New superintendent ready to support students, families through year of change and “learning transformed” (08/13/2020)

*This columm was submitted for publication in the August 13, 2020 edition of the Lake Travis View; column may differ from final, edited version.

My name is Paul Norton, and I have the honor and privilege to serve as Superintendent of the Lake Travis Independent School District. I know I have some big shoes to fill, and he reminds me they are size 13 and a half to be exact. But all joking aside, Dr. Brad Lancaster did a phenomenal job ahead of me, and I have the unique opportunity to build upon the rich tradition of excellence that defines LTISD. I am grateful to our board of trustees for expressing its confidence in me to lead this great district. This is a responsibility that I will not take lightly.

During my first week in LTISD I have taken the opportunity to meet with a variety of staff members and visit a couple of campuses. My first impression of this district is the impressive high quality of the staff; from the Board of Trustees, cabinet, principals, directors, instructional staff and support staff, we have people in LTISD that are passionate about what they do and dedicated to the success of each and every student. As I learn more about our district, I’m looking through a dual lens; one as a superintendent and the other lens as a parent. Since I mentioned being a parent, I would like to share my background with you, followed by my vision and plans for the immediate future of our district as we prepare to face a school year unlike any other.

I am proud to say I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Texarkana. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Texas Tech University and a Master of Science degree in Education from Texas A&M University-Texarkana. I started my career in public education in 1996 as a middle school teacher and coach in the Pleasant Grove school district. From there, I served as a teacher and coach at the high school level, then as assistant principal, before joining Texarkana ISD as associate principal of Texas High School. After two years, I was promoted to serve as school principal before being named Superintendent of the Texarkana school district in 2011.

Some of my proudest accomplishments during my tenure as Superintendent include developing and integrating an award-winning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program; passage of a $29.9 million bond which included a new elementary school and 6th grade center to address the District’s 12-year increase in student enrollment; and the opening of the eSchool Prep—an online, tuition-free program for students in grades 5-11. Additionally, I was highly involved in the community having served on the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Wilbur Smith Rotary Club and the Texas A&M University-Texarkana Eagle Athletic Association. I am also a graduate and immediate past-president of Leadership Texarkana. I have the pleasure of serving on the Texas Policy Committee on Public Education Information, the Texas Curriculum Management Program Cooperative Boards, and the Lieutenant Governor’s Superintendent Advisory Panel. I am also a member of the National, Texas and Northeast Texas Alliances of Black School Educators, serving as their local president. I share those things not for applause but to emphasize the level of commitment and involvement I will bring to the Lake Travis school district and the communities we serve.

I am married to Jenna Norton. She is the Director of Planning and Communication at Boynton Williams & Associates Architects in Dallas and leads the firm’s involvement and partnerships with K-12 schools. I have three amazing children—Emily, who is 18 years old and will attend Arkansas Tech University this fall; Julia, who is 13 years old and will join Cavalier Nation as a freshman at Lake Travis High School this month; and Caleb, who is 10 years old and will enter the fifth grade. Together, we enjoy being active, attending sporting events, and hiking, as well as traveling and experiencing new places. Speaking of experiencing new places, let me now share my vision and immediate plans for our ‘new normal.”

It goes without saying, the new school year will be unlike any other. Whether learning and teaching remotely at home or in-person at school, things will be different. The pandemic has taught us to expect change, be flexible and to adapt. However, the challenges facing our district create an opportunity to shape the future of our community. I firmly believe that innovation comes in a variety of forms, and I enjoy thinking outside the box when faced with critical issues such as those presented by COVID-19. These are opportunities where I thrive using my professional and personal experiences which I believe will help lead LTISD to continued growth and excellence. I am highly competitive and driven by challenges and opportunities. I like to ask a lot of questions. But I do so not to second guess but rather to learn and grow.

A Superintendent is the chief instructional leader of their district. And a strong instructional leader must understand the stress and struggles teachers and staff face every day, now more than ever. Equipping our students for success is the purpose that drives those of us who work in education, and it will drive my tenure at Lake Travis ISD. I want to reassure our staff, students, parents and community that as your Superintendent, I will be with you every step of the way. Speaking for our staff, we will continue to build positive relationships with our students and families. We will do what is best for students and do everything possible to meet their varied and diverse needs. We will take care of staff and students safely, and above all else, we will do so with a kind heart. We will support each other like never before. As a new member of the LT family and parent of new students to the district, I expect nothing else.

I love our theme for the year, “Learning. Transformed,” because that is exactly what is happening and it is what we must support. I believe that despite the uncertainty, stress, and hardships created by the pandemic, there are wonderful things to come. There will be opportunities for us to do things better than what we have done before and to focus on what is truly important. It will be frustrating at times, we will make mistakes, but we will persevere. As your Superintendent, I have a job to do and I am grateful for the opportunity. I wish our staff, students and families a safe and successful school year. I look forward to meeting you soon!