AUSTIN (KXAN) — Eanes ISD Superintendent Dr. Tom Leonard announced his plans for retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 school year Tuesday at a meeting with school district leadership.
The Eanes Independent School District board will be immediately launching its search for a new superintendent. Leonard said he expects the board to announce a candidate for the role this winter, who will work with Leonard during the transition until the new superintendent is installed in July.
Leonard has worked over four decades in education, spanning from a teacher, coach, assistant principal and superintendent. He joined Eanes ISD as the superintendent in 2014.
“My mom always said to me, ‘Leave the garden a little better than you found it,'” Leonard said. “We’ve done really well, and academically, we’re as strong as any district in the state of Texas and the United States. I’m just really proud to be a small part of all that.”
Leonard said he had privately contemplated retiring two years ago, but he stayed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. He and the school board faced criticism from parents for enforcing a mask mandate for all students, staff and visitors at schools in the district.
Leonard said these difficult decisions were made as the district chose to follow the health authorities.
“If we said masks, people were unhappy,” Leonard said. “If we said no masks, other people were unhappy. There was no place that you are going to make everyone happy. I wish I could have. But we did, I believe, take care of the kids, we did get in-person as soon as the authorities allowed us to.”
Leonard said the priorities that the incoming superintendent will focus on will be decided by the school district in January, and the board will review their current policies and determine the changes that need to be made.
One priority the district set this past year was diversity and inclusion. Following complaints about racism and discrimination, the district implemented an online reporting system for people who anonymously report on any incidents in the district and hired Dr. Mark Gooden as the diversity, equity and inclusion consultant who was involved in staff training.
“This is a great community,” Leonard said. “We’re not perfect. I don’t think there’s any community in the world that’s perfect. but it’s a great community and I stay focused on that.”
The school district board will convene Monday, Oct. 25 to discuss selecting a search firm that will assist with the transition.
During Leonard’s tenure, some of his accomplishments include adding new programs at Westlake High School and in the district’s elementary schools as well as successfully supporting the passage of two bonds used to update technology and improve facilities.
“Focus on all of the good that we have here,” Leonard said. “We’re aren’t all going to agree on everything. That’s never going to change. But we really should be thankful for an amazing community with amazing resources. It isn’t about a superintendent, it isn’t about trustees, it’s about kids. We should be able to focus on kids.”