Photo by Annie Drabicky
Pflugerville ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre’s seven-year tenure as the district’s leader is coming to an end.
Dupre confirmed this week he is leaving the district in order to take the same position with Fort Bend ISD in suburban Houston.
The FBISD board of trustees held a special meeting and ceremony March 20 to announce the hiring of Dupre, who said he expects to take over as FBISD superintendent “before June 1.” FBISD has been actively searching for a new superintendent since July, when former Superintendent Timothy Jenny announced he was retiring.
“It has been a blessing and a joyful time to work in Pflugerville ISD,” Dupre said. “I feel like my seven years in this community has been a productive time for this district. We have continued to increase the graduation rate and the outcome for all of our students.
“Pflugerville is a great place to live and a great place to work, and I am just glad to have been a part of it.”
Dupre will be returning to a district and community where he has long-standing ties. Dupre earned his master’s degree in education administration from the University of Houston. Prior to being hired as PISD’s superintendent in 2006, Dupre spent 11 years working in FBISD as the district’s internal auditor and chief financial officer.
The district Dupre will be taking over is also one of the largest in Texas. FBISD’s area covers nearly 200 square miles and includes most of the cities of Sugar Land and Meadows Place and portions of Missouri City, Arcola and Houston. The district manages 74 schools with 11 high schools and approximately 70,000 total students, Dupre said.
In comparison, Pflugerville ISD encompasses 29 schools, including three high schools and approximately 23,000 students.
"FBISD is growing and is one of the most diverse school districts in the state," FBISD board President Jim Rice said. "We have many challenges. Every student in the district needs to be challenged to achieve their utmost potential, and we believe that Charles is the leader that will work with the board as a team of eight to get that done."
Dupre said he was not searching for a new job, however, when the offer came to return to an area and school district where he still holds close connections, he felt compelled to take the opportunity.
"When [FBISD] contacted me about the possibility of coming back, I had to think long and hard about it," Dupre said. "I always said I would be a part of [PISD] for a long time. I think seven years is a relatively long time for a superintendent. I could be totally content working [in PISD] for many years to come. But at the same time, the opportunity to return home to an organization with which I am deeply familiar … it is a very attractive opportunity."
Although terms of his deal have not been released, Dupre is likely to receive a significant salary increase with his new job. FBISD’s previous superintendent reportedly earned $260,399 per year—nearly $70,000 more than Dupre’s current $190,584 annual salary with PISD. According to state law, the district must now wait 21 days before they can offer Dupre a contract.
"Charles Dupre is a man of strong faith and high integrity," said FBISD trustee Dave Rosenthal. "He comes to Fort Bend ISD with one agenda and that is to take [the district] to the next level for all of our students, and I have so much faith and confidence that we will accomplish that goal together."
PISD board of trustees members reacted to the news of Dupre’s departure with nostalgia and admiration for the job he had performed since taking over.
“The district is in a great situation,” board President Elva Gladney said. “Charles has done a great job in creating systems and processes and gathering top-notch staff. We will be fine, but we are so much better off now than when he came.”
In the past year alone, Dupre gained significant attention and recognition for his management of the district. In 2012, Dupre was recognized as one of the five finalists to be honored as Texas Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School Administrators. The Austin Chamber of Commerce also recognized Dupre as its Superintendent of the Year for 2012.
"When I came onto the board in 2006 … the [district’s] fund balance was not up to even 45 days of reserves,” PISD trustee Cynthia Graves said. “The credit rating of the district had been downgraded. Charles came in and implemented a fiscally strong program that got us recognition with our bond status. We have been recognized with the [state] comptroller with being fiscally sound. There are not that many districts that get that.
“It is impressive with what Charles has been able to do with such a small district. I have a lot of respect for Charles. He has made his mistakes, but he owned up to them.”
The past year has also been marked by policy and funding challenges for Dupre and the district.
Dupre took a leading role in one of several lawsuits against the state regarding its funding policies for school districts. On Feb. 4, a state district judge agreed with the roughly 600 school districts suing the state and ordered the Legislature to correct the inequities. The state is expected to appeal the ruling.
Dupre also found himself embroiled in controversy in 2012 when it became public that the district’s administration supported a domestic partner insurance plan for its employees. The benefits package for domestic partners was the first of its kind in Texas. Amid a swell of media attention and public criticism, Dupre stood by the district’s teacher union and employee insurance board that had requested the change in the insurance plan. Following hours of heated public testimony Dec. 13, the PISD board of trustees voted 5-1 to uphold the domestic partner benefits for district employees.
“I must be honest with you—I was unprepared for some of the reactions we have received, both positive and negative,” Dupre wrote on his district blog Oct. 17. “In hindsight, I was somewhat naive, but I never imagined this decision would elicit such a response. From my perspective, it was simply a change to our benefits plan that recognized our ongoing dialogue about equity and social justice and our dedication to valuing every member of the PISD family.”
The issue continues to resonate throughout the state. In February, state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, filed House Bill 1568 in response to the district's decision. The bill would require the state to cut funding by 7.5 percent to school districts that offer domestic partner insurance benefits to employees. The bill is being considered by the Legislature's Public Education Committee.
The PISD board of trustees has not yet met to discuss how it will go about replacing Dupre. The issue will likely be brought up at the board’s next meeting March 21 in a private executive session, Gladney said.
“There are options out there,” trustee Vernagene Mott said. “I have gone through it twice. The board will have to determine whether there is someone in-house or on staff who could fill the position. Some districts use a search firm. There is a process, and it is up to the school board members to decide the timeline and where it is going to go.”