Monday, March 26, 2018

Seattle Schools Superintendent Finalist - Dr. Jeanice Swift

Dr.  Jeanice Kerr Swift is 59, appears to be a white woman, now serving in her fifth year as  in Ann Arbor Public Schools.  Her husband, John, is a retired nurse; they have no children.

Here's the resume she used to apply to Ann Arbor.   I see an address and phone numbers but considering she left Colorado awhile ago, I'm sure they are no longer valid.  Her Master's is in Gifted and Talented education.

Here's video of her in conversation about working with the University of Michigan.  If she loved that place, she'll really love UW.  (Yes, you'll note that like myself and President Harris, she is vertically challenged.  She's also a twin.)

She has 30 years experience in education as a former teacher, teacher coach, principal, assistant superintendent, with the job in Ann Arbor being her first time being a superintendent.  Ann Arbor SD has 32 schools and 17,680 students (their district grew by over 1,000 students since 2013-2014).

She was named Superintendent of the Year for 2018 by the Michigan Association of School Administrators.  As well,  she was named one of the "Superintendents to Watch" by the National School Public Relations Association.

She previously worked in Colorado Springs (where another candidate, Andre Spencer, also currently works) as an Assistant Superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

She started in Ann Arbor in 2013 with a base salary of $200K with a $50K bonus for staying five years.  She had been one of two finalists but got the job when the other finalist, who was their first choice, said no.  Ann Arbor SD really wanted to keep her; in December 2016, they offered her $90K to stay thru 2020.  From their Board:
We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Swift as our superintendent. I cannot imagine anyone who - facing the challenges that we have faced over the last three-and-a-half years - could possibly have done a better job than Dr. Swift has done," Thomas said. "Ann Arbor is a tough place to be a superintendent. We have a large number of students. We have a large number of schools and programs. And we have a very demanding community that expects the best. Dr. Swift has really risen to those expectations."
I had to smile because those last couple of sentences - describing their district - sound awfully familiar. 

An early interview with her after she took the Ann Arbor job:

AnnArbor.com: How did you select Ann Arbor? Did you apply for many other jobs?

Swift: I wanted to go to a community that valued education at its very core. That’s just so essential to providing a quality product. Ann Arbor certainly checks all of those boxes.

So really, there weren’t many. I didn’t apply for very many jobs. As I said, we kind of had a rubric my husband and I used for some period of years as we were preparing for this next chapter in our lives, and we wanted to select wisely, because it’s the one that we’ll probably live in for the rest of our lives. So I was very particular about where I applied and where I didn’t apply."

I interject here as this Seattle job may be the one she wants to finish her career at so she may be in it for the long haul.

What are some of your key goals in your first several months on the job? 

There are really two primary goals. I’ll be conducting two parallel processes—one is to extend outreach into every school community, every neighborhood, to listen and learn directly from parents and stakeholders what we’re doing well as a district, and what needs our attention, and what do our stakeholders believe are the immediate next steps. 

Process number two is that I’ll be conducting a thorough analysis of what I call the back of the house operations to really become deeply knowledgeable in the district, the system and all those components—and I’m not saying I can learn it in six weeks, I know it takes a long time, but certainly get a full status from every department, every division, every area in the district. So, between now and Thanksgiving, that’s our primary focus: those two parallel processes.

She was involved in tough teacher negotiations; it's something that will have to be clarified.  It appears the district got rid of the custodian/lunchroom/bus driver union and is an "at will" district.

Toward the end of the 2014-2015 school year, conflict broke out between the school board and superintendent on one side, and numerous Ann Arbor parents and teachers on the other. [Facebook page in support of AAPS teachers:https://www.facebook.com/SupportAnnArborTeachers; Superintendent's Blog: http://news.a2schools.org/to-those-who-touch-the-future/]

Another interview: http://gomasa.org/2017/11/07/5-questions-jeanice-kerr-swift/

What was one specific policy that you had to grapple with that required building consensus among the district staff, the community and students so that AAPS could continue to be a safe and welcoming environment for all students?

