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After a 45-year Career in Education, Principal John Williams Says Goodbye

Jan 28, 2015 01:43PM ● Published by Kevin

J.L. Boren Elementary principal John Williams came to the Mansfield ISD in 2000 to serve as assistant principal. After just one short year, he was named principal. Fourteen years later, Williams will retire from a 45-year career in education.

Williams originally planned to retire a year ago, but was convinced to stay for one more year by the superintendent; the reason being to aid in the move to a brand new building. As a part of a 2011 bond package, Boren was one of five elementary schools in the district to be rebuilt.

According to the district's director of communications and marketing Abby Cloud, the district did a study and determined it was more cost effective to rebuild the s than to try to remodel and refurbish. Williams assisted in moving the children to a temporary building, which he said was good practice for the permanent move. 

"[Dr. Jim Vaszauskas] shared with me that he had heard I was coming and unless I was 100 percent sure that I wanted to retire that he would ask me to consider staying," Williams said. "He said, 'John, you moved them out, I need you to move them back in, they need you to move them back in, and then we can turn loose. Please consider staying and helping get us moved back into Boren.' 

"It has wound up being a true blessing because I’ve been able to go full circle. I can leave with good conscience knowing I’ve done all I can do. Finishing my education career the past 18 months - the opportunity to move my faculty and students twice - is a unique experience. Every educator dreams of being in and opening a new building, but as an administrator, to do it twice in 18 months is extremely unique."

We had a chance to chat with Williams about his career and his future plans.

Mansfield Magazine: Take us back to the beginning of your career. How did you get your start?

John Williams: I graduated from Grand Prairie High School and went to East Texas State University. I came back to Grand Prairie to do student teaching. Then, I was the junior high choir director (grades 6-9) and seventh grade English teacher from 1968 to 1970.

From 1970 to 1976, I was in Plainview and taught elementary and junior high music for grades K through 8. 

In spring 1977, we moved to Arlington and I taught junior high choir, English as a Second Language and seventh grade English until 1989 at Arlington ISD. In 1989 I went into administration and was assistant principal in two elementary schools from 1989 to 2000.

MM: What was the transition like from assistant principal to principal in Mansfield?

Williams: It was very smooth and easy in that the principle and I shared the same philosophy and were like-minded. Therefore the school was a fit. She called me in and told me she was going to retire at the end of that year and asked if I would apply. I just laughed. 

After the first six weeks of that school year. I said, 'Sue (Smith), you have to remember, I’m the new kid on the block. I’ve just gotten here. Yes, I will apply to get the experience to how Mansfield interviews for principle positions compared to Arlington. I don’t expect to get it, but yes I’ll put my name in the hat.' 

She called me in her office again one afternoon in early January and again wanted to know if I would apply. I repeated the same thing to her. She said ‘Well, I think you have a really good chance. You’re already loved and held in high regard by faculty and staff and community and parents and you need to move forward.' The rest is history.”

MM: Describe the Mansfield ISD.

Williams: It's a dream school district and Boren is a dream elementary school with outstanding awards coming to our school, our PTA, etc. It’s just been the very best thing that has ever happened to me personally and professionally.

There’s no comparison and I mean that sincerely. It is a very progressive district. It has grown. In 2000 when I came, there were eight elementary schools and one high school. Today, we have 22 elementary schools and five high schools. From my first coming, the administration has always said, 'John, if you ever need us, we’re always a phone call away.' In the rare cases where I’ve needed them – emergency or just as resource and to collaborate – it’s a wonderful, supportive, caring district and has become extremely progressive and innovative with what is best for the students. It’s what drives the decision making for the district. Students and education come first.    

MM: What will you do once you retire?

Williams: For the last 35 years, I’ve been on the music staff at First Methodist Church in Arlington (as the assistant choir director), and I will continue in that role. Personally, I will just have the time off to enjoy time with my wife and family in doing what I want to do when I want to do it. I enjoy gardening, yard work, working out and exercising. My favorite season is summer and so I’m looking forward to redoing flower beds and getting the yard in tip top shape. The list for the inside never ever goes away or gets finished. My wife and I have been married for 45 years and are looking forward to time together, to enjoy one another and traveling.

MM: Music has played a big role in your life, professionally and personally. Can you go into more detail about that?

Williams: I’m going to take you back to infancy and share with you… I was adopted when I was 12 hours old. My mother always shared with me even as an infant they tried two times to put me in the nursery while they were in church. Both times they had to get them out of the service and bring me to them. As long as they were sitting in the sanctuary as close to the choir and organ as they could get, they would never hear a sound out of me. Music and sacred music has part of me all my life. I've served in churches since college (I was an organist in college) and after I graduated, I have always been involved.

There's joy and satisfaction in getting to share the love of music and sacred music and being able to share my beliefs with those that have been put at my feet. My college choir director and band director who also wound up as the choir director of First Presbyterian Church my junior and senior year shared with us that he considered going into ministry, but decided his podium would be his pulpit. He said, 'I could administer more to people through the podium than I could from the pulpit.' That struck with me. I've had the opportunity to share and live my faith to those I have come in contact with in the classroom, church, in the community and in the administration.

MM: Your closing thoughts?

Williams: 
When you live and breath the people you work with for 15 years, basically 24/7, you’re with them more than your own family. They are my family, especially for me in being an only child. Twenty-two years ago when I lost my mother, that was the end of my family. I’ve shared with the district that they literally are my family. With mixed emotions I plan on leaving here on Jan. 30 and am going to miss that daily relationship we’ve established over the years and to be a part of each other’s lives: marriages, deaths, births and every part of life.

The month of February is going to be a lot of R&R. It will be very spontaneous. If my wife and I decide we want to go somewhere at beginning or end of day, we will. If we just want to sit and veg out, we will. We will enjoy things with one another and not have a dictated schedule.

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