Adrienne Conliffe James ’75
Ensures Students’ Success
For Adrienne Conliffe James, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” reflects her path in many ways. Following graduation with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and Spanish, James wanted to try a different course in life and began working in retail, training to become a buyer.
“Retailing wasn’t fulfilling to me causing me to wonder if I’d made the wrong career choice,” James said. “I returned to my first love (education) and substituted during the one day off I had each week in the retail business. Finding techniques to help students learn challenging concepts helped me realize what I was meant to do.”
With her passion for teaching now affirmed, James returned to school for her elementary certification in 1976. But James didn’t stop there – she earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Xavier University and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Cincinnati while working full time and raising two sons with the help of her husband. Although the challenges were often overwhelming, she realized she was setting a good example for her sons.
A classroom teacher for eight years, James was named assistant principal at Blue Ash Elementary. In 1992, she was promoted to principal and was later named assistant superintendent for the Sycamore Community Schools in 2003. Promoted to superintendent in 2006, James is proud of the district’s records, noting the school’s diverse population of 5,450 students and how for the 10th consecutive year, the district has earned the top rating of Excellent with Distinction on the state report card. Twenty-five students were also National Merit Scholars in 2009-10 – the largest number of students in the state of Ohio.
For James and her district, the goal is to ensure every student, regardless of academic level and abilities, is challenged and prepared to thrive in an ever-changing world. Educators must also be diligent in teaching students how to critically analyze and problem-solve around relevant and complex issues, according to James.
“I do miss the moments in the classroom when you see the light bulb come on, and you know the student ‘gets it,’” James said. “But as superintendent, I am in a position to impact a lot of students every day and to watch their progress from kindergarten through 12th grade. I love what I do and take great pride in knowing that we are shaping students who will not only dream of all of the possibilities before them but will be equipped with the fundamental tools to get there.”