One opportunity that our Board contended with and built consensus among district staff, the community, and students so that AAPS could continue to be a safe and welcoming environment were the policies we adopted in 2015 around school safety, establishing school as a “disruption-free” environment.

Our community felt strongly that the decision allowing a CPL holder to carry at school should be a local decision, based on the values of the community, not a state decision. The Board and our district leadership team navigated the process to stand up for this ideal, based on a local consensus and commitment to safety within our classrooms and schools.

Subsequently, this policy work has withstood the test of two court decisions. The district policies protecting a disruption-free environment remain in effect and represent the values of our Ann Arbor community.

She is currently part of a lawsuit with her district over guns in schools versus Michigan Gun Owners and one Ulysses Wong.  The district won the case but it was appealed where the district won again but it is now going to their Supreme Court.

From another article about her work in Ann Arbor:

For example, in innovating programs to address the community’s stated requests, the investment has transformed Northside Elementary School from a low-performing, low-enrolled school (175 students) to a thriving STEAM K-8 school, now with over 600 students enrolled. In an area where the district had been concerned about a possible closure of this campus, today it is a highly competitive school for enrollment, with demand for real estate dramatically improved within the attendance area.

In addition to the implementation of the A2STEAM at Northside K-8, we have also implemented International Baccalaureate Program, PK-12 at Mitchell Elementary, Scarlett Middle, and Huron High Schools, having received full authorization across the three schools beginning in Fall 2017. As a result, these schools have experienced a flurry of growth, particularly needed following a worrisome drop in student enrollment during the 2013-14 school year.

Fighting back for funding from Michigan Legislature:

I see no ed reform links for her so far.  It's likely she didn't think a lot about Michigan charter schools as they received a bigger bump from their legislature than did traditional schools.


Anonymous said...

A couple quotes from an article on Dr. Swift (http://www.apogeepublications.com/emags/MASA_spring2018/pubData/source/MASA_Leader__Spring_2018.pdf)
that sound pretty good to me:

“Simply, before Dr. Swift, AAPS was on the verge of being a district of independent dysfunctional schools,” said Hatt. “Now we are a highly functioning school district. She inspired us and supported us to seek ‘greatness’ and we are on the verge of being great once again as a district.”


“I want to encourage folks to lift up the idea that we can provide school of choice within our public school districts. I also think the idea of having to open a charter, or having vouchers in order to create choice, is just simply misguided. I want to encourage folks on the idea of innovating from within,” said Dr. Swift. “Public schools are our community schools; these are our children and our best hope and biggest resource for the future. They require and deserve our strongest investment for their future. The public school system is the cornerstone of our democracy, the great crossroads where children from all over America and all walks of life, all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds meet and make a stronger community and a stronger country. I believe that we need to hew back to our fundamental roots around public school and public education, and the importance of quality public education for every child.”

Although, the article does also say this, too...

"This year the [Ann Arbor] district will use the Thoughtexchange online communication tool for the community to explore and share their thoughts on the districts direction." Ugh. I suppose we can't fault her for trying, and perhaps AAPS will do a better job than SPS in developing the questions, and the audience, and scaling it so that people can actually see the comments in order to vote on them, etc. At the very least, in the event that she does end up as the new head of SPS, hopefully she will do some research on our past experience with Thoughtexchange--the experience of parents, not admin--so she can help tweak it significantly so that it's not another meaningless piece of you-know-what if we ever use it again, which I hope we don't. It's just not an effective tool for data collection on such a large level. (If they want to use it to help gather input on survey questions and response options so they can design a decent survey that might be able to generate valid, reliable, and interpretable data for a change, that might be an ok use. Maybe. And for god's sake, will whoever does take over please see to it that the quality of the surveys that goes out improves dramatically?)

first look

Anonymous said...

Look at the support Ann Arbor teachers facebook page from June 2015-July 2015. Swift tried to terminate the teachers contract to institute anti-union rules passed by the republican state legislature.

Watch Out

Unknown said...

Melissa, when will you be providing detail on the Andre Spencer?

