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Supt. Finalist: Dr. Pam Ewell
April 29, 2009

Dr. Pam Ewell

Age: 49

Family: Husband, Brent Ewell; children, Colleen Ewell, Scott Ewell, Austin Ewell. Colleen - studying law - Lansing, Mich. Scott - an engineer, with Ball Construction in Des Moines. Austin - graduating from Central College in May with a business degree.

Current position: Principal, Grinnell Middle School.

Describe your education and professional background: B.S. from Iowa State University, Master's and Ed. S. degrees from Drake University, a Ph.D. from Iowa State University. Advanced degrees are in Education Administration and Curriculum and Instruction.

What interested you in the Mount Vernon position? Include any knowledge of or connection to the school district. What do you know about the Mount Vernon district and how does that fit your background? I am interested in Mount Vernon because of the unique school and community mission to stretch beyond the typical expectations of schooling. Mount Vernon is progressive, holds high expectations for students and staff, and is aspiring to be recognized in the state of Iowa as a leading school district.

How do you define the role of superintendent? The superintendent works closely with the board, focusing on the mission and vision it has set forth for the school district. The governance role of the board and the leadership role of the superintendent are vital partnerships for the health and well-being of the school district. Both roles are necessary to work together diligently for the benefit of the students and families that we serve.

Using data to drive decisions, thinking globally for the best interests of all students, and operating with a strong sense of vision and mission, are the ingredients necessary for the board and superintendent as they work toward short-term and long-range plans.

As the superintendent, it is my responsibility to ensure that quality and effective educational programs exist for our students. My instructional leadership will involve setting education benchmarks that use data to measure student achievement, promoting a viable and quality curriculum, and by encouraging and supporting a learning culture that is positive, safe, and healthy for students.

Another critical function is grounded in the community realm. A superintendent functions as a community leader who works with the board and other stakeholders to make policy, approve resources, and build the necessary programs for the education of students.

The superintendent has an important role as chief executive of the day-to-day operations of the district. This role involves fiscal and financial management, maintenance of educational programs, recruitment and hiring, administrative team leadership, support programs, and direct-line supervision of all other support systems, to name a few.

Describe your leadership style when it comes to leading a staff.

How will you communicate with all stakeholders and interact with the entire community? Please provide examples. My leadership style is one that is leading and managing by finding balance. Schools are often aspiring and working toward many goals at one time. Educators do best when they are given the opportunities to excel, learn from others, and develop themselves professionally. To do this, we need to equalize and balance our resources, strategies, and tools in what we do for students. By continually assessing our progress, looking at student achievement data results, benchmarking against other schools, and analyzing our curriculum outcomes, we are able to make decisions about how we are doing and what to do next. The balance that is required of a Superintendent is to carefully lead teachers toward the goals and mission of the district, provide accountable avenues, encourage personal growth, provide the necessary resources, and celebrate the accomplishments with our students and parents.

Additionally, my leadership style is open, honest, and fair. Teachers, students, parents, and community members are very comfortable approaching me, meeting to work on solutions to problems, discussing new initiatives, or general conversations. They can count on my interest in their student and an open/honest manner to solving issues or problems. I have the ability to look at situations and listen to both sides to come up with a fair and positive solution.

Tell us about your experiences with developing and/or leading professional development and any other thoughts you have on the subject. How would you continue a focus on excellence in academics, arts and athletics? Please provide examples. I am told by my staff that I am relentless in focusing on student achievement. From my experiences, it is a natural and logical process of knowing if what we are doing is making a difference! If we do not know where we are going or how we will get there, we will never know if or when we have reached it. Hence, the key is to make it very clear what the learning target is, map out how we will get there, and then gather our data to see what has been accomplished. All of these steps must involve the people who are directly impacted: students, families, and teachers.

The "how" of this process seems very complicated to many, so it is the responsibility of the leaders to simplify and make relevant. One obvious decision is to use the tenets of the Iowa Professional Development Model as an effective tool for focusing on student achievement. When teachers understand that the district and building goals, as well as the training they are receiving to improve their classroom instruction; is in direct correlation to the results we collect on student achievement, they are invested and motivated. They then "own" the student achievement results and know it is they who have the capability to make it happen.

Finally, it is important to communicate student achievement results to students, parents, and others. When people know the outcome of their efforts, they are more likely to want to be self-motivated and continue striving to do better. Several methods can be used: one-on-one communication with students, portfolios, reports to parents, newsletters, Internet, email, and the web.

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