FOR THE PUBLIC: Dr. Terry McAteer
What is your job? As county superintendent of schools, my primary function is fiscal oversight of our 10 school districts in western Nevada County. It is my office’s responsibility to ensure that taxpayer funds are properly spent, and that revenues are earned in an appropriate manner. My other major function is to coordinate resources (curricular, business and student services) so that duplication is eliminated and that all students are provided an equitable and appropriate education.
What do you do most days? I spend most of my days attempting to work with parents, teachers, administrators or community members to sort out issues and focus on what is the best for the individual child or for the system.
What was it like to teach at a school named after your father, Eugene McAteer? My first teaching assignment was teaching in the public school system in San Francisco at McAteer High School. The school was named after my dad, who passed away in 1967 while he was a state senator representing San Francisco. Due to his significant educational legislation, the city named a new high school after him. I knew from the first day that it was going to be a tough year in academics as half of my students didn’t make the correlation of the name of the school to my last name.
What’s the greatest challenge facing Nevada County schools? Declining enrollment is a problem that presents itself to every school district in the county. The challenge we face is maintaining quality programs, especially in the arts, sports and other non-core subject areas. Providing these opportunities is essential to a vibrant educational system.
What’s the biggest accomplishment of Nevada County schools? Our greatest accomplishment is clearly being able to attract and maintain some of the finest teachers and administrators in the nation. Great teachers are a hallmark of an exceptional educational system.
Are we going to “Beat Marin,” as your button demands? Like Avis Rent-A-Car, we try harder! Nevada County schools have the second highest reading, math and spelling scores in the state – second to Marin County schools. This is an amazing fact as Marin and other counties in the state have a much higher per-capita family income. Moreover, Marin spends over $2,000 per year per student more than do Nevada County schools. We are 44th out of 58 counties in per student expenditures.
If you could change anything about public schools, what would it be? I’d abolish tenure. The general public dislikes the system, which guarantees job security for life after three years of teaching. Moreover, I’m convinced after many years of being a classroom teacher that good teachers don’t need tenure, and it protects those that shouldn’t be teaching.
Will you run for state office? I’m asked this question often and let me emphatically state – NEVER. I grew up in a political family and know the “game” very well and have no interest in further offices. I am delighted with my present position and enjoy serving Nevada County students, teachers and parents.
Who’s in your family? My wife, Liz, and I have been married for 18 years and have two wonderful children – Jeanne, an eighth-grader at Magnolia, and Gregory, a six grader who will be starting Magnolia. Liz is very involved in community and school activities. I’m very proud of her efforts in helping to preserve the historic Miners Foundry.
Do your kids like school? Yes, they both do very well at hitting the books and being involved in many south county activities, including Girl and Boy Scouts, Little League and band. Jeanne plays clarinet for the Magnolia band while Gregory is learning trumpet.
What did you do for a living after college? I had many interesting jobs, including being a plumber for the city and county of San Francisco, selling real estate for Grubb and Ellis, and owning a community newspaper, the Portalwood Press, serving 24,000 homes in southwestern San Francisco. It is in this venture that I met Liz, and she continued in the newspaper business while I pursued my passion – teaching.
“For the Public” appears each Wednesday. To suggest a public servant to be profiled, call The Union newsroom at 273-9561.
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