, Superintendent of Cincinnati Public Schools in Ohio.
Cincinnati Public School’s Wright said, “Everything about the individuals that I have worked with in Chiefs for Change has been inspiring. They are willing to mentor and answer questions anytime of the day or night. It’s not one of them, it’s all of them. That’s what the organization stands for: all of us are looking to improve outcomes for children, including some of the most marginalized children and doing so with support and admiration for each other.”
With these new chiefs, the network has 54 members, 40 of whom are actively serving as chiefs. Of that group, 34 are district chiefs and six are state chiefs. Seventy-two percent of members are leaders of color, and 54 percent are women.
“Our Future Chiefs program is a premier leadership development program for talented educators,” said Chiefs for Change Board Chair and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez. “We are so proud of these leaders who went through our program and worked closely with our chiefs to become superintendents. They exemplify the bold, innovative, student-centered thinking we look for in our members. The superintendency is a challenging but rewarding job. It is both a great honor and a tremendous responsibility to lead a K-12 system. We applaud these new members for their service and warmly welcome them into our community.”
Amid the challenges associated with operating schools in the wake of the pandemic and an increasingly divisive political environment, there are concerns in the field about an exodus of K-12 superintendents. An article published by The Hechinger Report in January said, “Superintendents are leaving their posts in droves.” Roughly 25 percent of superintendents stepped down in 2021, up from about 15 percent in a typical year, according to the article.
To meet the need for talented, diverse K-12 system leaders, the Future Chiefs program prepares aspiring superintendents and supports them with a community of mentors and peers who are or have been in the role. Future Chiefs, including the six individuals joining Chiefs for Change membership today, participate in 18 months of collective learning about issues central to effective leadership. They have individualized coaching from former district and state chiefs, shadow Chiefs for Change members, and receive comprehensive support in their job searches and transitions.
In addition to building the pipeline of talented educators ready to lead major school systems, Chiefs for Change operates the largest community of practice for K-12 leaders in the nation and has produced resources to support systems in responding to the pandemic. The network provides technical assistance for promising initiatives in members’ systems and advocates for policies and practices that make a difference for students.