Hicks to serve as Superintendent in Jarrell
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Her time in Liberty Hill may have been limited to four years that seemed more like a blur of student growth, but Dr. Toni Hicks’ impact on the school district can be felt in every classroom across all seven campuses.
The assistant superintendent charged with developing, managing and improving district curriculum is moving a few miles up the road after accepting the Superintendent’s position in Jarrell ISD.
“I’m excited, you know I have all the feelings,” Hicks said of the new chapter ahead. “I’m sad to leave the Liberty Hill family, but what I feel very fortunate with is I’m just down the road and a neighbor. It’s going to be great to call on my Liberty Hill friends because I’m sure I’m going to have questions.”
What she looks forward to most in her new role in Jarrell is the same thing that made her time in Liberty Hill so special from the first day.
“I’m really excited to get to know the people of Jarrell,” Hicks said. “It’s a small town, and when I started in Liberty Hill this was about the same size. What I loved was being able to interact personally with each person. That was one of the first things I did in Liberty Hill and I look forward to doing that in Jarrell.”
Hicks has more than 25 years of education experience, beginning in a classroom in El Paso before making her way to Central Texas where she worked as a teacher and administrator in Leander and Round Rock before making her way to Liberty Hill.
When she assumes her role in Jarrell, she expects the nervous excitement she said always comes with a fresh start.
“Just as you are going into that first day of school and you’re nervous, and not sure who you’re going to meet or what the day is going to be like, and will you be a fit?” she said. “You think about that as a student, a new teacher and you think about that as an administrator. It never changes.”
Many people played a mentorship role for Hicks along the way, encouraging her to consider a future she said really didn’t cross her mind initially.
“I don’t know that I ever thought to myself that I even wanted to be an administrator,” she said. “It was Tom Glenn in Leander who encouraged me to be an administrator. Then you start thinking about it and think you can do it.”
Her impact in Liberty Hill ISD is evident to those around her.
“Overall, what Dr. Hicks brought to the district is just a solid foundation of curriculum structure and training to really lift Liberty Hill up to the premier district we aspire to be,” said Superintendent Steve Snell. “Obviously, the district has achieved an A rating in consecutive years under her leadership. She leads our special ed department, she leads and has improved our career and tech opportunities for our students. To me it is the overall leadership and the fact she has put together a great team that supports our staff and students.”
The student population was only 2,200 four short years ago and is 5,500 today. Hicks believes she can take that experience with growth to Jarrell where they face similar challenges.
“That’s what the demographers say is (Jarrell) is going to be exploding and doubling for the next few years,” she said. “If you look at it, there are houses being built really overnight and selling before they are finished because there is such an explosion right now of people wanting to come to Jarrell. I experienced that here in Liberty Hill and having that experience is going to help me in supporting them. Growth is hard for many reasons, and making sure we have the right supports in place so we can handle it with grace and ease is important.”
When she looks back over her Liberty Hill years, Hicks feels like it went by and changed so quickly.
“It seems like in the blink of an eye we have added campuses, we have gone to multiple elementary schools, we have added staff and have developed our own curriculum,” Hicks said. “We have added additional programs, elementary all the way through high school and in the work that happened it felt like it was just natural. It was natural because the people in our district want what’s best for kids and those things that were happening – while it was hard – were taken with grace and pride because they knew it was best for kids.”
Monday’s LHISD Board meeting was her last, but the Board members didn’t let her go without thanking Hicks for her work.
“We’re very proud for you,” LHISD Board President Clint Stephenson said to Hicks at Monday’s board meeting. “We thank you and you will definitely leave a hole here that will be tough to fill. I love to see people succeed who really put in hard work and you definitely are one of those.”
What she will miss most is easy to identify.
“It’s the pride of being a Panther,” she said. “It’s not anything but a team approach. It’s not to say that’s not where I’m headed, I’m just saying that’s what I’ve experienced here and I’m looking forward to being a part of that in Jarrell, too.”
The lesson Hicks has learned about the importance of those around you is one she always tries to share with teachers she mentors and leads.
“Don’t ever forget it’s the people around you who help you get where you’re going,” she said. “The experiences they provide for you and the mentorship and relationships are critical. You don’t get to new positions on your own. You get to different positions because you have great people around you helping to support and encourage you.”