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Aldine ISD honors former Superintendent Donaldson

Aldine ISD superintendents from the past and present, along with numerous friends and family members gathered to honor former Aldine ISD Superintendent M.B. “Sonny” Donaldson at a dedication ceremony held in his honor on Sunday, March 2 at the M.O. Campbell Educational Center.

Aldine ISD honored Donaldson, who served as the district’s superintendent from 1986 until his retirement in June of 2001, by naming four administration buildings in the district after him. Those buildings are the Central Office, the Human Resources/Special Education Building, the Resource Center (all located on Aldine Westfield Road) and the Aldine Annex (located on Lauder Road). A.W. Jones, assistant secretary of the Board of Education, added that all future administration buildings would also be named after the long-time superintendent.

In addition to members of the board who attended the ceremony, former Superintendents W.W. Thorne and M.O. Campbell, along with current Superintendent Nadine Kujawa, were also in attendance, as well as numerous friends, former co-workers and community members.

During Donaldson’s tenure, the district grew from 37,800 students to 52,500. Under Donaldson’s leadership, Aldine ISD earned a Recognized rating from the Texas Education Agency for five consecutive years and for two of those years it was the largest school district in the state to earn that distinction. Additionally, the visionary educator established intermediate campuses for fifth and sixth graders, ninth grade campuses for high school freshman and Aldine was the first school district in the Houston area to create a student financial aid specialist to assist students and parents with finding funding for a college education. Also during his tenure, Donaldson reorganized the district in 1994 adding four area superintendents (a fifth was added in 1999) and in 1995, he oversaw the implementation of Magnet schools in the district.

As a result of Donaldson’s leadership, innovation and pursuit of academic excellence, he was named Administrator of the Year by the Texas Educational Secretaries Association and in the summer of 1994 and 1995 he was named Superintendent of the Year for Region IV, which serves 57 school districts in the greater Houston area. He was also a two-time finalist (1994 and 1995) for Texas Superintendent of the Year. In 1998, he was named Educator of the Month by Texas School Business magazine.

Board President Emmett W. Hill said Donaldson’s vision and tireless work ethic were key factors in seeing to it that all children in Aldine received a quality education. The two first met in 1977 when Donaldson was named principal at Aldine Senior High School and Hill served on his staff as an assistant principal.

“He developed the principle that all children can learn, no matter where they came from,” said Hill. “He brought about some ideas that had not been tried in the Houston area. We have seen the results of his dedicated push for academic excellence with our children. Sonny has done a great and tremendous job for Aldine and he will be remembered for many, many years.”

Jones, who made the formal dedication, said Donaldson was the right man to lead the district as it underwent numerous changes in the 1990s.

“It was a remarkable course that Sonny navigated during his 34 years in this school district,” Jones said. “He took on the job as superintendent when only a small percentage of students in Aldine were economically disadvantaged. By the time Sonny retired, however, 73 percent of our students were economically disadvantaged.

“As the district changed, Sonny was determined to make sure that the change was for the better. He insisted that every student would receive a quality education and that Aldine would become a school district known for its academic achievement. During his time as superintendent, Sonny made sure that his team of superintendents, directors, principals, teachers, bus drivers and custodians were all on the same page, and that they understood clearly that the main thing was to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Donaldson said he was flattered and honored to have the four buildings named after him, but he was quick to point out the success he enjoyed in Aldine was a team effort.

“Without the work of a whole lot of people, we would not have been able to do all that we did,” he said. “So many things have been accomplished in Aldine over the year, not by one person, but because of a group of people who were committed to our goals. It’s been a great ride.”

Donaldson spent his entire 34 years in education in Aldine ISD. His career began in 1967 as a teacher and coach at Aldine Senior High School. He also served the district as an assistant principal, principal, director of athletics and assistant superintendent of administration before being named superintendent of schools in 1986.

Kujawa also thanked Donaldson for his years of service to the district, and former superintendents Thorne and Campbell for their leadership.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work with the three former superintendents who are with us today,” she said. “Just look at the imprint they have made on this school district. Mr. Donaldson pointed the way toward academic achievement. Many of the benefits our employees have today are due to Sonny Donaldson. He has left his mark on this school district and we will never forget him and what he did for Aldine ISD.”