Better Together: Think Big. Think Bold. Think Systems!
Systems Leaders Spotlight Kick-off Event
Wednesday, Sept. 27, 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Meet the Panel
Dr. Mary Jo Conery, Associate Superintendent
Catalina Foothills School District
Dr. Mary Jo Conery is the Associate Superintendent in the Catalina Foothills School District (CFSD) in Tucson, Arizona. Her 38 years of service in public education has spanned three states: Virginia, Wisconsin, and Arizona. She has been a classroom teacher for 14 years, elementary principal for 10 years, curriculum coordinator for two years, and an Assistant and Associate Superintendent for 12 years, providing oversight to K-12 curriculum, assessment, educational technology, and professional development. Dr. Conery has facilitated CFSD’s strategic priorities on 21st century learning, including systems thinking, since 2005. She has presented the district’s work at numerous national conferences and has consulted with districts around the country on 21st century learning and related curriculum development, assessment design, and professional learning.
CFSD was selected as an exemplar district by P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning in 2015, and Dr. Conery credits this honor to the professional staff, parents, and community members who are committed to providing students with a high quality and comprehensive program of study that is relevant to the challenges and opportunities of students’ lives. The work that the Catalina Foothills School District has done for 28 years, and continues to do, which includes embedding systems thinking concepts and tools within curriculum, instruction and assessment, is highly regarded and has served as a model for other districts.
Dr. Darienne Driver, Superintendent
Milwaukee Public Schools
The Milwaukee Public School Board unanimously approved Dr. Darienne Driver to lead Milwaukee Public Schools on October 1, 2014. Dr. Driver is a high-energy visionary who has initiated a series of bold reform measures designed to improve student outcomes through deeper engagement with community organizations, parents, students and staff and by increasing opportunities for staff development and support.
Dr. Driver is committed to improving the academic outcomes of each student in Milwaukee Public Schools. Key efforts introduced under Dr. Driver’s leadership include: development of Eight Big Ideas, a series of organization-wide strategies that link and reinforce key efforts to improve outcomes; creation of a Regional Development Plan to expand high-performing programs and increase enrollment opportunities; reframing the budget process to hear directly from schools about their needs; expansion of college and career readiness programs, including innovative career and technical education programs; and creation of a new office to address the educational achievement of Black and Latino male students.
Prior to being named superintendent, Dr. Driver was MPS’ first Chief Innovation Officer. In that role, she was successful in narrowing the achievement gap in MPS’ Commitment Schools, which are the schools with the greatest need for improvement.
Previous to joining MPS, Dr. Driver served as Deputy Chief of Empowerment Schools for the School District of Philadelphia. Prior to her work in Philadelphia, she served as Coordinator of Strategic Management and Accountability and Special Assistant to the Superintendent in Clayton County (GA) Public Schools. She began her career as an elementary school teacher in the Detroit Public Schools.
Dr. Driver’s academic achievements include a doctorate from Harvard University in Urban Superintendency, master’s degrees in education from Harvard University and in curriculum development from the University of Michigan, and an undergraduate degree from Spelman College in child development.
Dr. Driver is committed to working in partnership with organizations within Milwaukee and serves on the board of directors for the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County; City Year Milwaukee; Bradley Tech Commission; Educational Deans of Greater Milwaukee; Public Policy Forum; and is a member of Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Education Committee. She also serves as the Youth Council Chair of the Milwaukee Education Partnership and is a member of the Executive Council for Milwaukee Succeeds. Dr. Driver is the Chair for the Council of the Great City Schools and sits on the Harvard University Board of Overseers.
During her tenure as superintendent, Milwaukee Public Schools earned a Silver Well Workplace award from the Wellness Council of America and a Distinguished Budget Presentation award from the Government Finance Officers Association. In January 2015, Dr. Driver was acknowledged for her dynamic professional achievements and the contributions to build a stronger community by the Milwaukee Business Journal, was selected as a 40 Under 40 award recipient; and, in 2017, was named Player of the Year by the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Steve Holmes, Superintendent
Sunnyside Unified School District
As Superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District, Steve Holmes serves as the top administrator in Southern Arizona’s second largest school district. Steve is an accomplished educator with over 21 years of successful service in public education. As an educational leader, he has a proven ability to manage and implement large-scale systemic efforts through strong and strategic collaborations with administrators, teachers, and staff. Steve is committed to the transformation of schools to ensure all students are college and career ready.
During his first year as Superintendent, the Sunnyside District established Vision 2020: A 5-year Strategic Plan and opened Gallego Intermediate 4-8 Fine Arts Magnet School. Steve worked collaboratively with the Governing Board and central staff to develop strategies to engage the community and redesign central office support to serve school sites in implementing the core areas outlined in Vision 2020.
Prior to becoming Superintendent, Steve served as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in Sunnyside. In this role, Steve was a key architect in the District’s one-to-one laptop initiative, in which he worked to achieve equity of access to technology for all students.
