Frenship ISD’s new boss discusses his journey from Iowa to Texas, with a few stops in between

Who is this man?

Who is this man?

When he was young, being the head of a school district never crossed David Vroonland’s mind.

“I think, like every kid, I wanted to be a police officer or a fireman,” said Vroonland. “Superintendent was never on the list. I never knew what a superintendent was growing up.”

As he got older, he wanted to be a minister, educator or lawyer.

“I grew up in a foster home for the first eight years of my life. It was a home that valued faith. It became a part of who I was as a person. Then, when I was adopted, the home I was adopted into had many of the same values,” said Vroonland.

Vroonland said he maintains contact with his foster parents in Waterloo, Iowa, to this day.

“I called them as soon as I got this job,” he said. “My adopted family is very comfortable about that. My mom is my mom, though.”

The new Frenship Independent School District superintendent was adopted by Judy and Evart Vroonland, who believed they could not have children. Three days after he was adopted, his mother found out she was pregnant.

“So I have a brother, Eric, who works for Deloitte (Consulting) out of the Dallas area,” said Vroonland.

Although he grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, his father relocated the family to Dallas in the early 1980s, and most of them have been there ever since.

As a child in Cedar Rapids, Vroonland said his family canoed and camped out a lot, just pulling up on a sandbar for the night.

His mother is a dietician, while his father, who passed away in 2006, was an engineer.

The family was into “health stuff” during Vroonland’s childhood, as well as traveling, bridge parties and University of Iowa sports. Vroonland said he loved the traveling and sports, and tolerated bridge.

After high school, Vroonland started in a pre-seminary program at Centenary College of Louisiana, but decided he was not cut out for the ministry.

“I enjoyed it, but I realized the profession of ministry was not something I wanted to do,” he said. He was a lay pastor for two or three years at a church in Shreveport, although he said he uses the term “lay pastor” very loosely.

The pull of education
While at college, he came to realize the significance of public education in the lives of children.

“Coming from the background I did, that was especially important to me. That was what really created my zeal to become an educator,” said Vroonland.

Also while he was at Centenary College, his wife, Joy, was the first person he met on campus.

“We didn’t date right away,” he said, but eventually they dated for two years and were engaged for another two years before marrying. The Vroonlands have been married for 22 years.

They have two sons, Caleb, 15, and Matthew, 10.

The superintendent said he loved his teachers and coaches in high school and they undoubtedly influenced him to pursue a career in education, but he said he didn’t have any desire to coach when he started out as a teacher in Carrollton.

But he found himself watching basketball during lunch. Vroonland, who participated in basketball, football and track during high school, was soon asked to coach the ninth grade boys team in 1986.

“I think we won 20 games and nearly won the district championship,” he said. The next year, he had the opportunity to be a head middle school coach in Carrollton, so he learned to coach football and spent four years at that school.

“I had one team that was good enough to beat the high school junior varsity team,” Vroonland said with a laugh.

But Joy had completed her doctorate at the University of North Texas and joined the Air Force.

The Vroonlands moved to Duval, Md.

For one year in Maryland, he taught government, history and psychology, as well as being the track coach for a team that ended up fourth in the state.

Off to Japan
Then the Vroonlands were stationed in Japan for the next two-and-a-half years.

“They needed a journalism teacher, and they needed a literature teacher,” said Vroonland, so he taught those subjects, as well as coaching basketball.

Vroonland said his school paid him extra to wear an armband with the name of his school at a train station to recruit students to the school.

Educational differences in Japan interested Vroonland.

“Both countries value education. All parents value education,” said Vroonland. But in America, the school districts have responsibility for teaching students.

“In Japan, the family had greater ownership” of the education of a child, he said. The Japanese students would leave school and go to a “cram school” to learn English for two hours, he said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s better than, in relation to American education. It’s just different in terms of where the expectations lie,” he said. “And basketball was very different.”

Vroonland said the Japanese teams were very methodical on the court, and did not play a “running” game or press on defense. He taught his team to run and press, and other teams had difficulty keeping up with them.

“We did very well. We moved up,” Vroonland said, explaining the divisions in Japan are based on the teams’ success, not on their size.

Vroonland started an intense English camp in the summer for students who needed help with their English. If the students spoke in Japanese during the week, they had to put money in a jar, but Vroonland said the students were serious and the jar did not end up full.

The students made progress during the week, he said.

“You can’t help it, if you’re entrenched in it for a week,” said Vroonland. He said the camp is still going each year in Japan since he left.

While in Japan, Vroonland had the opportunity to eat a lot of different food, but he loved the experience. He said the Japanese have a food he calls “that food,” which he named because he said, “Bet you won’t eat it.”

But Vroonland ate just about everything the Japanese ate.

“I don’t mind eating bait, as probably the West Texans would call it,” he said. Cover it in wasabi or soy sauce, he said, and he’ll eat it.

Back in the U.S.
The Vroonlands moved back to the United States in 1995, and he was asked to create a global communications magnet program at a middle school in Wichita Falls.

Within a few years, he was named as the assistant principal at another middle school there, and after just one year, became a principal at another Wichita Falls middle school.

In 1999, he decided to become an administrator. Vroonland earned a master’s degree from Midwestern University and a doctorate from the University of North Texas in educational administration in 2004.

“As a teacher, you’re touching the students that you’re literally in contact with,” said Vroonland. “As an administrator, you’re touching teachers.”

That calling was very appealing to him. He stays in touch with students by visiting classrooms, he said. In the future at Frenship, he would like to have a committee of students he can speak to about their experiences.

“I don’t lose my contacts simply because I’m an administrator,” he said.

At times, he said, he misses coaching.

But, he added, “I was watching my son last year, and realized it’s fun to watch your sons from the stands.”

As he adjusts to life in the Frenship community, he said what he’ll miss most from Dallas is family and friends.

But he said Lubbock has movie theaters and places to shop, as well as Texas Tech. Since he grew up in Cedar Rapids, he likes college towns, he said, and is looking forward to watching college sports.

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