Wiser, McKenna: Why we voted 'no'During Tuesday’s board meeting, school board members also touted that the district currently has a very good foundational block that includes the Quality District Model, strong labor relations, sound finances, and the establishment of professional learning communities that are moving the district forward. The Board felt that the next Superintendent should build upon those foundational blocks, and most felt that Dr. Pulliam could not only build upon but also had the experience that could accelerate the progress. Although, Board Members Julie McKenna and Dennis Wiser did not vote in favor of opening negotiations, both stated that they would support Dr. Pulliam if that was the board’s decision.
School board member Bill Van Atta stated, “RUSD is fortunate to have found an experienced Superintendent who has hands-on experience in a large, urban district. Dr. Pulliam believes in building partnerships with the staff and community, and that is an important quality the Racine community told the Board that they needed in the next Superintendent of Schools during our community meetings in January.”
Sue Kutz, who chaired the Search Committee said, “I believe Dr. Pulliam is the right fit for our district. Her experience, her training, and her management style correlates with the direction that this district wants to take. She has over 10 years of experience as a superintendent. She was the Superintendent of the Year, nominated by the Georgia State PTA. Her focus is on doing what is right for students.”
Dr. Pulliam is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of West Georgia in Carrolton,GA, where she teaches graduate level courses in the College of Education, Department of Leadership and Professional Services since January 2008. In addition, she is a Senior Program Associate for School Leadership Services in Greensboro, NC; a position she has held since
August 2007. In this capacity, she provides leadership training programs for school district staff; central office and school site administrators/principals. Her previous professional experience includes more than 30 years working in public education including ten years of superintendent experience.
Most recently, Dr. Pulliam was the Superintendent of the Clayton County Public Schools in Jonesboro, GA. This metropolitan district is just a few miles south of the City of Atlanta and serves 52,400 with an annual operating budget in excess of $550 million. During her tenure, she successfully achieved reinstatement of school district accreditation. She not only began the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program in two high schools, but also established a Dual Language School. She started the “Connect-Ed” school-to-home communication system and centralized the student registration function, in launching a Student Registration Center. Dr. Pulliam implemented a Blue Ribbon Commission on school discipline and began Community Engagement Conversations, among other accomplishments.
She also previously served as Superintendent of the St. Louis Park (MN) Schools, Associate Superintendent of Education and Equity/Interim Associate Superintendent/General Manager of Equity for the Rockford (IL) Public Schools, and Principal for Harper High School, which is part of the Chicago Public School System. Dr. Pulliam received a Ph.D. in School Administration from Vanderbilt University; a M.S. from Eastern Michigan University and a B.S. from Western Michigan University.
Board member, Don Nielsen, who worked for the district for almost 30 years said, “One of the things that struck me about Dr. Pulliam is that she has been a teacher; she has been a principal; she has been an administrator; and she has been a superintendent. She has worked in districts as large as Chicago and smaller districts in Rockford and Minnesota and most recently in Georgia. She is coming from a district that is approximately twice the size of Racine, and so she has vast experience in dealing with the issues of urban school districts.”
Dr. Pulliam’s selection as the district’s new superintendent caps a 5 month national recruitment and selection process which included interviews by students, community and staff; three interviews by the Board of Education and Dr. Jack Parker, Interim Superintendent; and a community forum. Throughout this process, the board was cognizant of a variety of community
concerns and made additional efforts to ensure those concerns were addressed prior to today’s meeting. The process also included extensive background and reference checks. Dr. Gretchen Warner stated today, “I was the member of the board who was asked to do reference checks, and I went way beyond the list that was given to me with Dr. Pulliam’s resume. I went to many, many additional people particularly in the state of Georgia. Overwhelming what I heard was that Dr. Pulliam has incredible leadership skills, communications skills, and collaboration skills.”
The district has been led by Interim Superintendent, Dr. Jack Parker, since early October 2007. Regarding the selection of Dr. Pulliam, Parker said, “I believe that Dr. Pulliam is an excellent fit for Racine Unified and will continue the improvements under way. Her collaborative leadership style and strong credentials will serve her well in her new role and benefit the students of Racine Unified and the Racine community. I look forward to working with and supporting her during the transition.”
Dr. Pulliam will be attending the Panasonic Foundation’s Leadership Associate Program with district staff this weekend in New Orleans, La to begin acclimating herself to the district even though negotiations have not started. She is expected to relocate and begin work full time by July 1. The School Board will plan an official community welcome once she has joined the staff full time.
A video of today’s board meeting will be available on the district’s website by late Tuesday and will also be shown on the district’s educational cable channel (Time Warner Channel 20) during evening broadcasts.