Education reform expert visits FWCS - September 19, 2008
Record Number: 4327
Displayed from: Sep 19, 2008 , until: Oct 19, 2008
Tom Houlihan, a national education expert known for his work in transforming educational entities, returned to Fort Wayne this week to discuss his observations on the work being done in Fort Wayne Community Schools. Houlihan first visited FWCS in August, talking to district officials, parents, students and community members to learn about the school district, the community and the capacity for change. In his return visit he reviewed what he learned. Houlihan has spent more than three decades in education working as a teacher, high school principal, superintendent and a Cabinet-level advisor to the governor of North Carolina. During his time at the state level, he helped oversee major reforms throughout North Carolina's school system. He has also served as the Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that works with state-level educators across the country on issues, including implementing the requirements of No Child Left Behind. In his analysis of FWCS, he said the district possesses three of the four major characteristics crucial to successful change and the fourth is attainable. FWCS has an awareness and sense of urgency about the need for change, strong leadership at all levels of the system and a community of leaders and organizations to help create, implement and sustain transformational change. The district is on its way to meeting the fourth characteristic of aligning systems at the classroom, school, district and state levels. What is lacking, he said, is complete alignment of the state rules and regulations to the FWCS system, which Houlihan believes can be remedied through further work with state officials. Houlihan took special notice of the district's efforts to strengthen leadership at every level – from the community and schools to the administration and school board – saying, "In Fort Wayne Community Schools, the quality of leadership is among the strongest, if not the strongest, of any major urban school system in the country. In fact, leadership is among the strongest of any school system I have observed anywhere in the nation. … Without question, the strength of leadership in Fort Wayne Community Schools is a major factor in readiness for transformational change."
With nearly 30,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is one of the largest school districts in Indiana. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 50 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.