By Mary Alice Murphy
The four applicants for the Silver Consolidated Schools superintendent position participated individually in the interview process on Saturday April 10, 2021. Similar questions were asked of each interviewee.
[Editor's Note: The previous two interviews in the morning can be read at: https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/64259-first-two-interviews-for-silver-consolidated-schools-superintendent-on-april-10-2021]
First to be interviewed in the afternoon was Frederick "Fred" Parker of Deming Schools.
Q. Tell us about yourself.
Parker: I am currently chief academic officer for Deming Schools. I have served as principal and development officer. I was born in El Paso, Texas, my family settled in Chaparral, New Mexico. I am living in Las Cruces and I commute to Deming. My mom is from Durango, Mexico, and my dad from the U.S.
Q: What is your plan for the small schools funding issue and how do you plan to keep Cliff School open?
Parker: It seems like they have short-term funding for the school. I want to make sure they are equitable to the rest of the schools. We have to look at where more opportunities for funding are available. We got hit with it in Deming. Generally, between 82 percent and 90 percent of a school's budget is spent on staffing. We have to take a collaborative approach.
Q: What are your strategies for finding additional funding?
Parker: I have experience with bonds, grants and district wide votes. We supplemented with the K-5 Plus model. Now we are a K-5 Plus School. I have been honored to consult with other districts on the process. We also use Extended Learning. It can have a 1.4 times multiplier to get funding. It also adds $250,000 to the budget. These are three ways to expanding funding and show the beneficial outcomes. I'm student-centrist. We're getting right back to business after COVID. We are already talking to legislators on the potential of 25 extra days of instruction for elementary students, but also 25 extra days for all students. When we get federal funds, we have to front it and then request reimbursement. Having that reserve is key. Then, of course, we are always looking at additional grants, and we're always looking for partners.
Q: As superintendent, you are a community leader. How would you be part of the community?
Parker: I listen a lot first. I want to be part of community groups, whether it's Rotary or a university group. My priority would be to be part of the community. I would spend my first days talking to the community and parents. It takes a partnership of school, parents and community to make it all work well.
Q: How will you build pride in the school district wide?
Parker: I would find ways to celebrate. Every student should have the opportunity to shine, whether it's academically, through athletics, arts or drama. Students are not just a data point. We have to develop ways that a student can be celebrated. We created a communications department. We developed an app to engage students and parents.
Q: Where do you plan to be in five years?
Parker: I will be continuing to be superintendent. I would want to build collaboration among all the southern New Mexico school districts. Together, we will be competing for nurses and on mental health issues. We will be working to collaborate with universities, cities, counties and among school districts. We will be dealing with rural areas and the unique issues that rural areas face. It will help us be stronger to work collectively with the Legislature.
Q: How will you lead?
Parker: I will be in the classrooms along with parents. I believe strongly that students and teachers have enough resources. We need the mutual accountability with boards, principals, teachers and students that translate to student success. How do we change to reach that goal? We have to choose the correct model that is out there. I will want to and will work to change myself.
Q: What are the three biggest issues facing schools?
Parker: No. 1 is financial. No. 2 is to recognize the post-COVID affect. We will have a heavy load to support the students emotionally as well as academically. No. 3 is the change to what education is. On the SEG, the school equivalency guarantee, we have to work with the Legislature to stabilize resources, so we don't have gaps. Does the SEG balance to offer teacher raises? We have to be able to establish excellent bond rates and to balance all our resources. We have to recoup what has been lost academically, but also to face personal losses that students may have encountered. We will have to pay attention to social and emotional support. The last issue is support and recruitment of teaching staff. We must bring in the best people to support our kids. It will take a collaborative process. It will take trial and error, but if we don't, we won't have the financial resources to support kids and staff.
Q: How will you communicate?
Parker: With a communication department, we can put out regular reports to the boards and to the community. We will tell them what we are going to do. Maybe a newsletter that we need to get out. I believe in press releases, especially for celebrations of students. We crafted our own social media app to get information out to everyone.
Q: What is your vision on vertical/horizonal alignment?
Parker: I spent a lot of year studying turnover. One of the most essential is guaranteed and viable standards. I built a curriculum-content team. We believe in having the teacher voice in these guidelines. We build in professional training. We spend money on curriculum resources, with the teacher voice as an essential component. We need assessments that work for teachers to understand what their students know and what the gaps are. We build assessments on success.
