CANTON: The new superintendent for city schools already has made history in two ways: He is the district’s first African-American leader and the first to receive a five-year contract.
The Board of Education appointed Adrian Allison to the position Monday night.
Allison, a 40-year-old McKinley High School graduate, had served in an interim capacity since the November death of Christopher Smith, his predecessor.
Smith had hired Allison as his assistant in May.
“In the course of him being here it has become apparent that he is the right guy to be our superintendent,” board member Richard Milligan said. “He is from Canton. He has deep roots in the community.”
Milligan called Allison “a very smart guy. He’s a lawyer, which is a plus in my mind. He’s a very competent person.”
Before returning to Canton last year, Allison was executive director of the Center for Accountability and Continuous Improvement at the Ohio Department of Education. He also has served as director of school improvement in his hometown.
With a resume that could take him almost anywhere, why stay?
“One, because it’s home,” Allison said Tuesday. “Two, because Canton has given me the opportunity to build the resume. So without family, the educators, the community leaders that I had the chance to be influenced by as a young person living in Canton, I would not have the resume to go wherever I wanted to go.
“And so, to have the opportunity to come back and serve the district that was able to serve me so well is an honor.”
Allison comes from a line of trailblazers.
Paternal grandfather John T. Allison Sr. was the first African-American the city schools hired, in 1948. Maternal grandfather Morris DuBose also worked for the district. Both held the title of fireman-custodian. Before the advent of electronic thermostats, firemen were certified experts at controlling the roaring monsters that heated schools.
Adrian Allison’s father, Bruce Allison, was the first African-American to achieve the rank of lieutenant, then captain, in the Canton Police Department.
“I have no question that he will do a wonderful job with the Canton City School system and he will — with the help of others in his administration and other staff, teachers and students — make it a model school system,” he said of his son.
African-Americans and people who identify themselves as of mixed races account for about half of the 10,000 students in the district.
Allison, a former McKinley football team captain, said his promotion to the district’s top management position shows that “any student that is in the Canton City Schools, regardless of their color, can see that they can achieve great things through their education in Canton City Schools.”
The Board of Education has scheduled a study session Jan. 26 with Allison to discuss goals. In general, he said, he wants to increase the use of technology in the classroom, to personalize and differentiate education for students, and to spread the message about the district’s successes.
“I see part of his vision as being to move the achievement forward,” board President Nadine McIlwain said. “He’s basically an education policy manager.”
Another likely goal is bringing stability to a district in which change has been the only constant recently.
McIlwain said that in her 11 years on the school board, she has seen six sets of board members and four superintendents.
“I know that the community is going to be engaged in these next five years in helping shape the vision,” McIlwain said.
Allison’s wife, Krista, is also an administrator with the district, serving as director of student, family, and community support and health services. They live in Canal Fulton with their two daughters, who attend Canton schools.
Nancy Molnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.