Leadership comes full circle

Linda LaneDrake alumna follows family footsteps to bring quality education to all

Linda Lane’s Great-Aunt Gallie, a teacher in the segregated public schools of the South, couldn’t have imagined that someday her grandniece would work to close the achievement gap between African American and white students in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Appointed superintendent on January 1, Lane, GR’80, ’05, ’06, says, “I still have a sense of awe. This is a significant opportunity and responsibility.”

A collective effort

An award-winning educator, Lane credits the adults of her childhood for her success.

While Lane was growing up in Iowa, her father served as deputy superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, a position she later held. He kept family dinner conversation focused on school performance and national events. Lane’s mother also kept Lane engaged and on track.

But her summers in West Virginia with her aunt really made an impact.

“Summers with Aunt Gallie were like being in school,” says Lane. “She planned a time for reading, exercise and even field trips. I was never left to my own devices … but I always felt loved.”

This balance of structure, engagement and love has guided Lane’s work as an educator for more than 40 years.

The challenges ahead

As the new superintendent of an urban school district with 26,000 students, Lane has made her first priority to raise the achievement levels of all students — a monumental task in a difficult economic climate.

But challenge isn’t new to Lane. From 2003 to 2006, she followed in her father’s footsteps, leading the Des Moines Public Schools while pursuing her specialist and doctorate degrees at Drake University. Lane says her Drake experience developed her thirst for learning, a trait she deems essential for any leader.

According to Dave Darnell, Drake University associate professor of education, Lane has all the leadership skills required for her new position, including an uncanny ability to relate to everyone she meets.

“Linda Lane as superintendent is a natural fit,” says Darnell.

A sense of purpose

At the age of 61, Lane has reached the pinnacle of her career —  only 75 miles from where Great-Aunt Gallie lived. Lane’s workdays involve long hours and tough decisions. But she believes what her great-aunt taught her — that education is a service to the community.

“And when I go into the schools,” says Lane, “I think, ‘This is so totally worth it.’”

— Sherry Speikers, GR’93

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