Paul Norton officially became Lake Travis ISD’s new superintendent in August ahead of the unprecedented 2020-21 school year and amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Norton, who previously served at Texarkana ISD, filled the job left vacant by Brad Lancaster, who served at LTISD for more than eight years.

What initially attracted you to Lake Travis ISD?

Lake Travis ISD has an incredible reputation for excellence in all areas. From academics to athletics to fine arts to every category you can imagine, Lake Travis ISD excels. To be a part of this school district was an opportunity I could not resist. Also, the opportunity for my children to be a part of this school district was an opportunity we could not pass up.

You moved from Texarkana ISD, which serves over 8,000 students, to a growing district of more than 11,000 students. How will this impact your role as superintendent?

Texarkana ISD is an amazing school district that is growing and has great opportunities for the students in Texarkana. Lake Travis ISD is growing at a faster rate and is a larger geographical area than Texarkana ISD. The biggest impact this will have on my role as a superintendent is ensuring we stay on top of our long-range planning for facility needs while constantly reviewing our demographer projects for continued area growth.

How have you begun to connect with the LTISD community?

My wife and I have been to the Lake Travis area several times looking at houses prior to moving to Lake Travis. In that time we visited several restaurants and businesses to get a feel for the area. I also met with several of the cabinet members in mid-July and then spent some time with district administrators the last week of July getting to know them and hear about the great things happening in Lake Travis ISD and the opportunities we have moving forward. We are also setting up meetings with other individuals and groups to continue to meet the great people in LTISD.

What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your first year at the district?

I want to accomplish a lot of things in LTISD because we have an incredible board of trustees, staff and community that have vested a lot of time and energy into the growth of this district. In a year of transformation because of COVID-19, I want to spend this year ensuring we have a great academic program for our students and continue to build trust within our community.

The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for school districts. What assets does the district possess that will help it navigate these challenges?

I believe our biggest asset is our staff. Our staff is passionate about student growth and to see how they came together in the spring and this summer to prepare for this semester has been impressive. This past spring this situation was thrown on us, as it was every school district in Texas, and our staff did the best we could do to make it a positive experience for students and parents. I truly believe our parents will see a significant difference in offerings simply because the staff in LTISD is passionate about helping students.

What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced serving in public education?

This is my 25th year as an educator. I’ve experienced a lot of situations and opportunities that I will never forget. The greatest challenge has always been meeting the needs of each and every student. Student needs are so unique and transition from year to year. Our goal is to have as many opportunities as possible for students to experience. That moving target is always a significant challenge.

What has been your biggest accomplishment serving in public education?

I have a lot of accomplishments of which I am very proud. The biggest accomplishments that I have been a part of focus around student success. Seeing a student master a concept or seeing a student get accepted to a college they always dreamed of being accepted into, it doesn’t matter. Students setting goals and reaching them is always an accomplishment.

Who inspired you to work in public education?

My mom is a retired teacher and was the first one to encourage me to go into education. I was in college at Texas Tech majoring in pre-physical therapy, and I had completed my bachelor’s degree in biology. She simply said, “Have you ever thought about being a teacher?” I truly had not. But that day I did. Some people discouraged me from going the education route, but I’m so proud that I did.

There are many concerns and questions surrounding the 2020-21 school year. What is one thing you’d like to say to Lake Travis ISD families and staff members who might be feeling anxious?

I understand their anxiety! I am a parent with two kids in the school system. Remote learning will look a lot different this semester as compared to the spring. Our staff is here to help you in every aspect from instruction to technology to academic support. We all want students on campus in a very safe environment, and I know that by working together with our parents we can create that opportunity for our students. Safety is our No. 1 priority, and I know that our families and staff members all want the same thing at the end of the day: successful and positive programs for all students.