After 16 years as a Conroe ISD educator, Curtis Null was appointed the district’s new superintendent of schools, following the retirement of former Superintendent Don Stockton in June.
The son of two educators, Null originally began his college career pursuing a a pharmacy technician degree. However, Null said he quickly realized he was meant to follow in this parents’ footsteps and graduated with a master’s degree in sports medicine instead.
He began his career in education in 2000 as an athletic trainer and teacher at The Woodlands High School before becoming assistant principal at Knox Junior High School, principal at Peet Junior High School, principal at Conroe High School and eventually deputy superintendent of schools.
Now, Null is navigating being in charge of one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state.
What qualities from your sports medicine and athletic training background translate to an administrator’s role?
I think there are qualities that are inherent to athletic training that serve you well as an administrator. One, it’s about other people—you serve other people. Your job is to help other people perform to their greatest ability; that is the essence of the job. Another thing is they work long hours and they work hard, so work ethic comes pretty natural in that field.
How do your job responsibilities as superintendent differ from deputy superintendent of schools?
As the deputy superintendent, you’re really focused on the day-to-day operations of the district. My role was to handle the day-to-day operations, to work more directly with the campuses, more directly with the two assistant superintendents. … This role is a little bit more of the visionary, a little bit more of setting direction. [I’m] still working with everyone and checking in, but it’s a different level. Certainly, my role now also extends more externally than the deputy role did. I’m on more boards and different organizations throughout the county, attending more events outside of the school district, [and]being an ambassador for the school district.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face coming into the role of superintendent?
The No. 1 challenge is growth. You try to anticipate that growth every year: Where is it going to be and how do we make sure we build schools and have them in the right location at the right time before large communities blossom? Safety is [also]something we all talk about … but safety has been the forefront of our conversation for years—it’s not a new thing for us to talk about safety. It is new that it’s such a community issue, but we talk about it and we worry about it every day just like we worried about it every day five years ago [and]10 years ago.
Does CISD have any plans moving forward to improve safety and security or policies and procedures following Gov. Greg Abbott’s school safety plan?
The biggest thing, I think, is the continued progression of our previous plan. We’ve done construction projects over the last 10 years to build security vestibules in all of our schools. One addition that we have this year is Anonymous Alerts, which is a text line where they can text in if [students]want to give us a tip—and that’s important because kids don’t use the phone. We’ve had a 1-800 number, but I’m not sure we were hitting the student audience with that phone line. I think with the text line, we’re more likely to get direct feedback.
What is CISD hoping to see in the 2019 state legislative session?
In general, we just want support for public education. We always appreciate local control. We have a great school board, and we appreciate when they’re given the decision-making process instead of rules coming from the state. The school finance system is always a topic of conversation, and I think at some point, they’ll have to do something with that. But our focus has always been on our kids. We will make do with what we have and do the best that we can. At the same time, we know our state legislators—because we visit with them—care about us needing public education. And I have confidence that they’re going there with a mission—when they go to Austin—to make sure that all the students in our community are taken care of and well-educated.
What is something you want the community to know about you?
This is home for me. Starting my teaching career here and working through those levels and positions, this is a dream job for me. So, when you look at other places, you see superintendent turnover often, and that’s hard on a community. I have zero intentions of leaving. My goal is to retire from this position. When you look at having Dr. Stockton for 15 years, not only was he a great superintendent, but having him for 15 years allowed for our systems and structures to strengthen over time—to get better and better. This isn’t a stepping-stone job for me or something that I’m going to be looking to move on. As long as the board [of trustees]will have me, this is where I want to be.