Anonymous said...


Melissa has already provided all the detail she plans to on Andre Spencer:

"No thanks. I’m willing to listen to Spencer but I already have my doubts."


Melissa Westbrook said...

I currently have no Internet at my home and had to go to my son’s house. I worked for hours on the first two while my son gathered info on Spencer. My son kept telling me good things about Spencer and I look forward to reading them.

I am currently at my volunteer tutoring at an SPS school and I’m not giving that up. I will post on Mr Spencer this afternoon. I offered that on bit of thought on him because of our experience with Goodloe-Johnson.0

Anonymous said...

Swift sounds great, and I wonder about her efforts to terminate teacher contracts mentioned above. Maybe she needed to do that for a good reason? I guess when looking at the line up, the only thing she seems to have going against her is the fact that she’s white. Juneau looks good, though no district or school leadership experience to speak of.

I’m not so concerned about them coming from smaller districts. It would be more peculiar if someone was taking a lateral move or a step down to take on the SPS mess.

Get Real

Anonymous said...

I predict that this candidate will emerge as Melissa and Director Harris’ preferred candidate. I predict that many here will rail against the anti-labor Broad Foundation when discussing Dr. Spencer’s association with it, then turn around and heap praise on this candidate despite documented anti-labor moves in her actual, recent practice. I predict that the continued protest of the Board’s decision to replace our current superintendent by our local teachers’ union, principal’s association, and family organizations in the south end (SESEC, e.g.) will continue to go largely undiscussed on this blog.

Would Love To Be Wrong

Anonymous said...

@ WLTB Wrong, the Board hired Nyland out of retirement, with the understanding it would be short term. Then they extended his contract, even though some of the community thought it time to move on. So now that they are finally moving on as planned, why is that so wrong? There's NEVER a perfect, calm, alll's well with SPS period that would be better suited to transition. The reason for the limited discussion here is probably because most reading/commenting don't understand what's behind the desire to dramatically shift gears and stick with Nyland. If you have further insight as to what's really behind the Nyland support, feel free to share--preferably on the open thread, not here. The SESAC letter doesn't make a strong case, although maybe it did succeed in getting them special access to the process and more influence over hiring?

First look

Anonymous said...

Here are some articles that I don't recall seeing linked on the blog that make the case for slowing or ceasing a superintendent search.





Would Love To Be Wrong

Anonymous said...

@Would Love To Be Wrong, I hope your moniker is true, because you are. Check out Melissa's March 12 post entitled "The Curious Case Of the Push to Keep Superintendent Nyland." Three words in she links to that Crosscut op-ed, which lays out most of the same argument presented in the Seattle Weekly article (and which, FWIW, has zero comments...which seems strange if "the community" is so frustrated as those quoted in the article say). The KUOW article doesn't say much aside from re-hashing Campano's perspective. (To note, Nyland ok'd an agreement with SEA that granted teachers raises we did not have the money for. Yes, they deserved them, but he agreed to them knowing they were potentially a huge financial problem. If I were her I'd want him to stay on for the next round of negotiations, too--especially knowing he wouldn't have to deal with the financial fallout after more raises!)

First look

Anonymous said...

I am, indeed, happy that one of the four articles I mentioned did appear in a link on this blog, and my apologies for that error. I still think that the lack of overall coverage devoted to the opposition of some really significant district stakeholders on this process is troubling, and inconsistent. This blog champions community engagement, and has rightly called attention to the lack of it on a multitude of issues. Why is the school board getting a pass on this one?

Would Love To Be Wrong

Anonymous said...

Because the board is finally following up on something they said they were going to do earlier, which was find a new Supt. Community engagement is nearly ALWAYS a problem in SPS, and keeping Nyland on longer doesn't help that. Maybe getting a new one on board ASAP is the key to finally starting to get some good community engagement?

I should also clarify that I don't "vehemently oppose" Nyland as you stated. I don't think he invokes a lot of strong feelings from many people, the recent protesters notwithstanding. More information on what's so great about him, rather than just a fear of change, might have been more convincing.

First look