Q: What is your philosophy on delegating?
Parker: We have established goals. We have to recognize that leaders need anonymity. What we want is to attach challenges and put in achievable solutions. It's part of the collaborative process. They must be reviewed regularly for discrepancy. What do we need to do? We need to bring in more support to make success available to every school. There are differences among schools. We provide the support and collaboration to determine if we are improving outcomes for students. If not, we all take a step back to determine how to make it happen. I have developed impact visits that involve observations in the classroom, as well as interviews with teachers, with parents and with students to help them know to whom they should go to get answers to questions and issues. That has been the most powerful, the interviews with students on the experiences they are truly having. We can then say to the parents, we are doing this for the betterment of the students.
Q: How do you organize curriculum so that student success is guaranteed?
Parker: Is there a central place for teachers to plan? I would look to build a repository for resources. How do they come back and say that this needs to change? We require feedback on resources and get rid of things that are not working. It is again involving the teachers' voice and how teachers access the resources regularly. As well as the ability of students and parents to be able to access resources outside of the instructional day.
Q: How do you approach collective bargaining?
Parker: The union and school district relationship is important. Ultimately, the goal is to support the student, but also support the teachers. What are the specific areas to address, and how to address them to come to agreement? We have to be respectful of the teachers and the union, but it always comes down to the student. We are in the midst of the bargaining. Is what we're asking them to do doable? I look at it from the employee viewpoint.
Q: Knowing of budget concerns, what are the first two areas to address?
Parker: I would look at discretionary spending. I want to see how much is possible to increase resources. I would work with PED on reductions in enrollment. Right now, it seems PED will backfill with stimulus money. I would want concrete numbers on how extra funding will come in. I would want to know if K-5 Plus and extended learning can help with excess funding. I would like to know how the state spent the CARES Act funding. Silver City is set to get about $2 million in federal funding. I'm guessing it will be put to mental health and counselors. I think the PED should backfill the enrollment losses. But we need to determine if we are using all our resources to their maximum and are we reporting all the programs correctly to get all the funding that we can. Are we qualifying every at-risk, every special ed student to maximize the funding? It's the multiplier that is important. Do we have funding resources that are sustainable? In Deming, along with the financial officer, we have developed a plan and resources that are sustainable.
Q: What would someone find if they did a Google search on you?
Parker: They might find more people that look like a Fred Parker than I do. I'm not a lot on social media, but they might see my work on the K-5 Plus and the extended learning program. I don't think they will find anything other than a divorce. I'm boring. I'm focused on schools and my current work in Deming. I don't think they will find anything too exciting.
Q: What is your vision for Silver Consolidated Schools?
Parker: I would want to bring everyone to the table. What will the students say about their school experience? That will lead us to our purpose. What do we want from the kinders (kindergarten students) up and what do they want to do? What other activities, clubs can we offer to students? Sometimes we have to give them the vision of themselves as successful. Are they preparing for college and career, so they have a direction? We need conversations with the families. We want them to be part of the school, so students are better off. At the end of the day, we want to reignite our sense of purpose and what we want for the students and what they want.
Q: How will you approach what has occurred over the past year with COVID?
Parker: I'm inspired more than ever, looking at what our teachers accomplished. In Silver 75 percent to 80 percent of the students are coming back in person. That means they are missing something. Now is the time we can put students first. COVID brought up the inequities that were always in place. This idea of not funding schools is old. We should ask for this investment in our students. I am so inspired by stories of what our children have been able to endure. When they come to school, I want to be part of what brought them back and to make it worthy of them to come to school.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
Parker: I'm a family man. I would want to involve families. My daughter is in the Navy and I have a grandson and also a young son. I recognize teachers have families, too. I would want to be part of the Silver City family by moving here.
The final interview was with Bill Green
Q: Tell us about yourself.
Green: I grew up in Catron County. I've been a teacher, a coach and administrator since the 1980s. I have a masters in administration from Western New Mexico University. I was principal in Quemado and Reserve and superintendent in Quemado and Reserve. Currently, I am Catron County manager.
Q: How will you deal with small school funding decreases?
Green: What happened with Cliff and Ramah, which is in the Gallup School District, is that they were treated like charter schools. Through legislative action, we will try to get Cliff indemnified from it. I'm a proponent for keeping schools alive in a community. I will be determining how to keep the schools open and alive and how to bring the charter school back to Silver. Another option is to make Cliff a career-oriented school.
