CH-UH BOE selects superintendent who won't push 'restart button'

Elizabeth Kirby has been selected by the Cleveland Heights-University Heights BOE as the district's next superintendent. She is expected to start Aug. 1. (Credit: Chicago Public Schools)

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously at a special meeting March 14 to offer the position of superintendent to Elizabeth Kirby, currently chief of school strategy and planning for Chicago Public Schools. Kirby has spent her 23-year career in Chicago schools as a teacher, principal and administrator. A native Clevelander who grew up in Shaker-Buckeye and graduated from the Hawken School, Kirby is scheduled to begin her new role on Aug. 1, pending contract negotiations.

"I'm very excited to have Liz Kirby joining Tiger Nation,” said Jodi Sourini, BOE president, via e-mail. “She understands both the challenges and opportunities in diverse districts like ours. During her day visiting our district, she really connected with our teachers, students, staff and community.”

Sourini noted that Kirby wants to “build on the great work that's been done so far,” instead of “starting over.” The board president said Kirby “was able to give real life examples of programs she put in place that improved student outcomes.”

Jim Posch, BOE vice president, echoed those sentiments in his comments at the special meeting. “We’ve heard from community members that they don’t want to see the restart button pushed. We are at a point where we can build a culture of excellence,” he said.

Dan Heintz, BOE member, agreed that Kirby would stay the course. “She was really impressed with our commitment to the strategic plan and to the goals of the strategic plan. She is committed to pursuing those same goals,” he said at the meeting.

Kirby will replace Talisa Dixon, who departed CH-UH in early March to become superintendent of Columbus Public Schools. Dixon was earning approximately $165,000 a year at CH-UH and will earn a base salary of $242,000 in Columbus, the largest district in the state.

Brian Williams is interim superintendent. A longtime district administrator who is currently coordinator of alternative programming at the Options Center, Williams was not a candidate for superintendent and will return to the Center when Kirby starts in August.

In a school district news release, Kirby stated that she is “excited about the opportunity to return home to Northeast Ohio and lead a district rich in diversity and opportunities for students.” She said she “truly felt at home” during her visit and was “impressed with the great work happening in the schools.” I look forward to working with all stakeholders to build upon the momentum created through the district’s strategic plan and guiding mission,” Kirby said.

According to the news release, Kirby was one of four finalists to get in-depth interviews. She started her career as a history teacher at Olive-Harvey Middle College High School in Chicago before transitioning to administrative roles as assistant principal and then head principal at Kenwood Academy, 2003–12. Kirby was promoted to network chief in 2012, overseeing the implementation of school improvement plans serving 18,000 students.

In her current role as chief of school strategy and planning, Kirby provides strategic guidance to 656 district, charter, and contract schools, and oversees the district’s 18 network chiefs, or regional superintendents, to support principals in building and sustaining strong schools.

Kirby earned a B.A. with a special concentration in urban studies from Harvard University and an M.A. in social science from the University of Chicago. 

Fred D'Ambrosi

Fred D'Ambrosi has been an award-winning journalist for 40 years, mostly as a TV news director in Cleveland, D.C., San Diego and Milwaukee. He's enjoyed living in Cleveland Heights since 2015.

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Volume 12, Issue 4, Posted 9:12 AM, 03.19.2019