Setting the pace: A few of Frenship’s educators discuss their memories

Frenship Independent School District has had many educators and administrators over the years who have helped to make it the recognized district it is today. Here are just a few of the many who served over the years.

Paul Whitton, who was superintendent of Frenship Independent School District from 1983 to 2001, is most often given the credit for realizing Frenship was about to grow.

“When I came there, I don’t remember the exact number, there was less than 2,000 students,” said Whitton. “It was obvious that the district was about to grow, due to Lubbock growing to the south and southwest.”

Whitton does not claim all credit for figuring it out, but he said he is not surprised the district has grown as much as it has.

“Lots of the predictions that we made in the late ’80s, early ’90s, are coming to bear,” he said. “Sometimes I got credit that, it was actually done by the people I worked with.”

Whitton said the teachers and administrators he worked with were great, and they made him look good.

“I just happened to be in the superintendent’s position,” he said.

During his 18 years in Frenship, Whitton said the community passed several bond issues to build for growth. The people of Frenship, and surrounding entities such as the city of Wolfforth, the city of Lubbock, Lubbock County and Reese Air Force Base answered the call any time the district had a need, he said.

“I believe that during my time, we built it to be a place where people wanted to be,” said Whitton.

Whitton left Frenship to become the associate executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators, but he said it was a hard decision to leave. When he retires, he said he expects to come back to Lubbock, where he still owns a home.

“I couldn’t say enough good things about Frenship ISD and my tenure there,” he said.

Between them, Clyde and Juanita Strong served 60 years in the Frenship School District.

The couple came to Frenship from Wellman so Juanita could complete her education at Texas Tech. In the meantime, Clyde started out as an assistant football coach at Frenship High School, and after three years, he took over as the school’s principal.

Clyde was principal of FHS from 1965 to 1992, when both he and Juanita retired.

“We started out with about 300 (students) in high school, and when I retired, it was about 1,200,” said Clyde. “It was really productive, interesting and a delightful job.”

Growth was a challenge, Clyde said, but he said the community backed the school system 100 percent.

“It just made me feel excited about the improvements that could be made and were made,” he said.

Juanita became a home economics teacher at FHS after her last year of college at Tech, and eventually served as a teacher with her husband as her boss.

“They did let me teach under him, which was kind of unusual,” she said. “We had no problem.”

Although the Strongs spend some time at a vacation home in their home state of Mississippi, they still make their home in Wolfforth.

“We’re very happy here,” said Juanita. “The people were wonderful, and the community, we love it here.”

Kathryn Hamilton taught for more than half of Frenship’s existence. Although ultimately she taught more than 50 years, 39 of those years were in the Frenship district.

Now, she said, she misses her students and her job, but she also loves doing “absolutely nothing that I really don’t want to do.”

Hamilton said some students still send her birthday and Christmas cards every year. During the celebrations of Frenship’s 75th anniversary, she said she reconnected with many of her former students and co-workers.

“I was so happy to see them,” said Hamilton.

Her only complaint about the celebration was that it just wasn’t long enough.

“It should have been extended,” she said with a laugh.

Hamilton said she hopes her students learned more than the basic subject matter from her class.

She said she enjoyed working under Wyman Richey, J. Weldon Bennett, Clyde Strong, Paul Whitten and John Thomas. Because she retired the same year that Thomas left, she said she regrets not getting to teach under current Superintendent David Vroonland.

“I would have loved to have been there and taught under him, because he seems to be such a great leader,” said Hamilton.

James Vardy came to Frenship ISD in 1966, and he said the variety of positions he was in kept him from wanting to go anywhere else.

He was first hired as an American history teacher at Frenship High School, and he also taught a few speech courses. But after three years, he took over as the high school and junior high counselor, a position he also held for three years.

“We didn’t really have but two counselors in the whole district. One was in elementary, and the other covered two secondary schools,” said Vardy.

For the next three years, he was the principal at Reese Elementary School.

“That was my first opportunity to be a building principal,” he said.

From there, he went to Casey Elementary School, where he served about 12 years, he said, leaving to become the district’s first director of instruction in 1984.

But he said although he learned a lot in the FISD central office, he really wanted to get back to dealing with students, and so in 1989, he was the first principal of Crestview Elementary School, where he stayed until his retirement in 2002.

“I felt like I had more of a passion for working with children and seeing the changes in children. In central office, you were in a no man’s land in some ways,” said Vardy.

After his retirement, he worked for Child Protective Services for several years, and now serves as a City Council member in Wolfforth.

During his time in Wolfforth, he said he had a lot of unique opportunities because he stuck around.

“It also allowed my children to go through Frenship schools, and today I’m just convinced that Frenship (schools) are the best schools in the area,” he said. “When I started weighing what I had in the Frenship district, with all the conveniences of living close to Lubbock with the small-town values of Wolfforth … I just didn’t see any reason to leave.”

Karan Newsom is still going strong as an assistant principal at Frenship High School, a position she has held for 19 years.

“At the end of this year, I’ll finish up 28 years” in Frenship, Newsom said.

She said after two years teaching in Midland, a friend convinced her to apply at Frenship. After being hired, she started out teaching government and advanced Texas history, and became assistant principal after nine years.

“I like the community, I like the people, they made me feel at home,” said Newsom. “I never have wanted to leave.”

Newsom said the people she has worked with over the years have made her feel valued as an employee and given her the feeling she could contribute. She described her Frenship district co-workers as “salt-of-the-Earth kind of people.”

“It’s good people like that that not only have the school’s best interest, but the community’s best interest at heart, that have made Frenship what it is,” said Newsom.

Over the years, Newsom said she hopes she has taught kids to think and to want to go out and be better humans and to contribute to society.

Although she said by teaching, she hopes she’s made the world a little better place, she said she probably gets as much from the students as they get from her.

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