TPS board narrows interim superintendent field to 2Written by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Public Schools (TPS) Board of Education (BOE) narrowed the field of interim superintendent candidates from three to two, April 4.
After three two-hour interviews, Board President Brenda Hill announced that the board will have Treasurer Matthew Cleland schedule second interviews with Romules Durant and Douglas Heuer for the position of TPS interim superintendent to begin Aug. 1.
Durant, 37, is TPS’s assistant superintendent of the Bowsher, Scott and Waite Learning Communities. Heuer, 63, is superintendent of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District.
Hill dismissed the 26-year age difference between the remaining candidates as insignificant.
“If you’re a leader, you’re a leader, no matter how old you are,” Hill said.
Following his interview, April 2, Durant made a statement but did not answer questions.
“I’m humbled,” he said. “It’s been a positive experience. One, just being able to interview for such a position, with myself being from Toledo, born and raised and a graduate to Waite High School. At the same time, just the support from the community, many of the agencies, faith-based communities, the business sector, individuals coming out and just showing support, positive encouragement.
“It’s very humbling to understand the gravity of the position and how many people you impact and not really being conscience of those things.
“I just wanted to thank all those as well as the board for this opportunity and being more than excited just to do the process an continue on.”
Durant, a 1994 Waite graduate, is the son of Benjamin and Carolynne Durant. Under the guidance of his parents, who coached at Franklin and Birmingham Elementary Schools, Durant became involved in athletics as a child.
Durant’s played the majority of his Little League football career as an East Side Raider, where he became known the jersey he wore, identifying him as the “Hit Man.”
Toledo born and bred
At Waite, Durant earned multiple awards for athletics as a three-year varsity letterman and two-year captain, including the “Best Linebacker” and “Most Valuable Defensive Player” awards three times.
He was twice voted All-City and All-District teams, and received All-Ohio distinction for his middle linebacker play. He attended The University of Toledo on a football scholarship. A four-year varsity letter winner, Durant was twice awarded the “Jon Binder Award” for exemplifying true heart and courage.
After receiving his bachelor’s in education in 1998, Durant was awarded a master of education in 2002 from the Intercollegiate Urban Leadership Development Program. Five years later, Durant received a PhD in educational administration and supervision from UT.
In collaboration with other professional educators working for President Barack Obama’s administration, Durant helped devise a plan on “Equity and Excellence.” He was then hired by the National Research Institute to work as a facilitator for future conferences.
As a Toledo Public School employee, Durant has worked as principal of Riverside Elementary as well as assistant principal, dean of
students and fourth grade teacher.
Student African American Brotherhood
In recent years, Durant has been instrumental in establishing Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) district-wide.
Under Durant’s leadership, TPS was honored in 2011 by the national organization for having the most SAAB chapters within a K-12 system nationwide with 15 chapters: eight in high schools and seven in middle schools.
In a presentation in December, 2011, Willie Ward, assistant principal and SAAB adviser at Martin Luther King Jr. Academy for Boys, said SAAB is focuses on four core values— accountability, intellectual development, proactive leadership and self-discipline—to improve its members’ lives.
“We are building leaders,” Ward said. “We want to save lives. We believe in each other and want to improve each other’s lives in the classroom.”
Heuer, like Durant, is a native to Ohio, growing up in the Greater Youngstown area. Heuer spent the first 10 years of his 40-year career in education as a classroom teacher. He left the classroom to work as an administrator at the central office level. During the last 10 of those 30 years in administration, Heuer has served as superintendent of three school districts.
After studying TPS’s state report card, the five-year forecast and Evergreen Solutions’ performance audit, Heuer said he felt compelled to interview for the TPS interim superintendent position.
“I’ve been fortunate in my career as a superintendent to go into districts that were committed to make a significant move,” Heuer said. “All the districts I’ve been in have progressed from Continuous Improvement to Excellence with Distinction.
“The district that I’m in now, Cleveland Heights-University Heights, is a tremendous district and it is building. We’re doing some unique things, have captured a lot of grant money and a lot of national recognitions. We’re proud of that. It’s just the Toledo schools make a compelling argument to be a part of what’s happening here.”
‘Putting yourself out there’
Heuer said TPS should be commended for hiring an outside firm to conduct a performance audit as comprehensive as the one Evergreen Solutions President Linda Reico presented April 3.
“You sort of put yourself out there publically when you do a performance audit,” Heuer said. “I had the state auditor do one for me when I was in the Austintown schools. It gives you some starting points, some stepping stones to begin to make change.
“I think that the next big task on the part of the district will be take key leaders in the community and within the school district and to vet those commendations and recommendations, decide which one are really critical as leverage points for moving the district forward. I thought that it made some excellent points, and I think the district should be proud that it made that investment, put itself out there to do that.”
Heuer also said TPS’s Transformation Plan creates unique opportunities for student achievement.
“My initial thought is [that] moving into the 21st century, the most critical factor for success is creating leaders for our country,” Heuer said. “For people to be successful, they have to be innovators, and that requires internal motivation. And they’re two components to international motivation, and one of them is meaningful choice.
“The Transformation Plan speaks to creating opportunities for students to make meaningful choices in their educational programs. And that a huge step forward in order to create that intrinsic motivation in students. And that’s the key to the things that happen in their lives.”
Heuer comes to TPS, a district with 22,000 students, from a district with 5800 students. He said that provides him “an opportunity to make a difference for students, for children on a much larger scale. And that’s appealing and compelling.”
Heuer reports that the Cleveland-Heights-University Heights City School District is similar to TPS in that it has a student population that is 85 percent minority, 70 percent economically disadvantaged, 18 percent special education and 20 percent transient.
Organizational structure and leadership
Heuer said his strengths as an administrator lie in organizational structure and his ability “to identify the key points for shaping organizational structure to really be geared toward getting the kind of outcomes desired.
“The mantra to do any kind of studies in organization or organizational theory is ‘Every organization is structured to get exactly the results its getting.’ So if you want to change the results, you need to look at how you restructure the organization, and then pick key points where you can get critical leverage. You start to see some change.
“The second thing is I’ve always been good at bringing teams of people together because this work is far, far too hard for any individual to do. The scope is far greater so what I’ve always prided myself in being able to bring teams of people together and build capacity for groups of people to address these problems.
“They’re not technical problems. For technical problems, you open the box and take it out, and the solution is there. These are problems that unique to the Toledo Public Schools. They’re adaptive problems, and that are going to require a lot of people working very hard, very collaboratively over a significant period of time in order really affect significant change.”
Heuer said the literature about great organizations and leadership in great organizations is that “they build and they create sustainability from within.
“Another strength [of mine] is that I work with people to develop leadership and organization. Each time I have left as superintendent, the person who took over was an internal person who was able to continue that on and make those districts the Excellent with Distinction.”
Heuer said he considers himself to be a transformational superintendent.
“I generally have been called into districts because they were Continuous Improvement and they made a commitment to want to change that,” Heuer said. “And we were fortunate that working together as a team worked.”