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Roosevelt names first locally chosen school superintendent in 11 years

Roosevelt School district new superintendent Dr. Deborah Wortham

Roosevelt School district new superintendent Dr. Deborah Wortham talking with 6th graders about her visit at Ulysses Byas Elementary School in Roosevelt. (June 4, 2013). Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Roosevelt has a new school superintendent -- the first chosen locally since the state's takeover of the district 11 years ago.

The incoming schools chief, Deborah Wortham, 64, is an educator often cited for a selfless dedication to students' intellectual development.

Several years ago, admirers recall, Wortham turned down a $95,000 bonus offered by another district on the ground that raising academic achievement should be reward enough.

Tuesday, Wortham, who lives in York, Pa., was in Roosevelt to tour the district's recently renovated schools -- a key objective of the state's 2002 takeover. She assumes control on July 1, the same date that the 2,700-student district regains its autonomy.

Under Albany's control, state education officials had the final say over key appointments, including the current superintendent, Robert-Wayne Harris. Wortham Tuesday praised her predecessor, who has served since 2007.

"I view the upcoming transition from state oversight as a golden opportunity to show the world what our faculty and students are truly capable of achieving," Wortham said in a statement.

In an interview, Wortham elaborated on her views regarding educators' obligations to students. The idea of service, she said, was instilled by an older sister, now deceased, who encouraged her pursuit of career goals in college, even though that meant leaving the family home in Chicago, where she was helping the sister cope with multiple sclerosis.

"Be the best that you can be -- that's the message to the kids," Wortham said.

It's not just rhetoric, supporters say. For 40 years, Wortham has taken on academic challenges in struggling districts -- first as an elementary teacher and administrator in Baltimore; more recently, as a superintendent in two smaller Pennsylvania systems.


Academic credentials

  • Bachelor’s in elementary education; University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Master’s in reading; Morgan State University, Baltimore, Md.
  • Educational doctorate in leadership; Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Career experience

  • 36 years in the Baltimore school system as a teacher, grade chairwoman, assistant principal, principal, director of professional development and area academic officer for 24 schools.
  • Superintendent, Steelton-Highspire school district in Pennsylvania; June 2008 to June 2010. Resigned to care for husband, who was being treated for cancer and has since recovered.
  • Superintendent, York City, Pa., school district; June 2011 to May 15. Resigned to become Roosevelt superintendent.


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