While district officials have expressed disappointment at the pending departure of Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Greg Smith, they have shown equally as much excitement over the upcoming arrival of his replacement, Eric Williams, in January.

Still, in the days between Williams' Nov. 9 nomination and Dec. 1 selection by the board of trustees, parents and community members expressed various concerns and debated whether Williams was the right fit for the district.

Williams said in an interview with Community Impact Newspaper he is focused on listening to, learning from and connecting with various stakeholders as he enters the district.

“The district has many strengths, so it's not about charting a new course,” he said of CCISD’s future direction under his leadership. “It’s about ... what's the best way to continue that course.”

Williams comes to CCISD from Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, roughly an hour west of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. He will start Jan. 18; Greg Smith’s last day is Dec. 31.

At a Dec. 14 board of trustees meeting, board members and district leaders shared parting insights about Smith’s impact. As she addressed the outgoing superintendent, President Laura DuPont said Smith’s 40-plus-year career as a teacher, principal and superintendent around Houston and Galveston has been marked by a constant desire to bring out the best in young learners.

“The themes of innovation, exploration and supporting and encouraging children keep coming up as we reflect on your time in our community,” she said. “It all comes down to your exceptional leadership in recognizing and fueling the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the many thousands of students whose education journeys you shepherded.”

A group of CCISD students spent several months learning an original piece inspired by Smith’s legacy, titled “Onward to New Horizons,” and a video of the students performing the piece for the first time was played at the Dec. 14 meeting. Smith was also given a copy of the score, and the video will be kept in CCISD’s music libraries.

Gail Love, who has served in various administrative positions throughout CCISD, will be acting superintendent Jan. 4-18. Her appointment to this role was unanimously approved by the board of trustees Dec. 14.

During his first 90 days, Williams plans to meet with special education parents, parent-teacher associations, community service organizations and other district parent groups. He has spent time in the community already by participating in meet-and-greet sessions Nov. 18 and 19 and visiting various campuses.

Per Texas law, the board was required to wait a minimum of 21 days before voting to appoint Williams, its lone finalist. Parents from LCPS and CCISD took to social media in the days following his appointment to express dissatisfaction with Williams' hiring, citing his use of critical race theory in schools as well as his back-to-school plans amid COVID-19. Local politicians and activists organized protests before the Nov. 16 and Dec. 1 board meetings.

“I am so appreciative of the fact that people are willing to meet me and listen to me,” Williams said in reference to the town hall sessions, adding that they gave him a chance to address concerns raised by community members based on his tenure at LCPS. “Clear Creek ISD, and Texas generally, is not Virginia. It’s all about CCISD, not about any of my experience in another district.”

After approving Williams at the Dec. 1 meeting, board members spoke about why they are confident that he is the right choice for the district. Trustee Scott Bowen said he was impressed with the level of knowledge and passion Williams has for the work of educating students.

Another reason Williams is the best choice, Bowen added, is that he was the only candidate interviewed who was a sitting superintendent during the 2008 economic crisis. Williams said his priorities then were protecting the expenditures that had the most direct impact on classroom instruction and that he would operate with the same mentality in the face of any pandemic-related budgetary issues.

“Ultimately, [Williams’] job is to execute a vision, and our job is to develop it as board members,” Bowen said during the Dec. 1 meeting. “Policy and politics are our job, and execution is his job.”