Bridging the Gap Between Science and Reality: AIR Adds Five School District Reform Experts

Washington, D.C. — The American Institutes for Research is pleased to announce that five nationally recognized leaders in school district reform have joined AIR as part of a major expansion of the non-profit organization’s efforts to provide assistance to education officials at the state and local level.

Joining AIR are: Steven Adamowski, former school superintendent in Cincinnati; Anthony Cavanna, who served as superintendent of school districts in New York and New Jersey; Libia Socorro Gil, an award-winning former superintendent in Chula Vista, Calif.; Joseph Olchefske, the former superintendent of schools in Seattle, Wash.; and Maria Santory Guasp, former superintendent in New York City Schools and a senior official for districts in California. Collectively, they will devote their efforts to working directly with school districts undertaking reform efforts.

“For more than five decades, AIR has striven to make a difference,” said Sol Pelavin, president and CEO of the non-profit behavioral and social science research organization. “We have long excelled in education research. The addition of these individuals offers the perfect blend of experience and knowledge as we serve the needs of school officials who want methods that work in their classrooms.”

A recognized leader in educational research and development, AIR is merging that knowledge with the direct experiences and expertise of district reform leaders to form a potent force in the effort to bring about real and sustainable change.

Steven Adamowski was superintendent and chief executive officer for the Cincinnati Public Schools. During his tenure, he led a systemic redesign that resulted in significant gains in student achievement and a decentralized system of governance and choice. He has implemented nationally recognized breakthrough systems for school accountability, student based funding and teacher evaluation/compensation and has had successful experience restructuring high schools, improving early literacy and redesigning low performing schools. Prior to Cincinnati, Adamowski served as associate secretary of education for the Delaware State Department of Education. Adamowski was also superintendent of schools in districts in St. Louis, Chatham, N.J., and Norwich, Conn. At the University of Missouri, where he has served as an assistant professor for educational leadership and policy studies, Adamowski focused his teaching and research on the preparation of superintendents and principals. He has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Saint Louis University, a CAS from Harvard Graduate School of Education, an M.A. from Trinity College, and a B.S. from Southern Connecticut State College.

Anthony Cavanna has served as superintendent of schools in Fort Lee, N.J., Plainview-Old Bethpage, N.Y. and Rahway, N.J. He served as a deputy superintendent of schools in New York City and a principal of one of the city’s most successful magnet schools. As superintendent of schools in troubled urban and suburban school districts he worked with school communities to reach new levels of student achievement, teacher professionalism and community involvement.  In Community School District Two in New York City, he was part of a dynamic central office team which transformed a diverse, troubled inner city district into a much replicated model for school reform.  Cavanna also was the founding principal of the Mott Hall School, a magnet school that attracted students from one of the most poorly achieving and overcrowded school districts in New York City.  Achievement level measures have ranked Mott Hall at the top of the list of schools in New York City consistently since its inception. Cavanna began his teaching career in the South Bronx.  He has an Ed.D. and a P.D. in Urban Education, Leadership and Policy from Fordham University and an M.S. and B.A. from City University of New York.

Libia Socorro Gil served as superintendent of schools for the Chula Vista, Calif., school district, the largest K-6 district in the state of California with more than 24,000 students, 2,400 employees and 39 schools. She received the prestigious Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education in 2002 in recognition of her leadership in providing academic opportunities for all students. During her tenure, the district was awarded an A+ rating from Standard and Poor’s for implementing an excellent capital program as well as efficient management with the lowest centralized administrative costs in the region. Numerous school change models were implemented successfully, in addition to operating six charter schools in partnership with foundations and private entities. Prior to joining Chula Vista, Gil served as assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in the Seattle, Wash., Public School District, after being a teacher and principal in K-12 schools in California. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, and an M.A. and B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles.

Joseph Olchefske has been a strategy consultant to urban school systems after serving as the superintendent of schools in Seattle until last year. During his five-year tenure as superintendent, Olchefske led the transformation of the Seattle Public Schools into a performance driven, standards-based school district and dramatically expanded the district’s teacher professional development program, focusing on literacy, science, and cultural competency. Olchefske also established a levy-funded technology plan which has provided Internet access to every classroom, a workstation on every teacher’s desk and a 5:1 student: computer ratio district-wide. He joined the district in 1995 as its chief financial officer, during which he developed the Weighted Student Formula, an innovative method of funding schools within the district. Prior to that, Olchefske was the managing director of the Public Finance Department of Piper Jaffray Inc. He has an M.A. from Harvard University and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.

Maria Santory Guasp has served as assistant superintendent for Chula Vista, Calif., school district since 2001. Prior to that, Guasp was superintendent of schools for the Community School District 9 in Bronx, New York, which included 36 schools and 32,000 students. During her tenure, she was recognized for middle school reform efforts that resulted in the establishment of small learning communities, schools within schools and school choice. She also served as chief executive for Instructional and Student Support Programs and was responsible for K-12 citywide instructional and professional development programs including bilingual education, special education, and the chancellor’s district for the City of New York. She has an M.S. and P.D. in Educational Administration from Long Island University, an M.S. in Bilingual and Urban Education from Long Island University and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Universidad Interamericana, Puerto Rico.

The additions to AIR’s staff builds upon an announcement in May that the Washington, D.C. organization was merging with New American Schools, a K-12 consulting practice providing professional services to school districts, state departments of education, charter authorizers, foundations and education service providers.

AIR, founded in 1946, is a recognized leader in the behavioral and social sciences. It is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization engaged in domestic and international research, development, evaluation, analysis, product development, training and technical assistance and assessment.

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