The Waco Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously voted to name Hazel Rowe interim superintendent Thursday, a week after A. Marcus Nelson resigned as superintendent in the wake of his marijuana possession arrest.
Rowe, a board member of the in-district charter system known as Transformation Waco, previously served as interim superintendent for the district during the 2001-02 school year. She has more than five decades of experience in education.
Rowe said she will resign from the Transformation Waco board now that she is serving as Waco ISD’s interim superintendent.
“The community support has been so strong,” she said after the board meeting. “I felt compelled to accept coming back to work with students, teachers and staff.”
Rowe spent 23 years working in Waco ISD schools. Her first teaching job in the district was at North Waco Elementary School as a fourth-grade teacher. She then served as assistant principal and principal of Crestview Elementary School before becoming the Waco ISD director of elementary operations.
Board President Pat Atkins said Rowe’s name kept coming up as the board discussed who could fill the vacant superintendent position, because of her lengthy experience in education and with the district.
“It just seemed a natural fit,” Atkins said.
Rowe also previously served as the district’s assistant superintendent for campus operations and associate superintendent for school improvement. After her first term as interim superintendent ended in 2002, she accepted the position of executive director of the Region 12 Education Service Center in Waco. After retiring from the center in 2011, Rowe taught current and future educators in the doctoral program at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, as well as the alternative certification program at McLennan Community College.
Asked about her goals as interim superintendent, Rowe said she wants the community, students and staff to “stay connected.”
“My goals are, basically, to keep us connected, keep us on track with moving toward getting ready for the tests that are coming up this spring,” she said. “I also want to make sure we keep the community involved because they’ve been a big part of providing a safety net for our students.”
The first day of this year’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness testing in the district will be April 8.
The board also voted Thursday to use the Texas Association of School Boards Executive Search Services for its superintendent search firm. The firm’s services will be free, minus expenses, because Nelson did not stay with the district for two years, according to the firm’s contract with Waco ISD.
Nelson started with the district in June 2017. His resignation March 21 came two weeks after he was arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge in Robertson County. A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper stopped Nelson for a traffic violation and found less than 2 ounces of marijuana in his vehicle, according to an arrest affidavit.
Nelson entered a pretrial diversion program that will see the charge dropped if he avoids trouble for 90 days.
Atkins said he hopes to have a new superintendent by the start of the next school year.
“As we move forward, we’ll begin a listening process of meeting with parents, community members, staff and even students and really hearing their thoughts on what’s going well in the district, what areas we could improve upon and what characteristics they’re looking for in the next superintendent,” he said. “From that, we’ll build out a job description.”