Eric Eager never gives up.
He didn’t give up his aspirations to join the Richardson ISD school board in 2017, even after finishing second to Karen Clardy in a four-person race. Eager ran successfully in 2020, and he’s determined to earn a second 3-year term when voters go to the polls in May.
Eager’s can-do attitude has served him well during a challenging time for the district. During a period when the pandemic shuttered schools, test scores indicated learning loss, 2,000 students left the district, and an award-winning superintendent resigned, Eager persevered.
Eager says the accomplishments he’s proudest of are measures passed and projects implemented after others said they couldn’t be done. Like the time federal ESSER funds, sent to state governments to help students overcome COVID learning loss, weren’t being released to local districts. Eager and a couple of other RISD trustees traveled to Austin to cajole state officials. Two weeks later, the log jam was broken.
Eager says the district’s transformation from a junior high model (grades 7-8) to middle schools (grades 6-8) is like that. For years, community advocates lobbied for the concept. Eager worked on the strategic design team and the facilities planning committee which put pen to paper, and now RISD is preparing to move sixth graders into middle schools in 2024. Forest Meadow (and other district junior highs) are receiving significant renovation. Lake Highlands Junior High is being completely rebuilt.
“As an entrepreneur, I’m used to dealing with no money,” Eager says. “I’ve learned to get creative. It was the right thing to do.”
Eager takes pride, too, in the district’s Thank a Teacher Program, designed to celebrate the accomplishments of professional educators, and in RISD’s new infant daycare for teachers’ children.
“Little things make a big difference,” he says. “These are creative ways to show teachers they are heard. If you can keep a teacher in the district who has training and experience, it helps save on recruitment and retention. The program pays for itself.”
Eager, who calls himself a “recovering CPA,” has an M.S. in taxation and is C.E.O. of an analytics software company. He and wife Brenna have twin sons at Texas Tech, and both were active volunteers when the boys attended Richardson High and its feeder schools.
His financial background often has him asking tough questions about budgets and spending, but Eager tries, if he must answer “no” to a proposal, to answer instead “not now.”
“You’ve just got to prioritize. What things can we focus in on? We can’t do everything, so let’s narrow in on the things that will have the biggest impact for our kids.”
Election Day is May 6 and the filing deadline for candidates isn’t until Feb. 17, but, so far, no one has submitted an application to run against Eager in District 6. The at-large race is Lake Highlands voters’ only chance to weigh in on RISD trustees this year. Debbie Renteria, also an incumbent, is running for re-election in single member District 3 across the equatorial mid-section of RISD. Eager isn’t ready to predict whether challengers will emerge in either race, but he believes it’s important for RISD to have a steady hand at Greenville Avenue, with continued leadership by veteran trustees.
“Some of the challenges we’ll face require someone who’s not learning on the job. These are strategic, long-term decisions. We have a stable team in place, and we all bring something different. When you have a cohesive team, you can get some great work done. If you interject a disrupting force, you are constantly putting fires out.”
Developing RISD’s graduate profile is one more feat Eager is proud to have been a part of. Students must become “life-ready” before heading out into the big, wide world, he says, and they need to master fundamental skills required by employers. When graduates prove they have a command of financial literacy, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and other vital tools for life, schools – and their leaders – have earned an A+.
Update: Blake Sawyer has filed to run against Eric Eager. You may read our profile on Sawyer here.