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Three Long-time GCCISD principals To Call It A Day At End of School Year
05/08/2017
 3 principals are lined up for photograph.
 Photo by Carrie Pryor-Newman

Three Long-time GCCISD principals To Call It A Day At End of School Year

By Beth Dombrowa

Three longtime elementary principals, all of whom started with the district as first grade students, will retire from Goose Creek CISD at the end of this school year. Collectively, the GCCISD alumni have more than 100 years of experience in education.

Although all three are looking forward to retirement and say they won’t miss the long hours required of a school administrator, they’ll take with them fond memories of their own school years, as well as the gratification of knowing they’ve impacted the education and lives of thousands of children.

Loretta Salazar, 38 years
Having started school at the old De Zavala Elementary, Loretta Salazar was at the helm of the campus in 2016 when the school was designated as a state historical marker, which she said will be one of her best memories of her career, given the deep affinity she still feels for her elementary years at the school.

“We lived across the street from De Zavala and before I even started school, I would go to lunch there with my mom. They had hot, homemade food and freshly baked pies and cake every day. Every year we had a Cinco de Mayo program that was a big community affair,” she said.

In sixth grade, Salazar’s family moved, and she began attending Cedar Bayou Junior, while most of her friends went to Baytown Junior. Salazar recalled a teacher named Mrs. Dixon who recognized that she was lonely and paired her with other students to make her feel welcome. She went on to graduate from Sterling.

Years later, Salazar, who was then a teacher at the old Carver Elementary, accepted a position as a second grade bilingual teacher. However, an assistant principal position opened at Carver. After six weeks at De Zavala, Salazar was hired for the position and returned to Carver, beginning her administrative career.

Another memory Salazar recalled was when oil was discovered at the site of the old Carver school. Over the weekend, GCCISD decided to close the school and 853 students were sent to various campuses all over the district.

Salazar will welcome her first grandchild this summer and is looking forward to being a full-time grandmother, as well as spending time with family and visiting different beaches. 


Laura Smith, 35 years
Laura Smith recalls singing “The Lord’s Prayer” every morning in her first grade class at Bowie Elementary, accompanied on the classroom piano by her teacher, Mrs. Walker. She also remembers her sixth grade teachers, Fredlyn Kluch and Linda Schweers, who she began babysitting for in the sixth grade.

“They loved teaching and they loved their students,” Smith said. “The respect I had for them made me want to become a teacher.”

Smith and her four siblings all attended Robert E. Lee High School, where Smith was Company Major of the Brigadiers. She described her family as being very proud Ganders.

“Lee was in its heyday then, she said. “I’m very proud to have graduated from Lee.”

Smith began her career as a Language Arts teacher at Baytown Junior in 1982. She also taught at Bowie Elementary and Austin. While she completed her master’s degree and administrative certification fairly early in her career, she had young children and didn’t feel the time was right to pursue an administrative career. However, after moving to Austin Elementary as a teacher in 1996, she progressed naturally to peer facilitator to assistant principal to being named principal in 2004, with the encouragement of former principal Barbara Wilson and superintendent Barbara Sultis. She’s been a fixture on the campus ever since.

Smith is proud that many of GCCISD’s leaders were once her students. She taught Blanca Capetillo, principal of Bowie Elementary; Betty Baca, principal of Harlem Elementary; and Matt Bollinger; principal of Baytown Junior.

“My goal was to complete 35 years, and I’m so proud that all 35 have been in Goose Creek,” said Smith. “It was a hard decision to retire because of the love I have for my job, the students and my colleagues, but I’m looking forward to traveling and spending some time with my family.”


Susan Griffin, 34 years
One teacher that stands out for Susan Griffin is her fifth-grade teacher at Bowie Elementary, Dewolyn Hullum.

“She taught us a work ethic and about being kind to others – things you need to be successful in life – in addition to academics,” Griffin said.

After Bowie, Griffin attended Cedar Bayou Junior with her now lifelong friend, Laura Smith. But Griffin went on to graduate from Sterling, while Smith attended Lee.

She became interested in being an administrator after taking classes for a principal certification at Region IV, and after her principal at the time, Rachel DeLeon, let her fill in some after an assistant principal left mid-year. She was also encouraged by her Highlands principal, Judy Duncan, to pursue the principalship.

After teaching for several years at Bowie and Pumphrey, and serving as a Family Involvement Coordinator and assistant principal at Highlands Elementary, Griffin became the principal at Crockett. Three years later, she was asked by the superintendent to become the principal of a new campus, Dr. Johnny Tee Clark, Jr. Elementary.

“I’ll always remember the opportunity to open the new Clark campus,” Griffin said. “Dr. Clark was the superintendent when I started as a new teacher in GCCISD, and I really respected him. I have been blessed to be a part of the Goose Creek family all these years. I have worked with some of the best in education.

In retirement, Griffin plans to spend time with family, including a brand-new grandchild – her fourth – who is due next month.


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