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Urban Superintendents Program Celebrates 20 Years

The Urban Superintendents Program's 20th Anniversary gala was not only a chance for alums to reconnect with colleagues but also to celebrate the career and impact of Professor Robert Peterkin.

The two-day event -- attended by about 100 faculty, alums, and USP mentors -- included panels on vital issues in urban education, a reception honoring Peterkin, and an evening of jazz music.

Since 1990, the Harvard Urban Superintendents Program (USP) has been recognized as the nation's premier program for providing innovative training for aspiring superintendents to lead urban school districts. According to Peterkin, USP alums include 33 superintendents, 22 deputy superintendents, 26 assistant of area superintendents, 15 education directors, numerous principals, several faculty at education schools, one state Board of Education member, and one deputy assistant secretary of education. In the fall 2009, its final cohort enrolled in USP, as Peterkin will be taking a leave from HGSE this spring.

USP codirector Senior Lecturer Deborah Jewell-Sherman was pleased with the event as a celebration of the program and Peterkin, noting that it attracted not only alums from around the country, but also superintendents from large urban districts such as Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Beverly Hall.

Peterkin looks forward to the next phase of his career. "It's time for me to do other things - finishing the book [Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day], working with Larry Leverett on instructional improvement with 15 superintendents in New Jersey, supporting HGSE's efforts in South Africa, and assisting our graduates as they ascend to their superintendencies," Peterkin said. "Finally, listening to jazz and taking vacations are on the list."

Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day -- already under way, with an anticipated release this fall -- explores 20 years of USP through case studies that highlight the work of alums. On Friday, panels and speakers addressed topics from the book such as equity, allocating resources, and improving instruction.

The book aims to share the many achievements of USP alums in urban districts. Two HGSE doctoral students, Laura Kelley and Leslie Boozer, who were the driving forces behind the book, encouraged Peterkin to focus on the good work being done by urban superintendents across the country as a result of the program. "Even though this is coming to an end, we have 34 years ahead of us still [with USP alums] leading schools," Kelley pointed out. "It's wonderful to recognize what Bob has made possible for us."

Peterkin's work also deeply affected colleagues at HGSE. "He is a colleague from whom I learned a great deal and whose leadership I greatly admire," said Professor Richard Murnane, who taught USP students a course in economics.

Reggie Robinson, Ed.M.'96, C.A.S.'03, a principal at Denver's Oakland Elementary School, couldn't pass up an opportunity to celebrate Peterkin and to reconnect to the program which he said "forced us to think of the world not as content areas but consider things more macro-ly and break down problems."

USP Mentor and Advisory Board Member Larry Leverett noted that, through mentoring three graduates of the program, he truly appreciates the unique community of USP. "This is the most diverse leadership group I've ever had the privilege of being with-- a community in which there are shared values around every child, every school, everywhere," he said.

Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree, who spoke at the final session about law and public education, encouraged USP students and graduates to take advantage of the unique community they had built and find ways to keep the community alive. "Don't wait until the next anniversary, share your ideas now," he said.


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