Thursday, June 30, 2005

New Fairfield-Suisun schools chief settles in

From the Vacaville Reporter // June 30, 2005

By Julie Kay/Staff Writer

Three and a half months after the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District board appointed Arnold Woodrow Carter as superintendent, the administrator and retired Army colonel arrived Monday, eager to get started.

Carter described his first few days as "outstanding."

"I've been very warmly received," said Carter, who moved to Fairfield two weeks ago from Oakland to take the post being vacated by former Superintendent Sharon Tucker, who is retiring. Carter and Tucker are working together this week before she leaves. Carter, 56, has served as deputy superintendent for the Oakland Unified School District for the past two years.

The Floyd County, Kentucky, native, who goes by A. Woodrow Carter, spent 27 years in the Army, serving as a battalion commander with the 101st Airborne Division during the 1991 Gulf War. Carter retired from the military in 1998 to become the state administrator of the Floyd County school district and returned to school to study education and public administration.

From July 2001 to December 2002 Carter served as superintendent of Bourbon County school district, and was nominated to attend the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.
The center, founded by billionaire Eli Broad, is led by a faculty which includes CEOs, government leaders, and policy makers. The center accepts only about one out of 10 applicants.

Carter said his interest in education began when he served as a school board member in Killeen, Texas, while still in the Army. Students from various schools in the district would come to the meetings to give presentations, said Carter.

"You could see the passion school board members, parents, and teachers had for their children," said Carter. "I took it very seriously."

Carter believes strongly that student achievement must be a district's top priority, and that politics should never be allowed to get in the way of that.

Fairfield-Suisun, he said, has done an admirable job.

"It's a very mature district," said Carter. "I spent a lot of time researching before I decided to apply. I found a school district that set aside special interests and adult interests for the benefit of student achievement."

That wasn't the district's only attraction, said Carter.

"Fairfield-Suisun has every possible indicator that any aspiring superintendent would check off," he said. "Parent involvement, an informed, educated board, a good academic performance index."
Carter dismissed the idea that he arrives at the district at a difficult time.

"I think some people look at it as a challenging time," said Carter. "I look at it as a point of opportunity. That might sound trite, but in my experience in education the pendulum swings back and forth. We're in a down cycle; this will not last."

In Fairfield-Suisun, said Carter, "I think the challenge ... is to make sure we are maximizing resources" and looking at funding decisions from the perspective of how they ultimately impact kids in the classrooms.

Carter said he has enormous enthusiasm for the work ahead.

"I could have done other things after I retired from the military," he said. "But this is what I want to do."
Julie Kay can be reached at

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