After 23 years in Alvin ISD and 25 years in public education, Carol Nelson is ready for her biggest challenge — serving as superintendent of Alvin ISD.
After Nelson was chosen by the Alvin ISD Board of Regents last week, she had a whirlwind few days getting ready for the new job that officially begins in three weeks.
New jobs within Alvin ISD are not new to Nelson. During her 23-year tenure, she has experienced almost all that the district offers.
After two years of teaching in Santa Fe, Nelson moved to Alvin ISD in 1987 and taught for six years at Mark Twain Elementary, teaching first and second grade.
After those first six years off, she took a break to be home with her young children. But even during that time, she stayed busy. She worked for a received her master’s degree while also teaching part time at ACC. When her children were a little older, she returned to the classroom, teaching third graders at Hood-Case Elementary. She then became librarian at Longfellow Elementary and later Harby Junior High. As her career moved forward, she took advantage of leadership opportunities in Alvin ISD and became an assistant principal at Harby and later Passmore. She was then named principal at Alvin Elementary, where she served for three years.
“I always told them I would go wherever they needed me, and I still say that,” Nelson said.
Seven years ago, Nelson applied for and was hired as associate superintendent of HR. When she learned Buck Gilcrease was retiring as superintendent last year, Nelson said she was interested in pursuing the top job in the district.
“I had an interest in the fact of being someone from the inside,” Nelson said. “Now is the time to step up and serve on a greater scale.”
She said she felt her experience in the schools and especially as associate superintendent prepared her well to be superintendent.
“HR gives you the full spectrum,” Nelson said. “I worked closely with the high schools because they are basically mini districts.”
At the urging of people inside and outside the district, Nelson decided to apply — but being an insider did not give her an advantage. To apply, she went to the search firm hired by the district. The firm narrowed the candidates to the top eight, all who interviewed with the school board.
Despite having a relationship with the board members, Nelson said she received no advantage. The two interviews were grueling and detailed, and she had no idea how seriously she was being considered.
“You don’t really have contact with the board through that process,” she said. “The communication came from the superintendent search firm.”
After two interviews and a lengthy process, Nelson finally got the call she was hoping for — again from the search firm. She remembers they called, asked some general questions and then asked if she would like to be the next superintendent. Her response — “Absolutely.”
The decision was made official last week, although Nelson won’t take the seat for two more weeks.
As she takes over the top spot, she said the men and women who help lead the district have made it successful.
“I couldn’t do it without the team we have now,” Nelson said. “We have excellent leaders at the administration level. Our principals are excellent leaders. And our teachers are above and beyond the best.”
As Nelson begins the latest chapter, she said it will be the final step in her career. Alvin has been home for decades and will always be home, she said.
“I plan to retire from Alvin,” she said. “I don’t know when that is. I enjoy every day coming to work. There’s not one day I haven’t enjoyed it.”
As she prepares to take over the district that has 26,000 students and more than 3,000 employees, Nelson said the continued growth will remain a challenge.
“The continued growth is an area we constantly have our eyes on,” Nelson said. “We continually focus on our students and their needs.”
Nelson said one of her goals in ensuring Alvin ISD is not the final stop for students. Whether that means they go on to college or are prepared to enter the workforce after high school is not important, what is important is they are ready to continue improving their lives after high schools.
Another constant challenge is keeping the 26,000 students safe every day. Nelson said she is proud that Alvin ISD already took many big steps for safe campuses before tragedy struck in Santa Fe last year.
“I think we’re continually reviewing our safety on each campus,” Nelson said. “I think the resources we’ve put in our personnel and our facilities are impeccable. However, it’s on the forefront. Every cabinet meeting, we discuss it.”
As the superintendent, Nelson understands she will work directly with the school board a lot more. But she said should be easy because the board also focuses on students first.
“My experience with our current board is they’re always putting kids first,” she said. “Anytime we’ve gone to them and need something. It’s usually a 7-0 vote. They are not a yes board. They have some hard discussions.”
With her new job just weeks away, Nelson said she is ready.
“I’m very confident because of the team that supports me, especially the executive leadership team,” she said. “I will lean on them completely. I’m ready for the challenge.”