Mansfield News

Superintendent steps down to fight cancer

Mansfield school Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas will step down from his post this week to be treated for cancer.

The Mansfield school board will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday to name an acting superintendent to fill Vaszauskas’ post until he returns, which he hopes to do by August. Thursday will be his final day in the office.

Vaszauskas, 58, is scheduled for surgery April 21 to remove a malignant thymoma tumor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Vaszauskas had surgery for the same type of tumor 18 months ago.

“The doctors thought it would come back,” Vaszauskas said. “They did a scan and confirmed that it’s malignant. It’s in the same spot, which is good. It means it hasn’t spread.”

The tumor is smaller this time, about the size of a quarter compared to the ping pong ball-size tumor that was previously removed from behind his sternum. The tumor was discovered during a checkup, which Vaszauskas has had every four months since the first cancer was discovered.

After surgery, Vaszauskas will have six weeks of recuperation, followed by 33 days of radiation at M.D. Anderson this summer.

“Thymomas are rare, so I wanted someone who sees a lot of these,” Vaszauskas said. “There were just some 300 cases in the United States last year.”

Thymomas are cancers of the thymus, a small organ under the breastbone that is part of the lymph system, according to the National Cancer Institute. They thymus makes white blood cells, which protect against infection.

Vaszauskas has a positive outlook about his treatment and his prognosis.

“I feel really good and I’m maintaining my schedule,” he said. “I think I’m in the best hospital in the world for cancer.

“I just have a real peace about it,” Vaszauskas said. “I have an overwhelming feeling that it’s going to be fine.”

School board trustees are also optimistic, and will be looking to Vaszauskas for suggestions on who to appoint while he is on leave.

“We’re going to ask for his recommendation,” said trustee Raul Gonzalez. “He’s got great people in there. We want to keep the district in the same direction we’re going.”

Vaszauskas declined to speculate on who the board would name as acting superintendent, saying “there are several really good retired superintendents out there. Nobody specific that I would name at this point.”

He asks that parents, teachers, students and staff support the acting superintendent and the district leaders.

“We have really good people in place,” Vaszauskas said. “Trust the principals to take care of the children.”

He was quick to say that he would return to his post, hopefully by the district’s convocation Aug. 19, if not before.

“This is a difficult job some days, but 95 percent of the time it’s so much fun,” he said. “I absolutely will be back. This is a really special place where I want to be and finish my career.”

Vaszauskas was hired as the Mansfield school district associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction in May 2009. He was named acting superintendent Feb. 5, 2013, after Superintendent Bob Morrison left the post for the Garland superintendent job. Vaszauskas was named superintendent July 23, 2013.

Vaszauskas and his family, who have a home in Weatherford and an apartment in Mansfield, recently put a contract on a house in Mansfield.

“Please keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers,” he asked.

Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451

Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM

The Mansfield School Board will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Mansfield ISD Center for Performing Arts, 1110 W. Debbie Lane.