The bond between friends on the Arlington school board was on display Thursday when Trustee John Hibbs grew misty-eyed as he said goodbye to longtime friend and fellow Trustee Tony Pompa.
Pompa isn’t moving or removing his four daughters from the school district, but he left his seat on the school board behind Thursday after an unsuccessful run for the Texas Senate in the March primary.
“I was very pensive thinking about today,” Pompa said at his final meeting. “As you come to a finishing point, you kind of look back at where you started. When John Hibbs asked me to be his treasurer for the school board, I had no idea what a school board was. That was four years ago.”
Hibbs and other trustees honored Pompa, while outgoing state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, gave Pompa a flag flown over the state Capitol and a resolution from the House of Representatives honoring him for his drive and business savvy.
But Hibbs was the one to draw tears from Pompa when he spoke of their friendship and his faith in his future.
“Today, Tony, we can give you a couple of accolades, but truly your reward is going to be in heaven,” Hibbs said. “Because I have no doubt there is going to be a line of people that are going to come up to you and say, ‘Because of the things you did, I am where I am today.’ ”
Hibbs’ voice cracked, Pompa reached for the tissues, and the room went silent.
Then board President Bowie Hogg recalled Pompa’s struggle moving from Mexico at age 11 to become a U.S. citizen at 19 after marrying his college sweetheart, Julie Pompa.
The two went on to have five daughters, now ages 9 to 21, and Pompa is now owner of General Assembly, a professional merchandising services organization. He said he has no plans to seek another public office anytime soon.
“Your story about the DREAM Act is the true American dream,” Hogg said. “I am humbled and mesmerized.”
At that moment Julie Pompa began to cry, too.
Board Vice President Jamie Sullins invited four of the Pompa daughters to sit in her seat and talk about their dad.
“It was kind of boring, but I’m glad he got elected,” one of the little ones said.
Pompa thanked his wife for molding him to be the man he is now and apologized to his daughters for “all the birthday parties cut short.”
He said the school board he is leaving behind is one that has evolved from compliance-driven to performance-driven.
“There’s been a complete shift in culture,” Pompa said. “We have all the personalities and skill sets.”
He’ll be missed as a trustee, but he’ll always be a friend, Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos said.
“I think I’m most proud of the fact [that] in everything we’ve done, we put the students first,” Pompa said. “I’m going to miss y’all. I’m going to miss serving the school district, but I leave confidently knowing you will continue everything I’ve done.”