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story.lead_photo.caption STAFF PHOTO DAVID GOTTSCHALK Paul Hewitt, the new superintendent of Fayetteville Public Schools, speaks Monday inside his office in the Fayetteville Public School Administration Building.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Paul Hewitt retired from a superintendency in California to work 55 hours a week as a part-time consultant. His wife told him he flunked retirement.

That's when the couple made a life-changing decision six years ago to move from their native California to Arkansas and a job at the University of Arkansas.

PROFILE

Paul Hewitt

Age: 69

Family: Wife, Linda; three grown children; four grandchildren.

Pasttimes: Enjoys travel, biking, golfing and walking two miles every morning with wife.

Education: Bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University; master’s degrees from California State University-Los Angeles and Loyola Marymount University; doctoral degree from University of the Pacific.

Employment: Teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, principal; 17 years as superintendent; associate professor in educational leadership at the University of Arkansas. Expertise in the areas of school finance, collective bargaining and school cultures.

Hewitt, 69, made another bold move when he became superintendent of the Fayetteville School District. He started work last Tuesday after Vicki Thomas resigned.

"Why would anyone in their right mind leave a tenured senior faculty position at a leading university to become a superintendent again?" he asked. "This is where I belong," he said.

Hewitt has a one-year renewable contract at an annual salary of $200,000. He sees his service as a bridge to allow the district to continue to seek a highly qualified superintendent.

"I didn't want the board to settle. They deserve a good quality superintendent. That doesn't mean I'm it, but I could step in," he said.

Hewitt said his goals are continuing implementation of Common Core State Standards and getting everyone in the district playing on the same team.

"We have to have standards and the Common Core standards are good," he said Monday during an interview. "Some 80 percent of the standards were already in the Arkansas frameworks."

As for the accompanying assessment, by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Career, Hewitt said it will be interesting to see how the exams play out in Arkansas.

"They will be different from anything we have seen before," he said, because the exam is computer-based.

"Fayetteville shouldn't have any difficulty in providing the assessments. There is an amazing technology system here," he said.

Hewitt has met with the principals, teachers and staff members at Happy Hollow and Asbell elementary schools. He plans to meet with many more when they return in August.

"I want everyone to be on the same team," he said. "This isn't a top down situation and not an us versus them situation, but a we. I really want the employees to see themselves as part of the big team."

He said communication is at the heart of participation. Employees need to understand the underlying strategy in any situation and that comes from communication.

"I hear a lot by listening," he said, paraphrasing baseball great Yogi Berra.

Robert Maranto, a former colleague at the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions, described Hewitt as smart, trustworthy, competent, a good teacher and a good leader.

"He's seen everything at one time or another in his career," Maranto said. "A school district can be complicated, but he has a sense of how the different pieces fit together. He understands he will never please everyone, but he knows how to reach out."

Marsha Jones said she believes Hewitt will make "an outstanding superintendent" after working with him at the university. Jones is the Race to the Top project director in the Springdale School District.

"He is very skilled with a meaningful application to learning," Jones said. "He is a great observer."

Hewitt believes parents should have options like schools of innovation for their children's education. He said he is opposed to charter schools that enroll top students from the public school system.

He comes on board when the budget for the fiscal year, which started July 1, should be well in the works. That has been delayed until a chief financial officer is named to replaced Lisa Morstad, who resigned June 13.

"We are a little behind schedule on the budget but I am comfortable, not panicked," he said.

Hewitt said teacher salaries are a high priority but doesn't want to commit to offering raises until the financial officer is hired and he has a better grasp of the district's financial situation. Fayetteville teachers haven't received a raise in three years. Three fourths of last year's $110 million budget was allocated for personnel.

"We have to have the money first," he said.

NW News on 07/08/2014

Print Headline: Hewitt Takes Reins Of Fayetteville School District

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