Fausett has high hopes for Hope District

Gerrie Fausett

Gerrie Fausett

While Gerrie Fausett won’t take over the reins of the Hope School District until January, she’s had her eye on the top position for a while, and said she made her intentions clear to former Santa Barbara Elementary and High School District Superintendent Deborah Flores and Interim Superintendent Brian Sarvis when she took over as Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education last spring.

“I did not want to have them count on me being here and then disrupt things without knowing that it was a possibility (that she would leave if she got the Hope job) …. It was an opportunity that came up at a time when I’d been waiting for it,” said Fausett.

She will be following in the footsteps of Les Imel, who is retiring as superintendent after nearly 14 years with the district. Fausett had nothing but praise for her predecessor, and hopes to be able learn from him as she takes over the helm of the Hope District, which includes Hope, Vieja Valley and Monte Vista schools.

Tight budgets are one of the challenges Fausett will face in her new job, but she said these aren’t anything new. “Hope School District is certainly not unique in being able to escape any of those (challenges) and the budget situation is going to continue to be a difficult one to resolve and, at the same time, pay employees what they deserve and need to remain in this community and to be part of our community,” said the former principal of Santa Barbara Junior High and Washington Schools.

The other big challenge coming up is the St. Vincent’s low-income housing project, which could potentially bring about 60 new students into the district.

“I know the St. Vincent’s project will change the face of the district a bit, but that’s several years down the line and that may prove to be a thing that affects Hope School District a lot or perhaps a little. We have to kind of wait and see what develops with the project,” said Fausett.

The school board is also likely to spend considerable time weighing the impact of transfer students (which now comprise approximately 30 percent) on the three schools.

“We need to have big conversations about it and get public input, as well as teachers’ concerns, on the table and make sure that we’ve got all the facts before we start trying to devise an ‘okay what are we going to do if or when,’ scenario,” said Fausett. “It’ll be a year of fact finding and trying to put things together and formulating a plan that has the participation and input from all sides of the community.”

Because she comes from the Santa Barbara District, Fausett already has the advantage of knowing the principals and being acquainted with the current board members. She also knows who to call with questions in the county and Imel has assured her he’ll make himself available as well.

Parent participation has traditionally been very strong in the district and Fausett said she is looking forward to getting to know everyone. She sees the parent and school relationship as similar to that of a doctor and patient.

“You want your doctor to be your partner, but if your doctor tells you that this is the best treatment, you’re going to go with that best treatment. … A parent may have an idea about what would be a good idea, but the teacher should be the one to say yes, but research has proven that this is the way to go about this simply because, blah, blah, blah and then the teacher goes ahead and institutes the program like the doctor institutes the treatment. So it’s a partnership but … somebody’s got to be the chief,” she said.

“… And then there will be times when we go to parents and say ‘what do you guys think about this,’ so that we can get some feedback and form that partnership. That’s what’s going to make the district even stronger. Hopefully I can continue the good work Les has started.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on October 21, 2004.

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