Dr. Schwartz finishes first year


Millard Public Schools

Superintendent Dr. John Schwartz gathers with Montclair Elementary students on the rug to be part of a reading activity.

Benjamin Jackson, Online Editor-In-Chief

With the retirement of Dr. Jim Sutfin last year, a new superintendent stepped up to carry the torch: Dr. John Schwartz. Schwartz, a former social studies teacher and superintendent of Norris Public Schools, was unanimously approved by the Millard Public School Board at the end of last school year. Whether it be teaching political science at Doane or administering as a principal, Dr. Schwartz has learned many things from each stop along his career.

“Getting to know our students or families, figuring out how to support staff,” Schwartz said, “is something that I have learned from every stop. It’s really the people that make school special,” he said.

With his diverse background and experience, Dr. Schwartz comes to Millard with the knowledge necessary to guide such a diverse district.

“Every district has different needs, different priorities, different variables, different historical context that influences how people think about issues,” Schwartz said, “which is why I work so hard to be visible in our different buildings and in different community activities to get to know people to listen and learn and understand what it is that’s important to them,” he said.

Dr. Schwartz has had to take on the task of smoothing out the transition between superintendents. As he is an out of district hire, his biggest challenge was getting to know the community and culture.

“We have 35 schools and almost 3000 staff members if you count our substitute staff and more than 23,000 students,” Schwartz said. “We have three main comprehensive high schools and each has their own story, their own contexts around history, their own culture, and it all kind of fits under the umbrella of the culture of our school district, and just the magnitude of that and building those relationships and understanding that context, I would say is the biggest challenge,” he said.

To achieve this goal of understanding the district as a whole, Dr. Schwartz has made it his mission to attend as many community events as he can.

“One of the best parts of being a superintendent is just being able to see all the amazing things our kids do.” Schwartz said. “Watching the Girls basketball team win a state championship was amazing. It was also really great to go up to South to the cultural fair, it was incredible. The stories were amazing. And the musicals and the plays that I’ve had a chance to see and just the array of activities, and kids are doing amazing things,” he said.

Dr. Schwartz also has been very future facing in devising the strategic plan of the district for the next five years.

“Millard has had a knack for being focused over time,” Schwartz said. “You can’t chase every good idea. And so it’s really trying to figure out what are the critical issues for that school district, in this case, our school district and what do we need to do to get better? And so within our strategic plan, we have three strategies,” he said.

These three strategies come in the form of adapting to Millard’s changing demographics, maintaining Millard’s status as a destination district, and engaging the community with Millard’s story. For the first part of the plan, a focus was put on changing Millard’s way of doing things to better benefit its changing students.

“How do we capture our changing demographics as an opportunity to best serve all of our students,” Schwartz said, “As we have more kids coming into our community that need to learn English, how do we help provide those services in a way that’s enriching for not only those students, but it grows the experience we have across the entire district,” he said.

The second part of Millard’s strategic plan is about enticing new families and staff to the district to make up for Millard’s static enrollment.

“From a student standpoint,” Schwartz said, “how can we continue to provide opportunities that give students a competitive advantage and help them figure out who they want to be when they leave our schools and develop skills,” he said.

The district has been focused on being a destination district for some time, which is why some Millard schools have specific programs to boost enrollment.

“Millard South, part of the many things that it does really, really well is an early college program,” Schwartz said, “About 25% of Millard South students will be graduating this year with an Associates degree,” he said.

The final part of the strategic plan revolved around having Millard tell its own story.

“How do we engage with our community in ways that help them to see that work that we’re doing here,” Schwartz said, “and what are the opportunities to improve and how do we tell that story with our community,” he said.

Overall, Dr. Schwartz is focused on continuing the success of Millard Public Schools and leading it into the future.

“What it really boils down to is how can we maintain a culture of stability, where from one year to the next, we provide predictable excellence,” Schwartz said.