Each year, the Texas Governor proclaims January as “School Board Appreciation Month.” In addition to the news release and commendations usually proffered, I would like to add my personal perspective about our Board. Having served as a superintendent for 21 years, I have worked with approximately 50 or more individual trustees — and feel fortunate to work with the seven elected here in Pearland.
Frankly, when I first arrived here in August 2011, I winced a bit when witnessing Open Session discussion among our Trustees. I was not used to having items addressed as frankly and critically as is done here in Pearland. Since then I’ve come to appreciate the Pearland way — and to realize that people aren’t as easily offended here when opposite viewpoints are argued. And I have seen that frank discussion illuminated new ideas, further justified recommendations, and prevented some less stellar ideas from gaining currency!
Perhaps the best reason this atmosphere exists is because of the experience and personality of our seven trustees. Let me give you a small insight on my observations with regard to each:
Rusty DeBorde is our President, having been newly elected to that position in May 2012. He is a lifelong resident of Pearland. He is also President of his own construction company. He has worked hard to serve as the facilitator of discussion rather than one who coerces. He has a great self-deprecating sense of humor, which I greatly appreciate. And he humbly works with trustees and the administration to constantly seek win-wins for advancing the district. As a result, people are at ease with him and encouraged to speak up.
Virgil Gant is our immediate past President. He is our most experienced trustee, having begun his first term many years ago — in the midst of relatively severe financial challenges for the district. He deserves credit for our district’s current status as among the most financially efficient and high-performing in Texas. His extensive knowledge as a financial advisor has been very valuable to both the board and the administration. Virgil is courageous, no-nonsense, and jovial. He tells you what he thinks, cares about the people around him, and is someone who is always as good as his word.
Pam Boegler is our Vice President. Although she is a relatively quiet presence, when she does speak, it is with an abundance of common sense — and often a deciding vote. One of the things I’ve appreciated most about her is that she attends, without fanfare, many different events in our school district. And she has a heart for the under-appreciated/at-risk children. She is also a very visible supporter of the athletic program and any other opportunities to showcase student talent.
Rebecca Decker is in the midst of her second year as Secretary. She has served as a teacher, assistant principal, and adjunct professor. So she brings a wealth of “in the trenches” knowledge with regard to the work of our educators. Perhaps it’s her personal marathon training that helps her to look ahead and see challenging goals as attainable. As the mom of young girls, she brings the perspective of a current parent to the table — and does so in an easy and gracious manner.
Andrew Solomon is personally kind — and simultaneously someone who asks hard or previously unconsidered questions. He is the parent of children now attending the district — and is especially focused on ensuring that a truly superior education becomes available for all students to pursue. In that quest, he often looks for improvements by examining best practices from public, private, and charter schools. And he always makes sure we’re listening when members of the community step forward.
Adele Brennan has an extensive network of friends and leaders throughout the community and beyond. She is an auditor by trade and as quick as anyone else I’ve known to see what the data mean on any spreadsheet or report. As a lifelong resident of Pearland, she can give you the accurate pulse of the community on different issues — and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes is right. And she does so with a cheerful and engaging personality.
Sam Gray brings together three different worlds. He is an experienced educator, a successful businessman, and is married to one of our top educators. He too is unafraid to give a divergent viewpoint — and is often the guy who reminds us all that just doing something different doesn’t mean we’re doing something better. He constantly reminds everyone of the accomplishments of our faculty and staff — and is mindful of the burdens they endure. On top of that, he’s a very encouraging and caring man.
Thus, I’m thankful to work for this group of seven — and ask folks to remember that if we tripled the “salary” for service, our trustees would still be working for “free”! They are highly engaged, very competent, and self-sacrificing with their time. They help our school district shine!