Full plate for interim Gustine superintendent
GUSTINE – Ron Estes will be anything but a placeholder for the next superintendent in the Gustine Unified School District.
During the three months or so he expects to lead the district as its interim chief, Estes will be chipping away at some long-standing issues which have faced Gustine Unified, as well as handling some new challenges and overseeing day-to-day operations.
Estes is no stranger to multi-tasking or overseeing smaller school districts.
He retired two years ago after nearly 20 years as superintendent of the Linden Unified School District – a rare accomplishment in a profession not known for the longevity of its members.
Estes said he was ready to step into retirement two years ago, but was also at a point to step back into district administration on an interim basis when the GUSD opportunity arose.
“After two years away from it I’m recharged,” he commented. “I am very happy and proud to be here.”
Estes said he believes his background in Linden will serve Gustine Unified well during his short time in the district.
“(Gustine) is a little smaller, but there are a lot of similarities to the Linden schools,” he pointed out. “It is almost like Gustine is a parallel to Linden. Many of the issues are very similar.”
After retiring as superintendent, Estes stayed on as maintenance and transportation director in Linden. He also conducts Williams Act inspections, which are intended to insure that schools are providing adequate facilities and materials to their students.
All will come into play for Estes in Gustine, who anticipates being “hands-on and active” during his time in the district.
“There are some things here that can’t wait,” he explained.
The top priority is getting the school year off to a smooth start, Estes said. Students return to the classroom Monday to start the new school year.
But he will focus on a number of other issues as well.
Estes, who said he has extensive experience working with the Office of Public School Construction, will continue the district’s quest to gain state approval to use $1.1 in leftover modernization money from previous projects rather than being required to return that money. A deadline to pay the money back to the state is fast approaching, he noted.
The district had hoped to use those funds to renovate the former GMS gymnasium, but has been told that it does not qualify for programs which would allow it to do so.
“I want them to show me the regulations that supports their decision. I don’t want to retrace all the steps that have been taken, but I want to be sure,” Estes told Mattos Newspapers. “I want to make sure the district does everything it can to hold on to that money.”
Williams said he will also help prepare three schools – Gustine High, Romero and Gustine Elementary – which are scheduled for Williams Act inspections this year.
He will also be working with the transportation department to ensure that the district’s bus fleet meets a Jan. 1 deadline for emission retrofitting, and plans to offer insight into facility and maintenance challenges facing the district.
“I’m going to be busy, but I’m looking forward to it,” Estes commented.
He anticipates being in Gustine until the end of October, but could stay a bit longer if need be while the district goes through the process of hiring a new superintendent to replace Gail McWilliams, who retired effective Aug. 1.