Petty to continue work in District 4 for SISD

Staff Writer

“Excited!” That’s the word that Russ Petty uses to describe the opportunity that he has in seeking his 5th term as the SISD School Board Trustee for District 4. “Exciting things are happening within our district and I want to help that continue”.
Petty, a 1984 SHS graduate, comes from a family that knows how important education is for our community. R.R. (Russell) Petty, Sr., first came to Nolan County in the late 1930’s as the first Vocational Ag Teacher in Nolan County. While at Divide High School he also taught Math, coached football, basketball and baseball. “I have had many people tell me over years that they are a better person today because of my grandfather’s influence in their lives”, Russ stated. “Hearing comments like those, makes me realize just how important teachers are to our kids and the future.”
Other educators in the Petty family include Nadene Petty, Russ’ mother, who taught homemaking at Sweetwater High School and at Divide High School. Ron, a younger brother, who is an Assistant Principal at Godley Junior High. Sister-in-Law, Leigh Petty who teaches Spanish at Highland High School. Niece, Darian Petty who teaches at Southeast Elementary here in Sweetwater as well as wife, Terri Petty who teaches geometry at SHS. “Needless to say that we have some interesting discussions at family get togethers”, says Russ with a smile. “By choosing to serve on the board, I want to make sure that we give the teachers and kids of our district all the tools that they need to be successful in life and with their life after they leave SISD.”
Russ grew up on the family farm and ranch southwest of Nolan and his parents made the tough choice early on to transfer into Sweetwater. “They realized that by coming to a bigger school, my brothers and I would have more opportunities with our education and extracurricular activities. All of the Petty brothers were active in sports and mainly FFA events. “I know that we are the well rounded individuals that we are today because Sweetwater ISD”, Russ stated.
When asked: “Why a fifth term?” Russ says, “The current board just spent a great deal of time finding the person that we just recently named as Lone Finalist for Superintendent. I feel strongly that we need to give him every opportunity for a smooth transition into our district. After going through the search process, honestly, I have been re-energized and cannot wait for our community to meet Dr. McFarland and his family. As a result of this process I can truly say that this one of the strongest boards that I have ever had the opportunity to serve with, and, if given the opportunity, I look forward to another three years.”
Service back to his community is something about which Russ feels strongly. He was elected to the Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital board in 1997 and served in that capacity for four years. Russ also served on the Nolan County Coliseum board from 1989-2008, serving as president for several years and oversaw the passing of the Hotel/Motel occupancy tax referendum which funded the expansion of the Coliseum in 2006. This tax revenue is currently enabling the Coliseum in its current expansion that will bring more economic benefits to Sweetwater. Russ is also serving on the Nolan County Appraisal District board as a representative of SISD. He also owns Creative Graphic Solutions and knows that Sweetwater has blessed his business and giving back to the community is the least that he can do.”
Russ is the father of three, Matthew is a 2015 double major (Russian and International Relations) from Texas A&M and is currently overseas in Georgia starting a 27-month stint with the Peace Corps. Amanda is set to graduate from Texas A&M this May with a double major in Math and Japanese. She will be enrolling at Oregon State University this fall to work towards her Masters in Math. Upon completion, she wants to teach High School Math. Claire, Russ’ youngest daughter will be enrolling this fall at Trinity University to start her studies to become a psychiatrist. Two stepdaughters are also an important part of his family. Morgan Whitley attended Angelo State University, majoring in Agri-Business and Meagan Whitley is currently working in College Station. 
Among some of the challenges that Russ sees in the near future are improvements to the existing campuses. “Anytime that we look at any kind of improvements-we need to consider what is best for the kids that are affected. I would love to have all of our kids in brand new buildings but that simply is not feasible. However, that led to the decision to move forward with the closing of The JP Cowen campus. Having the youngest students in our district in a building that is almost 70 years old did not make sense. After the last bond failed that would have helped address this issue, our board opted to build the new Early Childhood Campus at Southeast and now those kids and teachers are in a much safer and modern building. It was a tough decision and we had to dip into our fund balance-but it was the right thing to do”, Petty states. “Improved communication is another area of which we as a board have learned that we must do a better job. The next time we go out for a bond election-the needs of the kids in SISD will have to be better communicated.” Improved relations with TSTC and developing more CTE classes for those students who might not choose to go onto a 4-year college is another challenge that Russ sees. “The State of Texas finally realized that not all kids are going to go onto college so it falls to us to figure out the needs of those students so that they too can lead successful lives and to be able to provide for themselves and their families”.