PRESCOTT - Yavapai County Schools Superintendent Tim Carter is passionate about assuring all children in Arizona have the tools to be thinkers and problem-solvers.
Once they turn their tassels on their graduation caps, the four-decade educator wants them equipped to follow their dreams, be it as a car mechanic, a nurse, a pilot or a teacher.
"We're in this business for one reason - to educate young people. Everything is subservient to that, and I think sometimes we forget that. And we shouldn't," said the longtime Republican administrator just selected as one of five new members on the 11-member state Board of Education.
From the moment he graduated from Tombstone High School, the lifelong athlete who grew up on a thoroughbred ranch in southern Arizona wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a coach and teacher.
"There is no greater service than in the field of education," Carter said on Friday, March 27. "As long as I can be contributing to that, I feel pretty fortunate."
Carter launched his career in 1973, after earning his bachelor's degree in education at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. He later earned a master's degree in educational leadership at Northern Arizona University and his superintendent certificate at the University of Phoenix.
Carter's first job was teaching physical education, health and driver's education at a high school on the Apache reservation in the White Mountains. He also coached football, basketball and track for four years.
Then he and his fellow educator wife, Linda, moved to southwestern Arizona, where he again taught and coached at a high school.
In 1979, the Carters moved to Prescott. It is where they raised their now adult children, Cierra and Levi. The couple now has a grandson, Skyler, 8.
At Prescott High School, Carter taught American government and introduction to law, as well as coaching the track and cross-country teams and the mock trial team. His coaching prowess led to induction into the Arizona Track Coaches Hall of Fame.
In 1991, Carter switched gears.
He accepted a promotion to assistant principal, a role he describes as the "most exciting job I had in my life."
Part of the challenge of that five-year post before becoming principal for 12 more was that no day was the same, he said.
Often, Carter said he would think about an oft-asked question posed by a college professor as it related to seeking solutions, a skill colleagues suggest is his strength.
"Who owns this problem?" Carter recalled.
His career taught him the answer: "He who owns the problem is responsible for being part of the solution to that problem."
Gov. Doug Ducey's appointment of Carter stems from his belief he can help find solutions to the state's conflict over the Common Core education standards, said Daniel Scarpinato, the governor's spokesman.
"He takes these appointments very seriously, and he respects Mr. Carter's service as a county superintendent," Scarpinato said.
In Carter's various positions, be it as a school administrator, superintendent or his current volunteer role on the state board, he views himself as a facilitator of fixes.
"I'm kind of a process guy. I think the process is important, and at the end of the process you tend to have a much better solution," Carter said.
Carter's state board appointment will likely test his solution-oriented focus.
Beyond research and review of the Common Core standards, Carter said the state board will wrestle with teacher recruitment and retention, school financing and inequities between public and charter schools, and issues he cannot now predict.
The key to reaching consensus on solutions will require the board keep an open ear to all viewpoints, whether they are from teachers, parents, students or taxpayers, Carter said.
Prescott Unified Assistant Superintendent Joe Howard said he was in a meeting with parents when Carter's appointment was announced. Everyone clapped.
"It was a great hope for me," said Howard, who met Carter when he was a student. "He has always been highly respected. He was known as a tough teacher and a tough coach, but he turned out champion athletes and all-star academic students."
Retired superintendent Michael Aylstock, who now owns an educational search consultant firm, has an equal regard for Carter.
"I would say, throughout my career, I never worked with a county superintendent more dedicated to schools in his or her own county than Tim Carter," Aylstock said.
Yavapai County has 26 school districts, and Carter is an equal advocate for them all, Aylstock said.
"This is the smartest thing our governor has ever done," said Gary Hicks, vice chairman of the Humboldt Unified School District board. "He (Carter) is so knowledgeable; he's one of the most competent individuals I have encountered ... He will defend, and defeat, those issues that are good, and not good, for public schools."
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