Sharyland ISD Superintendent Maria Vidaurri announced this week that she plans to retire in June of 2024 after five years at the district’s helm.
A Premont native, Vidaurri replaced Robert O’Connor as superintendent in 2018 after serving as superintendent in Robstown and spending most of her career as an educator at Rio Grande Valley school districts.
Vidaurri says she’s hanging up her spurs to spend more time with family and plans to move near San Antonio to be closer to them.
That being said, Vidaurri really isn’t ready to retire.
Talking to her, it sounds like spending more time with family only narrowly edged out continuing to lead the district — which she describes as more vocation than job.
Plainly emotional about the decision, she said she found a mindset at Sharyland ISD that matched her own. She said that she and the district grew together.
“It has been a calling. It’s been a journey. And you hope that as you’re exiting you’ve been able to leave a little something that people can take — students can take,” she said.
Ruminating on whether she’d succeeded in doing that, Vidaurri spent little time talking about the sorts of things school districts tend to put on billboards — things like rankings and ratings and awards.
Vidaurri, rather, pointed to the quotidian, every-day, almost nerdy aspects of being a superintendent.
Developing frameworks. Balancing budgets. Putting systems in place that improve things for the district’s special education and special populations students.
She says she likes to hustle, and that that’s where she made her impact: putting in the hours behind the scenes.
“No one will really know how hard the teachers worked. And how hard the team worked, and the administrators,” Vidaurri said. “We wrote our own curriculum. We revised our own curriculum. We evaluated it. We didn’t buy anything off the market — and that is super hard to do. That’s not easy, and most people don’t know that, unless you really understand public education and are in it.”
Often, enrollment proved to be a dominant issue of Vidaurri’s tenure leading Sharyland.
In contrast to pretty much all of its neighbors, Sharyland has managed to avoid going open enrollment.
If you don’t work or live in the borders of the school district and want to send your child to school there, you must pay for the privilege.
That policy draws vocal support from a good chunk of locals and board trustees, who often describe it as a way to maintain the district’s successes.
However, enrollment declines and an associated decrease in funding often made Vidaurri walk a tightrope between needing more students and having a policy in place that makes enrollment expensive for outsiders.
The district found a compromise this summer that opens enrollment to families who don’t live in the district’s boundaries but do work in the area.
Vidaurri described self-assessment and creative problem solving as essential. She said that’s the legacy she hopes to leave behind, one that’ll motivate students and staff to keep aiming higher.
“In a district like Sharyland, it’s very easy to become complacent because of how successful the district is,” she said. “So it’s important that everyone sees their role as self-improvement. Your leadership role is self-improving all the time, because if you do that, then you will not become complacent.”
Perhaps the largest struggle for the district during Vidaurri’s tenure has been its inability to pass a bond.
Two bond pushes in the last couple of years failed, the latest by a razor-thin margin.
Long-standing facilities needs those bonds would have addressed remain a concern, according to Vidaurri.
Another bond push in the near future seems probable.
Vidaurri said a five-year strategic plan the district is currently developing will give leadership and whoever the board picks as her successor a firm foundation to build on to address financial challenges.
“It really needed to be huge. It needed to be big, it needed to be deep,” she said about the plan. “So I think the start is there. Those issues, they are very real for Sharyland. But we’ve also realized on this journey how our parents feel, and the community feels, and the conservative views that they have are also very real.”
Vidaurri says she’s confident the district will achieve a smooth leadership transition next summer.
Will Vidaurri stay retired permanently? It seems doubtful.
“I still have a lot of energy, and I love what I do and I love public education,” she said. “I feel like there will be some opportunities there for me to still remain involved with public education, to do as much as I can. We’ll see what doors open up when I do retire.”