By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
Kirk London came to a divided community five years ago when he began his tenure as the Hays CISD superintendent. He helped the school district leave those problems behind.
Now, he is leaving.
London announced his retirement at the Hays CISD trustees meeting Monday night, barely more than five years after he entered the job with a mandate to mend fences and build unity. London’s retirement is effective at the end of the 2008-09 school year.
As London began his tenure in May 2003, coming from Richardson ISD, the Hays district failed to pass a $105 million bond package three months earlier, when a vigorous opposition grinded its axes against the sitting school board and a former superintendent, Michael Hinojosa, who pushed the proposal. Hinojosa now is superintendent of the Dallas ISD.
The Hays school board brought in London to pass a school bond. He has passed three of them. Most recently, voters favored an $86.7 million package by better than a two-to-one margin (1,114 to 470) on May 10.
It didn’t hurt London that he arrived on the cusp of unprecedented commercial development within the school district. The May bond is expected to have no tax impact, just like a $46.3 million bond in November 2006.
But the 2004 bond was another matter. London’s job was to patch up enough hard feelings within the community so voters would support 7.1 cents of tax rate increases over three years, enabling the district to issue $89 million in bonds. Each of three propositions passed by overwhelming margins.
Since London took over, Hays CISD has grown about 1,000 students per year to 13,000.
London has served 36 years in Texas public school districts as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, high school principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent.
“This is a good time for me personally and a good time for the district,” London said about his retirement timing. “Our test scores have showed improvement in almost every area. The community has supported our efforts. We have a great staff, great kids, great teachers. This job will be one of the most sought after in the state.”
London said he is giving one year of advance notice so the school district can make an easy transition as it searches for his replacement.
“I will be there as long as you need me,” London said. “I will support you and the school board through this process as you have supported me for the past five years.”
Hays CISD Trustees President Chip DuPont, voted to another one-year term in that post Monday night, said the district will conduct a nationwide search for a superintendent.
“This will allow us the flexibility to do the search while we still have him (London) here,” DuPont said. “We will not have to go to an interim. We have all the time we need to find the quality person this school district deserves.”
Monday night’s transitions weren’t limited to London’s retirement announcement. Deputy Superintendent Bob Presley and Executive Director of Elementary Curriculum Delores Riley both sat in their final school board meetings after announcing their retirements, while the board appointed Chief Financial Officer Carter Scherff as Deputy Superintendent.
The board also hired Michelle Barrera as executive director of human Resources and Dina Webb as executive director of curriculum and instruction. Barrera is director of administration and employee support at Judson ISD, and Webb is director of curriculum and instruction services at Ingram ISD.
Trustees Joe Muñoz (District 2), Mark Jones (At-Large) and Melissa Espinoza (District 1) were sworn in for three-year terms, after each ran unopposed for re-election in the spring. The board voted for DuPont as president, Patti Wood as vice president, and Muñoz as secretary for one-year terms.