Rackley resigned Feb. 20, effective June 1.
“And I mean accountability from students, their parents and the PISD staff,” he says, explaining that when he took over as superintendent in 1995, the district was handicapped by a laissez-faire philosophy of grading on a curve if a student didn’t pass a test, reducing the number of assignments if students didn’t finish all of them and granting “magical credit” to allow failing students to pass.
“That’s not educating students,” Rackley says, “that’s empowering them.”
The result was an “unrecognized” report card from the Texas Education Agency for the district, which is comprised of students from both Bee and Karnes counties.
Rackley says it didn’t take him long to recognize the problem and to initiate steps to change it.
“We require students to be accountable for everything that we ask them to do. Some staff members would not buy into this new philosophy; they moved on to other pastures.”
It took Rackley less than a year to start seeing results. Today, the TEA has ranked PISD as “Recognized” for the past two years and given the district its Gold Performance Award for college readiness in math and language arts. In addition, the national news magazine, U.S. News and World Report, lists PISD as one of the top 125 districts in Texas.
Also during his tenure, the schools installed central air conditioning, switched out chalkboard for white boards and installed new lighting in all sporting facilities.
In the last seven years, enrollment has increased slightly more than 29 percent.
Rackley’s retirement is a double broadside; his math-teacher wife, Debbie, also is retiring.
“When we came here, the math scores were 40 percent,” he says. “Today, they’re 100 percent.”
It runs in the family: daughter Abigail teaches math in the Katy ISD; daughter Allison teaches math in Bryan. Both graduated from A.C. Jones High School.
His link to the Beeville high school doesn’t stop there. When he turned in his resignation letter to the PISD board, it was the regretful task of board president Jaime Rodriguez to read it. Rodriguez also is the principal at A.C. Jones.
“Tucker has been a good friend for 20 years. He has been a mentor to me. It was... difficult... to read that letter to the board,” Rodriguez says.
The board accepted it unanimously but, admits Administrative Secretary Debbie Moreno, “we didn’t want to.”
The PISD board is advertising for a new superintendent and hopes to start paring down the selection in about three weeks.
“Whoever we get, it’s important the new superintendent agrees with the district’s philosophy. If it’s not broken, we don’t want to fix it.”
Any Rackley regrets?
“I wish I could have gotten here sooner,” he says. “Of all the places I have worked, this is the best.”
That includes assistant coach at Angleton High School, athletic director at Ingram High School, athletic director and football coach at Rockport-Fulton and later at Ganado, principal at Moreno Middle School in Beeville and principal at McMullen County school.
“Debbie and I always thought 35 years in the business would be a good cutoff point,” he says. “We wanted to retire while we were still young enough to travel.”
First post-retirement destination?
“The East Coast, then taking a railroad trip across Canada to Vancouver.”
After a year, he suggests, “I might be open to getting some experience as an interim superintendent – if any are available.”
Meanwhile, he has his hobbies: playing the guitar (a decoration on his office wall is a cutout of Elvis performing) and his prison ministry at the McConnell Unit.
He leads the music during services there.
Which goes a long way in his choice of explaining how he summarizes his time at PISD: Colossians 3:23 from the King James Bible.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.