Meet Southwest’s new Associate Superintendent, Dr. Craig J. Hintz

The veteran educator and administrator is responsible for all K-12 schools in the area

Dr. Craig J. Hintz, the new associate superintendent for Southwest schools, has had a lot of experience in education, but the value of learning was impressed upon him early on.

His mother - a teacher in the '30s and '40s - made an indelible impression. She taught in one-room schoolhouses throughout Iowa, and Hintz recalls a copy of her first teacher's contract that showed she earned $65 a month. One of her duties was keeping the wood-burning stove stoked.

Hintz's new job doesn't involve one room - it involves hundreds in 20 Southwest schools from pre-K to 12th grade. This school year, the district has shifted away from associate superintendents who oversaw specific grades, to a territorial concept.

Minneapolis Deputy Supt. Kerry Felt said the new system means the district's three associate superintendents get to know a smaller pool of families and an area's specific issues. Under the old system, Felt noted, "There was no way to get to know parents. They [grade-based associate superintendents] were spread too thin. This way, they get to know issues and families very well."

Hintz, who started work July 11, said geographic responsibility means he can help ease bumpy transitions. For example, he said, "If I'm a 3rd-grade teacher, then my customer is the 4th-grade teacher. It's best for the future of the district."

Hintz's charge is to provide leadership, service and support to his schools. Mainly, he'll work closely with principals whom he called "building leaders."

Principals that Hintz has met so far have been professional and committed, he said: "I've found a kind, respectful, caring staff that's willing to help. They have a can-do attitude."

Hintz, whose most recent job was assistant superintendent for administration and accountability in the Minnetonka Public Schools, said that his primary task in Minneapolis is to listen. When talking about his job description, he wanted to avoid using the word "I." Part of the point of education is saying "we," he emphasized because, "Collaboration is the key to success."

A long line of educators

Hintz comes from a lineage of teachers and educational administrators - including his wife Susan Brash, who's an assistant superintendent for the Osseo school district.

Their relationship's start was a source of professional controversy. When the couple first become personally involved, Hintz, who was separated from his then-wife, was superintendent of Indianapolis' Warren Township Public Schools; Brash was an associate superintendent there. The relationship violated district policy about bosses dating subordinates; Hintz resigned in 2001, with Brash following a year later.

According to veteran Warren Township Board Member Susan P. Switzer, the resignation was by mutual agreement. She said the board was concerned about Hintz's credibility. "He was a good superintendent. That's partly why we felt betrayed. There was some anger on part of the community and board," Switzer said.

Despite the uncomfortable end, Switzer gives Hintz credit for Vision 2005, nine projects that included an early childhood center and technological advances.

Said Switzer, "We were able to do that with the complete support of the community, pretty much due to Craig's hard work. Everybody makes mistakes. I would certainly hate for anything I've said to cast a reflection on him for something that happened a long time ago."

Minneapolis Public Schools policy prohibits sexual harassment but not voluntary relationships unless they cause workplace problems, according to Emma Hixson, the district's executive director of employee relations.

"Different communities might have different rules on the puritanical Richter Scale," Hixson noted.

During his 13 years in Indiana, Hintz was also a high school and junior high school principal and assistant principal, math teacher and athletic director. When Hintz arrived on the scene in 1988, he encountered tough issues, such as carrying out a federal desegregation order mandating 2,000 black kids be bused into district schools. During his years, enough blacks moved into the district that Hintz supervised the order's phase-out.

Hintz said the order changed because "It worked. It was wonderful to be a part of it."

One of Hintz's pet issues is technology in schools. He boasted that in his three years in Minnetonka Public Schools, he helped the district transform technical services, in the areas of instruction and management.

Starting over

Hintz lost his job in Minnetonka amid $3.4 million of budget cutting. As he moves from Minnetonka's 11,000-student district to Minneapolis with its 37,000 students, he starts over.

That begs the question: How do you start over?

Hintz' answer is self-assigned homework. He developed a list of "talking points" carefully worded to draw out the nitty-gritty, two-hour conversations with principals at each school in his jurisdiction. He'll meet with them four times throughout the year.

"To come in and not know anyone, you have to take the time. I've done this before, and I know it's worth it. This is just a start."

He asked about what aspects of their schools and the district shouldn't change and what things could be better? Hintz will also try to learn about what makes the schools unique, important activities he should attend and how technology is used in their schools. He also asks for suggestions about how he can best serve them.

Hintz said the common thread among principals is the staff's strong commitment to children. He said their pride in their work was evident in the impressive cleanliness of their schools.

The biggest request Hintz found among principals was for good communication and help with technology. They were also concerned about this year's increased class size of four students per class per grade level.

Principals aren't the only people he'll be sure to talk to. This summer, he visited with department chiefs to find out how they coordinate efforts and supplies. Generally, he'll strive to spend time in buildings with leaders, attend staff meetings, council meetings and more, so that principals feel comfortable with him.

All in all, "I'm excited about the new school year. This is a critical time for building leaders, finalizing plans. We want to be ready for day one. I'm looking forward to serving the schools and the system in the area."

Not all of the 58-year-old's background is academic. Hintz began a long military career in the Vietnam era. Altogether, he served in the United States Air Force, Iowa Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve from 1970 to 2002, where he performed multiple roles, including physical training instructor and pilot.

Hintz retired as a seasoned lieutenant colonel and says he owes his organizational skills to his military experience. He said that it strengthened his ability to coordinate, evaluate and prepare for the future: "The training I had the fortune of receiving in the military provided wonderful connections as far as helping me with school planning."