|Dr. Leonard T. Burns
Years of Service as Superintendent: 1984-1988
Years in Parkway:
- Teacher of business education, driver education, health and physical education in Gaston, Indiana – 1963-1967
- Principal of Williamsport Elementary and High School, Williamsport,
Indiana – 1967-1969
- Superintendent of Arickaree School District, Anton, CO – 1969-1971
- Program Development Consultant (intern), Northern Colorado Board of Cooperative Services – 1971-1972
- Assistant Superintendent of St. Vrain Valley School District, Longmont,
Colorado – 1972-1978
- Superintendent of Bellflower Unified School District, Bellflower,
Colorado – 1978-1984
- Superintendent of Schools – 1984-1988
Accomplishments in Parkway:
- Parkway had a very visionary Board of Education (David Steinberg, Renata Walz, Bill Simon, Jackie Porthouse, Vincent Stanec, and Janet O’Neil) that wanted to raise the level of excellence within the Parkway School District. This goal indeed was difficult, because the district students and staff were performing well already.
- The greatest challenge facing the district when I arrived was the implementation of the voluntary desegregation program so that the black student population would be 16.98 percent (1.98 percent for the black student population before the agreement plus 15 percent of the total enrollment) within five years. The district had implemented the program the year before I arrived by enrolling approximately 600 students. Our goal through the agreement was to enroll another 3400 black city students by 1988, an average of 680 students per year.
- With the implementation of the voluntary desegregation program, many other issues surfaced, among them: balanced assignment to all schools; student behavior and discipline; educational special needs; instructional strategies; curriculum adjustments; participation in co-curricular activities and athletics; changing school culture and climate; busing and transportation issues.
- We were also faced with a shifting student enrollment: decline in the north and increased growth in the south. This issue, combined with the voluntary desegregation program, required priority commitment to the re-evaluation of facilities.
- A school based management program was designed and implemented immediately.
- We began working on a school district culture with: 1) a more team-centered approach; 2) a student learning-oriented system (versus teacher-centered); 3) an empowerment system that involved people affected in decision-making; 4) a strategic policy and goal-oriented system (the district was just beginning the process of building a strategic plan when I left); and 5) a more “caring” school district.
- A group of people in the community became concerned about the school district budget and how approximately $3,000,000 could be left over annually. The Board of Education appointed a Blue Ribbon Committee that studied the budget and concluded that the $3 million was only 3 percent of the budget and better than they could do in “corporate America.”
Rather than accomplishments, here are some major efforts that were at least started:
What Makes Parkway “Parkway”?
- Student achievement continued to grow and get stronger, including the performance of resident Parkway students and those from the city.
- Three high schools, one middle school, and four elementary schools were nationally recognized by the National Secondary and Elementary Recognition Program sponsored by the U. S. Office of Education. Several additional schools were recognized in the years following my tenure as a result of efforts and modifications we made during my tenure.
- The district was recognized by the Missouri Squires and the Governor as one of Missouri’s outstanding school districts.
- The district black student enrollment exceeded the voluntary desegregation five-year goal of 16.98 percent and we received relief from the courts.
- The administrative staffs in each secondary school were assessed and reassignments were made to strengthen the leadership at each secondary school. Four elementary school administrators were also shifted based upon their requests and strengths they had to offer other schools.
- The district leadership team was reorganized to strengthen coordination and articulation among and between the schools, the major change being the creation of four high school and feeder school area administrators.
- School-based management opportunities were created for all schools. Schools created school effectiveness teams that empowered parents, teachers and students to advise and participate in decision-making within the schools.
- Care teams were organized and established within all schools to identify students “at risk” with crisis counselors at each high school to deal with student stress and possible student suicides.
- A new districtwide student behavior and discipline policy was designed and implemented to support and enhance local school discipline policies. It was enforced through a collaborative representative team’s decision making.
- Alternative learning suspension centers were established in each high school with a district alternative suspension center at Fern Ridge School in order to continue student learning opportunities.
- A parent-teacher conference program was established within every middle school.
- Junior high schools became middle schools (all except in name).
- Parents and citizens were empowered to raise funds and expend energy to light all of the high school football fields.
