THE SCHOOL SLEUTH
He began his career as an education reporter with National Public Radio nearly 40 years ago with the weekly series, Options in Education, for which he received the George Polk Award in 1982. In subsequent years, he expanded into broadcast television, documentaries, and print. In 2012, he became the first journalist to receive the prestigious McGraw Prize in Education.
His varied reporting has continually been on the forefront of education journalism: Merrow is the only reporter to have interviewed every U.S. Secretary of Education, the first to get the inside scoop on the college admission process, and the initial force in exposing the behind-the-scenes financial relationship between CHADD, a child advocacy group, and Ciba-Geigy, the pharmaceutical company that produces the A.D.D. drug Ritalin. He has also worked with top leaders in shaping public policy – he even ran the historic 1988 meeting in Itasca County, Minnesota that sparked the charter school movement. Merrow’s work has taken him from community colleges to kindergarten classrooms, from the front lines of teacher protests to policy debates on Capitol Hill.
Since 1984, he has worked in public television as a NewsHour Correspondent and as host of his own series of documentaries. He has received George Foster Peabody Awards for School Sleuth: The Case of An Excellent School (2000) and Beyond Borders: Personal Stories from a Small Planet (2006), Emmy nominations in 1984, 2005, and 2007, four CINE Golden Eagles, numerous awards from the Education Writers Association and more. An occasional contributor to USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Education Week, he is the author of The Influence of Teachers (2011), Choosing Excellence (2001) and co-editor of Declining by Degrees (2005). John Merrow also maintains a weekly blog, Taking Note.
Merrow earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College, an M.A. in American Studies from Indiana University, and a doctorate in Education and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award From the Academy Of Education Arts And Sciences in 2012, the James L. Fisher Award for Distinguished Service to Education in 2000, the HGSE Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contributions to Education in 2006, The Horace Dutton Taft Medal in 2010, and honorary doctorates from Richard Stockton College (NJ) and Paul Smith’s College (NY).
He lives in New York City with his wife, Joan Lonergan, the Head of the Hewitt School.
Team Sleuth would like to thank all the teachers, educators, students, researchers, and concerned citizens who shared their experiences and insights with us.
CAT MCGRATH, Producer
Cat began producing for Learning Matters in the fall of 2007, after six years in non-fiction programming, working as a segment and field producer in New York City and San Francisco. In NYC she worked on shows for The History Channel and A&E and in San Francisco was an associate producer for Bay Area Backroads, a local travel show that explored the road less traveled. One of her favorite projects was a documentary for The American Experience about an amazing group of women aviators from WWII called the W.A.S.P.S. Prior to television, she honed her production skills in San Francisco on independent films and music videos and before that in the theater in S.F. doing everything from dressing actors to directing plays. In between her life backstage and behind the camera, she took a few years away from storytelling to work as a professional welder in the Bay Area. Cat, who has a degree in Theater from Skidmore College, lives in Hastings on Hudson with her husband, a teacher, and their daughter.
JESSICA WINDT, Editor, Associate Producer
Jessica Windt got her start in documentaries with long-time filmmaker Roger Weisberg on his films “Aging Out” and “Waging a Living”. Since then, she has researched and produced local programming for PBS flagship station WNET and assisted producers on a number of documentary programs including “Wide Angle”, “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” and “In the Life”. She is the co-producer of the award-winning feature documentary “Resilience” that follows a Korean birth mother and her American son. Jessica associate produced and edited the documentary feature “The Prep School Negro” and most recently, a Learning Matters’ feature documentary “Rebirth: New Orleans” which can be found on Netflix.
DAVID WALD, Supervising Producer
David Wald has produced and edited news magazine stories, documentaries and series television for the major networks and cable channels. He was senior producer on Michael Moore’s groundbreaking and Emmy Award-winning magazine show “TV Nation”; co-created and produced the Emmy and Peabody award-winning CBS News series “Everybody Has a Story”; produced a documentary series about exceptional women doctors across the U.S. and another about the intrepid women and men of “Doctors Without Borders,” filmed in often-dangerous 3rd world countries.
At Learning Matters David has overseen news segments on a range of topics from Common Core and the opt-out movement, to a school’s critical assistance in the aftermath of a disastrous hurricane. He has supervised documentaries, including “Declining by Degrees,” (a critical look at American higher education, for PBS), “Rebirth: New Orleans,” (charter schools in New Orleans after Katrina, for Netflix), and “The Education of Michelle Rhee,” (the tumultuous career of the former Washington, DC, School Chancellor, for Frontline).
BRENDAN JOYCE, Production Assistant
Brendan Joyce is a recent graduate of Muhlenberg College where he studied film and psychology with a focus on childhood development. Thankfully, Learning Matters gave him an opportunity to combine both of his studies. He started working on School Sleuth in 2014 as an intern and later as a production assistant. There was a learning curve to adapt to the world of journalism, but he has been so grateful be a part of Team Sleuth as they solved the Case of the Wired Classroom. He aims to improve his editing skills and continue to help tell valuable stories like this one.