As school year ends, John and Lucy Ferguson prepare for retirement

PRESIDIO — When the 2019-2020 school year wraps up this week at Presidio Independent School District, the graduating seniors won’t be the only ones saying goodbye.

After around 30 years on the job, husband-and-wife duo John and Lucy Ferguson have both announced their retirement from PISD. While both have had a number of roles at the school district – most recently Lucy served as the middle school band director and John as the high school counselor. John is also the current mayor of Presidio, with a term to end in 2021.

It remains to be seen whether John will also retire as mayor. “At this point, I haven’t made a final decision,” he said; he is waiting to adjust to retirement from education before deciding. But he stressed he has “been mayor for eight years — a pretty long time.”

In interviews this week, both Lucy and John seemed ready for retirement. “I think it’s time,” Lucy said. She said the couple is ready for a “new chapter in life.”

The couple isn’t quite sure what they’ll do with all their extra free time — though everything from community service to future trips to Europe and Mexico are on their possible to-do list. John even floated the idea of doing a tour service for Americans hoping to see Mexico.

Still, the couple was adamant about one thing. “We’re not going anywhere,” John said. “We want to find ways in the community where we can help out.”

Lucy agreed. “I think so many people just assume when teachers retire that they’re leaving,” she said. “This is our home, and we’re planning on staying here for our retirement.”

The Fergusons first moved to Presidio in the 1980s. John, who grew up in the Dallas area, had vacationed in the Big Bend as a kid and always wanted to come back full-time.

His father was a hiking enthusiast who visited Big Bend National Park “countless times” and “hiked practically every trail,” John said. But aside from the park, John just loved the area, from its natural beauty to the bicultural way of life.

Another passion of John’s was always music. “From middle school through high school, I was always super involved in the band program,” he said. For a while, he considered becoming a professional musician — and to this day, he still plays in a band, The Resonators and Mariachi Santa Cruz.

But as he entered college and graduate school, he realized that becoming a music teacher was possibly a more practical and just as fun way to share his love of music. A music degree was “not really different from getting a degree in musical education,” he said. “But if you major in musical education, you come out basically ready to be a teacher.” Besides, he liked the idea that he could “still perform through teaching” and “influence younger generations.”

Lucy also grew up loving music. She was the youngest of 12 kids, and “all my brothers and sisters played something,” she said. “Every time the family got together, it turned into a big jam session.” She always knew she’d become a band director; it felt like a “natural succession” of her upbringing.

The couple met at University of Northern Iowa while Lucy was an underclassmen and John was attending graduate school. “As fate would have it, he read a book called The Art of Trumpet Playing and decided he wanted to go study with that professor,” Lucy recalled. The professor taught at the school, and “that’s how we met.”

When John graduated, Lucy still had a couple more years of schooling to finish. The couple wanted to stay together, but “there were no jobs and everybody was already tenured,” Lucy said. They decided to give long-distance a try.

John applied to a few jobs, and he heard back from Presidio — a place where he’d always wanted to live anyways. The couple spent a couple years in a long-distance relationship, seeing each other during the holidays.

“We dated over the phone,” Lucy said, chuckling as she remembered those years. “We had $150/month phone bills just from talking.”

In 1989, Lucy graduated from college. She married John and moved down to Presidio, where she also found work teaching music at the school.

Coming from the Midwest, Presidio felt like “basically Iowa turned inside out,” Lucy said. “Everything was different: the landscape, the food, the people, the language.”

“I was a little bit scared,” she added, “But super excited.” She soon grew to love the border city, and teaching at the school district turned into a “very rewarding career.”

Over her 30 years at Presidio ISD, Lucy served as both middle school and high school band director. John taught music classes at the middle school for a couple years before becoming the high school band director in 1990.

“The majority of my time here has been as a music educator,” John said. Then, in the late aughts, “scheduling demands at the high school were starting to pull kids away from the music program” and “the numbers were trending downwards.” A counseling job opened up, and John decided to apply.

“What I discovered,” he added, “is that counseling is a lot like coaching or band directing.” He loved that counselors get to work with every kid in the school, and he loved counseling school kids, whether they were dealing with trauma or just needed help finding the right college.

His proudest experience from working at the school, he says, is watching students continue their love of music after graduating. “Students have gone on to major in music and become music teachers,” he said. “Several students still perform. They have kept that love alive.”

One of those students is Ramon Deanda. After graduating in 2007, he continued his love of music — even joining John’s band, in which he plays the guitarrón.

Now a teacher at Odessa High School, Deanda credits the Fergusons with his choice of career. “They were an inspiration,” he said. “They do what makes them passionate. Everything about them revolves around music.” Deanda decided to embrace that philosophy when it came to his love for visual arts.

When Deanda was in high school band, the saxophone quartet made it to all-state four years in a row — an accomplishment Deanda attributes to the Fergusons’ dedication.

“They were the kind of teachers that, if a student needed anything after hours, no matter what time, they’d be there,” he said. “If we needed to practice, even on the weekends, they would be there.”

“I wouldn’t say they’d go the extra mile,” Deanda added. “They’d go the extra ten miles.” And now that the Fergusons are retiring, PISD “doesn’t know what they’re losing,” he said.

In a statement, PISD Superintendent Ray Vasquez said that on behalf of PISD, “we would like to thank Mr. & Mrs. Ferguson for their years of service.”

“We wish them the very best in the future,” Vasquez added.

In his interview, John felt bittersweet about leaving. “There’s definitely some separation angst,” he said. “This is the last time I’m ever going to do this.” Still, he added: “Everything has an end — everything.”

But retirement or not, both John and Lucy reiterated that they aren’t going anywhere.

“We’re still going to be here if there are students who would still like to take private lessons,” he said.