- All facilities were assessed and evaluated regarding student enrollment space and condition. Prototypical structure models of schools were developed and utilized for student enrollment loading of schools, programs contained within the schools, and designing, remodeling, renovation and/or construction of new schools.
- A systematic curriculum review process was designed and implemented.
- A high school enrichment period was designed and provided to add program electives in the fine arts, practical arts, and second languages.
- The Gifted and Talented Program was assessed, redesigned, and implemented.
- A technology and computer education master plan was developed and implemented.
- All board members and the superintendent were connected via e-mail in order to individually share information and keep the policy making decision makers informed (perhaps one of the first school districts in the country to do so.)
- Instructional staff and leadership staff development programs were designed and implemented in order to address the instruction improvement needs of teachers and the leadership needs of administrators.
- A program evaluation department was added within the district and a systematic plan for the review of programs and services as well as student achievement was implemented.
- A computerized bus transportation program was implemented to maximize the assignment and use of buses and save funds in the purchase of new buses.
- Implemented a district legislation review process involving district employees and district citizens in an effort to analyze and react to educational legislation being proposed and/or passed in Missouri.
- New procedures were designed and implemented for recruiting, promoting, assigning, and terminating certified staff.
- The number of women and minorities in leadership roles increased.
- The district incorporated and utilized a goal orientation system for setting directional focus within the district.
- Several schools received individual recognition nationally in a variety of areas.
The expectations for student learning by parents are high. Consequently, the performance for teachers to be the very best that they can be is a profound and significant factor in the culture of the community and, internally, within the school district. Teachers respond through outstanding instruction and students respond through high achievement.
Our first leadership retreat that moved us to “Great Expectations,” the theme of our retreat as well as how the leaders of our schools and within the district came together in focusing our efforts in the upcoming year and into the future.
A committee of parents empowered to assist in the selection of a new principal could not accept my recommendation but I appointed her anyway as an acting principal at the school until we could find additional candidates. I told her that it was up to her to convince the parents and faculty that my recommendation was the “right” one. After a few months, the parents came to me and asked to employ her permanently.
When the custodial and maintenance staff presented me with a framed, carpeted “whale.” (A symbol of the “whale of a job” and “have a whale of a day” culture we were creating.)
When I got invited to a reception for a teacher at South High School who had published a book and was asked by the person on the telephone if I could present her with a “whale.”
And, many other “whale” stories.
Other Points of Interest:
- Giving out “whales.”
- The performance of the students and outstanding contributions of our staff members.
- It might be of some value that I may have mentored the following who were on my administrative leadership team:
Don Senti, Clayton Superintendent
Jere Hochman, Supt. in Parkway and now in Massachusetts
Jim Sanford, Superintendent of Lindbergh
Craig Larson, Superintendent of Rockwood
Michael Silver, Superintendent in Washington State
Thelma Moore, Community Superintendent in Boston (now a professor in CA)
Jeanne Howes, Superintendent of Holyoke in Colorado (now deceased)
Perhaps, Paul Delanty, twice interim superintendent
- In the School Based Management program that was implemented, additional staffing was granted to schools and many elected to employ administrative interns (teachers who had aspirations of becoming a principal). Many of these teachers became principals and district leaders in Parkway and other school districts.
- Superintendent of schools in Urbana, Illinois, for 2.5 years before assuming the position of Vice President of the University of Southern Colorado and Superintendent of Schools in Pueblo, Colorado.
- Retired as the Chair of the Department of Administration, Counseling, and Educational Studies, Educational Leadership Coordinator, and Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership at Eastern Kentucky University.
- After my wife passed way with cancer in 2001, I returned to St. Louis to be closer to my daughter and two granddaughters. I now enjoy babysitting my granddaughters when I can; teaching two online educational leadership courses for Eastern Kentucky University each semester; providing part-time guest services as a security officer at the Savvis Center; and providing services as a security officer for Sport Services at Busch Stadium. I enjoy the hockey games, concerts, children shows, ice shows, basketball games, and other events at the Savvis Center and the watching the Cardinals (when I have time and the ‘right’ assignment) at Busch Stadium.
- I also enjoy traveling to Michigan to visit my son and his family and babysitting with my two-year old grandson who is having a brother added to his family on July 23rd.