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Trustees celebrate School Board Recognition Month in January

This year's theme is Launching the Next Generation.

JANUARY 21, 2020–The task of educating more than 5.4 million Texas students can seem overwhelming. The idea of 5.4 million young minds relying on us to provide what they will need to succeed in their ever-unfolding future can feel insurmountable. But when we were children, the adults in our world has provided for us, and now it is our turn to provide for today’s students.

While educating children may not be rocket science, it is a complex, demanding responsibility: ensuring that schools are available, qualified teachers are in place, buildings are safe, and resources are provided. It’s a responsibility that locally elected board members generously accept. They commit to read reports, learn the laws, understand the community’s needs, set thoughtful goals, and wisely handle the district’s financial resources.

But it isn’t just a simple commitment. Serving as a locally elected board member means going through an election and making difficult decisions for the district, its employees, and its children. It means being available to hear from concerned parents in the grocery store, at the game, or over the backyard fence. It means committing to the time it takes to do the job right. And in Texas there is no pay for school board members, and there are required training requirements, creating further demands on their time. In short, why would anyone volunteer for this role?

Fortunately, in every community, caring adults have signed on for the responsibility and hard work of making our schools the best they can be. They immerse themselves in learning what they need to know to make good decisions that will provide for students, from the very youngest to the graduating senior. Trustees are public servants who generously work to benefit the most vulnerable members of each community.

Take a moment to recognize our local trustees. Take a moment to honor the work they are doing to help your students blast off into the future. Take a moment to say thank you for the work school board members are doing on your behalf.

School Board of Trustees

Silsbee ISD School Board of Trustees are (front, from left), Secretary Tom Hardy, President Sam Edd Harrell, and Vice-President Dana Hancock. In back (from left), Sherrie Taylor, Jim de Garavilla, Derrell Ferguson, and Janis Holt.

Sam Edd Harrell

Sam Edd Harrell is in his 17th year serving on the SISD Board of Trustees and he is currently serving his second term as president.

Harrell is a graduate of Silsbee High School and graduate of Lamar Institute of Technology. He is employed with Pepsi Cola, Inc. celebrating 31 years, and he also manages a farm on his property raising cattle and bailing hay.

Harrell is no stranger to the public school system having a family of educators.

“I have grown up around educators,” Harrell said. “Education has been an important part of my life. I understand the values of education and what it does to a community. Every child deserves an education to become productive in society. I saw a need for this.”

He said he made a decision to become a trustee after the closure of some industry in Silsbee which hurt the community. His focus was to see improvements in the education system and see it blossom.

“For a small community, the rigor of our curriculum is richer, and we can say that our school system is currently at a top level to other communities of our size,” he said. “I’ve always wanted our students to be prepared for the future and I wanted a voice for all when I began as trustee.”

During his tenure, Harrell said the addition of a new elementary was much needed to the district, and he said the CTE Program has blossomed as an integral part of our educational system.

“Our district has made huge strides over the years,” he said. “We passed a bond that was critical in replacing aging facilities with no infrastructure to make our vertical alignment bigger. Our test scores have improved and we see that the students are doing better.”

Harrell and his wife Pam have four children between them and seven grandchildren.

“The goal was to help improve our system and it helped that I served the board in different capacities,” he added. “During my tenure, I have been President twice which has helped me grow and understand the educational process. It has been a great honor to serve and it is humbling in what we have accomplished.”

Dana Hancock

Dana Hancock is currently serving her 17th year on Silsbee Independent School District board of trustees after she was elected in 2002. She had previously held the office of the presidency and vice presidency during her tenure.

Hancock is a graduate of Sam Houston State University with a BS in agriculture education. After teaching two years in BISD, she went into the refining industry and worked in the lab. Later, she returned to teaching at Silsbee High School for five years and left to become a stay-at-home mother to her two girls, Michaela now 23 and Dani now 21. She has been married to Mike Hancock, a Silsbee graduate, for 30 years.

Hancock is currently serving her 21st year as Director at FBC Academy. Her experience as a Dayschool Director and a secondary teacher has given her the insight to the importance of education at any age.

“I am honored to have been able to serve the children of my community as their voice to provide the education for them to make a difference in this world,” she said.

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy is in his fourth year as a Silsbee ISD School Board Trustee, and he is currently serving as secretary.

Hardy is a graduate of Silsbee High School and later earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Lamar University.

He is currently owner and daily operations contractor for All Pro Electrical and Security Contractors in Silsbee since 1999. He is also the owner of H&W Enterprises. Hardy began his work experience out of high school for the paper mill in Evadale for 15 years.

“Working on the school board has been a very challenging and rewarding experience,” he said. “Working to get seven individuals with different backgrounds and experiences to agree on policy is a definite challenge, but I believe we all try really hard to put every child at the front of our decision making process, which helps us come together in a final decision. Seeing these policy and goal decisions change lives and change families future paths is the rewarding part.”

Hardy and his wife Michelle have been married 25 years and have two sons who were Silsbee High School graduates, Jackson attending Angelo State University, and Alex attending Louisiana State University.

“Programs like ‘All Day’ Pre-K, AVID, Career and Tech, Early College High School are and will continue to positively impact the students of Silsbee ISD,” he added. “I am excited about the future of public education in Silsbee as the board, administration and staff continue to push to be one of the best school districts in our region and state.”

