Staff & StudentsMeet the Team
President | RHS Class of '68
No matter where I have lived, Refugio has always had a very special place in my heart. I was born in Refugio in October 1950, and lived there until I graduated from high school in 1968. Growing up in Refugio, I was fortunate to have experienced a supportive community and school with outstanding teachers, high expectations and traditions of greatness. My dad served on the Refugio ISD School Board from about 1947-1954, so a good education was important in our family.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Texas A&I, Kingsville in 1971 and a Master of Science in Mid-Management from Sam Houston State University in 1986. I taught for 12 years before becoming an assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and interim superintendent. After retiring from public schools, I served as an educational consultant with an architect firm and then co-founded an education consulting firm. Our work primarily focuses on leadership development and strategic planning.
I have been married to my husband, Ronnie, for 48 years and we have two daughters, Beverly and Melissa, who are both teachers, as well. Education is still very important in our family!
I am excited and honored to be a part of the Refugio ISD Education Foundation. My dream is to create an organization that will connect community and alumni resources to teaching and learning in the classrooms of RISD in order to support that tradition of greatness. I see this as an excellent way for all of us to give back to our hometown!
Vice President of Finance & Governance
Originally from Victoria, Darren Drake has been a part of the Refugio community since 2014 and has served in many capacities to better Refugio County as an active community member. He is currently the Vice President and Branch Manager for First State Bank of Louise in Refugio, TX. A graduate of Texas A&M University @ Corpus Christi and the Southwestern Graduate School of Banking, Darren began his career as a Loan Officer and Assistant Cashier for First National Bank in Port Lavaca, TX. Eager for career advancement, Darren became the Branch Manager and Loan Officer for the Seadrift Branch in March 2012.
After relocating to Refugio, TX in March 2014, Darren joined the Refugio Lions Club as their secretary, Refugio Chamber of Commerce as their treasurer and the Refugio County Appraisal Review Board. He understands the importance of community involvement and actively leads initiatives to better his surroundings through outreach and fundraising events.
An avid outdoorsman, Darren enjoys hunting, fishing, arrowhead hunting and also spending time with his family and friends.
Vice President of Development | RHS Class of '66
Ron, “Ronnie”, Walker was born in Refugio, graduated in 1966 and went on to the University of Texas where he earned a bachelor in law degree. He practices law in Victoria, Texas where he resides with his wife, Kay. Ron is board certified in Civil Trial Law and Personal Injury Trial Law. Ron has been named a Super Lawyer by Thomas Reuters every year since its inception in 2003.
Ron and Kay have been involved in higher education throughout the years. Ron was appointed and has been elected a trustee of Victoria College since 1985. Kay was a regent of the University of Houston System and continues to be a member of various university committees.
At Victoria College Ron is the immediate past Chair of the Board serving in that position for 11 years. An endowed scholarship was established in his name several years ago with scholarships being granted soley to graduates of Refugio High School. On the state level, Ron is Chair of the Community and Technical College and Leadership Committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He has been a director of the state trustee association and continues to serve on their legislative committee.
Some of Ron’s other civic activities include being the immediate past president of the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid which serves the lower third of the state from Austin, south to the Rio Grande. This, the second largest legal aid in the US, includes Refugio county. He was a founding director of a nonprofit daycare center for the physically and mentally challenged as well as a current director of the Victoria Bach Festival which PBS radio broadcasts nationally.
In the commercial area, Ron was on the Board of Directors of the Victoria Bank and Trust and was later a regional advisory director for Norwest and then Wells Fargo. He currently serves as regional advisory director for Frost Bank.
Kay and Ron received the Distinguished Citizen Award by the Boy Scouts, South Texas Council in 2016 and the Community Partnership Award by UH-Victoria in 2008 and 2014. In their spare time they enjoy visiting their daughter Carter in Houston and son Bruce in San Antonio with their seven grand children, ages two through seven. To rest after that, they spend time in Westhoff and Houston and travel.
