Meet the School ADvance Training Team

Cindy Gansen

Cindy joined School Advance in July 2015. Cindy received a BBA and MBA from Baker College Online and a MSE in Instructional Technology from University of Nebraska. Cindy has taught at the college level online for eight years as well as face to face CBA classes for Michigan Association of School Boards for six years. Cindy’s advocacy work for children is evident by her involvement with K-12 public school boards on the local and state level for over seventeen years, serving on the Flushing Community Schools and Genesee Intermediate School District School Boards. She currently works for Priority Children, a non-profit children’s advocacy organization in Flint, MI. Prior to that she was with Baker College working in online admissions, academics and career services for the last nine years.

Cindy says: “Student achievement is the number one priority for a school district, and School ADvance directs system alignment to clarify the process for educators. School ADvance is a positive approach to instill continuous quality improvement, communication, collaboration, and best practices. I am passionate about education, leadership, and the success of others.”

Best evaluation Tip: As I continue my work with non-profit organizations the role of governance is critical to the success of the organization. Setting reachable goals, identifying evidence of the work, and evaluating the progress of all partners reaps huge benefits for kids! 

Food for Thought:People who love going to work are more productive and creative. They go home happier and treat their colleagues and customers better. Inspired employees make stronger organizations. Start with “WHY”! –Simon Sinek, Start With Why

Michele Lemire

Michele Lemire is currently serving as the Superintendent of the Menominee County Intermediate School District. Prior to this position, she served as superintendent of the Escanaba Area Public Schools for 7 1/2 years. Other past administrative work includes: Assistant Superintendent-Greenville Public Schools and Director of Curriculum-Central Montcalm Public Schools. Prior to 2003, she administered state and federal programs/grants for Ionia Public Schools, as well as taught elementary and special education students. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Elementary/Special Education) and Master of Arts Degree (Educational Psychology)--both from Michigan State University, and has completed considerable additional coursework in educational leadership. Michele is currently President-Elect for the Michigan Association of School Administrators, as well as past president for the Michigan Association of State and Federal Program Administrators.

Michele joined the School ADvance Evaluation Training Team in July of 2016, and is hoping to bring a current practitioner’s perspective to participants as they learn how to implement the tool within their districts.

Best evaluation tip: Keep your focus on developing the traits within your leadership team members that will not only build up your own personal growth, but also spur on program growth to increase the excellence of your school district.

Food for Thought: “Everybody has something to learn…use the opportunity that the evaluation process provides to strengthen your craft, as well as your resolve to do what is in the best interests of your students."

Patricia McNeill

Pat McNeill served as executive director for Michigan ASCD from 2010-2013 and is a co-author of the School ADvance Administrator Evaluation System. Pat is a life-long educator who began her career as an elementary school teacher in Harrison, Michigan. She filled various positions as a teacher of special education, early childhood, adult education, and career learning before becoming a staff and curriculum specialist in the mid-1980s. Prior to leading the Michigan ASCD, Pat served for 12 years as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and professional development for Holt Public schools.

Pat says: "I have been excited with the response from principals, who report that with the School ADvance system they are experiencing performance evaluations that are finally focusing on growth, both their own and the growth of the teachers and students in their buildings. The School ADvance rubrics provide a road map to what we know about effective school and district leadership. The evaluation process is a powerful tool to further individual, school, and district goals."

Best evaluation tip: As you take ownership and become self-directed in the evaluation process, the odds increase that you will succeed in achieving your goals.

Food for Thought: “The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritized their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.” – Stephen Covey

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Dr. Reeves is an Associate Professor of educational leadership and research at Western Michigan University and past Associate Executive for the Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA). Dr. Reeves is the principal researcher and co-author of the School ADvance Evaluation System, co-developer of the Courageous Journey Superintendent Endorsement Program, and a researcher/author with a number of publications and presentations in school leadership. Prior to her work at WMU and MASA, she served 19 years as a K-12 assistant superintendent and superintendent. Dr. Reeves played a key role in researching state administrator certification systems, developing policy recommendations, drafting legislation, and working with the Michigan Department of Education to establish policies and rules for Michigan’s Administrator credentialing system.

