District 87's Larson Brings Diverse Background to Leadership Role
David Larson has been at the helm at Glenbard District 87 since July.
David Larson’s been staying busy since starting his new job as the superintendent of Glenbard District 87.
Meeting with nearly 50 people individually, along with other meet-and-greet opportunities, Larson has been getting to know community leaders, teachers, administrators and residents since July.
“I really enjoy establishing a working relationship with everyone that I meet,” Larson said. “I am so impressed with their professionalism and commitment.”
Before moving to Glen Ellyn, Larson’s last position was as the superintendent of the Birmingham, Mich. schools, which he held since 2008.
The financial challenges school districts must address in Illinois are not new to Larson, he said, adding there was a lot of economic strife in Michigan.
“We have such a great team here,” Larson said. “It’s great to be in a district that is very stable. They’ve made really good [financial] decisions.”
Just as the financial challenges are similar, he said there are other challenges districts are facing, including challenges to increase accountability in relation to high-stakes testing, helping prepare students for college at a time when an increasing number of families are struggling financially.
He believes the educational emphasis should be be on shaping the whole student for success, so students build character and are prepared to serve and lead their communities.
Larson’s own upbringing shaped him into the educational leader he is today. He split his time growing up between Ann Arbor, Penang, Malaysia and New Guinea, Indonesia—where he lived among primitive stone-age people, the Dani people as the son of a missionary anthropologist.
Living in those three areas of the world helped form his character and shape his worldview, he said.
“It was a real privilege growing up in a third-world country among primitive stone-age people,” he said. “I had a very rich upbringing.”
His career has also taken him to diverse communities. He began his career in a school district in West Palm Beach, Fla., which had a high dropout rate and the challenges poverty creates, he said. He has also worked in Singapore where the school had a large number of children whose parents worked in the U.S. Embassy. And, he’s worked in three school districts in Michigan.
“In this role, where you are facing effective change for student achievement and professional accountability, your leadership is shaped by experience,” he said.
Starting out his career, he had an “altruistic zeal,” Larson said. He was a social studies teacher and coach while he was working in Florida.
Many of the students he worked with were on free-and-reduced lunch and came from broken homes.
“It was really meaningful work being able to touch childrens’ lives and families’ lives,” he said.
Now, in his leadership role he is able to touch students’ lives indirectly, he said.
When it comes to teaching students in the 21st century, technology is paramount to education, Larson said. District 87 has a strong infrastructure and wireless backbone.
“Technology not only becomes a tool for convenience, but it becomes a tool for learning,” he said. “It’s a tool for students to use for in depth learning. … It offers a great learning experience because we have created an environment for inquiry. We want to encourage student-directed learning.”