‘We Can Move from Really Good to Really Great’ – Superintendent Candidate Garcia

by Jack Mayne

The second of three finalist candidates for a new Highline School District superintendent told an audience of about 75 people Thursday night (Feb. 23) that he would not make a decision to make budget cuts “until you have to.”

Dr. Joshua Garcia, currently a Federal Way School District assistant superintendent who oversees the district’s secondary schools, advanced academics, curriculum and instruction, had spent the day at Highline touring school buildings and talking with students, teachers and members of the school board.

The district staff has indicated a decision is expected by next week, perhaps at the Wednesday evening board meeting at 6 p.m. at district headquarters.

Garcia said he has had to make a lot of drastic cuts in his career and the “process starts when we constantly determine what are the most important things and continuing conversations that say not everything is the most important thing. And when you have to get to the place where you have to make cuts, don’t do it until you have to – until you have as much information as you can. We have to continue to talk about what is best.”

He said business people, community leaders as well as the people in the schools are put into think tank sessions to refine what is really needed and what can be cut or reduced.

Then, with all the information possible, Garcia said he, as superintendent, would have to make the necessary cuts.

“For every dollar that you can remove that is spent on something that is not working, is one less cut you have to make

Getting a diverse staff
Garcia was asked how he plans to have the district’s diverse workforce represented in the Highline District staff.

“Recruit, recruit, recruit,” he said. “Get clear on how good we are so that you can recruit. People want to be part of something that is successful. Build partnerships. Look at creative ways to bring in staff members that reflect the student population. Hire people for talent and not always for certification. Then be sure to provide support for those people to be successful so they can turn and talk with their other colleagues with other experiences and recruit them. A world class school system means a world class staff. Give people permission to lead and do what’s right for kids no matter what role they have. Making sure that every adult advocates for kids.”

When asked about the role of parents in the district’s operations, Garcia said their role “is critical.”

He said the district needs to understand what each child needs to succeed and they the district should find a way to find the resources to make it happen, perhaps in with wider community.

“Parents have to part of the conversation and we in the schools have to be clear what we are trying to accomplish and how does that match the parent’s goals and the student’s goals,” Garcia said.

PTAs have a critical role, too, he said. But he said the district should understand that the PTA should not be the only role for parents.

“Any time you have families, staff coming together to try to improve schools for kids, I think that is a blessing. There can’t be one venue to do that, we have to find other ways,” he said, perhaps even taking the conversation into apartment complexes, homes or other places to communicate with parents about kids in schools.

A commitment to continually improve is important, he said.

From good to great
“We can move from really good to really great.”

The program moderator asked him what he had learned about Highline high schools.

“They are diverse in their program offerings, diverse in their expectations and what the offerings look like,” Garcia said.

He said the adults that work in them were passionate and the students were “true to what they want.” He spent time yesterday at the Puget Sound Skill Center and students “were so clear that that was good for them and what they came from was not and it would not necessarily be good for their best buddy.”

On technology, he said it did not matter what brand or type, just get as much as possible into the classrooms.

“Getting technology into student’s hands is really good and kids can teach us if we get them the tools,” Garcia said. “What we have the responsibility to teach is them is how to do that in a safe manner.”

Garcia’s background
Garcia currently now is Federal Way Public Schools assistant superintendent of teaching for learning, where he supervises the district’s secondary schools and advanced academics, instructional technology, curriculum and instruction, assessment and accountability and professional development.

There he has implemented board policy that automatically enrolls students into advanced placement, international baccalaureate and Cambridge international programs and his responsibilities include design and implementation of a K-12 standards-based instruction, grading, reporting and assessment system.

He was previously principal of Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way and assistant principal at White River High School. He started as a teacher in the Riverview School District.

Garcia received his doctorate from Seattle University, his master’s degree from Heritage University, and his undergraduate degree from Washington State University. He is an adjunct professor in the University of Washington’s principal leadership program.

Dr. Susan Enfield, now the interim superintendent of the Seattle School District is the final candidate and will be interviewed Friday evening at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers at Burien City Hall.

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