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TSB contents news and features
What administrators need to know about PFIA compliance audits by Joanna Just and Marc Sewell
Cover Story Experts highlight latest developments in special education law
by Antonis Katsiyannis, Mickey Losinski and Mitchell L. Yell
photo feature TCASE hosts 2015 Great Ideas Convention
TCEA hosts annual convention in Austin
departments Who’s News Ad Index
In the Spotlight
From the Editor
The Law Dawg — Unleashed
Weslaco ISD superintendent: ‘Every student is a success story waiting to happen’
by Katie Ford
by Leila Kalmbach
by Jim Walsh
by Terry Morawski
The Back Page
by Bobby Hawthorne
TEPSA President Profile Fort Bend ISD’s Eddie Damian finds leadership success through empowering others
by Riney Jordan
by Elizabeth Millard
On the cover: Shutterstock.com
Spring ISD junior touts benefits of superintendent advisory group by Karen Lara
The views expressed by columnists and contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher or Texas School Business advertisers. The publisher also makes no endorsement of the advertisers or advertisements in this publication. April 2015 • Texas School Business
TCASE hosts 2015 Great Ideas Convention Held in late February, the Great Ideas Convention was hosted by the Texas Council of Administrators in Special Education.
Patricia Stanley and Mary Sue Blackwell of Birdville ISD.
Kim Johnson and Shannon Price of Mesquite ISD. Debe Akin of Lexington ISD and Tina Tompkins, retired.
Veronica Mechler and Sam Gonzalez of Northside ISD with Janice DeHaven of North East ISD.
Elyse Tarlton of Liberty Hill ISD and Michele McKinley of Connally ISD.
Karen Little, Jennifer Letts and Sandra Nagy of Belton ISD.
Dianna Bowen of Fisher & Phillips LLP with Angela Pittman, Stacy Venson and Twyla Mills of Dallas ISD. 4
Texas School Business â€˘ April 2015
Emily York, Angela Taylor and Brandee York of Small Schools COOP.
From the Editor In this issue, we are introducing a new guest column called “Student Voices.” We offer this column as a platform for students of all ages to share their experiences in Texas K-12 public schools. Our inaugural guest columnist is Karen Lara, a junior at Early College Academy in Spring ISD. Lara serves on the Student Advisory Group, which regularly meets with Spring ISD Superintendent Rodney Watson. Lara sheds light on what it means to her to serve in this capacity and why other superintendents should consider forming a student advisory group if they don’t already have one in place. Throughout the year, I will reach out to people I know in the public education community to solicit contributing student-writers for this column. If you know of a student in your district who would enjoy the opportunity to write for Texas School Business, I encourage you to contact me with your idea. The sky is the limit on what the student can write about. The only guideline is that it must be relevant to the student’s educational experience. I want to emphasize that the column is called Student Voices because I really want to “hear” what the students have to say in their own words. This is not an essay writing competition or an academic paper. This is an opportunity for K-12 students to express what’s on their minds to a community of school administrators throughout Texas. I look forward to hearing from you — and your students — in the coming months. Thanks for helping us bring Student Voices to Texas School Business magazine!
Katie Ford Editorial Director
(ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) April 2015 Volume LXI, Issue 7 406 East 11th Street Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-477-6361 • Fax: 512-482-8658 www.texasschoolbusiness.com Editorial Director Katie Ford Design Phaedra Strecher Columnists Bobby Hawthorne, Riney Jordan, Terry Morawski, Jim Walsh Advertising Sales Manager Lance Lawhon
Castleberry Elementary School Castleberry ISD
Texas Association of School Administrators Executive Director Johnny L. Veselka Assistant Executive Director, Services and Systems Administration Ann M. Halstead Director of Communications and Media Relations Amy Francisco ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620 Published monthly, except for July/August and November/ December, and the Bragging Rights issue published in December by Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701. Periodical Postage Paid at Austin, Texas and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701.
© Copyright 2015 Texas Association of School Administrators April 2015 • Texas School Business
What administrators need to know about PFIA compliance audits by Joanna Just and Marc Sewell
n 1987, the Texas Legislature approved the first version of Chapter 2256 – Public Funds Investment contained in the Texas Local Joanna Just Government Code. This section is known as the Public Funds Investment Act (PFIA). The Legislature has amended this act regularly since its approval to keep pace with changes Marc Sewell in the investment marketplace. All Texas school districts are required to comply with the PFIA. To maintain compliance, districts have developed local investment policies and are required to prepare and present quarterly investment reports to their school boards. How school districts choose to invest can vary. Many districts elect to invest in a local government investment pool. These pools simplify investing because they maintain the expertise needed for selecting appropriate investments and are able to more cost-effectively buy and sell individual securities. Some districts choose to manage their own portfolio of individual securities, which are bought and held through a broker or bank trust department. In either case, a school district is required to have an investment policy that is approved by the school board and a chief investment officer. Major aspects of the PFIA-mandated investment policy include that it: yy must emphasize the safety of principal and liquidity; yy address investment diversification, yield and maturity, and the quality and capability of investment management; and 6
Texas School Business • April 2015
yy list the types of investments that comply with the PFIA. The PFIA also has numerous other requirements, such as training and reporting, that must be followed. The Texas Education Agency requires the financial statements of all Texas school districts to be audited
Upon initial review, this provision seems simple. However, there are at least two areas of this provision that are not precisely defined and can be confusing to understand. annually. Section 2256.005 (m) of the PFIA requires Texas school districts, as well as Texas local governments, to “perform a compliance audit of management controls on investments and adherence to the entity’s established investment policies” in conjunction with their annual financial audits. Upon initial review, this provision seems simple. However, there are at least two areas of this provision that are not precisely defined and can be confusing to understand. First, the term “compliance audit” is not defined or cross-referenced to any auditing literature or state regulations. Secondly, once the compliance audit is performed, there are no stated reporting requirements for such an audit. There are four methods a school district may use to comply with this provision:
1. Have the district’s internal audit staff perform an audit of compliance and report the results; 2. Engage the district’s external financial statement auditor to perform audit procedures and report on compliance in the Government Auditing Standards (“Yellow Book”) report; 3. Engage the district’s external audit firm to perform an agreed-upon procedure engagement directed at testing transactions, policies and procedures during the district’s fiscal year; and 4. Engage the district’s external audit firm to perform an examination engagement under the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Attestation Standards of the district’s compliance with its investment policy. Each of these alternatives has its pros and cons. There are also differences in extent and cost. Additionally, districts are mandated to include management controls over investment transactions for the PFIA (Section 2256.005). Examples of these types of controls are as follows: yy developing a timetable and procedures for reviewing and revising the policy on an annual basis; yy comparing performance to benchmark and expected returns; yy monitoring size of assets under management and portfolio allocation; yy requiring the investment officer to have training in accordance with PFIA guidelines; yy creating an investment committee responsible for oversight of all investments and compliance with the investment policy; yy designating one or more individuals to be responsible for investment transactions; See PFIA Compliance on page 21
THE LAW DAWG – Unleashed by Jim Walsh
How defending a lawsuit is like playing defense in football
hen you are accused of wrongdoing, you might admit you were at fault and accept the consequences. You can say: “Yes, I did that, and I am sorry. I am ready to accept the consequences.” But that’s not the American Way. If you feel that you are being wrongly accused, there are three basic responses available: You can say NO. You can say YES, BUT. Or you can say SO WHAT? These three responses cover all accusations of wrongdoing, from children in school to forgetful spouses to defendants in lawsuits. Of course, lawyers have special labels to describe these three defenses. The NO defense is what we call a general denial. Your lawyer files a response to the lawsuit that flat out denies every allegation the plaintiff has made. This puts the burden of proof where it belongs — on the plaintiff. “You say my dog bit you? I deny it! Prove it!” The YES, BUT defense is referred to as an affirmative defense. It admits the truth of the basic allegation but then offers a worthy excuse. For example, “YES, I admit that my dog bit you, but you deserved it.” Or perhaps “YES, but you weren’t hurt.” The SO WHAT defense is usually accompanied by a motion for summary judgment. It acknowledges the truth of the allegation and then contends that there was no violation of law. “Yes, the dog bit you, causing great pain and suffering. But SO WHAT? That is not my dog.” That one should make you think of Inspector Clouseau. Often, lawyers will offer all three defenses. “My client didn’t do it, Your Honor. But even if he did, he had a good
reason for what he did. And even if it was not such a good reason, what he did is not a violation of law — so toss this case out!” It’s kind of like playing defense in football. Your football team has three lines of defense: the line, the linebackers and the secondary. If your linemen stop the play at the line of scrimmage, there is no damage to your team’s cause. If, however, the linebackers stop the play after a gain of seven yards, you have paid a price. And if the runner runs free for 25 yards before the safety makes the tackle, you have paid a heavy price. Cases that are dismissed early on are usually dismissed due to the SO WHAT defense. This is accomplished by a motion to dismiss, arguing that there is simply no basis for legal liability here. For the football analogy, this is a sack or a stop by the line for no gain. If your defense is a YES, BUT defense, your litigation costs will be higher. You have to marshal facts and evidence to show the court that there is an “affirmative defense.” If that doesn’t work, you are down to a factual struggle over what actually happened. This is when we have expensive jury trials that are long and costly in every sense, even if you “win.” If you win the case after a full-blown trial, it’s like you prevented the touchdown, but you gave up a lot of yardage. I know that football season is over, but I still think it’s a pretty good analogy.
