Middletown schools leader a finalist in Cincinnati Public Schools superintendent search

·5 min read
School buses line up to take children home on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, outside of Cincinnati Public School's School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati.
School buses line up to take children home on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, outside of Cincinnati Public School's School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Public Schools board announced the three finalists in its superintendent search late Thursday morning.

Subscribers: Find out who applied to be Cincinnati's next school chief here.

The finalists are:

The person selected for the position will lead Ohio's third-largest public school system, serving approximately 36,000 students in 65 schools.

"These three people are the people that we felt best represent what we heard from the community we need in our next leader," board president Ben Lindy said Thursday.

Lindy confirmed more than 90 applicants submitted to the position which went live on Nov. 15, six months after former superintendent Laura Mitchell resigned to become president and CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center.

Board member Eve Bolton said Alma Advisory Group of Chicago – the search firm the district hired in September under a $75,000 contract to assist in finding a new district leader – shared the resumes and cover letters of 11 semifinalists with the board before the end of December. On Thursday the board shared that Amat, Styles and Wright were selected as finalists from that pool.

The others were:

  • Christopher S. Bernier, chief of staff for the Clark County School District in Nevada, which is the fifth-largest public district in the nation.

  • Carol D. Birks, executive coach for educational leaders and former superintendent of the Chester Upland School District outside Philadelphia.

  • Devin Fletcher, chief human resources and equity officer for the Tulsa Public Schools.

  • Michael Gaal, former deputy chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

  • Eric N. Gallien, superintendent of Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin.

  • Krish Mohip, deputy chief education officer for the Illinois State Board of Education.

  • William Kirk Shrum, chief school leadership officer of Henry County Schools in suburban Atlanta.

  • Eric Thomas, former Aiken High School principal and former deputy superintendent for the Georgia State Board of Education.

What's next; having your say

Also on Thursday the CPS board shared a timeline of next steps and explained how the community will be involved in the hiring process moving forward.

District employees, students, parents and members of the Cincinnati community are all invited to participate in the interview process of these three finalists, officials said.

"Everyone is welcome to participate," board member Kareem Moffett said Thursday.

Links to nominate yourself or others to the interview panel or to submit an interview question for the candidates are live on the district's website. Both surveys will be open through Jan. 31.

The timeline is as follows:

  • Week of Jan. 31: Interview panelists chosen and notified.

  • Feb. 10 and 11: Finalist interview days.

  • Early March: Final decision.

Details on the finalists

The Enquirer obtained the resumes and cover letters of nearly 40 applicants through an open records request. Here's more about each of the finalists:

Tianay Amat

Cincinnati Public Schools interim superintendent Tianay Amat will take over once outgoing superintendent Laura Mitchell leaves the district on June 11.
Cincinnati Public Schools interim superintendent Tianay Amat will take over once outgoing superintendent Laura Mitchell leaves the district on June 11.

Amat was CPS' deputy superintendent, responsible for supervising all 65 school principals and watching over the curriculum, early childhood, test and accountability and research departments.

In May, the board selected Amat to take over as interim superintendent.

Her cover letter recounts what she has done in that position so far.

"I am delighted that more than 20 years of K-12 education experience have culminated with the opportunity to tackle the role of a lifetime," she wrote.

She started her education career as a teacher in New York City's public schools. She came to Cincinnati in 2002 as a teacher at Rockdale Academy in Avondale. She left and became an administrator in the Princeton and Lakota districts before returning to CPS as the principal of Hyde Park Elementary in 2012.

She lists John Pepper, the former Procter & Gamble chairman; Cincinnati Fire Chief Michael Washington; city Health Commissioner Melba Moore; and Police Chief Eliot Isaac among her references.

Past CPS boards have shown a predisposition to hire from within. The last two CPS superintendents have been high-ranking CPS administrators who were promoted to lead the district.

Marlon J. Styles Jr.

Marlon Styles is the superintendent of Middletown City Schools. He was just named Superintendent of the Year by K-12 Drive, an education publication. He's photographed in the district offices, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020.
Marlon Styles is the superintendent of Middletown City Schools. He was just named Superintendent of the Year by K-12 Drive, an education publication. He's photographed in the district offices, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020.

Styles left Lakota Local Schools in 2017 to become superintendent at Middletown City School District, where he currently leads. At Lakota, Styles served as executive director of curriculum and instruction.

More: Middletown superintendent to Ohio legislators: Stop discriminating against students living in poverty

Last year Styles was selected as K-12 Dive's National Superintendent of the Year for his efforts to close equity gaps. Middletown City Schools serves about 6,400 students, nearly all of whom are on free and reduced lunch programs.

"Inclusive innovation is necessary for diverse students to experience success in the school systems and I am fully committed to critical work of transforming educational systems," Styles wrote in his cover letter to the CPS superintendent position.

He increased Middletown staff retention from 84% to 95% in his four years leading the district and managed a $95 million construction project to create a new middle school and renovated high school.

Before Lakota, Styles served as principal at Mt. Healthy Jr./Sr. School, assistant principal at Wyoming HIgh School and Northwest High School and taught middle school math in Pleasant Run and Winton Woods.

Iranetta Wright

Iranetta Wright, deputy superintendent for Detroit Public Schools Community District.
Iranetta Wright, deputy superintendent for Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Wright is the deputy superintendent for the Detroit Public Schools. She has been involved in all majority decisions involving academic, finance, operations and community and government relations for the Detroit district, which has 53,000 students, since 2017. She previously was chief of schools and an assistant superintendent for Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida, the nation's 20th largest district.

She began her career in education as a math, science and special education teacher in 1993 before becoming an administrator in 2003. As a principal in Florida, she turned around one of the state's worst-performing high schools from an F rating to a B rating in four years, according to her application.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Public to announce three finalists in superintendent search

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