Vice President of Marketing & Events | Class of '98
Kelley was raised in Refugio and attended grades K-12 at Refugio ISD. At a very young age her parents instilled in her the importance of education and this continues to be a major influence in her push for education for students of Refugio ISD. After graduating from RHS in 1998, she pursued her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. In 2003, she graduated number one in her nursing class from TAMU-CC and worked in the emergency room and medical surgical floor setting. During this time, she also served as the Infection Control Nurse and was responsible for monitoring the infection rates in the hospital setting and staff education. She was last employed at Woodsboro ISD as the district school nurse. In the school setting, she gained much experience on how to assess children as a whole to help them achieve academic success. Kelley is not practicing nursing at the moment but does maintain her RN license and remains in good standing with the Texas Board of Nursing.
Kelley is presently on the RISD school board and is in her second term. She was elected as Vice-President for the current school year. In conjunction with the Refugio ISD school board, Kelley also serves on the Refugio County Appraisal District Board. Additionally, Kelley is President of Refugio Elementary PTA and volunteers many hours at Refugio Elementary. She has helped teach Religious Education at St. James Catholic Church where she and her family attend.
Kelley resides in Refugio and is married to Dr. James Stefan Walker who practices family medicine in Corpus Christi. She has four children. Her daughter Kelsey Lawson graduated RHS Valedictorian in 2017 and is attending UT in Austin. Her three sons, Kyle, Kade and Karter are all enrolled in Refugio ISD.
Kelley is excited to be a part of the Refugio ISD Education Foundation and whole heartedly believes in the power of education. She will continue to emphasize the vital role that Refugio ISD plays in shaping OUR children and future leaders of tomorrow.
Shannon Rose Hendley
Vice President of Programs
Shannon Rose Hendley was born on September 25, 1965 in Sinton, Texas. After graduating from Sinton High School in 1984, Shannon attended Del Mar College and Corpus Christi State University to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a Specialization in Reading.
In 1986, she married Stacy Hendley. Just a few years later, Stacy’s employment with Central Power & Light would lead them to Refugio where they have lived since 1988.
Shannon spent 29 years teaching in elementary classrooms, of which 17 of those were dedicated to Refugio ISD. More recently, Shannon has been a volunteer at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, worked with the Refugio County Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of the Refugio County Retired School Personnel organization. The opportunity to be a part of the Refugio ISD Education Foundation was one she did not hesitate to accept. She saw this as a way to positively impact future learners here in our small rural community.
Currently, she and her husband work part-time with One Source Restoration which contracts with utility companies all across the United States. They travel to areas affected by storms to assist with power restoration.
Shannon and Stacy’s son, Kyle, is a 2010 graduate of Refugio ISD and is currently a Texas Game Warden in Nueces County where he lives with his wife, Whitney, and their daughter, Haven.
Secretary | RHS Class of '62
I was so excited and happy to serve on the steering committee and now as board secretary for the Refugio Education Foundation. It is truly an honor to be associated with such a great group of people working towards building on our long-standing tradition of excellence.
I have friends and family members that are teaching or have retired. I know many of them have spent their own money on supplies for their classrooms and helping out with the needs of their students. That is one of the reasons it is so important that this organization supports these teachers by providing the tools necessary to teach the students in Refugio ISD and to show teachers and students alike that we do care what is happening in our classrooms! We want the RISD students to have the best education possible. Actually, our mission statement says it best “the mission of the Refugio ISD Education Foundation is to partner with the community to provide financial resources to enrich teaching, inspire learning and maximize innovative opportunities for all students in the Refugio Independent School District”.
I was “born and raised” in Refugio and spent most of my life here. I attended Our Lady of Refuge Catholic School and graduated from RHS in 1969. My two siblings also graduated from RHS, Sylvia Sullivan Greiner (Class of 1959) and David Sullivan (Class of 1962). I have so many fond memories of growing up in Refugio.
A few months ago, my classmates and I celebrated our 50 year class reunion. The friendships I made in school have been such an important part of my life. It was so much fun reminiscing about “old” times at RHS. At one point, we gathered around and told a little about ourselves since we had left school. It was amazing how many had been teachers. Time and again, it was expressed what a great education and excellent teachers we all had in the Refugio school system.
I have worked over 40 years in the oil and gas industry mostly here in Refugio. I went to work for Quintana Petroleum Corporation in 1979 and spent the last 19 years working for Hilcorp Energy Company.
