Williams steps down as Smithson Valley principal
Says goodbye to Rangers, hello to Judson Rockets
By Richard Zowie
Times Guardian Staff Writer
Smithson Valley High School principal Brad Williams announced his resignation, effective July 22, to become principal of Converse Judson High School in northeastern Bexar County.
Assistant principal Jim Rodrigue will serve as interim campus manager until a permanent replacement is selected by the Comal Independent School District school board.
Williams, who had served as Smithson Valley's principal for six years, described moving on to accept the position at Converse Judson as both a professional challenge and opportunity.
"That's the main reason for me taking the job," he said. "I don't think [Converse Judson] is any more prestigious than Smithson Valley, and there's no school in Texas greater than Smithson Valley. As I look at my current and future career, I felt it was a good move for me to move on to Judson."
Ironically, Williams had applied for an opening at the new Lt. Col. Karen Wagner High School near Kirby, Texas. (The school is named in memory of 1979 Judson graduate Colonel Wagner, who died during the terrorist attack at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001). He had interviewed for a job there, but once Judson Independent School District officials received word that Judson High School's principal was resigning for an assistant superintendent position down in Brownsville, they contacted Williams.
"They decided I fit the bill very well for what they were looking for at Judson," he said. "Even though I didn't intend to go there they asked if I would be interested in taking it."
Judson is more than twice the size of Smithson Valley. It has nine assistant principals, 10 counselors, social workers, more than 300 faculty members and, as Williams put it, "layers upon layers of leadership issues." Judson also has about 5,000 students. Once Wagner High School opens its doors next year, Williams expects to be dealing with transition challenges.
"You have a tremendous amount of cultural, ethnical and socio-economical diversity," he said. "Then, approximately 2,000 students will be going from Judson to Wagner and you'll have to get them reintegrated to new setting. As soon as that happens, [Judson] will start growing again."
Though Judson looks to be a good fit and though his family is looking forward to the move, Williams said not everybody in his household was thrilled at first when he told them of the move.
"My seven-year-old daughter cried," he said. "She grew up in Smithson Valley and would often say, 'Daddy, I want to be a Ranger.'"
Williams said he'd miss the students, staff, people and atmosphere at Smithson Valley. "Smithson Valley is a part of me," he said. "It also has my personality stamped all over it. I grew with it and learned from it. Hopefully a lot of the things they do there and the atmosphere reflects how I am. I think the reason we don't have turnover is because of the parental support and the dedication of the staff. Teachers come and they stay."
During Williams' time at Smithson Valley, an ROTC program was added while the number of students in the advanced placement program exponentially increased from five to more than 200.
What's remarkable, the departing principal said, is how Smithson Valley maintained a rural outlook.
"We grew the way we did, but the behavior of the students remained the similar to small, rural schools, even with distance kids had to travel," Williams said. "There are so many people I want to thank for making my stay here pleasant. [CISD superintendent] Nancy Fuller and the school board supported me in so many ways, letting me step out of the box and do unique things. They always listened to and trusted my judgment."
While the search is on to find a replacement for Williams, Rodrigue said they would have large shoes to fill.
"We need to find a personality that fits in with our staff and community," he said. "It's like a 50-50 deal. You'll make decision but must take stock in what people you work with and people in the community have to say.
"Brad was a good fit for community and staff," Rodrigue added. "Our staff knew they could walk into his door anytime and be listened to, good or bad. You can express yourself. That's what we need to continue with."
CISD is currently looking for a replacement. A community consisting of teachers and parents will be interviewing candidates and will make a recommendation to Fuller, who will then at a future date make a final recommendation to the school board.