After 15 years, Magnolia ISD Superintendent Todd Stephens is retiring this year. Stephens first joined MISD in 1999 when he served as the assistant superintendent until 2009, when he was named superintendent, according to prior reporting.

During his time in the role, he led the district during events such as Hurricane Harvey, COVID-19 and Winter Storm Uri while also bringing new programs to the district, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma program in 2014, according to the district. Stephens also oversaw the passing of a $92 million bond package in 2015 and a $228 million bond package in 2022.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What made you decide to retire now?

There's never a great time, but I think it's a good time to pass the torch. I’m 66 so it’ll give me a chance to kind of slow down a little bit and figure out something else to spend some of my time productively. I'm not sure exactly what that is, but I want to keep getting up and trying to be productive in some way.

How does it feel leaving education after so many years?

It's a little difficult. ... I think public education right now is somewhat of a flux. A crossroads maybe is a better term. ... I don't want to feel like I'm giving up. ... Maybe I can just work on taking care of parents and school kids in another way besides being a superintendent. It's time to switch gears for that, but it is a little hard to say that when this next school year starts, I won't be a part of it as usual. Because I’ve seen a lot of school years start it's just been almost a continuous string of those since I actually graduated high school and went on to college.

How did you originally get into education?

The thing that attracted me was the people. It was people who made a difference in my life that were part of public education. Teachers, coaches, administrator—I always felt those people made me feel special. ... I just got fascinated by the whole part of teaching and taking care of kids, and was given an opportunity to be able to work with kids and teachers in an administrative setting and be the caretaker of all those things so that all the great things could happen in the classrooms or on the courts or the fields.

During your time as superintendent, Magnolia was able to pass two bond packages. How will those shape the district?

This end of Montgomery County has been a part of rapid growth. We’re one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state. ... Obviously, Montgomery County has been one of the fastest-growing counties not only in Texas, but in the nation so people have been attracted to the quality of life here. We like to think that a lot of that is because we were building a good school system and a great community where people wanted to be a part of that. ... So the bonds were just responses to that kind of growth that we were seeing. ... It has gotten a little more difficult to sometimes tell the story of the growth and make sure people understand that it’s an investment in our communities for our buildings. They're going to be there for generations to come to serve other kids.

How is it as a superintendent dealing with challenges like Harvey and the pandemic?

It is one of those jobs [that] is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn't stop. You're responsible for the safety of those kiddos while they're in your care and actually getting them to school many times and then getting them back home. Obviously, with some of the safety concerns we've had before, you just feel the weight of that responsibility. Every day, every morning, you know, [you’re] constantly looking for ways to make sure our buildings are safe.

Is there anything you wish you could have accomplished during your time?

If we missed touching the lives of some kids in some way, [then] we could have maybe done a better job [in] that. But in most places, I feel like we have served the community well, and so I really don't have a lot of regrets looking back over a lot of things. I just feel very blessed. I certainly hope that I've left us a little better [of a] district than when I inherited [it].

What do you see for the future of Magnolia ISD?

I think the future is extremely bright for this district. ... It is certainly a diamond being uncovered and realized by so many people in this northwestern quadrant of Houston and Montgomery County. There's just so many wonderful things here by [way of] the quality of life in this area. I think we've done our part of the work in building a school district that can attract people to know that their kids can get a world-class education here and go to any particular university they want to if they have the ability to be able to do that. We're going to get them ready for it. And so I say the future is just where we want to be.