School district transition under way

Godwin to retire, Bettencourt in as new superintendent
By: Laura Newell Telegraph Staff Writer
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After five years of serving as the superintendent of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District and 36 years as an educator, Patrick Godwin will retire June 30. With big shoes to fill, the governing board of the district unanimously voted to appoint Deborah Bettencourt to serve as superintendent starting July 1. As superintendent, she will lead approximately 1,800 staff members within the district. Before the transition becomes effective, Godwin and Bettencourt sat with the Telegraph to reflect on their time, experiences and future plans with the district. Patrick Godwin “You agree to be chief executive of the school district,” said Godwin. “(The position) sets parameters for what you want to accomplish and what you achieve.” Godwin was not new to the district lifestyle before taking on his role in Folsom in July 2005. Prior to coming to the area, he served for four years as the superintendent in the Yuba City Unified School District. “The past five years has been the most enjoyable of my career,” he said. Before becoming a superintendent, Godwin spent 28 years as an educator in the Roseville Joint Union High School District. In Roseville, he served as an English teacher, coach, athletic director, assistant principal, high school principal and assistant superintendent for personnel. While serving in Folsom, Godwin experienced many shortcomings by the state. “The biggest challenge has been the recent budget crisis and how to preserve educational opportunities and services,” he said. According to Stephen Nichols, public information officer for the district, Godwin volunteered four furlough days for the 2009-10 school year and was paid approximately $4,000 less that year. The rest of the district gave up three days of furloughs, Nichols said. With his retirement and the transition to change the superintendent position nearing, Godwin discussed his hopes for the future. “I have a great sense of experience, and (Bettencourt) has strong and powerful ideas for the future,” Godwin said. “She is very student oriented, staff oriented and community oriented. He said from the beginning, the district has followed the standards of the three “R’s,” including rigor, relevance and relationships. “We need to prepare our students for the future. We have proven rigor,” he said. “Now we are focusing on relevance … and relationships become key to creating these standards. “It concerns me the way California is funding our education. I’m very hopeful for education in our community.” Deborah Bettencourt “I hope for a smooth transition and I am definitely open to suggestions for change,” Bettencourt said. “I think we are going to have enough change imposed by the state (and) we will deal with those (changes) as it comes. But we will set the pace for our own changes. Our students are worth the effort.” Bettencourt has been the deputy superintendent for the district since 1997. “I am focused on student improvement and not letting outside influences and diminished resources cause us to question our ability and our mission,” she said. She began her 36-year career in education as a part-time teacher in the Tracy Unified School District where she also served as a director of fiscal services. Bettencourt was an assistant superintendent in the Roseville City School District from 1987 to 1997. “I’ve been here for 13 years,” Bettencourt said. “I’ve seen everything. While (the) budget decreased, the student achievement has increased. We have beaten the odds.” She said she plans to be in the “watch and observe mode” for the first few months as superintendent. “I have so much trust in the employees,” she said. “I want to be able to share their best practices.” Still, she has goals for the district. “We have plans for more parent engagement and community engagement,” she said. “Also, I would like to meet with more faith-based organizations and community services in our community to partner with students.” Nichols said he will work with her to make these plans a priority. “Parents can expect more avenues to participate and inform the district with what they want,” he said. “We are reaching out.” Bettencourt said that the biggest change she is looking forward to with her new position is visiting student classrooms. “I will thoroughly enjoy my ability to visit the classrooms and see the magic that happens in the classrooms every day,” she said. “We take it for granted. “Our teachers adapt their teaching to the best way in helping our students learn. There is not one way of teaching or one way of learning,” she said. When asked to describe her emotions, she said she feels excited, challenged and scared. “If I wasn’t scared, I’d be stupid,” Bettencourt said. “It’s a big job and it’s important to our community and students.” * * * BY THE NUMBERS Patrick Godwin: 2005 starting salary: $182,000 2009-10 base salary: Was $214,000, but now $210,000 minus four voluntary furlough days Deborah Bettencourt: 2010 starting salary: Was $205,000, but now $199,553 with six voluntary furlough days 2011-12 salary: $213,000 2012-13 salary: $221,500 Laura Newell can be reached at