JIM WALSH is an attorney with Walsh Anderson Gallegos Green and Treviño P.C. He can be reached at jwalsh@wabsa. com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jwalshtxlawdawg.
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April 2015 • Texas School Business
Who’s News Abilene ISD The Abilene Education Foundation announces the appointment of Christine CurtisCarr as its executive director. She has been the college advisor and administrator of the College Offers Opportunities for Life (COOL) program for the past six years. A native of Abilene and product of Abilene ISD schools, Curtis-Carr earned her bachelor’s degree from Abilene Christian University and her master’s degree from The University of Texas at Dallas. Alvin ISD Allen Roberts is now assistant superintendent of human resources. He comes to his new position from Marble Falls ISD, where he also served as an assistant superintendent of operations and support services. Roberts began his career after graduating from The University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and took his first administrative position in 1990 as associate principal of Houston High School in Arlington ISD. Six years later, he transferred to Mansfield ISD in the same position at Mansfield High. He then served as high school principal in three districts — Azle, Birdville and Marble Falls — from 1998 to 2010, when he began his most recent assignment. Roberts received his master’s degree in educational leadership from Tarleton State University. Amarillo ISD Superintendent Rod Schroder, who has been with Amarillo ISD for 43 years, has announced his plan to retire at the end of the school year. He came to the district as a math and physical education teacher and coach at Houston Junior High, then moved to Amarillo High, where he coached and taught calculus and physics. Eight years later, he took his first administrative position, as Amarillo ISD’s assistant athletic director. He next was secondary personnel director and then assistant superintendent of personnel before being named to the district’s top job in 2000. Schroder is one of 35 founding superintendents of the Public Education Visioning Institute and was twice president of the Texas School Alliance. He was ESC Region 16’s Superintendent of the Year in 2003 and 2014. Austin ISD Paul Cruz, who served as interim superintendent since last April, is now the district’s superintendent. In South Texas, Corpus Christi and San Antonio, Cruz has been a classroom teacher and campus and central office administrator. He was superintendent of Laredo ISD and served as the deputy commissioner for dropout prevention at the Texas Education 8
Texas School Business • April 2015
Agency. He also has taught a graduate level course in curriculum and instruction. Cruz received his bachelor’s degree in education from The University of Texas and his master’s degree in educational administration from Corpus Christi State University (now Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi). His doctorate in educational leadership was awarded from The University of Texas, where he was a fellow in the Cooperative Superintendency Program. Borden County ISD A new superintendent has been selected for the district. Billy Collins comes to his new job from Schleicher County ISD, where he also held the top position. The son of two Texas educators, Collins began his career as a coach and math, sciBilly Collins ence and business teacher in Nueces Canyon CISD. He took his first principalship in GrandfallsRoyalty ISD, next serving in the same position in McCamey ISD. His first superintendent assignment came when he returned to GrandfallsRoyalty in 2004 to lead that district, remaining there until taking his most recent position. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Collins completed his master’s degree in educational administration at Sul Ross State University. Brownsville ISD Esperanza Zendejas has been named the district’s interim superintendent. An educator with more than 25 years of experience, she was Brownsville ISD’s superintendent from 1992 to 1995 before taking the position of superintendent of schools in Indianapolis, Ind. She has been a principal, district administrator and superintendent in numerous districts across the country, most recently serving in McAllen ISD. Bryan ISD The Bryan ISD Board of Trustees has named Jeff Windsor the district’s director of construction services. A 36-year veteran of construction management, he spent the past 14 years as director of construction and energy in Spring ISD. Prior to that, he worked in the private sector as a construction project manager at DalMac, from 1997 to 2001. From 1994 to 1997, he was a land development manager for Grimm Builders in Falls Church, Va. From 1979 to 1994, he was a superintendent for Crest Construction. Cameron ISD Superintendent Collin Clark has an-
nounced his upcoming retirement, effective at the end of the school year. This will bring to a close a 35-year career in education. He began as a middle school teacher and coach in Sulphur Springs ISD in 1980. Six years later, he took a teaching position in Community ISD, transitioning to administration as a middle school principal. A graduate of Celeste High School in Celeste ISD, he joined that district in 1996, serving as junior high principal until being named superintendent in 2001. He came to Cameron ISD in the lead position in 2011. Clark earned his bachelor’s degree from East Texas University and his master’s degree in education administration from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Center ISD The new head football coach and athletic director for the district is Barry Bowman, a 26-year coaching veteran who was most recently defensive coordinator at Pine Tree ISD. In addition, he has worked in Paris and Daingerfield ISDs. He is a former State Coach of the Year, Regional Coach of the Year and the Associated Press Coach of the Year. Clint ISD (El Paso) Francisco Vargas is the new head football coach at Horizon High School. He most recently was a physical education and health teacher at Horizon Middle School, where he also was in charge of the track program. A native of El Paso and a graduate of Ysleta High School in Ysleta ISD, he earned an associate’s degree from El Paso Community College before attending The University of Texas at El Paso, where he played football and earned his bachelor’s degree in education. He joined Ysleta ISD a year later as head coach at Riverside Middle School. He then spent six years as varsity assistant coach, junior varsity defensive coordinator, and freshman defensive and offensive coordinator at Ysleta ISD’s Del Valle High School. He transferred to El Paso ISD in 1999, initially working at Jefferson High School as varsity assistant coach, defensive line coach, and junior varsity defensive coordinator before coaching at Bowie and Austin high schools prior to taking his most recent position. Vargas received his master’s degree in administration from the University of Phoenix. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Laura Barrett, a 22-year employee of the district, is the new principal of Yeager Elementary School. She spent two years as a sixth grade teacher in Palestine ISD before joining the district as a teacher at Sheridan Elementary. She next was named assistant princiSee WHO’S NEWS on page 10
TECH TOOLBOX by Terry Morawski
Disciplining for social media is no simple issue
t seems relatively simple. Here is an example that could happen in any district: A student claims another student sent them a threatening message via Twitter’s directmessage feature. The student making the claim provides the school a printed copy of the direct message. Case closed, right? Not so fast. As with any claim, administrators must be able to verify the message was sent. To do this, administrators would need at least temporary access to a student’s account to gather evidence. This might require getting a password for what are otherwise private account features. This is the point at which an administrator should pause and seek advice. There are a multitude of land mines ahead for school leaders as they consider digging into a student’s personal account. What if the student or the parent decides later that you are violating their rights by viewing their accounts? What if you see more objectionable material while scanning the student’s account? How many accounts will need to be accessed to get a clear picture — one, two, more? Most cases from recent years were not about account access, but whether or not a school district had the right to discipline a student for a social media message. Many of the same rules apply to social media as they do to a student’s freedom of speech when wearing a t-shirt or creating a poster for class. The line can be murkier as the posts are digital and are often not done on school time or with school equipment. How can an administrator act in the best interest of all students yet be sensitive to an individual student’s rights? I recently spoke with education attorney Mike Leasor of Leasor-Crass to get his thoughts on the issue. “By bringing technology into the classroom, school districts have opened the door for student discipline issues,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are many potential code of conduct violations that students may find themselves tempted to engage in. If the student is cyberbullying other students or accessing lewd
or pornographic websites on a school-issued device, the law is clear that the device may be searched with or without that student’s permission, as this device belongs to the school. In most situations, the school has had the student sign a use agreement that includes allowing the school to search the device.” Leasor said the problem often arises when the cyberbullying or other violation of the code of conduct happens when the student is using their own device at school. Communications in this instance must be analyzed with the Fourth Amendment in mind before the device may be searched — or the First Amendment in mind regarding any discipline for what was said. Permission to search the device may solve the Fourth Amendment problem. However, to push through the First Amendment issue, the speech must meet an exception to the basic free speech standards. Leasor went on to say those exceptions include, but are not limited to, lewd speech, speech that promotes drug use and speech that substantially disrupts the school setting. Additionally, your school board policy FFH will give you guidance as to what is deemed harassment. Harassment requires investigation when the incident is based on discrimination or harassment for race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability or any other basis prohibited by law. Lewd or ambiguously lewd speech may lead to complaints from other students as well. Additionally, administrators will face the balancing act of one student’s freedom of speech versus another student’s freedom from being harassed at school. The best advice is probably applying the old standard of making sure you get the advice of others — as well as your attorney — when dealing with difficult issues. Knee-jerk responses often will land you in hot water. TERRY MORAWSKI is the deputy superintendent for Comal ISD. He is working on his doctorate from Dallas Baptist University. You can email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, @terrymorawski.
