Posted at: 09/12/2012 11:36 PM
By: Dan Levy
ALBANY - Promising to focus on student achievement, and guaranteeing academic success, Albany's new school superintendent has taken her place in city history. Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard is now the first African American woman to lead the 8,600 student city school district.
Dr. V, as she likes to be called, arrives in Albany on a mission.
"My sole focus is student achievement and that's where I will promise that we will make academic gains," she stated Wednesday afternoon, after being approved unanimously 7-0 during a special meeting of the school board at Hackett Middle School.
In Paterson, New Jersey, where Dr. V was deputy superintendent of an urban district three times the size of Albany, she is credited with closing the achievement gap in both math and reading, while the district's graduation rate rose 17%, something she chalks up to the creation of multiple avenues toward graduation.
"We kept more kids in the building, which as a result, more kids would graduate," she says.
In Albany, she'll have her work cut out for her since only about 50% of the students earn their diplomas.
"I have no reason why our graduation rate can't be 90%," she asserted. "Not this week, but under my tenure."
After beating out 26 other candidates for the job, Dr. V now has a three-year contract with the Albany School District, and an annual salary of $190,000. Her resume includes stops in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"We weren't looking to just hire a resume," said Dan Egan, President of the Albany School Board. "We don't hire a set of skills. We hire a person. She not only has the professional skills we need, she has the leadership qualities that we need. It's the whole person."
What Dr. V says she most looking forward to is getting to work right away creating and then implementing a student achievement plan, while also making sure teachers are providing the highest level of rigorous instruction.
"Our teachers are good," she declares, "But Mr. Egan, and the community, and the state are saying, "We want you to move from good to great." and getting to great is a difficult task, but it's doable."
Dr. V's first day on the job will be Monday, September 24th. She also happens to be the mother of the school district's newest student. Her 8-year old daughter is just beginning the third grade.