Schoolboard grapples with changes, and Principal Sherrill announces departure

MARFA — In a letter to school officials last Tuesday, John Sherrill, principal of Marfa High School, announced he was leaving.

Sherrill, who’s worked at Marfa ISD since 2017, has found a principal job in Archer City in North Texas, where he has family and where he attended schools for part of his childhood. He leaves at the end of the school year in May.

“It’s like a homecoming for him,” MISD Superintendent Oscar Aguero said of the move.

In an interview Monday, Sherrill said he’d enjoyed his time in Marfa and would miss his students and co-workers.

His reasons for leaving, he said, are personal. His father, who had helped take care of his grandmother, recently died. He wants to be closer to her and able to help her out if needed.

Transitions are always hard, he said, but this transition in particular has been “such a unique time.” When he traveled to Archer City for his interview, “people were scattered over seven rows in the auditorium” to practice social distancing.

“The students and staff at Marfa ISD are wonderful,” Sherrill said. “They are going to rise, and they have risen, to whatever challenge we set forth to them.”

“I really see great things for these kids,” he added. “I have so very much enjoyed my time here.”

David Walstrom, a school board member, said he wished Sherrill the best.

“I wish him luck,” he said. “I hope he does well in his future position.” He acknowledged the two sometimes had “differences of opinion” but stressed: “I get along with the guy. He’s always very pleasant.”

Still, Walstrom worries about finding a replacement principal, especially during a pandemic. “The problem here is keeping people,” he said. Previous principals stayed on for just a year.

“Marfa’s a tough place,” he added. “And of course, who knows what kind of world we’ll inherit when this is all over.”

Sherrill’s departure wasn’t the only news to come out of Marfa schools last week. At a short school board meeting, Marfa ISD administrators and board members also discussed the school’s response to coronavirus.

In a resolution, which passed the board unanimously, the school pledged to continue offering services like instruction and meals for students — though it may modify the school year if necessary.

Superintendent Aguero also explained how the coronavirus pandemic and local shelter-in-place orders have affected operations.

Maintenance workers and administrative staff are working on a rotating basis, he said. Teachers are still running classes remotely and have access to school buildings if needed — though the school is letting in no more than 10 people at a time to comply with social-distancing guidelines.

For school workers, though, the biggest news in the resolution concerned pay. Aguero said he will continue paying all full- and part-time employees, even if “they are not able to perform the functions of their job,” according to the resolution.

“These are difficult times,” Aguero said in a phone interview on Tuesday.”We want to make sure our employees receive the same payment they would if we weren’t going remote.”

“It wasn’t their fault,” he added of teachers and staff trying to adjust to life under the pandemic. “Most of them have kids at home. We just want to make sure that ours are not going without.”