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UPDATED: Chicago's chief education officer picked to be Prince William's next superintendent

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Superintendent LaTanya McDade

LaTanya McDade, chief education officer of Chicago Public Schools, will become Prince William County schools' superintendent on July 1.

The Prince William School Board announced Wednesday that LaTanya McDade, chief education officer of Chicago Public Schools, will be the county's next superintendent.

McDade, 47, is the first woman and the first African American to lead the county's 90,000-student school division. 

McDade is a native of Chicago and a mother of two grown sons who spent 23 years with the Chicago school division, serving as a teaching assistant, teacher, assistant principal, principal, head of teaching and learning and finally as the chief education officer of the 340,000-student school division.

McDade requested that she be referred to as both the chief executive officer and chief education officer of the Prince William County school division, titles she said best describe the role of a superintendent.

“First and foremost, we're an educational institution, and it is my job to be an instructional leader while also still having the business acumen of a CEO,” McDade said in an interview Wednesday night.

McDade, the daughter of immigrants from Belize, said she was drawn to Prince William County schools by the leadership profile compiled ahead of the interview search, which stressed strong communication and collaboration skills as well as a commitment to equity.

“What I see in Prince William County is a school division that is rightly proud of its schools. I see a school division that values and celebrates diversity, but I also see a school division that will not settle for anything less than a world-class education for every student,” McDade said.

“I see that equity is a moral imperative. That is the kind of district that I want to be a part of,” she added. “That's the kind of district that my career has prepared me to lead.”

Under McDade’s leadership, Chicago Public Schools expanded its Advanced Placement courses, world and dual language programs and implemented the largest International Baccalaureate network in the nation. CPS also increased graduation rates, increased college enrollment and persistence, and reached record-low drop-out, suspension and expulsion rates, according to a school division press release.

In her role as chief education officer, McDade oversees all  CPS academic offices and is responsible for all aspects of teaching and learning, including curriculum development and instructional policy, while managing a $3.4 billion budget, the release said.

School Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef said the school board considered applications from 48 candidates from 16 states before interviewing five candidates through a combination of in-person and Zoom meetings. The candidates included school division superintendents, deputy superintendents and several who had led their school divisions through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lateef (at large) said McDade distinguished herself based on her both her experience and preparation for the interviews.

“She showed up … knowing the names of our schools, knowing our stats better than some of us did and with a strategic set of ideas and plans specifically tailored toward Prince William County schools,” Lateef said.

McDade will begin her new job on July 1. She said she plans to host round table discussions and town hall meetings to talk with Prince William County’s educators and “hear from them the strengths and the opportunities within the district.”

“And then we’ll set priorities and goals to build on what has already been working as well as those things that might be a priority to address,” she said.

As an example, McDade said she would look to build on the school division’s high graduation rate by digging into students’ status post high school. 

“That was some of the data I talked about with the board, you know, looking at a college-going culture, college enrollment,” she said. “Looking at how we continue to bolster that work and make sure that the work that we do in PWCS doesn't end when we hand off the diploma …  but making sure that we're setting our students up to achieve strong post-secondary goals as well,” she said.

The school division does not currently attempt to gauge students' success past graduation, Lateef said.

The school division has not yet released McDade’s salary and benefits. Lateef said her pay will be “comparable” to that of other school division leaders in Northern Virginia.

McDade was hired to replace current Superintendent Steven Walts, who announced last August that he would retire on June 30. Walts had been with the school division for 16 years and was one of the highest paid public school officials in the state with a salary and benefit package of more than $400,000.

McDade holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Chicago State University and a master’s degree in leadership and administration from Loyola University. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Lewis University, according to a school division press release.

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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