David Younce draws on more than twenty-five years of experience in large suburban and small rural school districts in the Midwest and northeast to lead and support other leaders. In his eighth year as superintendent of the Mill River Unified Union School District in southwestern Vermont, David also served previously as a middle school social studies teacher for six years, middle school assistant principal for three years and elementary school principal for nine years in the Indian Prairie School District in the western suburbs of Chicago.
David Younce is focused on relationships, team development, and the creation of effective systems. David’s experience with the following critical aspects of school leadership position him to support and guide other leaders and their students across the nation.
- Equity leadership
- Proficiency-based learning implementation
- Complex school district merger and consolidation
- Leadership coaching and mentoring
- High quality teaching and professional development strategies
- Long and short term strategic planning
Having learned significant lessons and gained skills in navigating leadership growth in environments mixed with urban/suburban wealth and poverty during the first 18 years of his career, David has experienced the profound impacts of rural isolation and generational poverty in more recent years, and understands tangibly what the challenges of a lack of resources and opportunities in a community looks and feels like. Those variable experiences have shaped his worldview and leadership in significant ways and have prepared David to lead and support leaders in many settings.
In partnership with school board members, David successfully helped lead a merger of 6 separate school districts into a single unified school district in 2016, forming the new district from the ground up and becoming the first such district in the state to do so. The merger process stabilized local education costs and tax rates in an unsustainable fiscal era fueled by declining enrollments across the state of Vermont.
Working with a team of leaders, David helped to build a framework for district equity and instructional work that has been borrowed and duplicated by districts throughout the State of Vermont. This same team of district leaders has brought a disparate, disjointed system under institutional, instructional, fiscal and governance control. Under his leadership that team also nurtured leadership internally and externally to foster an organization that will sustain itself over time.
What are you most excited about?
Figuring out the big picture of what education actually looks like in the US in the next couple decades is exciting.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
My first job as a teenager was as a corn detasseler. if you don’t know what that is it is worth googling. It reinforced what was taught to me by my parents: everyone needs to have a job and every job matters. But, if you want to do what you want to do, you need to keep pursuing your education and keep setting goals for yourself. Don’t ever become complacent. I can still remember at a very young age hearing my mother tell me that I was expected to attend college and that I would need to get a scholarship to pay for it. The bar was set for me with those expectations.
What is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The first thing I do each morning after I have made a cup of coffee is engage in some form of Bible study and prayer. It starts my day off well and centers me for what lies ahead. When opportunities come up and those types of habits or routines are being discussed, I do share that because it is important to me.
What qualities and skills do you look for when hiring new talent?
I look for people who are:
- smart, flexible, and willing to learn and get better at what they do
- willing hustle and work harder than their peers
- independent enough to not need to be pushed, but humble enough to ask for help when they need it
- frustrated by the status quo and unwilling to accept that things need to be done one way because “that’s the way it has always been done”.
What questions do you ask during an interview?
I’ve utilized specific questions in the past, but my process has changed. Ultimately, my goal in an interview is for me to leave the interview with a good sense of what the person is all about and the depth of their knowledge or skill set for the position. I also want them to understand what it might look like to work for us in order to manage their expectations as they depart. So, my approach is often conversational and focused on helping people to open up, asking questions that leave the door open for someone to show me what they have to offer to the organization. If they embrace the opening and manage it well, I am paying attention. If they don’t, the interviews don’t last long.
Can you share your personal approach to managing an effective balance between life and work?
I have never been shy about stating that I am a Husband, Dad, and Leader. In that order. I have been up front about that in every position I have held or interviewed for. I protect my time with my family, but I also communicate clearly with my family when there are professional obligations that I have to attend to. By being very clear and avoiding assumptions on either side of the home/work equation, I have been able to maintain a good balance.
Tell us about a skill you taught yourself. How did you go about learning?
I taught myself to play golf. Then I had kids and that experiment ended.
I also taught myself to host and edit podcasts. That was enjoyable because I am as tech savvy as your average Gen X’er, but I had to research, try, fail, and refine. It has been really enjoyable. I find myself appreciating podcasts more because I understand what goes into producing them.