A fixture at Wharton ISD since 1977, Superintendent Don Hillis has announced he will retire at the end of the current academic year.
The construction of the new Wharton Elementary campus is putting the capstone on Hillis' career. It is something he had been hoping to see built for a long time.
"I was pleasantly surprised the community supported the bond issue to build it and passed it by a nice margin," he said.
Hillis is originally from this area, having attended public school in Rockdale and Port Lavaca. He graduated from Calhoun High School in 1965 and then Sam Houston State University in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in education.
His first job was in the classrooms of Brazosport High School in 1969. He described it as an "all-around" learning experience as he coached baseball, drove a bus and was the student council sponsor in addition to his teaching duties.
Continuing his own classroom education, Hillis would add a master's degree in education administration in 1973. He received his superintendent's certification in 1977. That same year, he was hired as assistant principal at Wharton High School by then-principal Jack Thornton.
"He offered me the job and I moved here in 1977," he said. "And I've been here ever since. My wife, Merri, was a first grade teacher and only retired a couple of years ago and both my children (daughter Holly and son John) are graduates of the Wharton ISD."
Hillis would serve nine years as assistant principal under Thornton's direction.
"It's a position that teaches you about school administration. You learn every inch of the role. When Thornton retired, I was named principal and did that for four years before moving over to the central office in 1990 as director of auxiliary services."
His responsibilities included transportation, facilities maintenance and food services. In 1977, he became superintendent.
"This job is tough enough without compounding it with problems," he said. "I've had great boards to work with along with an outstanding staff. The Texas Association of School Boards talks about 'a board of eight' - the seven trustees and the superintendent - and being a team. It might sound like lip service but when it works that way a school district can accomplish a lot."
His resignation goes into effect June 30.
Rockdale,TX Class of 1965
1724 Oliver Street
Wharton, TX 77488
Don Martin Hillis
WISD looks for Hillis' replacement
Job applicants will be judged on 13 categories
By BARRY HALVORSON
The questions have been put together and now the search is on to find the next superintendent for
the Wharton Independent School District.
In December, current Superintendent Don Hillis announced he would be retiring in June.
Hillis has been with the WISD since 1977 and
has been superintendent since 1997.
Wharton JournalSpectator Jan 26, 2008
Wharton ISD Superintendent Don Hillis announces that he will retire after 31 years with the district.
Wharton Journal-Spectator Jan 2, 2008
Whether you're checking for drugs or cavities, a Superintendent's job is never easy!
Celebrating 30 years at Wharton ISD
'Pot Roasts' make tribute to Hillis memorable
By BARRY HALVORSON firstname.lastname@example.org
While it will probably not be the final tribute he will receive before his retirement becomes official, the one presented Wharton ISD Superintendent Don Hillis by "The Pot Roasts" could be the most memorable.
The retiring superintendent being serenaded by district members with the countrified "Ode to Don Hillis" during the Wharton ISD 14th Annual Employee Appreciation, Retirement and Awards Banquet May 15 was
received with a standing ovation from a capacity crowd at the Wharton Civic Center.
The tune was penned by Sivells Elementary Principal Marilyn Clark and Marjorie Sklar, director of Personnel and Community Services. The song followed a power point presentation of Hillis' life, including his time as superintendent.
In December, Hillis announced he would be retiring in June. He has been with the WISD since 1977 and has been superintendent since 1997.
Among the individual speakers recognizing Hillis was Ethel Garrett, who opened her remarks with words from her grandmother.
"She said that people don't have to be kind to you, but if they are you should say 'thank you' or 'much obliged.'" she said.
"You always showed strength of character and your words have matched your character. Your manner has always been straight forward and you walked your talk and earned our loyalty. You led us but remained one of us. Much obliged."
Hillis wasn't the only person recognized or the only school
superintendent attending the meeting. Among those in the audience was incoming Superintendent James Bartosh. He offered his thanks to the district and community for the warm welcome he has received in planning to move to the city and also complimented the district's employees for their efforts on behalf of education.
"What you do is such a wonderful thing," he said. "You've dedicated your life to Education. In the words of a king - B.B. King - 'The beautiful thing about learning is you can't take it away.' You give the community the eternal gift of learning."
In addition to not being the only superintendent present, Hillis also wasn't the only retiree honored during the evening. This year's list of retirees included Janie Bucek, elementary teacher; Floyd Ciruti, teacher and head baseball coach; Stella Durley, head nurse; Loraine Dusek, library assistant; Delia Guerra, elementary teacher; Don Jennings, high school principal; Laura Martin, elementary teacher; David Munsch, maintenance supervisor; Sharie Stelzel, elementary teacher; and Bruce Turner, art teacher.
Also recognized during the night were this year's service awards recipients. The awards are presented for each five years of service. The longest term of service recognized during the night was 40 years by Thelma Cody.
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El Campo Leader-News - January 23, 2008
Wharton ISD's Hillis to step down after decades working for district
"He offered me the job and I moved here in 1977, and I've been here ever since." - Don Hillis Wharton ISD superintendent
By BARRY HALVORSON email@example.com