RACINE — A D.C. Public Schools administrator was named the sole finalist in Racine Unified’s months-long superintendent search on Monday.
Lolli Haws is the instructional superintendent for 13 schools in the Washington, D.C., system; she works to facilitate better student performance and reduce achievement gaps. Of seven candidates interviewed in Racine earlier this month for Unified’s top job, she is the favorite of board members. Haws will come back for a final interview and public forum on Feb. 19, board President Dennis Wiser said Monday following a two-hour closed session meeting during which board members selected Haws as their superintendent finalist.
“She stood out head and shoulders above everyone else,” Wiser said. “She interviewed well, has the background we’re looking for and has interest in closing achievement gaps.”
Board members liked that Haws, 58, of Fairfax, Va., has worked in an impoverished urban district facing budget cuts, Wiser explained.
Haws has been a D.C. Public Schools instructional superintendent since beginning work with that district in July 2010. As instructional superintendent, she leads school staff in developing school improvement plans, analyzing student data, increasing inclusion of special education students in regular classrooms and implementing a newer “Common Core” curriculum, according to her résumé. All those things are ongoing in Racine Unified.
Haws’ résumé says of the 13 schools she supervises, 11 “demonstrated improvement in math and reading achievement over two years.” The percentage of her students scoring proficient on D.C.’s annual standardized tests do not confirm such progress, data shows, but Haws said assessments measuring students’ progress from the beginning of a school year to the end do illustrate that growth.
“We’re seeing a lot of movement among students that are basic getting close to proficient,” she said, adding she believes “every child can be successful.”
Prior to her work in D.C., Haws was principal of elementary schools in Virginia and Missouri. She began her education career in 1976 as a teacher of the hearing impaired in South Dakota, according to her résumé.
She is from Minnesota and her husband is from Michigan, she said, which makes Racine an ideal location.
“We are looking to move back to the Midwest,” she said. “It’s closer to my family and his family.”
Haws became interested in leading Racine Unified because of its “potential,” epitomized by the district’s science-based and advanced programming, she said.
“All of those are just really pluses for the district and I am confident we can take those good things and really capitalize on them,” she said.
The board is hiring a superintendent to replace Ann Laing, who took the position on an interim basis after former Superintendent Jim Shaw retired in August 2011. Laing’s replacement would begin work July 1. His or her contract will likely include a salary of $200,000 to $225,000 annually, plus benefits.
More than 60 people applied for Unified’s superintendent position and the board interviewed seven of them, including Haws, on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 during meetings closed to the public because they related to personnel.
Haws was announced as the sole finalist on Monday. Having one finalist is allowed under state law, said Bob Dreps, a lawyer who represents the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and its members, including The Journal Times.
School Board President Wiser declined to give the names of the other interviewed candidates on Monday, saying he needed to check with the district’s attorney before releasing information.
State law says public boards must provide information on at least five final candidates if more than five apply, Dreps said, citing a 2004 opinion from then-
Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who concluded a school district that interviewed eight candidates had to disclose all eight names.
“In your case,” Dreps said, “... since they apparently made their choice from a group of seven, then the public is entitled to seven names.”
The Journal Times filed an open records request for that information on Monday.
WHAT: Meet Racine Unified superintendent finalist Lolli Haws and ask her questions during a free public forum.
WHEN: From 6 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19,
WHERE: Racine Unified’s central office, 3109 Mount Pleasant St.