Bertis Downs lives in Athens, Georgia, in one of the state’s poorest communities. He is a great advocate for public education and is also a member of the board of the Network for Public Education. He made his mark as manager of the rock group R.E.M. We are very proud to have him advise us, given his devotion to public schools, where his own daughters are students. This article he wrote was posted by Valerie Strauss on her blog this morning.

One of the amazing things about Athens and the Clarke County School District is that its superintendent, Philip Lanoue, was chosen as National Superintendent of the Year by his colleagues.

He writes that the over-testing culture has not been good for the local public schools. Parents and teachers don’t like it. But Superintendent Lanoue has led the way in making positive changes.

Bertis writes:

I mean, really, if this over-testing, high-stakes culture is really such a great idea, wouldn’t reformers want this environment for their own children? Wouldn’t they push the elite private schools their children attend to adopt those “innovative reforms” too? The fact that they don’t is telling. These are not educationally sound ideas, and reformers know it, even as they call these policies “innovative” as they push them to the public. Do they think we don’t know better? Of course the schools exempt from the public mandates don’t nurture this absurd over-testing culture, especially the ones labeled “innovative” by those passing the laws. Balderdash, by any other name…

Our family lives in Athens, Georgia, a community that – like most communities – values public education, and our kids go to our local public schools. Our school district has been innovating, really innovating in some pretty creative ways, some of which might even sound old-fashioned or simple. I actually prefer the word “intuitive.” Especially for the past six years, we are grateful for the leadership of Phil Lanoue, who was named 2015 National Superintendent of the Year.

He deserves the honor, and here’s why: he works to build up all Athens community schools by focusing on teaching and learning, using technology where it enhances the overall mission of educating students, working with community partners to try new techniques, enhancing efficacy, and emphasizing our community’s capacity to support the work of our neighborhood schools. Dr. Lanoue is the first to state that he isn’t the only one putting in the work. He sets a tone, supports his team members and advances good ideas that foster high-quality teaching and learning. Many of these ideas are proving themselves effective over the years.

Read on to learn ahow Lanoue has provided positive leadership to the schools and the community.