District hires new superintendent

As Superintendent Don Senti nears his retirement at the end of his fifteenth year as the head of the Clayton school district, the search for his successor recently ended.
On March 8, the district announced the next superintendent: Dr. Mary Herrmann. Herrmann currently serves as superintendent of Winnetka Public Schools 36, a K-8 district of about 2,000 students just north of Chicago, Illinois.
“I think the districts are very similar in terms of demographics,” Herrmann said. “There are high expectations for student learning and community engagement to support the schools. Every constituent group is very involved in decision-making. Clayton shares similar characteristics with other high-performing school districts where I have had the privilege to work in a leadership role.”
She believes education is highly valued and well supported by both the Winnetka and Clayton communities.
“There is a both a deep commitment to serving all children well and a shared commitment with the community to focus on the development of the whole child,” Herrmann said. “It is an honor and privilege to be afforded the opportunity to serve the children and families in the Clayton community.”
Herrmann knows that there’s a lot to adjust to when coming to a new school district.
“I think what I need to do when I come is get a sense of what’s going on and listen a lot,” Herrmann said. “In doing that, you get a sense of the direction that would make sense in terms of moving towards the future.”
The superintendent reports to the Board of Education and has the responsibility to carrying out the policies of the Board.
“What I feel is important is that he or she should work in collaboration with all the constituent groups, to help shape the vision and move the district forward,” Herrmann said. “There are many things that the district is already working on, and I would help facilitate and influence those movements.”
One of the challenges that she faced in Winnetka was a philosophical one.
“[Winnetka is] a district that has been grounded in the work of John Dewey and progressive education,” Herrmann said. “As we as a country have moved towards standardization like the No Child Left Behind Policy, there’s been questioning within the community.”
One of the things that Herrmann looks forward to forming is a student advisory council that she would meet on a regular basis.
“I would hear from students and what some of their perspectives are on the issues. I do the same with parents and staff members. It’s really important to gather a lot of information and get everyone’s perspectives. Before trying to define a problem, it’s important to understand what’s happening. I’m very excited to be here, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The Board of Education greatly approves of Herrmann and is excited about the future of the district.
“Dr. Herrmann has the educational experience, leadership skills, integrity and vision to lead the School District of Clayton for many years in our pursuit of academic excellence for all students,” said Board of Education President Omri Praiss. “The Board has taken great care to select someone who will be the right fit for our school district and we are extremely excited to appoint Mary as Clayton’s next superintendent.”
According to Senti, Herrmann brings lots of her past experience to the table. Senti suggested that Herrmann apply for the job.
“I knew her through an organization consisting of 100 superintendents around the country,” Senti said. “I hope she continues to work on the African American achievement gap; that’s probably our biggest problem. We’ve done pretty well, but we still need to narrow that. She’ll get to oversee all the building projects, and hopefully she’ll get to see the new middle school.”
Herrmann is very hopeful that Prop W will pass.
“Certainly, I think people have expressed that there’s a need and that’s it’s been there for a long time,” Herrmann said. “There’s a lot of desire to focus on the middle school and make it a really positive physical space.”
She believes that balancing work and play is very important good thing.
“I really enjoy spending time with my son, daughter and husband,” Herrmann said. “We enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking and marathon relays. We do a lot of things together, and I enjoy that more than anything.”