The superintendent of an economically challenged school district in Arizona made his case Tuesday night for becoming the educational leader of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school system that serves more than 10 times as many students.

Dr. Nathan McCann, superintendent of the 600-student Altar Valley School District in the Tucson area, is one of five finalists for the Evanston job.

He told a public forum at the King Lab magnet school that “I can’t think of a better place to raise my kids” than in the Evanston school district.

A 1995 graduate of the University of Vermont with a major in political science, McCann said “I kept being drawn to being a teacher.”

He started out as a substitute teacher but soon discovered that he had a “passion” for teaching.

He earned a Master of Education degree in curriculum and instruction at Vermont and taught social studies in high school for six years “in a heavily free and reduced lunch district,” which is educational jargon for a school with a large number of students from low-income families.

The largest segment of students at Altar Valley is Hispanic, he said, followed in numbers by white, Native American, and African American. Because of the small size of the district, he serves both as chief executive officer and chief financial officer of the district.

He said he either supervises each area directly or he does it himself.

McCann was a classroom teacher and building administrator in multiple districts from 1999 to the summer of 2010, when he assumed the top position at Altar Valley. While there, he earned a doctorate degree in educational leadership at the University of Arizona in 2011.

He said he has a “genuine passion” for closing the achievement gap, which he chooses to call an “opportunity gap.”

McCann told his audience of about 25 persons, including a number of school board members, that he is “really intrigued” about the district’s Two Way Immersion program, in which classes are taught in both English and Spanish to students from both English and Spanish-speaking families.

To have any economic viability in America today, he said, one must be fluent in English.

In response to a question, he told his audience that he is “a very avid supporter of the arts.”

Each day this week, the district is holding a public forum for each of the final candidates in hopes of obtaining feedback from parents and others before the board makes an offer to one of the five, according to Board President Tracy Quattrocki.

Tonight, Evanston resident Paul Goren, who is senior vice president for program at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning in Chicago, will be featured.

Goren and his wife, Gwen Macsai, have three children who attended Oakton Elementary School, Chute Middle School, and Evanston Township High School.

Goren recently served as interim chief of the Chicago Public Schools Office of Strategy, Research, and Accountability, and was executive director of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Previously, he was a deputy superintendent for policy and strategic services for the Minneapolis Public Schools and was deputy director and senior policy analyst in the Educational Policy Studies Division of the National Governors’ Association in Washington.

He currently serves on the board of the Youth Organizations Umbrella in Evanston.

The forum is from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. tonight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School at 2424 Lake St.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. A STEM grad (M.S., PhD) for Superintendent ?

    I hope both districts will have as candidates AND select superintendents who have STEM graduate (and not science for teachers) degreees.  Our schools desperately need to be freed from 'education' and psychology/social science grads..

    1. Can you clarify?

      Can you clarify what you mean here?

      None of the candidates has a STEM degree. Are you saying they should? How would a M.S. or Ph.D. in a STEM field qualify a person to be a school superintendent?

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