Q: How will you get additional funding for the schools?
Green: When I got back to Quemado, we got a bond passed. We went to Santa Fe and we got the money for rebuilding the Quemado schools. When I went to Reserve, it was a time when everyone got hit, so I stayed as a superintendent for both Reserve and Quemado at half salary, which saved two positions. We got $14 million to build a gym.
Q: As a community leader, how do to plan to become a part of the community?
Green: I would move here and have an open-door policy. At Ruidoso, we revamped the curriculum. I didn't plan to leave Ruidoso, but because Quemado called, I became its superintendent.
Q: How will you build pride in the school system in Silver City?
Green: A lot more can be done. The community needs to be aware of what we are accomplishing. We have to reach out to get the parents and the communities involved. Why can't there be billboards coming into town, so people don't have to drive to the school to see what's going on? We have to recognize retirement, recognize new employees.
Q: What do you plan to be doing in five years?
Green: I'll still be here. This would be my last hurrah. I think of Silver as the crown jewel of southwest New Mexico. And I'll still be looking at ways to make it better.
Q: How will you lead by example?
Green: It's not a me thing. It's a team thing. We have to involve the community. 'It's we' is the only way you're successful.
Q: What are the three most critical issues the school is facing?
Green: We are in the midst of massive changes in education. In technology, in hybrid learning. We have to make it so that kids who are on the road can participate in learning. It's going to be hard and daunting to look at, but change we must. We will see more kids going to homeschool or charter schools or you'll lose them completely. With tech, in high school especially, we will not go back.
Q: How will you communicate with all the stakeholders?
Green: We will get out there through the newspaper and radio. We want to be proud of our schools. Positivity feeds upon itself.
Q: How will you integrate vertical and horizontal approaches?
Green: In Ruidoso, we were not only looking at students where they are, but where they were going. And not only there, but throughout the state. What do we have to do to get everyone involved in the process? It's a multiple-layered system. It's something to build around, allowing vertical and horizontal movement and putting it all together.
Q: How do you delegate?
Green: My philosophy is to find the best person for the job, let them do it and they will flourish. I don't micromanage. I give people freedom to do their best. People skills are my No. 1 talent.
Q: How will you organize the curriculum to guarantee student success?
Green: Nothing is guaranteed. We will give the student the motivation to succeed. It comes down to the responsibility of the student. We have to look at career modeling down to Junior High. Seniors should already have associates degrees from the university. We will set up a program in say, welding, and they will come out ready to work and get a good salary.
Q: What is your philosophy on collective bargaining?
Green: My first year in Ruidoso, it was rough. The next time we looked at the budget and looked at what was possible. We have to be collaborating and be willing to talk reality. After I left, I missed the process, because it was valuable.
Q: If you face budget cuts what two areas would you cut to save money and how would you deal with CARES Act funding?
Green: We would put every penny to good use. With CARES Act funding, we would make sure it goes to the right place. It gives us a year or so. For the hard choices, I am superintendent. In Quemado, we ran out of kids and had to do away with the elementary school. It didn't make people happy, but we couldn't afford it. At Ruidoso, we had to cut one program to bring in another. Some people didn't like it, but it made the school better.
Q: What would a Google search on you bring up?
Green: I think I'm a funeral director somewhere. I really have never looked. Hopefully, it would say that I am a hard worker. Does he work and is he there for the people?
Q: What is your vision for Silver Consolidated Schools?
Green: It's not clear cut. I'm an outsider coming in, but I will look at the whole district, do an assessment on the district and look at what needs work.
Q: What in the past year has motivated you to continue in education?
Green: Education has been my main career. I've been county manager, but I wanted to finish my career in education. I'm 60 years old. If I don't get the education job, I'll stay as manager.
Q: Do you plan to relocate?'
Green: Yes, I plan on moving down here. I'll be part of the community. I'll be at games and events.
Q: Anything else you would like to say?
Green: I have enjoyed this process. It's been in depth. I look forward to the opportunity to serve Silver Consolidated Schools, not only on a personal level, but as my legacy. On the occupational level, I know I'm up to the challenge.
The Board of Silver Consolidated Schools will make its final decision at the Monday, April 12, 2021, regular meeting.
Joel Shirley, who served as moderator for all the interviews, thanked Prather Consulting for their time and efforts in the search.