Eric Williams, Clear Creek ISD’s new superintendent, plans to spend his first months on the job discovering how the district can sustain and build on its quality of education.
“A key aspect of it is really just listening to people, listening to parents, listening to staff members in all different roles,” he said of his approach in a December interview with Community Impact Newspaper. “It's going to be a really heavy focus, particularly in the first 90 days.”
Williams plans to meet with students, parents and staff to learn what they feel is going well in classrooms and what could be improved, he said in December. Aside from on-campus experiences, he also plans to interact at parent-teacher association meetings and events hosted by community organizations. The district is an ideal size for fostering community relations, and he appreciates its emphasis on continuous improvement, he added.
His first day as superintendent was Jan. 18. Williams spent time seeing students in action at elementary and secondary campuses during his first week, observing the adjustments made to educational practices amid COVID-19, he said Jan. 21 at a Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership education and workforce development committee meeting. He also detailed his first-week experiences in a two-minute introduction video sent to the CCISD community midday Jan. 22.
Williams’ campus visits gave him glimpses of both the positivity and the tiredness the CCISD community is experiencing, he said Jan. 21.
“[There is] an appropriate sense of pride in terms of people making the best of a difficult situation ... there is, I will say, a strong sense of fatigue as well, with where we are, but related to that is hope because of vaccinations,” he said at the meeting.
Williams was superintendent for two other school districts for 13 years before coming to CCISD, which includes his being a sitting superintendent during the financial crisis of the late 2000s. The experience he gained leading a school district through economic hardship will inform him as he and other leaders navigate the effects of COVID-19 in the Bay Area, he said in December.
If cuts must be made, he would move to protect classroom-level expenditures with the most direct effect on teaching and learning, Williams said. He would work with the board of trustees to set priorities and take a deep dive into the specifics of all spending, which he added is already fairly lean at the district level.
“That’s a tougher challenge in a highly efficient place like Clear Creek ISD,” Williams said of making budget cuts.
He acknowledged in December that other longer-term effects of the pandemic could include challenges to students’ emotional health. The district already has a clear focus on the whole child in terms of building character development and resiliency skills, and this can be built upon in the coming semesters and years to sustain a socially healthy campus, he said.
The focus on the whole person must also extend to the adults on campus, he added: As employees interact with parents and with each other, everyone must recognize staff are spouses, parents and human beings.
Williams emphasized the new normal in the district needs to focus on “progress, not perfection.”
“In a high-achieving place like CCISD, I think it's natural for people to hold themselves to unrealistic standards,” he said. “Too often, people are too hard on themselves.”