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SCUC "lifer" retires after a lifetime of service

Veronica Goldhorn is among a small, but growing group of people that can be classified as an SCUC ISD “lifer”. Raised in Schertz, a K-12 student in the school district, and now a thirty year employee, she is ready to finish that chapter of her journey when she retires from her current position as Director of Elementary Education in late June. “This is all I’ve known in my life,” Goldhorn said.

It would have been difficult for a young Veronica Garza to envision her life when she walked through the doors at Schertz Elementary School to attend kindergarten. One of six children, Goldhorn endured the struggles many low-income families in the area faced. Her parents had less than an eighth-grade education, and sometimes there was not enough money to pay the electricity bills, or even have a telephone in the house.

Fast forward nearly twenty years later, armed with the first college degree in her family, Goldhorn started as a second-grade teacher at Schertz Elementary School in 1993. She replaced Gretchen Cottril who was her second-grade cooperating teacher.  Goldhorn didn’t initially seek a leadership role in education, but her association with Core Knowledge Foundation,  whose stated mission is to advance excellence and equity in education for all children led a few of her Core Knowledge colleagues to suggest that she enroll in the Trinity University Tomorrow’s Leadership Program, which led to a Masters in Educational Leadership. It is also where she would meet her future husband, Dr. Jeff Goldhorn who currently serves as the Executive Director of Education Service Center, Region 20. 

As the sleepy, semi-rural school district grew, so did the opportunities for advancement. Longtime SCUC principal and administrator Marion Dolford, who initially hired Goldhorn, alerted her to an assistant principal position that would open at Wiederstein Elementary School, the first of its kind at SCUC. She took the position under emergency certification while continuing her education, figuring that she would take the apprenticeship opportunity for a good, long while. Little did she know that the principal, Mr. Gary Wuest, she served under would leave to open the district’s newest campus, Watts Elementary School.

It took a teacher petition by Wiederstein ES teachers to convince a hesitant Dr. Byron P. Steele, district superintendent at the time, to promote Goldhorn to the principal position at Wiederstein. “It was teachers like Lolly Borgfeld, Olivia Hudson, Dolores Atzger, Mary Eastwood, and Tommye Balmos they rallied for me and Dr. Steele took a chance and hired me in 1999.”

That support put any doubts Goldhorn may have had about how successful she could be working with veteran teachers. “They knew my heart was in the right place,” she said. “I loved kids and loved people. And I genuinely cared about them.” Goldhorn believes her ability to listen to parent and faculty concerns helped develop an empathy that was crucial to the various campuses she oversaw as principal. “I think that helped me in the long run, gaining people’s trust and building relationships with them.”

Green Valley Elementary School would follow Wiederstein ES, a nine-year passage she would cherish. But the district’s needs changed as it grew. She was appointed the principal for the Cibolo Valley Elementary School, which would open in the fall of 2015. “It was a great opportunity to build a team and did that for two years.”

By 2017, the position of Director of Elementary Education was created. And a new adventure beckoned. “I applied and I was given the opportunity,” she said. “It’s been very rewarding with the (eight) elementary and (three) intermediate campuses. I was privileged and blessed to serve.” 

Overseeing principals was more than just attention to detail. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the educational landscape in a manner that is still evolving and perhaps not fully  understood. Cheerleading and providing encouragement to principals became a priority during the 18-24 months that spanned the pandemic. Their struggles to work through new and evolving challenges forced her duties to shift gears. “I was trying to keep them motivated and keep their spirits up and trying to help them see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said

Goldhorn’s focus after retirement will be on her daughters Ally and Sophia, both Samuel Clemens High School graduates as she was, and currently furthering their education at Texas A&M and Blinn Junior College, respectively. At the moment, however, her goal is to sprint toward the finish line at the district where she is enshrined in its Hall of Honor. 

“People remember the final chapter,” Goldhorn said. “They don’t remember the journey you were on, so I hope people will feel like I was someone that they could count on.”