NSFA Superintendent of the Year Award



Read full press release for Dr. Rodney E. Watson here.

NSFA Superintendent of the Year


Dr. Rodney E. Watson

Superintendent

Spring Independent School District

Houston, TX

2021 NSFA Superintendent of the Year

Dr. Rodney E. Watson has led the Spring Independent School District since July 2014. The district serves more than 33,000 students in a diverse community approximately 20 miles north of downtown Houston, in an urban area of Harris County, Texas. Along with its 26 elementary schools, seven comprehensive middle schools and three comprehensive high schools, Spring ISD offers families two middle schools of choice, a nationally recognized early college academy and an award-winning high school career academy.

Located near the heart of one of the largest, most culturally diverse and most vibrant metropolitan areas in the country, Spring ISD’s mission is to prepare students to contribute, compete, and lead in a global society as well as in their own communities. Through classroom instruction, extracurriculars, enrichment activities, internships and robust CTE pathways, volunteering and other forms of civic engagement, the district’s students are encouraged to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and responsible citizens of good character.

Watson arrived as superintendent from Houston ISD, where he served as Chief Human Resources Officer for the largest district in Texas and seventh largest in the nation. Upon his arrival in Spring ISD, he partnered with stakeholders and community members across the district to develop a shared vision for the future. An ambitious five-year strategic plan, EVERY CHILD 2020, launched in May 2015 with an emphasis on student-centered decision making, rigor and accountability, and leveraging the power of teamwork and common purpose at every level of the organization.

That work has led to numerous successes for Spring ISD, including the expansion of full-day prekindergarten to every elementary campus, enhanced early childhood and dual language offerings, improvements in high school students taking and scoring well on AP exams, a boost in elementary reading proficiency, and the launch of several new middle and high school specialty programs. Watson’s leadership has helped inspire a large increase in parent and community volunteer hours, as well as the passage of a $330 million bond that brought new school buildings, improved technology and infrastructure, and allowed for the establishment of dedicated ninth-grade centers at each of Spring ISD’s three comprehensive high schools.

In the spring of 2020, Watson formed an Innovation and Equity team to support the district’s belief in the importance of ensuring equitable outcomes for all students. A steering committee of both internal and external stakeholders was charged with developing a proactive plan to close achievement gaps while improving support structures that meet the needs of every student within the community.

As superintendent, Watson has been a strong advocate for the district’s education foundation and its work, partnering with the organization and lending his support to its initiatives, including the annual “Tee Up For Education” charity golf tournament and the group’s Grant Express, which funds innovative teaching and learning opportunities through targeted grants given directly to district teachers and campuses.

When Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area in 2017, many district families and students were affected by extensive flooding in their neighborhoods. Before the rains had even stopped, Watson and his district leadership team had joined forces with foundation board members and a small army of volunteers to bring much-needed relief and support to Spring ISD families in crisis. This kind of dedicated partnership in support of the common good of all families has been a hallmark of his tenure as superintendent.

Beyond the district, Watson's service to other organizations has included work with The Education Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NAACP, the National Association of Black School Administrators, the Asia Society’s Global Cities Educational Network, and the American Counseling Association. He has also served as an adjunct professor of education at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and the University of Texas at Austin.

He currently serves as Board Chair for Northwest Assistance Ministries, board member and Executive Pastor at Wellspring Church International Ministries, and formerly served as the Board Chair for Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce.

Watson received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and music education, his master’s degree in counseling psychology and special education, and his Ph.D., from the University of Missouri–Kansas City, in Urban Leadership and Policy Analysis and Curriculum and Instruction.

He and his wife Shanel have enjoyed 25 blessed years of marriage, and together they have four beautiful children, Chandler, Simone, Elise and RJ.

PURPOSE

To recognize a superintendent whose visionary leadership and collaboration, develops a partnership with their education foundation which provides every student the opportunity for success.

AWARD

Recognition in press releases and NSFA E-news, two registrations to the 2021 Virtual NSFA National Conference (February 23-26), and the opportunity to present at future NSFA events in addition to other prizes.

