PREMONT, Texas — On Monday, the Tuloso-Midway ISD school board will vote to accept a new district superintendent.
The new superintendent candidate will be Steve VanMatre, who currently serves in the same position for Premont ISD.
If confirmed, VanMatre would leave behind quite the legacy in Premont.
VanMatre started in Premont in January 2017, coming from Freer ISD, where he was also the superintendent.
When VanMatre arrived in Premont in 2017, the district was in danger of closing. The district had low test scores, low enrollment and financial instability, along with other issues.
“It was, at the time, hard to see staff stay because of the threat that was going on and the challenges we were all facing,” said Lilly Rodriguez, the parent liaison for Premont ISD. “With him coming on board, and everything he was able to do, to show us that confidently, he was going to change everything for us; and it happened.”
VanMatre turned things around in his five years with the district. When he started, enrollment was around 450 students in the district. Now, it is around 710, good for a nearly a 50 percent increase.
“He exceeded, far and beyond, what we thought he could do for Premont,” Frank Rios Jr., the Premont School Board president, said.
In addition to increasing enrollment numbers, the district added new academic and athletic programs for students and built new facilities.
The district added a softball program, reintroduced the football program and added academic programs such as the Rural Schools Innovation program, the Premont Compass program, the 3R program, a partnership with Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and coming soon, two new early childhood programs.
The district also built a new elementary school, the Premont Early College Academy and a new stadium. The district’s success also led to a salary increase for all teachers in the district.
“Mr. VanMatre has been the one behind the scenes, making all these things possible for us. He’s a non-stop advocate for our students and staff, and he will do what he has to to make things happen here,” Rodriguez said.
VanMatre said he could not have has his success without help. He credits the Board of Trustees and Premont community with supporting the growth for the district.
“Without those two variables, I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” he said.
VanMatre’s legacy will not only include the growth of the district under his leadership, it will also include the personal connections he made in his time in Premont.
Premont mayor Priscilla Vargas said VanMatre was always willing to offer the district’s assistance whenever the city needed it.
“Recently we had the fire, and we reached out to him in the event we had to do an evacuation, and there was no hesitation for him to help with transportation to get the residents out,” she said.
Vargas is also a parent of Premont students. She said he also builds great relationships with parents and students.
“I know my kids look forward to seeing Mr. VanMatre,” Vargas said. “The fact that they know him by name, and the relationship he builds with them is great; it’s reassuring, especially as a parent.”
In addition to working for the district, and working closely with parents of students, Rodriguez is also a parent. She witnessed first-hand the impact VanMatre had on the students.
“It’s just amazing to see as a parent, that someone can come up to my children and knows them as well as I do as a parent,” she said.
The district will need to replace VanMatre, and while the search has begun, Rios Jr. said the school board is not in a rush to replace him, because they want to make sure they find the right replacement.
VanMatre will assist the district in helping find his replacement, to help insure a smooth transition. Rios Jr. believes, while it will be difficult for VanMatre’s replacement to live up to his legacy, his successor is in a great position to succeed.
“He’s put in so many systems, that we’re hoping the next person that comes in keeps with those systems, and will continue progressing with Premont,” he said.