Barb Crittenden (middle), president of Southwestern Community College in Creston, is an Iowa State graduate who became the first female community college president in Iowa. Contributed photo.
Barb Crittenden (middle), president of Southwestern Community College in Creston, is an Iowa State graduate who became the first female community college president in Iowa. Contributed photo.

ISU School of Education cultivates Iowa’s top educational leaders

The Iowa State University School of Education prepares thousands of Iowa’s top educational leaders through its Educational Administration Program and Community College Leadership Program.

As the school became part of the College of Human Sciences in 2005, its alumni have gone on to attain some of the state’s most prestigious educational posts.

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Brad Buck, director of the Iowa Department of Education

Brad Buck is director of the Iowa Department of Education. Barb Crittenden is the first female community college president in Iowa. Rob Denson is president of Des Moines Area Community College. And Aiddy Phomvisay is principal of Marshalltown High School and the 2014 Iowa Secondary Principal of the Year.

“One of the things I most appreciated about Iowa State that stays with me today is they worked hard to present research foundations for what we were investigating but then also discussing the practical part of it,” said Buck, who received his master’s degree from Iowa State in 1997 and his doctorate in 2006.

“That has been a good grounding for me and remains important to me so we aren’t making decisions in a vacuum,” he said.

Two-thirds of college presidents are ISU alumni

Iowa State’s Community College Leadership Program has cultivated 10 of Iowa’s 15 community college presidents, two-thirds of those colleges’ administrators, and three-fourths of their leadership teams. It’s also prepared several college presidents and cabinet-level administrators in Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Crittenden, president of Southwestern Community College in Creston, started her career as a registered nurse, then went back to school for her master’s degree in 1986 and doctorate in 1997. She also participated in Iowa State’s Leadership Institute for a New Century (LINC) leadership program.

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Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College

“It was while in LINC that I first considered the possibility of becoming a community college president,” Crittenden said. “There were no women serving as president of an Iowa community college at the time. As a participant in LINC, I was encouraged to expand my view and re-evaluate my career goals.”

Denson, who received his master’s degree in educational administration in 1972, said he chose Iowa State because of the engaged faculty who worked with him both in class and the workplace.

“They build leaders,” Denson said. “I believe Iowa State’s strength is in those faculty who, as a part of their mission, have direct contact with the community college community and actively ‘practice what they teach.’”

A blend of theory and practical experiences

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Tony Aylsworth, superintendent of Pleasantville Community School District

Tony Aylsworth became superintendent of Pleasantville Community School District in June. He said getting his master’s degree and doctorate in educational administration from Iowa State set his application apart from others applying for similar administrative positions.

“I felt the program offered the opportunity to learn with and from some of the most credible and successful school leaders and faculty in our state,” Aylsworth said. “My experiences at ISU got me ready to hit the ground running when I accepted my first administrative position.”

Aylsworth said the curriculum in Iowa State’s educational administration program is relevant and offers a great balance of theory and practical experiences. He said Iowa State also has an exceptional network of fellow alumni who are practicing administrators.

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Michelle Lettington, executive director of curriculum & professional learning, Waukee school district

Michelle Lettington, executive director of curriculum and professional learning for the Waukee school district, completed Iowa State’s superintendent licensure program in June 2011. She said the program helped her grow as a professional educator — challenging and expanding her thinking through rich dialog and opportunities for application.

“Throughout the program, I broadened my perspective and deepened my knowledge of the complexity of a school system,” Lettington said. “I appreciated the care and commitment of my instructors to enhance learning, as well as the relationships and networking I built with other educators in my cohort.”

Balancing family, work, and school

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Amy Jo Naughton, principal of Irving Elementary School in Indianola

Amy Jo Naughton, principal of Irving Elementary School in Indianola, received her master’s degree from Iowa State in 2007. She was drawn to the program because of its reputation of having a rigorous and relevant curriculum that provided classroom tasks and field experience opportunities, and promoted knowledge about current educational challenges.  

“As a working mother of three young children, Iowa State provided an off-campus cohort group close to my home that provided me the flexibility of balancing family, work, and school,” Naughton said. “The cohort model implemented by Iowa State enhanced the opportunity to develop professional relationships with colleagues where we could engage in substantive conversations around educational issues that lasted well beyond the classroom.”

New faculty members who joined the School of Education in the fall of 2014 aim to continue Iowa State’s tradition of developing top-notch educational administrators. They include Daniel Spikes, who focuses on anti-racist leadership; Douglas Wieczorek, who studies how educators navigate education reform and change; and Jason Salisbury, who studies what school leaders can do to improve the success of students of color.

KEY CONTACTS:

Joanne Marshall, associate professor, program coordinator in educational administration, School of Education, Iowa State University, 515-294-9995, jmars@iastate.edu

Larry Ebbers, University Professor, School of Education, 515-294-8067, lebbers@iastate.edu

Barb Crittenden, president, Southwestern Community College, 641-782-1425, crittenden@swcciowa.edu

Rob Denson, president, Des Moines Area Community College, 515-964-6638, rjdenson@dmacc.edu

Tony Aylsworth, superintendent, Pleasantville Community School District, taylsworth@pleasantville.k12.ia.us

Michelle Lettington, executive director of curriculum and professional learning, Waukee Community School District, 515-987-5161 ext. 6702, mlettington@waukeeschools.org

Amy Jo Naughton, principal, Irving Elementary School, Indianola, 515-961-9560 ext. 6100, Amyjo.Naughton@indianola.k12.ia.us

Brad Buck, director, Iowa Department of Education, brad.buck@iowa.gov

John Schuh, director, School of Education, Iowa State University, 515-294-2336, jschuh@iastate.edu

Lynn Campbell, communications specialist, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-3689, lynnc@iastate.edu