Lisa Cater Cover Sheet:
File #:47, cycle 2
Place of Interview: Her office at SCS
Date:Oct. 11, 2016
Summary of Talk:Family background, her career path, her job as principal of Salisbury Central School, and additions.
Lisa Carter Interview:
This is file 47, cycle#2. Today’s date is October 11, 2016. This is jean McMillen. I am happy to interview Lisa Carter who is the current Principal of Salisbury Central School. She is going to talk about her experiences with Salisbury Central School, her career path and anything else she wants to talk about. First we’ll start with the genealogical information.
JM: What is your name?
LC: Lisa Carter
JM: Where were you born?
LC: I was born in Augusta, Georgia.
JM: When were you born?
LC: August 11, 1956.
JM: Your parents’ names?
LC: Robert and Diana Bowden
JM: Do you have siblings?
LC: I do, Paul and Christopher Bowden.
JM: Your education after high school?
LC: After high school I went to Georgetown University where I achieved a BS in Mandarin Chinese, from there to the University of Southern California where I graduated in 1985 with an MBA. Then while I was a teacher, I pursued a 6th year degree in Education & Leadership which is experience beyond the Master’s Degree. That was at Central Connecticut State University. I graduated from there and completed the degree in May of 20012.
JM: How did you come to the area?
LC: We came to the area after deciding to make a life style change in 2001. We came just before Sept. 11th in June of 2001 when our children were young. We made the decision to raise them here rather than in New York City.
JM: Your career path, please?
LC: My career path has been interesting and not necessarily linear. I graduated from college in 1978 when the United States was just normalizing relations with Mainland China. I wanted to use my Chinese and get to China as quickly as possible. I worked for first for the State Department for a couple of years, helping them to write curriculum to train their Foreign Service officers to be prepared to open diplomatic offices on the Mainland. From there I went to work for Union Oil Company until 1985 where I was in the technology sales department and was the person with the language capabilities who could be the liaison the technology sales department and the Chinese. What Union Oil Company was doing was licensing refining technology to make jet fuel and diesel fuel to the people in China. They helped them build and operate the plants that were making that product. Then I went to business School because I realized that I needed some additional tools in my tool kit to advance my career. I went to the University of Southern California. There decided that I interested in organization design, human resource planning and leadership and where does all that come from in a corporate world. I specialized in that and went from there to a company called Hay Management Consultants where I worked for about 10 years and was part of the organization effectiveness practice. There I did a lot of work with corporate climate analysis and improvement. I did work with management succession planning which helped clients identify where their leadership could come from within the organization and also just organization design in general and how companies were structured to make sure that the structure was in alignment with where they were going from a strategic planning stand point.
JM: Then you moved to Norfolk?
LC: Well Bob was with Hay and I was in southern California. I moved to Boston where I met my husband and then was in New York for a number of years where I didn’t work. I was raising my children.
JM: When you moved to Norfolk, did you start substituting?
LC: I did. I started as a sub; I subbed a lot at Salisbury Central School and at the high school. Those were the 2 main schools where I did my sub work in the area of social studies. I tried to do as much in social studies as possible. While I was subbing, I was completing my course work that I needed in order to be able to be a certified teacher in the public school system.
JM: You were hired here as an interim principal?
LC: I was. After teaching at the high school for 11 years, I was hired in August of 2012.
JM: You were hired permanently …
LC: in Feb. of 2013.
JM: We are so glad you are here.
LC: oh thank you. I love being here; this is the best job I have ever had.
JM: What do you see as school strengths?
LC: The school strengths I think are the entire community, the teachers are absolutely outstanding. They are so focused on understanding where they are in this century and really making sure that they are trying to meet the needs the best they can of the children who are growing up in this very complex and interesting times we find ourselves in. Then I would say that students are do lovely and so wonderful and eager to learn. They are supported by wonderful parents who really support what we are trying to do with their children at the school. Finally the community is incredible, just incredible in their support for understanding that times have changed and they want Salisbury Central School to keep up with the changing times as they do in terms of digital tools, teaching styles, and methods. They are just being very supportive of our programming in general.
JM: You are a very positive lady, but it is a wonderful community.
LC: It really is.
JM: Why did you want to become a teacher?
LC: I think it is something wanted to do for a long time, but didn’t really realize it. I think my choice of consulting after business school was definitely an educational mode with the corporate world. I had often during that time thought about teaching in the schools; teaching kids, but didn’t really have the confidence to do it. I thought I was too serious and the kids wouldn’t like me. When we came up here, I thought I am just going to dive in and try it. When I started being a substitute, I really enjoyed being with the children and I just feel that education is the corner stone of the future. It sounds corny but…
JM: No It is the future.
