By Jason Ruff
The Meridian Times
The Superintendent of Schools in Okemos has been given a 3-year contract extension.
Dr. Catherine Ash
The Okemos Board of Education gave Dr. Catherine Ash, superintendent, with a contract extension during its latest meeting on Feb. 23. The extension keeps Ash employed as superintendent through June 30, 2018.
According to the review, Ash, who holds a doctorate in education administration from Michigan State University, had received a mean score of “commendable” or “distinguished” in all 54 categories evaluated.
According to the report, Ash’s leadership qualities have been a key factor in her performance. “You (Ash) keep appraised of developments relating to educational policy, and encourage staff members to achieve professional excellence through external continuing education opportunities and participation in the Professional Learning Communities,” said the report.
“These achievements,” the report continued, “ demonstrate your strong professional and leadership qualities, and the Board is pleased with your commitment to the improvement of all aspects of the district.”
Robert Clark, director of finance for the district, added that Ash’s leadership skills make her a remarkable administrator.
“I’ve worked for a lot of leaders, some good, some bad, some really good. Catherine Ash is the finest leader I’ve ever been around,” Clark said. “She is the most competent professional I’ve ever worked for.”
Okemos Board of Education President Melanie Lynn also lauded Ash’s leadership qualities.
“She is wonderful at commanding the respect of her team. She has a wonderful leadership team and I think she does a good job of utilizing the significant skills of all of her team,” Lynn said. “She also has a very wonderful appreciation of the Okemos School District.”
One of Ash’s most notable achievements, according to Lynn, has been ensuring that the Okemos student body has continued to grow and thrive despite economic challenges.
“Our student body has continued to thrive educationally, socially and I think that is a testament to her leadership and the position of the board,” said Lynn.
Ash, who has been superintendent since 2010, had three primary goals as her focus for the 2014-15 academic year.
“My goals this year were to create a culturally competent and responsive school environment, also to create and implement a plan of renovation for some of our existing facilities,” Ash said. Ash also emphasized the need to increase the educational proficiency of identified subgroups, children at a disadvantage due to economic status or learning disabilities.
According to the report, Ash made “commendable progress” toward all three goals.
Ash insists that her successes are due largely to her leadership team.
“I was very pleased with way that (the evaluation) turned out … but I would also comment that my success is only because of the great people I have surrounding me,” she said.
When asked what the future holds for the district, Ash expressed both concern and optimism.
“I think right now the biggest challenge facing the board is financial. You know, I think we will continue to progress towards academic excellence and success for all of our students,” Ash said. “We’re never happy with where we are, so we’re constantly striving to be better and looking for ways to enhance our excellence.”
Despite the challenges ahead for the school district, Lynn believes that the future is bright under Ash.
“I think that we will continue to be the wonderful district that we are because Dr. Ash is a wonderful superintendent,” Lynn said. “This district is an exemplary district because Dr. Ash is an exemplary leader.”