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Cedar Rapids schools names Tawana Grover next superintendent
Grover, who has 27 years of experience in education, was unanimously appointed by the Cedar Rapids school board Thursday
CEDAR RAPIDS — Tawana Grover, the leader of a school district in Nebraska, was named Thursday as the next superintendent of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, becoming its first female Black leader.
Grover — who made history as the first Black superintendent in Nebraska and the first woman superintendent at Grand Island Public Schools — was unanimously appointed by the Cedar Rapids school board after a two-month search led by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. Her first day will be July 1.
“I firmly believe that it takes an entire community to ensure the success of our public schools,” said Grover, who did not provide her age. “Cedar Rapids Community School District's commitment to placing students first is undeniable. As your next superintendent, I will work to ensure students will graduate with more than a diploma.
“I’m excited to meet the students in the district, hear and elevate their voice, and be inspired by their interests and passions,” said Grover, who has 20 years of experience as an administrator in education. ”I am ready to hit the ground running, listening, learning and leading for the most immediate needs and long into the successful future of Cedar Rapids and focus on the importance of investing in quality education so every learner is Future Ready.”
As of Thursday evening, the district had not provided The Gazette with a copy of Grover’s three-year contract, including her salary and benefits. Former Cedar Rapids Superintendent Noreen Bush, who died last year of cancer, earned $270,746 a year.
As superintendent, Grover will oversee the second-largest school district in Iowa and an annual budget of about $315 million. She will report to the elected officials on the Cedar Rapids school board.
There are 32 schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District serving about 15,700 students. The district’s minority enrollment is 40 percent. Also, 39 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, according to U.S. News & World Report. There are about 3,100 employees in the district.
Grover resigned from her position Jan. 11 in the Grand Island Public Schools in central Nebraska. In a December letter to the Grand Island school community, Grover said serving as superintendent of the district was an “honor of a lifetime.”
She led that school district for seven years, overseeing 23 schools and 9,920 students. The district’s minority enrollment is 60 percent, and 52 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, according to U.S. News. The majority of students at Grand Island schools — 52 percent — are Hispanic or Latino. More than 4 percent are Black.
Under Grover’s leadership, Grand Island schools completed a $69.9 million bond referendum. In Cedar Rapids, the district plans to take a $312 million bond for a facilities master plan to voters, perhaps this September.
Grover led many of Grand Island’s schools firsts, including:
- Launching Nebraska’s first registered apprenticeship program to expose high school students to careers like manufacturing;
- Being the first school district in Nebraska to receive a federal $13 million GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) grant to fund college and career readiness opportunities;
- Leading the district to adopt its first anti-racist policy and equity task force in June 2020;
- Developing a five-year strategic plan;
- Establishing a paraeducator to teacher program and other “Grow Your Own” efforts to create an educator talent pipeline for the district;
- And opening the O’Connor Learning Center for early childhood education for preschool students.
During her time as at DeSoto Independent Schools — a suburban district of Dallas, Texas — as chief of human resources, Grover increased staff diversity and reduced teacher turnover by 26 percent.
She holds numerous degrees including a Ph.D. in special education, educational specialist in elementary education and educational leadership and a master’s degree and bachelor's degree in education.
Search for a superintendent
Educators and district residents wanted to see the next superintendent be someone with experience in leading a diverse school district, be good at relationship building and have a proven track record of student achievement, according to survey data collected by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates — an Illinois firm helping identify candidates to become the next superintendent.
The names of the other candidates for superintendent have not been released.
No one outside the school board had been involved in conducting the interviews — based on the guidance of the search firm — to help the district run a “confidential search,” school board President David Tominsky said.
The district hosted more than 20 in-person community, parent and student input sessions in November by invitation only. The district emailed invitations to more than 12,000 families and students, 2,500 staff, 24 civic leaders, 48 community partners and 46 community leaders.
Four virtual community input sessions also were held to “gather perceptions” of the district and “determine the desired characteristics of the new superintendent,” according to a district newsletter.
Former superintendent Bush, 51, died Oct. 23. She was diagnosed with cancer more than two years ago. Art Sathoff, the retired superintendent of the Indianola Community School District, was named interim superintendent in November. Sathoff’s contract calls for a $167,000 salary, as well as benefits, through June 30.
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