School district superintendents

Buck GilcreaseBuck Gilcrease, Alvin ISD

What are some of the challenges your school district faces?

The first challenge is always to find seats [in the classroom] for everybody. The second challenge is to keep the quality of our instructional staff up to a level of excellence. It takes a lot of work to search those people out. This district is so high quality so our goal is to continue to bring in people like that to fill in the new instructional roles. Obviously transportation and facility needs [are also challenges].

How do you plan to address those challenges?

The human resources department has put together a good plan. They’ve done a great job of recruiting this spring to fill those needed positions and put some things in place to make sure the quality stays where the people are used to it being.

What are your priorities for next year?

The kids are my [priority] in everything that we do. I tell people that you can always tell people’s priorities [by] their checkbook. We’re going to make sure our checkbook is focused on what the kids need in the classroom and what the teachers need in the classroom. We’re going to work next year to make sure we put those beliefs into action and really let it reflect that the students are No. 1.

What has been your proudest moment as superintendent?

I guess it’s also my saddest moment, but if I had to pick just one, [it would be after] the [fatal car accident] earlier in the spring at Manvel High School. My proudest moment was the way the district came together and helped work through that for our kids, those families, the schools involved and the district as a whole. It made me proud to see that there was a sense of family and community there.

Trish HanksTrish Hanks, Friendswood ISD

What are some of the challenges your school district faces?

There are a couple of challenges. The expectations are never lowered; there’s always increased expectations. There’s this perception that you can [achieve] those higher expectations with the same amount of resources, and that’s just a disconnect in thinking. The other big challenge for our district is our students are exposed [because of] technology. Trying to keep up with social media—that’s a concern of mine.

How do you plan to address those challenges?

[With] the financial challenges, we work with our legislators a lot. We’re fortunate that we have a state senator, state representative and a U.S. congressman [who] live here. You try to work with them to help them understand the implications of legislation that’s passed and how the money is spent. We are doing a lot of cyber safety. We have presentations for parents, and we have curriculum that we teach during the year for the kids.

What are your priorities for next year?

My top priority next year is to make sure that our teachers are paid competitively [compared] with surrounding districts. That is the biggest priority, and once we figure it out, next year the challenge will be to make sure it [maintains]. If you cut [spending] some place, then you have to be really diligent with it and not spend that money. That’s one of the biggest challenges.

What has been your proudest moment as superintendent?

There have been so many highlights, but I think one of the things I am most proud of is that even though we were scoring high on state tests, we didn’t stop there. We’ve said it’s really not enough that we’re exemplary. Our district has [competed] at a state level. That culture of continuous improvement—I think I’m the most proud about that.

John KellyJohn Kelly, Pearland ISD

What are some of the challenges your school district faces?

The one that’s on my mind right now is money. The Legislature does not at this point look like it’s going to give us the money we need to keep up with growth and inflation. That worries me. The other thing I’ve been working on the last couple of days is finding help for kids who are having significant difficulties in their lives, recognizing who those kids are and then bringing help to them in an era of limited resources.

How do you plan to address those challenges?

I’m going to be talking to all the principals and directors about greatly expanding mentoring programs in the district [so] we’re much more inviting to people coming from the community to mentor our kids. I’ve been working on that for a while. It’s [about] trying to get the whole community to help the ones among us [who] need it the most.

What are your priorities for next year?

[As] always, my top priority is student achievement. I want us to continue to really elevate student achievement in a meaningful way—all the ways we can show that we’re providing a superior product. My second priority for the coming year is helping needy kids. We’ve had three suicides [in my tenure], and in each of those cases you wonder if we could’ve known earlier that these kids were going through a lot of stuff.

What has been your proudest moment as superintendent?

It was probably the establishment of Turner College & Career High School. That has been my dream since I got here. [It is] finishing its second year. We have a tremendous principal there. Approximately 30 kids will graduate with both a high school [diploma] and an associate degree from junior college. Another 20 will have 30 or more hours of college [credit]. That’s a huge step up that that school has accomplished.


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