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Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 8
pal of Owens Elementary, where she worked for four years before being promoted to principal there, a position she has held until accepting her new job. Barrett earned both her bachelor’s and master’s Laura Barrett degrees in education from Stephen F. Austin State University. Cypress Lakes High School has announced that Ronald Patton, former head football coach at Lamar Consolidated High School in Lamar CISD, is the new head football coach and campus athletic coordinator. He was in his Ronald Patton most recent position for five years and, prior to that, spent six years as defensive coordinator at Cypress Ridge High in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. A graduate of the district’s Langham Creek High School, Patton began his career at that campus, working from 2000 to 2004 as a safeties coach. He played football at Texas A&M University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education. He then did post-graduate studies at the University of St. Thomas and Lamar University. Denton ISD Barbara Fischer, principal of Guyer High School since the campus opened in 2005, has announced her upcoming retirement, effective at the end of the school year. She has spent her 30year career in Denton ISD, beginning as a special edBarbara Fischer ucation teacher at Rayzor Elementary in 1986. The next year, she was appointed assistant principal of Lee Elementary, a position she held until 1990. She served as interim director of deaf education for the 1990-1991 school year before taking her first job in secondary education, as principal of Strickland Junior High. Nine years later, she became principal of McMath Middle School, where she remained for four years before opening Guyer High. David Gerabagi has been named Denton ISD’s director of adult education, grant acquisitions and community development. He has more than 25 years of experience as an educator, serving the past nine years with Birdville ISD as director of planning and resource development and associate executive director of the Birdville Education Foundation. Prior to his 10
Texas School Business • April 2015
time with Birdville ISD, he worked in Leander and Round Rock ISDs, leading initiatives for grant development. He spent six years with ESC Region 1 as an education specialist. From 1990 to 1995, he taught David Gerabagi skills for adult learners at Texas A&M University at Kingsville’s Center for Continuing Education, where he also was an instructor in computer literacy courses. Gerabagi earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Isfahan in Iraq and his master’s and doctoral degrees in education from The University of Texas. Richard Valenta, who was the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, has been promoted to deputy superintendent of schools. He has been with the district since 2011. A 33-year veteran of Texas public schools, Richard Valenta Valenta spent 18 years with Birdville ISD as assistant director of athletics, assistant director of human resources and then director of human resources. He began as a teacher in CarrolltonFarmers Branch ISD before moving to Irving ISD, where he worked as a teacher, baseball coach and assistant principal. While in that district, he served as director of the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association. Valenta is president-elect of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators, which named him Personnel Administrator of the Year in 2008. He is an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist University, where he also sits on the Educator Preparation Board. In addition, he serves as a judge on the ESC Region 11 Teacher of the Year panel. Valenta, a graduate of The University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education, received his master’s degree in secondary education from the University of North Texas. His doctorate in education was awarded from Walden University. Dripping Springs ISD The new director of community services is Lucy Hansen, who has spent 15 years with Pottsboro ISD, the past 11 as principal of Pottsboro Intermediate School. She began her career as a special education teacher in Austin and Sherman Lucy Hansen ISDs and was an assistant
director for academic affairs at Lamar University. While with Pottsboro ISD, she also was executive director of the district’s education foundation and a member of the Pottsboro City Council. Hansen earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from The University of Texas. Eanes ISD Westlake High School Band Director Kerry Taylor has been honored with the Sponsor Excellence Award from the University Interscholastic League (UIL). The son of a Texas band director, Taylor started his career at Hill Country Kerry Taylor and West Ridge middle schools in Eanes ISD, then joined Katy ISD before returning to Eanes. He has directed bands to top 10 performances at the UIL state marching contest four times, and his bands have earned outstanding performer awards at the Texas state solo and ensemble contest. El Paso ISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera has been elected to the executive committee of the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 67 of the country’s largest urban public school systems. The purpose of the council is to provide a support network for these districts and their students. Cabrera, who has led El Paso ISD since 2013, is a former elementary bilingual teacher who spent 20 years away from the classroom while working as an attorney, corporate executive and general counsel for a software company. He graduated from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville) with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and received his law degree from The University of Texas School of Law. In November 2014, he was one of 100 superintendents selected by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in the National ConnectED Superintendents Summit at the White House. Fort Bend ISD Pamela Brown, currently principal of Drabek Elementary School, will serve as principal of the district’s new as-yet-unnamed Elementary School 46 when the campus opens in August for the 2015-2016 school year. With more than 25 years of experience in education, she has been a classroom teacher and a reading and curriculum specialist. She was named 2010’s Assistant Principal of the Year, selected by the Texas Elementary Principals and SuperSee WHO’S NEWS on page 15
GAME ON! by Bobby Hawthorne
A little satire, if you will…
USTIN, TEXAS — State lawmakers have vetoed an advanced high school course, “The History of American Football,” over what many consider a unquestionable, sacred state principle: Texas exceptionalism. The debate over the AP course boiled over when legislators voted to replace the national curricula with a more Texas-friendly framework. “The national guidelines paint football as a violent sport that over-emphasizes winning, thus resulting in cheating scandals, serious injuries and misplaced community values,” said State Rep. Jerry Fisher, a member of the House Education Committee. “How could that not be farther from the truth?” The new framework, according to the College Board, asks students to determine how football affects all aspects of American society. “What a waste of time,” Jackson said. “They ought to be remembering rushing and passing statistics and Super Bowl scores. As it is right now, any high school boy who takes this course is likely to come out so messed up he might quit football for soccer.” Walter Jackson, spokesman for Texans Against National Tests Recklessly Undermining ’Merica (TANTRUM), said the new course framework was written by anti-American university history professors who wish to substitute a more “transnational” narrative for the traditional “Texas” perspective. “They want to create a false wall of separation between fact and opinion,” Jackson said. “It’s easy to be confused by facts when, in fact, facts are just some expert’s opinion based on so-called ‘evidence.’ For example, nowhere in the document is it written that the forward pass was invented in Texas by Texans.” The framework, he said, heralds the contributions of the likes of “Red” Blaik, Amos Alonzo Stagg and Wally Butts but ignores Dana Bible, Dan Devine and Art Monk. “And there’s not one word in there about Ronald Reagan playing for Notre Dame,” he added. Jack Walters of the Texas Heritage Roundtable said the framework also exag-
gerates the contributions of fringe programs like Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, LSU and USC while ignoring A&M’s 1919 and 1927 national titles. “There’s even a section that deals with the Oklahoma Sooners,” Walters said. “It’s just another example of how this course wallows in the negative.” College Board officials say the “History of American Football” course was adopted two years ago to appeal to high school males whose reading skills have plummeted over the past 15 years. “We never expected this backlash, and almost all of it is misinformed or outright delusional,” College Board Chairman Rex Boilermaker said. “For example, we have received letters from Texans who insist that TCU won the NCAA football championship last year. They did not. Nor did Baylor or Alabama or Florida State. Ohio State beat Oregon in the championship game. Millions of people watched it. This is not an opinion or a conspiracy against the Big XII or the SEC. It’s a fact.” And, Boilermaker noted for the record: Ronald Reagan played a Notre Dame football player in a movie, “Knute Rockne, All American”. He never played football for Notre Dame. Also, Walter Camp, a native of Connecticut, purportedly threw the first pass in college football history during the 1879 YalePrinceton game. Walters said he refused to be swayed. “Those may be facts in Connecticut, but they’re not necessarily facts in Corsicana or College Station or Corpus Christi,” he said, then added, “Not once does this new course mention the fact that football provides lots of folks across this great state something to do, the illusion of greatness, hope for the future, a reason to live. But then, that’s the sort of thing these so-called experts will never understand.” BOBBY HAWTHORNE is the author of “Longhorn Football” and “Home Field,” both published by The University of Texas Press. In 2005, he retired as director of academics for the University Interscholastic League.
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texasschoolbusiness.com April 2015 • Texas School Business
Experts highlight latest developments in special education law
by Antonis Katsiyannis, Mickey Losinski and Mitchell L. Yell
he Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been essential to ensuring that qualified students with disabilities have access to appropriate special education programs designed to meet their unique educational needs. These programs for eligible students with disabilities are made possible through the formation of teams that are charged with developing an individualized education program (IEP). These teams include the student’s parents and school-based personnel. IDEA says, furthermore, that the IEPs must confer a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).
