Terri Breeden said being assistant superintendent in Fairfax County, Va., one of the nation's largest and highest-achieving public school districts, was one of the roles that prepared her to become Fayette County's next superintendent.
Top state officials have recently criticized the Fayette County district's financial transparency and support of low-achieving students.
"I want to be in compliance. I want to follow the rules of the state," Breeden said at a news conference Friday. "But I want more. ... I want to say we are the best school district in America."
For the past year, Breeden has been an assistant superintendent in Loudoun County, Va., outside Washington, D.C. She is one of two superintendent candidates who visited Lexington this week. The other is Emmanuel Caulk, superintendent of the Portland, Maine, public schools. The Fayette school board is finding a replacement for Tom Shelton, who resigned last year.
Breeden reiterated that one key to closing the achievement gap — the difference in academic achievement between low income, minority and disabled students and other students — was a rigorous curriculum taught by great teachers who engage students. Breeden said she wanted to "raise the bar for all students."
At a public forum Friday, Breeden said, "I feel confident we can move the needle forward and not have any schools labeled as 'needs improvement.'"
For the last 15 years, Breeden has been at the senior level of school districts larger than Fayette County's 40,000 students.
"I understand the scope and complexity of large school districts," Breeden said.
Breeden said she had overseen a department budget of $564 million, which is larger than the Fayette district's budget.
She said she wanted everyone to see how she used public dollars.
"I understand how much programs should cost. I understand we need them to raise student achievement," she said.
In addition to a public forum and a news conference, Breeden's interview process Friday included closed meetings with students, staff, parents and community leaders.
Melanie Trowel, a teacher at Carter G. Woodson Academy who met with Breeden in a closed session, said Breeden "seemed very supportive of teachers and their needs to be successful with students."
"She stressed the importance of meeting the needs of the whole child," Trowel said.
Trowel said she would like to know more about Breeden's plan for achieving "equitable outcomes for all students."
Will Bischoff, a Lafayette High School student who said he met Breeden in a closed session, said he perceived her as "very motivated."
He said Breeden told students that in a previous district where she worked, a student showed her a textbook in disrepair.
"She dealt with it the next day," Bischoff said.
People may send feedback to the school board on Caulk or Breeden at fcps.net/letstalk until 11 a.m. Saturday.