Alum thanks university for success
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Tommy Chalaire is getting ready for a game. Twenty years ago, he might have been getting ready to coach a high school basketball or softball game ,but today, in his first year as Superintendent of Chisum Independent School District, he is prepping for the opening day of the little league baseball season, where he will coach his two oldest sons.
“A lot has changed over the past 10-15 years.” Chalaire said.
Born in McKinney, Texas in 1970, Chalaire said he spent his early years in Plano. Growing up with two brothers and a sister, he said there was always something to do, and he gravitated towards sports at an early age.
“Some of my favorite memories from that time are playing baseball and football with my brothers and friends in the empty field by our house,” Chalaire said. “Today, Collin Creek Mall is sitting on top of that field.”
Chalaire said his family moved to the Paris area when he first started junior high. Chalaire continued to pursue his love of sports, playing several varsity postions throughout his high school career. While he originally attended Roxton ISD schools after moving to the area, Chalaire said he ended up graduating from Paris High School in 1989.
After graduating, Chalaire said he looked around at his options and decided to attend college at East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University – Commerce.
“I really liked the area, it was close to my family and I liked the university,” Chalaire said. “From the minute I arrived, I felt like I fit in, I belonged.”
Another benefit to attending East Texas State University, according to Chalaire, was the fact that he received a $1,500 per semester Leadership Scholarship after applying as a senior in high school. From there, he had to undergo a rigorous interview process in front of a committee on campus.
“I applied for the scholarship because $1,500 was a lot of money, and one of the stipulations of the scholarship was that I had to enroll in a freshman leadership class,” Chalaire said. “I thought the money was good, but being in a leadership class would help teach me important tools and skills to succeed in college. It was basically a class on how to be successful in college, and in life.”
One of Chalaire’s prouder achievements in his college career was putting himself through school without any outside help.
“I took advantage of grants, my scholarship, and a job at the off-campus bookstore, which my uncle ran the entire time I was in school.” Chalaire said “He didn’t give me any special treatment, but I was always assured of a job. I’m proud of the fact that I earned the money to put myself through school; that experience definitely taught me some great life lessons.”
While he was attending school, Chalaire said he took advantage of several programs and opportunities designed to help students succeed. Chalaire said that the freshman leadership courses allowed him to develop a support system, and he continued to network with his friends and classmates that he met in the leadership classes. According to Chalaire, he also took advantage of the computer labs in the library, the English learning lab, math tutoring in Binnion Hall, and research help from the librarians.
“All of the programs, the graduate assistants, the librarians, and the academic advisors were extremely helpful,” Chalaire said.
Despite all of the academic support, Chalaire said if it wasn’t for some emotional support from a close family member, he may not have made it to where he is today.
“I was living in Hubble Hall, which is no longer there, as a freshman,” Chalaire said. “It was so old, it was basically falling down around us; we used to call it ‘Rubble Hubble.’ I was feeling overwhelmed, and a little homesick. I called my grandma and told her I wanted to come home. She told me she loved me and missed me, but she wouldn’t let me quit. She said I needed to stay in school because if I quit, it would be one of those things you regret for a really long time. After that, I was committed”
Chalaire graduated with a bachelor of science degree in Political Science in 1993. After graduating he was immediately hired via an emergency certification program by Chisum ISD to teach 8th grade geography and health.
“I didn’t have my teaching degree so I was teaching during the day, and going to school and studying to get my teaching certificate the rest of the time,” Chalaire said.
Chalaire said that during his first year teaching in the district, he was presented the opportunity to continue his love of sports by coaching.
“That first year I coached football, basketball and baseball,” Chalaire said. “During my time coaching, I coached every sport the district offered, both boys and girls, except for cross country.”
Some of Chalaire’s favorite coaching moments involved serving as the head Lady Mustangs Basketball and Softball coach, coaching the golf and tennis teams, and serving as the defensive coordinator for the football team.
While he loved teaching and coaching, Chalaire said that after getting married and starting a family, he and his wife Tricia, who teaches at Chisum High School, decided going back to school to get his master’s degree would be worth the effort.
“I think it was always my plan to go back to school,” Chalaire said. “When I got married and had kids, that kind of sealed the deal. My former superintendent was actually the one that encouraged me to pursue a career in school administration.”
Pursuing a Master of Education degree in Administration, Chalaire earned his degree from Texas A&M University-Commerce through the Bill Ratliff Academy at the Region 8 Education Service Center.
“Over the course of two years I took classes at night and during the summers at the Region 8 headquarters in Mount Pleasant,” Chalaire said. “It was the most convenient option for me and my family, and it allowed me to get my degree from a place I knew and was comfortable with, Texas A&M – Commerce.”
After earning his master’s degree, Chalaire was named Chisum High School Assistant Principal in July of 2004. One year later, Chalaire was promoted to fill the vacant Chisum High School Principal position. According to Chalaire, even though he enjoyed his job as a principal, he eventually decided to pursue a career as a school district superintendent.
“I decided to go back to the Bill Ratliff Academy to pursue my Superintendent’s Certification because I felt like I could make a difference at that level.” Chalaire said.
Shorty after receiving his certification, Chalaire was named Chisum ISD Assistant Superintendent in July of 2007, a position which he served until last year. After being named as the lone finalist for the position of superintendent by the Chisum ISD School Board last February, Chalaire was named Chisum Independent School District Superintendent in July.
While he isn’t teaching in the classroom or on the sidelines anymore, Chalaire said he hasn’t experienced any extra free time. In addition to his duties as a superintendent, Chalaire said, as a father to four boys, Grant, 14; Luke, 13; Case, 7; and Hayes, 4; he is kept busy making sure all the kids stay out of trouble and are where they need to be.
“It seems like a never-ending task,” Chalaire said. “Between getting all of them to school, baseball games, football games, basketball games, parties and other events, my wife and I stay busy almost constantly.”
While he claims he has missed teaching and coaching, Chalaire said he was enjoying his life and career as it stands today. When he isn’t busy chauffeuring his children around, he enjoys just spending time with his family. He now gets to attend school sponsored events as a parent and fan, something he said he might not have been able to do if he was still coaching and teaching.
“Going back to school certainly opened up new opportunities and possibilities that I might not have had otherwise,” Chalaire said.
Looking back, Chalaire said the former East Texas State University would always be a special place for him.
“I absolutely loved living on campus and attending school in Commerce,” Chalaire said. “I loved the college life and the atmosphere. I have got some great memories. I’m happy I could put myself through school and get a great education. I couldn’t have done it without the support of the success programs, the staff, my family, and my friends.”