Q&A with Christine Fowler Mack, Superintendent of Akron Public Schools
Recently, I had an opportunity to sit down with Akron Public Schools (APS) new superintendent Christine Fowler Mack. I was interested in learning about what inspires her.
What motivated you to apply for the role of superintendent at such an unprecedented time in education?
I was drawn to the Akron community. As I read the profile of the type of leader that Akron’s school board was seeking, it read very much like my resume. This opportunity allows me to give back to a place that gave so much to me, first as a student, then as a novice education student and a first-year teacher. The role allows for improving the system that supports APS learners as we prepare them for life.
How has your career up to this point prepared you for today’s APS challenges?
I led innovative, learner-centered change in my two previous districts. I addressed inequity. I am confident about my conviction to elevate children’s voices and needs. I appreciate diverse perspectives and collaboration and invite stakeholders to have a voice. Lastly, I have amassed many friends and partners in the field.
What energizes you?
I’m proud of the collective energy here to figure out what’s needed, roll up the sleeves, and do the work required to educate our future leaders. Our work is very interdependent. We, along with our partners, want to expand opportunities, support exceptional teaching and learning, and ultimately ensure that every APS scholar leaves with a plan that will result in a high-skill, high-wage job/career path. I’m excited about how aligned and optimistic everyone is about what we can achieve together. It is a great time to be part of it all.
What drives your passion around the college and career academies?
My own experience drives my passion for the model. I graduated with the profile of a successful student. I was actively engaged in student life. A student leader and National Honor Society inductee, I played sports and was recognized as a decent athlete on the city-series level. I was expected to go to college. And yet I had no idea what to pursue. I had not been on a college visit. I had not thought about how my learning experiences related to life beyond high school.
My father was a first-generation college student who attended Kent State on an athletic scholarship. My mother attended City Hospital’s School of Nursing. They encouraged me. They trusted me to make good choices. How could I admit (and to whom) that I wasn’t sure what I was doing?
Mine is a story of resilience and perseverance. Yet, it is also a story that points out how our scholars need preparation along each level of their educational journey to become the citizens and leaders of tomorrow.
The College and Career Academies help students navigate their interests and introduce them to potential pathways for life-sustaining work.
Where do you find your strength?
From the learners! My resolve is continually renewed through school visits and direct conversations with educators, learners, and their families.
I work from a place of deep personal commitment, familiarity, and relationships. People who work in the system may have been my classmates or former colleagues. Some of the students may be relatives of my classmates and former colleagues. It is personal.
As you approach your work, is there a prevailing thought that permeates?
Change is a constant part of our reality. We must continue to adapt and evolve as we prepare our students for success in their future.
How is it going?
There is still some nervous tension that greets me each day I step into the building. I believe it is a good thing. I continue to be in awe of this role and its responsibility at this critical moment and time. I am privileged to be a caretaker and groundbreaker entrusted with the visioning and service that will ensure our students leave us aware, experienced, and much more prepared.
To learn more about Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack, visit https://akronschools.com/district/superintendent