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April 23, 2014

Interim superintendent looks to the future

By Jessica Strachan
C & G Staff Writer

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Interim superintendent looks to the future
Lynda Wood, interim superintendent of Southfield Public Schools, talks with University High School Academy seniors Ivan Carrasco and Zachary Coleman.
Tenth-grade students David Whitaker, Slyan Carter, Sydney Vickers and Raymond Johnson talk to Wood about their work on how to make chemotherapy better for patients.
 

SOUTHFIELD — Interim Superintendent Lynda Wood said Southfield Public Schools is moving full steam ahead toward a bright future, but there are many stops along the way.

After being an educator for more than 18 years, in March she assumed the position of interim superintendent, replacing longtime Superintendent Wanda Cook-Robinson, who took a role on the executive cabinet of Oakland Schools.

“We have a wonderful district, and I just hope to enhance it as we move forward,” Wood said, adding that she would like to address the issue of long waitlists for early childhood education in Southfield, and provide more access to technology for students and more support for teachers to expand their expertise. “There’s still a lot of work ahead; I’ll be moving full-speed ahead and designing this district to meet the needs of more and more kids in the future.”

Jacqueline Robinson, spokesperson for the district, explained that the selection process for the new permanent superintendent is to have the SPS school board work with the Michigan Leadership Institute to file through potential candidates. Together, they have met with key stakeholder groups to establish the criteria for applicants.

The application went online March 27, and the application period closes April 25. Interviews are set to take place the week of May 5, and the goal is to fill the position by the start of school, Robinson added.

Wood began her career as a science teacher in Detroit at the middle school level, then was asked to join the central office to support other math and science teachers. She eventually returned to teaching — this time in Southfield — before taking on various administration roles, such as curriculum director and principal at Eisenhower Elementary School.

She said she hopes to be chosen as the new superintendent for Southfield.

“I love teaching. I love the whole process of facilitating learning and understanding — not only for children, but for adults,” she said. “I have lived here in this community for over 16 years; I’m very invested in this community. I love the energy, I love the diversity, I love the fact that we have a community of parents and students and homeowners — a whole variety of people — who are invested in maintaining and creating a well-oiled city for families.”

“This drives me to wish to invest even more, to encourage and support the anchoring of education in our community.”

Wood worked closely with Cook-Robinson for nearly 10 years in the district, and Wood said that helped ease the transition: that Cook-Robinson is “right down the road.”

Before leaving, Cook-Robinson said she was excited for her new role and that she would keep SPS close to her heart.

“I am very proud of Southfield,” Cook-Robinson said. “I could sit here for another hour and tell you all about our accomplishments. It has been just a wonderful opportunity — it has been a fantastic board, a great staff, outstanding administrative leadership team; and all of those things have really made the difficult decision and the difficult things we have had to do in Southfield tolerable.”

Wood said that one of the things she learned from Cook-Robinson that she wishes to continue and elevate is that she did a tremendous job of keeping a pulse on the community.

“She was very good at being visible, having strong relationships with key players of the community — from the mayor all the way down to the households, where she would have intimate conversations with citizens,” Wood explained. “I hope to provide that kind of intimacy and connection.”

SPS Board of Education President Fern Katz said Wood was selected as interim superintendent based on her history and quality of work in the district and the superintendent’s recommendation.

“Dr. Wood is a specialist in curriculum and brought to the district the Differentiated Instruction Curriculum, for which we won the 2012 American School Board Journal’s Magna Award. She is very knowledgeable about our district.”

Trustee Darryle Buchanan added that Wood is “really an educator at heart.”

“Dr. Wood has brought many innovative programs to our district.”

The district will host a special coffee hour with the interim superintendent 9-11 a.m. May 10 at JWE, 24661 Lahser Road.

For more information, visit www.southfield.k12.mi.us.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jessica Strachan at jstrachan@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1108.