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New superintendent takes helm of bayfield schools
8/21/2009 By: Carole McWilliams
Bayfield’s new school superintendent is a jack of all trades who came to an education career at age 42.
Dean Hill is a La Plata County native from fourth- and fifth- generation families, “born and raised on Florida Mesa.” He graduated from Durango High School in 1968 and earned a bachelors degree in molecular biology from Fort Lewis College.
Hill started as Bayfield superintendent on July 1, replacing longtime principal and superintendent Don Magill.
“I’ve been in education for 17 years. This will be my 18th year,” Hill told the Times. Fifteen of those years were at Aztec High School. Another two years were as principal of a private K-8 school in Durango.
He earned his masters degree in secondary science education and his principal’s license from Adams State College.
This year he’ll be taking classes toward a superintendent’s license from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“Aztec was a wonderful place to work,” Hill said. “They supported me very well.” But he applied for the Bayfield job because of “the opportunity to work in my own community.”
He continued, “In my youth, I spent as much time over here as in Durango. I grew up in 4-H. I’m a farm boy. I’ve always wanted to work closer to my community. Being in Bayfield schools was an incredible opportunity. I hope to learn from and add to the community with my experience.”
Since he started in Bayfield, he said, “Everyone I meet has been friendly and so willing to support me. The school board and staff have shown me a great welcome, as well as the community members I’ve met so far.”
A first “meet the superintendent” night was held Monday, and others will be scheduled in September and October, Hill said.
Asked about issues the district is facing, he said, “We are seeing some great growth in the lower grades, a lot of young families moving in.”
Kindergarten and first grade are seeing the biggest growth. He expects six and possibly seven kindergarten classes, and six first grade sections.
Growth in grades two through five is harder to predict. Hill doesn’t think enrollment at the mid and high schools will change much.
The district strategic plan needs to be updated. It actually expired during the last school year, Hill said, but the school board wanted to wait for a new superintendent to update it.
That will include looking at facility needs. It could lead to a “gap bond” request to maintain items funded by a mill levy over-ride that district voters approved several years ago – such as teacher salaries competitive with other districts, technology improvements, career coach at the high school, and the district’s share of funding for full day kindergarten classes.
All the kindergarten sections are full day now, Hill said, and the state pays 58 percent of that per student cost. There are more kindergarten sections now than when the first over-ride was approved.
The new modular classrooms at the early primary school are ready to go, Hill said. “They really look nice. There’s new playground equipment too.”
The district’s long range plan could include replacement of the old west campus building on South Street, which has a lot of maintenance issues, Hill said. He thinks the plan would keep the old gym built by the community in the late 1940s and used now by the district and town recreation programs.
Another district issue is stagnating CSAP scores. “When I look at CSAP results, our reading results are sliding. They are still high, but we have to put a stop to that. It’s a reading and writing issue. The schools show stagnant growth the last four years, and in some cases declining scores.”
The state now looks at how students progress year to year, not just how they compare in a single year.
“We are working on new strategies regarding best (instructional) practices … in each building,” Hill said. That includes getting more and better use of technology as part of instruction, a shortfall pointed out by Don Magill a couple months ago. The district is ready to interview applicants for a new technology person, with teacher development as half of the job description, Hill said.
The district also is continuing to look at how to use student data more effectively to improve instruction and student achievement, he said.
Hill listed some of the many jobs he worked before going into education. Paramedic was one of them. He taught anatomy and physiology for a decade and considers that his teaching forte.
“I’ve had lots of different jobs. I think those help me relate education to job skills,” Hill said. “Education is the only one that has been interesting enough to keep me. It’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted because of all the variables.”
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