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Harlandale legend headed to the City

Shock, sadness and support. Those were the feelings floating around Central Office late Tuesday after Kathy Bruck, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, made a surprising announcement. The longtime Harlandale ISD employee is leaving her beloved school district and heading back to her educational roots – young, pre-aged school children. Ms. Bruck has been tapped to serve as the Interim CEO of Pre-K 4 SA, Mayor Julian Castro’s initiative to improve the quality of education for more 4-year-olds across the city.

“My heart will be here forever,” said Ms. Bruck, fighting back tears as she talked to her staff during a special-called meeting on April 22. “My family is far away and you all have been my family since I got here.”

That was a long time ago. Ms. Bruck arrived in the Alamo City on Christmas Day 1973. She had grown up in Maine and was attending college at St. John’s University in New York City when she came across a teaching opportunity. She had to choose between Loveland or San Antonio, Texas.

“We were all sitting around looking at a big map book and reading about the two towns. They (family) were like, yeah, go to San Antonio.” It was a quick, family-made decision back then but the decision to take the Pre-K 4 SA job did not come as easily.

“This (Harlandale ISD) is my family now. I have 37 years here and a lot of friendships. I’m vested in the district. This family has seen me through a lot,” she said. But Ms. Bruck’s passion for early childhood education and sense of service led her toward the city’s initiative.

“It’s a huge task. Part of our goal will be to make sure our 4-year-olds are ready for school, socially adjusted, able to function in a normal class setting and have good language skills. But right now we are also in the process of recruiting, hiring and ordering furniture for the classrooms.”

Ms. Bruck's official first day on the job will be May 6.

“We are excited that one of our own – someone with 39 years of service in education – is getting the opportunity to lead one of the best educational initiatives in the country,” said Mr. Rey Madrigal, Superintendent of the Harlandale ISD.

With just a glance at Ms. Bruck’s resume, it is obvious she can take on a challenge. While at Harlandale ISD, she has worked with severely handicap children, revamped the district’s special education program, implemented a district-wide bilingual program, written and been awarded several grants and touched thousands of lives.

“It’s like I’m losing my mom,” exclaimed Shelly Pulliam, an employee in the Office of Student Assessment. “She was my daughter’s principal and now my boss. I've known her for 21 years. She’s practically raised us all.”

Soon Ms. Bruck will help raise a new generation of learners. Pre-K 4 SA will kick off the 2013-2014 school year with two centers, one on the north and the other on the south side of town. Each center hopes to service 500 students with full-day Pre-K instruction. According to its website, when fully implemented, 3,700 children will be educated annually at four centers across the city.

“I am taking with me a strong work ethic, a passion for at-risk kids, a respect for the importance of families in education and the knowledge that we can do so much more together than individually,” said Ms. Bruck about the big move and even greater task.

“What’s in the best interest of kids? Always think in terms of kids.” Ms. Bruck wants that to be her career’s legacy. If the tears, cheers and standing ovation from staff members are any indication, that is her legacy at Harlandale ISD.