A moving resignation

Farewell drive-up held for resigning superintendent

Story by Peyton Sims, Editor in chief

It’s no surprise that resigning positions comes with the burden of saying farewell to the campus you once called home. However, along with all of the packing and goodbyes comes an abundance of new opportunities. On June 17, Paul Norton was chosen as the Lone Finalist for Lake Travis Independent School District Superintendent of Schools in Austin, Texas. As Norton prepares to begin his journey, he was able to converse with a trailing line of cars waiting to say their goodbyes at the Sullivan Performing Arts Center where faculty, students and community members participated in the Farewell Drive-Up Parade on July 21, 2020.

“This event means a lot to me and my family. We’ve been in the district for 19 years and we love this place,” Norton said. “We put our heart and soul and blood and tears into TISD. It means the world to get and see your friends and coworkers, it’s all been a very special evening that we will never forget.”

The job relocation isn’t just affecting Norton himself, but it’s also altering the day to day life of his wife, Jenna Norton, his son, Caleb Norton, and his daughter, Julia Norton. With his wife’s job being based in Dallas and his children entering a new school district during a pandemic, there’s undoubtedly going to be new adjustments taking place. 

“It’s definitely bittersweet for us. Paul’s been [in Texarkana] a majority of his life and the kids have been here their entire lives. There’s a lot of transition; I was just getting used to Texarkana, but it’s a great opportunity for me to see my husband receive such a great honor,” wife Jenna Norton said. “We’re going to a new home, school is just going to be starting up and my job is based in Dallas. We’re just excited to see where God will take us.” 

Jenna Norton embraces her son while getting emotional during the drive-up farewell. Paul Norton’s wife and children will have to make their own adjustments as they move to Austin from jobs and transferring school districts. (Photo by Peyton Sims )

Texas High staff members have been supportive towards Norton and his decision. The school district has worked together to be sure he has a goodbye like no other. 

“We wanted to have a more in-person event but because of COVID-19, we obviously had to find a new way to still honor him,” Executive Director of Public Relations Tina Veal-Gooch said. “We decided we’d make it a drive-up farewell. We had cars lined up since 4:45p.m. and it’s been very emotional and pleasing to see all the people and all of the tears shed. Norton has been a very strong leader [who] allows himself to also be your friend. We thoroughly enjoyed having him here, but we wish him so much success at Lake Travis.”

Starting off as a Pleasant Grove Middle School coach and teacher in 1996, Paul Norton came to the TISD Tiger Family in 2001 as Associate Principal of Texas High School and served as Principal of THS from 2003-2011 and was also named Superintendent of Schools in June 2011. For the past nine years he has held the title of the superintendent.

I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be a teacher, but it’s probably the best professional decision I’ve ever made in my life.”

— Paul Norton

“My mom was actually a teacher, so when I was in college, I started off with physical therapy. As I got my degree in biology, my mom said, ‘Have you ever thought about being a teacher?’ And really, I hadn’t,” Norton said. “I [started to], and I took education classes and soon taught in Lubbock, Texas, and then moved back to Texarkana.” 

It’s not the end of the story for the Norton’s, there’s still an entirely new beginning that’s yet to be started. From getting a head start on planning at Lake Travis to the upcoming interim superintendent, there’s a lot in store for their future. 

“I’ve sat virtually on a few meetings [with Lake Travis] and have talked to several [people] about upcoming events. They’re also dealing with COVID-19 just like we are dealing with the same thing here,” Norton said. “We actually got accepted on our house this Sunday, so we now have a place to live. We’re hoping that on August 1 we’ll actually be moved to Austin. [On July 21], Autumn Thomas, who is the Deputy Superintendent, [was repositioned] to the acting superintendent.”

Norton talks with band director Ernie Lawson at the drive-up farewell. Car after car drove by to visit with the Nortons before their depart to Austin.

It’s not everyday that hundreds of people drive out to visit with a man who’s resigning. Due to COVID-19, the school was unable to hold a traditional in-person gathering that would ensure all of the attendees would remain healthy. However, the Tiger Family values its goodbyes–even if it has to be through a car window.

“I want my fellow faculty members to keep doing great things for students. As long as they stay focused on the student’s success and what they can accomplish, then this place will continue to grow,” Norton said. “I encourage all of the [faculty members] to keep doing that every day, and I have no doubt that they will.”