by Steven Wasko (DPS), Published August 29, 2011
John Wm. Covington, Ed.D., an education innovator and creative problem solver with a track record of success in urban school districts, has been selected as the first Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority, based on action by the Authority’s Board this afternoon.
The new Chancellor has served as Superintendent in Kansas City, Missouri; Pueblo, Colorado; and Lowndes County (Montgomery), Alabama.
Covington has one of the strongest track records in the nation of initiating district-wide reforms that make it possible for students and teachers to succeed. When he became Kansas City Schools superintendent in 2009, the schools were half-empty, the district had a $50 million deficit and was facing potential bankruptcy, and barely 25 percent of students scored proficient on the state exams. By the end of Covington’s first year, the district posted the greatest academic student performance gains on the state assessment since the development of the current Missouri test.
Additional reforms undertaken by Covington in Kansas City include the right-sizing process, the presentation of a balanced budget for the 2011 fiscal year (the first time in several decades), the initiation and completion of a community-wide strategic planning effort, and the development and implementation of student centered education designed to address the individual and diverse learning needs of all students enrolled in KCMSD. The district eliminated wasteful spending and called for greater fiscal accountability by reducing vendor contracts from more than 6,000 to approximately 800, saving $35 million.
In Pueblo, Colo. under Covington’s leadership, the schools were nationally recognized for closing income and ethnic academic achievement gaps. After he served as superintendent of Lowndes County Public Schools in Montgomery, Ala. every school in the district made Adequate Yearly Progress as determined by the State of Alabama and as required by the Federal No Child Left Behind law.
Roy Roberts, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager and Chairman of the EAA Executive Committee, said, “Dr. Covington brings not just great experience and skill but one of the strongest track records in raising student achievement in the nation. Detroit – in fact all of Michigan – is very fortunate that such a leader has agreed to join us on this important work.”
“There may be no greater opportunity to make a dramatic shift in the lives of many, many deserving young people than through this new system,” Covington said. “We know what we need to do to produce far better opportunities and outcomes for students and we certainly know how great the need is here in Detroit and in the rest of Michigan. With support for major change coming both from the Detroit community and the state, I am confident that we can succeed. I truly believe we will create a modern, nationally acclaimed system of public schools that puts students on the path to graduate prepared for college, careers and anything to which they aspire. We are talking about academic change the likes of which Detroit and Michigan has never seen.”
“The future of Detroit and Michigan depends on making our education system a success for our students, our teachers, our parents and our economy,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “Dr. Covington’s record of achievement is just the right fit to ensure that our children get the education they so richly need and deserve. Coupled with the leadership of Roy Roberts, the EAA, and tremendous community and business support, challenged Detroit and Michigan schools are on track for a dramatic turnaround. The time and opportunity are truly now.”
Prior to his first superintendency, Covington served in Alabama’s Montgomery Public Schools System as an assistant superintendent and executive assistant to the superintendent. Prior to his tenure in Montgomery, Dr. Covington served in numerous professional capacities in Macon County, Troy City and Eufaula City Public Schools in Alabama.
Covington earned B.S., M.S., AA Certification and Ed.S. degrees from Alabama State University. He also holds a M.Ed. Certification from Troy University and an AA Certification and Ed.D. degree from Auburn University. He was named a Japan Fulbright Scholar in 2005, recipient of the NAFEO (National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education) award in 2007, and graduated from the Broad Superintendents Academy in 2008. In 1994, Dr. Covington was selected as a distinguished alumnus of his alma mater, Alabama State University.
Covington is married to the former Wilanie Rivers. They have three children; Melvin, David, and Simone, and two granddaughters; Hunter and Hayden.
In June 2011, Gov. Snyder, EM Roberts and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan announced a plan to dramatically redesign public education in Michigan’s lowest performing schools by including them into a new system that drives vastly more resources directly into their classrooms and offers greater autonomy to help ensure dramatic student achievement increases.
The Education Achievement Authority is a new statewide school system that will operate the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan not achieving satisfactory results on a redesign plan or that are under an emergency manager. It is designed to provide a new, stable, financially responsible set of public schools that create the conditions, supports, tools and resources under which teachers can help students make significant academic gains. It will first apply to underperforming schools in Detroit in the 2012–2013 school year and then be expanded to cover the entire state.
Accomplishments of John Wm. Covington in Kansas City Schools
1. Made operations far more efficient
2. Engaged the community
3. Strengthened teaching and learning
4. Empowered teachers and principals with meaningful support and rewards
5. Held the organization responsible for student outcomes
6. Kept student safety and well being front and center
Steven Wasko (DPS)