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New Galt high school district superintendent settling in

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Posted: Monday, September 3, 2012 3:13 pm | Updated: 6:32 am, Tue Sep 4, 2012.

Matthew Roberts was in the Galt Joint Union High School District’s top position as superintendent for a mere couple of weeks when classes started. He admitted recently during an interview with Galt education reporter Jennifer Bonnett that there was a lot to soak in before the first day of school.

Roberts was hired as the district’s new superintendent when Daisy Lee decided to retire early. His first day was July 23.

Prior, Roberts served as principal at East Nicolaus High School and for the last four years as both principal and superintendent of the one-school district. He started his career in Boston, however, after attending a Bay Area private school and writing a dissertation on developing small schools while earning a master’s degree at University of the Pacific.

Roberts, who is married with two elementary-age children, is originally from Fresno and remembers as a child visiting his grandparents who lived on property along Collier Road. He has lived in Elk Grove for most of the last decade.

Here is what Roberts had to say about other issues affecting the district.

What drew you to Galt?

After 10 years, you kind of reflect on what you want to do with your career. Galt is bigger than East Nicolaus, but it has a lot of agricultural roots.

I definitely did my research before coming here. I liked what I saw.

I met with the board and had great communication with them. What I believe I’m trying to offer is my stability from my last district. Hopefully people will recognize that.

There’s a lot of work to be done. We’re in a strange time in public education.

How will you handle improving test scores?

That’s my primary focus.

My former district was an 800 school (districts strive for at least 700 on the annual Academic Progress report, with 1,000 being  the highest). The smaller the sample size, the more difficult it can be to move students along.

This district is still big enough to reach out and communicate with staff and want to go in the same direction with goals. That’s the success I’ve had with my career. People want to know the school are doing as much as they can to educate their kids.

I want to make a substantial effort with stakeholders here.

How will you do this?

I want to be at events. I want to be visible.

What about teacher evaluations?

It’s moving away from evaluations and into monitoring. The emphasis has been on ensuring frequency.

One of the effective school correlates is frequent and ongoing assessments. I believe evaluation is an open book. Is once a year, a minimum of 25 minutes depending on the contract enough?

We want more communication with our teachers. I don’t believe I’m alone in that assessment.

This is something the elementary school district here has been working toward. Have you met with Galt Joint Union Elementary School Superintendent Karen Schauer yet?

Yes. With feeder schools it’s very similar to where I come from. This is nothing new to me.

We have met and want to reopen articulation, especially with math and what they’re teaching in seventh and eighth grade. Already out of the gate, we’re collaborating. So far, so good with that.

What about communication with the school board?

My job is very clear to serve the board. They need to know what’s going on.

And if they don’t agree with you?

That’s OK. Things are situational at times. Any breakdown in communication can be a problem.

What I know about the board members is they care about kids. Hopefully somebody as myself with a focus on communication can make it a bit different than things have been in the past.

What kind of tenure are you looking at? There has been a lot of turnover in the superintendent position in the last 10 years.

I don’t come to a place lightly. I’m not one that moves around in my career. This is a commitment. I’m ready to make it to the board and to the community.

Ten years would be nice, if not longer.

I’m at this time in my career where this is a good next destination. Stability is what I’m bringing to the table.

This is a superintendent who will be here for awhile, but I want it to be effective. The longer you’re with an organization, the more effective it is. I’m visible. I’m out there.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com. For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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