At the front desks of Madisonville schools


Just inside the front door of each of Madisonville’s schools, visitors are greeted by one of the district’s school receptionists.  These four individuals are charged with having visitors sign in, don a visitor’s badge, and, in the case of picking up students, show a driver’s license.  In today’s world, the public is aware of the necessity of these safety procedures, but to the school receptionists/secretaries, the visitor procedures are only a fraction of their daily tasks.

Superintendent Keith Smith said,  “We expect the receptionists to be smiling, happy, and reflect what is going on in that school’s classrooms.”  Gloria Badillo Zarate, LaJune Williams Irving, Carroll Bradbury Fox and Fred Schmidt all personify those requirements in their own unique ways.

In the front office of Madisonville Elementary, the serene, sweet demeanor of Gloria Zarate makes her a perfect fit for dealing with the youngest students.  In addition, her bilingual abilities are a great and often-used asset to her campus.

Zarate is a native of San Antonio, but having lived here since 1976, she firmly stated that Madisonville is her “second home.” She has been an  employee of the schools for seven years. Three of her children are grads of Madisonville High, and she currently has grandchildren enrolled in the district.

At Madisonville Intermediate, Carroll Bradbury Fox has deep roots in the local area, and in fact, in Madisonville schools.  She is the fourth generation of her family to graduate from MHS.  Today she also has a decade of work experience in the district, and her imagination and personality are a delight to her campus.

Carroll Fox originated “Foxy Fridays,” a highlight of each week for the middle school kids.  The imaginative (maybe wacky?) themes, music and costumes amp up school spirit and add razzle-dazzle to Friday’s televised daily announcements.  Occasional involvement of teachers and students add to the spirit of hilarity and surprise.

Madisonville Junior High’s LaJune Irving brings 18 years of school experience in a variety of job descriptions to the table, but she is happiest closely interacting with the students, teachers, and administrators.  Mrs. Irving is a optimist, an encourager, and said her job included doing, “whatever anybody needs!”  It is no wonder her new boss Dr. Moorhead often refers to her as Mother Irving.

Irving’s son is a MHS graduate, she is a member of the Class of 1981, and today her beloved grandbaby is a Madisonville student himself.

The high school’s Fred Schmidt hails from Lincoln Way High School in New Lenox, Ill.  However, he has been a Texas resident since 1989. “I’ve spent over half my life here, so I am surely no newcomer,” he said.  Schmidt is the exception in that he is the MHS receptionist, but not a secretary.  On the other hand, he is very involved with that campus’s technology, laminating and myriad other duties. 

Students with interest in science fiction and graphic novels (once called comic books) seek Schmidt out – he is an aficionado in those genres, with special expertise in superheroes.  For example, his personal comic book collection numbers more than 45, 000.  Holy Marvel, Batman!

As the spouse of the director of the Mustang Band (herself a near Superwoman), Schmidt makes all the trips and participates in all band activities.  Band members often refer to him as the Band Father or B.D.H.

(Band Director’s Husband).

The Schmidts’ two older children are MHS graduates, and the youngest began her freshman year this fall.

From the first bell of the day until the last class has dismissed, school receptionists are busy, busy folks.  Fred Schmidt stated that on some days he summons as many as 50 students to the front desk for various purposes.  The ladies related that their campus secretarial duties are most often postponed until the halls are cleared in the afternoons; hectic demands on their attention just will not allow them to fully focus until that time.

Lana Wells is a retired Madisonville educator.