The recently appointed superintendent said last year, after 33 years in the business, he and his wife Gayle bought a 75-acre plot of land in Mineola with intentions to retire and build a getaway camp for pastors and church groups.
Fuller spent 18 years as superintendent of Wylie ISD, a 4A district in Collin County, five years at San Marcos ISD, a 5A school in Hays County, five years at Muleshoe ISD, a 3A district in West Texas and five years in Wells ISD, a 1A district in Cherokee County.
When former Superintendent Mary Lookadoo decided to retire in July after 15 years with Mineola, Fuller was asked to step in.
“Initially I thought three to six months at the most, but it's just so refreshing to get back into the seat of (the superintendent), and this community is just so supportive of the public schools here.”
But Fuller said it didn't take long until he was right at home.
“I think I'm a good match for the district and the district is a good match for me, and we are in a strong focus on our academic performance and move forward over the next two to three years,” Fuller said.
The school board and Fuller approved a set of district goals. At the top of the list is expanding career and college readiness, which Fuller said he believes go hand-in-hand. Part of the puzzle involves hiring and maintaining a qualified staff of teachers and paraprofessionals and bringing more technology into classrooms. The plan also includes a short- and long-range facility improvement plan and other goals.
“When I was young … all these programs that were called science fiction, dare anyone call them science fiction today,” he said. “We know there are incredible things going on.”
He said students know more information today than in the past because answers are easily available by a quick Google search, and teachers should guide the use of technology to teach students how to let it work in their favor, as well as tell Internet facts from fiction.
Fuller said the district started a 1:1 initiative, where eventually each student in the district will be equipped with a laptop or equivalent device. He said the initiative began this year with the freshmen class.
Apple MacBooks were purchased through a grant from the Meredith Foundation. Fuller said the foundation is interested in funding another round of technology for another class.
“They funded our 1:1 this year,” Fuller said. “They've already given us enough money to fund the same program next year, and they are giving it to us a year in advance so we can get started.”
Fuller said board members have not settled whether they want to purchase more MacBooks or switch to tablet devices, which serve the same function but are more cost effective and lightweight. Members are expected to discuss the possibilities at a board meeting set for at 7 p.m. today in the administration building. Members also will discuss whether the next group will be the sophomores or eighth-graders.
“I came from a district where we had laptops up to the fifth grade, and at the upper levels we were allowing them to use hand-held devices,” Fuller said.
This year, Mineola is looking at allowing its high school students to use their handheld devices in class.
Yes, you can, but that is part of what we need to be teaching. We need to be teaching Internet protocols.”
Fuller said the district also is looking at having flip classes, in which the teacher records a lecture and sends it home with the student to watch as homework.
Students then come back the next day and spend class time applying the lesson in project-based learning or in-depth discussions.
He said one teacher has volunteered this year at the high school, and he hopes more will start next year.
Fuller said he also has visions of technical classes that could help students determine their career path. He said the district partnered with Tyler Junior College and offered a pharmacist technician course for students at the high school. At the end, 18 students will have the opportunity to take a test to get their license and potentially begin working at pharmacies.
He said the school wants to survey the students on where their interests are and start forming programs around them and the needs of the community. Though, he said, he has visions of culinary arts and cosmetology classes that could be offered.
“That's prepping our students for the future and the future is now,” he said.