Plano ISD Board of Trustees Names Lone Finalist for Superintendent Position
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Theresa Williams to become next leader of Plano ISD (Return to Superintendent's Profile)
February 28, 2022
In a special called meeting held on Monday, February 28, the Plano ISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name Dr. Theresa Williams as the Lone Finalist for Plano ISD’s next Superintendent of Schools.
Dr. Williams is a career educator who has served as a teacher, school leader, district executive and as deputy superintendent within two large Texas school districts. As Deputy Superintendent in Plano ISD, Dr. Williams is charged with assisting the superintendent in providing leadership for the district’s 73 campuses and 6,500 employees, operationalizing the district’s strategic objectives and serving as acting superintendent as needed. As deputy, she has a proven record of success in instructional and operational leadership, building and developing teams, strong and effective communication and a customer-first approach, placing the needs of students and families at the center of every decision.
“I cannot think of a higher honor than being entrusted to serve the students, staff and families of Plano ISD as superintendent,” Dr. Williams said. “I will work tirelessly, and with the highest level of integrity and commitment, for this community in order to ensure an exceptional educational experience for all students.”
Speaking on behalf of the Plano ISD Board of Trustees, President David Stolle stated, “Anyone who knows Dr. Williams’ personal and professional story, knows that she exemplifies the qualities that our community wants to see in our next leader. She is compassionate, student focused, of high moral character and has high expectations for student outcomes. Our Board is confident we have found the right leader for Plano ISD. With her first-hand knowledge of our district and a statewide reputation for innovative leadership, we can seamlessly continue our district’s legacy of excellence for all students.”
Retiring Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser expressed her support for the board’s decision. “Theresa Williams exemplifies leadership at its best,” Superintendent Bonser said. “In addition to her knowledge of effective curriculum and instructional practices, team and talent development, and fiscal and strategic budget management, one of her standout qualities is her collaborative and visionary leadership style. It has been an honor and privilege to lead with Dr. Williams. Her experience managing all operational facets of our district over the past four years places Dr. Williams in a unique position to successfully lead Plano ISD.”
Dr. Williams began her educational leadership journey in Garland ISD where she taught high school Spanish. During her tenure there, she rose through the ranks, holding various campus and leadership positions including director of student services and director of special programs. She went on to serve in a cabinet level position as executive director of educational operations. Her responsibilities included career and technical education, advanced academics, magnet and choice programs, fine arts, guidance and counseling, strategic planning, special education and bilingual education.
Former Garland ISD Superintendent Dr. Bob Morrison said of his former cabinet member, “Dr. Williams has a passion and desire for all student’s to excel, and a servant's heart for the people she works alongside. Her desire for all students to achieve their highest potential is one of her fundamental core beliefs. Dr. Williams has spent her career serving others and will continue to serve the parents, students and staff of Plano ISD.”
Another former Garland ISD Superintendent and current Executive Director for the Texas School Alliance Dr. Curtis Culwell added, “Dr. Williams displayed unique leadership skills early in her career as an innovator and caring decision maker at Lakeview Centennial High School. She has worked with families and educators in numerous roles and her dedication and intellect was something that made her a standout in any role she took on in the 22 years I have known and worked with her. I was her Superintendent in Garland ISD for almost 14 years and was the former superintendent in Lubbock where she served as Deputy Superintendent before coming to Plano ISD. As Executive Director of the Texas School Alliance, I have worked closely with her and Superintendent Bonser, and Dr. Williams is highly regarded statewide. Her background gives her insight to the needs of all students and she sets high expectations for students and educators alike. Dr. Williams may be small in stature but she has always stood tall for the betterment of children. The Plano ISD Board of Trustees has made a thoughtful and outstanding choice for their new superintendent.”
Before joining Plano ISD’s executive leadership team, Dr. Williams served four years as Lubbock ISD’s Deputy Superintendent. She was hired to steer the district through a time of transformation. There, she led the design of Lubbock ISD’s Strategic Plan, which was instrumental in defining the district’s systems of support, known as “LISD Standards of Excellence,” connecting supports from the boardroom to the classroom.
“Dr. Williams is extremely thorough, she is a thinker, and she gets the work done in an exceptional way. She sees the big picture and has a deep understanding of organizational improvement and processes,” said Dr. Berhl Robertson, Jr., who served as Lubbock ISD’s Superintendent of Schools during Dr. Williams’s tenure with the district. “She also has a way of pulling teams together and working toward a common goal. Beyond Dr. Williams’s expertise in the academic and school business arena, she engaged herself in the community. She is a woman of great character, integrity, and is an incredible team player who has the ability to generate consensus among groups. Dr. Williams is an outstanding school leader who is very well regarded among her colleagues. She is tenacious in her pursuit to provide a world class, quality experience for students. She is a visionary leader and is able to articulate that vision clearly. Dr. Theresa Williams will make an outstanding superintendent for Plano ISD.”
