Superintendent gets a running start

Alex Carter Enlargephoto

Alex Carter

The new Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 superintendent will officially take over district operations July 1, but Alex Carter, 40, has been on the job with the district since he was selected by the school board in April to be its next superintendent.

In that time, he has begun to analyze the current state of the district and make plans for its future.

“There will be lots of challenges, but a lot of opportunities, too,” Carter said. “The district is poised to make great strides. What we are going to focus on is how can we get students to learn more.”

Carter predicted no big changes in the immediate future, although he said wrinkles can always be added to make instruction more effective. For kindergarten to fifth-grade students, Re-1 has implemented a new systematic reading approach, and a new literacy program will be in place next school year for middle school and high school students.

At future school board meetings, student achievement will be the primary focus. Four meetings will address academic growth. At two meetings, the board will discuss how to be invested for the future, and there will also be two board meetings each where literacy and citizenship will be the prominent discussion items.

“We need to harness everything, so everyone pulls together,” he said.

Carter also said there is no doubt in his mind that Re-1 will not lose its state accreditation, although the district was mandated more than a year ago to increase student achievement to remain accredited.

“We are already close. We are going to be above that,” he said.

However, just meeting the state requirements is not what the superintendent wants. His goal is for Re-1 to exceed the state’s average.

The new superintendent said he does not foresee a return to a four-day school week. The district knows from data that the four-day schedule was not working, he said; there were small, incremental changes in student achievement, but not nearly enough to justify keeping the four-day week.

“We were not making the improvement we needed,” he said.

Besides achievement, other challenges loom. For example, he said, the current high school is in very poor shape.

Carter said taxpayers eventually are going to have to pay for a new school, and he hopes they won’t pass up the opportunity to take advantage of a Building Excellent Schools Today grant if one is awarded.

Re-1 should learn later this month whether it has been offered the $21 million it requested from BEST. Funding would require a 50-50 local match.

“This is an opportunity to get a marquee, flagship high school at half the cost,” he said. “To me, it’s a huge opportunity, and we are going after it.”

FIRST AND FOREMOST, A TEACHER

One reason he decided to become a superintendent, Carter said, was the belief he could improve the quality of education while working with students of all ages.

“First and foremost I am a teacher,” Carter said, “and it is really important that the leader knows instruction,”

He taught for nine years in a high school in a Washington, D.C., suburb at the beginning of his educational career. Carter said he got lucky at that high school because a few mentors who became close friends took him under their wings to teach him how to become an efficient teacher. Rather than map out the entire school year, he learned how to teach segments of lessons, a method that produced better results.

In 2003, Carter said, his career dramatically changed when he was selected one of 100 National Milk and Education Award winners and received $25,000 for the distinction.

Calling the award the Oscars of Education, Carter said he was was afforded an eye-opening opportunity to meet with educators across the country to see education working on a national level.

“It was an incredible experience,” he said.

Carter received his master’s degree and became an assistant principal at the fifth largest high school in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A year later, he was named a high school principal at a high-performing school where excellence was the norm and was expected.

Several years after that, Carter was hired as the principal at Telluride High School, where he learned the ins and outs of running a school district.

As the principal at the high school, Carter was involved in every decision the administration made, as all the principals were required to be on the administration team, which included three principals, a director of administration services and the superintendent — Mary Rubadeau, who later became Carter’s predecessor at Re-1 and has now concluded her service as interim superintendent here.

In Telluride, Carter said, “I received a much broader experience in the aspects of the school district.

Carter has two children, a daughter in the third grade and a son who will be in kindergarten. Both will be attending schools in the Re-1 district in the 2012-13 school year.

Reach Michael Maresh at michaelm@cortezjournal.com