Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Two weeks ago, Judson Independent School District’s board of trustees announced Jeanette Ball as the district’s lone finalist for superintendent. Trustees are expected to vote to hire Ball on July 16 with an agreement to have her start immediately.
Ball is a local educator, having served 18 years in Southwest ISD as both a teacher and administrator. She left Southwest in 2013 to become superintendent of nearby Uvalde CISD, a rural district located southwest of San Antonio.
In an interview with the Rivard Report last week, Ball talked about how she got involved in education and what drew her to Judson ISD. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
Rivard Report: Why did you choose to go into education?
Jeanette Ball: The odd thing about me is that if people would have known me as a child, they probably would not have expected that I would be the one getting a doctorate. I had some life experiences that I feel really molded me to be who I am. One of them is my mom. She had five daughters and for my mom, it was not ever if you go to college, it was when you go. That was my expectation from day one.
I remember a ninth grade counselor pulling me aside and saying, “Well you better start deciding what you are going to do, because college is not for you.” I remember being devastated about that because I felt like, “Wow, I’ve already let my mom down.”
I grew up speaking Spanish, I was very blessed to spend a lot of time with my grandparents, and my grandpa wouldn’t respond back to me if I wasn’t speaking to him in Spanish…I had two teachers tell me that the reason I was struggling was because I had it all jumbled up in my head and [because] my mom did the unfortunate thing of teaching me Spanish.
It really led me through the path of education because I never wanted other kids to go through what I went through. I never wanted a child to feel because of their race, their ethnicity, or their background that they couldn’t be successful.
RR: How did you end up in San Antonio?
JB: I graduated from [Schreiner University] in December, and I moved to San Antonio in January in 1995. San Antonio has grown so much – in 1995, I didn’t even own a cell phone. … I lived off somewhere in the Wurzbach area and I remember my interview [with Southwest ISD] was off of Old Pearsall Road, but at the time it was completely in the fields.
I drove over there thinking there is no way there is a school out here and in between all these cornfields and pastures, I found Southwest ISD. I immediately fell in love with the district and spent 18 years there. I taught English as a second language and history, and I moved up from assistant principal to principal, to director, to executive director, to assistant superintendent.
RR: Why did you want to be come superintendent?
JB: I think it was the ability to serve more students. I felt I [was] a public servant. I really see my role as a public servant, and I think that I was feeling that I could help more people as superintendent.
RR: You served as superintendent in Uvalde CISD for the past several years. How do you think your experience as superintendent in Judson will differ from your experience there?
JB: What [students] are facing is a lot of the same. Judson is just so much bigger, but our students here [at Uvalde] and at Judson, they come with issues and concerns, they come to school needing to be loved, needing to be taught.
The demographics are similar in regards to an [English-language learner] population, socioeconomic population, so a lot of the demographics are the same, just in a larger scale.
RR: What drew you to Judson ISD?
JB: Judson has a rich history, an excellent reputation. I wanted to be part of a system that is doing wonderful things. I just see myself as a star polisher because Judson has a lot of wonderful things they are already doing that I can help polish to be even brighter.
The other thing that drew me there is their board [of trustees]. I have heard outstanding things about their board, and I am completely impressed with them. From day one when I interviewed, I could easily tell that their board truly puts students first. I feel like we had a connection in regards to supporting teachers being the ones in the trenches every single day.
RR: Who are the people who have influenced your career path?
JB: Dr. Velma Villegas was the first female superintendent that I knew. It sounds crazy, but I was in awe of her. She was truly the first female superintendent that I knew and got to work with and … there are very few female superintendents.
Once a month [superintendents] have a meeting at [the regional education office] and we sit at a U-shaped table, and when I look across to my right and left, there are very few females that sit at that table. I am humbled to be able to be one of the superintendents to now sit there with the Bexar County superintendents, and also being a Hispanic female. …People get thrown off with my name, but I am 100 percent Hispanic and proud to be a Hispanic female running a large district.
I think that my path has been through my mentors, Maria Ferrier, the founding president of Texas A&M San Antonio, [and Dr. Villegas]. They are both Hispanic females, involved in education, and they truly instilled in me that “I can” attitude of just because you are from a small, predominantly Hispanic community and you are Hispanic, you can still achieve this. That’s what I want to do for other girls. I want to be a role model.