HISD lost a much-loved and highly respected former educator on Jan. 6, when Ronnie Veselka passed away at the age of 68.
Veselka was a longtime member of Team HISD who came out of retirement multiple times to assist the district with special projects or initiatives. In 2006, a year after his retirement, Veselka seamlessly coordinated the district’s move from its old headquarters on Richmond Avenue to a brand-new facility at its current location. In 2009, he oversaw the district’s compliance with a new law requiring all employees to be fingerprinted. In 2012, he supported outreach and implementation efforts related to the $1.89 billion bond referendum. A year later, he facilitated the district’s annexation of North Forest ISD under orders of the Texas Education Commissioner.
“No matter what the job was, Ronnie Veselka was always the right person to handle it,” Superintendent Terry Grier said. “Like many superintendents who served Houston ISD before me, we all trusted Ronnie to make wise decisions, because Ronnie always put kids first.”
Originally hired in 1970 as a math teacher at what was then called E.O. Smith Junior High School, Veselka served HISD students faithfully for 35 years. He held a number of influential positions during his tenure, including high school principal, district superintendent, executive director of Research Services, and assistant superintendent of Human Resources. He had been overseeing the district’s Human Resources department for eight years by the time he retired in 2005.
Former HISD Chief of Staff Michele Pola met Veselka when she was principal of River Oaks Elementary School and he was principal at Lamar High School.
“He had the most thoughtful way about him that always kept people at ease. And he had a way of getting things done without anyone even really noticing he was there,” Pola said. “Even in a crisis situation, he was always calm. He was also an incredible listener and somebody you could always count on.”
Former Chief Communications Officer Aggie Alvez worked closely with Veselka to rally public support for the 2012 bond referendum that won 69 percent voter approval.
“Ronnie Veselka was a friend, a mentor, and a big brother. Everyone sought his counsel because he was wise without being condescending and patient without being judgmental,” Alvez said. “Nothing was an act with Ronnie. He cared deeply, not just for his family and friends, but for the children for whom he worked so tirelessly. If even a little bit of Ronnie’s selflessness, dedication, and commitment to do good rubs off on the people he touched, the world will be a better place.”
“Ronnie loved HISD, and we will miss him,” said Superintendent of Schools Terry Grier. “Those of us who knew and loved him knew he was a very talented and giving man. Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family.”
A memorial service and celebration of Veselka’s life will be held at Memorial Oaks Funeral Home (13001 Katy Fwy, 77079) on Monday, Jan. 11, at 12:30 p.m. Visitation will be held at the same location on Sunday, Jan. 10, at 6 p.m., followed by a time of reflection for family and friends beginning at 7 p.m.