Two months after announcing his re-election bid, Mick Founts decided not to seek a second term as San Joaquin County’s superintendent of schools.
“I’ve done a lot of good things, I think, and have started a lot of programs,” Founts said in a phone interview. “At this point, I’d like to look at education a little differently. That detail is for another day.”
Founts’ decision to step down after his term ends at the end of 2014 came as a surprise. He had formally announced in June that he would seek a second term as superintendent.
Two long-time educators will reportedly seek Founts’ seat — Gary Del Rossi and Jeff Tilton — but no one has filed papers to form a campaign committee with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters, county Registrar Austin Erdman said Thursday afternoon.
Candidates for Founts’ seat will square off in the March primary election.
Founts, 59, was elected county superintendent in 2010 and has been an educator for 30 years.
“I’ll be 60 1/2 when I get out,” Founts said about his departure as county superintendent. “I’m not burned out. My health is pretty good, and I feel like the county office is real solid.”
But he wants a change.
“Doing the same is not more experience,” he said.
Founts helped establish Venture Academy and Excel Academy, located on the county schools office property in south Stockton.
He’s excited about the academies, with Venture Academy allowing students to choose an emphasis on performing arts, science, agriculture or technical education, Founts said. Excel Academy, down the street from Venture, offers a full curriculum, but has an emphasis on sports and medicine.
Founts is an ardent supporter of charter schools as an alternative to students being required to attend their neighborhood school.
“If kids could choose where they want to go to school, they should be able to,” he said.
Founts said he came to the county schools office in 1991 to begin community schools programs in Lodi and Manteca. Community schools are for students who have experienced abuse.
Founts said he’s been emotionally upset by teen violence, including homicides.
“In my 20 years, we’ve buried over 200 students,” he said. “It’s usually drugs or gang violence.”
The violence doesn’t occur during the school day but on nights and weekends, Founts said.
“These kids didn’t die because of a pronoun-antecedent disagreement; it was social,” he said.
In his early days at the county schools office, Founts said a student’s death really got to him one day.
“I had just heard that one of our students had been killed,” Founts said. “I pulled over to the side of the road. I cried for an hour.”
Another of Founts’ roles as county schools superintendent is to lobby in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. on behalf of children and their schools. He knows state and federal officials personally. He communicates what he knows during monthly meetings with every district superintendent in San Joaquin County.
Before becoming superintendent, Founts directed student programs including special education and county schools-operated programs like Workforce Development, human resources, public relations and writing educational grants.
But he says he doesn’t know what he’ll do once he leaves office.
“I might go back to raising goats” he said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.