And the biggest job? Guiding the district through a bond construction program.
James Birkhead, who announced last week he would not seek a new term on the school board, did both.
Birkhead has served 15 years on the school board, the last eight as its president. They were among the most historic eight years in RISD history.
Rockdale ISD passed its first bond issue in 27 years in 2008, leading to the largest school construction project in more than 50 years.
Longtime Supt. Walter Pond retired later that year. The district hadn’t undertaken a superintendent search in 20 years but that’s what happened just as the building program was getting into high gear.
That meant trustees met close to a dozen times in December in addition to their regular session which was chock full of building program business.
It took a firm hand at the helm to guide the board through that hectic period and that’s exactly what Birkhead provided.
There’s much more to the job than buildings and hirings, although they are important. The outgoing board president has stressed time and again the board exists to make decisions for only one reason, the students of Rockdale ISD. They’ve never lost sight of that vision.
Frankly, it takes a special person to serve in a position such as school board president and the Rockdale ISD has been blessed with many of those.
It’s a thankless job and can be frustrating.
As a city council member once told an out-of-town person who provided a service to local residents, “Rockdale people may not know your phone number but they sure know mine.” That goes for school trustees, too.
It’s been a productive time for Rockdale schools. Birkhead has served the students and parents of this community well.—M.B.