Tyler ISD's Tim Loper looks back on growing up in district and to its future

Published on Monday, 1 May 2017 17:20 - Written by CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

Tim Loper is a product of Tyler ISD, and for the past two decades he has worked to reshape the district into a product of the 21st century.

Loper is the director of facilities for the district he grew up in. He is currently steering one of the district’s longest coming projects, a bond proposal to substantially remodel and expand its aging high schools.

Loper is responsible for the maintenance, repair and guidance of Tyler ISD’s 27 campuses and its other facilities. He maintains an impressive attention to detail for a job that requires him to know the ins and outs of every campus serving the district’s 18,000 students and 2,700-member staff.

Since he went to work for Tyler ISD in 1999, he has watched sweeping proposals fail -- as was the case with a massive $293 million bond package in 2001 -- and others get off the ground.

Tyler ISD is close to Loper’s heart. He moved to the district in fourth grade and even attended Hogg Middle School, where his mother had gone to school as a child.

Fifteen years ago, as the board of trustees regrouped after the blowback from the 2001 bond failure, the district began reprioritizing its dream to rebuild the district. Loper was instrumental in convincing them to dedicate 3 cents of the tax rate to maintenance, which would help stave off problems while they segmented the plans to build new schools and renovate those deemed usable.

“I believe it was way too much for everyone to stomach,” he said of the 2001 bond proposal. “It failed miserably. I think we ended up better off having to segment it.”

Loper wants to provide students with the same types of opportunities he had before graduating in 1975. After a few years at Robert E. Lee High School, Loper transferred to John Tyler in order to take advantage of the building trade courses the school offered.

With those opportunities, he was able to move into the workforce as soon as he graduated.

Just a few years later, a fire set by students would devastate John Tyler, destroying more than 90 percent of the campus.

“When you see those pictures, it really brings back how devastating it was,” he said.

Not a lot has changed at either campus since those days. In fact, many of the portables found on both campuses date back to that fire.

Loper looks at the campuses and wonders what would have happened had the 2001 bond passed, and is glad the district’s voters didn’t settle for a sweeping package that would have done little more than address immediate concerns with little regard to growth.

“Part of that is lessons learned,” he said. “If I could go back and do it, what would I do now?”

One of the smaller but more important lessons came in how quickly new technology implemented in a 2004 bond package became outdated. The district ordered new overhead projectors for its new elementary schools and by the time the 2008 segment rolled around, they were already outdated. Technology has seen those overheads updated to digital projectors and now to smart boards.

This lesson helps Loper keep in mind how important it is to have a forward thinking philosophy when it comes to the district’s facilities.

Loper took a job with Tyler ISD in 1999 because the district is important to him.

“I didn’t have to leave the job I was at, but I have a stake in this community,” he said. “It’s meaningful when you can give teachers the tools they need to be successful.”

Loper has helped guide more than $386 million worth of bond issues. He has seen the construction of wholly new schools for the first time in decades to the renovation of facilities more than a century old.

“Bonner (Elementary School) was over 100 when we tore it down. It was in such sad shape,” he said. “I recall just finally being able to get grass to grow because it was on a big red clay hill. It drove me nuts.”

The little touches, such as new lawns and sidewalks help the schools become centerpieces of the communities they serve.

Loper said one of the most satisfying feelings he has is when he drives by a school after hours and sees families walking on the sidewalk or playing on the fields.

With the renovation of the high schools in sight, Loper is looking forward to finally realizing the district’s vision of a 21st century learning environment for all students.

“I think if this thing is successful, it’s actually on my bucket list and would be very gratifying,” he said. “But I still have the middle schools to complete.”

Loper said he still has a few years of service left in him.

“I am getting older, but God willing my good health keeps up, I would like to see it completed,” he said. “(Retirement) has crossed my mind, but I’m not done yet.”

If Saturday’s bond measure passes, Loper and his team will begin moving forward on the high school replacements, with an estimated total completion in 2021.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory