The Fort Smith School Board interviewed Dr. Doug Brubaker, the second of two finalists for the position of superintendent on Wednesday (Dec. 14) in a daylong event that included interviews with the Board, media, community leaders, and existing principals and personnel.
In an interview with Talk Business & Politics Wednesday morning, Brubaker discussed his experience, goals, philosophies, and the future of public education in preparing students for the workforce or higher learning.
Brubaker serves as the associate superintendent of Garland ISD in Garland, Texas. Prior to that, he served for six years as the assistant superintendent of Mansfield ISD in Mansfield, Texas. He began his career in administration in Fort Worth’s Birdville ISD as the assistant principal of North Ridge Elementary School from 1998 to 2000, and has carried a superintendent certification for 10 years.
With a career that began in the classroom, Brubaker has seen many changes to public education, and those changes have made him “excited” about current opportunities for students and teachers alike.
“When I look broadly at my time in education, career and technical education is probably what has changed the most,” Brubaker said. “I think we have more opportunities to individualize for students now than we ever have before, and to give them the tools to do more. When I was a kid, there was a lot of ‘read the chapter and answer the questions at the end,’ and it’s been exciting for me to see that go away. Making school engaging is a lot more possible today than it ever has been.”
Distance learning, he said, is a “really exciting area,” giving schools the ability to offer courses they otherwise wouldn’t be able to for lack of personnel. “Say you have someone who wants to learn Mandarin Chinese, for instance. Well, now you have the ability to bring that to the student regardless of whether the class size is there or whether there is someone certified on staff with that expertise.”
STATE OF THE DISTRICT
Regarding his assessment of the Fort Smith School District as-is, Brubaker singled out Euper Lane Elementary School for its designation as a National Blue Ribbon School, which is a government program honoring schools that have achieved high levels of performance or made significant improvements in closing the achievement gap among student subgroups.
“I’ve been a part of that process before, and that’s really an achievement and something Fort Smith should be proud of,” he said. “It shows the district has really stepped up while working with essentially the same resources. Resources have grown some because of higher valuations on property, but the district has had the same millage rate for about 30 years.”
Brubaker touted his previous experience working with millage-type rate increases in the Mansfield, Texas, school district and said of the Fort Smith School District’s coming attempt to pass a millage increase that “it’s important to take a look at what we want for our next group of kids coming up and then work hard to secure those resources.”
“We really want Fort Smith to be a destination district so that when people move to this area, they see it as somewhere they want to locate. And that is something businesses look at as well when they consider coming here.” The goal, he noted, is to help the community as a whole buy into that vision.
“I do have experience with increases for construction projects, technology, and security upgrades, those kinds of things, particularly in a growing district that I was a part of before going to Garland ISD. In Mansfield — that’s a smaller district — we opened two or three schools in one year in either 2008 or 2009. So I have experience with growth and construction projects and would be eager to put those skills to work here,” he said.
Brubaker said he also sees opportunities in reaching outside the district and working with area businesses and UAFS to build tomorrow’s workforce.
“I’ve learned so much from business leaders about the skills students need to have when they leave school, and it’s also been a great opportunity to talk to business leaders about what is going on in our schools and to share some of the successes we’ve been achieving. It’s always a constructive dialogue to have,” Brubaker said.
TEACHING STUDENTS ‘HOW TO LEARN’
Concerning the role of public education in prepping students for college or a vocation, Brubaker said a “pretty significant percentage of the jobs that people are going to be doing 10 years from now haven’t even been conceived of yet.”
“Yes, we want for our kids to have a certificate or a really strong background, so they can pursue either a job, a career, or they can go for higher learning. But one of the things I think is equally important is to give kids the skill to acquire new skills and acquire new knowledge after they’ve left us. We have lots of resources like YouTube and online training resources, and I use them myself pretty frequently in order to brush up on skills. We need to teach kids not just content, not just skills, but how to learn, and let them know that’s the expectation moving forward.”
He continued: “What’s the saying? If you do a job you love, you never work a day in your life? That’s what I hope for for each one of our kids.”
The Fort Smith Board of Education will meet at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 15, in Bldg. B of the Service Center at 3205 Jenny Lind Road. The meeting was announced via email Wednesday as a “follow-up” to this week’s two candidate interviews. Talk Business & Politics’ discussion with Dr. Mike Roth from Dec. 13 is available at this link.