Friday, March 23, 2012

Greenville finalists White, Royster, Moody profiled

Biographical sketches were published this week by the Greenville News of the three finalists to succeed Dr. Phinnize "Penny" Fisher, retiring superintendent of Greenville County Schools.

I caught the sketches of two -- Lynn Moody of York County and Burke Royster of Greenville -- but didn't see the sketch of Dr. Eugene G. White of Indianapolis, Indiana. I found his biography online, however, at the Indianapolis Public Schools website, so it's included, too.

Dr. Eugene G. White was born in Phenix City, AL, to a single 17-year-old mother in December 1947. He was the first person in his family’s history to graduate from high school. He grew up in a time of segregation and Jim Crow practices in Southeast Alabama. In high school, he excelled in football, basketball, and baseball. His mother, grandmother and athletic coaches heavily influenced him. He was a starting member of the 1966 Alabama State Championship Basketball Team and accepted a basketball scholarship to Alabama A&M University. He graduated with academic honors and set career scoring marks at Alabama A&M University.

He was a teacher, coach and school administrator in the Fort Wayne Community Schools for 19 years. He was the first African American high school principal in the Fort Wayne Community Schools, where he served as principal of Wayne High School from 1985 to 1990. In 1990 he became the first African American high school principal of North Central High School in Indianapolis, serving until 1992. He was Deputy Superintendent of the Indianapolis Public Schools from July 1992 to January 1994. He served as Superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Washington Township for 11 years. In 2005, Dr. White was named Superintendent of the state's largest school district, IPS.

Dr. White has served in a large number of leadership capacities over the years, most recently as President of the American Association for School Administrators in 2006-07.

Dr. White has received a wide variety of honors over his career, including:

2002 and 2009 Indiana Superintendent of the Year
2007 National Association of Black School Educators (NABSE) Superintendent of the Year
2006 Modern Red Schoolhouse Distinguished Service Award
2001 Alabama A&M University Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee
1997 Indiana Music Educators Association Outstanding Superintendent of the Year
1995 Center for Leadership Development Education Award
1992 named by Redbook magazine as a “visionary leader” as principal of one of America’s Best Schools

Dr. White is the author of the book, “Leadership Beyond Excuses: The Courage to Hold the Rope.” He co-wrote a second book, “Leading Schools of Diversity.”

He received an Ed.D. in Education Administration and Supervision from Ball State University in 1982, an Ed.S. in Superintendency from Ball State University in 1977, an M.S. in School Health from the University of Tennessee in 1971, and a B.S. in Social Studies, Health and Physical Education from Alabama A & M University in 1970. He is a Life Member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.

Dr. White is married to Jetties White and has two children: Reginald E. White, Dean of Students and Head Girls Basketball Coach, Arsenal Tech High School in IPS, and Kimberly R. White, a teacher and coach at John Marshall Community High School in IPS.

Clearly, public education is in White's DNA, and it's nice to see that those genes were passed to his children.

Royster is already known to the Greenville schools family, having been a teacher, principal and deputy superintendent across the Upstate:

Burke Royster may not be a household name in Greenville County, but if your children attend Greenville County Schools, chances are they know who he is.

Royster, one of three finalists for the superintendent job, is the man behind the scenes who keeps the wheels turning in the state’s largest school district.

For most of six years here, he was deputy superintendent for operations — a job that entails overseeing the day-to-day management of everything from the school bus system to the heating and air-conditioning.

Last year, oversight of the academic programs was added to his list of responsibilities.

As a former teacher and principal, he’s well acquainted with both sides of the business of education.

Before coming to Greenville, Royster was assistant superintendent for administration and operations at the Oconee County School district, from 2002-05. He was assistant superintendent for administration and instruction in Oconee from 1999-2002.

A graduate of Clemson University who is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in educational leadership at the University of South Carolina, Royster started his career as a teacher, department head and coach at Star-Iva Middle School in Anderson County, from 1980-83 before coming to Greenville as assistant principal at Monaview Middle School, from 1983-85.

He was assistant principal for operations and administration at Northwestern High School in York County for five years, principal at Waccamaw High in Georgetown County and principal of Seneca High before moving into the district office in Oconee.

He holds state certifications as superintendent, secondary principal, secondary supervisor, and government, economics and middle school social studies teacher.

Among his accomplishments in his current role, Royster lists the development of a school-level student achievement comparison of Greenville County schools with schools across the state with similar demographics that have higher test scores.

He also initiated and led a task force designed to improve coordination between special education and regular classrooms.

And he is leading the development of the district’s Early College program, which aims to help under-achieving students from low-income families make it to college.

And Moody, a native North Carolinian, brought a solid reputation as a leader in that state to South Carolina nearly a decade ago:

Growing up in North Carolina’s tobacco country, Lynn Moody might have ended up doing like most of the people she knew – working in a cigarette factory or in some phase of the production of the state’s biggest cash crop.

But being the daughter of educators, she saw another way of life beyond the tobacco fields.

“I think there’s no greater calling than education,” Moody, superintendent of York County District 3 and one of three finalists for the superintendent job in Greenville County told

She and her husband, a civil engineer, have a sort of running debate about that. He says infrastructure is what makes the world go round. She says it’s education.

So when the couple was in Charleston a few years ago for the opening of the Ravenel Bridge, which her husband’s company designed, he tried to convince her of what a supreme accomplishment that feat of engineering represented.

It didn’t light up her eyes, though, until she thought about how it represented the culmination of years of teaching and learning that turned young people into high school graduates and finally, bridge builders.

She’s been trying spark that light of learning in the eyes of students ever since becoming a teacher more than 30 years ago.

Moody, 52, went from the tobacco fields to Tobacco Road, where she earned her bachelor’s degree at North Carolina State University.

She traveled around a lot during her nine years as a teacher because of her husband’s job before coming back to her native state and working for more than a decade in administrative positions related to technical and career education.

At Wake County, N.C., a district twice as big as Greenville, she led the first major rezoning effort in years.

She became associate superintendent of planning in York District 3 in Rock Hill, in 2003.

Moody considers building community as one of her strong suits.

One example is the way she solicited community input for how to address the budget crisis of a few years ago.

She discovered a computer program another school district was using that gave the public an opportunity to plug in where they would make cuts to balance the budget. It also showed what the impact of those cuts would be.

It was an educational experience for the public and made for a much more informed debate over the budget, she said.

As far as academics, Moody said she believes literacy is always the biggest challenge. She’s been studying Greenville County’s numbers and sees some areas where she’d like to give additional attention.

She calls herself “a continuous learner” with a passion for what she does.

“I love to read. I love to study,” she said. “I’m always pushing that envelope.”

“I think I’m a very transparent, open person,” she added.

“I do my work with a lot of heart. I’m very real in my intent. I think people pick up on that very quickly.”

It will be tough to fill Penny Fisher's shoes, so I don't envy any of these three.

But it's nice to see people of this caliber aiming for leadership of our schools. And did you notice that none of the three boast any influence or pseudo-credential from any of the billionaire "education deform" foundations or their academies? That's a good sign.

In an ideal world, one will become Greenville's new superintendent, one will run for state superintendent in 2014, and that one will hire the third to serve as deputy state superintendent.

It's never too early to prepare and organize.

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