Superintendent says creating a better world ‘starts with school districts like ours’

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

April 4, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated April 3, 2013 at 11:04 p.m.

Delores Warnell, superintendent of the Bloomington school district, works with the facility manager on the budget, trying to squeeze out more money for classroom updates.

Delores Warnell, superintendent of the Bloomington school district, works with the facility manager on the budget, trying to squeeze out more money for classroom updates.

Delores Warnell, 50, felt a tug at her dark turquoise dress pants as she crossed the main entrance hallway at Placedo Elementary School.

Pre-K student Samara Whitt, 4, greeted the Bloomington school district superintendent Thursday afternoon with a wide smile.

"She doesn't always like everyone, but she loves Delores," said district registered nurse Amy Whaley, 43, from inside her office where she spied the surprise encounter. "She's a very picky girl."

The superintendent recently received a 2 percent raise, which increased her base salary to $99,950 a year, and a one-year contract extension after her evaluation by Bloomington ISD board members.

Warnell started at Bloomington ISD teaching special education while finishing her masters at the University of Houston-Victoria in 1998 and then went on to serve as the district's federal programs director before being appointed as interim superintendent in 2010.

In 2011, she was confirmed officially as superintendent with a 41/2-year contract.

On Thursday, the superintendent was making campus rounds to ensure everything was in order for Bloomington High School's upcoming career fair.

From a tiny chair meant for shorter visitors, Warnell was doing her best to convince the district nurse to talk about career paths into nursing at the upcoming fair.

"I'll do it, but you have to make it clear to Jim that this wasn't my idea," Whaley pleaded. "I don't want him to think I'm trying to steal the show."

"Great," Warnell exclaimed. "I'm calling him now."

She started dialing James Pieper, the Bloomington High School principal, on her purple-coated iPhone.

Since Warnell has been in office, much has changed at Bloomington for the better, said the district nurse.

Personnel cuts were made to recoup funds the district needed for instructional resources and technology.

The superintendent reduced personnel costs from 93 to 72 percent of the general operating fund and eliminating positions across the district, including high school assistant principal and assistant superintendent positions.

More than $100,000 was salvaged from cutting back on administrative positions, said Warnell.

Reflective shattered glass orbs sparkled in the superintendent's office entirely filled with natural light as Warnell went over gymnasium construction plans with Harry Pfeffer, 61, the district's facility director.

The gymnasium, partially funded by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, is in its planning phases with an expected summer construction start date.

"It's going to take about $6,000 to build the gym doors," Pfeffer said as he wiped the morning dew out of his eyes.

Warnell listened to the facility director with a stern, concentrated look as he went over the cost estimates.

"Well, maybe we can take it out of the after-bond fund," the former English teacher said, gliding a pen over drafted blueprints.

From a plush sofa inside the futuristically decorated office, twin smiles looked down on visiting colleagues.

Warnell's daughters, Schuyler and Dresdynn Warnell, both 21, smiled from framed photographs in their mother's office.

"After the divorce, I became a single mother trying to support two children," Warnell said. "I knew I needed to start thinking about a higher-level position."

Even when she started working in the district's administration building, Warnell said she never dreamed of becoming superintendent.

"I knew I wanted to do something in administration. I just didn't know for sure what," Warnell said. "When the opportunity came from the district to lead them to a better place, that was exciting to me."

As her term continues, Warnell said, she hopes to produce high school graduates who will have choices in what they want to do in their lives.

"It's a technology age, and we need to teach toward that," Warnell said. "I want the community, county and world to become better, and it starts with school districts like ours."



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