Top Ops; Scott Shafer is MISD's Director of District Operations
Being first is a characteristic that has described Scott Shafer’s career in education. He was the first principal of Morris Elementary School, the first principal of Wester Middle School and two years ago he became the first director of district operations for Mansfield ISD
“I have always joked with my friends that being the first at anything is never a bad thing because you can’t be compared to someone better,” jokes the 55-year-old. But his career has been no laughing matter. He takes his work seriously and has always looked for ways to better serve his schools, students and parents.
Over the past 32 years Shafer has served as a teacher, athletic trainer, assistant principal and principal – first in the Arlington ISD and for the past 22 years with the Mansfield ISD. As the district’s director of district operations he oversees the transportation, distribution and school services departments. That’s no small task.
Scott Shafer spent his first 10 years of life on the move. His father was in the military and was routinely reassigned to new bases. But when his father retired, the Shafer family settled in the North Richland Hills-Smithfield area where the young Shafer attended school and later graduated from Richland High School. “At the time, the area was more rural and when you combine that with my father’s military background I learned early on from my parents about responsibility, hard work and persistence,” he recalls today.
Early in his career he says he discovered that teaching and coaching were really about relationships, responsibility and communication with people. “Those skills transfer to any leadership role,” he says. “I think that is why it was a natural progression for me to gravitate toward administrative positions in education.”
Shafer’s personal philosophy for his job is simple: “We are here to serve our schools, our students and our parents. It is important to me that we have an ‘attitude of service’ as we go about our day-to-day responsibilities.” And he does just that.
ON THE JOB
Scott describes how he and the district operations department support every school, department and facility in MISD in some way. They transport every school’s students to and from school, games, contests and field trips. The department and its employees fuel and repair the district’s vehicles, deliver the mail, take food to the kitchens and supplies to the offices. If something needs to be moved from one location, he says his department is the one to get the job done. “We manage their fixed assets, keep their permanent records and we order and provide their instructional materials for them.” He says his departments are the “people behind the scenes” and the greatest compliment is to go unnoticed. “If we do, then we know we have done our jobs well.”
Though he says there’s no such thing as a typical day, routine tasks for Shafer could include an early stop by the dispatch area of the transportation department. “I always like to start and end my day there” he says. “I want to make sure that there are no issues with students getting to and from school.” You’re also likely to find him in meetings and planning with his staff, communicating with schools and other departments, addressing parent concerns or attending district planning meetings.
THE ROAD AHEAD
As Mansfield continues to grow it presents both challenges and opportunities, and that goes for the school district as well. Shafer says it seems each new school year brings with it new projects, but this next year will be unique for him and the district.
“During the year we will be moving and transitioning the students attending Ponder and Boren Elementary Schools back to their home campus when the construction of their new campuses are complete,” he says. “In turn, we will be moving Harmon Elementary from their home campus to their transition campus at the Judy Miller site so that construction can begin on their new campus.” Moving those schools and transporting their students during the year is a project he and the district have been busily preparing for.
Of course the challenges are all around for Mansfield ISD. Shafer says the district continues to face challenges that result from unfunded mandates by the state and legislature and he specifically points out the district’s implementation of House Bill 5. “Although I am excited the district is developing career pathways for both college bound and especially our non-college bound students,” he says, “it will take time and hard work as we move forward with creation and implementation of these opportunities for our students.”
Shafer is also facing the need to make equipment improvements for the transportation department, implement a more competitive employee compensation schedule, fully develop a preventive maintenance program for the bus fleet and continue to prepare for the transitional school moves.
“My biggest challenge is being able to deal with the different areas I supervise and being able to ‘shift gears’ at any moment. For instance, today I am meeting with the curriculum coordinators, and then will need to go to the warehouse. I follow that with a conference at a campus with a principal and then end the day with a road construction planning meeting with the city. My days are often busy but it is a challenge that I have thoroughly enjoyed.”
Through it all, Shafer pushes forward, always looking for ways to enhance and improve the Mansfield ISD and the departments he oversees. When asked what mark he would like to leave on the district he says, “I would like to leave knowing that our schools would say we were responsive to their needs and our parents would say that we provided them a quality service as cost effective as possible.”
That’s a mission that seems right on schedule to be completed.
Personal Q&A with MISD’s Director of District Operations Scott Shafer
What do like most about the community of Mansfield? I know it is a cliché to say but it is the people of Mansfield. We are fortunate to genuinely have people in our community concerned for each other. Whenever I am out for personal reasons or business I am always struck by the smiles and friendliness of the people I encounter. There exists a sense of community in Mansfield that we consider the common place that I don’t see in the other communities I visit.
How do you spend your free time? My most valued time is spent with my family. We love going to movies and experiencing new restaurants. I also love to golf, enjoy woodworking and can’t work enough gardening in my yard.
Where do you like to eat in Mansfield? My favorite place to eat is Don Julio’s. The food is great, the people are friendly and it has a real neighborhood feel.
Do you see movies? Which ones? Museums? My family loves going to the movies and we do so often. The last was the latest installment of the X-Men series. I am excited about the new Samurai exhibit that runs through August at the Kimball Museum and have a family trip planned there this summer.
What was the last book you read? I am currently reading The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. I am reading it for a book study that Dr. Heath is doing with the other district directors.
Do you have a favorite quote? I have always remembered a quote written on a chalkboard by one of my professors when I was in college. I don’t know the author but I have always remembered it because it had meaning for me over the years both personally and professionally. It is “No wind blows for the ship that has no destined port.”