End of an era: Croom, Facundo to retire

Sophie Ryland

After 57 combined years of counseling and teaching, Mindy Croom and Lucia Facundo will be retiring at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. “My favorite part of my job is the connection with the people,” Croom said. “Whether it’s the students, the parents or the staff members, that’s absolutely what makes me happy to brush my teeth and come to school.” Photo by Dave Winter.

57 years: that’s the combined experience of counselors Lucia Facundo and Mindy Croom at McCallum, a school that has been around for 64 years. At the end of this semester McCallum is saying goodbye to two people, who have spent those years helping countless McCallum students with graduation plans, the stressful college-selection process and any emergency situations that arise.
Facundo first began working at McCallum in 1977, not as a counselor, but as a science teacher. After 40 years, she remembers McCallum having a much different environment back then than the one she works in now.

“When I started working here, boys had to have their shirts tucked in and wear a belt; girls, if they seemed like they were wearing too short of a skirt, they were asked to kneel and the back of the skirt had to be long enough to touch their calf,” Facundo said. “There was always a, ‘Yes ma’am, no ma’am’.’ It was just a different tone. When I got to McCallum, it was already at the beginning of getting more diverse. We used to have a group called the Human Relations Committee: almost every clique you could think of [was represented]; they all sat around and talked about issues and come up with solutions because there was a little bit of racial tension.”

Lucia Facundo, who came to Mac in 1977, hold up her staff photo from the 1982-1983 school year. Photo by Dave Winter.
Lucia Facundo, who came to Mac in 1977, hold up her staff photo from the 1982-1983 school year. Photo by Dave Winter.

Four years into her job as a teacher, she learned of a counseling position that had opened up. She already had her master’s in counseling, so she decided to apply and has held the position since then. After experiencing both jobs, she described the skills needed to be a counselor as much different than those of a teacher.

“As a teacher, although that was really, really, difficult, at least I had lesson plans, and I kind of knew what my day was going to be like day to day, but as a counselor, you plan a day, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” Facundo said. “Any time you have a slow day as a counselor, you’re like, ‘OK … why? This should not be happening.”

Tearing up a little, Facundo said that she will miss working with the students most of all, and that she doesn’t plan on fully leaving McCallum any time soon.

“I promised Coach Nitardy I’d be coming back and helping her in the Gear Up Room, and I promised Ms. Bonet, with AVID, that I’d be helping her with that, so I’m not really going away,”

Facundo said. “I don’t live that far from here, so I anticipate coming back. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Croom first began her McCallum experience as a student at the school, and her three children are also MHS alumni.

Croom, who has worked here for 17 years, said she believes that McCallum is the best school in Austin, praising its unique and accepting atmosphere.

“I’m always happy I’m here at McCallum,” Croom said. “I think we have a vibe that’s kind of like Austin, with diversity, community. I love the fact that for the most part, everyone allows everyone else to be who they want to be, and I embrace that. I love that we have that friendly Texas spirit.”

Croom’s favorite part of the job has been working with other people, particularly in seeing the development of the students she has helped over their high school career.

Mindy Croom, with her Class of 1969 senior portraits. Croom and her three kids graduated from Mac. Photo by Dave Winter." width="200" height="300" /> Mindy Croom, with her Class of 1969 senior portraits. Croom and her three kids graduated from Mac. Photo by Dave Winter.
Mindy Croom, with her Class of 1969 senior portraits. Croom and her three kids graduated from Mac. Photo by Dave Winter.” width=”200″ height=”300″ /> Mindy Croom, with her Class of 1969 senior portraits. Croom and her three kids graduated from Mac. Photo by Dave Winter.

“What I really enjoy the most is seeing the growth between a ninth-grader who is kind of timid, seeing them blossom into a senior who’s ready to embrace the world,” Croom said. “I love graduation; everybody has made it through that journey. I do enjoy working with students who have stumbled, everything hasn’t been as easy, just kind of letting them know that there’s always hope and a way to get them to where they want to be.”

Both Facundo and Croom are retiring after many years to spend more time with their grandchildren, and look forward to pursuing new hobbies and activities.

“I used to teach drama, middle school drama at Eanes, and I used to always say to my students, ‘You want to leave your audience wishing they’d heard more’” Croom said. “I want people not to be saying, ‘Oh, goodness, I’ve heard enough of Ms. Croom’. There are things I want to do outside; I want to do some consulting, and I’m a singer, so I may write some songs, and I want to have an antique booth to sell some things, and I want to travel more, and just enjoy being with my family, my two little grandchildren.”

Counselor Shelley Goldstein, who’s worked at McCallum for two years, says that Facundo and Croom provided her with invaluable knowledge and assistance as she began her first counseling job.

“She and Ms. Croom, along with Mrs. Josephson, they’ve taught me literally everything I know about counseling,” counselor Shelley Goldstein said. “They’ve taught every little thing: how to do schedules, how to work with kids who have issues, how to plan for kids who are having trouble graduating and how to help them, how to write letters of recommendations, how to have a great spirit on the job.”

Goldstein also fondly remembers lunches and staff meetings where she bonded with both counselors, attesting to their lovable personalities and continually reaffirming her admiration of them.

“I just think they’re wonderful, and I’m so sad they’re leaving,” Goldstein said. “I aspire to be more like them as counselor. They’re my heroes, and I love them.”

Students of both counselors said that they value their seasoned advice and helpful, positive attitudes. Senior Amy McInnes described Facundo’s help as indispensable when she was navigating the college process.

“She was diligent and professional but still caring,” McInnes said. “She was also incredibly resourceful and calmed my nerves when the stress of senior year was too much to handle. After a lot of deliberation, she’s helped me decide where I’m going to college.”

Senior Quinn Kennedy said the same of Croom. “She was really reassuring and made me feel like I would have a lot of options for college,” Kennedy said. “She was really helpful with writing my recommendations.”

Principal Mike Garrison also said that he will miss both their valuable experience and their positive engagement in the McCallum community.

“Along with their charm and personalities, we’re going to miss their knowledge and expertise gained from their many years of working in education,” Garrison said. “We look forward to hopefully finding someone who can come in and pick up their responsibilities and duties and learn along the way and become as competent as they are.”