By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Mac superintendent a national finalist

Russell and three other education leaders have been named finalists for the American Association of School Administrators’ title of 2013 National Superintendent of the Year.

That comes as no big surprise to Russell’s colleagues in McMinnville, where she has served as superintendent since 2002.

They describe her as an educator “who always puts students first;” as “the person who is most responsible for the quality of education our kids get K-12;” as a leader skilled in “investing in people and supporting them to find their greatness;” as someone with “a vision of what’s best for kids.”

Along with the other finalists, Russell will fly to Washington, D.C., next week for interviews by a panel of educators, business and government officials. They also will take part in a panel discussion about education at  the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The finalists will be judged on leadership and creativity in meeting the needs of students; strength in both personal and organizational communication; constant improvement of administrative knowledge and skills, while providing professional development opportunities and motivation to other educators; and active participation in local community activities and an understanding of regional, national and international issues.

The winner will be announced Feb. 21 at the AASA’s national conference on education in Los Angeles.

Russell was named Oregon Superintendent of the Year in October. The other finalists, who hold the same honor in their states, are Wanda Cook-Robinson of Southfield Public Schools, Southfield, Mich.; Mark Edwards of Mooresville Graded School District, Mooresville, N.C.; and C.J. Huff of Joplin Schools, Joplin, Mo.

“They represent the best in school system leadership today, AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech said “They and their colleagues are at work daily, transforming schools to meet 21st century standards and to provide quality education for all students.”

In Russell’s case, AASA noted her work on numerous initiatives to improve student learning, including a comprehensive approach to science, technology, engineering and math education that features, among other elements,  STEM Summer Camp for girls and a STEM problem-based 90-minute algebra class for all ninth graders.

Also during her tenure:

n The district has made consistent gains in student achievement that are significantly above the state average. This year, three of the district’s elementary schools were labeled “models” in the state’s newest format for determining how well schools are doing. Six of the district’s nine schools received ratings of “outstanding” on the Oregon School Report Card and the other three were “satisfactory”; the district receives several “outstanding” and “satisfactory” marks every year.

n Mac High’s College Credit Now program, in which students can finish some of their college requirements prior to receiving their diploma, consistently awards more credits than any other high school — about 1 1/2 times the next closest school last year.

n Voters approved a bond measure in 2007 to expand and remodel the high school, build Sue Buel Elementary School, add classroom wings at Newby and Wascher elementary schools, and make other improvements throughout the district.

n The district has partnered with the Evergreen Museums on the Engineering and Aerospace Sciences Academy, a hands-on program in which high school students spend time at the space museum learning and practicing math, physical science and engineering.

n Small learning communities and career pathway programs are the norm at Mac High. Limited numbers help teachers get to know and keep track of every student and make students feel part of the school. Career pathways let students explore what they may be doing in the future.

n Two principals and an assistant principal have been named tops in the state. Sean Burke, the current Oregon assistant principal of the year, was one of three finalists for the national title. Cathy Carnahan of Duniway became the first Oregon middle school principal of the year, then won the national title. In 2007, Sarah Johnson, then principal at Grandhaven, was named Oregon grade school principal of the year.

In addition to leading McMinnville schools, Russell was appointed by the governor to the state Quality Education Commission. She is a member of the Confederation of Oregon Administrative Funding Coalition.

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