By JAMES WEAR
Columnist for The Independent
Over the years I’ve found myself often saving little scraps of paper on which I’ve written notes–some to myself as I pondered the meaning of life, others the beginnings of letters to friends or relatives that I never mailed. All of these, I believe, will someday (after I’ve passed on) give my grandchildren and others a glimpse into my mind…what they take from my writings, well, I suppose that’s anyone’s guess.
And perhaps it’s that habit of mine that made it all the more fascinating to me when I came across a stack of steno notebooks that had belonged to my late brother, a carpenter by trade. Richard kept a daily log in these notebooks, some of which dated back to 1977. And in each, he listed his daily schedule: which builder or subcontractor he had to meet, what he had to accomplish at each job each day to stay ahead, etc.
Some of the lists staggered me. I found it somewhat amazing how much he could pack into a single day. Most of those days stretched from dawn to 9 p.m.
It was what else he penciled in those notebooks that perhaps captured most of my attention: thoughts about the school district. As some will recall, Richard Wear served on the Liberty Hill school board for a number of years back in the 1980’s when the district was beginning to struggle with growth and had few dollars to spend to address that growth, and many of you will remember when the board, after receiving a report from the Texas Education Agency that found Liberty Hill coming up short in a number of areas at the high school level, decided it was time to call a bond election for a new high school. This was only a few years after Liberty Hill, after losing its accreditation, had rebounded and once again had its own school.
In one notebook he appeared to be drafting a speech or statement, as he wrote: “I am not a good public speaker. I am not a regular chuch goer. I am sometimes a mixed up husband as my good wife will attest to.
“I am 100 percent committed to the education of our children. I am concerned that we cannot offer a quality secondary education program. We do not have the facilities for…”
At that point, he inserted a blank.
He continued. “We do have an excellent elementary school thanks to our principal and her staff. We do have an excellent junior high and high school faculty. We do not have necessary space and facilities to support their achievements.
“We do have an athletic program that I’m proud of, one that puts sportsmanship ahead of winning at any cost.
“But we are lacking. Our students leave an excellent elementary school and hit roadblocks. They cannot achieve their total (illegible).
“We have a staff that does wonders but we cannot reach all of our students. We need more space for VOE and shops for wood and metal. We need space for involved lab experiments and ongoing projects. We need to offer fine arts, drama, dance and art. We need a dropout prevention program. We need an office and well stocked library.
“We need more parking and everyone knows about it.”
He went on to write that another board member believed the solution to the problems at the high school could be solved by building a new elementary and criticized that board member’s performance and motivations.
He closed by noting, “I am 110 percent in favor of this bond proposal to build a new high school.”
The bond proposal would pass and on August 24, 1986, dedication ceremonies were held for the new high school on Loop 332. It has since served as a junior high campus following another high school being built, and currently serves as the Liberty Hill Intermediate School following last fall’s opening of yet another new high school.
My brother wrote those words in 1985, and while at first glance it might appear that he wasn’t hesitant about spending taxpayers’ money, it’s worth mentioning that he and other board members rejected initial bids on the high school building project, telling contractors they would have to come back with lower prices.
In later years, he once told me about the board’s budget workshops.
“We’d drive Bill (Burden, the late former superintendent that Burden Elementary was named after) crazy, going over his proposed budget line by line.”
And he once remarked, in his later years after leaving the school board, that he always voted against bond proposals, believing that if voters rejected the initial bond proposal trustees would be forced to find ways to trim any fat from a building package.
But my favorite story was told by a close friend at Richard’s funeral. Richard once was opposing spending money on some project, and stood up during the board meeting, turned around and raised his jacket. Carved in his belt was the name “Bill.” He reportedly told other board members, “I can’t even afford to buy a belt with my own name on it.”