Dr. David Snead is ending his 11-year stint as Superintendent of Waterbury Schools when he retires on October 31st, 2011. The following information about Dr. Snead is from his website at www.waterbury.k12.ct.us Photograph by John Murray
David Snead is currently the Superintendent of the Waterbury (CT) Public Schools; a position he has held since August, 2000. The district, a department of the City of Waterbury, serves over 18,000 students (28% African American, 42% Hispanic, 28% white) with an annual budget of approximately $140 million. A native of Detroit, Dr. David L. Snead is a product of the Detroit Public School system. After serving as a volunteer in the U.S. Army for three years, he attended Tuskegee University in Alabama and graduated with a BS in Education with Honors. In addition, he attained the distinction “Institute Scholar” and was named an All-American in football.
He returned to Detroit as a teacher and football coach and earned his masters (‘70) and doctorate (’84) from the University of Michigan. He served as principal of two Detroit Public High Schools and was named Principal of the Year three times. In 1993, Dr. Snead was appointed Temporary Superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools and was awarded a three year contract as Superintendent in 1994. He was named Superintendent of the Year in Michigan in 1995 and was under consideration for national Superintendent of the Year honors. He took an early retirement in 1997 in part to care for his terminally ill mother, then worked as an educational consultant before taking the helm at Boston’s Madison Park High as its new headmaster.
In August of 2000, believing he could make a difference in the Waterbury (Connecticut) Public Schools, Dr. Snead chose to return to his previous role as Superintendent of Schools, becoming Waterbury’s first minority superintendent. Stressing parental involvement and high expectations of students and staff, he has advocated strongly for the students of Waterbury and has launched several new programs. Since his arrival, the Waterbury Public School district has undergone major changes, including the implementation of K-12 curriculum revisions, the updating of outdated textbooks, the initiation of new staff evaluation procedures, the establishment of diversity training for staff, the opening of a Family Intake Center for new student registrations, and improvements in technology, school security and building maintenance, as well as renovations and improvements to existing schools. He successfully lobbied for a bonding resolution of over $100 million to build three new K-8 schools and additions to the high schools and opened a new interdistrict magnet middle / high school for fine and performing arts. He created e-mail accounts for all staff along with an extensive web site for parents and the community, bringing the district into the 21st Century.
In addition, Dr. Snead fought to improve funding for the school district. Having inherited a multi-million dollar deficit from his predecessor, he not only turned this around and set in place new financial procedures for staff to follow, he also grew the budget by almost $7 million in one of his first years as Superintendent. He lobbied for and received a one-time $4 million grant from the state to replace old textbooks and to update other materials, and to purchase new furniture for the schools.
Under his leadership, test scores rose significantly across the district. Waterbury has risen to a position at or near the top of its Economic Reference Group in many areas. The district has also made significant progress in closing the achievement gap between minority and majority students, narrowing the gap in every subject in every grade on standardized tests. Waterbury was presented an “Outstanding Academic Leadership Award” from the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents in 2002-03 for achieving a “significant increase in percentage of students at or above goal” in CMTs and a second award for a “significant decrease in percentage of students in level 1 (i.e., students needing intervention).”
Other major improvements, the result of strategic District Improvement planning process, are as follows:
• Average daily attendance is edging upward, and the rate of suspensions has dipped.
• The district continues to utilize the Curriculum on the Wall and to regularly review and update its curriculum.
• Authentic assessments are used to analyze student progress.
• Data driven decision making has been adopted throughout the district and now guides instructional decisions.
• Schools utilize specialized literacy and numeracy teachers to augment classroom teaching, along with block-scheduling, common planning times, and positive behavior support strategies.
• Successes at one school are shared among staff at other schools during monthly Administrators Meetings – i.e., Principals present new concepts and strategies that have worked at their schools and other Principals are encouraged to visit and adapt these strategies at their schools.
• The school-within-a-school concept continues to work well within the three comprehensive high schools. These three high schools are also furthering this strategy through Smaller Learning Communities.
• Middle schools have adopted a similar concept through the use of vertical houses, enabling students to continue in the same “house” throughout their middle school career.
• The Special Education department utilizes a number of strategies to provide special education students with the best possible learning experience. Inclusion models are used very successfully in the pre-kindergarten setting, and other strategies include co-teaching and Least Restrictive Environment, Early Intervention, and alternative teaching methods.
