From the smallest kindergartner to the man at the top of the educational ladder, it’s all about listening and learning.
That’s what new Supt. Fred Navarro, 55, said he will be doing in his early days with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
His first full day was July 11. Although he has already met with some board members and administrators, including interim Supt. Robert Barbot, he said he will meet with other educators to get a lot of “face time,” as he tries to gather information.
“What’s going well, what they like, what they’d like to be done better, it’s pretty open-ended,” he said, adding that he will also be looking out for any problems. “Am I seeing what I’m supposed to be seeing?”
He said he will also be spending a lot of time in the classroom observing.
“I don’t think that you ever forget being a teacher, if it was something you worked at, something you wanted to hone,” he said.
He said when observing in the classroom he can help give feedback and often works with the teacher on specific issues they might want him to focus on.
It was partly Navarro’s connection to the district that got him interested in the job. He said when he read about what was going on with former Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard, who was dismissed after being convicted of two felonies, he thought, “I think I can help.”
Navarro was the director of secondary education in the district before he left in 2006. Before that he had been principal of Costa Mesa High School for three years.
“When you leave a district you don’t leave without leaving a piece of yourself with it,” he said.
He said he had a “tremendously wonderful professional experience” at the district, partly because of some of the things that were accomplished when he was part of it.
He said Mesa was not performing well, but in the three years he was there, the students made a 75-point Academic Performance Index gain.
“It was a collaboration,” he said. “We worked together, the teachers and staff.”
He used a similar solution as superintendent of the Lennox School District in the Los Angeles area, he said.
It was a matter of the department chairs and teachers meeting regularly to discuss what they want to see, what is working, and what needs more work.
“Everyone has a hand it in and a chance to really be involved throughout the process,” he said.
During his time as Costa Mesa High principal, he became a mentor for Estancia High School Principal Kirk Bauermeister.
Bauermeister said he was working toward his doctorate at the time and found it impressive that Navarro was applying the theories he was learning about.
“One thing he always said to remember was that it’s not your school, it’s the stakeholder’s school,” Bauermeister said. “He said listen to what your stakeholders want and build the school they want.”
Bauermeister said he took what he learned from Navarro and implemented it when he went to TeWinkle Middle School and then to Estancia.
“He values teachers and parents,” he said. “He’s a good listener.”
The experience at Newport-Mesa was a personal one for Navarro’s family, who is excited to hear he took the job. His sons were in third and fifth grade when he started as a principal in the district.
“They came to the games and have good memories of the place,” he said.
His oldest is now 21 and a music major in college. His 17-year-old is a senior in high school.
Navarro said when he isn’t at work, he is often working around the Long Beach home he shares with his wife, Lauren. He said he’ll be updating his sons’ little-boy bathroom with their help in the upcoming weekends.
He also spends time keeping in shape.
“My wife would tell you I’m a gym rat, but I’m not,” he said.
As far as the future, Navarro said he is thinking in the long term when it comes to his new job adding that it would be a nice place to retire.
“I think I’ve got a good 10 years in me,” he said.