Janis Holt

Janis Holt has served on the Silsbee Independent School District Board of Trustees since 2014 and she has held several offices on the board that include secretary and vice-president.

During her tenure as SISD trustee, she participated in Leadership TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) in 2017, where she earned Master Trustee status.

Holt is a 1994 graduate of Lamar University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with specializations in English and history. She taught fourth grade in Woodville for one year before moving to Silsbee ISD where she taught fourth grade until 2003.

At that time, she left the education field to work with her husband, Alton, where they are co-owners of Hi-Tech Air Purification Systems and Holt Farms.

They are the parents of four married children: Kelly Smith and husband, James; Tiffany Harding and husband, Chad; Steven McCabe and wife, Fernanda; and Justin Holt and wife, Stephanie.  They are also the proud grandparents of Aubrey, Emily, Lani and Noah. 

Holt is active in politics and holds several leadership positions locally, as well as on the state and national levels. She also was recently appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. She leads the music for a local nursing home church service once a month and leads a team from her church as they feed 250-350 college students at Lamar University once a semester.  In her spare time, she loves to quilt. 

“It has been one of my greatest honors to serve the students, staff and citizens of Silsbee ISD,” she said. “My goal has been, and always will be, to do my best to ensure that each student has everything he or she needs to graduate from SISD, and be prepared to successfully achieve his or her chosen post-secondary pursuits. Secondarily, it is also my duty to provide judicious oversight of monies entrusted to us by the taxpayers of Silsbee ISD and I do not take that charge lightly. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a Trustee of SISD.” 

James de Garavilla

James de Garavilla has served on Silsbee Independent School District Board of Trustees since 2006 and he will complete his 14th year as a trustee when he will be eligible for reelection in May 2021. He successfully ran for Position 5 on the SISD Board of Trustees in 2006 vacated by former trustee Brooks Gilchriest.

While serving as trustee, De Garavilla completed Leadership TASB in 2008 and he has served on the TASB board of directors representing Region 5 school districts since 2009. He also served as TASB board president in 2018-2019.

De Garavilla graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, MA with a BS in chemical engineering in 1984. He started a 36+ year career with DuPont at its Beaumont Works Site in Nederland the same year he graduated.

He has spent 28 years of his career at Sabine River Works in Orange as a plastics research engineer developing new products used in consumer goods applications such as flexible packaging films and golf balls.

During his tenure, Silsbee ISD has seen A new state-of-the-art elementary campus; the restructuring of the primary grade levels to ensure academic alignment and accountability; technology and infrastructure upgrades to Laura Reeves Primary, Silsbee Middle School and Silsbee High School; Early College High School at SHS; AVID at both SMS and SHS; introduction of all-day Pre-K aimed at closing long-term achievement gaps for low-income and minority students; maintaining a strong fund balance; and stable district leadership.

“Public education is a great equalizer and public school districts are the lifeblood of small town Texas communities,” he said. “It remains my priority the SISD board of trustees oversee a district that is in sound financial position and that is able to provide the necessary resources to offer 21st century education opportunities. My motto when I first ran was “Excellence in Education”, which still holds.”

De Garavilla is married to Tammy (Reeves) since 1986, who is a graduate of Silsbee ISD. They have two daughters that attended Silsbee ISD schools, and four grandchildren, two of which live in Silsbee and attend Silsbee Elementary.

“It’s been an honor serving the community and doing my part to maintain the public’s trust,” de Garavilla added. “The board I serve on has helped ensure that we continue to maintain and improve our financial strength while also improving the educational opportunities the district provides its students.”

Derrell Ferguson

Derrell Fergson is in his third year serving as Silsbee Independent School District Board of Trustees. He is currently a maintenance planner for WestRock paper mill in Evadale. He has held positions in operational departments at Westrock and ExxonMobil.

Ferguson spent nine years in the United States Marine Corps, and did two combat tours that included Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2011.

He and his wife, Stacie Ferguson, have been married since 2017 and they have four children between them, and include Addison Steltz, Kenzie Russell, Levi Ferguson and Laikyn Ferguson, all SISD students.

“Serving SISD is an honor and a privilege that I do not take lightly,” he said. “I served in the military because of love of country, and I serve SISD for love of community.”

Sherrie Taylor

Sherrie Taylor is in her fourth year as Silsbee ISD Board of Trustee. She is currently working at Studio One beauty salon in Silsbee.

Her goals for being a trustee were to make sure that no kids are left behind and that all of the students of Silsbee ISD get the education they need.

“Being on the school board now in my second term, I understand more about public education and what it can bring to a child,” Taylor said. “It has been an honor to serve and I look forward to more positive changes to our district to make it better than ever.”

Taylor said that even though she was not a trustee during the passing of the bond for a new elementary school, she saw the progress and what it has done to change the district education wise.

“I’m really proud of so many different programs we have in our district now,” she added. “Like the anti-bully club. That is such a great program at our elementary. I’m also proud to be a part of a board that brought in a new superintendent who is pushing to make our district better each day.”

Sherrie and her husband Damian Taylor have twins, son Dralyn and daughter Shalyn, both seniors at Silsbee High School.