Dedication to education was life’s work
Miller Grove Independent School District lost a colleague, friend and mentor in Tommy Turner,
67. The former superintendent spent 19 years at the school and touched lives along the way with his measured demeanor and commitment to academic excellence.
Born Oct. 1, 1952, Turner graduated from Caddo Mills High School in 1971. He went on to graduate from his beloved Texas A&M University-College Station with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1974 and a Master of Education degree in 1976.
Turner’s first job in education began before he had finished his masters, with a role as both teacher and coach at Bland Independent School District in 1975. He served as principal for Como-Pickton ISD and later superintendent and sometimes science teacher for Miller Grove ISD until 2004.
While at Miller Grove ISD, Turner “found himself in frequent battles with one particularly ornery teacher on his staff.” He often stated, “I had to marry her, so I could win the occasional argument.” He was joined in marriage to Donna Bodiford Parker July 24, 1992.
In 1996, Turner completed his dissertation and received a Doctorate of Education from East Texas State University in 1996, although he always insisted students call him Mr. Turner instead of Dr. Turner. According to former student Bradley Mc-Cool, the two bumped into each other in the registrar’s office as Turner registered for class and McCool made a tuition payment.
“I said, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’ and he said, ‘Same thing you’re doing,” McCool said. “I said, ‘So are we going to school together?’ he said, ‘If you hurry up with your classes, you can be my teacher!’”
“He’s definitely one of the people that influenced me on buckling down, sticking to it, being tough and not giving in,” Former student and current technology director David Moseley said. “There’s no excuse not to give it your all, and that’s the way he was all the time.”
“I know for a fact that he was a very kind-hearted person, but he didn’t want people to know that,” current superintendent Steve Johnson said. “He was kind of gruff, but he could get fired up… He was very knowledgeable. He tried to improve this school.”
In 2004, Tommy was named deputy executive director of school operations for Region VIII Service Center, a position which he served for 10 years.
One of Turner’s main achievements was the new cafeteria, elementary building and gymnasium.
“A lot of the facilities were in very bad shape; we’re talking ancient bad shape,” Moseley said. “He really changed the face of the campus and modernized the school experience for a lot of kids… they were able to feel like they had a nice place to go.”
In fact, Moseley recalled that when his father Fred Moseley was on the school board, Turner would give tours to groups to show the age and deteriorating conditions of the buildings.
“At one point, he had a group and he went to open the door and the door fell off the hinges,” Moseley said. “He was embarrassed, but at the same time he thought, ‘This ought to help the funding.’”
He considered his work there a labor of love, often expressing how much joy his colleagues gave him. It was with great sadness, however, that his declining health forced him to retire in November 2014 after having served Texas public schools for 39 years.
“He was going to do what was right for the school no matter what,” Moseley said.