When Sergio Hernandez replaced Bill Thurston as superintendent of the Freeman School District in 2006, the state of capital facilities was a concern.
Going back to 2002, the district had fallen short in three campaigns to generate funds for major upgrades at the high school and elementary school, both built in the 1950s. A capital bond in 2003 failed to earn the required 60-percent supermajority by a mere 26 votes.
Now, over five years later, a sparkling new high school stands just a block away from the district administrative office. Nearby, work continues on the renovation of the elementary school with completion anticipated in time for the start of the 2011-12 academic year.
|Freeman School District Superintendent Sergio Hernandez, who led a successful capital facilities campaign that resulted in a new high school and elementary school, will retire following this school year. Hernandez took over for Bill Thurston in 2006. Photo by: Craig Howard
Hernandez is the last one to take credit for the construction, although district supporters will tell you that he was a major reason the district finally passed a funding initiative in May 2008, providing $19.5 million for refurbishing efforts along with another $10.5 million in state matching dollars.
“Sergio is a great listener,” said Freeman Principal Dave Smith. “Before the vote, he didn’t just go out and talk all the time – he listened to people’s ideas and thoughts.”
Another hallmark of Hernandez’s tenure in the district – getting residents to invest in the value of a quality education – helped increase awareness of the condition of aging buildings. Open houses and community presentations rallied support for capital projects and, by the time ballots were returned, the vote coasted to a 65.8-percent margin of victory.
“It was a tremendous effort from our community,” Hernandez said after the election. “I think people realized this was something positive for our district.”
Last month, district officials began work on another major project – one that might be as challenging as replacing the buildings that stood for over five decades.
Hernandez announced on Jan. 24 that he would be retiring from his superintendent’s post after the current school year. The news was made official at the Jan. 27 Freeman board of directors meeting.
Smith said the retiring superintendent’s leadership will be missed.
“He’s been tremendously supportive,” Smith said. “He’s someone who always listened and valued your opinion. With Sergio, decisions were made together.”
Hernandez, who turns 65 in August, said his retirement will mean a new leader stepping in to address issues like the district’s strategic plan and new state-mandated educational reforms.
“I just think it’s the right time for the district to move forward with a few major initiatives,” he said.