When Dr. Camille Rodriguez takes an oath to serve the students of Fort Worth ISD on May 17, she will be a reflection of the values her parents taught her: to work hard, to serve others and to always strive to do better.
This will be her second time serving on the board, after she was first elected 2004-2008. After the resignation of Jacinto Ramos, the podiatrist filed to run and won the special election May 8. The term will expire in 2025, then there will be another election for the seat.
Board president Tobi Jackson is thrilled to have Rodriguez on the board and is happy to be one step closer to having the full team, she said. The only seat currently vacant is District 4, which will have a special runoff election in June. That four-year term also will end in 2025.
In a meeting between the trustees, Rodriguez said that her priorities are student achievement and hiring a qualified superintendent with a track record of success in urban school districts. Rodriguez is transparent, honest and open, which will help her be a good leader, Jackson said.
“The fact that she attended the Dunbar Magnet School in the health professions and went out of state for a doctor of Podiatric Medicine, and she’s now here showing students what can be achieved,” Jackson said. “She’s a shining example for what Fort Worth ISD produces. She is homegrown.”
Rodriguez, 53, and her family are from Fort Worth. She is a product of Fort Worth schools and still walks to church with her family for Mass at All Saints Catholic Church on the Northside and goes to eat with her family Sundays after church.
All the children in the family received their sacraments in that church, her siblings were married there and they still attend Mass together.
She remembers going to her older sisters for advice often and having a special relationship with her three older brothers, one of whom died in November.
“We’ve always been close knit and relied on each other,” she said.
Leaving the nest
Though she was the youngest, Rodriguez was the first to leave Fort Worth. She attended Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View and her parents — Domingo and Esperanza — stayed with her for three weeks.
They were proud of her for going to college, she said, but they didn’t like being far from their daughter. She was excited and ready for the adventure, but she would not have survived without her parents helping her adjust, she said.
“One year, I was so proud because I had all A’s and a B and I was very happy with that,” Rodriguez said. “And I showed it to my dad, and he said, ‘That’s OK mija, you can do better next time.’”
Rodriguez spoke of her father through tears, saying that moment made her realize she can do better and to never be satisfied – to always do more.
Her father lived that example. He did not finish elementary school, but managed to learn, read, write and speak English, she said. He also had a way with finances, which allowed the family to take vacations together.
In 2015, he died after a battle with dementia. Her mother never checked him into a nursing home, Rodriguez said. She and her siblings took care of him because, “that’s what family is.”
After she graduated from college, Rodriguez was trying to find her path in medicine. She spent a year working as a substitute teacher, which she said is “the hardest job ever.” That time helped her see what being in the classroom is like and reflecting on it reminds her she wants every child in the district to have everything she had.
That includes a great community, great teachers and support, she said.
She also helps students to access books and technology and wants every school to have the same amenities, no matter what part of town it’s in.
“I know what the school district provided to my family,” she said. “And I have a niece who’s a science teacher in a school in the school district, and my sister is a teacher’s assistant for a special needs school. I hear from them, what they’re going through, what they need, the kind of support they want. And I listen to them.”
After her time as a substitute teacher, Rodriguez worked at a medical clinic before applying and getting accepted to the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. This time, she moved even further away from her family, but they took advantage of the chance to go to New York City to see her.
Again, her parents spent time with her when she first moved to New York. Her parents used to stay up late watching any TV show about New York City and became obsessed with David Letterman. For one of their visits, the family got them tickets to see him live.
Though she enjoyed her time in New York, she knew she would return to Fort Worth.
Coming back home
Rodriguez graduated medical school in 1998, stayed in New York two years for her residency and then returned to Fort Worth. Since then, she’s remained in Fort Worth for her practice.
Now, Rodriguez travels to different nursing homes and mostly assists elderly patients. She does routine care and helps diabetic patients who need special shoes or other assistance.
After her father, who struggled with diabetes, died Rodriguez was motivated to start this new chapter of her practice. He always was her inspiration to become a doctor, and now her practice reflects that even more.
She will continue this work while serving on the board, and she plans to be an active member. Rodriguez said she loves sports and plans to frequent games. She also will visit the schools to attend events. Even if someone does not live in District 1, she said they can still contact her and she will do what she can to help them.
Just because she won the seat does not mean she is done working hard for the community.
“I’m going to continue to work hard every day because there’s challenges throughout the school district,” she said. “And I want to know what they are and I’m ready to face them and try to find the solution.”
Rodriguez learned hard work from her father, but she learned helping people from her mother. Growing up, she said people would just knock on the door and ask for food. She remembers her mother would make whatever the family had for complete strangers, whether that meant heating up leftovers or making them a sandwich.
“And we were like, ‘Why do you do that?’ And she said, that’s the way she was raised,” Rodriguez said through tears. “If we have it, give it to someone who doesn’t have as much as we did. And then she said, ‘And you never know, you know? These people could be Jesus.’”
Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.