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Dr. Rock would focus on district-wide collaboration



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September 29, 2010 - When Dr. Rod Rock was one of six finalists for superintendent, he stopped by Clarkston High School to check it out.

"It was a Friday afternoon, the football team was scrimmaging, the school was just alive," Rock said. "A custodian wondered who I was, and I said I was interviewing for superintendent. He offered to take me on a tour."

He spoke to several teachers, administrators and students as he passed by, he said.

"I visited classrooms, the robotics lab, media center – I met so many people, and they all responded with pride," he said. "It really meant a lot."

Offered the job, Sept. 13, Rock accepted and is finalizing details on the three-year contract.

Clarkston offers his first opportunity to serve as superintendent.

"I have a lot to learn," he said. "I need to do a lot of listening and build relationships – listen to people, hear what they're thinking, what they're excited about, where opportunities exist."

Rock, 41, grew up in the Millington area. As a high school senior, he served a co-op in elementary special education.

"I really enjoyed it, and I saw it as my calling," he said.

He earned his teaching degree at Aquinas College, and taught physical education, reading, and math, and coached basketball at Unionville-Sebewaing Area Elementary School for six years.

Earning his master's degree at Central Michigan University, he became principal at the Sebewaing school.

"At the school, there were some negative issues – culture, school climate, differences in philosophy and teaching style," he said. "I decided I needed to step up and take a role in leadership or move on to a different job."

He served as principal for seven years, earning his doctorate at CMU. He was then hired as director of instructional services for Saginaw Intermediate School District, where he served for four years.

He interviewed with Clarkston Community Schools Board of Education on Aug. 23, then returned for a follow-up, Aug. 31. He turned down an offer to serve as superintendent for Caro Community Schools, Aug. 26.

"It was a very thorough hiring process," he said. "To choose me is a great honor – I have an obligation to be a good superintendent."

Clarkston is a great community with amazing facilities, buildings, and grounds, he said.

"I want to build on the great things already happening in the district," he said. "I have quite a bit of work to do. Budgets, contracts, management, school board, curriculum – all are important. At the same time, education is evolving."

Rock's teaching philosophy is based on Organizational Learning ideas of education reformer Michael Fullan. The idea rejects a top-down management style in favor of collaboration at all levels, with students and employees organized into Professional Learning Communities.

"School board, administration, principal, support, food service, we're all learners and teachers," he said. "This is an opportunity to focus on learning and build something long-term, together. I'm excited to be part of the process."

Technology also presents opportunities for more effective, individualized education, he said.

"Each student learns in a different way – build on their strengths," he said.

Short-term plans include meeting school employees, students, parents, people in the community,

"Be visible and approachable, and take every opportunity to talk about learning, thinking, and engaging to help people get to know me," he said. "Then, based on what I learn, look for opportunities down the road on how we can work together to do the best we can for Clarkston 8,200 students."

Long-term plans also include meeting with policy makers and legislators, superintendents for other school districts and universities.

His wife, Karen, and their two daughters will stay in the Sebewaing as details are finalized, he said.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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