MANTECA - There's a bit of mystique and a lot of history inside Mick Founts' Victorian-style home in Manteca.
The San Joaquin County Office of Education Superintendent of Schools, with his wife, Kristin Founts, put the place together in a way that might remind you of a Johnny Cash Cadillac - minus the stealing. The Founts built the home one piece at a time as they have come across memorable items: molding around windows and doors from the old Oakland Hotel; wainscoting from old homes being torn down in the Bay Area; pocket doors from an old home that was torn down in Stockton. In his latest project, Founts had an old home that was going to be torn down on French Camp Road relocated to his 2-acre property, where it is being fully restored. "We couldn't let that house be torn down," he said. Founts, 58, is an elected official who oversees 1,000 employees at the SJCOE, including his two grown daughters, Rashonne Founts and Larissa Founts, who are teachers. Founts is a musician and owns an African Boer goat ranch.
We asked him 10 questions:
Question: Tell us about the goat farm you operate with your daughter. How did that start?
Answer: We raise South African Boer goats, and what happened was when she was a kid her uncle gave her a goat to raise and she loved it. That turned in to us raising 300 South African Boer goats as a business. ...The funny thing is both of my daughters are vegetarians and these goats are raised for meat. People ask, "What do they taste like?" and we don't know. We raise them to increase the genetics of other herds.
Q: Imagine you are the protagonist in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. Your character is being chased down by the bad guys and you come to a cliff. Would you choose the option leading you to jump across the wide ravine to safety, or take the conservative route down the side of the mountain and hope you can escape?
A: You know, I would probably opt for the jumping. I would take the risk. I think if you take a conservative route, they're going to catch you. From my perspective if I'm going to get killed, I'd rather get killed taking the risk instead of by doing the same ol' same ol'.
Q: The reason we ask is because SJCOE is often building programs that go against the norm. Sometimes it appears as though you take a few risks. Do you think that's true?
A: I think I was hired way back in 1991 because of that philosophy. I'm not going to take risks that endanger our organization or hurt kids, but I want to take risks to be able to expand what we can do. There's that old adage that only pioneers draw arrows, but sometimes if you don't risk, it's like you're not even trying.
Q: What is your favorite iPhone/iPad app? Do you recommend one for teachers?
A: I really struggle with this because I don't know how positive I am in this direction. I really don't think anybody needs to buy an app or material. If you just use open source materials, you will find enough to bury you. What I tell educators is you need to ask people the right questions. ... Just get online and start looking.
Q: You are a musician and have played in bands. What do you remember about your experiences doing that?
A: When I first started, my dad was an artist and musician, so the first thing he said was, 'Don't do either, you'll starve.' But I think when I started I was 14 and had to learn the trumpet. That was painful and I wasn't very good. Then it was the drums and I wasn't very good, so I decided to learn the guitar. ... Next thing you know I was in a band with my friends and I was playing guitar. ... We were Al Ward and the Epics. Here we were just young kids and playing in bars, and it was so good.
Q: What are your musical influences?
A: Jazz, blues, soul. I really was influenced by Otis Redding, and BB King, Wes Montgomery, and Les Paul going way back. ... If I had to pick a band that's my favorite of all time, though, it would be Tower of Power.
Q: What are some of the odd jobs you've had throughout your life?
A: When I was a little kid, seventh or eighth grade, I wanted a job, and my dad found me a job for the Del Monte Corporation picking peaches. It was the most horrendous job of my life. I thought, 'Next summer I'll do something else.' Oh no - I was back picking peaches and I thought I was going to die. ... Then when I went to college at Humboldt State, I had the great experience of pulling green chain at the lumber mills. I was able to look at that and realize I don't want to do that my whole life, and being a teacher looked really good.
Q: Did you always want to be a superintendent?
A: When I was in school I had great English teachers. ... One of my English teachers was also the football coach. I thought, "Hey, I can be an English teacher and I can coach. This works for me."
Q: Are you as fascinated by history as everybody says you are?
A: I think when you look at English and history, history is just a story well told. So us English majors say history is really only English.
Q: What's your favorite novel and the last one you read?
A: A couple. "Night" by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust book, and that's a great autobiography. One that's not renowned is "The Contender" by Robert Lipsyte of Sports Illustrated. People think it's not a great novel, but that book has so many cool things in it. Everything I read nowadays is education code and law. I haven't read anything good in 10 years because I've been reading that.
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