Texas School Business • April 2015
The U.S. Congress regularly amends IDEA through reauthorization. It is important, therefore, that school leaders keep informed of these changes. In an era of accountability and increased pressure for improved educational outcomes, disputes over what constitutes an “appropriate” education are often subjected to due process hearings and court cases. The purpose of this article is to highlight recent legal developments in special education on both national and state levels. These developments, in particular, concern IEPs and guidance letters issued by the federal government.
Also, in this article, we will highlight relevant cases that were decided last year in Texas’ state courts and U.S. district courts, as well as in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit court, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
NATIONAL LEGAL TRENDS IEPs. In Doug C. v. State of Hawaii Board of Education (2013), the court underscored the importance of school personnel making every effort to include parents in a meaningful way when creating IEPs, regardless of timeline restrictions.
For instance, if school personnel decide to proceed with an IEP meeting without the parents, it is very likely that the school, according to the law, will have violated the parent’s right to participate — unless the school has made efforts (and documented those efforts) to include the parents. Another recent case centered on peer-reviewed research and IEPs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled in Ridley School District v. M.R. (2012) that IDEA does not require school districts to choose educational programs supported by the most extensive research as long as the programs they do use are based on peer-reviewed research and deliver a meaningful educational benefit. Applied in practice, this means that districts are not bound to use researchbased programs advocated by parents as long as the schools are using programs backed by research that supports their use and conferred educational benefit. Bullying and harassment. The Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education issued an open letter to school officials called a “dear colleague letter.” This guidance letter — the fourth issued on bullying since 2000 — emphasizes the importance of school officials investigating and responding to instances of bullying students with disabilities. According to the letter, bullying of students with disabilities may constitute discrimination if the bullying is based on a student’s disability and school districts do not act quickly to (a) prevent further incidences of bullying and (b) remedy the effects of the bullying that occurred. Furthermore, the letter points out that bullying a student with a disability on any basis could result in a denial of a FAPE under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and IDEA. In instances when a student with disabilities is subjected to bullying, the student’s IEP team or Section 504 team should determine whether and to what extent: (a) the student’s educational needs have changed; (b) the bullying negatively affected the student’s special education or Section 504 services; and (c) the student’s current IEP or Section 504 plan needs to be modified. If the team makes the decision to modify the plan, these modifications should be implemented immediately. Discipline. The Office of Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Divisions of the U.S. Department of Justice also issued a dear colleague letter, alerting school districts to
the problem of discriminatory exclusionary practices, specifically toward students with disabilities and minority students. Because discriminatory discipline may be a civil rights violation under Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — as well as a violation of Section 504 — the departments issued advice on how school officials could avoid and correct discriminatory discipline practices. The department also issued recommendations for (a) improving school climate and discipline by developing comprehensive school-wide programs that are grounded in evidence-based educational environments that create safe, inclusive and positive climates, (b) providing professional development in evidence-based practices on classroom management, and (c) adopting systems of data collection to ensure continuous improvement of a school’s disciplinary policies and practices. Athletics. In 2013, the Office of Civil Rights issued a dear colleague letter detailing the responsibilities of school officials to ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, including athletics. Specifically, the letter called for schools to (a) avoid operating programs on the basis of generalizations, assumptions, prejudices or stereotypes about students with disabilities; (b) make reasonable modifications to extracurricular activities and provide those aids and services that are necessary to ensure an equal opportunity for students to participate; (c) ensure that students with disabilities participate with students without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate and avoid unnecessarily separate or different services; and (d) ensure that students who cannot participate in the school district’s existing extracurricular athletics program still have an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of extracurricular athletics. For example, schools might develop districtwide or regional teams for students with disabilities (as opposed to school-based teams), combine male and female students with disabilities, or offer unified sports teams on which students with disabilities participate with peers. The Office of Civil Rights stated that the requirements in its dear colleague letter do not mean that every student with a disability has the right to be on
an athletic team, nor that school officials must create separate programs just for them. However, the students must have an opportunity to participate. For example, if a student with a disability tries out for a school’s track team and does not have the skills to make the team, that would not be discrimination. However, if the student were not allowed to try out for the team, that may constitute discrimination.
TEXAS TRENDS In 2014, there were several judicial decisions regarding special education in Texas: seven cases in the U.S. district court for Texas, one in the Texas Court of Appeals and four rulings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. In nine (75 percent) of the cases, the school districts prevailed. Six (50 percent) of the cases centered on providing services to students with mental health needs (the IDEA category of emotional disturbance). One particularly important case dealing with evaluation is Fort Bend ISD v. Z.A. In this case, the district court ruled that Fort Bend ISD failed to identify and provide services for a child with an attachment disorder, anxiety and depression. According to court records, the school psychologist blamed the child’s poor school performance on drug use and contended that the school was not aware of the child’s attachment disorder. This case underscores the need for schools to proactively address student behaviors, even in the absence of a formal medical diagnosis. For example, schools are required to evaluate a student along all suspected areas of disability, using multiple sources of information. Indeed, the treatment of many disabilities does not necessitate a diagnosis, as those diagnoses rarely inform necessary services in schools. However, upon appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit overturned the parents’ reimbursement for reasons unrelated to evaluation of the child. In Caldwell ISD v. Joe .P., the parents of a child with a vision impairment filed for due process because they alleged the school district failed to develop an appropriate IEP for the child. The district asserted that it considered the child’s visual impairment, but the evidence See EXPERTS HIGHTLIGHT on page 14 April 2015 • Texas School Business
SUGGESTED READINGS ATHLETICS OCR-Dear Colleague Letter www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/ colleague-201301-504.html U.S Department of Education-Creating Equal Opportunities www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/equal-pe.pdf Case Law Losinski, M., Katsiyannis, A., & Yell, M.L. (2014). Athletics and students with disabilities: What principals should know. NASSP Bulletin, 98(4), 310-323.doi: 10.1177/0192636514557516 BULLYING OCR-Dear Colleague Letter www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-bullying-201410.pdf Federal Anti-Bullying Website www.stopbullying.gov PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center www.pacer.org/bullying/ Anti-Bullying Alliance www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/research/ sen-disabilities.aspx DISCIPLINE OCR-Dear Colleague Letter www.justice.gov/crt/about/edu/documents/dcl.pdf U.S. Department of Education-Guiding Principles www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/ guiding-principles.pdf
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Texas School Business • April 2015
EXPERTS HIGHLIGHT continued from page 13
showed otherwise. While the district did consider how vision affected the child’s mobility, it did not address how that disability affected his learning. Furthermore, the evidence showed the classroom teachers were “…oblivious to the nature of the visual impairment.” Once again, the circumstances surrounding this case underscore the need to evaluate students along all suspected areas of disability and then ascertain their educational needs resulting from the disability. Finally, issues on how to serve students with disabilities in charter schools can be particularly complex because many charter schools may not be equipped to address children with special needs. In Seashore Charter Schools v. E.B., the charter school was unable to offer the services needed to provide FAPE for a child with autism who exhibited aggressive behaviors. The charter school proposed a change in placement to the child’s neighborhood school that did have a program that would meet the child’s needs. The mother filed for due process and invoked the stay-put provision of IDEA to keep the child at the charter school. The district judge, however, overturned the stayput provision because of the dangerous nature of the child’s behaviors at his current placement. Developments in special education law continue to present a challenge for schools — from parental participation in IEPs to disparities in disciplinary actions. School personnel must keep abreast of these changes in special education law, not only to ensure that FAPE is provided to students with disabilities but also to minimize costly litigation. ANTONIS KATSIYANNIS is an alumni distinguished professor at Clemson University. MICKEY LOSINSKI is an assistant professor at Kansas State University. MITCHELL L. YELL is the Fred and Francis Lester chair at the University of South Carolina.
Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 10
visors Association. Brown earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Stephen F. Austin State University and her master’s degree in education from Prairie View A&M University. A second still-to-be-named new campus, Elementary School 47, will also open in August and will have Donna Whisonant as principal. She has spent the past nine years as principal of Austin Parkway Elementary and was the school’s assistant principal for five years prior to that. Whisonant has been with Fort Bend ISD for 27 years, beginning as a fourth grade teacher and going on to work as English language arts chair at the middle school level. She received her bachelor’s degree in teaching from Sam Houston State University and her master’s degree in education from the University of Houston. Frisco ISD Ashelyn Fain, now principal of Scott Elementary, will lead Norris Elementary as principal when it opens this fall. She came to Frisco ISD in 2004 as a classroom teacher and became assistant principal of Curtsinger Elementary in 2011. Ashelyn Fain In addition, she has served in the fields of human services and special education. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and her master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce. The district’s new director of purchasing is Robert McLaughlin. He is a former high school science teacher who has 17 years of experience in purchasing operations, most recently at Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. He holds a bachelor’s Robert degree from Texas Tech McLaughlin University and a master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University. Pflugerville ISD’s Devin Padavil, principal of Hendrickson High School, will join Frisco ISD as principal of Lebanon Trail High School when it opens in August 2016. He has been an educator for 15 years, 12 of those as an administrator, Devin Padavil working at the elementary, middle and high school levels in San Antonio’s Northside ISD and in Austin and Round Rock ISDs. Padavil serves
as first vice president of the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals. A graduate of Illinois State University with a master’s degree from The University of Texas, he was the 2014 ESC Region 13 High School Principal of the Year. He is pursuing his doctorate at The University of Texas. Shawn Perry, principal of Acker Special Programs Center, will become principal of Trent Middle School in the fall. He began his career in 2001 in Plano ISD as a special education teacher and joined Frisco ISD in 2008 as assistant principal of Griffin Middle School. Shawn Perry He has also been a middle school athletic director and high school administrative intern. Perry’s bachelor’s degree was awarded from Midwestern State University and his master’s degree from the University of North Texas. He is at work on his doctorate at Texas A&M University at Commerce. Maus Middle School Assistant Principal Jamie Wisneski will transition to principal of Pearson Middle School in August. She has been with the district since 2003, working as a
middle school math teacher and coordinator before taking her current position in 2010. She was initially a teacher in Richardson ISD. Wisneski earned her bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University Jamie Wisneski and her master’s degree from Dallas Baptist University. Galena Park ISD Brian Allen, who was most recently associate principal of North Shore High School Ninth Grade Campus, has been named director of security and emergency management. An educator for 18 years, he received his bachelor’s degree in health information management Brian Allen from Texas Southern University and his master’s degree in education administration from Concordia University. See WHO’S NEWS on page 18
April 2015 • Texas School Business
TCEA hosts annual convention in Austin More than 13,000 tech-savvy educators from across Texas traveled to the capital city for the 2015 TCEA Annual Convention and Exhibition. Photos are courtesy of Spencer Selvidge for TCEA.
TCEA volunteers help the convention and exhibition run smoothly.
TV personality Bill Nye the Science Guy addresses TCEA members.
TCEAâ€™s Carrie Ross and Scott Floyd of White Oak ISD serve the organization as area directors. TCEA members test out classroom technology in the exhibit hall.
Marsha Johnson, Enid Lattier and Sherry Kerr of Kaufman ISD are all smiles at the convention. 16
Texas School Business â€˘ April 2015
Gloria Wood of Microsoft (center) speaks with Lisa Simmons of Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD (left) and Jennifer Mitchell of Lamar CISD.
Conference goers proudly don their #learnanywhere backpacks. Randy Rodgers of Seguin ISD captures a selfie with closing speaker Fredi Lajvardi (“Spare Parts” and “Underwater Dreams”).
TCEA Area Director Tom Brawley of Tomball ISD helps attendees navigate to their next session.
Why not do the YMCA to let off a little steam after a long day at the convention?
TCEA members get creative in the Makey Makey Digital Square.
Lenovo shows off its latest technology in the exhibit hall.
TCEA Governmental Relations Director Jennifer Bergland (center) chats with attendees. April 2015 • Texas School Business
Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 15
The district announced the appointment of Orphalinda Bazan as assistant to the superintendent. She has been an educator for 39 years, 18 of those with Galena Park ISD, where she has been principal of Woodland Acres Elementary and Orphalinda Woodland Acres Middle Bazan School, director of staff development, and executive director of middle schools and initiatives and grants. She most recently was assistant superintendent for special programs. Bazan is a graduate of Southwest Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in counseling. Paul Drexler, former principal of North Shore Middle School, is now senior director of operations. An educator for 28 years, he has been with Galena Park ISD for the past 16. His bachelor’s degree in biology and physical education was awarded from Texas Tech Paul Drexler University and his master’s degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Now serving as assistant superintendent of educational and academic support is Elizabeth Lalor, an employee of the district for the past 23 years. She began her career teaching math at Cunningham Middle School, going on to serve as asElizabeth Lalor sistant principal at that campus. She transferred to Cobb Sixth Grade Center in the same capacity, then became the school’s principal. She was most recently the district’s executive director of educational support. Lalor is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a master’s degree in education administration from Stephen F. Austin State University. The district’s new executive director of budget and financial support services is Julie Lee, who was director of employee benefits and payroll coordinator. In addition, she was with Goose Creek CISD as a budget and special revenue coordinator. Lee is a graduate Julie Lee 18
Texas School Business • April 2015
of the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Holli Malloy has come from Goose Creek CISD, where she was director of curriculum and instruction, to accept the position of executive director of curriculum and instruction. An educator for 19 years, she was principal of Goose Creek’s Holli Malloy Impact Early College High School and that district’s secondary curriculum coordinator. She also was a social studies teacher in Channelview ISD. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and psychology from Sam Houston State University and a master’s degree in educational management from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. The new director for special education and psychological services is Andrea Sellers, a former education specialist at ESC Region 4. She has also served as a licensed specialist in school psychology for Galena Park ISD and as a supervisor of assessment, Andrea Sellers psychological and related services in Sheldon ISD. Sellers received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M University and her master’s degree in school psychology from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Now serving as associate superintendent for educational support and school administration is Kenneth Wallace, former assistant superintendent for educational support and school administration. Prior to that, he was principal of Kenneth Wallace North Shore Senior High School. He has been an educator for 40 years, 15 of those with Galena Park ISD. In Lubbock ISD, he was a classroom teacher, head football coach, athletic director and vice principal. Wallace holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech University. Georgetown ISD McCoy Elementary School now has Lisa Helmle as principal. She comes to her new job from Clear Creek ISD, where she was principal of White Elementary since 2011. An educator since 1999, she began as a fourth grade teacher at Meador Elementary in Pasadena ISD. She next spent four years as a sixth grade science teacher at the same campus,
subsequently being named its interim assistant principal. She then was an administrative intern at Armand Bayou Elementary in Clear Creek ISD before serving six years as assistant principal there. Helmle has a bachelor’s degree in education from Baylor University and a master’s degree in education from the University of Houston. Highland Park ISD (Dallas) Superintendent Dawson Orr, who has been at the helm of the district for six years, has announced his upcoming retirement, effective in August. This will culminate a 25-year career as a Texas school superintendent, including service in Dawson Orr Pampa, Wichita Falls and Highland Park ISDs. He will continue as an educator, however, having accepted the position of clinical professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership at Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD Chris Jensen has been selected to serve as head football coach of Trinity High School, where he has been offensive coordinator since 2001. Prior to coming to the district, he was cooffensive coordinator at Commerce High School in Chris Jensen Commerce ISD after beginning his career there in 1990 as a football, basketball and track coach. Jensen earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Stephen F. Austin State University. Irving ISD Terry Zettle has been named director of school safety and security. His 33-year career in law enforcement with the City of Irving Police Department began with service as a patrol officer and sergeant before his promotion to lieutenant. Terry Zettle He served in numerous divisions and rose to the position of captain. Since 2006, he has been an assistant chief of police with the Irving Police Department. Zettle’s training includes the FBI National Academy, the School of Supervision and Advanced Management College at
Who’s News Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute, and courses in critical incident management and hazardous materials response. Lamar CISD When the newest Lamar CISD elementary school, Arredondo Elementary, opens for the 2015-2016 academic year, it will have Amber Barbarow as principal. She is serving in the lead position at McNeil Elementary. A graduate of the district’s Amber Barbarow Terry High School, she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston at Clear Lake and two master’s degrees — one from UH at Clear Lake and one from UH at Victoria. She began her career as a math and science teacher at Pink Elementary, going on to serve as math and science facilitator at that campus. McNeill Elementary Assistant Principal Toni Scott will transition to serve as the school’s principal for the 20152016 academic year. She also worked as assistant principal of Seguin Elementary. Prior to joining Lamar CISD, Scott taught in Houston and Alief ISDs Toni Scott and was an instructional aide in Houston and Fort Bend ISDs. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Southern University.