Judging Criteria

Foundation Engagement and Results

  •      Respects the Foundation's role as collaborative partner
  •      Supports and engages with Foundation including participation in board meetings, Foundation’s strategic planning, other volunteer opportunities
  •      Models philanthropy with personal contribution to Foundation
  •      Supports major gifts efforts (thanks major donors, participates in major gift asks, participates in stewardship events)

Community engagement on behalf of district students

  •      Provide leadership to ensure equity and access for educational opportunities for all students
  •      Empowers others to do more on behalf of students
  •      Clear vision and strategic plan for District
  •      Innovative and creative in developing opportunities for students

Superintendent has advanced the work of the education foundation with external stakeholders including district staff, the business community or others

  •      Encourages staff (Executive Committee, building leadership and other District staff) participation in the Staff Giving Campaign, Foundation’s annual fund or special events
  •      Focused on student outcomes and works with Foundation to determine highest and best use of Foundation investments
  •      Advocates for and serves as a spokesperson for the Foundation in the community

Superintendent’s service to other organizations and the impact of that service

  •      Involved with the Community including service on other Boards or other civic engagement

OTHER CRITERIA

  •     Nominating organization must be a member of NSFA and cannot be a member of the Award Selection Committee. See here to become a member of NSFA. 
  •     Superintendent must have served in present role for a minimum of three years.

NSFA welcomes nominations for the Superintendent of the Year Award for a district leader that meets the qualifications of the award. Regardless of their title, we encourage participation from districts of any size for the opportunity for their district leader to be named the NSFA Superintendent of the Year at the 2021 virtual National Conference. The award is not limited to titled Superintendents, rather it is inclusive of all those whose visionary leadership and collaboration develops a partnership with their education foundation to provide every student the opportunity for success.

NSFA Superintendent of the Year Award Previous Winners


Dr. William R. Hite, Jr.

Superintendent

The School District of Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA

2020 NSFA Superintendent of the Year

With a focus on equity, innovation and quality, Dr. William R. Hite serves as Superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia, the largest public school system in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Since joining the School District in June 2012, Dr. Hite has worked to create a system of great schools in every neighborhood. Under his leadership, the School District has opened new innovative high schools, expanded successful school models, launched in-district turnarounds and redesigned schools in partnership with communities. His overall focus remains on strengthening all elementary and secondary school offerings.

Dr. Hite’s professional experience includes serving at every level – teacher, principal, central office administrator and Superintendent. He was previously Superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland where his central work focused on enhanced access and rigor to ensure college- and career-readiness. Prince George’s County schools, one of the 25 largest systems in the United States, received national recognition for expanding access to Advanced Placement courses during his tenure.

Dr. Hite also served as an Assistant Superintendent in Georgia’s Cobb County School District. In addition, as an administrator in Henrico County, Virginia, he led Highland Springs High School to “Best Practices” honors from the state’s General Assembly.

Dr. Hite has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Richmond School of Continuous Learning and taught school leadership courses at Virginia State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland. A member of numerous national, state, and local boards, he has participated with national agencies and associations to reform K-12 education.

Dr. Hite holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Virginia Tech, master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Virginia and a doctorate in education specializing in educational leadership from Virginia Tech. His interests include music, travel, sports and reading. He and his wife Deirdre have two daughters and a grandson

2019 NSFA Superintendent of the Year

Dr. Enfield is a uniquely strong advocate for community support of public education, and a remarkable collaborator with her district’s Education Foundation: “Their partnership is making a difference in the lives of the nearly 19,000 students in the district. Together they are improving high school graduation rates, closing the achievement gap for English language learners, and creating a culture of success.”

The promise of Highline Public Schools is to know every student by name, strength and need so they graduate prepared for the future they choose. During her tenure in Highline Public Schools, Dr. Enfield has worked side by side with the Highline Schools Foundation to secure major grants and donations from many sources, including Alaska Airlines, Boeing, and the Biller Family Foundation.

