A School District's Journey to Excellence: Lessons From Business and Education

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This resource examines how one of the nation’s largest districts improved performance outcomes and achieved significant gains by integrating strategies from educational and business arenas.

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Editorial Reviews

William C. Friday
“Bill Mc Neal and Tom Oxholm share their story of success in an urban school environment. It’s all here—courage, hard work, communication, patience, and persistence. The Wake County story commands the attention of all who truly value the public school as the essential bedrock of our democracy.”
Jill M. Gildea
"Good commonsense ideas are embedded throughout. The more we document success, the greater the chance thatothers will replicate effective strategies."
Larry Price
"A must-read book for every school administrator. It blends business principles with excellent leadership in one of America’s largest school districts to create a model for achieving excellence in school districts everywhere. This is a well-written, practical illustration of how a leader makes things happen."
Tony Habit
"Mc Neal and Oxholm offer a glimpse into the alignment required between district and community interests for public schools to regain the trust of the public and to emphasize academic gains as a unifying force for the future."
Shirley B. Prince
"Could easily serve as a handbook for successfully leading any school system, large or small, during this challenging era of high-stakes accountability. The real-world examples gave me numerous ideas and perspectives that I will act on immediately."
Harvey Schmitt
“This book of lessons is an outstanding review of the key elements to earning and holding the public trust. Mc Neal and Oxholmcome fromvery different backgrounds,but theirshared values identify the disciplines that are critical to building a successful public school system in an environment of high attention and scrutiny."
Phillip J. Kirk
"Written from actual experience andprovides specific responses to specific challenges. If a school system is interested in results rather than rhetoric, then it should follow the teachings in this book as the gospel."
June St. Clair Atkinson
"A remarkable tool for educators and communities. We are fortunate that a very effective former superintendent and successful business person are willing to share their quest for ensuring that all students are well prepared for their futures.”
Ann Denlinger
"This book will broaden your view of school systems and show you how a bureaucratic organization can be operated in a flexible, sensitive, effective, and efficient manner. Regardless of your role, you will benefit from the insights of a great board of educationmember and a great superintendent."
Edwin Dunlap
"Mc Neal’s experiences as a teacher, principal, and superintendent coupled with Oxholm’s perspectives as a businessman and school board member make this case study a must-read work."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412941570
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 7/3/2008
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

William R. Mc Neal became executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators in July 2006 after retiring from his position as superintendent of the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, North Carolina. In his current role, he leads the membership association that serves almost 7,000 public school administrators from all 115 school districts in North Carolina.

Mc Neal is a ‘home-grown’ superintendent who experienced the entire 30-year history of the consolidated Wake County Public School System, from the classroom to the boardroom. Aside from his current role and brief stints in the military and teaching in Connecticut, his entire professional career was devoted to Wake County students. In 1974, Mc Neal became a social studies teacher at Carroll Junior High in Wake County. He was promoted to assistant principal in 1976 and then served as principal at East Garner Middle and Martin Middle Schools. In 1985, he became an assistant superintendent for administration, then an associate superintendent for auxiliary services and, in 1992, the associate superintendent for instructional services—an eight-year role as the superintendent’s right-hand man responsible for students’ academic progress. During this time, he became a key player in the development of the district’s Goal 2003. In 2000, the Wake County Board of Education called upon Mc Neal to be superintendent and lead the school system he had served for so many years.

Mc Neal has received many awards and honors for his service to public schools, including being named the National Superintendent of the Year in 2004 by the American Association of School Administrators. In July 2005, he was appointed the superintendent advisor to the North Carolina State Board of Education, a post he held until June 2006. He is a member of a number of boards: Wake Med Foundation; Peace College; Golden Corral; Triangle New School; North Carolina Public School Forum; Education: Everybody’s Business Coalition; and Lightner Foundation.

Thomas B. Oxholm has been a vice president of Wake Stone Corporation in Knightdale, North Carolina, since 1986, where his responsibilities include finance, accounting, human resources, and risk management.

Oxholm is dedicated to service in the community, primarily in the areas of his church, public education, and healthcare. He was a Sunday school leader for teenagers for 30 years. For Wake County’s largest hospital system, Wake Med, he serves as finance chair on the board of directors, and he has served the Wake Med Foundation in fund- and friend-raising for the last 10 years, currently as chairman. He has been recognized as the area’s most influential business person in public education for the last 15 years. His credentials include: founder of the Wake County Business Education Leadership Council; Friends of Wake County, supporting the 1996, 1999, and 2006 school bonds; and chair of the School Finance Committee for the Wake Education Partnership, which published the first ever guide to Wake County Public School System spending—“Show Me The Money.” His recognitions include the 1997 Citizen of the Year for the Town of Knightdale and Wake Education Partnership’s 1998 Friend of Education for work with public schools. He also served one four-year term on the Wake County Board of Education. During those four years, he was paid a total of $47,000, all of which he donated to the Wake County Public School System. Tom also serves on the Board of Paragon Commercial Bank in Raleigh, chairing the Audit Committee.

He graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976 with a degree in business administration, concentration in accounting. He became a certified public accountant in 1979.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Governor Jim Hunt
About the Authors
1. Leadership in Context
2. Leadership and Courage
Organizing Your Leadership
Communicating With Your Public
Business Partnerships That Make a Difference
3. Leadership and Brains
Goal Setting and Planning
Making Use of Retreats
Training Leaders
Measuring Success
Dollars and Sense
4. Leadership and Heart
Students Matter Most
Teachers Matter Most
Parents Matter Most
Involving the Entire Village
5. Bringing It All Home
Making a Home of the School
A. Selected Readings Organized by Chapter
B. Criteria for a Superintendent's Evaluation
C. Recommendation for National Superintendent of the Year
D. National Recognitions for WCPSS and Wake County

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