Brian J. Whiston, Superintendent, Dearborn Public Schools
Since his 2008 arrival in Dearborn, Superintendent Mr. Brian Whiston has embarked on a mission to raise student achievement and ensure the success of all 19,000 students attending the Dearborn Public Schools.
The plan started by adopting the Balanced Leadership model, an approach to management that provides system-wide standards while at the same time allowing teachers the flexibility to deliver instruction that meets individual students’ needs.
Collaboration is a key element in Whiston’s plan. He has fostered a strong working relationship with the leadership of all union groups in the district. This relationship has been extremely effective in developing a staff evaluation process that has the buy-in from all stake-holders. It was also instrumental in settling contracts that saved jobs and reduced expenses. Under the Superintendent’s direction, more schools now include a co-teaching model placing Special Education and General Education teachers together in one classroom. The “3-D” Committee brings together the Special Education, Bilingual, and General Education Departments to share best practices and identify and address areas of concern before they become critical.
In the elementary grades, math, reading, and writing are the primary focus in the effort to raise student achievement. Mr. Whiston has been able to effectively work with his management team and union leadership to protect class size in the elementary grades with district averages remaining below 25 students per class. One of the tools being used throughout the district is the Daily 5 and CAFÉ reading strategy. Daily 5/CAFÉ allows time each day for students to read and practice strategies that increase Comprehension, Accuracy, and Fluency while Expanding their vocabularies (CAFÉ). Mr. Whiston gave his full support for the addition of Elementary Interventionists who aid in the efforts to ensure all students are reading at grade level. Being proactive and implementing an All-Day Kindergarten program before a state mandate, the Superintendent was able to ease parental concerns about long days while at the same time provide more instructional time to the district’s most academically at risk students.
Schools continue their work to provide an environment for students in grades six through twelve that will keep pace with technology, prepare them for a post-secondary education or training, and meet the requirements of a state defined curriculum. In Dearborn, Superintendent Whiston has worked to offer students a variety of options at the secondary level that break down the barriers of a typical high school classroom including:
• A wide variety of AP and Dual Enrolment classes
• A S.T.E.M based magnet program for high achieving high school students
• An Early College program offering degree or certification in the medical field
• Online courses
• A Magnet High School for students who are falling behind
• A high school program that offers real life experience in culinary arts and hospitality
This year the state of Michigan approved a plan that Mr. Whiston has been working on since his arrival in Dearborn. Starting in 2013, a program at each of Dearborn’s three high schools will offer students the opportunity to graduate in five years with a high school diploma and an associate degree with all costs covered by the district.
Mr. Whiston’s involvement in education started long before his time in Dearborn. During his ten years as Director of Government & Community Services for the Oakland County ISD, Mr. Whiston consistently demonstrated his ability to work with state government to bring financial resources to schools, lead his department to improved student achievement, and help make all schools in the county successful. He has also served as a school board member for seventeen years and held the position of President of the Michigan Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA).
In 2007, while working on behalf of public school districts in Oakland County, Mr. Whiston was named a Top Ten Lobbyist of the Year. He was also awarded the Gold Child Advocate award and named Michigan PTA Board Member of the Year and is an honorary life member of the Michigan PTSA.
Mr. Whiston has also taught classes at Wayne State University and for the Michigan Association of School Boards. He serves on several boards and is a member of several community organizations.