My husband, Delbert Cox, practices law in Refugio. Between us, we have 4 children, all graduates of RHS, James Robert Fortenberry (Class of 1987), DeDe (Fortenberry) Reese (Class of 1989), Kerri Cox (Class of 1985) and Julie (Cox) Orton (Class of 1990), 8 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.
In closing, I take this opportunity to ask the RISD Alumni, Refugio Community, and friends of RISD for help in funding the Refugio Education Foundation. We need both your financial and active support to help provide every student with an education that will prepare them for success.
Always a Bobcat…………..
Willie Joe Gipson
Board Member | RHS Class of '67
Willie Joe Gipson is originally from Refugio, TX. He was selected as a distinguished graduate of Refugio High School. He attended TX A & I University in Kingsville, for his undergraduate degree. He was a student trainer for the Texas A & I University Javelinas, from 1968-72, and was the Head Trainer and Coach at King High School in Kingsville, while working on his Master’s Degree.
After receiving his Master’s Degree, he worked as an Assistant Trainer for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. He left Seattle to take over the Head Athletic Trainer position at his alma mater, Texas A & I University. During his years at Texas A & I, the Javelinas won four National Football Championships.
Willie later moved to the Austin area and accepted a position as an Administrator in Pflugerville Independent School District. While at Pflugerville High School, he also taught at Austin Community College. He moved to Hendrickson High School in 2004 as an Administrator and after eighteen years in PISD, went to Frisco Independent School District. He then returned to Pflugerville ISD.
Most recently, Willie served on the Steering Committee for the Refugio ISD Education Foundation. In 2008, Willie was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Texas A & M University, Kingsville. He served on the Board of Directors of the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP) for Regions 10 and 13. He also served on several committees within the association. He was a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association. He also served as a Board Member for Williamson County Kids Helping Kids of Texas. He has received an Outstanding Educator Award and was named an Outstanding Young Man in America. Willie received a 25-year service award by the University Interscholastic League and has served 20+ years as an official at the University of Texas Track and Field Association and the AAU Track and Field Association.
Willie and his wife Jan currently live in the Austin area.
I was born in Victoria where I lived until the age of 14 when my dad was transferred to Refugio- a move that forever changed my life. My high school years at RHS were some of the best years of my life where I acquired treasured friends that I am blessed to remain friends with to this day. Plus I received an education that prepared me for a fulfilling future professionally. That is what I want for the students of Refugio ISD today-the opportunity to be productive, compassionate adults in our world today.
I graduated from RHS in 1967, attended Sam Houston University, and married a Refugio local Mike McGuill (a ‘59 graduate of RHS) in 1969. After several years in various locations we moved back to Refugio to raise our children Angie (class of ‘87), Katie (class of ‘90), and Charlie (class of ‘94). In 1980 I went to work for Refugio ISD as a library aide and continued my education part time until I graduated in 1985 from Corpus Christi State University with a degree in elementary education with a reading specialization. After a year with Goliad ISD I begin a long, successful, fulfilling career with RISD teaching various elementary grade levels retiring in 2012 after 32 years at the elementary school. I returned to teaching through substituting after the death of my husband in 2015. It was such a pleasure to share time with former students who had grown into young adults and to know the touch at the elementary level helped shape their future. Recently I married Harvey Dierschke who raised his children in the Woodsboro ISD and supports that small town school influence. That union increased my family from 8 grandchildren and one great grandchild to 35 children, spouses, grandchildren, stepchildren, and step grandchildren!!!
Presently I serve as Vice President of the Refugio County Retired School Personnel, am a member of the Xi Kappa Chi chapter of Beta Sigma phi, I am a member of the Refugio Lions Club, and serve in various roles at Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church.
To serve on this foundation is an honor and privilege for me. The opportunity to provide assistance for teachers “in the trenches” for training or programs that further education and success for Refugio ISD students is my goal. Refugio ISD provided an education for my family that connected the community and the school district in a great tradition of excellence and success for all students that I am confident can be continued in the future through the assistance of the Refugio ISD Education Foundation.
