Although Pleasanton I.S.D. has been established for many years, a new leader has arrived in 2012. Dr. Cynthia Clinesmith was excited to speak on her vision for Pleasanton I.S.D. Even though she has only been in the school district for a few weeks, one of her main visions is for the school district to define excellence. With the state adding new testing standards, Pleasanton will polish up a few areas under new leadership with a vision focused on children at the forefront of all priorities.
Meet Dr. Cynthia Clinesmith
With 30+ years of education under her belt, Clinesmith spoke with a fresh and energized vision for this 3A Atascosa County School District. She replaces Superintendent Bernard Zarosky who retired in November of 2011 after serving as the schools leader since the 2006-2007 school year.
Clinesmith has a rich history of college education, which began in Columbia, Missouri where she attended on a full scholarship. Just a short time later, it was volunteer work with abused children that caught Clinesmith’s attention and helped spark her interest in the world of educating tomorrow’s future.
She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Dallas in Richardson in 1978, her Master’s of Science in 1984 before completing her Doctor of Education in September of 2007 specializing in educational leadership.
“I started teaching English at Plano I.S.D. I taught just about everything you could imagine within the English- ESL area. I also served as a principal, assistant superintendent and on the state advisory board for gifted/advanced academics. One thing I realized working in some of the bigger school districts is I didn’t see the kids much. This made me miss the smaller school districts,” stated Dr. Clinesmith.
She served in the following districts with the following job duties in her career:
•Teacher- Plano ISD and Garland
I.S.D. Instructed high school English and advanced English courses – and taught special education, with an emphasis on behavior disorders.
•Campus Administrator- Austin I.S.D. and Garland I.S.D.
•Director of Special Programs West Williamson County Cooperative, Liberty Hill. Coordinated services for special needs students at four school districts (Florence, Jarrell, Liberty Hill and Leander.)
•Assistant Superintendent- Marble Falls I.S.D.
•Executive Director/Curriculum Instruction- Carrollton- Farmers Branch I.S.D, Carrollton, Texas.
•Assistant Superintendent/ Administrative Services- Lake Travis I.S.D.
•Assistant Superintendent/ Academic Services- Lake Travis I.S.D.
•Adjunct Instructor- Texas Tech University-Lubbock. Instructor-Principal Internship in Academic Leadership. Instructor- Leadership for Special Populations (Master and Doctoral Study).
• Educational Consultant Region XIII Educational Service Center-Austin.
As you can see from the resume in part above, Dr. Clinesmith has been in a variety of educational scenes in both large and smaller school districts around the state before arriving at Pleasanton I.S.D.
Why Pleasanton I.S.D.
One of the first questions asked of Dr. Clinesmith was why she chose Pleasanton I.S.D.?
“I thought I did about all I could do at Lake Travis. We had just passed a 128 million dollar bond and things were going good. I thought it was a good time to retire. Lake Travis is one of the largest exemplary districts in the state. Part of my retirement was also due to my mom being ill at the time. Once my mom passed away, it was some time after that I realized I was not done. This is when I continued my work at Texas Tech University. I was also working for Region 20 with federal grants. I visited low performing school districts around the state. We would go in and do analysis of what was working well and what was not effective. We conducted these ‘snapshots’ in both small and big school districts. This is when I began to miss the small school atmosphere,” stated Dr. Clinesmith.
According to Clinesmith, this is when she began searching for job openings throughout the state. At this point and time, she resided in Horseshoe Bay (Marble Falls area) where she not only lived, but served on the City Council as well.
“I think there were about 60 openings around the state. My husband who had just retired and myself, identified three different communities that fit what we believed we were looking for. Pleasanton was one of the three and I was just thrilled when the school board offered me this wonderful opportunity,” added Clinesmith.
Currently the leader of P.I.S.D. is going through something most superintendents never will. While most superintendents live in a house either in or out of the district, Clinesmith is living in a unique place.
“Right now my home is the Holiday Inn. I thought it was important for me to live in the district and when I arrived, we couldn’t find a rent home. The Holiday Inn has been great… but we are ready to get a home and settle in as community members. I think we have located one we hope to move into soon and my husband will come down to join me,” stated Clinesmith.
This in itself, showed the early dedication to a school district.
While some superintendents in the state may look for high achieving and highly ranked districts to join, Clinesmith credits the low performing rating to her wanting to come into the district.
“I was surprised when we came into the community that it was low performing. From what I have seen in and around the district, there is a lot going on. According to state standards, it was a small group that affected the rating. I am taking this challenge and working on addressing the problems to help the issues,” stated Dr. Clinesmith.
Observations at P.I.S.D.
Dr. Clinesmith explained that even though the state and the federal levels have their expectations and levels of excellence, Pleasanton I.S.D. will set their own.
“I have told our staff that we will define exemplary ourselves. We will define it not just in our academics, but also in our music, art, agriculture, athletics and all of our programs in the district. We did that at Lake Travis when I was there and I know this district is very capable of it,” stated Clinesmith.
Pleasanton’s new leader went on to explain that she wants this school district to be one where it is joyful for kids to want to come to learn.
