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Dr. Robin Perez talks retirement from NISD, battling cancer, advice for next superintendent

NEDERLAND — Dr. Robin Perez said she has a “very serious” form of cancer but even that wasn’t enough to make her immediately quit her job, which after 35-plus years of service is more akin to a passion pursuit.

“When I first went to the doctor, our very first meeting, he told me then, ‘you need to retire,’” Perez recalls. “I’ve always been able to overcome, so I just kind of ignored him and kept going on to work. Then, there was one time he made a call to my house, talked to my husband and said, ‘she really needs to listen. She needs to resign and retire.’ Whenever he did that I realized this must be pretty serious.”

Perez, who has been superintendent for the Nederland Independent School District, headed the advice and officially announced her resignation in front of the NISD Board of Trustees Thursday evening.

The board accepted the resignation shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday.

In an interview with The Port Arthur News prior to Thursday’s school board meeting, Perez said she is “aggressively fighting” the disease and visits the doctor on a near daily basis.

She said the resignation was a difficult decision because she loves Nederland.

“It’s got great people, and the children are fabulous,” she said. “I hope the timing of my resignation allows the district to select a new leader that will keep our NISD vision moving forward and the bond projects on target like we promised our district.”

Nederland ISD Superintendent Robin Perez

Communication

Perez did not grow up in Nederland but knew many of the people following her work in the area via various near-by districts.

She said communication with her staff, the community and the school board is key.

“If something happens at the campuses, immediately (the school board is) notified, all seven at one time,” she said. “We don’t keep anything from one of the members. We work together as a team. That is vital. Each week on Fridays I send home ‘Board Notes,’ which is rehashing what has happened that week and things that will be going on in the future.”

Perez knows school board members come from different walks of life and different jobs. She said it is the superintendent’s job to make sure board members understand, so “we do trainings so we are all on the same page together. We would not be successful if we didn’t work together as a team.”

Sharing what the District is currently doing and also where teachers and administrators are looking to go are important ongoing steps.

Perez helped link school board members into the everyday actions of local campuses by implementing individual school showcases at various meetings.

Board members got to learn about the various programs on the campuses.

“That helps them understand, because they approve our budget in August,” Perez said. “So when we are talking about a bilingual program or a program in reading, they understand why we need funding in that program and how it will benefit the children.”

Perez was also big on evaluation, both internally and externally.

Under her leadership, NISD would evaluate and report on three major programs a year and then bring in an outside evaluator to do an evaluation of the program evaluation.

They would then write a report of what was found and recommended.

“That is shared with the Board members of what we found and our plan moving forward,” Perez said. “I would hope the next superintendent keeps that up. It may not be three programs; it may be two. Continue to evaluate yourself.”

According to Perez, she is most proud of the team at NISD, which extends way beyond the schoolhouse walls.

“Our parents are part of our community, so I try to involve everyone,” she said. “If you do that then people don’t create their own stories. Living in Nederland is unique. You can tell by those who have been here for several generations. It’s a family. If you need something people will be there to help you.”

Currently, Nederland ISD is recognized as an “A” rated district. Region 5 consists of 33 Districts and three Charter Schools. Nederland ISD is one of five districts that have earned an “A” on State Accountability. Nederland ISD continues to work with students on postsecondary readiness, which is recognized by the Texas Education Agency.

Bond support

The most publicly significant accomplishment under Perez’ leadership was the passage of two bond issues totaling $155.6 million, secured through public vote after previously failing to garner needed Nederland support.

The bond issues will lead to major constriction improvements at all seven campuses in the district.

“No. 1, we were out of space on some of our campuses,” Perez said. “Our buildings were rather old, and we needed to look at building new ones or going ahead with a band-aid. When this is all finished and people drive in, our campuses are all going to look similar, even those that are not being built new. The community is going to be so proud because our community was part of it from the very beginning.”

Perez took the lead in the effort, spearheading several community forums and getting information out to the public about what was wanted and what they felt was needed.

What always came up was the need for new buildings and more space.

“Nothing was kept from anyone,” Perez recalls. “It was put on the web for those who were not able to attend the meetings. They created that bond, how it was put out and sold to the community. There were so many young parents who said we need this for our kids. Even those that had children that were graduating said, ‘maybe my child will not benefit, but my grandchildren or someone else’s children will.’ It’s going to be another sign of pride, and they were a part of it all.”

Board President Micah Mosley praised Perez for her ability to build a strong culture of collaboration within the district and between the district and the community.

“Dr. Perez has been a tireless visionary for NISD, driven by her immense passion and love for educating our students and improving student outcomes,” Mosley said. “She has focused Nederland ISD administration and staff on identifying and developing the strengths and gifts of every child.”

Mosley said that vision culminated in the single focused goal for all students to achieve success beyond high school graduation. He said the board’s sincere prayers, best wishes and appreciation are with Perez as she heeds the advice of her medical professional team and focuses on beating cancer.

What’s next

Perez said she hopes the next superintendent is able to lead the district in preparation for school learning in multiple settings because it is not going to all be in brick-and-mortar buildings.

“It will be a remote and hybrid setting now, and those were things we were working on,” she said. “We already had eighth graders taking a truly online course with the professor online for high school credit. We started that this year and they found those online courses difficult.”