With 27 years in the profession, Dr. Williams considers education to be her calling. Her parents were a major influence, impressing upon her that education and hard work were the way out of poverty. “I feel driven as an educator to ensure that students of all backgrounds feel safe and secure about who they are,” said Dr. Williams. “Students should feel welcomed, have a sense of belonging, and feel connected to school.”
Dr. Williams believes that every student deserves to have an exceptional learning experience and that a strong educational system is essential to the development of tomorrow’s workforce and the next generation of leaders. “I have dedicated my career to ensuring students have access to programs that help shape and connect them to their future,” Dr. Williams stated. “Without the support of a caring teacher who helped me see my potential and path to my future, I could have easily been lost. Every day, I bring that same commitment to ensuring that no student gets lost or left behind.”
Those personal experiences propelled the Texas native to want to become an educator, beginning by earning a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Texas Tech University, and later earning a Master of Science, Educational Leadership and Administration, and a doctorate of education (EdD) from Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Her commitment and her exceptional leadership qualities captured the attention of the Future Chiefs organization, which selected Dr. Williams in 2021 as one of only 9 individuals nationwide to be part of the sixth cohort of the Chiefs for Change leadership development program. Her leadership extends into the Plano and Collin County community, serving on the boards of Leadership Plano and the Plano Family YMCA.
Dr. Williams says community and family are at the core of everything she does. She and her husband, Todd Williams, are the proud parents of two sons. “I lead with the heart of a parent, and my sons inspire me everyday to promote the quality of education and learning experiences I would expect for my own children,” she said.
State law requires a 21-day waiting period following the naming of a lone finalist before officially hiring a superintendent.
Plano ISD trustees weighed in with their excitement about announcing Dr. Williams as Plano ISD's Superintendent Lone Finalist:
"What I'm looking for is a leader who keeps calm when the storm comes, and a person who rolls up their sleeves to make hay when the sun shines; a person...who's responsible for painting the big picture while maintaining focus on the here and now. What I'm looking for in a person to fill this position is someone decisive, yet compassionate and willing to listen. Someone who brings energy and a sense of purpose to each day. And...I've watched that person for four years. I like the work that [she and Sara] have done together. I like where Plano ISD is today and where it is headed in the future. I'm looking forward to Theresa continuing that work while also implementing her own vision. I'm confident we have the right person at the right time to take the reins and continue the pre-pandemic plans and respond to the post-pandemic learning environment."
I have been on this board for almost twelve years and I've been through this process. I've been through a national search and I've been through a local search, and I know this process...and I am confident in Theresa's abilities. I am confident because she came with so much experience. She started out in Garland as a teacher and moved through the ranks all the way to executive director of educational operations. She has a humbleness about her that makes her approachable to everyone. And she understands, she's compassionate, but I'm telling you, she is a decisive, intelligent person, as well. And the one thing that drives Dr. Williams is success for children in this district and in the state of Texas. She was taken strategically [from Garland ISD] to Lubbock ISD as deputy, and there she made transformational change in the learning at schools that had the most work that needed to be done. I have my full confidence in Dr. Williams for this position."
Board Secretary Jeri Chambers
Theresa Williams is a passionate leader. It’s clear she understands that all students, teachers and staff thrive when they believe they belong, and are valued. She gets the reality that lives are changed each time a teacher takes that extra moment with a student, because she has been the beneficiary of that experience”
"When Theresa came in 2018, I was so excited we got someone from Lubbock ISD because she was phenomenal over there. She did a really great job, and for us to bring her over was a big step for us. I've listened to my constituents...and I understand we want to have not just any superintendent, I think Plano ISD wants to have the best superintendent, the best superintendent we can get in Texas, the best superintendent we can get out of state or in state...so she is, in my opinion, the best superintendent we can have."
Trustee Dr. Lauren Tyra
“The tool kit that Theresa brings to Plano from Garland and Lubbock, having dealt with and overcome challenges in those districts, provides wonderful experience to Plano ISD. If I had to rank Theresa in terms of CEO potential, I would absolutely rank her in the top one to two percent in pitch, poise and competence. Our business in this school district is kids, and there is no doubt in my mind that her number one priority is kids."
Trustee Dr. Heather Wang
“I have confidence in Dr. Theresa Williams just by watching her this past year, in everything we have gone through…there are two things that impress me about Theresa: when it is time to be assertive, she has a heart of steel. She is capable of making hard decisions, the ability to stand her ground and do the right thing. She always comes to meetings with data and a proposal, and never comes to a meeting unprepared. When it comes to building relationships with people, she has a soft heart. These qualities are much needed in this position.”
Trustee Cody Weaver
“There’s a lot of people that would probably like to interview our candidate, and they’re not going to get that opportunity, and I’m glad. When you have the opportunity to hire a new superintendent, you want it to be someone that reflects the mission, vision and goals of the board. That is what we are doing and what we are looking at now.“