Column: Our school superintendent faces a tough job
Boredom will never be a problem for Tim Carter. As school superintendent for Yavapai County - which as we're all aware covers more territory than some of our 50 states - he keeps on the move while overseeing educational needs encompassing 26 school districts, 41 charter schools (more than any other county in Arizona) and 98 campuses.
Those districts range in size from the Prescott and Humboldt districts - each in the 5,000-student range - to the tiny one in Crown King, which serves five students. And the pursuits of the job resulted in the road warrior's driving some 32,000 miles last year alone while touching a whole lot of bases.
Carter's hands-on approach ("I'm a local control guy" to the greatest extent possible, he noted in a wide-ranging talk before a local church group Saturday, as opposed to state and federal control) focuses on innovativeness. For example, he has seen to establishing a detention school in Prescott that provides for the educational needs of youths who are confined for disciplinary reasons. That school is fully accredited. And he has simplified the procedure involved in the home-schooling process for the county's 3,700 home-schoolers. Basically, notification of intent by parents is the criterion - annual re-registering is not required - so "red tape" is sliced to a minimum.
Carter, who in 2003 was named Arizona School Administrator of the Year, also is an Arizona High School Coaches Hall of Fame inductee. He retired from his post as Prescott High School principal in 2003, and the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors subsequently appointed him as county school superintendent, effective July 1, 2005.
The formal title of the office Carter oversees is the Yavapai County Education Service Agency, and he oversees a 38-member staff. It operates via grants and fee-based programs as opposed to tax money.
As noted, his talk covered a wide range of topics. Among them were vouchers versus tax credits; all-day kindergarten, which he acknowledged is both controversial and expensive; impact fees ("a subtle tax"); the erosion or demise of electives such as driver education, physical education and the arts due to lack of funding; teacher salaries (retention is difficult when a teacher in, say, Seligman hires on for $27,000 annually and must have the same credentials as a teacher in Mesa who is pulling down $42,000 to start); and unfunded mandates ("You figure out how to pay for it," law-makers mandate, he said, "and that's wrong!").
In the latter regard, Carter did put in a good word for Yavapai's three state legislators, who he said have a good grasp of educational needs and priorities. But he couldn't say the same for many of their colleagues. And, he added, federal judges are now handing down many decisions that should instead be within the purview of local school boards.
As far as the overall picture is concerned statewide, Arizona languishes at the bottom of the 50-state heap in spending per student, but the state's SAT scores are better than the national average. So, credit goes to people such as Carter who are helping to make the best of a difficult situation.