ILWACO - Tom Lockyer has only been on the Peninsula for a few months after being hired last spring as the new superintendent for the Ocean Beach School District. This is the continuation of an interview with him that began in last week's edition.
As far as academics go, are the kids at the standard or level that you'd hope they would be or is there still a ways to go there?
I think there's still a ways to go. There are a number of kids that are performing at or above. But there are also a number of kids who aren't, because they don't think it's as important as it should be. I don't believe there are any kids that can't perform at those expectations. I just believe we need to change our attitude in how we approach taking those tests, teaching the strategies necessary for kids to succeed. I don't believe that there's one student out there who can't learn.
Now, granted, you are operating from the home base here, you're not in the classrooms. But yet you're kind of the ring leader behind all the things that go on.
And I'd say I have been in the classrooms. I've been in every building so far. I've been in almost every classroom at least once.
Do you feel that it's important for you to be hands-on like that?
Oh, Absolutely. In fact, one of my other goals is to accompany the administrators as they visit classrooms and do their evaluations, so that I can see that as institutional leaders, we're working together to keep those standards high. For ourselves as leaders, but also for our staff, and I want to participate in that, from the standpoint that the teachers know I'm going to visit, kids know I'm going to be there and the community knows I'm going to be there. I don't think you can be an educational leader if you're not out there. I don't think you can ever be in the buildings enough. Unfortunately, there are reports and forms and other things that have to be done here. But I have an excellent staff in this office, and I can rely on them to help me. Because I think, initially, I've got to be out there, I've got to see what's going on. Because I can't assume anything. I've got to find those things out for myself before I recommend changes.
So what were some of the things that you had thought about as being ways to get the kids excited, to get up to those higher levels?
We're working on those things right now. One of the things is, we all know educationally that in order to build the base we have to build at it from kindergarten through third grade. So there will be many discussions as how to do that, where to focus those attentions. Certainly, right now, it needs to be in literacy, reading, writing and math. But that doesn't mean that we don't continue that up through the grade levels. Right now, as I said, the school improvement process taking place in the other two buildings is directly looking on that Junior/Senior high school and Hilltop at 4, 5, and 6. So as to specifics, we're still putting that into play. Could it be all day kindergarten, as an example? Possibly. We're talking about a lot of things. The biggest that we're talking about is changing teaching strategies. Trying to look at the differentiation that exists between kids. Instead of doing large group instruction, as example, do a lot more small group instruction. Now the elementary schools are doing a great job at that. Those are examples of what we're looking at.
These plans that you're working towards, when do you see them taking shape and put into effect?
The first year of the Junior/Senior high school was last year, and so they set the frame work for how they wanted to go about doing that. This year they're instituting those things. Next year will be assessing the success of the things they're doing. Next year will be another step in that. Hilltop will be putting its plan in place, and then the next year instituting some of those things. That doesn't mean we don't try strategies in between, but collectively, they're gonna look at what works best for their kids, plan those things out and then implement them the next year. Its kind of a three year plan.
What are the key things that you are looking at that need to be fixed, and need to be fixed sooner than later? From any standpoint. Students, teaching, funding, structures?
Well, unfortunately, funding doesn't seem to be one of those things that I have a whole lot of control over, other than re-aligning moneys that we have, to address the focus that we think is important. Certainly the focus that needs to be addressed are our literacy and math abilities, and our WASL test scores. And we're not scoring well. Then, somehow we need to look at teaching strategies in order to do that. So I think that's on the front burner. That's something that needs to happen, and is. Secondly, one of the things that is on the fore front for the [school] board and myself is the facilities. Haven't passed a bond in thirty-plus years here to address those facilities. And the facilities, we sink $300,000 dollars a year into maintaining those through our maintenance and operation levees. But we can't fix everything given that sum of money. And those educational environments are lacking safety issues, they're lacking upgraded technology that allows access to things that are current. They're lacking the educational environments that help kids be successful.
Curriculum, performance and accountability, number one. And should be. But right there is the need to address our facilities. And then I think, third, is just that communication and community climate that's necessary to build trust. People need to know that we're working hard to address the needs of the kids and the community.
So do you feel you're a much more progressive thinker as far as teaching today goes?
I think so, yeah. You gotta be willing to get out on the cutting edge and take a risk.
So you're willing to take those kind of chances?
You have to, you have to. We're smarter because we've failed, not because we followed the status quo. And certainly, we all know that things haven't worked here with the status quo. So its time, and that's what's fun and exciting about it.
Granted, you're just getting started here, but do you see yourself being here for awhile? Is this the last stop for Tom Lockyer?
That's a good question. I've made that commitment to the district. But my job is not as secure in that guaranteed ten year track, that just doesn't exist. The board knows that's what I want to do, and my family has had those discussions. My wife is a professional and wants to, at some point in time, get back in that arena. But our choice was to have one of us get there first. And then secondly, its up to the board to determine whether I'm doing the job and at some point in time, hopefully that's ten or so years down the road, and I've decided not to work anymore, or whatever. And its not because I'm not doing what the board hired me to do.
So you'd like to stay here for awhile?
Yes, most definitely.
In fact when I went into the kindergarten classes, one of the things that I said to them was that we were going to graduate together.
In closing, if and when you leave here, what do you hope you can say that you accomplished during your tenure as superintendent? What will be your legacy?
First, that our students are going to show that their abilities, at least as they are put out in front of everybody else, are as good or better then everybody else's. And that they have a vested interest in showing that. And the district will, in doing so, rise to the elite in the state. Instead of us qualifying for a grant, we'll be speaking in front of the state administrative associations as a leader in the field.
And then I think, secondly, to hang my hat on more than one or two things is probably too much, but secondly, to have this community be proud of its facilities. Communities all over the nation revolve around its educational components and those facilities are critical to ensuring the future of the kids and as a result of that, the future of the community. So we want to address those issues. So that those facilities are a hall mark of the community.