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San Angelo - For Dr. Carl Dethloff, the road to becoming Superintendent for SAISD started with an interview for a principal position outside of Temple in the small town of Rogers, Texas. While he didn't accept the job, he met and got to know the superintendent of Rogers ISD. Her name? Carol Ann Bonds.
Several years later, Dr. Bonds, by then the Superintendent of SAISD after stints at Rogers ISD and Livingston ISD, invited Dethloff to interview for the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources position, which led to a small problem for Dethloff: He had never been to San Angelo. Thankfully, he and his wife received a wedding invitation, and before he interviewed, he could experience the town's vibes.
Dethloff nailed the interview, and he and his family moved to San Angelo for the position from the College Station area. In that period, Bonds helped prepare Dethloff to replace her as superintendent which he did when she retired in 2015.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Dethloff spoke to sanangelo.news in depth about his decision, answered what he was most proud of during his tenure as superintendent, and where he will work next. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
Carol Ann Bonds' Impact
Reflecting on Carol Ann Bonds and her mentorship, Dethloff said,
"She was just an incredible mentor. She taught me that staying connected to the students is super important. And at the same time, she taught me in leadership, you know, there are decisions you have to make that are very challenging and tough. And that, you know, in a role such as the superintendent, you're going to be isolated many times, and you've just got to make that decision, always keeping in mind the best interest of students."
SAISD's Success in Dual Credit, CTE
Staying on the topic of students, Dethloff mentioned that one of the things he is most proud of from his tenure was the number of engaging courses offered to students and how that provided opportunities for under-resourced students, saying,
"I think we've had in the last few years 1,600 dual credit hours were provided to kids. And then we've also had 523 certifications for career, tech, and in the trades. When kids come out of high school, they already have associate's degrees and certifications within their industry certification area. It's getting kids ready for the workforce and just the amount of dual credit offerings. Because what happens then is that it opens the doors of opportunity for our kids, especially under-resourced families."
The biggest challenge facing SAISD
Still, there are many challenges that SAISD, along with every other school district in Texas, faces, including the recruitment and retention of teachers. That issue, Dethloff believes, is the biggest challenge.
"Here's an incredible stat, and this will be really close to the accurate numbers. But about 42,000 classroom teachers leave the profession every year in Texas, and only 19,000 in teacher prep programs are taking their place. So when you think about that, you know, less than 50%, when you backfill that. So, for me, hiring teachers is more critical than funding. It is getting your certified professionals in the position because the data will show you they are choosing other professions."
What's next for Dr. Dethloff
Dethloff is excited about his next move where he will be the Deputy Executive Director at the Equity Center, an organization founded in 1982 by 55 school districts and now represents more than 600 of the state's 1,018 districts. The Equity Center, according to its website, is the only non-profit education organization in Texas exclusively representing the interests of children and taxpayers across the state with air treatment of Texas children and taxpayers being their primary goal.
"I've known I've been in the fourth quarter of my career. Next year will be my 33rd year in public schools. So I knew it was the fourth quarter. And personally, it was a professional opportunity with an organization where I've been their board president as a current residing Superintendent in Texas."
In his role as Deputy Executive Director, Dethloff will have a wide range of responsibilities and will be able to work with lawmakers on advocating for children who attend public schools. Another part of the job that became attractive to him was that he could work remotely, which allows him and his family to move back to College Station while he can commute to Austin when necessary.
What makes San Angelo Special
When asked what he will miss most about San Angelo, Dethloff mentioned the community partnerships that are uncommon in other parts of Texas.
"I'm telling you, other communities, most communities do not have this, and that is the partnerships with other organizations and city leaders. I mean, when we have challenges in our community, you have your mayor, your city manager, your President Hawkins, Howard College, the judge, I mean, you've got everybody coming together, and we communicate constantly. We hosted educational groups from across the state and had probably 60 school districts here. And they could not believe the cohesion among city leadership, county leadership, and our state representatives. And you don't find that everywhere. And it's a real, you know, unity and doing what's best for our community."
His resignation timing
Overall, Dethloff believed that a December resignation gave the Board of Trustees and the District, as a whole, the best opportunity for a transition saying,
"One thing that was important to me was to provide a long ramp for our Board of Trustees to do a thorough superintendent search. This long ramp allows time to ensure our Board of Trustees can find the best match for SAISD moving forward. Another piece of that is that I've always considered, especially in the last 15 years, when you're in a central office position, a mid-year transition sometimes works really well because it's a central office. If you're not campus-based, but school is up and running, the schedules, the calendar, staffing, everything is in place in January; it is the middle of the school year. You can get a good idea of the school's culture and climate with kids right in the middle of the groove. You know, so what you see is what you get in the month of January, and I think it allows a new leader to come in to build relationships and get a pulse of the culture and the climate. You can assess what the constraints of the district are or what my limitations were as a leader and then determine what the next building blocks for the future are. And how do we continue to build upon previous leaders? So the mid-year hire from the central office perspective works well because school is up and running. One of the reasons that I feel it’s a good time to transition is, I feel good about the state of our district. We’ve got an incredible leadership team and incredible chemistry on that leadership team with individuals that care deeply about kids in our community. And then, we have a terrific Board of Trustees that is unified and they don’t have an axe to grind. They are there to make a positive impact for the kids in the community. “
Dethloff's final message to San Angelo
Finally, when asked if he had a message for the community, Dethloff said,
"San Angelo is going to have to make a commitment to our educational facilities. We have a couple of 100-year-old facilities, and that's not a badge of honor. It's like owning a 100-year-old home. The community will need to invest in our facilities and structures in the next decade. And that doesn't necessarily mean there has to be a bond, but there needs to be some creative partnerships o outside private funding or something. But you know, if we want San Angelo to continue to thrive and be a destination district, we're going to have to have facilities that match the needs of the next generation."