The 2016-2017 school year marks Sandra Stewart’s 20th year as principal at Cedar Park Middle School. The first female secondary administrator to be hired at Leander ISD, Stewart has played an active role in the founding one of the district’s original middle schools, as well as the Guiding Documents that still lead the district today.

Stewart moved to the area in 1972 and joined LISD as an 8th grade science teacher at Leander Junior High School in 1980. At the time, the district was made up of the one junior high school, one high school and two elementary schools. Shortly after, Stewart took on a leadership role as science department head under the guidance of her mentor, Ron LaFevers. As the district grew, so did the need to establish guiding documents as a foundation of learning, a process in which LaFevers encouraged Stewart to take part.

“Through his mentorship and the guidance and mentorship of Tom Glenn, I was on many of the committees that founded or created our Guiding Documents,” Stewart said. “So I feel like I have a vested interest in this community.”

With so much growth, the district soon saw the need to open a new middle school. In 1995, Cedar Park MS was built and merged with Leander Junior HS with LaFevers as principal. Shortly thereafter, plans were made to open Cedar Park High School with LaFevers as principal, and Stewart was encouraged to apply for the principal position at Cedar Park MS.

Stewart said the prospect was slightly daunting. She asked herself, “Will I get the job? Will I break that glass ceiling? Can I do the job?” She said LaFevers and Glenn gave her a boost of confidence by reminded her of her longstanding career in the district and the part she played in establishing the district’s guiding principles.

“So I did apply, and it was a wonderful experience,” Stewart said. “And Tom Glenn named me, in November of 1997, to replace Ron LaFevers as principal of this school, and the (district’s) first female secondary principal.”

Twenty years later, Stewart reflects on the “awesome, gratifying and wonderful” experience of being hired as the district’s first female secondary principal as well as being a part of the creation of the Guiding Documents that still direct the district today.

“It’s awe-inspiring to know that the work of teachers, administrators and other support personal had the vision and foresight to create documents that would withstand the test of time,” Stewart said. “It reinforces the Leander Way of thinking about education in a certain way that supports students, first of all and foremost, then supports teachers, parents and the community to be that pillar to help guide this community to even greater heights.”