Q&A with Trustee John Hibbs
January is School Board Recognition Month, and this year’s theme is Forward, Together. The Arlington ISD has been moving forward together thanks in part to our board. We appreciate our school board members, so we’re catching up with them this month to find out about their lives and why they serve.
Next up is John Hibbs, who served on the board from 2010 to 2019 and then was appointed to the board last year to take the spot after then-board member Bowie Hogg left to become a member of the Arlington City Council.
Why did you agree to come back to the school board?
First and foremost, it was an honor to be asked. It shows you have respect from your peers. It was the appropriate thing to do to make an appointment, and they chose to reach out to me which was an honor. Second, there were some challenging times ahead and maybe they were looking for some leadership. I wanted to be able to help the board in their transition, and it was a humbling thing to be asked.
Did you miss not being on the board?
I did. After serving for nine years and pouring your heart into something, you miss it. But there are always times for fresh approaches, new ideas and giving others the opportunity to serve. Stepping back in felt like it was riding a bike. There was a time and a place, and I was able to step in and serve.
What are the biggest differences now vs. when you left in 2019?
The progression of the 2019 Bond. Because of COVID, because of inflationary pressures, there are huge challenges in being able to push the bond project forward and still keep the funding in the realm approved by the voters. Also, just because of COVID, we’re trying to get the district back to the pre-COVID levels. There are pieces in place, and we’re moving them forward to help do that.
When people had to go remote, you had challenges when it came to looking at different systems. It’s good to be able to do a continual review and be able to review areas that have been missing. Also, in human resources management, there’s a huge teacher shortage, and we’re trying to ensure that we put the best resources into recruiting the absolute best and retaining them.
Going back even more, what are the biggest differences now vs. when you started in 2010?
Our district is leap years ahead in forward-thinking now. When I got on the board, one of the biggest barriers we were facing was that our students were very diverse in the respect that not all students were going to go to college. We were still treating our district as if that was the No. 1 goal. We really focused to get them college and career ready. Now we have an amazing thing that is our Dan Dipert Career and Technical Center. When students leave high school, if they are not on a college pathway they are on a career pathway that gives them an opportunity to make very good wages and meet their career goals and ambitions.
The early college high school was something our district had never even thought about. Now we have students – most of them first generation – not only gaining high school diplomas but being able to graduate successfully with an associate degree. At that time, we didn’t have a bond for almost 12 years before I came on. Our district needed vital improvements and we were able to meet that where we have the facilities that can provide our students ultimately the best education preparation for success. Those are some of the things that are just the tip of the iceberg.
The years you weren’t on the board were the peak COVID years. What are your thoughts on that?
I want to be clear that our board had to go through some uncharted waters. I thought they performed amazingly well. Were there disagreements and lively discussion? Yes. That’s what good boards do because they move and go forward. I have to send out kudos because they were in a tough situation. There are still tough situations ahead.
There are social issues that have to be dealt with, and we have to be sure we’re respectful of every child in our system. At the end of the day, that’s going to be a challenge. COVID was a huge one. We’re overcoming the loss of students in the district because of that. I believe we’re on the right path. We’re seeing lots of positives moving forward. I think this is the right board at the right time.
How much attention did you pay to the board during the time you weren’t on it?
I always had an eye and ear on the district. I tried not to involve myself in saying a ‘this is what I would do’ type of thing. I think many board members might try that. I always offered up to the board that if they had any questions or I could assist in sitting down, I could help them talk through some thoughts. I had many meetings over the years with board members at their request. I think that’s just wise counsel, a little bit of wisdom from someone who has walked there. I wanted to respect that this was their opportunity to make their mark. They performed and are continuing to perform very admirably.