Plenty can be learned from an introductory meeting with Sealy ISD’s new superintendent but one thing that sticks out above the rest is growth. Bryan Hallmark said that progress isn’t only in terms of students’ understanding of curriculum but also for the adults teaching them.
“I firmly believe that no matter what role you have, the kind of superintendent Sealy needs today is going to be much different than the kind of superintendent Sealy might need five or six years from now. I have to grow just as fast as a leader but everyone in our organization has to do that (too) so we can meet the changing needs of society,” Hallmark said during a May 8 phone interview.
Hallmark was officially hired as superintendent at April 24’s regular meeting of the Sealy ISD Board of Trustees and started working on May 4. He brings 20 years of education with him, beginning as a social studies teacher and coach at Ennis before becoming principal at La Grange and assistant superintendent at Georgetown, the latter of which was his most recent position.
Hailing from the one-stoplight town of Big Lake, Hallmark said there wasn’t much else to do other than play sports, hunt and fish but mentioned he was originally inspired to get into education because of the high school football coaches he had a strong bond with as a student himself.
“My coaches were really my father figures,” Hallmark said. “They saw potential in me that I didn't see myself, encouraged me and so I really wanted to grow up and be like them.”
Hallmark said he was fortunate enough to coach state-championship-winning football teams at Ennis at the beginning of his career, although he also got a closer look at some heartbreaking stories of student-athletes who went off to college but were unable to finish. He said that’s what made him want to go the administration route to further help students’ success.
“What I realized was that there was more to it than sports,” Hallmark said of what he learned from coaching. “We have to prepare the kids to be successful and that's where the education comes in; it's a great equalizer and I think all aspects of the public education experience, from extracurriculars to the classroom, tie in nicely. If it's done right, it produces a student that can win at their future; whether in college, career or whatever that looks like for each individual.”
Hallmark said a multitude of things stuck out from the Sealy ISD job posting. The opportunity to capitalize on an opportunity that would allow him to continue being all-in on building community relationships and carry the success built up in professional learning communities – an effort he’s been behind for more than six years – convinced him that Sealy ISD was the place he wanted to be.
“I think (community involvement is) something that is a strength of mine. I draw a lot of energy from being a part of serving others and that really seemed to be something they were looking for,” Hallmark said. “They've started on a journey three or four years ago to really use professional learning communities to make progress on the academic front and they've really taken some great steps to do that. They were looking for someone who believed in that process and wasn't going to come in and do a 180 and bring something different.”
Sealy is a familiar place to Hallmark, he said.
“(I took) lots of trips to Sealy for football, baseball, softball, one-act play, different things like that,” Hallmark said of his 10-year stint at La Grange. “The thing that always stood out was the kids were very respectful and they always, whatever it was, put forth tremendous effort. I think when you see that, that's a reflection of the community. There's that expectation of, ‘Hey, we're going to work hard and whatever we do, we're going to give it our best shot.’”
Another piece of familiarity for Hallmark comes from the athletic director’s office which is currently occupied by Shane Mobley, a fellow Big Lake native. Mobley said he graduated with Hallmark’s older brother but was excited to hear he was the one hired because of Hallmark’s experience and background growing up in a small town like Sealy.
“He understands growth; he understands good growth and he understands bad growth,” Mobley said of Hallmark.
Hallmark said that, above all else, he chose Sealy because he envisioned it being the place he could bring his family, wife Andrea and children Cole (11) and Carly (4), to be for the foreseeable future and hopefully see their youngest graduate with a diploma from Sealy High School.
“That's the kind of town I want to raise a family,” Hallmark said of Sealy. “When I went through the process, that was the biggest question for me. There wasn't any doubt about what Sealy ISD believes in, but it was getting to know the community a little bit and falling in love with it and saying ‘Hey, this is the place that is going to be great for me and my family and the place that I can see my four-year-old daughter walking across that stage in 13 or 14 years.’”