Charles Dupre

Pflugerville ISD superintendent talks about district's past year, future challenges and goals

2012 was an eventful year for Pflugerville ISD and Superintendent Charles Dupre. Faced with an expanding student enrollment and decreases in state funding, the district raised its tax rate in August by 6 cents in a move designed to erase debt in anticipation of new bonds the district is expecting to request by 2014.

The district also undertook a rezoning of its middle school boundaries in preparation for the opening of Cele Middle School in August and began an aggressive search for land in East Pflugerville for the district's fourth high school.

Dupre also became the face of one of the state's most public social debates when news leaked about a proposed change to the district's employee insurance plan that would allow coverage for domestic partners.

The past year was also one of recognition and accolades for Dupre as he was named Region XIII Superintendent of the Year and was nominated as one of the five finalists for Texas Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards. The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce also recognized Dupre as Superintendent of the Year for 2012.

One challenge that emerged for PISD in 2012 was the district's search for the location of a fourth high school. Could you describe how that process is going?

2012 really started with a high school visioning committee. The job of the committee was twofold: look at our current high school programs and to extend that into a look at the fact that we are predicting significant growth at the high school level over the next five to seven years.

We have several options: We can keep our three high schools and expand them through construction. We could rezone all three high schools and balance the attendance. [The committee] looked at building a special high school that is an early-college high school for college and career-readiness programs. They also considered the idea of building a fourth high school.

Ultimately the collective decision of everyone involved was they preferred a fourth high school. We had the foresight in [the 2007 bond package] to include dollars that planned the design of the fourth high school. Now all we need is the bond money to build it and a site.

We wanted to take it to the voters when the time came with true and accurate numbers. A high school can cost $80 million–$90 million. Today we have a design, and we know it needs to go in the northeast section of the district. We expect we will need a bond in 2014 simply because our [enrollments] are too large.

In December you testified at the ongoing school finance lawsuit trial against the state. Could you describe your role in the case and how you perceive the stakes involved with the decision?

There has been a school finance lawsuit about every 10 years for the remembered past. Pflugerville has never participated in those lawsuits. However, we elected to participate in this lawsuit because we are funded at almost the lowest level of all school districts in Central Texas. What is worse is there is not a rational formula for how school districts are funded today. There is a target revenue that was established in 2006 that still stands today. Since that time, those gaps have existed, and there is no remedy to ever remove those gaps. That is inequitable, and that is what prompted [PISD] to become involved in the lawsuit.

I am president of the Texas Taxpayer Student Fairness Coalition, which includes the largest number of school districts in the lawsuit. My role has been to lead that organization.

The question being asked is this: Is Texas school funding today constitutional or unconstitutional. ... My best-case scenario is that our elected officials make education a priority to the extent they would fund it in a way that is equitable.

We can get by [without additional funding] we will balance our budget every year. But the students and this community will pay the price for that. The students will pay because their education will not be what it needs to be for success in today's world. The community will pay because people will not want to move into this community, and businesses will not want to be located in the community because our education system will be viewed as substandard.

You received a great deal of local and national media attention regarding the decision to support the domestic partners insurance benefits package for district employees. Were you surprised at the public reaction, and what did you learn from the experience?

Offering insurance to domestic partners came as a result of seven years of dialogue in this district about equity, discrimination and social justice. Organizationally we are committed to doing what is right for everyone in this organization. Ultimately ... the benefit committee proposed doing this, they decided it was the right thing to do, and they brought it forth.

I underestimated the level of concern the community might have about it. Really it is about a health benefits issue for employees only. It is not about curriculum, it has nothing to do with a social agenda, nothing to do with trying to drive change on any level. It has to do with valuing the people in this organization.

In hindsight, I would have more clearly spotlighted it for the board's attention so they could have engaged it in more appropriate ways.

It has been more than one month since the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school occurred. Now that there has been some time to reflect on the tragedy, can you describe what, if any, type of reaction there might be locally?

I think we have outstanding safety protocols in place today, primarily because every time something has happened, we have reviewed it and strengthened our practices and procedures. What I think will change this time, is we are discussing doing remodeling of some buildings. The biggest issue we continue to face is that many of our buildings were built in such a way that people can enter without anyone knowing they are in the building—that is a universal issue in schools.

We have great protocols, we keep all of the exterior doors locked, but people can still get in. So we are meeting and discussing ways to do remodeling in some of our schools to eliminate that risk.

You have been superintendent of PISD since 2006. What accomplishments are you the most proud of in that period?

We have truly made Pflugerville a [leading] district in Texas. We have aligned our systems, our instructional programs, we have strengthened our performance for students. We are a place where people want to work and live and have their children educated by PISD schools.

You can see a constant flow of partnerships with businesses and the city. That happens because when people come to the table, we meet with them quickly, we respond to questions quickly, and we make things happen quickly. We do our best not to act like a bureaucratic organization where things get bottlenecked and slowed down.

What I am most proud of is the culture and the climate for excellence and our ongoing focus for students and making them be the best they can be.

Moving forward, what do you foresee as the greatest challenges facing PISD?

Our greatest challenge is going to be continued growth. Even during our economic slowdown, we continued to grow. We have poised ourselves now where we can only grow to continue to serve students.

I mentioned the [2014] bond. As always we are going to engage the community with a citizens bond committee. The community needs to start preparing to hear that information and process it and work with us [in] addressing the future growth of the district.

Charles in charge: Meet superintendent Dupre

  • Pflugerville ISD superintendent since 2006
  • Former associate superintendent and chief financial officer of Fort Bend ISD
  • Worked in oil and gas industry in Houston prior to entering the education field
  • Received bachelor's degree in accounting from Harding University in Searcy, Ark.
  • Earned master's degree in educational administration from the University of Houston
  • Currently pursuing doctorate in educational leadership at Lamar University
  • Is a certified public accountant
  • Resides in Pflugerville with his wife, Seeju
  • Has two sons who both graduated from PISD schools
  • Was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and grew up near Springfield, Mo.