Macomb County

Shawn Ryan: a visionary school leader

An OU Central Office Administration post-master's certificate alum, Ryan focuses on student success as Clarkston Community Schools' superintendent.

Shawn Ryan is superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools (CCS), a position he’s held since May 2018.

As Clarkston Community Schools' superintendent, Shawn Ryan collaborates with his team of faculty and staff to orchestrate all facets of instruction and operations with a focus on student achievement.

Macomb County, Macomb, Clarkston, Shawn Ryan, COA, Central Office Administration, certificate

icon of a calendarMay 26, 2020

Share this story

Shawn Ryan, OU alum and Clarkston superintendent, is a visionary leader
Superintendent Shawn Ryan during his remarks at Clarkston High School's boys basketball coach's retirement celebration.

OU alumnus Shawn Ryan’s parents were both educators, influencing his decision to choose education for his profession.

“I was connected to the importance and power of the learning process from an early age,” Ryan said. “There’s an amazing opportunity in education to form relationships and build capacity and opportunity for children in an incredibly meaningful way. To be in a vocation where you build-up children to pursue their dreams is incredibly rewarding.”

Ryan is superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools (CCS), a position he’s held since May 2018. From 2010 to 2017, he was deputy superintendent. Ryan has spent his entire career at CCS, beginning as a guest teacher in 1995, then student teacher and science teacher. He then advanced into school administration — first, as assistant principal at Clarkston High School to principal at Clarkston Middle School and then Clarkston Junior High School’s principal.

As CCS superintendent, he collaborates with his team of faculty and staff to orchestrate all facets of instruction and operations with a focus on student achievement. The district serves 7,300 students in seven elementary schools, a middle school, a junior high and a high school. CCS also has an alternative high school — Renaissance — and an Early Childhood Center.

Ryan says education is about having a passion for improving and changing the lives of others.

“I love engaging with CCS students and educators. As superintendent, I support those roles and continue to improve the learning process,” he said. “I strongly believe learning is a lifelong pursuit, and, as educators, we not only learn ourselves but assist others in that pursuit.”

The perpetual learner enrolled in OU’s Central Office Administration (COA) post-master’s certificate in 2018 to enhance his skills and improve his knowledge base.

“I had several years of central office experience, but it’s easy to fall into ruts or perhaps not consider new ways of doing things — until you need to evaluate how others complete the same tasks and handle situations differently,” Ryan said.

Ryan says OU’s COA program provided opportunities to bring real-world challenges into a form, to engage with other educational leaders to exchange ideas as well as challenge his thinking to address problem-solving potential to further thinking and innovation. And, he adds, the faculty — former or current central office administrators — were top-notch.

“OU’s COA program is highly regarded by my superintendent colleagues and school boards,” Ryan said. “The program was succinctly tied to the complex disciplines critical to school district operation. The cohort model was a powerful component. It created a team, so we navigated the program together — providing support and opportunity to build a professional network of relationships while also using the collective thinking of the team throughout the program.”

Once Ryan completed the COA program, he applied those credits toward OU’s doctoral program in organizational leadership in which he’s now enrolled.

John Lucido, assistant superintendent of administrative services for the district, says CCS is a large family because of Ryan’s leadership.

“He leads by example and cares deeply for every employee and student in our district,” Lucido said. “Shawn has not only made CCS a place I am proud to work for but a district I want my family to be a part of.”

Gary Kaul, principal of Clarkston High School, started his career with Ryan as student teachers.

“I haven’t met many people whose motives I unequivocally never question,” Kaul said. “Shawn is one of those people. He leads from the heart.”

Ryan created and leads a monthly roundtable with district parents in a parent advisory team (PAT). Theresa Fabrizio, a PAT member, describes Ryan as a great leader for CCS.

“Shawn has the unique ability to be grounded and approachable, allowing deep discussion and challenging questions and concerns to be addressed in an open and caring manner, and with an eagerness to get to the root of the problem and to find a solution,” Fabrizio said. “He leads by taking action, being accountable and delegating responsibly to the incredible team he has assembled for our district.”

Mary Herzenstiel, a fellow PAT member as well as a district guest teacher, says Ryan has many effective leadership qualities.

“As a parent, what I appreciate most is he’s an excellent communicator,” Herzenstiel said. “Shawn encourages parents to express their viewpoints in our meetings. He’s a good listener. And, he shares stories of his own public- school years and the trials and rewards of being a busy parent to his four children which makes him relatable to the parents in our district.”

Ryan expresses that central office leaders and all educators play an important role in preparing children for the future.

“The work we do in education truly invests our best in our children and provides an inter-generational bond that propels our society and the world forward,” Ryan said.

In his administrative tenure at CCS, Ryan has also accumulated a vast array of achievements.

In 2010, he spearheaded a middle school/junior high reconfiguration — a restructuring that reduced the district budget by $10 million. He helped pass a $76 million bond for technology and facilities updates in 2016. And, he revitalized the district’s focus on broader social-emotional needs of children through new program initiatives like Whole Child and Leader in Me. He’s also been instrumental in the introduction of improved co-curricular opportunities in all elementary schools, and the addition of instructional technology and reading coaches across the district.

But, the father of four — along with his wife Gina — shares his most meaningful moments as a superintendent revolve around working directly with teachers and students.

“Taking time to engage in the learning process and be part of classroom instruction is an important and rewarding part of what I do,” Ryan said. “Staying close to the action can be challenging but incredibly rewarding. I’ve also appreciated the opportunity to build a larger educational community. The partnerships and anchor nature of a school district provide excellent opportunities for both the school system and community to grow in unison.”

Shawn Ryan and students
Clarkston Community Schools Superintendent Shawn Ryan shown here with some of his students prior to the pandemic.

#   #  #

Virtual Information Session: June 2, 2020 at 4:30 p.m.
Central Office Administration accelerated post-master’s graduate certificate

School administrators can become more effective central-office leaders with OU’s 12-month post-master’s graduate certificate. Information is available at a COA virtual information session on Tuesday, June 2 at 4:30 p.m. — connecting easily via mobile phone, computer or tablet. Program Coordinator Dr. Suzanne Klein will share program information and features for about 20 minutes, followed by interactive Q&A.

After registration, attendees will receive a confirmation email with login instructions and a link to join the online session through Webex. Those who register and login to the COA virtual event will receive an application charge waiver code.

For more information and to register, contact Cheryl Rhodey, student success coordinator, at [email protected].

Share this story