By Tony Parra
Editor’s note: This is the second of five interviews with the finalists for the Portales School Superintendent position:
Randy Fowler of Midland, Texas, is a field service agent for the Region 18 Education Services Center in Midland, Texas.
Q: What aspects of your job will translate to the superintendent job?
A: I worked as a superintendent for six years for the Eunice School District. I (currently) work with superintendents in my region and work as a liaison between superintendents and the Texas Education Agency. I spend a lot of time working on the issues. Our Region 18 has 33 school districts like Midland, Odessa, Monahans and Pecos.
Q: What stands out about Portales schools from your observations?
Strengths: The people that are there. They have a high level of quality in their teaching staff. Eastern New Mexico University is a great university. The school district offers opportunity for student achievement in different areas.
Needs Improvements: I haven’t lived in Portales in 12 years so it’s hard for me to say what their weaknesses are.
Q: What qualifies you for the position?
A: The only thing I can say is that I’ve been in education for 31 years as a teacher, coach, assistant superintendent and superintendent for Eunice. Working as a superintendent for six years at Eunice has broadened my understanding of what’s needed in public education.
Q: None of Portales schools met Adequate Yearly Progress in the state’s standardized tests. What are your impressions of that and what needs to be done to fix it?
A: It’s going to be a challenge. We can work as hard as we can, but some students may still not meet AYP. We have to work as hard as we can for every student and hopefully get them over the hump.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge the district is facing?
A: I think the biggest challenge which face all districts is financially meeting all state mandates. Being able to meet the challenges of “No Child Left Behind” — student performance and teacher accountability.
That’s not unique to Portales. All districts face the same challenges. The state of New Mexico tried to come up with a plan to improve student performance. If they try to do that, are they going to fund it? They (state legislators) have great ideas but if their ideas aren’t funded, it makes it difficult for districts. I think so much of the school’s budget is spent on personnel that it leaves little for the district for operational expenses.
Q: Is there a way to make budget cuts that won’t affect instruction?
A: I would estimate 80 to 85 percent of the budget is for salaries and benefits. That leaves about 15 percent of the budget for gas, equipment and utilities. You have to get together with staff and administrators before you can make a decision to cut.
Q: What must be done to make sure the online classes and the Broad Horizons Educational Center move are successes?
A: I’ve heard about it (online classes) and it sounds like a great idea. We’re always looking for ways to help students and be flexible. People are being creative. I know the universities have their online courses. Some people receive their aaster’s degree almost totally online.
I think it’s too soon (to tell if online classes will succeed) for public education. I’m not sure at this point how far it will go.
I do not have enough information to be able to comment on the BHEC move.