After 32 years in education, the last five as Bonham Academy principal, Mr. Webber is retiring. When he came to Bonham, then-Superintendent Sylvester Perez asked him to commit five years. He gave us his all in those years, and more.
Growing up with a Spanish teacher (later college professor) father and a French teacher (later journalist) mother, it’s no surprise Mr. William Webber developed a love for languages. His four brothers and sisters all learned German, as that was one language his parents didn’t know and they could speak without them understanding.
When, as a child, his father asked him what he wanted to be, young Will Webber said, “I don’t know, but not a teacher. They work so hard, they don’t make much money, they’re not appreciated.” But he was committed to learning languages. He learned Spanish from his teacher-father, and also from his Alabama-raised grandmother who had relatives in Cuba. She spoke Cubano Spanish with an Alabama accent. But probably most significantly, he learned Spanish from his co-workers on the construction crews with whom he worked since he was 14.
Until the sixth grade when the state desegregated the schools, he and his two closest friends attended three schools: the Hispanic school, the African American school, and the white school. Understanding segregation and trying to overcome it has been a theme of his career.
A double bass player, he spent 12 years playing in an orchestra. Young Will knew then how crucial music was to academic achievement and carried that on as a teacher and administrator. Every year before Christmas break, he plays his dulcimer for the students.
It was Mr. Webber’s wife, already a teacher, who convinced him to take to the classroom. He spent 14 years as a middle school social studies teacher in Smithson Valley. An advocate of project-based learning, one of his favorite lessons borrowed from both science and history: the sundial and the Sumerians. Ask him about it!
Later, his superintendent, Dr. Jose Parra, sponsored him for Trinity University’s Tomorrow’s Leaders Program. When he finished in 2000, Hays CISD brought him on as an assistant principal of a bilingual campus. Then, as principal, he opened a pre-K school with 200 Spanish- and 200 English-speaking students and supervised the construction of Negley Elementary.
When the principal position at Bonham was posted in 2013, his family and friends said, “That’s your school. It’s where you’re meant to be: Music, Science, Art, Languages.” Bonham was about to undertake a major construction project. A former construction worker who had also supervised the building of a school as principal, Mr. Webber had unique experience to bring to Bonham.
It was everything he wanted in a school: “If I had designed a school, it would be like Bonham,” he said. In the early years, he would escape to the Secret Garden to just soak it all in.
We now have five high school level courses offered in English, two Spanish courses and a college (AP) Spanish. We had 450 students then and have 570 now, as the middle school students don’t want to leave. Bonham has undergone many changes in these five years and has been more successful than he ever imagined.
When asked what he’d take away from his time at Bonham, Mr. Webber said, “Believe in your school, it is a jewel. It is what it is thanks to the parents and community, which includes both the neighborhood and the broader community of families who come to Bonham. The community makes it the gem that it is.”
Thank you, Mr. Webber, for your service to Bonham and to education in Texas.
- Cherise Rohr-Allegrini
Author’s Note: It’s a well known “rumor” that when hiring a new principal, district administration told Mr. Webber they needed someone who could “handle those difficult Bonham parents.” As one such parent who never hesitates to speak up, it would not have been surprising if I had been shut out of meetings. Instead, Mr. Webber has often called to say, “I would like you to serve on this committee.” When I said, “I’m not going to sit quietly and agree. I will question and give you a hard time,” he would say, “Yes. Please be there. We need that voice.” That, to me, is a leader.