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Meet the Next Superintendent of Georgetown's Public Schools

Joe Dan Lee
Image courtesy Georgetown ISD
Joe Dan Lee is the new superintendent of Georgetown ISD

Georgetown Independent School District has a new superintendent. GISD's Board of Trustees elected Joe Dan Lee to serve as the district's top administrator. Lee was already acting-superintendent since the departure of Abbe Boring in July.

“Joe Dan has reconnected with the teachers and staff over the past few months and is admired and respected in our community," board president Brad Smith said in a media release.  The Statesman  reported that Lee served as GISD superintendent once already, from 2004 until his retirement in 2007.

And now he's back. Lee spoke to KUT News by telephone this afternoon.

KUT News: Congratulations!

Joe Dan Lee: Thanks!

KUT News: How does it feel?

Lee: It's great!

KUT News: Why do you want to be superintendent?

Lee: [laughs] Well, it's just an opportunity to come back in and serve our students here, work with our staff, work with trustees and hopefully do things to make this district better each and every day.

KUT News: What can you tell us about Georgetown ISD?

Lee: We're a typical Central Texas district. We're a growing district, not growing rapidly, but 3 to 5 percent a year. We've got about 10,700 students and 17 campuses. We just recently passed in November a $137 million bond issue, the focal point of that being the build out of a second high school in Georgetown, so Georgetown ISD will be transitioning from one high school to two in 2012.

New elementary school, new middle school and some renovations at various campuses across the district, so lots of exciting things happening here at GISD.

KUT News: How is your academic performance so far, and where are there rooms for improvement?

Lee: We do very well academically. They've done some great things here over the past few years. We actually have 25 academic indicators in the [state] accountability system, and on all 25 of those we were either exemplary or recognized. In fact, we were exemplary on 23 of them, recognized on 2. But we had a completion rate indicator that was acceptable, so the district is rated acceptable because of that one indicator. But academic performance is outstanding, and we continue to work on it each and every day to make it better.

KUT News: What are your hopes for this upcoming legislative session, given the huge budget gap that legislators will have to close?

Lee: That's an interesting question because we've gone from lobbying legislators for additional funds to help meet the needs of an ever challenging, diverse population we serve to lobbying to hope that we don't get cut. We'd just like to keep what we've got. I think we're down to the point now where we realize we're going to see some substantial revenue reductions from the state, so we're asking them, "Please just don't cut us as much as you do everybody else."

I'm not overly optimistic that this is going to be a productive legislative session for public education, and we really are anticipating reduction of our state revenue anywhere from 5 to 10 percent.

KUT News: How are you going to deal with that?

Lee: We're being proactive in planning for the worst and hoping for the best. As in all public schools, somewhere between 82 and 88 percent of your budget is personnel. We're going to try to reduce our staff and personnel costs through attrition as we have folks who retire or leave for other reasons, we probably won't be replacing them until we get to a certain level. I think you're going to see that in all public schools across the state.

KUT News: So how are you going to keep up your academic performance while you're reducing staff?

Lee: What we've got to do - and I’m very confident we can do this in Georgetown - is we've got to make sure we offer the same level of programs and services do our students, but we've just got to do that more efficiently. We've just got to look for some efficiencies throughout our programs. We think we'll be able to do that.

We've are very fortunate in Georgetown. We've been able to keep our class sizes smaller than most. We try to keep 25 [students] to one [teacher] at our high school, and middle schools. Obviously, we're mandated at 22 to one at our elementaries, but we actually have been able to staff at less than that on average.  

We're going to see some increased size in some of our classes, but not anything substantial. We can spread that out over the various sections that we offer. You may see a student or two growth in some of our class size ratios, but we feel like we'll be able to continue to offer the level of academic services to our students that we need to meet that exemplary mark.

Check out Georgetown ISD's academic performance information here

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.