Superintendent Earns an A
In recognition of his exemplary administrative talents, Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent Rich Fischer was granted not one, but two awards Saturday at the annual Association of California School Administrators Conference at Incline Village.
Fischer won both Superintendent of the Year and Administrator of the Year awards for Region 2, which encompasses Butte, Nevada, Plumas, Sutter and El Dorado counties. Finalists in each region are entered into the statewide competition in November.
“Rich exemplifies what an administrator should be overall,” said Assistant Superintendent Rich Alexander. “Along with a sense of humor, Rich brings leadership and a real sense of purpose and compassion. He’s extremely talented when it comes to motivating people.”
In a school district once known for its administrative turnover, Fischer has been superintendent since 1989. While working for an administrative training center in Sacramento in 1988, Fischer first visited South Tahoe to lead a team-building staff retreat.
He was impressed with what he saw.
“It was obvious the principals cared a lot about kids, and that’s not necessarily the case everywhere,” said Fischer. “I liked the size of the district and the self-contained nature of the community – people live and work in the same town. They get back the effort they put in.”
That wasn’t the case, said Fischer, at his first teaching job in the Los Angeles city schools 28 years ago.
“It was an impoverished elementary school with 1,500 kids, and not one teacher lived in the neighborhood,” he said. “They went in, did their job and left. Here both employees and parents have a sense of commitment to the community.”
But it takes more than a small town to make it all work, said school board president David Kurtzman, it also takes effective and responsive leadership.
“These awards are extremely well deserved. What goes on in the classroom is of utmost importance to Rich,” said Kurtzman. “When it comes to progressive school districts, we’re definitely on the map. From getting bond issues passed to the interest-based bargaining process, Rich has been very effective. He has special skills and sees an obligation to share what works with other districts and state educators.”
Fischer is also well known for his sense of humor, said Bijou Community School Principal Virginia Matus-Glenn.
“There is never a dull moment,” she said with a chuckle. “But most importantly, Rich really cares about what happens to kids and staff. He works very hard and we all feel supported by him.”
“I try not to pass on a lot of the paperwork and bureaucratic requirements to the principals – they need to be focusing on what happens to kids,” said Fischer. “The focus needs to be on the schools, not the district office. All that matters in education is teaching and children.”
Although Fischer said he now feels a sense of stability in the district, he says it is never stagnant – things are always changing, and new challenges surface with each coming year.
“The hardest part of my job is seeing the kids that don’t make it despite our efforts,” said Fischer. “Good programs are no substitute for family love and support.”
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