New superintendent has history of achievement
Tharp, family settling into life in Greendale
Greendale - John Tharp's office walls are bare; the bookcases are empty.
The school district's new superintendent says he has been too busy working to meet the district's "lofty goals" to have time to decorate.
That kind of pressure isn't new to him.
As an assistant superintendent of secondary schools of Williamson County, Tenn., he oversaw nine middle schools and nine high schools.
"We had never been over 23 on our district ACT composite, and we hit 23.1 this year," he said. "That's a feather in the cap. In addition, that's significant because in Tennessee every 11th-grader takes the test. It's not just your top 75 to 80 percent."
That district also saw an increase in students taking Advanced Placement classes. In 2010, 4,200 students took AP classes, and last year 7,000 did. While there has been an increase in AP enrollment, the district did not see a decrease in pass-rates. The AP pass-rates have maintained at 70 percent.
"In terms of Advanced Placement, we said that there are kids who are more than capable of taking Advanced Placement who aren't taking these classes. It was an effort at each school site by counselors, teachers and the administrators to say that let's identify these kids and get them enrolled in AP classes. You have to look at your data, at your kids and look at the classes and say, 'Why do we have one section of AP calculus? With the size of our school and the demographic of our school we should probably have three sections.' Once you start digging deeper you can increase enrollment."
Right now, Tharp is listening to the ideas of Greendale administrators. The lofty goals are laid out in a strategic guideline, which they will be releasing in the next few weeks.
Tharp may have his work cut out from him, but he has noted that the staff has been exceptionally helpful in helping him learn more about the district's inner-workings.
The importance of today
Tharp graduated from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's in curriculum and instruction.
He also has authored a book titled "Breaking the Cycle of Failed School Reform."
"I took a look at five reforms throughout the history of our country and I created a rubric to measure the reforms, and it's based on the work of Dr. Seymour Sarason who was a longtime Yale University professor," he said. "I looked at the similarities of the reforms and what happens to a large-scale educational reform effort. It's more of a study for policy-makers. I guess the short answer is what you do is going to take decades to break. There are no short-term fixes. There are no silver bullets."
Getting to know the village
Tharp's family moved to Wisconsin with him; his daughter is attending Highland View Elementary School. She's excited to see her first real snowfall this winter.
The first week of the school year, the superintendent sported a few children's bandages, which his daughter helped put on his hand after he fell while running in the community.
"I love Greendale," he said of his early impressions. "It's a very unique community. The whole concept of how it's laid out and how it originated is fascinating. It's great to go running, walking and bike riding along the downtown area. The Originals are fabulous."
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