ccording to TASB records, approximately 20
female school board members now serving in
Texas have served their local school districts
for 30 years or more. Several of them, who
have each dedicated at least 35 years to their
districts, spoke with Texas Lone Star recently about their mo-
tivation, their successes, their challenges, and their vision for
Virginia McNairn, who first sat on the dais for the Walnut
Bend ISD Board in 1981, was the first woman on her local board.
“Many years passed before another lady joined us,” she noted.
The community of Walnut Bend, on the banks of the Red
River in northern Cooke County, has been such an integral
part of McNairn’s life since childhood that giving something
back to her schools was a natural thing to do.
“I grew up in Walnut Bend, attended the school, as did
my mother, five siblings, and my four children,” she said. “I
became a single mom in 1968, returned to the community I
grew up in, and worked as a senior buyer for Weber Aircraft
in Gainesville for 25 years. Education has been part of my life
in one way or another for as long as I can remember. Our
community is small, so [serving on the school board] seemed
a method of doing something other than work as part of our
PTC [PTA equivalent].”
After McNairn’s children grew up, she finished her educa-
tion, became a teacher, and taught special education classes at
nearby Pilot Point High School for 13 years.
Changes have been plenty since McNairn attended her
first board meeting. Among the most significant she noted
have been increased emphasis on standardized testing, removal of prayer in the classroom, a shift in local board authority,
and more required documentation for all areas of education.
McNairn also recalls searching for Walnut Bend ISD’s first
“Regardless of their social status, I
think we have been able to make
students feel important and
loved. What else promotes a
better learning environment?"
“For many years, we had a county superintendent.
Schools here were required to have only a principal. When
that position was eliminated, searching for our first superin-
Although serving as the district’s lone female trustee for
years posed no undue hardships, McNairn said, a true chal-
lenge came when the local economy began to wither.
“We saw our local value reduced drastically when the oil
industry fell in the early 1980s. Our status as a wealthy school
district was reversed,” she said. “As a result of local jobs in the
oil field disappearing, we saw our enrollment drop. At one
point, the enrollment was at 19. Thanks to some dedicated
board members, community members, and school leaders, we
were able to grow.”
Today, Walnut Bend ISD serves approximately 80
students in prekindergarten through eighth grade. McNairn
stressed that ensuring each of those students feels cared for
and safe—and working to keep her small district viable—are
top priorities for her and the district leadership.
“Regardless of their social status, I think we have been able
to make students feel important and loved. What else promotes a better learning environment? What keeps me going?
Love of my community, desire to keep our small school open—
we have faced that possibility many times—and the children.”