“My dad was a basketball coach for 40 years, and mom was a school secretary,” West said. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”
Next week his career will take a new direction as he begins the job of superintendent at Boyd ISD. He was named the lone finalist for the district of 1,100 students last month.
After filling a variety of roles in the district – assistant superintendent, high school principal and interim superintendent – West said he’s ready for the new role in Boyd.
“This is home,” West said. “I’ve been here five years and live a few miles north of Boyd. I feel like part of the community.”
He also understands the gravity of the role he’s taking on and how his and the school board’s decisions will affect a generation of students in Boyd.
“It’s a huge impact,” West said. “When you take a kid that enters here as a kindergartener, we are responsible for the education of that child from kindergarten through 12th grade. That’s a huge responsibility to make sure they have all the knowledge and experience to be a successful citizen.”
As the son of a basketball coach, West moved some as a child. After being born in Childress, he went to Wichita Falls before ending up at Richland High School in North Richland Hills.
West graduated from Tarleton State University and followed his father’s career path. He started off at Castleberry before heading to the tiny Class A district of Chillicothe near Wichita Falls as the varsity basketball coach.
“I thought I’d coach all my life,” West said.
But his coaching career gave way to a role in administration in Chillicothe. He became a principal at the junior high and then the high school under then-superintendent Greg Stone.
When Stone left to take the superintendent job at Clifton, West got his first shot at being a superintendent. Only in his mid 30s, he quickly learned the enormity of the job.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, even for a small school,” West said. “You still have the same programs, and you wear more hats.”
Chillicothe ISD Business Manager Oralia Balderas recalled West’s time in the district.
“He was great,” she said. “We loved him.”
Balderas said he did well in his year handling the district’s finances.
West said he enjoyed his time in the small district, but when asked to join Stone in Clifton as the assistant superintendent, he took the opportunity.
West spent two years at Clifton with Stone before coming to Boyd as the high school principal.
When Boyd voters approved a bond package for a series of projects including the new high school, Stone called upon West to oversee the construction and move into the administration office as the assistant superintendent.
“With all the duties of construction, I shared the administrative duties with Mr. Stone,” West said.
Even after Stone’s departure from the district, West stayed on as assistant superintendent to finish oversight of the construction.
He was then approached about returning to the leadership position at the high school, and he accepted.
“It was fun to get back in with the students on a day-to-day basis and form relationships,” West said. “That’s what makes the job fun.”
When the district and the previous superintendent John Emshoff parted ways earlier this year, West and assistant superintendent Barbara Stice were named co-interim superintendents. Both became finalists for the job with trustees Aug. 20 naming him the lone finalist.
School Board President Pam Galloway said West’s enthusiasm in filling a variety of roles and helping the district was part of the decision to make him the next superintendent.
“He stepped up to the plate and did what we asked him to do,” Galloway said. “He’s a nice gentleman. He has an easygoing way and a great ability to work with people. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
As he steps into the new job, West said his past experience will be a help along with his willingness to listen to people.
“One of the key aspects is communication,” West said. “Fifty percent of communication is being quiet and listening. There’s all types of people that need a voice in the system. I want to give them the opportunity to be heard.”
Superintendents, along with trustees, must look after the needs of students and the finances of the district while being sensitive to the taxpayers.
“You get a lot of opinions on both,” West said. “One of the traits you’ve got to have is the ability to look at things from others’ perspectives.”
But West also points out: “The hard part is doing what’s best for kids. The other hard part is everyone has a different opinion of what’s best for kids.”
Improving student achievement at Boyd is the first priority for West, who will be working alongside Stice to complete the task.
“We’ll be talking daily and trying to address issues in the district,” West said. “She has a huge role here.”
In the 2011 Texas Education Agency’s accountability ratings, Boyd was academically acceptable. It missed the federal standard for Adequate Yearly Progress this past year.
“Every decision we make will be made on how it impacts student performance,” West said. “We’ve received a clear message from the board and community that we must improve. We are actively implementing a plan.
“We know we are not where we need to be. We’re moving forward, and we are addressing the needs of the students.”
Stice said they are aligning the curriculum and trying to help teachers to make sure there are no gaps in instruction.
“We’ve got good teachers,” Stice said.
Stice said it’s the administration’s job to help those teachers, provide the tools and programs to allow for continual improvement in the classroom.
“That continual improvement is what we all want to strive for,” she said.
But West points out that the students are not just about statistics and their performance on standardized tests.
“They are not just a number or a test score,” he said. “They are a kid. It’s not a business. It’s a school.
“The key to be a great teacher is not only being passionate about what you do, but also being compassionate. You want to push students to be successful and drive them to be more than they think they can be. We need to have relationships with students and make them feel like someone cares for them.”