Patricia Robbins is now the district’s director of communications and community partnerships. She has served in communication and community partnership roles for the past 24 years. She completed her post-secondary education at the University of Memphis and New York University. In January, the district welcomed a new superintendent, Lowell Strike, coming from Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, where he served as the deputy superintendent. His previous central administrative roles have included serving as the Lowell Strike associate superintendent in Southlake Carroll ISD, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Northwest ISD and as an executive director in Katy ISD. His campus administrative roles have included, among others, middle school principalships in Brownfield ISD and Bryan ISD, as well as opening a new high school and serving as the first principal of Cinco Ranch High School in Katy. Editor’s note: We are re-running the item on Lowell Strike due to an inaccuracy in the
original printing. Texas School Business regrets the error. Medina ISD Penny White, former superintendent of Yantis ISD, is the new superintendent of Medina ISD. Northside ISD Sandra Bonnett is now the district’s executive director of elementary administration. A graduate of Northside ISD’s Taft High School, she joined the district in 1996 as a third grade teacher at Linton Elementary. She was that school’s Sandra Bonnett Success for All reading facilitator before becoming vice principal of Powell Elementary in 2002. In 2004, she was named vice principal of the new Ott Elementary School and took her first principalship in 2009 at May Elementary. Bonnett received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of Texas at San Antonio. See WHO’S NEWS on page 23
Little Elm ISD Little Elm ISD trustees have named Matthew Gutierrez as the deputy superintendent for educational services. He joined the district two years ago and had been serving as interim superintendent. He has also worked as a teacher, assistant principal, director of human resources and executive director of human resources. Gutierrez has a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Angelo State University and a master’s degree in education from Schreiner University. He is nearing completion of his doctorate in educational policy from Texas Tech University. Now serving as assistant superintendent for curriculum and learning services is Cyndy Mika. A 10-year veteran of the district, she has been an educator for 23 years, working as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, director of accountability and assessment, and executive director. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree from The University of Texas at Tyler. She will complete her doctorate in educational leadership at Dallas Baptist University this year. April 2015 • Texas School Business
Weslaco ISD superintendent: ‘Every student is a success story waiting to happen’ by Leila Kalmbach
eslaco ISD Superintendent Ruben Alejandro recently ate a lifechanging cupcake. Well, let me rephrase that. The cupcake was delicious, for sure, but it didn’t change the superintendent’s life. It was the life of the baker that was affected, a student enrolled in a culinary arts class at one of the district’s high schools. During a visit to the high school, Alejandro and school board members had popped into the culinary arts class to compliment the students on all their scrumptious fare. In particular, they wanted to compliment the cupcake baker, who had just won a local competition for her treats and was headed to a statewide competition. What the culinary arts teacher told them about the student surprised them. According to the teacher, when the student signed up for the class, she was failing most of her other classes and was definitely on the path to dropping out. Her teachers had
tried everything they could think of to get this girl excited about school, but nothing stuck — until she found baking. “They tapped into that one thing that engaged her, motivated her,” explains Alejandro, who has been superintendent of the 18,000-student district since June 2012. “That just totally inspires me, because I know for a fact that every single child can be a success story; we just need to find the one thing that makes them successful.” Alejandro grew up in Weslaco, where he attended public schools and has spent all but a year and a half of his career in the district. He didn’t always know he wanted to go into education, though. In fact, after receiving his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin, his plan was to become a medical doctor. Then a friend persuaded him to go along on a visit to UT Pan American, where he realized he could do course-
Weslaco ISD Superintendent Ruben Alejandro was recently named Man of the Year by the Weslaco Area Chamber of Commerce. He was also invited to be one of 100 superintendents to come to the White House to attend the ConnectED Conference. 20
Texas School Business • April 2015
work over the summer toward a teaching certificate and start student teaching in the fall. The idea of having a solid job while studying for his MCATs was appealing. But once he started teaching, he was hooked. “That was a career changer because once I got into the classroom, it was a whole different world,” he recalls. “I loved my job.” Alejandro later completed his master’s degree in supervision from UT Pan American and a doctorate in educational administration from UT Austin. He’s been with Weslaco ISD for 36 years. Alejandro says he believes in the power of every student to live their dreams, and of every employee to help them reach them. “Every employee is a stakeholder in the education of our students,” he says. “Even the yardman — if he keeps the yard well-trimmed and attractive, the children are going to be happy to be there.” Take, for example, the girl who spoke at her sixth grade convocation about how much she liked her bus driver. “After she did the presentation, we went to look for this bus driver named Phillip,” said Alejandro. “And our question was, ‘OK, Phillip, what did you do that inspired this child so much that she mentioned you in her speech?’ And he says, ‘I don’t know. I just drove the bus.’” It just goes to show that students are always listening — and that the words, phrases or gestures we make around them can have an impact, the superintendent says. Anyone could be the person to change a student’s life or make them happy to go to school each day. Alejandro was recently named Man of the Year by the Weslaco Area Chamber of Commerce. He was also invited to be one of 100 superintendents to come to the White House to attend the ConnectED Conference. One reason Alejandro was
‘I know for a fact that every single child can be a success story; we just need to find the one thing that makes them successful.’ chosen for these honors is his innovative approach to technology in the schools. Weslaco ISD has a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. The district allows students to bring in cell phones, tablets, laptops or any other technology from home that could prove useful at school. “What we as a school district need to do is to help them learn how to use those devices to improve their learning. Don’t take it away from them; show them how to use it.” That means investing in training all staff to use the technology, and it means teaching students about digital citizenship year-round. It also means recognizing that the skills students need today are different
PFIA Compliance continued from page 6
yy providing summary of investments to the governing body on a regular basis (PFIA requires quarterly reports with certain criteria); yy requiring that board members and investment personnel disclose any relationships with investing entities; and yy contracting, including performance measures, with investment adviser, if applicable. A segregation of duties is also required in managing controls over investments. This can include separating who authorizes transactions versus who records on the general ledger, reconciliation of general ledger versus third-party reports and custody of asset versus recording on the general ledger. Also, there should be methods in place to verify the investments are real, that the custodian has verification controls in place and that those controls are functioning. Each district should consider its needs based on the complexity of its investments and consult with an audit firm to decide how best to proceed to
from the ones taught in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. “I often tell [my staff], it’s like Star Trek,” Alejandro says. “Spock was always the analytical thinker — very structured, black and white — and Captain Kirk was always working in the gray area. So, I tell my staff: ‘We need Captain Kirks.’” Students can find anything on their devices, he says. They just need to learn
how to critically analyze all the information out there to make new connections and solve problems. “And when our kids can do that,” Alejandro says, “those are 21st century learners.” LEILA KALMBACH is a freelance writer in Austin.
Fun facts about RUBEN ALEJANDRO Share something most people don’t know about you: I was born and raised in this community, so pretty much my whole life is an open book. Three people (living or deceased) I would invite to my fantasy dinner party: My parents and my wife. If I could cast an actor to play me in a movie, it would be: Russell Crowe. Advice I’d give to a new superintendent: Never do anything that you’re not supposed to.
assure compliance with this provision of the PFIA. JOANNA JUST, CPA, is a senior manager for Padgett Stratemann in Austin. MARC SEWELL, CPA, is a
senior manager for Padgett Stratemann in San Antonio. They recently presented an education session on investment compliance and internal controls over investments at the TASA Midwinter Conference.
2015 Annual Conference October 25-27 • Austin Renaissance Hotel
Forward-focused educators • Future-ready students
Register at www.txascd.org April 2015 • Texas School Business
TEPSA PRESIDENT PROFILE Fort Bend ISD’s Eddie Damian finds leadership success through empowering others By Elizabeth Millard
hen Eddie Damian talks about his position as a senior consultant in leadership development at Fort Bend ISD, he sounds almost guilty about how much he enjoys the work. “I’m in the greatest position in the world,” he says. “I get to train principals and create mentorship opportunities and build a collaborative culture in our district.
I can’t believe they pay me for this.” Damian adds that he has spent years researching all of these topics and diving deep into subjects like 21st century education strategies, so he’s excited to have the work as an everyday reality now. He just happened to take a circuitous path to get here. Growing up near Lake Jackson, Damian learned the value of a strong work ethic
Eddie Damian is a senior consultant in leadership development at Fort Bend ISD. “I’m in the greatest position in the world. I get to train principals and create mentorship opportunities and build a collaborative culture in our district. I can’t believe they pay me for this,” he says. 22
Texas School Business • April 2015
early. He spent much of his youth helping his father do flooring installation. However, it was the admiration he felt for his teachers and coaches at school that inspired him to go into education. “What attracted me to education was the charge to help people,” he says. “I believed it was a noble calling, even from an early age. And I still believe that.” Although he didn’t plan to return to the area where he grew up after graduating from college, he was offered a position teaching social studies in Brazosport ISD. He loved it from the start. As he blended coaching into his role, his appreciation for education grew stronger, and he ended up taking a position at a new intermediate school in Clear Creek ISD while returning to school to earn a degree in counseling. He left public education for a brief period to open a carpet business — a trial stint in his father’s industry — but his heart remained set on his original calling. Shuttering his business, Damian returned to public education as an assistant principal at Pasadena ISD and then as a principal in Brazosport ISD. While there, he became active with the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association and its Leadership Academy. As he networked with other administrators and educators from across Texas, Damian felt like he had finally found his place. In July 2014, he took on the consultant role in Fort Bend ISD, and he has relished every moment. “It was a twisting career path,” he says with a laugh, “but I’m really excited about where it led.” In his role at Fort Bend ISD, Damian taps the expertise of the TEPSA network often, querying members about their best practices and bringing that wisdom into his district. With 74 campuses in Fort Bend ISD, Damian spends a considerable amount of time creating mentorship and training opportunities and finding ways to bolster collaboration among schools. One of his strongest messages to his peers in Fort Bend ISD
is that every school staff member has leadership capabilities and influence. It’s not just the principal who affects the success of a school. “When you’re talking about transforming schools, what you need to focus on is empowering everyone in the organization,” he says. “We need to move away from this idea that only the principal can lead and decide everything. By creating more leadership within a district, it can be a powerful force for change.” Damian says he believes that part of the challenge for transformation is in encouraging campuses to collaborate meaningfully with one another; it goes beyond simple internal communications. Making sure that everyone’s voice can be heard across a district — and even across the state — is an important part of moving forward into a 21st century school model, according to Damian. He says: “Schools have a long way to go in terms of seeing ourselves as one entity. We need to work together and improve all mechanisms, because that’s what leads to improvement.” Looking ahead to this summer when he steps into his TEPSA presidency, Damian expects that collaboration will be an impor-
tant concept during his leadership, but he has chosen “time” as the official theme of his term. “I chose ‘time’ as my primary focus because it’s the one factor we all have in common,” he says. “I want to make sure we’re making time for children and valuing the time we have so that we use it wise-
ly. We need to set aside time to collaborate and time for ourselves.” As for Damian, he says he is thrilled to be taking time every day to help schools in Fort Bend ISD and across Texas thrive. ELIZABETH MILLARD also writes for American City Business Journals.