Chris Rainey grew up in Refugio and graduated from Refugio High School in 1967. During High School, Chris was active in band, first playing trumpet then drums in the marching band and timpani in the concert band. He also was a founding member of a local teen band, The Dimensions, that had success throughout Central and South Texas.
Chris graduated from The University of Texas with a BBA in marketing and continued his education graduating from The University of Houston with a BBA in Organizational Behavior and the University of Houston-Downtown with a BBA in accounting. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Counseling.
He is married to a fellow RHS graduate, Rosalie (1970).
Chris’ dad, Lindon Rainey, was a long time RISD school board member. He credits his Dad’s emphasis on education as foundational to serving on the RISD Education Foundation. Chris’ sister and brother both graduated from RHS: Susan in 1960 and Tim in 1963.
Chris has entrepreneurial and management experience in several business segments and is currently a self-employed consultant.
Board Member | RHS Class of '83
I am a 1983 graduate or Refugio High School. After graduation, I got married, and went to work. I divorced in 1987. In 1991 I married again and then in October 1994 we moved to Benton Arkansas to care for my husband’s ailing mother. I quickly found a job working at a Walmart in Benton. In 1995 I enrolled at the University of Arkansas Little Rock enrolling in their Education program. After graduating in 1999 with a Bachelors degree in elementary education with an emphasis in middle school math, I spent a year substituting in the Benton School District. In 2000, I went to work for the Little Rock School District teaching 8th grade math at the districts alternative school, The Alternative Learning Center. In 2003, I earned my secondary teaching certificate. As the only secondary math teacher, I taught every subject from Algebra 1 to College Mathematics. While teaching there, I was elected Teacher of the Year for my school in 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010. In 2004 I was elected as a representative for my region to serve on the Board of directors for the Arkansas Association of Alternative Educators. I served in this position for 3 years then, elected to serve as secretary from 2007 to 2009. In 2005, my principal nominated me for The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
In 2010. I moved back to Refugio and remarried my first husband. He was soon diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away in January 2014. My parents moved in with us a year before his passing and now I care for both of them. In 2016, I started my own business buying and selling antiques and painted furniture.
My father is a retired Navy Veteran. He was part of the world’s largest humanitarian effort know as the Berlin Airlift. My parents, myself and two of my siblings are members of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association. In 2016, I was elected to and still serve on the Board of Directors as Treasurer of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association.
After Hurricane Harvey struck, I was asked to help set up the Refugio County Volunteer Reception Center. For the first two months I was a volunteer and then it became a paid position. I have now served as the Director of the Refugio County Volunteer Reception Center. Because we did not have a 501 C 3 non profit status, we partnered with the Refugio County Community Development Foundation and I serve on their Board of Directors as an Ex-Officio officer representing the Volunteer Reception Center.
Board Member | RHS Class of '70
Born September 21, 1951, Mark is the son of Dr. Chester and Betty Richardson. His family moved to Refugio during the summer of 1957.
Mark attended all 12 grades in Refugio and graduated from RHS in 1970 as did his four sisters – Cindy’72, Judy’74, Andrea’77, Jamie’83, his daughter Ashley’98 and his nephew Troy’94. His parents both worked within Refugio ISD school system from 1957 to 1992.
He attended Texas A&M University on an Air Force scholarship as a member of the Corps of Cadets graduating in 1974. Mark spent the next 20+ years as a US Air Force fighter pilot in both the F-4 and F-15 and on General Staff, retiring in 1995.
He was hired by Southwest Airlines in 1995 as a commercial pilot and upgraded to Captain in 2001 in the Boeing 737 retiring in 2016. Mark also rose through the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association ranks to become President and Chairman of the Board for the 8,000 SWA union pilots, relinquishing the position in January 2015.
Mark has been instrumental in keeping tabs with a significant number of RHS alumni from his era and managed many large Refugio reunions. His lasting love of Refugio and especially the school system in which he was raised and educated has led him homeward. He has helped nurture the idea, coordinate the founding and beginning; and the eventual operation of the Refugio ISD Education Foundation as his means of ‘giving back’ to the school system that he so endears.
