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Dr. Summer Stephens
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Dr. Summer Stephens

Dr. Summer Stephens has served as the Superintendent of Churchill County School District since July 2018. She oversees the district with an annual general operating fund operating budget of just over $32 million, 26 competitive and formula grants, and a capital improvement budget of just over $4.1 million annually. The district serves approximately 3336 students in PreK-12th grade and adult education and approximately 435 staff members. The district serves students in a 4900 square mile area in Northern Nevada using a preschool building, grade level elementary buildings (K-1, 2-3, 4-5), one middle school, and one high school. The rural community is home to the Northern Paiute-Shoshoni Tribe and Fallon Reservation, the Naval Air Station Fallon (home of the Top Gun training facility), rich agriculture, geothermal production, and other business and industry. The district is one of two Nevada district’s currently designated as a Purple Star District, honoring the efforts to successfully meet the needs of military-connected children.

The focus of Dr. Stephens’ strategic vision is to ensure that all learners are met where they are and able to receive a personalized experience where learning is the absolute constant. Dr. Stephens operates from the belief that one’s zip code should never dictate a child’s educational experience. She engages staff, students, and the community in collaborative conversations and activities designed to promote excellence and innovation. With this passion for personalized learning, Dr. Stephens has successfully implemented systems of blended and online learning, voice and choice, self-paced learning, project-based learning, and design thinking. She is a strong advocate for schools at the state and national level, working with legislators to ensure equitable funding and opportunities for learners. During the last legislative session, she worked extensively to implore the legislature to consider options to support districts struggling financially ahead of a new funding model implementation. During this interim, she also has presented rural school perspectives on work-based learning, assessment practices, accountability, school funding opportunities, and most recently, adjustments to the timeline for state budgets, school performance plans, and grant applications so that they coincide more harmoniously with one another so that school needs for improvement drive budgets instead of arbitrary timelines. Her involvement at the city and county level creates a great connection between school, home, and community that also supports the initiatives of the district.

During her tenure in the district, Churchill County School District has become a statewide leader in the move to reimagine what school can be. Beginning in 2018, the district, with its middle school a part of a statewide initiative Nevada21, began deeply focusing on the elements of what a personalized learning environment could mean for the learners in the district. Through her leadership, all students K-12 have been learning in blended ways with 1:1 technology and support, preparing them well in advance of the pandemic closures for being agents of their own learning. The district has continued to ensure that all students have household access to the internet, being through high-speed options at reduced rates through local telecommunications options or through district-sponsored hotspots so that all learners and families can access the resources they need 24-7. An element of personalization where Dr. Stephens has successfully impacted outcomes is the increase of Dual Enrollment participation over the past four years by building a coalition of support among the college’s leadership, staff, and high school leadership, staff, students, and families. The district has gone from 10 Churchill County High School students participating to over 300 students taking at least one dual enrollment opportunity on the Western Nevada College Campus, online, or on the Churchill County High School campus.

The ChurchillCSD Governance Team, including Dr. Stephens and a seven member board, have worked diligently to modernize budget policy to reflect the district’s strategic themes and worked to ensure policy supports the work of transforming a school system while also supporting learners and staff. The team was named Nevada’s Governance Team of the Year in 2020 by the Nevada Association of School Boards.

One of Dr. Stephens’ strengths is to unite and engage various stakeholders around key work of schools, including that of continuous improvement and design. She currently serves on the Strategic Design Team from UPD and Nevada Department of Education working on the implementation of a new school performance planning process for continuous improvement, the Rural District Performance Plan leaders group as it enters a pilot phase, the state’s ASSIST initiative advisory council working to improve college and career readiness, the Nevada State Board of Education, and the University of Nevada-Reno’s NevadaTEACH Advisory Board helping craft the future of teacher preparation around this work.

Previously, Dr. Stephens held the superintendency at Weston County School District #7 in Upton, Wyoming, as well as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment in Beatrice, NE and Professional Development Consultant at ESU #2 in Fremont, NE. As a classroom teacher in two districts and professional development facilitator in Nebraska, Summer engaged in competency-based learning design and effective assessment development. She cut her teeth in a state that prioritized students with local assessment development for state and federal reporting, taking part in numerous assessment development professional development and statewide efforts to engage in assessment literacy. In Wyoming, she was able to contribute to the state’s Professional Judgement Panel which helped design the state’s accountability model in 2012-2016. Through the work with the state, she also helped lead Weston County School District #7 to become the leader in the state for personalized, customized learning and supported the work of the state as it developed its Virtual 307 and its expansive online learning catalog. She served as an advisory team member as the state adopted a K-20 Learning Management System and supported her district in its implementation. During her service in Wyoming, she also served on a two-county early childhood center Board of Directors and supported the state’s movement to college and career readiness as a member of the Complete College Wyoming Advisory group. She has been involved at the state and national level in multiple states with Future Ready Schools and the use of Open Education Resources to modernize instructional materials better aligned to the needs of today’s learners.

Dr. Stephens grew up on a farm in eastern Nebraska. She spent time as a foreign exchange student to Japan and has been highly involved in 4-H and the American Legion Auxiliary. She holds a Doctor of Education and a Specialist Degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Arts degrees from Doane College.

Past AASA Nevada Superintendent of the Year Winners:

2022 Nevada Superintendent of the Year: Russell Fecht

2021 Nevada Superintendent of the Year: Wayne Workman

About the Award:

The Superintendent of the Year program, sponsored by First Student and AASA, pays tribute to the talent and vision of the men and women who lead the nation’s public schools.

State-level winners are selected on the following criteria:

    • Leadership for Learning
    • Communication
    • Professionalism
    • Community Involvement

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