George Clark will never forget his first day working in the HEB School District.
Though it would certainly be understandable if the memories were a little foggy. After all, that was 51 years ago. To put it in perspective, the HEB district turned 60 this school year.
But Clark still glows when he speaks of his arrival in the district as a junior high coach in 1967.
“I felt good when hired because I was going to get started in coaching and working with kids, and this was and still is one of the best districts in Texas,” he said proudly.
His salary that first year was $4,400 — not per month, per year.
“For that salary I got to teach three classes, coach in the morning and coach in the afternoon. I loved every day and would not change anything because I was living the dream,” he said, still as enthusiastic as the day he first arrived.
Clark is now an assistant principal at Euless Trinity High School, a position he’s held since 1998. In fact, he’s outlasted the man who hired him at Trinity, former Principal Andy Cargile, who retired after a decade in 2008 and is now a member of the HEB school board.
“When I became principal at Trinity I did everything I could to get George over there,” Cargile said. “George’s loyalty to Trinity is strong, and he’s able to change behavior in students and still gain their respect. It’s so easy to like George.”
Clark grew up in White Settlement and attended Brewer High School. He was involved in a variety of sports, including football, basketball, baseball, tennis and golf. He was inducted into the White Settlement ISD Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
Clark also turned out to be a pretty good coach. During one stretch at the junior high level, his team came within one season-ending contest of going undefeated over a three-year span, losing on the final play of the season.
“In that three-year span we had a group that was undefeated and not scored on for 10 games. This had not been done before and has not been done since in our area,” he said.
Clark said his favorite memory as a coach was one particular scouting trip for the high school.
“My wife had packed a note in my suitcase saying how proud she was and to keep my head up. When I read it that day, it made me proud she was my wife,” he said.
He also recalled the time when one of the students he coached, Keith Burns, came back for a visit after having worked as a coach in college and the NFL. Burns is currently an assistant with the UT El Paso football team.
“That was a very proud moment. He came back to visit and told me what a difference we made, and that we were as important to him as the coaches at the higher levels,” Clark said.
“I also had a student who was a tough member of a gang and had a lot of problems. He came back after five or six years, walked into my office and said he just wanted to show he was successful like I told him he would be. Brought tears to my eyes. You do not get that in the business world selling widgets.”
In the past decade, Clark and his wife, Mary, have helped raise two grandchildren. Recently they needed work on their teeth from an orthodontist, and she took them to a man Clark had coached in school.
“When asked how much he would charge, he replied nothing because your husband helped me and other kids in school, and I am just paying it back,” Clark recalled. “The bill would have been $14,000 and I cried like a baby. Not because of the money saved, but the words spoken to maybe validate I had an effect on someone’s life.”
Another former student is actually working alongside Clark in the HEB District. Hurst L.D. Bell High School Principal Jim Bannister remembers being taught by Clark in junior high.
“He was head coach when I was in grades seven through nine at Hurst Junior High,” Bannister said. “When I was a seventh-grader, just 13 years old, he was the big ninth-grade coach, and he came down and worked with us. The first thing I could tell about him is he had class.
“Now that I’m in administration and have worked with George on several occasions, I’m even more impressed with him. Both of my daughters graduated from Trinity, and George is always asking about them. They’d come home from school and say, ‘I saw Mr. Clark today and he asked if I needed anything.’”
Clark said his biggest supporter has been his wife. She is the glue in his life, he said.
“You have to have a great and supportive wife with all the time you are gone when you are a coach and administrator. My wife has been my biggest supporter and I cannot thank her enough for that,” he said.
Clark said he stayed in education for all these years for one simple reason. He loves working with students. He’s never seriously considered other options, he said.
“I have seen great championships won in sports and presentations made in the fine arts arena that no one can take away from me and I can enjoy for a lifetime,” he said. “I enjoy doing my job, and I have never woke up and not wanted to come to work with a caring staff of teachers who do a great job.
“I have never wanted to leave my job or go in a different direction. I have said you may not make a lot of money, but you sure have a lot of fun in the field of education working with kids. Every day is a different day with different issues, opportunities, and successes to enjoy.”
Clark admits, though, that this could be his last school year, but he hasn’t made up his mind. He would enjoy more time with Mary, their two sons, three grandchildren, a great-grandchild, and of course their dog, Kaos.
“When I come home each night, Kaos is watching out the window looking for me and when I open the door he is there to greet me,” Clark said. “Our grandson played football and is now involved in wrestling.”
Trinity head football coach Chris Jensen said Clark and his grandson “represent the fabric of what holds things together, the non-glamorous pieces of the puzzle that are every bit as important as the big-time players or coaches.”
Bannister said, “He’s just a pro, man. When you look at the whole package, there is just none better than George. If they were 51 years of mediocrity, no one would care.”