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Posts published in February 2007

Crosby ISD’s Hendrix retiring after 21 years

By BOBBY HORN JR.
CROSBY—A driving force behind the academic success of Crosby ISD will step aside this fall after giving the district the past 21 years of his life.
During a meeting of the Crosby Board of Trustees, Dr. Don Hendrix officially announced his retirement as superintendent. The retirement, which will go into effect in November, caps a 43-year career in education.
“This is not, in anyway, anything other than an amiable separation,” Hendrix said, stressing that he enjoys working with the current board and that he feels happy with the direction of the district and that his decision was not based on the state of Crosby ISD.
“I was once told that you will know it the end has come, and now I know,” Hendrix said. For some time, Hendrix said, he knew his health was in decline. In the fall he had some heart issues, then a fall on a just-mopped floor at the administration building. “There was a time when I could have caught myself,” he said. “But I couldn’t.”

Then, an incident in December, convinced Hendrix that he should reevaluate his position with the district.
“I was at the Crosby post office,” he said. “The floor was wet and I went down hard. I thought I was going to hit my face, but I caught it on my shoulder. Then I found I could not get up. Laying there on the floor, with people around me. I knew it was time.”
Before coming to Crosby, Hendrix served as assistant superintendent of instruction at the affluent Alamo Heights school district in San Antonio. Though by this point he had already earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas, he was the only one of six finalists for the position that had not previously served as a superintendent.
The Board, under the direction of then-President Earl Boykin, however, looked past this and hired him with an unanamous vote.
Coming to Crosby, Hendrix knew that he was coming into a difficult situation.
He found that the students in the bottom of the academic scale could not read or do math well while those he were on the higher end were not challenged to take courses that would prepare them for college. In 1986, four students at Crosby High scored over 1,000 on the SAT college entrance exam.
“We want out kids, when they leave Crosby, to be able to go onto any college campus in this country and compete on an equal footing with the other students,” he said.
The district was also facing overcrowding at its campuses. The Drew campus alone, he said, was serving over 900 students, many in portable buildings. In 1986, there was only one grade being taught south of Highway 90. So why weren’t more buildings constructed? The community, he said, had deep scars remaining from segregation in the 1970s. Patrons argued over where to build the schools and how to service the students. The three pervious bond referendums had failed; the last one by a 3:1 margin.
Forced to bring any building program before a federal court for approval, Crosby came up with a plan to satisfy all the patrons: two identical elementary campuses on either end of the district with a middle school/ high school complex geographically in the middle. “Despite the challenges,” he said. “I knew that we could turn things around.”
Returning to Crosby was a sort of homecoming for Hendrix. As a youth he attended Highlands Elementary before moving to Deer Park. His success on the basketball court at Deer Park earned his a scholarship at San Jacinto College. He then left the Gulf Coast for Stephen F. Austin State University, where he earned his Masters degree.
“I never made it a goal to come back to the area,” he said. “I stayed away from 1967 to 1986, going where the jobs came up.”
During this 19-year span Hendrix went from being a basketball coach and government/ history teacher at a district 15 miles from the Mexican Border to upper class San Antonio. Hendrix also earned a fellowship from the University of Texas, which included an internship at the Texas Education Agency.
In the early 1970’s he was recruited by Crystal City ISD Board president Dr. José Ángel Gutiérrez, as the only Anglo administrator in the district. Gutierrez was a founding member of the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) in San Antonio in 1967, and a founding member and past president of the Raza Unida Party, a Mexican-American third party movement that supported candidates for elective office in Texas, California, and other areas in the country.
These opportunities, he said, taught him that academic success is not dependent on the wealth of the district but by parent involvement and by motivating students.
To this end, Hendrix set goals at Crosby to implement a solid reading program, full-day kindergarten and half-day pre-K program, and pre-Advanced Placement programs starting as young as the seventh grade.
While attending classes at the high school, Hendrix’s son Dean made an observation that made an impact on how these programs were developed.
“The kids here are smart, “ he observed, “But they don’t know very much.”
In addition to adding a fourth year math requirement, Hendrix said that he pushes each student to take as advanced classes as they can and not to settle for minimal skills.
He also said that he was proud of the work done for the special needs students.
One major change of the district, Hendrix noted, was the move to single-member districts in the early 1990s. Led by the late John David, Bill Fontenot and Gerald Blankenship, the move allowed for more minority representation on the board and cut down on the fighting in district, which had handcuffed Crosby prior to Hendrix.
Sheryl Shaw, the current board president, said that Hendrix would be remembered for his leadership in promoting academic excellence at all levels of the district.
Despite his successes, Hendrix said that there are areas where he felt he had not been successful. He said that he would have like to do more to motivate the students who fell in the middle between the remedial and the upper academic levels. He also said that he wished that he could have hired a curriculum director earlier rather than taking on the task himself.
“When you try to do too much, you short sight something,” he added.
Shaw said that the board is expected to meet later this week to set the perimeters for the search to replace Hendrix. The first order of business will be to decide whether to look internally for a replacement as Goose Creek and Dayton did or go outside the district as Barbers Hill did last year.