Editor's note: This continues the Meet The Leaders profile series on the Summit Alternative Press. The objective is to provide our readers the opportunity to hear from Summit's leaders in government, public safety, commerce and other areas, regarding Summit's present and future outlook, their background and what they enjoy doing in their private life. In order to keep the format consistent, The Alternative Press presents each individual with the same five questions. We publish their answers unedited.
Today - Summit Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nathan Parker
I grew up outside of Atlanta, GA, on dairy a farm and attended public school in Atlanta. I received my BA in Biology at Kenyon College, my Masters in Teaching Biology at the University of Chicago, and my Doctorate in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University in policy analysis and change. I began teaching in Dallas, GA, continued teaching in Cicero, IL, and Barrington, IL. My administrative career began in Nyack, NY, and continued as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in Bedford, NY. I served as Superintendent of Schools in Upper Saddle River, NJ, for 11 years, Superintendent of Schools in Orange, NJ, for 5 years, and in my present position as Superintendent of Schools in Summit since August 2008. My wife is also an educator and served as an elementary principal for over 25 years. I have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.
What inspired you to pursue a career in education?
I became a teacher after graduating from college, not really knowing what I wanted to do for a career. Serving as a teacher was immediately a perfect fit for me. I loved my students, colleagues, and the school community where I began teaching. After teaching and coaching Soccer and Tennis for a couple of years, I joined the Army Reserves, and while waiting to go on Active Duty, I started graduate school in education, which I found intriguing and challenging. I realized as a teacher that I could have a major positive impact on my students that would continue throughout their lives.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing Summit today?
The City of Summit and the Summit Public Schools are unique institutions. Summit reminds me of Bedford, NY, in that the student body is diverse with aspirations for the highest levels of achievement. The diverse needs of our students leads our educational options to be extremely innovative and to take risks for students. The staff is at the highest level - regardless of their roles. Although, Summit does have significant financial resources to support the schools, the most important resource is the numerous volunteers who either serve as school board members and in numerous other voluntary roles. Furthermore, I have never worked in a city where all city officials are in such close collaboration with the district. Our students are our greatest treasure. They inspire each of us to do our best. Our greatest challenge is to build on our strengths while continuing to improve. I am very concerned that the obsession with testing across America distracts board members, parents, administration, and faculty from the creative work that truly makes a difference for our students.
What are the top priorities on your "to do list" as Superintendent?
My highest priority is always to insure that we have the best teachers in every classroom. We must also set high expectations for each staff member and give them the support needed to insure their growth and success. When there are great teachers in each classroom, research and common sense shows that achievement will excel. We are fortunate that our students not only excel academically, but in the arts, athletics, and in community service. Several of our district goals for the current year are to raise student achievement, increase support for guidance and counseling, and begin to implement STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.). I must continue to be an advocate for public education, and for those unable to advocate for themselves. Political pressure and press criticism, across the United States, is a significant threat to public education.
What do you do in your spare time?
Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of spare time. My greatest pleasure comes from my family and friends. I love photography, riding waves, historical novels, golf and tennis. My wife loves hiking so I do a lot of hiking!
Five words that describe Summit are...
collaboration, caring, ingenuity, creativity, and commitment.