Theresa Williams knew her career could be on course for the top job at Plano ISD, but she didn’t expect it to happen in the middle of a school year, after Sara Bosner announced her retirement in January.
“I wasn’t thinking about it, and I was not anticipating Sara’s retirement coming as soon as it did,” Williams says. “I was honored that the board provided me with this opportunity. I love Plano and had invested four years here.”
The school board hired Williams as superintendent in March. She started on June 1, and she’s coming up with creative ways to connect with the community.
Williams began her career as a teacher in Garland ISD and worked there for 20 years until 2014, when Lubbock ISD hired her as deputy superintendent.
A Texas Tech University alumna who spent 13 years of her childhood in Lubbock, she jumped on the chance to return to West Texas.
The timing was great for her family, as she moved to Lubbock the same year her oldest son started as a freshman at her alma mater.
Williams says she knew she wouldn’t stay in Lubbock forever, but she enjoyed returning to the wide-open Texas plains.
Four years later, she moved to Plano to become the chief operating officer and deputy superintendent for PISD.
“Both of those roles really prepare you for this one because a big part of that job is making sure your superintendent’s parachute is always packed,” she says.
Addressing a community survey was her first order of business when she assumed the superintendent’s role this summer.
The survey results included everything from serious safety concerns to students asking for better chicken in school lunches.
Williams met with as many people as possible, starting with meet-and-greets at Plano middle schools, she says.
“I just wanted it to be casual,” she says. “Nobody wants to go after school and listen to a PowerPoint presentation, so it was just an opportunity to get to know me, have a causal conversation, and really have some face time.”
Pressing the flesh was important at a time when schools are finding the post-pandemic new normal, Williams says. She met with the mayors of all the cities PISD encompasses, former school board members and business owners.
Williams has found new ways for administrators to interact with teachers staff and families.
Her “Mission Mondays” brings PISD administration’s regular leadership meeting to a different campus every week. While they’re there, they also help with tasks such as student pick-up or drop-off and morning announcements.
“It’s been really fun to engage with the students, the teachers and parents in a different way,” she says.
Math is the area where students fell behind most during the pandemic, Williams says. But test results show that learning loss has not hit the district as hard as others. She credits the district’s Measure of Academic Progress, known as M.A.P., for identifying academic achievement shortfalls early and addressing them effectively.
Since the school shooting in Uvalde, parents are worried about security, Williams says. The district’s bond task force recommended funding for increased safety and security measures.
PISD hired an architecture firm to assess each school’s unique layout from a security and safety standpoint. That report is expected to be presented to the school board soon.
“We have a great level of confidence in our security but still we wanted to go back and double-check,” Williams said. “We want to make sure that no stone is left unturned.”