Robert R. Neu, Ed.S.
Superintendent, Federal Way Public Schools, 2010-2011
The Federal Way Public Schools Board of Directors is proud to announce that it has offered the position of Superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools to Robert Neu. Superintendent Neu is a proven leader with over 20 years of experience in public education and experience in the private business sector, as well. He has been an exceptional steward of district resources and, simultaneously, an effective change agent leader.
Neu has served as the superintendent of Waterford School District in Waterford, Michigan, for the past four years. Prior to that, he was the district’s Director of Secondary Education for four years, and as a principal or assistant principal for 11 years.
Educational philosophy and student achievement:
Neu describes himself as a student-centered decision maker who firmly believes in educating the “whole child”. Over the past four years, he has led Waterford School District’s implementation of major initiatives that have resulted in consistent student achievement gains in all content areas on the state’s standardized tests. However, he notes that a comprehensive curriculum supported by extra-curricular programs is the foundation of American public education.
“I understand the need to focus on student achievement as measured by No Child Left Behind. But I remain committed to engaging all students through a curriculum that taps their individual interests and brings relevance to their world,” Neu said in his application for the Federal Way position.
In addition, every school earned a grade of ‘A’ or ‘B’ on the Michigan report card for the 2008-2009 school year. Waterford School District continues to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals. Perhaps most impressive, 92% of Waterford graduates enroll in post-secondary higher education institutions.
Using professional learning community concepts, Neu and his team developed district-wide assessments, aligned the curriculum horizontally and vertically, developed an innovative student data analysis system and increased student academic rigor.
The critical component in this work, he notes, has been the development of the customized student data analysis system that provides teachers and principals with real-time data to effectively guide daily instruction. This system has garnered interest from the Michigan Association of School Administrators and Intel, Inc., which featured it in a case study in a national publication.
The district has also designed intervention and enrichment core elective classes that assist with differentiating instruction and meeting each student where he/she is at in their academic development.
Michigan has endured a significant economic downturn leading to severely reduced school funding. Superintendent Neu successfully led the district through the challenging process of reducing the district’s budget by over 25 percent, while maintaining existing class size ratios. The process maintained the ethical and moral obligation to the school district stakeholders while focusing on reasonable and responsible contracts that were overwhelmingly (95%) approved by all employee groups. He also pursued and was awarded major grant funding.
The economic crisis in Waterford gave Superintendent Neu an opportunity to display his strengths in consensus building. He was forced to make tough decisions in order to protect the classroom. He notes that student programming has not been compromised through the budget adjustments made over the past several years.
In good times and bad, Superintendent Neu has shown a commitment to effective communication with all stakeholders. He has developed several advisory councils, which include students from each high school by racial/ethnic group. He has also established an advisory group made up of a parent from each of the district’s 22 schools. In addition, Superintendent Neu holds Town Hall meetings and focused forums which are open to the community.
Superintendent Neu has a strong history of reaching out to establish relationships with governing officials at the local, regional and state levels. This has resulted in regular trips to the state capital to meet with various lawmakers, including the governor, to discuss legislation impacting public schools. He was also invited to serve on the state’s Strategic Task Force on Education.
The challenges and opportunities awaiting Superintendent Neu in Federal Way:
Superintendent Neu will take up the leadership of a district with challenges and characteristics not unlike those in Waterford, Michigan. Similar to Waterford, Federal Way has experienced rapidly changing student demographics in the past decade. Like Waterford, the district has endured state funding cuts over the course of the past seven years, and has responded by increasing its work with state lawmakers.
In meetings with staff, students, administrators and the greater Federal Way community, Superintendent Neu expressed his admiration for the innovative work going on in Federal Way. He also noticed a tangible spirit of pride among people in the district.
His experience in developing student achievement programs in Waterford School District are an excellent fit for Federal Way, where the school board has just approved a Standards Based Learning Policy, which includes defining the common standards that all students should know at each grade level, and aligning curriculum horizontally and vertically to make sure all students achieve those standards. Neu explains that in Waterford, they started with what they wanted their graduates to know, and worked their way back to align each grade to deliver that.
Professional experience and Education: He holds an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Oakland University (Rochester, MI) and a Master of Arts degree in Secondary School Administration. Neu began his career as a high school business teacher, cooperative education coordinator and basketball and track coach.
Posted:April 6, 2010