LC: Any civilization and certainly in a democracy people can only be active citizens to the extent that they really understand and can read, can make decisions, can learn independently and have the confidence that that they can do something with what they know. I find it very empowering to be part of that mechanism in our society.
JM: You touch a child mentally and you never know where it is going to end.
LC: That is right.
JM: It is a beautiful thing, it really is. What is the present enrollment?
LC: I think we are about 280 right now.
JM: What do you like best about your job?
LC: I guess the best is being in the classroom and watching the students interact with the teachers and really being able to have a front row seat for the learning process. Then being able to have great productive conversations with the teachers about their practice and making sure that they have everything that they need to be continuously improving. I also love just being accessible to the students, I am in the hall a lot, talking with them a lot, understanding what it is they are learning and helping them to be engaged and switch on about being kids and doing what they do.
JM: They respond to you in so many ways. Their little radars are pretty delicate; they know when you are having a bad day, or something had made you happy. They buy into that.
LC: They do. I also really like being part of the curriculum planning and development. That is my real passion, just being able to shape an put my thumb print on that. I think that literacy and numeracy are the keys to the kingdom in however we can make that acceptable to all of our children. It is very important.
JM: What do you like least?
LC: I dislike the paperwork. I understand the need for all of the reports because I do think it leads to some very important funding which I think in Salisbury a lot of it was yanked from us on the state level. But on the federal level we still do receive that funding for Title #1 on reading support and for our Title #2 grants that lead to our professional development and to our Special Ed programming. I think all the paperwork that I have to do is somehow affiliated with that so therefore essential, but it seems that it could be better organized and planned and be more efficient given the technological gains that I know must be available.
JM: How do you want the school to improve?
LC: I would like us to continue to be working on our curriculum and instruction, although I think it is excellent. I think that is something that certainly can always be improved and be changing along with what we understand is needed for a post-secondary experience. Thinking about that starts in the very early grades. I think that we need some improvement to our physical plant and we are currently undergoing a planning for some significant renovation for both exterior and interior building which I think is needed from a educational environment prospective in terms of we could put in better lighting that will be addressing, better storage, better wiring and all of those things. I also think from a ecologically responsible citizenship prospective we need to walking the talk and modeling that for children.
JM: How about promoting the learner’s interest?
LC: Oh absolutely and becoming more student centered. That is where I say the improvement in instruction and curriculum is really focusing on those individual students and making sure that every single student has access to the curriculum. That means you have to attend to what their individual interests and needs are and find the hook for each student that is going to grab them and make them go.
JM: You never know.
LC: You never do.
JM: What special talents do you bring to the job?
LC: I have an unusual combination of corporate and educational experience. I have lived outside of the bureaucracy of public education so I can ask good questions and have good influence on changing the way we do things that way. I have a global prospective, having spent time in a lot of different parts of the world, but also the country so I have a very broad prospective that way. I am a very curious person and I have not lost that. That is really important. I really support kids and teachers asking questions. I want to promote that healthy and interested dialogue among all the people that belong to our community.
JM: What future plans do you have for Salisbury Central School?
LC: We sort of operate in 5 year plans. We want to maintain our integrity and excellence as I have said of our curriculum and learning programs. Our 5 year horizon for that gets back to that question that you asked me about personalization of learning and meeting kids where they live and then bringing them along that way. There is a lot of research and there are a lot of tools that exist now that will help us continue to build the curriculum and move us in that direction. I also think that it is important to maintain and keep up digitally. Although I don’t believe at all that computer will ever replace the importance of the teacher. It is our responsibility to educate children in the usefulness of the computer as a resource and how to be responsible and respectful as a digital citizen. That has to start when they are young. It is a huge responsibility and safety that they learn how to take care of themselves as they use those devices. Finally there is the physical plant that I feel very strongly that it is my responsibility to the taxpayers to take very good care of our physical plant and make sure that it maintains its integrity over time.
JM: How about remediation?
LC: Yes that would be part of that personalized learning that I am talking about. If you are meeting kids where they live, then those who need the gift of time should not be just doing the same thing over and over again, but need to be addressed with different strategies that allows them to have access to the curriculum. Likewise with kids who ring the bell and maybe need some additional enrichment.
JM: I asked you about before you working relationship with the school board, the PTO, SOAR, Extras, parents, teachers and children all of your responses were positive. You have a wonderful relationship with all of them which is very special.
LC: I think I do, yes.
JM: Before we close, is there anything that you would like to add to this interview that I haven’t covered?
LC: I would like to reiterate that the school is such an important part of the Salisbury-Lakeville community. I really appreciate profoundly how it seems that everybody feels that way. I don’t think the school could exist that way it does without that belief that what goes on in this building is really important. I feel that every day and it is a responsibility that I take very seriously. I am just so happy to be in a place that holds me accountable because that is who I am and that is what I like to do.
JM: Thank you.
Property of the Oral History Project; The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068