San Luis Coastal Superintendent Eric Prater believes that what is good can always be better, even great — a philosophy he plans to apply at the county’s second largest school district.
Prater was hired by the school district board of trustees in July to fill the post after former Superintendent Ed Valentine retired.
“This is a solid district,” Prater said. “That said, there is always room for growth and improvement and I naturally gravitate to those places. I just hope that people join me.”
Prater visited each of the district’s 15 schools, which enroll about 7,000 students, on the first day of school to greet staff and parents. The real joy, he said, came from watching the students buzz around the campuses.
A father to three young sons, Prater is also invested in the district as a parent.
“I believe in small, community schools,” Prater said. “And San Luis Coastal has done beautifully at preserving that.”
While “reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic” have long been considered the “three R’s” fundamental to elementary education, Prater has a further set of guidelines he plans to share with his colleagues.
Those three R’s — relationship, relevance and rigor — are the key to taking the district to the next level, Prater said.
Prater vows to strengthen relationships among staff, students and parents.
He also plans to re-evaluate the methods used to teach students, whom he considers “digital natives,” given the high-tech age they are growing up in. And he brings high expectations — rigor — and asks that staff do the same.
“If we can engage in those three areas, we will be okay,” Prater said.
The path to taking the district from well-managed and good to high performing and great will depend on it, he said.
He also believes using constant assessment to chart every student’s growth is necessary.
“In addition to knowing what great teaching looks, sounds and feels like, we need to know when a child is falling behind and then determine where funding needs to go,” Prater said. “That is how you go from good to great.”
The majority of the schools in San Luis Coastal continue to place well in annual academic assessments used to gauge performance.
Yet changing demographics need to be accounted for, he said.
Prater said the number of families in the school district who are struggling economically has increased by double digits. In addition, a growing number of English learners are entering schools.
“We need to re-evaluate and re-engineer our assumptions about what demands are coming to us,” Prater said. “We must remain flexible and aware of what our tasks are. I see tremendous opportunities here.”
Eric Prater served three years as the superintendent of the Byron Union School District in Contra Costa County. Prior to that, he was a middle school principal in Brentwood, also in Contra Costa County, where he was charged with transitioning the school from a fifth-and sixth-grade composition to that of a traditional middle school with sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Prater has been involved in education since 1992. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s College with a background in economic and organizational leadership. He has a doctorate in organizational management from the University of LaVerne. He is married with three sons and lives in San Luis Obispo.
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.