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Superintendent of the Year Finalists Discuss Successes, Education Trends

The four finalists for the 2015 national superintendent of the year honor—awarded by AASA, the School Superintendents Association—gathered in Alexandria, Va., on Thursday for a panel discussion on current education trends and the accomplishments that have garnered their districts statewide and national acclaim.

The finalists are MaryEllen Elia, the superintendent of the Hillsborough County schools in Tampa, Fla.; Philip Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County district in Athens, Ga.; Patrick Murphy, who was selected for his leadership of the Arlington, Va., school system; and Patrice Pujol, the superintendent of the Ascension Public Schools in Donaldsonville, La.

The four finalists were selected as winners in their individual state superintendent of the year contests. The national winner will be announced at AASA's annual conference next month in San Diego.

Elia has been the schools chief of the 206,000-student Hillsborough County—the nation's eighth largest, since 2005. She discussed winning a seven-year, $100 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop the district's teacher evaluation system, Empowering Effective Teachers.

Elia is one of the state's longest-serving superintendents, but tensions between her and several school board members have put her job in jeopardy, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The district's school board could vote to fire her Tuesday.

Lanoue has led the 13,000-student Clarke County schools since 2009. He talked about managing a budget in fiscally austere times and being the instructional leader in a school district.

Murphy, a long-time Virginia educator, was honored as that state's superintendent of the year for his leadership of the nearly 26,000-student Arlington school system in suburban Washington. He discussed the district's Aspire to Excellence plan, which engaged families in conversations about children taking academically challenging courses.

Pujol took the reins of the Acension Parish school system in 2010 after working several years as an assistant superintendent in the 21,500-student district. She discussed her success with implementing a "turnaround zone" program to boost academic achievement in her district's eight lowest-achieving schools. 

The finalists also fielded questions about the Common Core State Standards and competition with charter schools.

Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of the Miami-Dade district in Florida, won the national award in 2014.

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