Superintendent Paul Sevillano retires after three years that included a global pandemic but also a long-awaited dual language program, reinstatement of adult education and the expansion of preschool
FARMERSVILLE – After nearly 40 years in education, Farmersville Unified Superintendent Paul Sevillano will swap his tailored suits for wet suits next month as he retires to his home in Southern California.
The surfing superintendent waved goodbye to the district and the community at his last school board meeting on July 19. His last official day with the district is July 31. After that, Sevillano will return to his home in Seal Beach, Calif. where his family has remained and he has been splitting time since being named Farmersville’s assistant superintendent in August 2017. In addition to spending his weekdays away from family, Sevillano said it has been difficult to be away from his family at a time when some of them are going through health issues. Sevillano said he is looking forward to spending more time with family and more time at the beach where he has a surfing group with other Southern California superintendents.
“I think that the work we’ve done together will only continue and you’re well positioned to continue the work and be very successful,” Sevillano said.
Since taking over the district in 2019, Sevillano has accomplished much despite two years being interrupted by a global pandemic. Several school board members mentioned Sevillano’s proactive approach to leadership which prepared the district for the statewide shutdown of schools in March 2020 and helped the district navigate the uncertainty of reopening schools in August 2021.
“Thank you for helping to keep this community safe and helping our kids stay safe,” school board member Isamar Hernandez said.
The board’s longest tenured member, John Vasquez, said the uncertainty of COVID-19 and school policy brought he and Sevillano close as they made decisions that would affect every family in Farmersville.
“All I can say is that the last five years have been exciting,” Vasquez said. “We have gone through some difficult times in the past several years. Again, you have kept us on course, you have been very informative to this board, and providing us with all the information that we needed during this rough time.”
Board member Alice Lopez said Sevillano was able to do something no other superintendent had done – deliver a dual language program the board had been requesting for more than 10 years. In the program, Spanish speakers are taught to read and write English while English speakers are taught to read and write Spanish provides both with the ability to be proficient in two languages as well as culture retention.
“That’s something we had requested for years and years and years, and for some reason, never started,” Lopez said. “You were able to come in and get it started right off the bat.”
In addition to the dual language program, Sevillano oversaw the reinstatement of adult education in Farmersville, including English as a second language courses, a high school diploma program and career opportunities; improvements in classroom technology, including 2-to-1 student to Chromebook ratio, touch screens and the ability to offer online courses; launching a community swim program, in cooperation with the city of Farmersville and its afterschool program contractor Teaching Fellows, for youth including swim lessons, free swim, and a swim club; and, beginning next month, expanding preschool to all 4-year-olds in the district.
“Together, our district has successfully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic while adding critical programs and services to support our students and larger school community,” Sevillano said.
Following a break for cookies to celebrate his retirement, Sevillano’s last meeting was packed with positives for the district including a presentation on the transition to universal preschool, future meetings to collaborate with the city of Farmersville on programs and projects, and the board’s approval of placing an $8.6 million school bond on the November ballot. The school bond will improve the district’s technological and physical infrastructure, make energy efficiency improvements to each campus, make ADA upgrades districtwide, replace portables with permanent classrooms, and build a new multipurpose room/cafeteria at Farmersville High School.
District administrators thanked Sevillano for his leadership and providing an atmosphere of professionalism during his tenure atop the district.
“What I learned fairly quickly was that I was blessed with a boss who was not only very well versed in what he was doing, but a fantastic mentor and a great friend,” said Jeff Wimp, Director of Certificated and Classified Personnel. “I want to thank you for the last three years. You were just an incredible source of information.”
He even received kind words from Farmersville Teachers Association president Julie McIntosh after months of an extremely bitter and public labor dispute between the union and the district. The two settled their differences in mediation sessions in May and the teachers approved a new contract last month including a 4.5% raise, a fully funded health care plan, and an increase of $10 to their hourly rate. The offer also included a $4,000 one-time stipend for concurrent instruction for the 2022-23 school year in addition to a $4,000 stipend for the 2021-22 year through a separate memorandum of understanding (MOU).
“As negotiations chair, I appreciate that you were always available to hear us,” McIntosh said. “We didn’t always agree on the final decisions, but you never turned me away. You always made time to listen, and I certainly appreciate that.”