According to Highline  Schools  Foundation Executive Director, Anne Baunach, Enfield welcomes her role as a fundraiser-in-chief, and  promotes the  Foundation to school  parents, community members and  potential donors. “I have worked with numerous superintendents in my role as parent-volunteer, school  board member, development professional and now foundation employee. I truly have never  met  anyone with the commitment to students that Dr. Enfield brings.”  Her efforts  have  paid off with the  renovation of school  facilities, and  a strategic plan dedicated to creating a culturally responsive school  climate, meeting both the  social emotional and  academic needs of students and  encouraging digital  and media literacy  for all students.

Dr. Enfield is a former  high school  English, journalism and  ELL teacher, and  she served as Chief Academic Officer and  then as Interim Superintendent for Seattle Public Schools  before coming to Highline in 2012.  She is a graduate of the  University of California,  Berkeley,  and earned master’s degrees from Stanford University and  Harvard  University. She also holds  a doctoral degree in Administration, Planning and  Social Policy from Harvard’s Urban  Superintendents Program.

Dr. Susan Enfield

Superintendent

Highline Public Schools

Burien, WA


Dr. Michael A. Grego

Superintendent

Pinellas County School District

Largo, FL

2018 NSFA Superintendent of the Year

Dr. Grego is a visionary leader and dedicated educator whose career spans more than 35 years. He began his career as a classroom teacher and department head with Hillsborough County Schools, advancing to become the Assistant Superintendent for Technical, Career & Adult Education, and then Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction.  He became Superintendent of the Pinellas County School District in September, 2012. Based in Largo, FL, the system serves nearly 104,000 students in their PK-12 district enrollment, including more than 140 schools and centers. The district is the 7th largest in Florida and 26th largest in the nation serving 76 elementary schools, 22 middle schools, 17 high schools, 6 alternative & exception education schools, 9 adult/vocational schools, 16 centers, and
14 charter schools. With more than 17,000 teachers, administrators and support staff, the district is also Pinellas County's largest employer. Additionally, over 20,000 people serve as volunteers

Dr. Grego is seen as a beacon of change and innovation for the school district, and he has aggressively worked to eliminate achievement gaps in Pinellas County Schools.

Since 2011, Dr. Grego has led a partnership with PEF's Stavros Career Education Board to implement Academies of Pinellas in PCS high schools to prepare students for careers in high demand industries. This group includes active business partners from a wide variety of institutions across the county. Students have shown better attendance, higher GPAs and higher graduation rates than non-academy peers
(96.4% v. 86.5%). Due to this effort, Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) named Pinellas a Model Community in 2013 and a Ford NGL Innovation Center in 2016, one of only four in the U.S. Under Dr. Grego's leadership, PCS and the Foundation created a master plan for Career Education, resulting in 51% of students being enrolled in career academies, and 13,000 certifications earned in 2017. In 2013, Dr. Grego mandated that all PCS high school students graduate from high school equipped with a career plan, using the Future Plans career planning tool developed by the Pinellas Education Foundation.

Under Dr. Grego’s direction, Pinellas County Schools has achieved district-wide accreditation and has been recognized for several major accomplishments. The Learning Counsel honored PCS as one of the top 10 districts in the nation for its digital curriculum strategy. A 2017 report by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C, ranked PCS as the top in Florida and 10th in the nation for districts offering the best choices for parents. The district earned the top score in Florida two years in a row. In 2017, PCS also earned top-10 ranking in the annual Digital School Districts Survey for exemplary use of technology. The same year, Pinellas was named one of the Great Districts for Great Teachers by the National Council for Teacher Quality. The award honors districts that celebrate, support and reward great teachers.

Dr. Grego has implemented a number of forward-thinking initiatives to advance the district’s vision of “100% Student Success.”

During Dr. Grego’s tenure, PCS launched:

  • ”Beyond the Classroom”, online educational resources available to students 24/7.
  • “Bridging the Gap”, an initiative created to close the gap between African American students and their peers.
  • “Pinellas Innovates”, a long-range plan to expand personalized learning opportunities for students.
  • “Pinellas Pathways to Graduation”, rigorous and relevant course options that help students successfully complete the requirements for earning a high school diploma and uniquely distinguish themselves as they apply to colleges, universities, and technical schools, or enter the workforce.
  • “Summer Bridge”, an ambitious summer learning program that sets students up for success.
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