Area superintendents have clear goals for schools

Feb. 10, 2014 @ 09:59 AM

Last month, we (re-)introduced you to two longtime Durham Public Schools administrators who are now leading the district, Interim Superintendent Hugh Osteen and Deputy Superintendent for Academic Services Dr. Stacey Wilson-Norman. This month, we would like you to get to know the district leaders responsible for directly supporting our schools and principals, our three area superintendents.
Each area superintendent provides instructional leadership and support to principals based on grade level. The area superintendents review academic data, visit schools and foster collaboration between principals to provide consistent, high-quality service to our students across DPS. They constantly work to support principals with district resources, and also are available to hear parents’ concerns.
Elementary schools
John R. McCain is the former principal of Southwest Elementary School, who was named the new area superintendent for elementary schools by the DPS Board of Education in January.  He began his career as an elementary teacher in Mebane and later was recognized as Person County’s Principal of the Year. He is working toward his doctorate in educational leadership.
“Our elementary schools have teachers who are invested in our students’ future, and they’re led by principals who are dedicated to teaching and learning,” McCain said. “I’m also proud that they have greater access to technology.”
McCain sees his new role as an opportunity to build strong relationships with and among his fellow elementary principals, further ensure student success, and to secure resources for his schools that are appropriate for their unique needs. Among his high-priority goals are to use data to drive instruction for all students and to make the most of school partnerships.
Middle schools
Julie Spencer joined DPS in 2000 as Carrington Middle School’s assistant principal, and then returned to Carrington as its principal in 2004. In the following six years, Carrington was recognized as a National Middle School to Watch and Spencer was a two-time DPS Principal of the Year finalist. She moved to the DPS central office in 2010 as an assistant superintendent for instructional services, becoming area superintendent for middle schools nine months later. Since then, every DPS middle school has adopted a unique instructional focus area, magnet theme or academic calendar. She has a doctorate in educational leadership from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Spencer sees herself as having a three-part role in supporting DPS middle schools. “First, we’re working to ensure that we have engaging, rigorous lessons in every middle school classroom,” she said. “Technology, collaboration, creativity and writing are all important. Second, all of our middle schools must continue to provide an inviting, safe, nurturing environment. When they come home on Friday, I want them to feel like they can’t wait to come back.”
Finally, Spencer is passionate about helping parents and the DPS community see the strengths of its middle schools: “Sixth through eighth grades are a challenging time, but our schools’ progress is reflected in our data. Students can thrive in DPS middle schools.”
High schools
Jim Key began his career as a social studies teacher at Chewning Junior High School in 1984, and has remained with DPS throughout his 30-year career. He coached Riverside High School to win the state championship in wrestling in 1994 and 1995 and is a former officer in the North Carolina National Guard.  He became principal at Eno Valley Elementary School in 1999, then served as principal for Carrington Middle School, Riverside High School and Chewning Middle School before becoming area superintendent for high schools in July 2011.  He was DPS Principal of the Year in 2009 and holds a master’s of school administration degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Ask Key what his high schools’ mission is and he quickly answers: for every student to graduate prepared to be enlisted, employed or enrolled. “We’re proud of providing a well-rounded academic experience for our students,” Key said. “Rigor, relevance and relationships are the keys to making sure our students are safe, engaged, and prepared for the future.  The arts, athletics and a plethora of clubs and activities keep our students engaged. We’re also proud of our students’ diversity and the millions of dollars in academic scholarships they win every year.”
Key’s high-priority goals include providing safe, orderly and inviting schools, and supporting teachers through collaborative teaming. “We are fortunate to have so many outstanding teachers committed and dedicated to providing quality learning opportunities for our students.”
Key emphasizes his, McCain’s and Spencer’s roles as listeners and liaisons. “We listen to the needs of our students, parents and staff and work with district and state educational leaders to ensure we are doing all we can to support our students with fulfilling their dreams and goals.”