Couple shares memories of Cy-Fair ISD
Throughout the combined 66 years Jim and Pam Wells spent with Cy-Fair ISD, the couple saw the district grow from its infancy to become the third largest in the state, all while maintaining the same sense of community through the years.
When the Wells came to CFISD in the late 1970s, Pam began teaching at Arnold Middle School and Jim taught and coached at Cypress Creek High School, which had just opened. Although both moved up the ladder to administrative positions—Pam eventually became an associate superintendent and Jim a principal—they both have always considered themselves educators.
"We can definitely understand the impact that teachers have on kids," Jim said. "It's a powerful influence, and it spans an entire lifetime."
The couple began their careers in education at Spring Branch ISD, where they met and eventually got married before coming to CFISD, where they both became administrators within a few years.
"I was a teacher at Arnold and was very interested in things like training for teachers and staff development and helping write curriculum," Pam said. "These two mentors saw something in me and encouraged me to apply for a position that was open at Arnold, and I became a director of instruction."
Pam's mentors at Arnold—Deanna Swenke and Julia Williams Kahla—were just two of the CFISD namesakes the couple worked with through the decades. Pam also worked with Carlos Watkins, the longtime Cy-Fair High School principal, while former superintendent Richard Berry gave her the opportunity to serve the entire district through the central office and hired Jim for his first principal position.
"[Berry] was definitely a mentor for us," Jim said. "We were able to accomplish many things we did because of his confidence in us."
Throughout the years the couple has seen several changes in the district, most notably the size. When the Wells came to CFISD there were about 19,000 students, compared to today's more than 110,000.
"It was nothing to see five or six schools pop up in a year here, and as it got larger and larger the one thing we were astonished by is that it never lost its identity and everyone cared about each other," Jim said.
Pam was responsible for four successful bond elections—needed to help provide new facilities to keep up with the growth—which totaled about $2.2 billion to construct about 40 new schools.
"In Cy-Fair, growth has always been the biggest challenge, because that growth is reflected in the need for schools, additional teachers and financial issues," Pam said. "Growth has always been—since we've been here—a huge issue."
The bond elections also provided funding to construct the Berry Center—used for district events ranging from graduations to tournaments to football games—and Pam worked with community members and the district to study the need for the facility.
"Pam's gift is being able to mobilize and interface with the community and bring disparate groups together for the purpose of working together for a common goal," Jim said. "She did it very well, which is why she's highly respected in Cy-Fair."
Throughout the Wells' careers with the district, they learned several invaluable lessons.
"All my experience in education has led me to believe the differences in school districts has to do with the administration, parents, board and community keeping students in mind first," Pam said. "That's what's special about Cy-Fair: even though it is the third largest district in the state, that still hasn't been forgotten."
Although Jim retired after the 2011-12 school year and Pam became executive director of Region 4, where she now works with dozens of school districts in seven counties, the couple remains connected to the district and the Cy-Fair community.
"We dearly love this district," Jim said.
They are friends of local organization Reach Unlimited, and Pam serves on the board of the Cy-Fair Educational Foundation and is a member of Cy-Hope.
"We will always continue to be committed to helping this sense of community stay," Pam said. "As we continue to get bigger, it takes the entire community having the determination that we'll be the same kind of community we were when Jim and I started."