Building relationships with students, staff and the community.
That’s what Dr. Daniel Nerad, the new superintendent of Birmingham Public Schools, is already looking forward to.
“I’m excited by the students that I’ve met and the staff that I’ve met and their willingness to engage with me, to welcome me, but more than that I get the sense that they want to have a conversation about the school district and I’m going to be doing as much listening as a possibly can,” Nerad said. “I’m just excited to be joining this new community, hopefully adding value to the great work that’s being done here and to do it with people including students.”
Listening and learning about Birmingham is something Nerad intends to spend his time on. He has a 90 to 120 day transition plan to ensure good continuity with what the district is currently doing and then will start a strategic planning process that will begin in January of 2013.
Joe Gothard, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education in Madison Schools, Nerad’s previous district, considers listening one of Nerad’s biggest strengths.
“You can expect to have a very patient listener, someone who will truly advocate for children, definitely understands the needs of how communities and schools must work together, and someone who will model a high degree of integrity,” Gothard said in a phone interview with the Highlander.
Nerad has also made a good impression on Principal Dee Lancaster.
“He has been fantastic,” Lancaster said. “What I like about him is that he doesn’t want to come in and make a lot of changes right away because, you know, you need time to get to know your environment first and he asks really really good questions. When he asks why we do something or why something is the way it is, it’s not because he’s being critical it’s because he really doesn’t understand and he wants to know.”
Another goal important to Nerad is student involvement and making sure decisions for the district are a group effort.
“I’m looking forward to meeting with students and student leader groups to find out what’s on their minds and helping that shape the agenda going forward,” Nerad said. “We will have students involved in the strategic planning process. There will be opportunity for voices there.”
Gothard admires Nerad’s commitment to suggestions.
“I think he’s very open. With any leader at all, leaders have to be able to listen to all the stakeholders and arrive at a decision that is best for the entire organization,” Gothard said. “That can be tough but I have definitely never known him to turn down a conversation.”
Strictness and someone unwilling to compromise are not traits that relate to Nerad. Gothard says to expect the greatest morality.
“I think his personality reflects a good sense of humor, definitely someone who will put the needs of others ahead of his own, and someone who is very patient,” Gothard said. “He is at times a quiet leader, he doesn’t have to be the voice in the room but very active in how people are working together.”
Lancaster is excited about the addition of Nerad to Birmingham, because of his eagerness to build relationships.
“I noticed right away with Dr. Nerad, because that he’s been in districts that are much larger than Birmingham, I think that what he is really looking forward to is that he can probably have a little bit more of a personal touch here, where he can be out in the buildings,” Lancaster said. “He will get to know the staff, and do all those things simply because he’s probably not had that same opportunity at Madison who has 55 buildings and we have 13 so that gives you the ability to be more visible, not just go to things but really get to know people better and build those relationships.”
Nerad says it was time for him to make a change and Birmingham was a great opportunity for him to do that.
“This is my third district and each of them have been great places,” Nerad said. “I’ve had jobs throughout my entire career that I’ve loved and every job has its ups and downs and pluses and minuses so I’m leaving behind a place that I developed great affection for and I’m coming to a place that I believe I will also have those same feelings toward.”