A champion for equity, Steve has built a reputation for his strong advocacy of equitable services for English Language Learners. He has had multiple opportunities to provide clarity and insight to national education audiences. Steve was a facilitator on an educational panel for the National Congressional Hispanic Caucus Conference, where he spoke on policy implications for English Language Learners in relation to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Steve has also served as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in Arizona’s second largest district, the Tucson Unified School District. While in this position, he brought multiple stakeholders together to participate in visioning processes. This included facilitating a sub-committee of over fifty community members, teacher leaders, administrators, and parents in the development of annual goals and strategies to support that district’s teaching and learning vision in the areas of curriculum, instruction, professional development, data, and assessment.
Steve is an alumnus of the Sunnyside District and often shares his perspective through the eyes of one who attended and experienced Sunnyside schools. He draws upon these experiences when engaging students, teachers and school leaders, to promote a deeper focus on creating classrooms that emphasize high expectations and student agency. As he enters his second year as Superintendent, there is much excitement among staff and the community because of his insight on instructional practice and his strategies for building a culture of high academic achievement in Sunnyside.
Naomi Karp, Senior Director of Early Childhood Professional Development
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona
Naomi Karp is Senior Director of Early Childhood Professional Development at United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. In that capacity, she leads a First Things First grant— Great Expectations for Teachers, Children, Families, and Communities. The purposes of this grant are to: build an early childhood professional development system in Southern Arizona through 16 Communities of Practice; increase the number of teachers who have degrees in early childhood education; and create a culture that supports education in general.
This work began in August 2009, and July 1, 2017 will mark the ninth year of uninterrupted funding.
Some successes that have been achieved include: doubling Pima Community College’s early childhood professional development degree completion rate between Spring 2009 and Spring 2017; creating a Master’s Degree program at the University of Arizona’s College of Education for early childhood teachers; significantly increasing the number of Pima Community College early childhood education students who are successfully completing required math classes; and enabling 1,500 early childhood teachers to improve their early childhood knowledge and skills by participating in 16 Communities of Practice across Pima County, Cochise County, and two Native American regions.
Prior to working at United Way, Naomi served in the U.S. Department of Education for 20 years. Ten years were spent as director of the Early Childhood Research Office. She funded important studies at the National Academy of Sciences, including Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children and Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. The latter was important because it was the first national study to indicate that degreed teachers raise early childhood program quality. She has presented at national and international conferences and has written book chapters, professional journal articles, and research reports for educators, families with young children, and Federal officials.
Also, for 11 years she taught children with special needs in Tucson and Fairfax County, VA. Naomi is past president of the Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children and served on the Governing Board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In 2010, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters and the 2005 Alumni Achievement Award, both from the University of Arizona.
Naomi was chairperson of Pima Community College’s Early Childhood Advisory Committee for four years and has been a member of the University of Arizona’s College of Education Advisory Board since 2005. She served on the First Things First North Pima Regional Partnership Council for six years.
Most important, she is Melany and Levi Linton’s grandmother.
Dr. Steven Martinez, Superintendent
Twin Rivers Unified School District
As the leader of the 27th largest school district in California, Dr. Steven Martinez has been the most pivotal and impactful administrator in Twin Rivers Unified School District since his arrival in 2013. In his short tenure, he has revived a struggling school district that serves 31,979 students (includes charters) who speak 46 different languages. One in every four students is an English language learner and 82 percent qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
Twin Rivers Unified has made extraordinary strides in fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of an entire community under Dr. Martinez’s ambitious vision and bold leadership. The graduation rate now exceeds Sacramento County and state averages at 84.4 percent. For English language learners, the graduation rate, at 84.1 percent, is up nearly 19 percent. The district received national recognition in 2016 for expanding access to college for traditionally underrepresented students.
In a shift in how the district operated in the past, Dr. Martinez introduced systems thinking to all staff to improve and develop a culture of continuous learning. As a result, Twin Rivers Unified is one of four California school districts participating in a study by renowned researcher and author Michael Fullan, who contacted the district.
Before taking the helm at Twin Rivers, Dr. Martinez was the Assistant Superintendent of School Leadership at Fresno Unified School District. He has been a principal, assistant principal, learning director, coach, and math and science teacher.
As a principal at Clovis East High School, Dr. Martinez was credited with turning an underperforming school into a California State Distinguished School in one year and a National Blue Ribbon School in two years. Clovis East also received the U.S. News Bronze Award in 2008 and 2009 and was awarded the Golden Bell for outstanding Career Technical Education (CTE) program in the area of agriculture in 2008.
Dr. Martinez holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from California State University, Fresno. He earned his master’s degree in cross-cultural teaching from National University.
Dr. Martinez is a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA). His specialized training includes: Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Superintendents Academy, College Board/Advanced Placement, Academic Vocabulary and Common Core Instructional Strategies, California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators (CALSA) Mentoring Program, Mastery Learning and Walk-Throughs, Five Minute Walk-Throughs, The Skillful Leaders (Supervision and Evaluation) and Systems Thinking in Schools.