Board Member | RHS Class of '99
Antionwynette Smith was born on June 01, 1981 in Victoria, Texas. After graduating from Refugio High School in 1999, Antionwynette attended University of Houston to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology, a Master of Education in Administration from Lamar University, and currently in pursuit of a Doctor of Education. In 2016, she married Clifton Smith, also a Refugio High School alumni. Their children are graduates and current student of Refugio ISD.
Antionwynette worked as a public relations specialist for Seton Communications on the Dell Children’s Medical Center development project until 2006, 18th Congressional District of Texas under the Honorable Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee until 2012, State of Texas until 2015, and presently teaching for Refugio ISD. She continues to support and volunteer with daughter, Aiyanna at the Women’ Home, Star of Hope, Omega House, Casa Juan Diego, The Beacon, and Big Brother Big Sister Lone Star.
“It is with great enthusiasm and excitement that I serve in the community that fostered my passion for education. With my experience and education, I firmly believe in a strong home-school-community connection. That same connection embedded pride, passion, and perseverance in me to use throughout my academic and professional career. In 1957, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a news column, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Today, I share her words to encourage students to continue working towards achieving goals.”
Superintendent of Refugio ISD
Melissa is the daughter of Charles and Lucy Simmons of Tivoli. She was the 1985 Salutatorian of Austwell-Tivoli ISD. and the 1985 Lincoln-Douglas Debate State Champion. Melissa briefly left Refugio County to attend Texas A&M University where she earned a degree in Political Science.
At the age of 26 Melissa was elected as Refugio County Justice of the Peace Precinct Four and she served in that capacity for five years. In 1999 she began her career in education as a teacher and coach for Austwell-Tivoli ISD.
Melissa was hired as a teacher and coach for Refugio ISD in 2002. In 2003, she was honored as Texas Teacher of the Year by the Veterans Services Officer Association. Melissa earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from the University of Houston, Victoria in 2004. During her 17 years with the district she has served as Refugio High School Counselor and Refugio Jr. High School and Refugio High School Principal.
In June of 2017 Melissa assumed the role of Superintendent. Two months later, Refugio ISD was devastated by Hurricane Harvey putting her leadership skills to the test. Melissa and the staff of Refugio ISD worked to balance the responsibilities of rebuilding their homes, rebuilding the school, and educating and supporting traumatized children in less than ideal conditions. Under Melissa’s leadership, Refugio ISD sheltered children, collected and distributed basic necessities, led rebuilding efforts for homes, and coordinated volunteer efforts from numerous outside agencies following Harvey. Since that time, Melissa has leveraged resources to help Refugio ISD recover. She has been instrumental in the renovation and subsequent reconstruction of Refugio High School along with the reconstruction of both gyms, science building, administration building, and high school cafeteria. During the same time new construction was completed at Refugio Elementary School. Reconstruction and repair to the auditorium, library, and shop classrooms are in the design phase.
Melissa is the first woman to serve as Refugio High School Principal, and she is the first woman to serve as Refugio ISD Superintendent.
Melissa is married to Pinky Gonzales, Refugio County Sheriff and retired Texas Game Warden. Her son, Kelly is a 2008 honor graduate of Refugio High School, a graduate of Lamar University, and is employed by T. C. Oil Company. His wife, Britni is a 2006 graduate of Refugio High School, Sam Houston State University, and teaches kindergarten at Refugio Elementary School. Her daughter Katie was the 2011 valedictorian of Refugio High School. Katie is a graduate of Texas A&M University and works as a registered nurse at the Mischer Neuroscience Institute, Memorial Hermann Hospital. Melissa has a step-daughter, Kristen and grandson, Joshua of Ingleside.
Melissa is pursuing doctoral studies at Lamar University. Melissa serves on the Board of Directors for the Equity Center and the Executive Committee for Region Three Education Service Center. She is a member of Refugio Lion’s Club and First Baptist Church, Refugio where she teaches Adult Bible Study.
Melissa is honored to be a part of the Refugio ISD Education Foundation as it works to support students and teachers in pursuit of the academic excellence that has long been associated with this school district. She recognizes the opportunity to provide added educational resources while partnering with former students and friends of a district she deeply loves.