Update for April 17, 2014
Knippa principal dies in weekend wreck
By Diane Cosgrove
The community of our neighbor to the west, Knippa, has been in mourning since news reached them of the death of their school’s principal and counselor, Merlyn Elaine Schneider, age 53, on Sunday morning.
The popular administrator was killed by a wrong-way driver, Juan Pantoja, age 55 of San Antonio, suspected of being drunk.
San Antonio Police repsonded to the wreck on US 90 near Loop 1604 in San Antonio, at 2:41 a.m. The officer’s report noted that Pantoja had been driving the wrong way – eastbound – into traffic in the westbound lane of US 90. His Ford F-150 struck Schnieder’s Nissan Versa head-on.
Schneider was prounounced dead at the scene. Pantoja was extricated from his vehicle then transported to University Hospital where he later died.
Knippa ISD Superintendent Jeff Cottrill said Wednesday that Schneider worked tirelessly to elevate students and the KISD to never before heights of success. In fact, under her leadership, the Knippa School outperformed 83% of schools throughout the state, as determined by the state’s accountability system.
“Her work ethic, passion for education and dedication to opening opportunities for students was evident in her daily work,” Cottrill said. “Nobody, and I mean nobody, fought as hard or as passionately for kids. She was a beacon of light and leadership in this small town and school.”
He said Schneider knew all 370 students by name, watching them arrive on campus each morning.
A special project of hers was forming Knippa Collegiate, an early college high school program instituted within the KISD. Cottrill said it is one of the smallest and most rural schools to earn this distinction, and Knippa students will benefit tremendously because of her efforts.
Of the students the superintendent said, “We’ve got some resilient kids here. They’re an amazing group. We’ve got a lot of local support, even from as far as Hondo. (Hondo superintendent) Dr. Truelock and (assistant superintendent) Rose Mary (Mares) reached out on Monday, and all up and down Highway 90, we’ve had contact from a lot of schools, with counseling services and administrative support… lot of unity and support that’s been provided by our neighbors.”
“We all lost an amazing educator, colleague, and friend. She was truly an amazing individual who touched the lives of many,” Cottrill added. “Please keep her family, our students and this school in your thoughts and prayers.”
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