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Seating Superintendents at the Policy Table


Susan Fuhrman and Tom Sobol

TC President Susan Fuhrman and Professor Thomas Sobol at Teachers College's annual Superintendents Work Conference

TC's annual summer conference bridges the gap between policy and practice

"Superintendents are not often contacted about education policy. says Gibran Majdalany. "But they are the ones on the ground, who make policy work or fail,"

One notable exception to that rule is the Teachers College's annual Superintendents Work Conference, chaired for the past decade by Thomas Sobol, who is stepping down this year as the College's Christian A. Johnson Professor of Outstanding Educational Practice, and deputy chaired by Majdalany.

Since its  inception, the Conference -- a gathering of school superintendents from around the nation that's now in its 65th year -- has featured some of the most prestigious names in education policy. This year's event, "Beyond No Child Left Behind: What is the Plan for Tomorrow?", held from July 9 to 12, featured Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University; Ronald F. Ferguson, Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government; Jack  Jennings, founder of the Center on Education Policy; Michael Rebell, Executive Director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at TC; Bill Taylor, civil right lawyer and Vice Chairman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; and of course, Sobol, who from 1987 through 1995 served as New York State's Commissioner of Education.

This was Sobol's last year leading the conference, and the superintendents, anxious to make sure that Teachers College knew how much they valued the event, created a petition urging its continuation.

"Thank you for providing us with the intellectual and spiritual haven that the Superintendent's Work Conference has been for the last decade," said Rich Noonan, Superintendent of Schools of the Madison, NJ School District, in saluting Sobol for his work.  "Your unflinching support for the work that superintendents do has been a great source of strength to me."

Incoming TC president Susan Fuhrman met with the 50 superintendents at the conference to demonstrate her commitment to partnerships with school administrators. And Majdalany said TC is committed to making the conference even stronger. Arlene Ackerman, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, will be taking the reins from Sobol in the fall, and Majdalany says he is excited to work with her: "She has experience in, and commitment to, public, urban education. There are always new challenges, but her leadership in education will be a boon."

The conference may continue to become more interactive in the future, Majdalany says. He notes that the group now provides follow-up at the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) national conference. The continuing input of the superintendents is important to Majdalany: "We're trying to build something together," he says.

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