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Q: Diana Lam ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Diana Lam
Category: Reference, Education and News > Current Events
Asked by: betsy711-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 23 Mar 2003 13:38 PST
Expires: 22 Apr 2003 14:38 PDT
Question ID: 179954
what kind of job has Diana Lam (the new Deputy Chancellor of the NYC
public school system) done in San Antonio, Texas, Boston, Mass., and
Providence Rhode Island?
Subject: Re: Diana Lam
Answered By: arimathea-ga on 24 Mar 2003 10:17 PST

Thanks for the opportunity to answer this question!

Ms. Lam appears to be a well-regarded reformer in most circles.  She's
raised student achievement results in many urban districts.

Some quotes:

"Lam is certainly familiar with controversy. Her term as
superintendent in Providence was overshadowed by long-term, bitter
contract negotiations with the teachers' union. Her four-year tenure
at the helm of San Antonio's public schools was cut short after
"philosophical disagreements" with school board members there that
resulted in an $800,000 buy-out of the remainder of her contract.
Despite promising Providence in late July that she was in for the
long-haul, her abrupt departure from that district to accept the New
York post is surely linked, at least in part, to still-tender
relations with the community and teachers there."

"She was described by colleagues in the Boston schools as "a young
star" who was "very savvy at motivating people and bringing reform."
However, she also earned a reputation, with some, of "driving too hard
and being too outspoken."


"During her four years in San Antonio, Lam accomplished a great deal.
In 1994, 42 of the city's 95 schools were labeled "low-performing" by
the state; in 1998, the number was down to six. As before, she
promoted the "small school" philosophy, and in a controversial move
split a large high school into four smaller schools. She instituted a
district-wide school uniform requirement for students, and extended
the school year to a year-round schedule. Basing her reform agenda on
curricular reform, she mandated that every school in San Antonio adopt
instructional reform plans from a range of options that fostered
teacher collaboration.

Lam's self-described "sense of urgency" achieved results, but with a
critical sacrifice: the trust of the city's teachers. The San Antonio
teachers' union president said in 1998 that "teachers are overwhelmed
with all the changes" and that "we can't dance any faster." Another
union official described her management as "a totally top-down style
of leadership."

Some comments (public remarks) by people at a Board of Regents meeting
in Rhode Island:

- A high school lost accreditation under her leadership
- Attendance was down during her tenure

Hard numbers:
"When Ms. Lam began her tenure as Superintendent in San Antonio in
1994, 42 schools were rated as low performing by the State of Texas.
By 1998, only two of those schools received that rating. State tests
showed as much as 30% improvements in math, 15% in reading, and 14% in
writing. She also served as Superintendent in Dubuque, Iowa and
Chelsea, Massachusetts. In Chelsea, she restructured Chelsea High
School to "schools-within-a-school" to eliminate tracking by race and
gender, thus ensuring all students an equal access to a good

Some quotes from Ms. Lam herself:

Previous roles:
- Dubuque, IA Superintendent
- San Antonio Superintendent
- Providence, RI
- Boston, MA

She will be speaking on March 26 at the University Club:

Public perception of her performance in RI:
Thirty-seven percent give Providence School Superintendent Diana Lam
excellent or good marks, 20 percent say she is doing only a fair job,
8 percent think her job performance is poor, and 35 percent are
unsure. (from

In summary:

- Ms. Lam appears to be controversial in her approach, and has made
some mistakes.
- She attributes these mistakes/controversy to entrenched individuals
in districts.
- She's made a lot of changes to school districts she's been in.

San Antonio:
Generally well regarded, a lot of controversy.

Couldn't find much information.

Very few people thought she was poor at her performance, but same
challenges as in San Antonio (recalcitrant staff, entrenched
leadership, etc)

betsy711-ga, thanks for the opportunity to answer this question and I
hope this information helps you.  If you need more information, just
attach a clarification request to my answer and i'll be happy to do
more work if you have more specific questions.

Best of luck!
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