Fun facts about EDDIE DAMIAN If I could trade places with someone for one day, it would be: a second-year teacher. Trading places with a second-year teacher would allow me access to the knowledge and skills these new teachers are bringing into the workforce. The perspective of having one year of teaching experience along with recent university training would allow me to plan our future school programs around the latest trainings and innovations.
A skill I’d like to master is: the ability to effectively communicate with all stakeholders in such a way that movements begin around those closest to me. I would love to be able to effectively communicate in such a way that I ignite others to my ideas and dreams for education. Possessing great communication skills, such as those had by Martin Luther King Jr. or Winston Churchill, would be skills that would serve me well for years to come. How did you earn your first dollar? I used to go around the neighborhood and collect Coke bottles for the deposit.
What’s the latest book you read that you liked? “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. I love books like this — books about cooperation and collaboration that offer ideas on how to get the results you want.
Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 19
Annette Castillo-Robinson, former principal of Cody Elementary School, is now principal of Adams Hill Elementary. She began her time with the district in 1991 as a pre-K teacher at Linton Elementary. After 12 years there, also teaching Annette first and third grades, she Castillo-Robinson moved to Brauchle Elementary to teach kindergarten and third grade. She then was an administrative intern at Ward Elementary before taking her most recent position at Cody in 2009. Castillo-Robinson earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Lieck Elementary School now has Rachel Delgado as principal. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, she began her career as a fifth grade teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Griffith, Ind. She came Rachel Delgado to San Antonio and joined Northside ISD in 2002
as a third grade teacher at Cable Elementary, going on to teach fourth grade there. She next taught fourth grade at Langley Elementary before being named that school’s vice principal in 2011. Delgado received her master’s degree in educational leadership from The University of Texas at San Antonio. The district announces that Levinia Lara has been named assistant superintendent for elementary administration. Initially a music and reading teacher, she took her first job with Northside ISD in 1986 as a music teacher at Linton ElemenLevinia Lara tary. She accepted her first administrative position 10 years later when she began her job as vice principal at that school. Lara was next vice principal of Passmore Elementary, then principal of Elrod Elementary before taking on the top job at Westwood Terrace Elementary in 2005. She opened Hoffman Elementary as principal in 2009 and began her first central office administration job, executive director of elementary administration, in 2012. Lara received her bachelor’s degree in music from Corpus Christi State University (now Texas A&M University at Corpus Chris-
ti) and her master’s degree in education from Our Lady of the Lake University. Now serving as director of elementary administration is Jessica Palomares. She began her career as a behavior mastery classroom teacher at the Northside Children’s Center in 1996, going on to serve in the same capacity at Michael Jessica and Lewis elementaries Palomares before being named vice principal of Evers Elementary. She was then that school’s principal before opening Lieck Elementary as principal in 2001. Palomares earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Debra Pinon will serve as the first principal of the district’s 75th elementary school, Boldt Elementary, when it opens in August. She began her career at Olmos Elementary in San Antonio’s North East ISD in 1992, working as a first, second and third grade teacher. She came to Northside ISD in 2001 to teach third and fourth grade and then was named vice See WHO’S NEWS on page 24 April 2015 • Texas School Business
Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 23
principal and later principal of Hatchett Elementary. Pinon’s bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies was awarded from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville). She received Debra Pinon her master’s degree in educational leadership from The University of Texas at San Antonio. The new deputy superintendent of business and finance is David Rastellini. He was formerly the assistant superintendent for budget and finance. After spending 13 years, beginning in 1983, as San Angelo ISD’s director of finance and accounting, he David Rastellini moved to Austin ISD as budget director. Two years later, he transferred to New Braunfels ISD to serve as business manager. He joined Waco ISD in 2002 as associate superintendent for business and support services and became associate superintendent for financial services at Dallas ISD in 2005. He came to Northside ISD in 2013. A certified public accountant, Rastellini holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Tech University and a master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce. The district’s new executive director of elementary instruction is Patricia Sanchez, who had been serving as director of elementary instruction since last August. She began her career in Northside ISD in 1991 as a first grade teacher at Passmore Patricia Sanchez Elementary School, going on to work as a reading specialist at Howsman Elementary, vice principal at Oak Hills Terrace and Thornton elementaries, and principal at Passmore and Mireles elementaries. In addition, she was an educational specialist at ESC Region 20. Sanchez earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University and her master’s degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Belinda Trevino, former principal of Raba Elementary School, is now principal of McDermott Elementary. She has been with the district since 1991, beginning as a teacher at Villarreal Elementary and going on to work as a math specialist at Cable Elementary, a classroom teacher at Ward Elementary, and a math staff development specialist at Rabe, Aue and Northwest Crossing elementaries. She became vice 24
Texas School Business • April 2015
principal of Raba in 2008 and then took her most recent position there in 2010. Trevino has a bachelor’s degree in education from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville) and a master’s degree in education from The University of Texas at
San Antonio. Other recent administrative appointees are Karie Bledsoe, vice principal of Ott Elementary School, and Andrew Morris, vice principal of Valley Hi Elementary School. Pflugerville ISD The Pflugerville Board of Trustees has selected Rhonda McWilliams to serve as the district’s executive director of human resources. She began her career as a teacher in La Marque ISD, going on to work as an associate principal and principal in Cleveland, Galena Park and Houston ISDs. She was an area superintendent and director of secondary education in Alief ISD. Most recently executive director of student affairs in Fort Bend ISD, she also was a principal, associate superintendent for campus achievement, assistant superintendent and chief human resources officer in that district. McWilliams, who received her bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University, holds two master’s degrees, one in occupational education from the University of Houston and one in counseling from the University of Houston at Victoria. Her doctorate in educational leadership was awarded from the University of Houston. Pilot Point ISD A new superintendent has been chosen for the district. He is Dan Gist, who has been with the district for 14 years — the past 12 years as assistant superintendent. A graduate of Pilot Point High School, he has been an educator for 23 years. Richardson ISD Superintendent Kay Waggoner has been selected to serve as the legislative council chair for the University Interscholastic League (UIL) for the 2014-2015 school year. In this position, she will work with the UIL’s Rewrite Advisory Committee to review the organization’s Kay Waggoner constitution and contest rules. Waggoner, who was first involved with UIL activities as a high school student in Woodville ISD, earned her bachelor’s and master’s de-
grees in education from Stephen F. Austin State University and her doctoral degree through The University of Texas’ Cooperative Superintendency Program. She has been an educator for 33 years, 26 of those as an administrator. San Angelo ISD Carol Ann Bonds, who has served as district superintendent since 2007, has announced her intention to retire in August. This will bring to a close a career that has spanned 47 years. She began as a teacher in Aldine, Cypress-Fairbanks and Carol Ann Bonds Holland ISDs and took her first principalship, in Holland ISD, in 1989. She served as superintendent of Rogers ISD from 1995 to 2002 and of Livingston ISD from 2003 until taking her current position in San Angelo. In addition, Bonds has authored textbooks for Houghton Mifflin and Watermark Publishing. She was named Principal of the Year in 1995 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, received the Robert Woods Johnson Community Health Leadership Award in 1996 and the Reader’s Digest Health Hero Award in 2001. She was ESC Region 15’s Superintendent of the Year in 2010. Bonds received her bachelor’s degree in English and elementary education from Houston Baptist University and her master’s degree in reading from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Her doctorate in public school leadership was awarded from The University of Texas. San Marcos CISD The new director of secondary curriculum and accountability is Hensley Cone, who began his career as a science teacher in Hays CISD, later serving as assistant principal of Hays High School. He went on to work as special programs director at Hensley Cone Nixon-Smiley ISD and as principal of Nixon-Smiley High School. In San Antonio’s North East ISD he was curriculum and instruction administrator at Johnson High School and the district’s director of school improvement. In addition, Cone has been a faculty member of the University of Phoenix, teaching online courses in assessment and evaluation and in supervision of educational administration internship. He is a graduate of Texas State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in microbiology, master’s degree in educational administration and doctorate in school improvement. TSB
Spring ISD junior touts benefits of superintendent advisory group by Karen Lara
s a junior at Early College Academy in Spring ISD, I was pleased and surprised to be invited to serve on Superintendent Rodney Watson’s Student Advisory Group. I have been in Spring ISD since I was 5 years old, and this is the first time a superintendent has invited students to sit down to have discussions about the district. My experience while taking part in this group was truly inspiring. All of the students’ thoughts were recognized by the head of our district. As I was given this opportunity, I realized that everything I would be saying would finally be taken into consideration. Many times during my school years, I’d speak to my former teachers about how we could improve our district, and now I am able to see my thoughts put into action. For example, we have met with the superintendent twice to discuss the student dress code and what can be modified in the Student Handbook without enforcing uniforms for high school students. Although dress code is a difficult topic to discuss, we were able to make sure the current rules were a lot more clear and concise.
