TUSD’s top educator comes to us from nearby Turlock, where he spent three years in the position of superintendent of Delhi Unified School District. Originally born in Santa Rosa, Brian Stephens started his career in education with a teaching position in social science in Humboldt County. In addition, Stephens held positions as sports coach, vice principal, principal and assistant superintendent for business.
Stephens is the father of two, has been married for 30 years and has two cats. He says his average work day is already 11 hours.
Q You are stepping into the position of superintendent under the shadow of Dr. Jim Franco, a very well-respected and admired man that has done a lot for this community. What’s it like?
A I certainly recognize that Jim Franco has left a big shadow to fill. I hope, however long I am in the district, when I leave, someone else will have big shoes to fill. I think the focus on relationships and getting along with people is fundamental to the success of school districts and business. I think those are principals that he and I have in common.
Q What is your vision for TUSD?
A I started the position on July first, and I’ve been meeting with people to learn more about the culture of the community and school district. I was having 12 to 15 meetings a day with people, trying to learn about the schools and the town. I am trying to understand what makes up TUSD and what areas we need to focus on. So to say ‘This is where we need to go’ is still early on in the process. Our goal should be excellence.
Q TUSD and the state of California have adopted the Common Core State Standards, a topic that has met with controversy. Do you support Common Core, and what should our students expect from it?
A Common Core is looking at how you apply the skills you have learned. It’s like taking the math skills you have learned and applying them to a real-life problem. So you try to make what you learn applicable to everyday existence. When you and I were in school, we were taught the Pythagorean Theorem: a-squared plus b-squared equals c-squared. Contractors use this all the time. Now, the question in Common Core is to take that theorem and let’s apply it. Years ago, when I built my house and did some of the work myself, I used that theorem. So that was a real-life experience for me. The whole idea to Common Core is to be able to apply the skills that you’ve learned. I support Common Core.
Q There’s a current debate going on about children learning how to write in cursive and if that should be eliminated from being taught in schools. Is cursive outdated in today’s society?
A I think writing in cursive is one of those life skills you need to have. I don’t think cursive is going to go away. Not everybody is technology savvy. It’s one of those things that over time you do, because you will someday have to sign a check or a letter, and cursive is a professional way to do that.
Q Programs and committees that were implemented under Dr. Jim Franco, such as the Anti-Bully Committee — will you continue with them?
A The Anti-Bully Committee just met on Tuesday night. We will keep this committee up and running. Bullying is an ongoing challenge, not just in schools but in society. There really is no place for that kind of behavior. We have to put practices and policies in place that discourage it and try and teach kids how to respond to it. I am very much in support of this committee and their work.
Q What is it that makes you unique?
A I’m very persistent when I get my teeth into something, I stick with it. I do hold myself and others to a high standard. I expect excellence and from myself first. I am also an avid reader and have thousands of books in my home. I’m a huge history buff.
I want to thank Dr. Stephens for sitting down with me. Who’s next at Tracy Talks?
• Anne Marie Fuller is the host of “Helpful Hints with Anne Marie” on Channel 26. Contact her at email@example.com.