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Rochester school board picks new superintendent

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 28, 2011

The Rochester Community Schools Board of Education has chosen to offer the superintendent position to Frederick Clarke, the current superintendent of Albion Public Schools.

Clarke said he’s honored the RCS board has selected him as its next superintendent candidate and is excited to move into contract negotiations.

“I’m thrilled, because Rochester is such an incredible place. It’s vibrant, and the school district is one of the top school districts in the state, so to become a part of the Rochester family is amazing. I really look forward to being able to contribute to the goal, and my vision to move Rochester, to one of the best districts in the state, if not the best,” he said.

No stranger to public education, Clarke has 20 years of educational experience, including 12 years at the central office level. Prior to his time with Albion Public Schools, he worked at the Champaign Community Schools Unit 4 in Illinois, the Longview Independent School District, and Fort Bend Independent School District in Texas. He has a master’s in education, curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston, a bachelor’s from the University of Michigan, and is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Western Michigan University, which he expects to graduate from in 2013.

Board of Education President Barb Cenko said Clarke came out on top of the district’s superintendent search process, which involved developing a list of attributes — with input from district stakeholders, board members and the community — and hiring a firm to conduct a national search. Using the list of attributes as a guideline, the pool of applicants was narrowed down to six semifinalists, three finalists and one final candidate.

“The board used multiple factors in determining who will be leading our district. We looked at the attributes that the community and stakeholders thought were important in our leader, we looked at their experience, we looked at their creative memorandums — the what ifs — we looked at their interviews, and we looked at community and stakeholders’ feedback,” she said. “We had three really solid candidates who had many of the attributes and experience to successfully lead any district, but our job was to find the one for our school district.”

After interviewing the three finalists, board members unanimously voted to extend Clarke an offer March 25 — contingent on a contract agreement. Contract negotiations are expected to begin this week.

If an agreement can be reached, Clarke will replace Superintendent David Pruneau, who will retire June 30.

During the March 25 discussion, Board of Education members praised Clarke for being data-driven, having a strong technology background, and for his experience in different size districts across multiple states. Members said they believe Clarke will work to establish good relationships with the community, RCS staff, students and parents, and will help build greater partnerships with the local colleges.

Trustee Lisa Nowak said she really liked Clarke’s vision for the school district, his high level of involvement in the communities he works in, and the fact that he is a collaborative leader — based on feedback she received from his references and people in the Albion district.

Trustee Marty Sibert said all three of the finalist candidates had qualifications that would fit the job, but Clarke was the best fit for RCS.

“I certainly found him to be very articulate, I found him to have a depth of knowledge that would be extremely valuable, and he certainly was very well prepared. One thing that I found that particularly struck me about him, was he always spoke in a positive manner ... that impressed me very much,” he said.

Trustee Gerald Moore described Clarke as “a visionary,” a “lifelong leader,” and said he believes Clarke will continue to stay current in the field of education.

“The thing that may have separated Mr. Clarke from the other candidates, in my mind at least, was a plan, and understanding the how, and what it actually takes to get it done,” he said.

In Trustee Chuck Coutteau’s eyes, Clarke is articulate and a good communicator. He also liked that Clarke’s vision for the district was “very detailed” and “focused on greatness.”

“I think he was zeroing in on the right things, increasing instructional time, enabling our most important instructional resource — our teachers — to be the best that they can be. He’s interested in all the creative ideas and enabling technology,” he said.

Cenko said Clarke complements the qualities and the strengths that already exist in the district’s executive and administrative staff, and educational leaders, and believes he will work well with board members and the community.

“I think he really did embody what we were looking for,” she said. “I challenge all of our stakeholders, all our staff, and our administrators to reach out to Mr. Clarke to help lead us forward, because we really do need to go from great to greatest.”