Small District Transformation

By Lawrence Hardy

A Dairy Queen. A restaurant. A convenience store with gas pumps. That’s about it for downtown Skidmore, Texas, home of the Skidmore-Tynan Independent School District.                 

When students graduate from this sparsely populated district about 50 miles north of Corpus Christi, they generally have to leave the area to find jobs. It’s either that or endure long commutes to the oil fields and state prisons that are among the region’s largest employers.

Three schools serve fewer than 800 students, about 65 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The high school has just one counselor. No schools have assistant principals.

Visitors might not expect much from the district’s largely Hispanic student body. In fact, when Patricia Holubec was named principal of Skidmore-Tynan High School four years ago, she heard a similar assessment from students: In effect, mediocre was good enough for them.

“The biggest challenge,” Holubec says, “was this thought of, ‘We’ll get by. We’re just Skidmore-Tynan.’”

“Just Skidmore-Tynan.” Holubec didn’t accept it then, and she doesn’t accept it today. In its most recent assessment, the Texas Education Agency rated the high school “exemplary” for student achievement that is well above the state average. And that kind of success extends throughout the district.

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