By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (December 10, 2014) — One conversation Dr. Kathy Ray had years ago sums up exactly how she feels about her role as an education administrator.
“:A couple years back I was sitting at a volleyball game and the lady beside me and I started talking about the game,” Ray explained as she reminisced on her five and a half years as an assistant superintendent at Stephenville ISD. “She pointed out her daughter then asked me, ‘Which one’s yours?’ and I said, “All of them.”
Ray has spent 34 years in education, the last 26 of them in administration. She’s worked her way up from classroom teacher all the way to superintendent of Zavalla ISD in east Texas. She’s worked for the Texas Education Agency, and of course, she’s fallen in love with Stepehenville.
“The sense of community, the relationships I’ve built with the people within the district and community, and being involved in organizations such as United Way where I could give back to the community; it’s all been so wonderful and I’m very appreciative of all the people who gave me such opportunities,” said Ray.
Which is exactly why it’s so hard to say goodbye.
Ray sent an email to district employees earlier this week informing them she has accepted a role as deputy superintendent at Weatherford ISD. She will finish the semester at SISD, with her last day scheduled for December 19. She begins her new role in Weatherford on January 5.
“I sent that email a couple nights ago, and the responses I’ve received have just been tremendous,” Ray said, with a smile that managed to express happiness and sadness simultaneously. “I’m not only leaving co-workers, I’m leaving friends, but that’s a wonderful way to leave a place, knowing what you mean to the people there and knowing you did help make a difference.”
Especially in the lives of youth, which Ray labels the ultimate gift.
“They’re all my kids. They’re my kids from pre-K or kindergarten until they go to college,” Ray said. “Being part of the educational process, seeing them learn and grow, mature and blossom, that’s what makes my job so wonderful, and that’s why I love it now just as much as I did when I started teaching.”
But why Weatherford, and why now?
“I was not looking for a job, and had no intent of looking for a job,” Ray explained. “I just built a home here last spring and have only been in it since May. My plan was to be here for several more years to come.
“However, this opportunity came along and the more I thought about it the more enticing it became. I’ve never worked in a 6A school district before, and I look at that as both a challenge and opportunity,” she added. “I’m leaving many, many friends, and that part is hard, but in life you have different opportunities to to do things and sometimes you have to take advantage of those.”
Ray grew up in the small town of Woodville in east Texas and earned two degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, where she ultimately added both her mid-management and superintendent’s certification.
She taught eight years Zavalla, then entered administration.
“My mentor was Mr. John Ray Edmonds, and I visited him one day and told him it looked like he needed some help with all the paperwork he had from the state. He told me I was right and asked if I would be interested, so I told him I was,” Ray said.
Soon after, Ray became the curriculum director for Zavalla ISD, where she would return as superintendent after 12 years in charge of instructional programs at Palestine. She was a superintendent for three years before spending a year with the TEA working with underperforming schools, then saw an opportunity in Stephenville.
“We have such a great school district and community here,” she said. “It goes back to that phrase, ‘Tradition of excellence.’ There is that demand for excellence from both the parents and the school that attributes to all our success.”
That and extracurricular activities, she says.
“We have such a high percentage of students involved in some sort of extracurricular activity, and that’s what makes the school great, just like having so many people involved in the community is what makes Stephenville a great place to live.”
Ray, who has also served as an adjunct professor teaching graduate classes at both Stephen F. Austin and Tarleton State University, hopes to discover the same about Weatherford.
“I’ve worked with their superintendent, Dr. Jeff Hanks, before. We were both in Palestine at the same time. He’s told me wonderful things, and so have others I’ve visited with who have worked there,” she said. “It’s a nice town, ands everyone I’ve talked to has nothing but good things to say about it.”
And she plans to be just involved there as she is in Stephenville.
“I feel like as an administrator you owe it to the kids to be out in the community meeting people and learning about resources that can help kids be successful,” she said. “To do that, you have to get out and be involved, so yes, I’ll eventually be moving there once I sell my house here.”
You can sell a home and move, but you can’t erase a lifetime’s worth of memories made in just five and a half years.
“I believe I’m going to a great place and a great opportunity, but I know i’m leaving a great place, too” she said. “I would just like to say thank you. Thank you to all the people of this community and this school district for giving me the honor of being part of your kids’ lives and their education. Thank you for welcoming me and letting me be a part of this community. I just hope i’ve helped in some small way to make it even better.”