Superintendent Ed Felt will wave goodbye Thursday, leaving the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District with things looking up after some lean times. Felt is retiring after 38 years in education. Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Jack Mayer is also retiring.
“They were three action-packed years,” said Felt, who arrived in 2011 to face a looming $1.3 million in budget cuts. “We (administrators) basically sucked it up and downsized, reorganized. We took the hit at the top and spread the work out,” he said. “Kept the cuts away from the classrooms.”
This year, the money’s back, and the administration will add a post under incoming Superintendent Randy Fillpot, a longtime Modesto City Schools administrator and teacher. Dave Kline, former principal of Turlock Junior High, will be head of human resources, and Von Renner Elementary Principal Alice Solis will move up to lead student services for the district, Felt said.
In bad times and good, Felt said, he used the same process for budgeting. “We met with district staff, parents and students in 2012. We used pretty much the same system to figure out where to add with the (Local Control Accountability Plan). We listened to the people then, and we did that this year,” he said.
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The Newman-Crows Landing district will fare far better under the state’s new funding formula weighted for poor kids. Some 70 percent of the district’s students qualify as low-income. Using online surveys, parent information nights and employee meetings over this school year, the district’s plan for what to do with more money took shape.
“The No. 1 thing was elementary and junior high counseling. There’s a broad range of expenditures, but also some real needs that we finally have money for,” Felt said.
The district is looking at ways to improve its music program, now offered in lower grades at after-school programs. A physical education teacher started in October on a rotating schedule among elementary schools, teaching basic skills to game strategies by grade.
Beefing up P.E. was a natural for Felt, who said he came to teaching through a love of coaching. His first teaching job was in Benecia Unified, where he taught English, coached football and gave driver training. He spent 28 years in the Turlock Unified district, starting at Turlock High and moving to the district office in 1993. He led educational services, oversaw secondary education and finished as head of business services.
“When I came here, there wasn’t a lot I hadn’t done,” Felt said.
His retirement will be only slightly less busy, with part-time jobs already lined up as a commissioner for the Modesto Metropolitan Conference and as an administrative mentor for the Stanislaus County Office of Education.
“My August calendar’s already half full,” Felt said with a chuckle.