Q: What have you learned about the County since you’ve been here?
A: I learned that it’s a big county. It is a long way from anything. It takes a long way to get there from here.
Q: What are some of the issues related to size?
A: Supervisory issues and concern about communication. Even though we have so much modern technology and telephones, it is real nice to deal with people one-on-one.
A lot of what they call supervisory is “ministry of presence”, just being there to get the feel for the school, a feel for the kids, personal contact.
A lot of people think you can do it all over the Internet or just in technology, but is just not the same. You have got to have the relationship and the presence. Without being in someone’s presence, you really have no relationship. It is very difficult.
Q: It’s all about people anyway, isn’t it?
A: Henry Eyring said, “Rules without relationships create rebellion.” The key thing to me is always to build relationships and then you can work through everything else
Q: So in six months, is that what you hope to do?
A: Definitely, I hope it doesn’t take me that long to get good relationships going. Of course, I’m a little aggressive and a little annoying, so I hope people don’t start shunning me, because I do like to engage with people.
Q: The superintendent’s job is so multifaceted. How would you describe your leadership style?
A: I’m very much hands-on. I’m accustomed to being intimately involved in all aspects. I have an opinion on everything, I guess I should say. It may not always be the right opinion, but if I have good people working for me, we can discuss things and come up with the best solution.
One of my favorites sayings is, “Warmed over common sense is more effective than piping hot innovation.” Sometimes in education, we are constantly looking for the magic bullets. Well, its not out there.
We need to make sure we’re doing the basics well and being very consistent in how we deal with the kids and have a good relationship with our parents. Be good role models, have high standards, keep moving forward, don’t get discouraged. There are always going to be roadblocks or problems or challenges.
Q: The pendulum swings back and forth.
A: I am not afraid of innovation, I just do not want to be on the “bleeding” edge of innovation. I want to make sure that what we are doing is tried-and-true, research based, and we are using common sense because over time, that is really where you work miracles.
The majority of miracles that happen in people’s lives do not happen in an instant. They happen over a period of time by consistently doing the right things in the right way.
Over time, miracles can happen in the lives of kids and teachers and the community. If our communities and school district will consistently interact in the right way and at the right time, we will see major changes.
Q: There is so much emphasis on testing. You have to evaluate somehow, but it seems like we may be putting all of our eggs in the testing basket at the expense of other things.
A: They have a joke in Texas that the legislature has been re-translating the Bible. When Jesus was speaking to Peter, he said, “Simon Peter, lovest thou me?”
Peter answered and said, “Yea Lord, thou knowest I love thee.” Three times he said that. According to the Texas legislature, the answer each time was, “Test my sheep.”
Of course, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” He didn’t just mean to provide them food; he meant to provide them everything they needed in order to succeed, to be successful. It was “Feed my sheep,” not “Test my sheep.” For a lot of these kids who face social ills, the test becomes totally irrelevant.
Q: What is your assessment of the San Juan School District?
A: So far I am impressed. There are a lot of dedicated teachers and a lot of dedicated administrators. I am trying to redirect the focus towards academics. My motto everywhere I’ve been for the past 30 years has been “Academics first, excellence always.”
I want people doing a consistently good job. Reminds me of something I heard in church a few weeks ago, “It is better to be consistently good than to be occasionally great.”
If it is for instruction, it is a top priority, and we better snap to. Sometimes the tail wags the dog. Sometimes the superintendent and the central office is wagging the dog when in reality we need to be responsive to the needs of the kids and teachers.
So I want to refocus and reprioritize things so that everyone knows that the campus principal is the instructional leader. And the job is to make sure that the teachers have what they need in order for students to be successful.
If learning is not happening in the classroom, the teacher is not teaching. You can stand up there and lecture all day long, but if learning is not happening, you’re not teaching. You put on a show, but there was no education happening.
Q: What should a graduate from the San Juan School District look like?
A: First and foremost, a graduate should understand the aspect of caring and being part of a community. Citizenship, I guess, is the short term for it.
They say that in Texas the prisons are full of intelligent people. It is not the level of intelligence as much as it is the ability to get along with others.
In some ways, I am very socially minded. I get really upset when I see some of the heartbreaking situations that our children face. In the last district where I served, we went from 40 percent low socio-economic to 80 percent over the past 10 years. That’s how fast the situation changed. And it is heart breaking.
Q: So what is an improvement that needs to happen in the San Juan school district?
A: We are trying to figure out a way to improve our transportation operations. We have a fantastic bus system and fantastic drivers. It’s not the people and not the equipment.
We are simply not able to afford having many of our drivers full-time because of the cost of health insurance. Most of those people are being kept under the minimum.
We need more transportation availability in the south end of the county. The research says that the students who are struggling, specifically those who are English language learners, do not have the home computers or the modern technology that keeps them up to speed with other kids.
Research shows that “time on task” for those students is critical. Some of the greatest advancement in many urban schools are after-school programs, where kids stay on task into the evening.
They have teachers and aides helping them with their homework and instruction. If we can keep them around until 5 or 6 and then get them home, the gains are amazing and very quickly you can help those kids.
In order to do that, you need to provide transportation. So we are exploring some options right now.
Q: Was your whole career in Texas?
A: We have 29 years in Texas and two years in Utah at the beginning of my career. We are empty-nesters and our kids are all over the country. We have six grandkids, three in Mississippi and three in Arkansas. So right now we don’t have a home base anymore, other than Blanding.
Q: What brought you to the San Juan School District?
A: I think the good Lord brought me here. Texas was very good to me but I felt the urge that it was time to do something different. I wanted to go out on top. And if you look at all of our district scores, it was probably the best year we ever had, not only with our academics but also with our extracurricular. We won eight out of 10 football games. Football is king in Texas.
Q: You were at a district with one high school?
A: Yes, for the past eleven years. Earlier, I was in San Antonio at a massive district. I really didn’t like it because I was so far removed from what was actually going on.
At a district with 22,000 students, it was not education, it was “adminis-trivia”. I like education, I like working with people and working with kids.