Ferguson-Florissant Superintendent Plans for Long-Term Commitment
At the age of 34, Art McCoy plans to be around for not just a few years but a generation.
According to the American Association of School Administrators, the average age of a superintendent falls between 54 and 55. For Art McCoy, the new superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District, he’s defied the expectation by more than 20 years.
McCoy, 34, took the reins of the district on July 1 and has moved swiftly into getting ready for the 2011-12 school year.
Before opening the doors to students for the new year, he had already helped receive new programs and grants for students in the district, scheduled town hall meetings for community members and parents in the district, and established several councils to reinforce relationships with communities.
However, the official transition for the job started in January. The board of education named McCoy to succeed former Superintendent Jeff Spiegel in December. At that time, McCoy served as assistant superintendent for secondary education.
McCoy said that in January, he began to get to extend to the elementary schools to get to know their students, staff and families.
“It’s been an awesome experience to have the assistant (superintendent) role, so that as soon I was appointed, I was expanding my roles to the superintendency," he said. "So that my first day I was able to accomplish goals that we’ve already started with four new programs, grant money and major changes.”
Despite his young age, McCoy has a track record of doing things at a young age.
At the age of 18, McCoy graduated from Lafayette High School and had 45 college credit hours upon his graduation. At the age of 19, he graduated from Harris Stowe State University and then decided to bring his talents back to St. Louis as a math teacher at Lafayette.
While there, he was reported as the state's youngest certified teacher.
McCoy understands that his age carries some harsh realities.
“To be the youngest is an extra weight of responsibility because this road requires a level of maturity that often time individuals question when age is not abundant,” McCoy said. “Being a superintendent in your 30s is rare across the nation, but it causes you to fall into a category of oppression … ageism is the word. Anyone below 30 and anyone above 60 falls into groups of oppression in society as to how we treat them.”
As McCoy discussed his vision and plans for the district, he displayed his knowledge and sounded as wise as someone who’s had this position for more than a few weeks.
“Having over a decade of central office experience as an administrator, it’s something that is rarely said of someone of my age, but it’s often someone in their 50s or 60s because of the time they may have spent doing things at an earlier time,” he said.
Director of Secondary Education Nicole Whitesell couldn't believe the level of deep knowledge and understanding McCoy had during a recent administrative training.
"To me, I thought, 'Wow, he’s only been in the district three years, but yet he has such a great understanding," she said. "If you were on the bus listening to him speak about the community, you would have thought he’d been there for longer than just three years. It was really impressive."
McCoy stressed that the district will be about, “Excellence and equity every day,” and he plans for the district to strive for the highest achievements.
Some of his goals include:
- Increasing graduation rates by three percent
- Increasing attendance rates by 1 percent or improving to an overall district rate of 95 percent
- Green goals, such as adding more gardens as well as recycling and energy efficiency
“We are perfectly posed for higher achievement,” he said. “I definitely intend for the whole state to see that. We’re a lighthouse in the community, in the region.”
With more than a decade of teaching and educational administrative work behind him, McCoy plans to spend many more years growing and helping in his superintendent role.
“Age is such a benefit because this community and I have an opportunity for long-term sustainable change and consistency and leadership,” he said. “My age positions me best to not even be thinking about retirement but to be thinking about the next decade and the next generation of people that I’ll still be serving 20 to 30 years from now.”
Check back tomorrow for more information on the goals and vision of the superintendent for the district in the short and long term.