It isn’t often that a school board member can be compared to a sports figure but Aledo ISD’s Bobby Rigues can say he has something in commom with both Cal Ripken, Jr. and Brett Favre.
Both Ripken, Jr. and Favre hold records for most consecutive games in their respective sports of baseball and football. Rigues, on the other hand, has never in the 10 years he’s been on the Aledo ISD Board of Trustees missed a meeting.
"I came close to missing one when I had a minor procedure done and it was the same day of a board meeting," Rigues admitted. "I barely struggled in and I toughed it out for some of the action items but then I got out of there. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to missing a board meeting."
Because of that dedication and his passion for education, his fellow board members and Superintendent Dr. Derek Citty honored Rigues with a plaque adorned with the trademark A that represents the district at its May meeting. And they did it without him even knowing it was coming.
Each month at Aledo ISD board meetings, trustees rotate honoring individuals and student achievement. May was Rigues’ month and before he went to sit down, his fellow board members told him not to move and made their way down to where he was standing. Next thing he knew, he was surrounded.
"I was clueless," Rigues said. "It didn’t even dawn on me that it had been 10 years.
"The immediate thought that ran through my mind was, ‘Wow, it’s been 10 years’ and it hit me quick and I remember thinking there’s a little pressure on me since I’d never missed a meeting before."
Rigues said he feels that as a steward of the district and for the community, it’s his responsibility to be present.
"I’ve been very very fortunate I’ve been able to attend – knock on wood – every meeting," he said. "As I was holding the plaque that they gave me, that’s what I was thinking, 10 years and I’ve not missed a meeting."
Rigues’ stint on the board began a few years after moving his State Farm office to Aledo in 2001. He said he fell in love with the community and that he wanted a way to give back and build relationships.
"I got involved in the fire department and then visiting with some individuals, I told them I wanted to put on an event - a fundraiser of some sort," he said.
That event is now the annual Ride for Heroes but it sparked his interest in the school board.
"I’ve always had an interest in the school board - I’m a teacher and a coach of eight years, my last being in 1988 - so what better way to give back to the community than getting involved in local schools so I ran," he said. "I ran unopposed and I haven’t had an opponent in the last three elections. That was how it all started."
One of the main differences Rigues noticed from being a teacher and a coach and then a board member was that not everyone supported public education like he originally thought.
"I think there was a sense of innocence that I lost," he said. "I quickly found out through the politics of education that not everybody supports public schools so that was a real eye opener for me."
It was then that the reality of what school districts were facing economically really hit home.
"As a teacher and a coach, I saw education from a particular angle than as a board member and in light of the economic situation that Texas was in back then and is today, the legislation of 2006 was causing us to have to make some really tough decisions in 2010," he said. "[We were] dealing with issues of possible reduction in staff, the possible reduction in enrichment programs, looking to really have to watch our pennies like we always do but now we’re going to make difficult decisions and we were going to have to make cuts, as many as possible away from the classroom."
That year, as an individual board member, Rigues launched Make Education a Priority (MEAP), a grassroots movement to get equitable funding for public education.
"It all stemmed from the idea of me wanting to go to Austin and because I couldn’t take the community with me, the next best thing was to take 4,600 signed letters that represented each student in our school district," he explained. "The media got a hold of that and before you know it, we’ve got other schools doing that and letters went from 4,000 to 10,000 plus from across the state."
Rigues then developed a resolution that has been adopted by hundreds of school districts in the state.
"This was the first time in school history that we’re aware of when it comes to public schools that there had ever been a resolution adopted by a majority of school districts in the state," he confessed. "The resolution that came close to that was about vouchers - that was several years before MEAP."
What Rigues and his colleagues realize today that they didn’t back then was that it was also the first time schools ever united. Since that point, Rigues said schools have now united against high-stakes testing and even taken that unity to a whole other level with the current school finance lawsuit against the state.
"You have this birth of unity where, up until that point to be truthful, legislators would tell me you’ll never get a majority of school districts signed on by adopting a resolution at their school boards because they are too diversified, too different geographically," he said. "One legislator teased me and was snapping his fingers saying, ‘What’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, they’re too independent.’"
As the unity grew, the more attention the ISDs gained and the more legislatures started to pay attention. Rigues thinks that unity is what is so "critical" in today’s educuation climate.
"There’s a lot taking place that I don’t know if the public is fully aware as to what we’re looking at," he said.
When it comes to MEAP, Rigues said he is looking to make the group a non-profit organization in hopes to get monies to be able to spread the message of public education to even more people.
"If we’re allowed to go non-profit, our mission is quite simple, to protect the value of education and the pursuit of quality public education by working together," he said. "Those three last words are critical. But this way we can maybe have a few more dollars to spread this message - it’s a positive message and to educate people about public education."
Rigues’ current term on the Aledo ISD board ends in 2016. He said he intends to run one more time and, if elected, he will "play it by ear" whether he seeks another term beyond that.
"I can’t do this forever," he admitted.
His proudest moments as a board member, he said, are watching the graduates cross the stage every year and also reading to elementary school children.
"[Those] kids, they’re looking at you waiting to hear what the next page brings," he said. "It’s about the kids at the end of they day; you never know what they’ll be one day and we’re helping to provide that pathway.
"If I had to give a message to parents and the public, it would be to get involved with local schools and understand and learn how they work. The ownership and responsibility is all ours."