Q & A with department leads David Clarke and Scott DeRuiter


Ankit Gupta


eachers are tasked with managing curriculum, classrooms and students. While this is a large responsibility in itself, some teachers also fill a position which requires the overseeing of their respective department. The position, known as department lead, is a unique role that only one teacher in each department can assume. English teacher David Clarke and math and computer science teacher Scott DeRuiter reflect on their experiences as department lead.

Q: What is your role as department lead?

SCOTT DERUITER: My role as department lead … is to serve as a liaison between the math department and the administrative team. I’m responsible for getting information out to my 16 math colleagues, gathering data about a variety of things and then also making sure that the lines of communication are open between the math department and the administrative team.

Q: What is the selection process to be department lead like?

DAVID CLARKE: There’s a process for [becoming department lead], which is basically every three years, the position opens up and anyone who is full-time in the department and wishes to apply for the position is interviewed and then the principal makes a choice. I have done it twice and both times there [was] only one person who has volunteered to do it, and that’s me. The choice is essentially between me and no one else.

Q: Why did you want to become a department lead?

SD: I like to think of myself as someone who is open to new challenges. So in my life as a teacher, I learned programming [and] I became a programming teacher. Once I was a programming teacher, I became an AP Computer Science teacher, and I was the webmaster for five or six years. I was interested in technology, and so throughout my professional life I’d like to take on challenges that are new and this was a new challenge that presented itself and I thought I should try it.

Q: What are some challenges that come with being a department lead?

SD: Teachers, just like students, have a lot to do, and the administrators, like the students, have a lot to do, especially at a school like [MVHS] where there’s just a lot going on. Communication is very important, but it’s also difficult to make sure that everyone is communicating well, that [what the] administration [thinks] is important, that those [things] are communicated to math teachers, [as well as] what math teachers think are important and struggles and responsibilities that they have, to make sure that [they are] communicated effectively to the administration. It’s not always easy to do that.

Q: What is the biggest difference between and also maintaining the position of the department lead?

DC: There’s really two differences. The first difference is you have much greater visibility into the processes of your organization itself because you’re involved in meetings and conversations that a teacher who is not a department [lead] is generally not involved in, so you have more knowledge, which is interesting to me. The other big difference is you have more responsibility. Part of the responsibility of being facilitator is being aware of not only what’s going on in your own classroom with your own kids, but having at least some knowledge —­ ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ not a great deal — but some knowledge of what is going on in everybody else’s classroom with their kids. Having a sort of a larger vision, I’m required essentially as part of the job to have a 10,000-foot view as opposed to being right down in the forest.