After eight years of service, Lee Joffre resigned as the Italy ISD superintendent to gain new experiences as an educator.
Joffre began his Italy journey as the high school principal in 2011 and then transitioned into the superintendent's role in 2016. Joffre officially accepted a position as the superintendent of 4A Mabank ISD, which is located approximately 40 miles east of Ennis and comprised of six campuses with 3,509 students.
The Texas Education Agency reported enrollment for Italy ISD in 2017-18 was 628 between the two campuses.
Joffre said he would utilize his experiences to help Mabank ISD grow.
“I originally applied because Mabank ISD has a reputation of being a forward-thinking school district that has strong community support,” Joffre explained.
After Joffre and his wife, who dedicated six years to Italy and was most recently the librarian, visited with the school community they felt welcomed. Joffre said it quickly became apparent that Mabank could be home.
Joffre expressed that his acceptance of the new position was difficult for him to make personally. His two children who are 9 and 11 years old were heavily involved in athletics, academic competitions and fine arts. His family had also grown close to several quality people in Italy.
“Professionally, I have enjoyed working with some of the best teachers in the profession,” Joffre emphasized. “It is their work that has helped the district grow and achieve new heights.”
Joffre then touched on some accomplishments of the district over the last eight years.
The district developed the agriculture program to be competitive throughout the state. A new livestock barn was built to provide more opportunities for students who lack the land and facilities at home. Joffre also expressed his pride in the college readiness programs developed by staff.
“Although Italy High School is small, we were able to build a program where students can graduate with an associate's degree while working on their high school courses,” Joffre elaborated.
He noted the district’s commitment to fund the program allowed economically disadvantaged students benefit from it as well.
Joffre also noted approximately $14 million worth of construction has recently been completed across the district, which includes 30,000 square feet added to the elementary school with a new library and playground equipment. A new football stadium and track was completed as well.
As the school year enters the second semester, the Italy ISD Board of Trustees selected John Spies to serve as the interim superintendent. Board president Larry Eubank said Spies has conducted three board workshops as a Region 10 consultant and worked closely with Joffre for the past year and a half.
“I’m very familiar with the ins and outs,” Spies expressed.
Spies has never served as an interim superintendent and will spearhead the search for a permanent superintendent, noting he has helped with superintendent searches in the past. The retiree said he applied for the position because “I felt like I didn’t have quite enough to do.”
Spies has an extensive background with 12 years of experience as a superintendent in larger and smaller districts. Most recently, Spies worked as the superintendent of Van Alstyne ISD from 2011 to 2017. Van Alstyne ISD is a fast-growing 3A district north of McKinney. His resume also includes superintendent work with Malakoff ISD (2A) and Valley Mills ISD (1A).
Spies expressed his confidence in the temporary position.
Spies currently serves as an education consultant with Region 10 where he leads training that includes legislative updates, student performance, bond programs, construction and team building for various boards of trustees. In this role, he also works with new superintendents on finances, construction and curriculum.
Spies mentioned he has worked with Joffre as a contractor with finances and curriculum. This experience made Spies familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the district.
Eubank iterated that Spies has been an asset to the district.
The Italy ISD superintendent job has been posted for about three weeks, and there are about 25 applicants so far.
“I will work with the board on narrowing that down in the cut-offs near the end of January — narrow it down to who they want to interview,” Spies elaborated. “And interviews will be in February. The plan is to have someone named before spring break.”
“The timeline of them starting depends on who they are and where they are coming from and that kind of stuff,” Spies noted.
Spies will be on site three days a week and accessible via email and phone otherwise.
Eubank is in his 15th year on the board and has worked with Joffre in his eight years with the district. The board president boasted about Joffre as a principal and superintendent and explained he always did what was best for “all students.”
“I think he turned things around. He always had the kids first,” Eubank stressed.
“He was a disciplinarian, and I do believe he was fair,” Eubank continued. “I think in our academic, athletic and extracurricular activity discipline is first. If you don’t have that I don’t think you’ll be successful.”
Additionally, Eubank described Joffre as forward-thinking and a key player of district innovation.
Eubank clarified that Joffre was in good standings with the district and the move to Mabank ISD was an essential career move.
Eubank also spoke highly of Joffre in his efforts after the school shooting at Italy High School on Jan. 22, 2017, that ended with a 15-year-old female student surviving six gunshots.
“I feel like Lee, and the principal handled that as well as anyone could. He took it on and handled it as it was a scary, touchy moment,” Eubank said.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450