• The bilingual education department continues to provide excellent instruction to students whose native language is not English through bilingual education and English as a Second Language instruction. Students currently speak 34 languages from more than 70 different countries.
• In the past several years, the district has offered choice and supplemental educational services to students in schools not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress. Although the Choice program has been somewhat limited by the number of available seats in schools making AYP, the supplemental educational services program has proven to be more popular among parents.
• Waterbury’s mission, vision and goals are well communicated throughout the district and are part of both the district and individual school improvement plans. Most schools now display district / school goals in a prominent location near the front entrance where students, staff and parents pass each day.
• The district’s highest priority is to meet the needs of a diverse student population. The highest priority for Title I funds is to provide direct services to as many students as possible. Barriers to reducing the achievement gap remain: the transient nature of the student population, the lack of entry-level skills of students entering kindergarten, the challenge of obtaining appropriate funding, and the conflicts faced by young parents in trying to meet the needs of their children.
• The district recently debuted a new web site which is designed to be more user-friendly and to provide parents and the community with more information online than was previously available. It is also in the process of contracting with a new phone messaging service that will enable the district and schools to more easily send telephone and email alerts and announcements to parents.
• Using Data Driven Decision Making, Central Office now offers professional development opportunities that are designed to provide the skills and strategies needed at each school. Efficient use of instructional time is strongly encouraged.
• A system of accountability has been established for all employees.
This past year, Dr. Snead has spear-headed a committee which created a new District Improvement Plan for the years 2008-2011. This plan addresses areas for improvement and established 15% improvement goals for increased student achievement in literacy and numeracy, inreased parent involvement, and reduced truancy and suspensions over a three year period.
During his tenure in Waterbury and Detroit, Dr. Snead has received numerous awards and recognitions for his achievements in education. Stressing the importance of creating educational environments that are clean, safe, healthy and conducive to the learning process and beliving that “all students can learn most things, they just learn at different rates of speed,” he was named one of the top ten administrators in the United States by the National Council of School Safety, “School Administrator of the Year” by the Michigan Alliance for Arts Education, “Executive Educator for the Year” by the IBM Corporation and the Executive Educator Journal, and “Michigan Superintendent of the Year” by the Michigan Association of School Administrators. He is also the recipient of the Septima Clark National Education Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. On September 28, 2006 he was presented with the Whitney M. Young, Jr. service award from the Boy Scouts of America. Dr. Snead was one of four finalists in consideration for Connecticut Superintendent of the Year for 2006-2007.
In Waterbury, he welcomed President George W. Bush during a visit to B.W. Tinker School and Mrs. Laura Bush when she visited Driggs School, was named “Man of the Year” by the Waterbury Club of the Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. and received recognition at the Congressional Black Caucus Education Braintrust Decision Makers’ Conference for his leadership in providing technology opportunities for traditionally underserved youth. He has received recognition for significant (5% or more) improvements in CMT scores by the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents and is the past Chairperson for the Superintendent’s Commission of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. Under his leadership, the school district has received recognition for its commitment to diversity by the group Minorities and Success.
While Superintendent in Detroit, Dr. Snead was credited with the 1994 passage of a much needed $1.5 billion bond measure for school renovations, the launching of a district-wide campaign to improve school learning environments, the procurement of foundation grants of over $30 million, and the deputation of over 5,000 school volunteers. The test scores at all levels in all subjects rose significantly in three out of four years, with science scores rising above the state average. He attributes this to targeted professional development in the content areas and increased supervision of instruction. He also achieved a positive fund balance three out of four years and corrected a defecit in less than one year. His emphasis on creating choices for students helped create an increase in enrollment from 163,000 students to 183,000 students.
Dr. Snead has been a guest lecturer and consultant for numerous colleges and universities and has given a number of speeches and presentations highlighting the importance of placing children first in the educational arena throughout his career as a Superintendent. Since coming to Waterbury, he has been invited to teach a class in educational leadership at Southern Connecticut State University, designed for educators pursuing advanced degrees in education. In addition, he has also served as visiting professor at Yale University and has served as keynote speaker for such groups as the Connecticut PTA and the state NAACP and has facilitated an Educators Roundtable discussion on “Closing the Achievement Gap” at a statewide NAACP conference in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He has also been invited to serve on a number of committees and advisory panels including one for the Waterbury campus of Western Connecticut State University and a Citizens Advisory Board for WTNH Channel 8 New Haven.