Dr. Ken Graham: Two Decades of Strong Leadership

  • Finding a new superintendent is always a challenge, and no district knows precisely what it is getting in such a hire. A review of Dr. Ken Graham’s application from 1999 is fascinating because the letters of recommendation accurately reflect the successful leader he became.

    Among the insights:
    “His personal strengths include intelligence, perception, a strong work ethic…”
    “In the public eye, our community sees an intelligent person who cares about children and the mission of our school district.”
    “He is a holistic thinker and has an uncanny ability to see the big picture.”

    Graham was brought onboard in 1999 and served as Rush-Henrietta’s superintendent until his retirement in 2018. Our community is fortunate that it got the person the selection committee hoped for when it made its final selection.

    “Dr. Graham's tenure as superintendent was a remarkable run,” says Greg Lane, principal of Burger Junior High School. “It's rare to have a superintendent work in the same role for nearly 20 years. He was a strategic thinker who understood all aspects of running a successful school district. He was a mentor and friend who enriched my life and, I am sure, many other lives, too.”

    Known for outstanding fiscal leadership, Graham helped put Rush-Henrietta on solid financial footing. As a result of careful, conservative budgeting, and his insistence that the district produce a budget that is educationally sound and fiscally responsible, every budget vote under his watch was approved.

    The community also approved three major facilities projects that Graham envisioned and championed. These projects led to a new Transportation and Operations Center, provided significant improvements to our junior high schools and high school, and delivered a needed replacement for a dilapidated administration building that housed his first office here. The “new” gymnasium at the Senior High School, which opened nearly 10 years ago, also was opened during his tenure.

    Even in the twilight of his long and successful career, Dr. Graham’s work ethic was strong. He devoted an incredible amount of time and effort to a comprehensive overhaul of our school district that took effect in 2018. He also advocated for full-day kindergarten, which became a reality one year earlier.

    Of course, none of this mattered without a strong emphasis on sound instruction for students. Under Graham’s leadership, Rush-Henrietta instituted a successful small-class-size initiative early in his tenure, offering more personalized instructional time for our youngest learners. Graham also helped the district become a leader in the use of instructional technology in the classroom.

    “Many folks would say Dr. Graham was great with managing the money, and I would agree,” Lane says. “However, he was equally passionate about building a safe and caring culture for all stakeholders in the district and unwavering in his desire to have a well-defined and measurable instructional program.”

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