So long, Super-intendent

Former Boerne ISD Superintendent Dr. John Kelly begins his new work with Pearland ISD Monday. I’ll miss seeing his twelve passenger van cruising around town. I’ll miss the sound effects and movie clips he used to spice up Powerpoint presentations. Most of all, I’ll miss his educational philosophy.

Any cultural observer knows that public education in America is in dire straits. Powers that be can’t even agree on how to count dropouts, much less prevent them. They’ve parsed student populations in every which sub-group but still can’t overcome the difficult environments from which many children come.

Public education, the great equalizer, often equalizes to the lowest common denominator. This fact is no fault of the men and women who give their lives to shape the next generation. It is the reality, nevertheless. I wish it weren’t so.

Enough legislators, regulators and appropriators have contributed their “expertise” to the equation to result in quite a quagmire. The matrix of overlapping federal and state requirements looks more like a circuit board than a lesson plan. It’s no wonder TAKS is a four-letter word.

It was out of this mess that John Kelly made sense. His wonkish smarts supplied a sense of comfort. His moral authority motivated you to follow him out of the morass. His leadership helped build a district that area real estate agents put at the top of their advertising flyers.

I realize that some didn’t care for Dr. Kelly’s personality, his peculiarities, his pay. But I always found him to be responsive, thoughtful and data-driven. A friend of mine e-mailed him one morning about a disparity in the district’s elementary school sizes. My friend received a 500-word treatise back, complete with background data and possible solutions, by lunchtime.

I also found John Kelly to be a bargain, compared to the superintendent pay in so-called property wealthy districts in the DFW Metroplex.

Most remarkably, Dr. Kelly’s centered convictions laid a faith-based foundation from which true truth discovery could rise. In a politically correct, pluralistic environment, he was unafraid to acknowledge that there is a God, that each child is not a random collection of cells, that each person has value and potential.

You got the sense that he would make as good of a private school headmaster as he does a public school superintendent. But he wants to be in the system, though not of the system. He wants to make the best of the challenging situation an institutionalized bureaucracy has created.

John Kelly is a believer in public education. What it used to be. What it can be. As a product of public education myself and with children in BISD, I commend him for his time here.

I also wish him well in Pearland. I hope the stakeholders appreciate the quality they’re getting there. And I hope we recruit a leader of comparable caliber here.

Kevin Thompson is a former chief of staff in the Texas House of Representatives and currently serves as Vice President of Texas Heritage Bank. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.
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