LA VERNIA – La Vernia ISD sits off U.S. Highway 87, east of San Antonio, in Wilson County. The small town of La Vernia has a population just shy of 2,000. Any mention of the school name is sure to bring up its troubled past.
In 2017, 13 students were arrested in connection with a hazing incident that involved an alleged sexual assault of a football player. Most recently, in November 2019, then-Superintendent Dr. Trent Lovette resigned, citing medical reasons. His departure came after allegations surfaced of Lovette inappropriately touching a female student. Both La Vernia ISD or the La Vernia police refused to comment on the allegations.
With an opening to fill, the school district hired Dr. Hensley Cone, who was the superintendent at Natalia ISD.
Now, Cone has been on the job for about 7 months.
″The time was to take on a bigger challenge and I also grew up in Wilson County and so this was an opportunity to come back close to home and make a difference here," Cone said in a virtual interview with KSAT.
The superintendent not only took over the school district during a turbulent time, but also as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning.
He said being a small district was helpful in preparing for the new school year, though.
“Being small we were able to be agile and respond quickly without many layers of bureaucracy,” he said.
La Vernia ISD opened to in-person learning on the first day of school with roughly 75 percent of the enrolled students face to face.
Integrity, transparency and communication are the foundations to be successful at La Vernia, Cone said.
He knows La Vernia has had some negative news come out of the district, but says the key now is to hold everyone accountable and be completely honest.
“Whether we like it or not we have to tell the story for what it is and be completely honest, whether it’s about finances or what a teacher did or what a superintendent did, it’s about communicating," Cone said.
To help with the communication and transparency Cone delivers a weekly video message to the staff, teachers and students keeping them informed on what’s going on in the district.
Cone stresses that if the positive things that are happening in the schools aren’t told, the negative stories will fill the void.
“La Vernia is a great place they have great kids a great staff and community, and good things are happening," he said.