Beginning with this issue, “Student Voices” will be a regularly featured column in Texas School Business. It’s an opportunity for students of all ages from across Texas to share their experiences in K-12 public schools. Contact Editorial Director Katie Ford at katie@texasschoolbusiness. com for publishing guidelines.
Being in this advisory group truly enhances the importance of students’ feelings toward their education and the schools they attend. Students are willing to share their personal feelings when they know that they could possibly create a difference. In my opinion, education as a whole is something that shouldn’t just be handled by the adults; the voices of the students should be valued as well. After all, the students are the ones who are being given the education and living through it. It is extremely rare for public education to look into what the students have to say about the education they are experiencing and receiving. I am aware that no district can please every single student, but it is better to take some action than to not attempt it at all. This student advisory group is the perfect way to begin forming a bond with students who desire more than their own education. When students speak about their ideas for a district, they aren’t speaking of only the present time, but also about generations of students who will benefit from student and district leaders working together. Students learn to be leaders through experiences, and being offered a chance to serve on an advisory group will allow their leadership skills to develop. Giving students a chance to speak up shows their role is much greater than they thought. I believe that having group discussions with students has many benefits for a school district. It is important to view the insights of students, so that adults can re-
ceive feedback about whether the system is teaching them what they need to reach success. Making adjustments according to students’ perspectives can remarkably mold a stronger education system. Ideas provided by students can offer so many great things, because I know every person has something different to offer. All my years as a student have taught me that a district works together with teachers and parents to create the best education possible for kids, but allowing students into the equation can evolve into a more balanced district. There are going to be student outcries here and there about how unfair their school rules may be, but creating an advisory group that gives students a voice can change things for the good. My advice to districts around Texas is to give your students the opportunity to create a better tomorrow, which will, in fact, give them the proper support they need as they go on in their college years. The formation of a student advisory group will create great communication strengths in all areas, from the students to the parents, teachers and the administration. I am grateful to be part of a group that could inspire the younger generations that will take the torch after us. KAREN LARA is a junior at Early College Academy in Spring ISD. Is there a student in your district who would like to be a guest contributor for Student Voices? Please inquire with Editorial Director Katie Ford at katie@texasschoolbusiness. com.
April 2015 • Texas School Business
THE BACK PAGE by Riney Jordan
Advertiser Index Adams Lynch & Loftin PC................. 19 www.all-lawfirm.com
Oh, how they are counting on us
he was only 4 years old, but she seemed more like a little adult. Her answers to questions reflected her maturity, and it was pure, unadulterated joy to talk to her. In spite of her intellect, she was still a charming little girl who loved being a mother figure to a rather large number of dolls. One doll, dressed in pink with yards of lace and frilly accessories, appeared to be her favorite. She carried her everywhere. The doll was almost as big as she was, yet her motherly instincts were still obvious. In fact, I couldn’t help but think that she could probably teach parenting lessons to many young moms I had encountered over the years. She spoke softly to her baby doll. She “fed” her and changed her clothes and did all the necessary tasks required of a parent. Needless to say, we were all quite impressed. On this particular warm, sunny afternoon, several of the other family members had decided to take a stroll down to our pond. The 4-year-old must have assumed that it would be too much for her “baby,” so she approached me as I sat at the picnic table on the patio. “Would you mind watching my baby while I go with the others?” she asked. “We won’t be gone long.” “I’d be happy to do that,” I responded with a big smile. At that moment, she must have assumed I wasn’t grasping the importance of my new assignment, for as she walked away, she stopped suddenly and seemed to ponder the situation. Then, just as quickly, she turned and faced me. With her head lowered and her eyebrows raised, she looked straight into my eyes and said, “I’m counting on you. OK?” I realized that my responsibility to care for this “child” was far more serious than I had originally figured. “Yes. Yes, I will do my best,” I stammered. “I’m counting on you.” That is a soul-searching statement to be made to any of us, and I couldn’t help but think of the countless number of kids we
Texas School Business • April 2015
serve every day in our schools who, whether spoken or not, are posing the same thought: I’m counting on you. Indeed, they are. We have been entrusted with one of the most important tasks in an individual’s life. It’s as if to say, “Will you teach me? Will you help me? Will you be patient with me? Will you encourage me? Will you make a difference in my life? Will you, please?” Although graduation rates are improving, we still have a long way to go. A nonprofit group called America’s Promise Alliance analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education and discovered some amazing facts and characteristics of students who leave high school before graduation. It is estimated that 11 percent became involved in gangs, 36 percent regularly used drugs, and 18 percent have been to either a jail or a juvenile detention center. Furthermore, 22 percent reported they had been homeless after high school. Of course, there are no guarantees. Students who stay in school are not immune to drug use, gangs or incarceration. But the increases in these problems for the students who leave high school before graduation are certainly noteworthy. By developing strong lasting relationships with our students, we know that the odds improve for students to stay in school, as well as for those who later re-enroll or pass a GED high school equivalency exam. And maybe, just maybe, some young adult will walk up to you and say something like this amazing little girl said to me upon returning back to assume the responsibility for her doll once again: “Thank you so much. You really did a good job!” Take a moment right now to look at the kids around you. Whether spoken or not, they’re saying to each of us, “I’m counting on you. OK?” RINEY JORDAN’s “The Second Book” is now available at www.rineyjordan.com, along with his other publications. You can contact him at (254) 386-4769, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter: @ RineyRiney.
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ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS NOW! Texas School Business wants to brag about you! Submit your nomination today for possible inclusion in the Ninth Annual Bragging Rights 2015-2016 special issue, which honors 12 deserving school districts and their innovative programs. Every winter, Texas School Business publishes and distributes this special issue to thousands of stakeholders in Texas public education. Does your school or district have a program that’s wildly successful? Then you could be featured among our Top 12! Simply visit www.texasschoolbusiness.com and click on Bragging Rights in the menu to fill out a nomination form. The nomination deadline is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1, 2015.
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The sense of brotherhood and culture of ambassadorship in our “district has never been stronger. Ambassador training has helped unite our team around our schools and our profession.”
-- Scott Niven, Superintendent, Red Oak ISD
hen my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.”
-- Thomas P a i n e
Thomas Paine’s political declaration in Common Sense helped direct the energies of the rebels and point the way to American independence from England. The Ambassador Training Academy staff development program is inspired by Thomas Paine’s work. There are many parallels between educators today, condemned by blinded reformists, and early Americans, condemned by a blinded Crown. Just as Paine “enunciates... the specific right of the people to challenge unjust laws and an unjust government”, we are mobilizing an army of educators to challenge unjust criticism and false accusations of widespread failure.
Class of 2011 Red Oak ISD Ambassadors Academy
Friends of Texas Public Schools is educating Texans about Texas public schools and their many strengths and achievements through Ambassador Training and other initiatives in order to: 4 4 4 4 4 4
Underscore the significance of them; Unite Texans around them; Restore pride in them; Strengthen confidence in them; Lift spirits among them; and Inject resources into them…
…all of which will lead to even greater performance.
Stir your team into champions for your students, district, and profession by enrolling your school district in our Ambassador Training Academy.
It’s time for every educator to stir Visit www.fotps.org to learn more, or email us at email@example.com.