“More than anything, we have to provide our children with a safe learning environment physically and physiologically before anything else can be possible,” she added.
All in all, the superintendent has been impressed with not only the staff and students in town, but other areas of the town as well.
“I have met with the mayor, the police chief, business and community members and even members of your newspaper. I have sensed a real sense of community. I also have been eating lunch at our different campuses. One thing I can tell you, the kids are all engaged and happy from what I have seen. One thing I have told our teachers is: What do you want people to say about your classroom and class if they saw it,” added Clinesmith.
Facilities up to par?
While Poteet and McMullen County I.S.D.’s are dealing with various growth and facility needs, Pleasanton is also dealing with some of the same. Clinesmith was asked how P.I.S.D. will address their facility needs.
“We are doing a true needs assessment of our facilities. This will be one in which we will also put into affect anticipation of growth. We will be looking at this over the next few weeks. Before we build anything, we would look at being efficient in our use of facilities, which might require us to realign children as a possibility. We want to make sure we are maximizing our facilities,” stated Clinesmith.
Even though currently it didn’t seem obvious of any major needs in the district, Clinesmith hinted at a few small facelifts to a few of the current facilities.
“One of the issues we have addressed is the football facility. We want to ensure we are providing adequate and usable space in a few areas including the field house. That was just one of the areas that was glaring as needing attention,” she added.
P.I.S.D. is also currently doing a safety and security audit. Along with this, came the hire of a new district police officer who replaced one who has left the school district.
“Our new officer started on February 6th. He will be housed at our high school campus. We are going to get him to teach a few classes with both students and staff – and build relationships with our faculty and staff. The class subjects will vary to include topics such as bullying, texting/driving, impact of drugs/arrests, and legal challenges in the use of social media,” stated Dr. Clinesmith.
New testing standards
If you have been around Texas public schools over the past few years, then you should be more than aware of new testing standards which are arriving this school year. So long to the TAKS which replaced the TAAS. Now, the new STAAR test will be revealed this school year, which is supposed to be a lot more rigorous, compared to recent tests.
“We want to prepare our children for any test that is going to be put in front of them. We are not going to just practice the test, but we will prepare them for the format of the test. We will also look at the child’s product and performances as ways to measure their learning. As we find kids struggling with concepts, we will deal with them by having intervention and pulling children aside to address the issues. I feel good about the test. I truly believe that the STAAR test will be better measure than the TAKS,” Clinesmith stated.
According to Clinesmith, she is like most educators, not a huge fan of testing, but at the same time she knows they are necessary.
“As a tax payer who is paying school taxes, we have to honor them by showing them we are reaching and teaching the children of the future. I am big on accountability and we will work hard to assure these children succeed,” she stated.
Children need to have a plan- when you look at local, regional, statewide and national jobs, you see all sorts of jobs available for the youth of tomorrow. While some require degrees, others do not. One thing that Dr. Clinesmith stresses is the importance of students having a plan by the time they graduate from Pleasanton High School.
“My ultimate goal is I want every single senior to leave this school district with a plan in place. Some may be on a pathway to a junior college here at Coastal Bend while others may go to a four-year school. Others may go into the workforce, but I want them to have a plan for their life,” added Clinesmith.
Dr. Clinesmith will begin to hold Community Coffee for community members interested in what is going on at Pleasanton I.S.D. The first is set for February 15th at 6:00 p.m. in the school district boardroom.
“I want community members and business members to want to get involved in our school district. Let’s sit down and talk and gather ideas on how we can achieve at a high level for the betterment of our students. I want the community to know that it is a new year, a new day and a great day to be an Eagle. We have to take a positive attitude to work together toward becoming exemplary. I know our school board is cohesive about a vision toward the future. I think our board has a great group of individuals that represent all parts of our community and we are working great together,” added Clinesmith.
Dr. Cynthia Clinesmith was given a three-year contract at $150,000 per year, which is about $30,000 less than the former superintendent of P.I.S.D.
“I feel very obligated to earn every penny of this contact. I know some may see this as a lot of money for a small town, but I don’t mind earning every bit of it. I am here to promise every taxpayer that dollars will not go wasted. I also told the school board that as long as I am here I would not accept a raise in salary–nor any additional benefits that are often provided in superintendent contracts (housing, car, travel, district insurance). I am also realigning the central office staffing to reduce the overall costs of administration. I am excited and thrilled to be here and I look forward to working with these students, staff and the entire Pleasanton community to define exemplary and help this district rise to a new level of excellence,” stated Dr. Cynthia Clinesmith in closing.
Note: The Pleasanton Express “State of the Schools” will continue next week as we talk with Brett Starkweather of Charlotte I.S.D. to see what is going on in his school district. Our final report will take us to Jourdanton I.S.D. the following week.
Dr. Cynthia Clinesmith, is pleased to invite community members to join her on
Wednesday, February 15th at 6:00pm in the PISD Board
Room for a Superintendent
Community Conversation. In an effort to establish open lines of communication, Dr.
Clinesmith will share recent accomplishments of PISD students and staff, review any action taken at the previous board meeting, and provide an opportunity to address issues and concerns. All are welcome to attend!