Three individuals will be recognized with the 2018 Excellence in Literacy Leadership Award presented by the Reading Recovery teacher leaders. They are Dr. Amanda Alexander, chief of elementary schools at District of Columbia Public Schools; Dr. Dean Baker, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 49 in central Maine; and Veronica Brady, senior vice president of philanthropy at Gulf Coast Community Foundation in Venice, FL.
Each year, Reading Recovery teacher leaders from across the country nominate individuals to receive this prestigious award. Recipients, who are not trained in Reading Recovery, have displayed a strong commitment to expand and maintain its high standards and made significant contributions to implementation beyond the local level. The nominating teacher leaders will present the awards on Sunday, February 18, during the 2018 National Reading Recovery & K-6 Literacy Conference opening session at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Dr. Amanda Alexander, chief of elementary schools at District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS)
Dr. Alexander began her career as a kindergarten teacher in DCPS. She later served as an assistant principal in New York City where she first learned of Reading Recovery. When she returned to DCPS, she led literacy initiatives as a principal, instructional superintendent, and deputy chief of elementary schools.
She is the driving force behind bringing Reading Recovery to schools in the nation’s capital. Forming a partnership with the Andrew & Julie Klingenstein Family Fund and leveraging a grant from Pioneer Valley Books, she launched the first training class for the initial implementation into schools. She has guided the expansion from the initial hiring of two Reading Recovery teachers to the integration of implementation into the district’s 2017-2022 strategic plan.
“From our first conversation, I recognized Dr. Alexander’s passion for early literacy, her strong belief in the power and potential of Reading Recovery, and her drive to close the gap in first grade in DCPS,” said Teacher Leader Linda Randall. “She is deeply committed to preserving the integrity of the intervention and vitally involved in our work. She celebrates and shares the successes, helps problem-solve any challenges, digs deeply into the data, and advocates passionately for ensuring that Reading Recovery will be available for all first graders who need it.”
DCPS serves nearly 49,000 students in Grades K-12 at 115 schools across the district. About 78% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. One of the six goals in the district’s new 5-year strategic plan, developed under the leadership of Chancellor Antwan Wilson, is that 100 percent of K-2 students are reading on or above grade level.
Dr. Dean Baker, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) 49, Fairfield, ME
For nearly three decades, Dr. Dean Baker has provided clear and progressive leadership as superintendent, assistant superintendent, and as Reading Recovery site coordinator for Central Maine since 1993. He is recognized for successfully turning around a failing literacy program and is unique among Maine superintendents for having direct responsibility for student curriculum.
Dr. Baker established one of the first training centers in Maine at Benton Elementary School in SAD 49. He has championed the program and provided support through economic and political challenges at both the state government and university levels, including the loss of state funding and changes in leadership that threatened Reading Recovery implementations across the state. In part due to his persistence, Reading Recovery has expanded to serve first graders at 124 schools in 64 districts.
“Dr. Baker’s commitment has been unwavering for over a quarter of a century,” said Teacher Leader Whendy Smith. “His effective leadership provided for strong system designs, and his unconditional support has provided implementation longevity. There have been many times that he was approached with new initiatives and competing demands for funds, but he redirected any creative thinking back to the core business and the standards of Reading Recovery.”
MSAD 49 serves about 2,200 students in Grades K-12 from four rural communities. One of the poorest districts in Maine, it is recognized for outstanding quality education.
Veronica Brady, senior vice president of philanthropy at Gulf Coast Community Foundation
Veronica Brady first learned about Reading Recovery from philanthropists Keith and Linda Monda, who supported Reading Recovery through The Ohio State University and envisioned replicating it in Sarasota County. Brady spearheaded a partnership with Sarasota County Public Schools (SCPS) and secured funding commitments from the Mondas and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.
She shares district data to educate the community, media outlets, and other potential donors, and led the charge to expand from 3 to all 10 Title I elementary schools in the district in just one year. Recognizing that many students in non-Title I schools also would benefit from Reading Recovery, she advocated for further expansion to all 23 Sarasota County elementary schools. With additional funding, Reading Recovery was implemented district-wide this school year.
“From the inception, Veronica has worked diligently to reach numerous stakeholders and to spread the word about the powerful effects of Reading Recovery,” said Teacher Leader Lisa Fisher. “The benefits reach not only the students, but also impact the Reading Recovery teachers, the collaborating homeroom teachers, the school as a whole, and the families of the children themselves. Her significant contributions to Reading Recovery’s expansion and implementation in Florida impacts lifetime trajectories.”
SCPS serves about 43,000 students in Grades K-12, at 53 schools that include 11 charter schools, 1 virtual school, and 1 technical college. About 53% of the students are economically needy. The district offers a wide variety of school choice and magnet programs and is one of only two districts in Florida that has earned an ‘A’ every year since district grading started in 2004.