Mark Roosevelt , Pittsburgh Public Schools
Schools Superintendent
Pittsburgh Public Schools

Mark Roosevelt became a school district superintendent via an unusual route: He went back to school.

The former Massachusetts state legislator, whose great-grandfather was President Teddy Roosevelt, had helped craft a landmark education reform act that restructured the way the state funds and manages its public schools. But he had no teaching background when he was invited to apply for the Broad Superintendents Academy.

The program, which is funded by The Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation, recruits mid-career professionals with strong leadership track records in any field to take the top jobs in urban public education systems. Many are sector switchers seeking encore careers.

Participants attend sessions over extended weekends for 10 months, usually while keeping their full-time jobs. Their tuition and travel expenses are covered. Those who are placed in one of 200 eligible districts are eligible for continued support from the Broad Foundation.

“I very much wanted to see if I could make what I had been doing on the policy level in Massachusetts work on the ground level,” he says. “In a school district I saw the possibility of affecting thousands and thousands of kids – in an economy that is relentlessly cruel to poor folks – in ways that are possibly profound.”

And that’s just what Roosevelt did after graduating from The Broad Superintendents Academy in 2003. Since 2005, in his role as superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools, he has upgraded the district’s curriculum, closed 22 underperforming schools, reached an agreement to provide principals with raises based primarily on increased student achievement and raised $150 million to send every Pittsburgh public school student to college.

“For me, the Broad Academy training helped fill in critical gaps in my existing knowledge, showing me what being a superintendent really encompasses,” Roosevelt says. “I was able to learn deeply with and from leaders from mixed backgrounds with diverse perspectives. I had the opportunity to build skills in areas I didn’t feel as confident, like evaluating principals. And I had immediate access to the best education leaders in the country to learn from their successes.”

Visit the Broad Superintendents Academy website