"Mr. Prater was a perfect fit for the profile created by the community and the board when we started the search," said Board President Lisa Hultz. "Among an extremely talented and qualified field of applicants, he rose to the top with a unifying personality and a strong vision for the future of this district."
The BUSD board voted Thursday to approve a contract that will have Prater step into the position of superintendent on Jan. 1, 2008, while Dr. Tom Meyer will serve as consulting superintendent to assure a smooth transition through his retirement date of March 31, 2008. A formal welcoming ceremony for Prater will be held in January.
In 1996, Prater took his first administrative job as principal of Byron Intermediate (where he worked until 2000). Since then, the Byron resident has risen to national recognition by guiding Edna Hill Middle School in Brentwood to the title of a National Model Middle School. Edna Hill was one of just four schools in the state to receive the elite status of State Model School (Schools to Watch) and was honored in Washington, D.C. as one of just 65 schools in the country to win the award.
"It was really a huge effort, and I learned a lot from it," Prater said. "I learned that when the efforts of collaboration are combined with the powers of believing in people, an awesome vision can actually come through. It is what I am most proud of in my career in education, having 50, 60, 70 people rowing the boat in unison. Getting a large group of people moving in the same direction with a common goal for kids was the most amazing thing in the world. I was only one person in that group effort. Underneath that was the belief that people working together can do anything."
Prater sees a similar future on an even larger scale for the Byron Union School District. "I want to take that experience and apply it within a whole community," he said. "That is what drew me back to Byron. I know the character of the people in the district, and I know the people in the community.
"We can achieve much more than just closing the achievement gap. It is an opportunity to bring the community together in a way it has never been done before. We will educate children and make them exemplary students and members of the community. Byron and Discovery Bay can do that in a way that other districts haven't been able to do it."
Toby Hopstone, the Director of Special Services for the Walnut Creek Elementary School District, said that she didn't have a single negative thing to say about Prater and identified his strengths as great people skills, fabulous communication skills, and a willingness to learn and grow. She added that his private business experience provides him with financial expertise, and went on to say that he is a charismatic leader with high expectations for kids and staff, while being a collaborative team builder.
"He knows how to unite people and he really knows instruction and how to improve academic performance," Hopstone said.
Prater's colleagues in the Brentwood Union School District also had high praise for the academic leader as he heads toward the next step in his career. "Eric is one of those rare people who has both the technical skills and the dynamic personality to relate to kids, parents and community," said Brentwood Union School District Superintendent Merrill Grant. "He is extremely bright and has excellent judgment."
According to Director of Curriculum Mary Black, "He will make the transition very successfully. He is a great guy who will do great things. He will bring his values of collaboration, enthusiasm and a clear focus on children with him."
- Contributed by Ken Silman