5 questions: Meet Middletown Schools’ new leader

Deborah Houser is the first woman in the superintendent role.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

MIDDLETOWN — The new leader of Middletown Schools says she knows what is needed for the 6,300-students because she has years of first-hand experience working in the city schools.

Deborah Houser, a 15-year veteran of the school system, has already made history by agreeing this week to take the superintendent’s job offered by the Middletown Board of Education.

In the 170-year history of the city’s public schools and the district’s various configurations over that time, no woman has ever held the top job.

At the end of this month she will takeover for current district leader Marlon Styles Jr., who announced last month his coming resignation to take a partnership position with a national education consulting firm.

But Houser’s focus isn’t on the rearview mirror of history but rather forward and how Middletown Schools will better prosper as it emerges from COVID-19 and addresses the learning gaps suffered by schools nationwide during the disrupted school years of the pandemic.

Houser recently shared some time with the Journal-News to better introduce herself to local residents and businesses by answering five questions.

1. Why did you pursue the Middletown Schools superintendent job?

“Everyone in Middletown City Schools has such a strong passion for children, which plays out everyday. The past few years we have collectively designed a strategic vision, Passport to Tomorrow (created under Styles’ leadership), that will truly make a difference in how Middletown students are served. The thought of the work slowing down or discontinuing were truly the reasons why I pursued a step forward into the superintendent role. Not to mention, I would continue my career with the people I love.”

2. What is the top issue on your to-do list as superintendent?

“My number one priority has always been student achievement. We want to continue to build on the foundation we’ve laid, while also assuring that our teachers have everything they need to foster achievement in the classroom.”

3. How will your long experience with Middletown Schools enhance your work as the district leader?

“Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work with almost every Middie in many different capacities. Being a familiar face - and having those relationships - definitely support the transition into my new role and also allows us to keep moving forward without missing a beat. The Middletown community has countless, positive strengths and is the perfect example of collective excellence.”

4. Where does the district stand now and where do you want it to be?

“Middletown City School District finds itself energized and prepared for success now more than ever. Through the “Middie Rising” campaign (created by Styles in 2017), students and staff feel rejuvenated and excited to come to school each day.

The Passport To Tomorrow strategic vision initiatives are preparing children for the world outside the four walls of the classroom. With the help of our “Ready Now” 100 business partners, we are eroding the barrier between the classroom and the outside world. Students will be equipped with strong academic and workforce skills, combined with a true understanding of what the world has to offer when they walk across the graduation stage.”

5. What is the main thing you want Middletown school families, students, staffers, area business and community leaders to know about you and what is coming under your leadership?

“No matter what position I’ve held in MCSD, my main focus has, and always will be, the students. Every decision we make directly impacts what happens in the classroom. Our core business is academic achievement and preparing children for the ever-changing world.”

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