New LISD superintendent Gearing visits schools, outlines next steps for district planning

River Ridge Elementary first grade

By APRIL S. KELLEY, Hill Country News 

Bruce Gearing, Leander Independent School District’s superintendent as of Sept. 3, holds many titles — world educator, wind-surfer, musician, community member, father, husband, outdoor enthusiast, and self described future-thinker. 

But even with all of the titles, he calls himself a regular person “who has the same failings as everybody else, who has the same struggles as everybody else,” Gearing said. “I choose to be grateful for the opportunities and experiences that I’ve had. I choose to live today and choose not to worry too much about what’s happened before. I’m a future-thinker, so I do think a lot about the future, but it’s in an optimistic way.” 

Prior to beginning his journey at Leander ISD, Gearing has worked as a teacher, an assistant superintendent and superintendent in different parts of the world — from South Africa to England to Texas. 

Gearing said his 10 years of experience working as the superintendent for Dripping Springs Independent School District showed him how to build upon an already excellent school district. 

“This is a district of excellence already,” Gearing said. “I’ve discovered that when you have this base of excellence, you can really launch into something a little more and a little different.”

LISD is a fast-growing district with 43 schools. The district has added more than 1,000 new students for the 2019–20 school year, totaling more than 41,000 across its 200-square mile footprint.

Impressed with the students, the high-quality staff and the systems already in place at LISD, Gearing said he is excited to launch this district of excellence into something really special. 

“I’m so optimistic about all the opportunities we have coming forward,” he said.

Gearing has a wife and four children, who he credits as his foundation. Everyone in Gearing’s family is a musician, including Gearing who plays piano and bagpipes, which exemplifies the kind of team-work, community and global impact ideals he holds dear.

He said he is a strong believer in community, and that families are the smallest unit of community.

“We need to be always strengthening families and strengthening our communities, by strengthening the schools our kids attend,” Gearing said. “Strengthening the needs of those individuals inside those smaller systems is critically important to our success.”

A huge believer in public education’s power to make an impact on a global scale, Gearing said he is excited to work hard on meeting the needs of individuals in the district. 

“I believe that we have the opportunity to be a model, certainly in the state of Texas, but nationally, potentially, and even internationally for how you can take meeting the needs of individuals inside large public school systems to scale,” he said. 

“I feel like we are focused on this school district in this time, but we have a more far-reaching impact on what happens across the state and the nation,” he added.

Gearing said he is grateful to be a part of LISD and is excited for what the future might bring. 

“I’m so excited for this opportunity to determine what learning should look like for Leander ISD students, and I truly believe that’s a community conversation that we have to have,” he said. “That may look different in different parts of the community, and we need to address them in different ways. But I’m really excited about the potential that I see and the opportunities we have going forward as a community.” 

Superintendent outlines next steps for district planning

During the Oct. 3 Leander ISD Board of Trustees meeting, Bruce Gearing, superintendent, discussed a tiered vision for district planning during his initial year, charging the board and administration to:

  • create a solid budget process that aligns resources to affect student experience;
  • develop a long-range facility plan to guide decisions for the next 10 years on zoning, construction, and building utilization; 
  • review all local policies in the board’s policy manual; and 
  • launch a community-based accountability system to include a comprehensive review of academic, whole-child, operational programs and other possible areas identified by the community. 

“I have made it to every school and site in the district, and I have had the privilege to meet some really great people and fantastic kids,” Gearing said. “During these visits and conversations, I have had an opportunity to determine what are the critical issues facing the district and how we do this work. What became very clear to me is that all of these things are connected to each other.”

Gearing asked the LISD Board to focus discussion around the student experience and heroic educators. The district will begin working with its community to determine core values to align decisions for supporting student learning.