Pat says: “School ADvance grew out of a shared vision to develop an administrator evaluation system that supports the most important work school leaders do to insure that our schools serve students well. To do this SA provides leaders with a process that engages them as full partners in their performance assessment and growth. We love seeing how district leadership and board teams are using School ADvance to sharpen their focus on student success while providing more support and guidance to administrators for the complex work they do to achieve that success."

Best evaluation tip:  Make it about what students need most to be successful in your district.

Food for Thought: The following quote is a reminder that continuous growth as leaders is best done as a collaborative process. "None of us is as smart as all of us." – Ken Blanchard.

Sara Shriver

Sara Shriver is the former Superintendent of Belding Area Schools and has 27 years’ experience as a school educator and leader. Sara started her career as a Title I teacher for Lakeview Community Schools where later she was also a principal and the Director of Instruction. Sara is the Executive Secretary for the Michigan Association of State and Federal Program Specialists and has been an educational consultant for many districts across Michigan. Sara’s passion is providing support to districts in the areas of school improvement and State and Federal Programs.

Sara is very excited to join the training team at MASA to provide School Advance training for colleagues across the State. She loves staying connected to educational leaders and providing support by modeling best practices, as well as her own continual learning while out in the field.

Best evaluation tip: Be clear about the professional learning goals, success targets, and evidences right up front. Start with the end in mind, and the evaluation process will lend itself to positive outcomes.

Food for Thought: "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."   John F. Kennedy

Susan Wakefield

Susan Wakefield’s career in education spans over 30 years in K-12 schools serving in various capacities, including coaching, counseling, teaching, and seventeen years as an administrator. She earned a BA in secondary education, a Master of Social Work degree in 1991 from Western Michigan University, and a Master in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University.

The past decade, Sue served as the superintendent at Plainwell Community Schools. Under her leadership, student learning was the top priority and Plainwell Schools received numerous state and national awards and recognition which she credits to the skill and strength of her leadership team. With a passionate belief that effective schools require effective leadership, the next focus of her professional work will be on the continual development of leadership teams for public education.

With that passion for leadership development, Sue was thrilled to join the School Advance Training team. "It was easy to see that this is an excellent leadership evaluation process because it does two things that are crucial if we are to realize our goal of having excellent schools," said Sue. "First, School ADvance is unequivocal in its focus on student success and second, it establishes a process for continual leadership development. It is grounded in the research that clearly denotes the work that our school leaders need to do in order to ensure that our students are well prepared to succeed in a dynamic world."

Best evaluation tip:  Be honest, and clear, and kind.

Food for Thought: "There are no effective schools without effective leadership."

Derek Wheaton

Derek Wheaton’s education career spans 34 years and includes 14 years as a teacher in both inner city and urban elementary schools, and 18 years as a practicing principal of a large K-2 center in southwest Michigan. Derek holds a BS degree in Early Childhood and Teaching from Michigan State University and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University. He was named MEMSPA's 2011 Outstanding Practicing Principal and honored by the NAESP as a National Distinguished Principal Class of 2012. He currently leads Derek Wheaton Consulting, LLC, providing professional learning for schools and district leaders, and coaching and mentoring for new and beginning principals. Derek is a Nationally Certified Principal Mentor & Coach via the NAESP Principal Mentor Certification Program.

Derek says: “I love being a School ADvance trainer! I enjoy the opportunity to meet so many passionate educators from across the State of Michigan! I like working with administrators to help them learn about the power of an evaluation system that can support change, develop their aspirations as leading learners, and ensure our children achieve at a high level. The best part of the training for me is when participants learn that the School ADvance evaluation system is practical, personal, professional, powerful, and positive.”

Best evaluation tip: Heinz ketchup used to have a slogan called “Slow good!” Remember that the recommendation to implement the School ADvance evaluation system with fidelity is a 2-3 year process!

Food for Thought: “The most successful people often aren’t directly pursuing conventional notions of success. They’re working hard and persisting through difficulties because of their internal desire to control their lives, learn about the world, and accomplish something that endures.” – Daniel H. Pink