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Remembering Donald Bennett, District's First Vocational Director

                Donald Bennett, who served as the first Vocational Director at Cleburne High School, passed away on August 30.

                Bennett came to Cleburne in 1973 from Jacksboro ISD where he had served 13 years as a vocational agriculture teacher. He was recruited by CISD Superintendent Don Smith to lead an initiative involving the creation of an Area Career Center to be included in the construction of new high school facilities. Smith’s goal was to build a facility—and vocation education program—that would serve the needs of not only Cleburne students but also those throughout the county.

                Bennett was tasked with overseeing the building of the CHS Career Center, coordinating staffing and developing a vocational education program for students, to meet current and future workforce needs for Johnson County industry, along with the north Texas region.

                “Donald Bennett paved the path for exceptional Career and Technical Education, formerly known as vocational education, in Cleburne,” CTE Director Mark McClure said.

                McClure’s father, Barney, worked closely with Bennett as a teacher in the Career Center’s agriculture science program.

“I can remember sitting in Mr. Bennett’s office when I was a young child, while he and my father were engaged in conversation,” McClure said. “He was such a nice person. Mr. Bennett always took the time to get to know people and treated them with respect.”

Under Bennett’s leadership, a wide variety of courses were available to students, including Auto Body, Building Trades and Drafting on through to Vocational Office Education, Small Engine Repair and Health Occupations. Students had the opportunity to select from more than 18 beginning and advanced classes. Opportunities for students also included job placement in their areas of study.

McClure said the job/career courses and skills training established by Bennett provided the foundation for Cleburne’s Career and Technical Education program of today, which provides areas of study in 13 of the 14 career clusters established by the Texas Education Agency for high school learners.

“Mr. Bennett retired from CISD following 20 years of service to students, who gained much from the program he developed,” McClure said. “Many Cleburne graduates have been successful in a variety of fields because of the knowledge and skills they achieved through his efforts and vision.”

Bennett is survived by his wife, Priscilla, who was also a member of the Cleburne High School faculty, and later served as CISD Director of Community Education. Their sons, Landy and Lacey, are Cleburne High School graduates.  

To view Mr. Bennett’s obituary: