TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS PROFESSIONAL JOURNAL
Advocacy in the 86th
What went down under the dome p. 10 Plus: Meet a few of TASAâ€™s Inspiring Leaders p.16
Volume 34 No. 3
FEATURE ARTICLES & COLUMNS On the Cover: TASA officers discuss school finance with Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen at the February 2019 TASA/TASB Legislative Conference.
Advocacy Update 10 In their words: what went down under the dome Pushing a boulder uphill: a reflection on the 86th Texas Legislature
by Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD, Superintendent
Meet a few of TASA’s Inspiring Leaders
Get to know TASA’s member service representatives
HIGHER EDUCATION Postsecondary outcomes for Hispanic male students in Texas: an analysis of 60x30TX key benchmarks
by Victor B. Sáenz, Ph.D.
TSPRA VOICE Five phases for collaborating in a crisis
by Corey Ryan
OFFICERS Greg Smith, President, Clear Creek ISD Brian T. Woods, President-Elect, Northside ISD
Doug Williams, Vice President, Sunnyvale ISD Gayle Stinson, Past President, Lake Dallas ISD
TASA Professional Learning Calendar
Gonzalo Salazar, Region 1, Los Fresnos CISD
Executive Director’s View
Max A. Thompson, Region 2, Banquete ISD Jo Ann Bludau, Region 3, Hallettsville ISD Charles E. Dupre, Region 4, Fort Bend ISD Todd E. Lintzen, Region 5, Bridge City ISD Clark C. Ealy, Region 6, College Station ISD Stan Surratt, Region 7, Lindale ISD Judd Marshall, Region 8, Mount Pleasant ISD Curtis Eldridge, Region 9, Saint Jo ISD Kevin Worthy, Region 10, Royse City ISD
Associate Executive Director, Internal Operations
David Belding, Region 11, Aubrey ISD Kevin Brown Ann M. Halstead
Advertising Sales and Director, Jennifer Garrido Corporate Partner Services
Director, Communications and Media Relations
Jodi Duron, Region 13, Elgin ISD David Young, Region 14, Abilene ISD Joe Young, Region 15, Brownwood ISD Donna Hale, Region 16, Miami ISD Keith Bryant, Region 17, Lubbock-Cooper ISD Ariel Elliott, Region 18, Greenwood ISD
Design/Production Marco A. De La Cueva
George Kazanas, Region 12, Midway ISD
INSIGHT is published quarterly by the Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas, 78701-2617. Subscription is included in TASA membership dues. © 2019 by TASA. All rights reserved.TASA members may reprint articles in limited quantities for in-house educational use. Articles in INSIGHT are expressions of the author or interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of TASA. Advertisements do not necessarily carry the endorsement of the Texas Association of School Administrators.
Jeannie Meza-Chavez, Region 19, San Elizario ISD Michelle Carroll Smith, Region 20, Lytle ISD
AT-LARGE MEMBERS LaTonya Goffney, Aldine ISD Walter Jackson, Brenham ISD Scott Niven, Allen ISD Jamie Wilson, Denton ISD
LEGISLATIVE CHAIR Charles Dupre, Fort Bend ISD
EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD, Chair Jo Ann Bludau, Hallettsville ISD Keith Bryant, Lubbock-Cooper ISD Charles Dupre, Fort Bend ISD Stacey Edmonson, Sam Houston State University Tory Hill, Sweeny ISD
TASA Professional Learning Calendar For details on our professional development events, please visit us at tasanet.org/professional-learning or call the TASA office at 512.477.6361 or 800.725.TASA (8272)
Curriculum Management Audit Training CMSi Level 1
TASA Headquarters Austin, TX
Assistant Principal Leadership Academy N2 Learning Session 2
Georgetown, TX and Victoria, TX
Assistant Principal Leadership Academy N2 Learning Session 2
Allen High School Allen, TX
Assistant Principal Leadership Academy N2 Learning Session 2
Berry Center Cypress, TX
Curriculum Management Audit Training CMSi Level 2
TASA Headquarters Austin, TX
Future-Ready Superintendents TASA Leadership Network (FRSLN) Kickoff Event
Apple Campus Austin, TX
November 2-5 Texas Assessment Conference
TAACE, TACTP, TSNAP, and TASA
Academy for Transformational Leadership Schlechty Center Session 2
First-Time Superintendents Academy TASA Session 3
Austin Convention Center Austin, TX
Hammerlun Center Georgetown, TX Austin Marriott North Round Rock, TX
11-12 Curriculum Management Planning Workshop CMSi
TASA Headquarters Austin, TX
13-15 Curriculum Writing Workshop CMSi
TASA Headquarters Austin, TX
Assistant Principal Leadership Academy N2 Learning Session 3
Allen High School Allen, TX
Assistant Principal Leadership Academy N2 Learning Session 3
Berry Center Cypress, TX
Future-Ready Superintendents TASA Leadership Network (FRSLN) Event 2
Location TBA Houston, TX
Assistant Principal Leadership Academy N2 Learning Session 3
Casey Admin. Bldg. Wolfforth, TX
Assistant Principal Leadership Academy N2 Learning Session 3
Hammerlun Center Georgetown, TX
Assistant Principal Leadership Academy N2 Learning Session 3
VISD Conference Ctr. Victoria, TX
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TASA proudly endorses 6
BACK TO SCHOOL AND BACK TO WORK ON TASA’S LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES
his is one of my favorite seasons of the year, the back-to-school season in Texas. The sign of a vibrant community is one where yellow buses are rolling in neighborhoods and schools are bustling with children and adults working together to create a better future. There is no better place today than in a Texas public school classroom.
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE We must continue to engage with our lawmakers, business leaders, parents and educators to create an accountability system that reflects the promise, growth and accomplishments of students over time.
This school year is of significant change for all of us as the dust settles on the 86th legislative session. There are some aha! moments as to whether bills were written as intended, such as the one that requires all seventh grade students to undergo training on how to operate a blood control station or opening school board meetings to an open mic on community input. We will work through those challenges. Overall, this session addressed school funding, teacher salaries, student safety, and property tax reform. For that, I am thankful for your leadership and advocacy for Texas children. There is still much work to do, specifically on the A-F rating system. In August, on the heels of starting a new school year, the Texas Education Agency released the A-F ratings of each school and school district in Texas. The A-F rating system was promoted as a simple way for a parent to see how their child’s school is performing. However, the math behind those letter grades is messy and still heavily reliant on the results of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. We must continue to engage with our lawmakers, business leaders, parents and educators to create an accountability system that reflects the promise, growth and accomplishments of students over time. What is working well is that more and more school districts in Texas are creating communitybased accountability systems, a reflection of the education priorities of local communities. It is my goal as TASA president to continue to champion for a well-balanced accountability system that maintains high academic standards for all children while simultaneously respecting what local communities want from their local schools.
Greg Smith TASA President Superintendent, Clear Creek ISD
86th Legislative Session
Final Bill Report 2019
Download the ﬁnal report at https://issuu.com/tasanet/docs/2019-ﬁnal-bill-report
COMING TOGETHER THROUGH COMMUNITY SCHOOLS
W Kevin Brown
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S VIEW One way for us to unite as champions is to remind ourselves and others that community schools themselves help to unite Americans because they are truly for everyone.
hen I was an elementary principal of a Title 1 school, my favorite thing to do was to stand out front every morning to greet students, staff and parents. Regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, political persuasion, religion or ability, every child who walked into our doors was welcomed, loved, challenged and encouraged to be the best person he or she could be. It was an honor to participate and witness the daily greetings, conversations, hugs, breakfast tacos, laughter and strong sense of community in the school. Children played together, parents volunteered together, and everyone worked together in a way that was like no other I had experienced. It wasn’t perfect. There were differences sometimes, and disagreements, but people generally looked out for each other because they were connected through their school in a powerful way. The sense of community was palpable, and I’ve experienced it in every school district where I have worked. This happens every day in community schools across our nation, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. Neighbors who don’t even know each other suddenly become friends due to the connections their children make at school. They sit together at Back to School nights, revel together in music performances or field days where their children display their best efforts, arrange playdates and create car pools to help each other. Community schools bring people together through stronger relationships, through better understanding and through the common cause of doing the best possible for children. These experiences help us to have a deeper understanding and empathy for one another, something that is often lacking in other parts of our society. Community schools build social capital in a way that no other institution can do because they serve EVERYONE, and they represent EVERYONE; EVERYONE has a say in how they are governed, and EVERYONE helps to pay their fair share for the costs. Our theme at TASA’s Midwinter Conference in January is “Uniting Public Education Champions.” Through this event, and throughout this school year, we encourage everyone to unite together and serve as champions for our public, community schools, that have served as a bedrock of our nation for more than two centuries. One way for us to unite as champions is to remind ourselves and others that community schools themselves help to unite Americans because they are truly for everyone. I think we as a society today need to remember and champion the things that bring us together.
Kevin Brown TASA Executive Director
Advocacy in the 86th
y now, you’ve probably read a few wrap-ups of the 86th Texas legislative session, including the outcomes related to public education in the state. With this article, we aim to tell you the story of the 86th Legislature straight from the mouths of some of those who stood up for public education. TASA staff and TASA members worked tirelessly, side by side, to advocate on behalf of Texas’ schoolchildren, testifying in front of the Legislature to share their stories and ask for help where it’s needed most. Below are their accounts of the work they did — the preparation, the days spent hanging around the Capitol, the relationships formed, and the results they achieved. Their words include a call to action. For anyone who feels passionate about Texas public education, there’s no time like the present to get involved, to become an advocate, and to help bring about the changes you’d most like to see from your Legislature to help you run your schools in the best way possible.
School finance legislation Jodi Duron, superintendent, Elgin ISD and chair of TASA’s 2018-19 Advocacy Committee: School finance was the biggest issue we were focused on, but three things stand out for me as part of the school finance bill (HB 3). First, full-day pre-K has been very important in Elgin. We’ve been funding our own full-day pre-K for six years now. We’ve been advocating for full-day funding, and we got to see that come to fruition. Second, we have relied on the small- and mid-size adjustment to offset diseconomies of scale, and that was at risk this session in a big way. It was more of a compromised win that we saw, where parts of the mid-size adjustment were moved out of the formula and made into an allotment. But I feel like the legislators heard us and adjusted the bill to acknowledge that very real challenge. Third was talk around the outcomes-based funding. That was something we were very concerned about. We saw only a portion of the outcomes-based funding included in HB 3, for the college and military readiness pieces instead of third-grade reading scores, so again, I think that was a bit of a compromise, but for us it was also a win. Casey McCreary, associate executive director of education policy, TASA: More than $6.5 billion for increased school funding was allocated through HB 3. It was a success, but it was challenging. There was a lot of compromise and collaboration. Duron: We saw a transformational process take place around school finance, and it’s something we celebrated, but we can’t stop there because the work is not done.
Jodi Duron (left) with fellow public education advocates, legislators and the governor at the signing of Senate Bill 213, which continued Individual Graduation Committees.
Charter school legislation Roland Toscano, superintendent, East Central ISD: One of our community’s particular priorities was better communication around charter expansion. We were particularly interested in bills that would allow trustees to have information about prospective expansion, land acquisition or new charter construction that would enable the board to require the commissioner to do an impact study. That way we could get better information for planning purposes about facilities that may be popping up in the area. We were closing out a bond program, and we had some charter entities pop up, and our facilities committees didn’t know anything about them. So we programmed for the students who are now in facilities that are duplicating our efforts. It’s not an efficient model. McCreary: Right now, we’re running dual systems, and it makes everything very complicated. The rapid expansion of charters raises significant funding and other types of issues for independent school districts. We had a group of 16 organizations with the common goal of making the charter system more transparent and more efficient. With the recommendations that the 16 organizations prepared and shared with everyone, from the governor’s office to the Senate and House Education committees, we were able to glean support from legislators who filed bills aligned with our recommendations after seeing the consensus of so many prominent education stakeholders.
Our joint efforts were very powerful. SB 2293, SB 1454, and HB 3 all contain provisions from our recommendations, and we are continuing our efforts with recommendations to the State Board of Education and Texas Education Agency as they implement the requirements of these bills.
Duron: One underwhelming moment of the session was not seeing any substantial movement or changes with accountability. That’s something that needs to be a continued dialogue and conversation so we improve processes for meaningful accountability for the state.
The lobbyist bills
McCreary: I think the session was very successful for TASA’s legislative priorities, in part because of what did pass, and in part because of what didn’t pass. Sometimes they’re just as important: the things you’re able to block from passing.
Duron: We were so focused on school finance that HB 281 and SB 29, which we called the lobbyist bills, were something we didn’t expect. When we saw legislators who are friendly to public education signing onto these bills, I don’t know that everyone understood the widespread impact and the risk it held for us in terms of removing a very important voice from the legislative process. McCreary: Both bills would have removed the ability for local schools to be represented at the Capitol. Fortunately, representatives who represent small and rural communities, which make up most of our state, said, “You can’t do this. If they live in East Texas, or Amarillo, the Panhandle, superintendents or school board members can’t drive to Austin to hang out at the Capitol all day while discussion is going on. They need representation.” Duron: We had to become active in a hurry around those bills, and I don’t think it’s over with those. We won that battle, this round, but I don’t think we’ve won the fight yet.
Other legislative outcomes Toscano: In the end, I think the outcomes of the session were very encouraging. They definitely acknowledged that the charter issue was an important issue. It’s not perfect, but it’s a tremendous step forward and gives me a lot of optimism for the upcoming session. 12 INSIGHT
Roland Toscano, Superintendent, East Central ISD
Testifying Toscano: This was the first time I had officially testified, and it was an interesting process. I enjoyed it. It was nice to collaborate with TASA staff and get oriented into the logistical procedures. It was a great experience just to be there during public testimony, to hear all sides and observe the public education committee. I admire their endurance. It seems they were authentic in hearing everyone’s perspective and being present, despite the fact that it was a really long day. My day in particular, I think I was there for 12 hours, and they stayed the course. I felt like their behavior as representatives validated my commitment of time to testifying.
Duron: I have been testifying regularly for the last three sessions. Four sessions ago was the first time I dipped my toe into the process. That was the first time I felt like we needed to become more vocal about decisions being made that impact our students directly, and since then it’s been a necessity to become more engaged, more active and more tuned in to this process. McCreary: It’s essential that we have school administrators who work in the field there at the Capitol giving firsthand knowledge of how particular legislation that’s being proposed will impact a community of students. I think it’s better received because they know these people find this proposed legislation so important that they have left their school districts, which they are managing, and they’ve taken the time to come to the Capitol to sit, sometimes for hours, waiting to be heard. It makes a huge difference. Toscano: I will 100% testify again in future sessions. I’m so much more comfortable now with what it entails. Just getting there is a big barrier for so many of us, but now I know what to expect and can focus on the content and hopefully be more proactive in working with my local representatives. I can be on the front end rather than just giving feedback after bills have been filed. I feel confident now that I can be a more active partner, two years out as opposed to just engaging during the session. Duron: What keeps me coming back are the students we are privileged to serve. That’s what drives me. I think it’s a necessity now, part of what we do as educators. My first time going in, it was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what to expect. But as I’ve engaged more, I feel more comfortable because I’m confident about my motive for doing what I’m doing and saying what I’m saying.
TASA Governmental Relations Staff Toscano: TASA staff was very helpful in coordinating locations, timelines, logistics such as parking, where to come into the Capitol, where to go once I got there. We were able to have lunch together and talk about the issues and the message I intended to deliver. It was nice to get an overview and it made the experience smoother, given that I had never done it before. I got good feedback on the message that I wanted to deliver on behalf of my community, and made sure it fit as part of the greater whole. Duron: We rely on our organizations and their governmental relations staffs. TASA does an amazing job of supporting us through the process. It’s not something that comes naturally in what we do every day, but they’ve been great in keeping us informed. When you have hundreds of bills out there, there’s no way we can keep up. We’ve got full-time jobs. We don’t have time to be studying bills all day long.
Get involved When TASA adopted its 2025 Strategic Framework to guide the association into the future, advocacy was one of three strategic areas of focus for the organization. Serving to “aspire to cultivate a diverse and extensive collaborative of champions equipped to advocate for an educated citizenry,” TASA provides a wealth of information, tools and resources to members. In this connected age, advocating for public education has never been easier. Amy Beneski, deputy executive director, TASA Governmental Relations, says that while TASA staff advocate for TASA’s priorities, legislators hearing directly from school administrators makes the biggest impact. “It lets legislators know that their constituents are watching what’s happening in Austin, and it puts a more personal touch on the message,” she says. “When superintendents come down with their school board members and members of their local chambers of commerce, it personalizes what legislators are doing in Austin when they go home.”
TASA’s Online Advocacy Toolkits TASA’s Advocacy Toolkits include resources, suggestions, and links to information to assist school administrators with advocacy efforts. Voting & Elections Toolkit - Resources to guide you through the voting and election processes and to help you encourage others to vote in support of public education Engaging with Policymakers Toolkit - Resources to assist you as you engage with your elected officials in an effort to influence legislation and policy to benefit Texas public schools and students Advocating for Public Schools Toolkit - Resources that can help you shine the spotlight on the amazing things happening in Texas public schools every day as you engage with policymakers on behalf of schools and students Please share the toolkits, available at tasanet.org/advocacy/ toolkits-and-resources/, with other school administrators in your area and encourage them to become engaged in the advocacy process.
TASA’s 2019 Bill Summary Report TASA Governmental Relations staff have compiled a comprehensive list of summaries of education-related bills passed by the 86th Legislature. Download the 2019 final bill report: https://issuu.com/tasanet/ docs/2019-final-bill-report
Testifying at the Capitol is one of the best ways administrators can advocate for public education, but other methods, such as communicating with local stakeholders and writing letters or placing phone calls can also make a difference. TASA has plenty of resources on hand for anyone looking to get more involved.
Pushing a boulder uphill: a reflection on the 86th Texas Legislature By Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD superintendent and 2017-19 TASA Legislative Committee Chair It was a late afternoon in August 2017. I was leaving the Capitol and walking toward the parking garage on Trinity and 12th streets to start my 200-mile commute back to Sunnyvale, completing my first session as TASA legislative chair. I had just begun my stint as chair in June and was learning the hallways of the Capitol on the run. I accepted that role in TASA because I wanted to be involved in advocating for public education. Other than your faith, it’s my belief that public education provides you with the greatest resource for future success. After the outcome of the special session, my fear was that our schools and, more importantly, our children, would not be provided the opportunity that past generations of Texans had been afforded. Finance reform and much needed additional funding had died in Conference Committee, and the only result of the special session was formation of a School Finance Commission. I was skeptical of the effectiveness of the commission and believed that this would only lead to another session of inactivity. I can now thankfully state that my skepticism was without merit. When the commission began its work the following spring, I was pleasantly surprised. Real discourse was taking place and school organizations and leaders were invited to testify. Our message was simple: We needed meaningful discretionary funding. The Basic Allotment had increased less than 8% over the last nine years, so the burden of adequately funding schools was becoming more difficult each year. This message became the theme for our session, along with the declaration of returning decision-making authority to local school districts. The commission work wrapped up in December 2018, just prior to the start of the 86th legislative session. The rest of December and January were focused on crystallizing the message and gathering support from the TASA membership. Our association is blessed to have people such as Amy Beneski and Casey McCreary, members of TASA’s governmental relations team, who not only understand how Austin works, but, most importantly, are passionate about working for Texas’ schools. Along with attorney Colby Nichols, attorney Ellen Williams and consultant Beaman Floyd, we assembled a formidable team and were ready for the session ahead. Finally, I want to recognize TASA Executive Director Kevin Brown, who had great presence in the Capitol and brought the perspective of a recent superintendent to our efforts. From opening day of the session, it was evident that the Legislature had three specific goals in mind related to school funding: target additional revenue to specific areas of education, provide meaningful raises for teachers, and property tax relief. While all three legislative priorities resonated with us, it remained imperative to make sure that our mission of obtaining additional discretionary funding for districts was not left out of the equation. The atmosphere of the session was different than any I had encountered in past sessions. It was evident that there was resolve from the legislators to address school finance in a meaningful way.
Early in the session, our many trips to the Capitol and meetings with contacts focused on initiating communication and fostering relationships with legislators and office staff members. These discussions helped us convey our message to the legislative members and allowed us to gauge the temperature on key aspects of school finance. One of our best afternoons involved Kevin and Amy, along with TASA officers Gayle Stinson, Greg Smith and Brian Woods, meeting with key players at the Capitol to outline our position. I believe that afternoon established our platform, and we had a clear focus on the important issues when we returned to our districts.
That aspect is what makes me so proud to have been a part of the TASA team during the session. Our association, along with many others that support public education, kept pushing the boulder. I believe that many involved in these efforts will look back at what was accomplished and realize the future of Texas education has been impacted.
The road ahead for public education is brighter because of HB 3; however, there is still much work to be done. There will certainly be challenges ahead in the next session. I expect our organizations to again draw the attention of some who want to restrict our representation. We must work to keep our voices heard in The months ahead brought more office visits, many testimonies the Capitol. in committees, and countless PB&J sandwiches at the Capitol Grill. House Bill 3 was filed and heard in committee with invited I believe we must continue to express our desire to define meantestimony during my district’s spring break. I somehow con- ingful assessment. Student learning must be addressed beyond vinced my wife, Kris, who teaches English at Sunnyvale High a one-day, high-stakes test that discourages authentic learning. School, to spend two days with me in Austin. I represented TASA Additionally, promoting comprehensive school accountability and Sunnyvale ISD in the House Public Education Committee will allow school districts to work with our local stakeholders to on that Tuesday and was honored to call on committee members define success and establish true accountability. to push for passage of this legislation that would eventually inject $6 billion into Texas schools. Additionally, I encouraged the com- I encourage you to engage in the work as we continue to advocate mittee to consider continuing to allow for small- and mid-size for Texas’ children. Public education, and the 5.4 million children it serves, need you. school adjustments in serving students of special needs. I was not met with glowing approval at every committee hearing when I testified. There were disagreements relating to past state and local share of funding, and there was push back when I advocated for keeping flexibility for students that was created in past sessions with HB 5. When I got back to Sunnyvale, I was asked the same question by our staff members, “Did you have any success?” My answer was almost always the same: “It’s like pushing a boulder up a hill. It’s a slow process, but the one thing that you need to understand – you better keep pushing. If not, it will roll back over you.”
Williams wasn’t the only Sunnyvale ISD leader to advocate for our schools in the 86th. Dr. Christi Morgan, assistant superintendent, brought her son Colton to Austin to testify in support of House Bill 2824, which extended the state pilot program for assessing student writing skills via non-formulaic 15 FALL 2019 methods.
Meet Few of TASA’s Meeta TASA’s
InspiringLeaders Leaders Inspiring
TASA’s “Inspiring Leaders” tagline is not just a reminder of TASA’s commitment to leadership development; it describes our members themselves — school leaders who inspire others as they work to prepare future-ready students. In this and future issues of INSIGHT, you will meet some of those Inspiring Leaders.
Macy Satterwhite Lubbock-Cooper ISD is home to Macy Satterwhite, who serves as the district’s deputy superintendent. Despite being a fast-growing 5A district, LCISD has a small-town feel, and it’s one of Satterwhite’s favorite things about working there. “We treat each other as family,” Satterwhite says. “We care about each other, take care of each other, cry with each other, and cheer for each other.” Cathy Wright, the superintendent’s secretary in LCISD, says Satterwhite has helped make the district what it is today. “Macy’s smile lights up a room and keeps everyone she works with motivated and inspired,” Wright says. “Dr. Satterwhite makes sure our teachers are of top quality, which makes LCISD one of the best districts around. She is an absolute joy to work with.” In a position that can be challenging and stressful at times, Satterwhite focuses on her students to get her through the tough times. After all, she chose to work in education because she wanted to help children and felt called to serve. “When my job becomes overwhelming, I make my way into a classroom where I get to see the hard work our teachers do to bring learning to life for our students,” Satterwhite says. “I see the students learning, growing, working, playing, sharing and creating, and I am inspired again to get to work smoothing the path for our teachers and our students to accomplish great things.” LCISD Director of Counseling and Assessment Pam Brown says Satterwhite is highly respected in the district, due to not only her educational background, but her ability to make a human connection with the teachers and administrators she leads. “Being in education for 49 years, I know how rare it is in a leader to find both expertise and warmth in abundance,” Brown says. “Macy has the most infectious and joyous laugh of anyone you will ever meet; it draws people to her. You can watch her walk around any campus and see teachers, office staff, parents and even kids line up to give her a hug and to hear that laugh.” Satterwhite is proud of the work she has done for TASA, including being part of the Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network, being a member of the Texas Public Accountability Consortium and serving on a number of other committees designed to promote the group’s vision and mission. Through her TASA membership, Satterwhite has made connections with educational leaders across the state who share her passion and commitment to Texas public education. “Because of my connections through TASA, I can pick up the phone and call colleagues across the state to seek advice or get input,” Satterwhite says. “Educators really are the best people in the world, and they are always willing to share ideas and resources with one another.”
Robert Bayard In Clear Creek ISD, Robert Bayard sits in the chief technology cfficer’s seat. An innovator in the field of education, Bayard has worked to keep the district on top of new technology, increasing connectivity in the district, installing new phone systems and administering a 1:1 laptop program for CCISD students. He’s dedicated to his district, and he’s proud of its collaborative culture. “[In CCISD] every voice matters — from students, staff, parents, board members, and community partnerships — to make a positive difference in the lives of students each and every day,” Bayard says. “That vulnerability and willingness to listen, support and work together creates a magical culture where we all want to belong.” Bayard is enthusiastic about the work he does for the district, and his peers say his enthusiasm helps inspires others and nurtures strong relationships among staff. “Dr. Bayard helps his team to strive for success through mentoring and training sessions on various software applications to enable the team to perform their jobs more efficiently,” says Jennifer Pias, technology finance manager in the district. “He overcomes difficult situations by learning what works well and doesn’t work well and adjusts where needed.” Education technology is an ever-changing field, with a potential for challenges that require extensive troubleshooting, problem-solving and seemingly endless paperwork. Bayard says that he focuses on keeping a positive attitude when issues arise, making sure to laugh with and support his colleagues, something he says fuels his own drive to keep on keeping on. “I’m motivated by daily opportunities to reflect on, learn from, and improve upon every challenge and experience, whether positive or negative,” Bayard says. “When we do our best, and strive to do better, we can accomplish almost anything, and that brings me personal fulfillment.” His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in the district. “Dr. Bayard has a gift for handling critical situations, learning from adversity, and setting a positive path to move forward,” says CCISD Network Architect Reginald Johnson. “On a daily basis, his demeanor influences those around him to open their minds and consider new and alternative ways to interact and learn.” Since joining TASA, Bayard has helped create the Community-Based Accountability Report with the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium, working to design alternative accountability systems that are tailored to individual school districts’ needs. Those efforts are already starting to make a difference, as more Texas school districts implement these community-based assessments. “My favorite aspect of TASA is being part of a network of professionals who all want to improve public education for the 5.4 million students in the state of Texas,” Bayard says. “This network has blessed me with the opportunity to learn from, network with and become friends with some of the brightest educators in the state.”
Brad Schnautz Formerly the superintendent in Lexington ISD, Brad Schnautz now serves as deputy superintendent of the booming district that is Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. GCISD places special emphasis on recognizing its students’ voices, encouraging them to speak up and have a say in how their district operates. It’s just one aspect of how the district operates that makes Schnautz proud. “In GCISD, our personalized learning programs afford all students the opportunity to use their unique interests, talents and skill sets,” Schnautz says. “From our emphasis and progress in Student Voice, along with our community partnerships and stakeholder input, GCISD is able to create dynamic learning experiences for our students that prepare them for the futures that they choose.” While serious about his work, Schnautz isn’t one to take himself too seriously, according to his colleagues. Throughout the district, he brings a positive energy to his work, and has been known to visit classrooms and jump right in to any activity, from math lessons to soccer games. “Dr. Schnautz is out and about at schools and departments; he knows what’s going on first hand,” says Paula Barbaroux, chief operations officer in GCISD. “He also is well-researched and knowledgeable on many topics, and most importantly on anything dealing with learning and defining success for all students.” Schnautz credits his level-headed and open-hearted approach to his job to the many mentors he’s had during his career, and the educators who helped him grow into the person he is today. “Teachers, coaches and administrators invested in me throughout my K-12 years and believed in me continuously and unconditionally,” Schnautz says. “Those critical years helped mold me into the husband, the father and the leader I am today. I am energized and inspired to be the best I can be for all students each day in this journey.” Dr. Suzanne Newell, executive director of learning in GCISD, admires the way that Schnautz models humility and vulnerability to staff and students in the district. “He is not afraid to share the ups and downs of his journey, and he works to create an environment in which others feel safe doing the same,” she says. “He is able to laugh at himself, he uses his relational nature to soften hard situations, and his work ethic is above reproach.” It’s no surprise that Schnautz is heavily invested in TASA’s Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network (FRSLN), a group dedicated to exploring hands-on learning and bringing it to their campuses, fostering innovation and preparing students for the careers of tomorrow. For him, the work has provided a tremendous opportunity for growth and helped inspire him in his work as an administrator. “The FRSLN experience has had a powerful impact on my development as a leader,” he says. “I have been able to grow in my transformational leadership journey alongside other passionate, like-minded leaders from across Texas.”
David Belding For David Belding, involvement in TASA and his work as superintendent of Aubrey ISD go hand in hand. In May of 2017. The district’s board of trustees adopted a comprehensive strategic plan that embraces the TASA Visioning Document. Aubrey’s vision statement says: “Inspire PassionEmpower Excellence-Nurture Innovation: We are Aubrey ISD. Challenging ourselves to be World Class,” and Belding says everyone is on board, from staff members to parents and the community as a whole. “We are working together to support and provide every single child with engaging, rigorous educational experiences to achieve excellence,” Belding says. “Our entire community loves our children and are unified in the vision to become a world-class district while maintaining a personal connection.” That commitment to the community is evident in the work Belding does, and it’s helped to create a tight-knit family culture on the district’s campuses, something that’s felt by those who work in the district. “When it comes to a commitment to a community, Dr. Belding is miles above anyone I have seen,” says Shannon Saylor, assistant superintendent of HR and student services in Aubrey. “He has implemented many awards programs in Aubrey ISD to recognize staff, students and the community. He has taken time to go to local businesses and honor them with thanks for supporting Aubrey ISD. Through his leadership, he has inspired me to be my best self, to be a visionary thinker, and to consistently recognize and honor others.” Belding says it’s his personal mission to serve people. By working in education, he knows he’s helping create a long-term, positive impact on students, families, school staff and his community. He sees communities and schools as intertwined and believes schools should be a reflection of the communities they serve. It’s this philosophy that gives him the focus and drive to do his job in the best possible way, and he feels it’s an honor for him to be able to make a difference beyond school walls. “Our work won’t always show progress in a short time period, but we must remember that what we do is important for those we serve now and generations to come,” Belding says. “Ultimately, I know that I am part of something bigger than myself. I am part of a district that changes lives for the better and will have an impact well beyond my own life.” This commitment to the community and the children Aubrey ISD serves isn’t just lip service. When a student or a student’s family is in need, Belding makes a personal connection, reaching out to provide support and encouragement. He inspires other staff in the district as he leads by example, and others in the district recognize and appreciate his efforts and are quick to sing his praises. “Dr. Belding is the epitome of a leader,” says Jennifer Hazen, director of instructional media in the district. “I’m not sure how he manages to make it to so many of our students’ events. A glance at his Twitter feed (@frogman87) tells the story: his face in selfies surrounded by students from banquets to ballgames to book fairs … and that’s in one day! It really shows the value he puts on our students and the adults who organize and run these events.” Belding represents Region 11 on TASA’s Executive Committee, an experience he finds rewarding and educational. Working with other education leaders from across the state, he has participated in the Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network, the School Transformation Network, the First-Time Superintendents Academy, as well as many other conferences and events. “I have witnessed many different plans and heroic efforts from TASA to support education throughout the state,” Belding says. “TASA contributes to the excellence Texas has attained in education, and I am honored to be a part of this wonderful association.”
Get to know TASA’s member service representatives
One of the many TASA member benefits is access to member service representatives. These former school leaders serve as an extension of the TASA staff, dedicating their time to support individual TASA members in their respective regions.
start working, filling in for teachers in her children’s district. The work left her wanting more.
The roles of a TASA member service representative are many, from welcoming new administrators to supporting those who’ve been in their positions for an extended period of time and find themselves in need of a mentor.
She worked as a substitute two or three days a week to pay for her college tuition, spending the other days working toward her bachelor’s degree and teaching certification. Once she reached that goal, she moved her family to Sheldon ISD, outside of Houston, to work as an elementary school teacher.
Beginning with this issue of INSIGHT, you can learn all about TASA’s member service representatives, the work they do and how they came to serve. Find contact information for all five TASA member service representatives at https://tasanet.org/about/tasa-staff We begin our series with Stephanie Cravens Arterbury, TASA member service representative for Regions 3, 4, 5 and 6.
he path to the superintendency is pretty much the same for most folks. It starts with a calling, then an undergraduate degree and time spent in the classroom before moving into administration and heading back to school for advanced degrees. For Stephanie Cravens Arterbury, the path to the top kicked off in a different way.
Arterbury came from what she calls a “very dysfunctional family.” She bounced around between homes as a child, moving back and forth between family members and friends. As a result, she never got to stay in one school system for long. Arterbury attended seven different elementary schools in three different states. She didn’t begin 20
“Subbing just increased my thirst to become a teacher, and I wanted my own classroom,” Arterbury says.
Stephanie Cravens Arterbury Regions 3,4, 5 and 6 and end a school year in the same school until she was in ninth grade. With this kind of upheaval in her formative years, it might not be a big surprise that Arterbury married at just 16 years old, dropping out of traditional high school to attend night school, where she earned her diploma. Years later, after her own children were in elementary school, Arterbury returned to pursuing her own education, attending college during the day when she had a few spare hours. Wanting to volunteer at her kids’ school, she joined the parentteacher association, eventually becoming the group’s president. It was there that Arterbury found her calling. “It connected me to the power of what an educational system can be, the power of what schools can be, and the impact they can have on lives,” Arterbury says of her time on the PTA. From there, Arterbury got the itch to start working as a substitute teacher. She earned her associate degree so she could
After nine years in the classroom, Arterbury’s administrators encouraged her to help lead the school where she taught. She loved teaching and didn’t want to leave her classroom, but as the district grew, Sheldon ISD needed someone to serve as an assistant principal for one year. Thinking it was just a one-year commitment, Arterbury took the job, expecting to return to the classroom afterward. She wound up taking to the position like a duck to water. “That year generated a desire in me to be in administration, because I saw that I could impact even more than just one classroom,” she says. Arterbury returned to college to get her master’s degree so that she could make the move to administration a permanent one. At the time, she was not only making big strides in her own career, but initiating a sea of change in Sheldon and beyond. When a principal position opened in the district, Arterbury took it, becoming Sheldon’s first female principal. She held the position for five years and loved every
minute of it. Sheldon ISD had a high percentage of low-income and minority enrollment, and with her own unstable youth, Arterbury felt a kinship with the students. She not only understood where they were coming from, but she served as an inspiration to them — living proof that no matter where they came from, through education they could be anything that they wanted to be. While serving on a TEA monitoring team, Arterbury learned she was being transferred and would now be serving as the district’s director of elementary education. After that, she became deputy superintendent in Sheldon, serving for two and one-half years before the board asked her to take the superintendent’s seat. At first, Arterbury declined the offer, but the board knew they had a standout on their hands, and they finally convinced her to take the job. After going back to school for more post-graduate work, she again broke barriers, becoming the first female superintendent of Sheldon ISD, a position she held for a decade. “In all of Region 4 at that time, there were 54 school districts, and at my first superintendent meeting, I was the only woman in the room,” Arterbury says. “I tell people I think they thought I was there to serve the coffee. But I wasn’t.” When Dr. Shirley Neely, who later served as Texas commissioner of education, became superintendent in Galena Park ISD, she and Arterbury became fast friends. The only two women superintendents in Region 4, the pair worked to support female administrators and encourage more women to become leaders in the field. “The purpose was to encourage one another, to be there for one another and to try to help each other be successful as our numbers grew,” Arterbury says. “It’s not about men versus women, because we need both types of leaders. Men bring their experience to the role, but women have an experience base we can bring, too.”
Years later, this is still an area about which Arterbury feels passionate. And in her role as a member service representative for TASA, she is able to mentor and support up-and-coming superintendents throughout regions 3, 4, 5 and 6. Arterbury joined TASA when she became an administrator and quickly took advantage of available mentoring and learning opportunities, including the yearly Midwinter Conference. As an administrator, she brought all of her staff to the conference, encouraging them to attend different workshops and sessions during the day so they could reconvene in the evenings and share what they’d learned, making the most of the offerings. When Arterbury retired from Sheldon ISD, then-TASA Executive Director Johnny L. Veselka reached out to her, asking if she’d like to serve as a member service representative for the association. She jumped at the chance, eager to bring her passion for TASA and public education into her post-retirement life and allowing her to continue working for Texas’ schoolchildren. “Stephanie has always been considered an expert in her field,” says Region 5 ESC Executive Director Dr. Danny Lovett, who has known Arterbury for 20 years. “A lot of people have knowledge and experience, but what makes her special is her personality and the relationships she builds.” Sheldon ISD honored Arterbury in no small way when she retired after 30 years in the district. The school board named the Stephanie Cravens Early Childhood Academy after her, ensuring that her legacy will be remembered in the district for generations to come. Nearby San Jacinto Community College also paid tribute by naming the campus’ main street Cravens Drive. From her extraordinary climb to the top, Arterbury knows firsthand that the superintendent’s office can be a lonely place.
It can be wearing to serve as a district’s constant cheerleader, and being in the top position can make it difficult to bounce new ideas or tricky questions off your colleagues without raising alarm or creating upheaval. In her role as a member service representative, Arterbury strives to be a sounding board and a confidant for the administrators she serves. If a superintendent is considering adopting a new program, Arterbury is on hand to discuss the possibilities and help research what that change might mean for the district, before the administration might be ready to go public with the idea. “Stephanie’s advice is always very well thought out,” says Lovett. “There are a lot of people out there who tell you how they would do something, but Stephanie’s very adept in helping you come up with how you want to do something.” With an emphasis on communication, Artberbury takes her job supporting administrators seriously, encouraging them to call her day or night when they need to talk things out. “When you’re stressed, let me talk you down,” she says. “You can call me and vent, and nobody will ever know you did that.” “Stephanie is totally selfless,” Lovett says. “The first thing she always says is, ‘How can I help you?’ She is a wonderful role model, and I try to emulate her.” Through her tireless work with TASA, Arterbury’s core goal is to help at-risk young Texans. For her it’s personal, and she serves as a living example of the potential the education system has to help all of its students succeed. “Knowing where I came from, it doesn’t seem possible that I can be where I am today, and I owe that to Texas public education,” she says. “That’s why it’s my duty to give back to others, and I’m hoping in some way I’m helping other superintendents see that and believe that.” n
HIGHER EDUCATION Postsecondary outcomes for Hispanic male students in Texas: an analysis of 60x30TX key benchmarks By Victor B. Sáenz, Ph.D.
n 2015 the state of Texas adopted an ambitious new plan called 60x30TX, which called for 60% of the 25- to 34-year-old population to hold a postsecondary certificate or degree by 2030 (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board [THECB], 2016). The plan was adopted by the state to help meet future educational and workforce needs as well as to hold institutions accountable for meeting key completion goals. In pursuit of these goals, the THECB has published various reports and an annual higher education almanac that tracks benchmarks in educational attainment by various student characteristics. While the 60x30TX plan aims to maintain the educational and economic prosperity of the state, this initiative translates very differently across the many regions of the state and across different racial/ethnic groups. For example, in recent years Hispanic students in Texas have made notable enrollment and degree completion gains in postsecondary education (Sáenz, Ryu, & Burmicky, 2018). Indeed, the numbers required to meet each of the stated goals in 60x30TX are especially large for Hispanics, suggesting that attaining such goals depends significantly on how well we do by this population of students. To ensure completion improves throughout the plan years, Texas set statewide completion benchmarks of 138,000 Hispanic students by 2020; 198,000 by 2025; and 285,000 by 2030. However, large gaps exist among gender groups of Hispanics in both enrollment and graduation from Texas’ colleges and universities (Sáenz, Ryu, & Burmicky, 2018). In short, Hispanic males continue to lag behind their female peers on key educational benchmarks, a challenge that is not unique to Texas, but is especially urgent given the state’s changing demographic reality (Sáenz, Ponjuán, & Figueroa, 2016).
Purpose of the study Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), a research and mentoring initiative headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, recently led a study to disaggregate data by region, race and gender to provide a more nuanced understanding of the progress our state is making towards meeting the goals set forth in 60x30TX. Our study focused on answering the following research question: How are postsecondary enrollment and completion patterns different for Hispanic male students in various regions in Texas as compared to: (a) the statewide male average; and (b) their Latina female counterparts? To answer this question, we examined Hispanic male college enrollment and degree completion patterns with a specific focus on urban and border regions (e.g., Educational Service Center regions, or ESC regions). The state has made available various longitudinal data tools aimed at tracking annual benchmarks, including the ability to track cohorts of eighth grade students as they move through the educational pipeline. Thus, we were able to track Hispanic male students who started eighth grade in a Texas public school in 2006 over an 11-year
period to document their progress on key educational outcomes in 60x30TX. Our team identified two key findings through our analysis.
Findings Key finding 1 â€“ Hispanic males from border regions in Texas (e.g., Edinburg, El Paso) are enrolled in postsecondary education at higher numbers than males statewide. By contrast, Hispanic males from urban regions in Texas are enrolled at lower rates than their statewide counterparts. The border ESC regions of El Paso and Edinburg have high enrollment percentages for Hispanic male students at both two-year and four-year institutions. For the ESC regions of El Paso and Edinburg, Hispanic male enrollment rates at two-year colleges are 35% and 34% respectively, 3% and 4% higher than the statewide percentages for all males and Hispanic males at 32% and 30% respectively (see Figure A). A similar enrollment pattern is reflected at four-year institutions. The statewide male enrollment percentage for fouryear institutions is 18%. Both the El Paso and Edinburg ESC regions show 19% for Hispanic male student enrollment, one percentage point higher than the statewide percentage for male student enrollment. Further, the four-year college enrollment rates for Hispanic males in the border regions are significantly higher when compared to 12% for statewide Hispanic male enrollment. Hispanic males within urban ESC regions have lower percentages of enrollment at both two-year and fouryear institutions compared to Hispanic males at border ESC regions. When compared to 30% statewide Hispanic male average, three ESC regions of Fort Worth, Richardson and Austin (28%,
27%, and 24%, respectively) also show lower percentages of Hispanic male enrollment at two-year colleges while the percentages of San Antonio and Houston ESC regions are a little bit higher (32% and 31%, respectively). Even more concerning, urban ESC regions show alarmingly low percentages of Hispanic male enrollment at four-year institutions. Eighteen percent of all statewide males are enrolled in a four-year institution in Texas; however, only 7-9% of Hispanic males in the three urban regions of Richardson, Fort Worth and Houston are enrolled in those institutions. While Hispanic males within the two urban regions of San Antonio and Austin (12% and 13%, respectively) did better than other urban regions, they are still considerably lower than the statewide average for male students in four-year college enrollment.
(14% and 16%, respectively) continue to do better than urban ESC regions while they are still slightly lower than the statewide male average. There is a 1-3 point difference in postsecondary completion rates for Hispanic males in border ESC regions from statewide male average. In addition, the gap between statewide males and statewide Hispanic males in degree completion is even more remarkable: while 17% of male students earned a degree/certificate in Texas, the overall rate was only 12% for Hispanic male students. If we are to meet the stateâ€™s 60x30TX goals, these outcomes will have to improve across the state, and especially among urban regions in Texas.
Key finding 2 â€“ In degree completion rates, Hispanic males from border regions are higher than those from urban regions in Texas.
While border and urban regions have distinct characteristics and traits, together these regions serve a significant proportion of all Hispanic male students in the state. By understanding the needs of Hispanic males from border and urban regions, Texas can be better prepared to meet the goals of 60X30TX. Here are a few recommendations and conclusions that have emerged from our study on this important population of students:
Hispanic males from border ESC regions have higher degree completion rates than those from urban regions in Texas (see Figure B.). Similar to enrollment patterns that demonstrated urban and border ESC regional differences, the cohort data showed that Hispanic males in urban regions lag behind the state and border regions in degree/certificate completion. Degree/certificate completion rates for ESC urban regions of Richardson, Austin, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio are considerably lower than the 17% completion rates of statewide male students (Richardson & Austin: -8 percentage points, Fort Worth: -7 percentage points, Houston: -6 percentage points, and San Antonio: -5 percentage points). The differences in degree attainment percentage for Hispanic males in urban ESC regions are about two times lower than the statewide male average. The border ESC regions of El Paso and Edinburg
Recommendations and conclusions
Collect and make data available about Hispanic male students. Disaggregating data by race, gender and region can significantly strengthen our understanding of the educational patterns of Hispanic males across regions of the state. Disaggregating data refers to the breaking down of student data into smaller groupings such as gender, income and racial/ ethnic group. This exercise of drilling down data allows for further evaluation on how specific groups of students (e.g., Black and Hispanic males) are performing while revealing patterns that otherwise would have been overlooked.
Identify key issues facing Hispanic males by region and assisting institutions in capacity building work. Given the size and scope of the state of Texas, issues facing Hispanic males are different depending on the region. For example, the realities of Hispanic males in border regions and urban regions are vastly different. Therefore, an effective strategy to serve male students of color can be to provide data that supports institutions and practitioners to more effectively address challenges at the local and regional levels. We need to support men of color-focused programs and initiatives. Research shows that Hispanic male students can benefit from specific, targeted interventions that will yield positive academic results (Sáenz, Ponjuán, & Figueroa, 2016). The key to such interventions is to think holistically about partnerships across the K-12 and higher education sectors. One such statewide initiative is the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color, a P-16 statewide network that has built a learning community of institutions that collaborate and learn from each other about ways to enhance educational outcomes for male students of color. The educational challenges for male students of color are materially different in the K-12 sector as compared to postsecondary education, but there is no denying the good sense in considering cross-sector perspectives in diagnosing the structural challenges that migrate across the educational pipeline. We encourage institutions to forge such cross-sector partnerships or at the very least engage in cross-sector conversations about strategies to improve outcomes for male students of color within their local context. Finally, by disaggregating longitudinal data by race, gender and region in our analysis, we illustrate the nuanced differences for Hispanic male students across the state. Our recommendations are informed by these differences and are aimed at advancing the goals of 60x30TX. While these recommendations are not meant to be implemented without prior planning or strategic planning, they do encourage researchers, policymakers and practitioners at all levels to think proactively and holistically about the varying experiences of Hispanic male students across the state and at the local level. In sum, attaining the ambitious completion goals set by 60x30TX will depend greatly on how well we do in educating the current and future generations of Hispanic male students in Texas. n
Victor B. Sáenz, Ph.D is a professor and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the cofounder and executive director of Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), and his current research agenda seeks to advance research-informed best practices and policy solutions that improve educational outcomes for underserved students in higher education, with an emphasis on young men of color.
References Sáenz, V. B., Ponjuán, L., & Figueroa, J. L. (Eds.). (2016). Ensuring the success of Latino males in higher education: A national mperative. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC. Sáenz, V. B., Ryu, W., & Burmicky, J. M. (2018). Following Hispanic male eighth graders through college: A digest of longitudinal enrollment and graduation patterns in Texas. Project MALES Research Digest, Issue 1. Project MALES Research Institute: Austin, TX. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2016). Texas higher education strategic plan: 2015-2030. Austin, TX.
Acknowledgement The Project MALES research team is made up of many outstanding scholars, including Dr. Emmet Campos, Jorge Burmicky, Wonsun Ryu, Alicia Moreno and Dr. Nydia Sanchez. My thanks to all of them for their hard work and dedication to the mission of Project MALES.
Figure A. Enrolled in Texas two-year and four-year institutions, Hispanic male eighth graders by select ESC regions â€“ FY 2006 eighth grade cohort tracked through FY 2017
Figure B. Earned certificate/degree in Texas, Hispanic male eighth graders by select ESC region â€“ FY 2006 eight grade cohort tracked through FY 2017
TSPRA VOICE Five phases for collaborating in a crisis By Corey Ryan The stakes have never been higher for schools in how we intake, assess, respond to, close and review incidents and crises. The media can be a powerful tool in helping to spread the great things happening within your school district.
As leaders, we know the importance of balancing safety concerns with building trust in our communities. How do we maintain consistent processes and responses in the age of social media, text messaging and anonymous reporting tools? The needs and expectations of our families have evolved over my 10 years serving schools as a public relations professional. Facebook groups and Nextdoor chats have become our 24-hour news stations. In Leander ISD, a fast growth school district serving 40,100 students across 43 schools in the cities of Austin, Cedar Park and Leander, we developed a tight but flexible system using free and existing tools with which we collaborate, respond and evaluate our crisis communication. While we have multiple teams working through these steps and with these tools, I believe our system is replicable and scalable for all districts because it’s based on a few fundamental premises: •
mobility, everything works on your phone;
accuracy, only share verified information;
agility, configured for speed and flexibility; and
alignment, use the same terms and verbiage as our adopted safety response protocols (SRPs).
Our goal is to minimize the stress on a school by allowing principals to stay focused on managing campus operations during a crisis. As a result, we centralize a lot of these processes so we can best support principals. To go into further detail, I’ll break down our process into five phases: 1. crisis and incident intake; 2. assessment and collaboration; 3. speed and accurate response; 4. closing communications; and 5. review and measure for continuous improvement.
Crisis and incident intake Issues concerning a crisis funnel from principals, administrative assistants, school resource officers, governmental partners, public safety departments, students, parents, teachers, staff members and community members through the following tools: •
our front desk receptionist area;
in-person and meetings;
phone calls and text messages; and
For the 2019–20 school year, Leander ISD implemented a standard questionnaire for our response team members to use in assessing situations as a means for minimizing the back-and-forth with reporters, especially if it is coming from a principal.
Is there an ongoing threat? If so, what level of threat do we have (low/high/not credible)? Can we attribute this assessment to the law enforcement agency? Why or why not?
Are our students, teachers, staff or parents involved? Who? What campus?
What, if any, has the disruption to the school day been?
Has this or could this impact other schools?
Additional law enforcement activity and advisement ƧƧ
Is there any police activity as a result of this (e.g., police presence near a school, an ongoing investigation, an arrest or impending arrest)?
When will we get future updates from law enforcement and who is the point of contact?
What are we or law enforcement doing to be proactive in keeping students, teachers, staff and schools safe?
Does law enforcement want us to send a message out? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
Assessment and collaboration As soon as we intake a crisis or incident that may require outbound communication, we launch a group chat with our student services, area superintendent, principal, chief of staff and communications team. In 2018–19, we used GroupMe, a free tool for group chats. We set up our GroupMe so each campus had its own chat, so we can start collaborating without forgetting a key member of the response team and improve our response time. With everything using a different phone, a group messaging application that also sends SMS messages is critical for large, group chats (more than 10 people) without running into problems.
During the assessment, we use a questionnaire to evaluate the following items: •
Initial assessment ƧƧ ƧƧ
Is everyone safe? Are there any injuries? If so, who and how many? What is/was the issue? When did it start and stop? Where did it occur?
How and where are people talking about this issue (e.g., social media, phone calls, text messages, etc.)? Please share screenshots if available.
Relationships outside of our school district are critical to the collaboration, especially with our local law enforcement. Our team works closely with the public information officers (PIO) and media contacts for our partner law enforcement agencies so we clearly know: •
what the message is; and
when is it most appropriate to distribute the message; and FALL 2019
who is going to respond.
If there’s an incident involving police activity, my team works with law enforcement to request police records so we are ready for our media response. For example, asking for incident or arrest reports and/or a jail log is critical. Most media outlets monitor the jail log each morning, so knowing when a person is arrested is critical to get in front of media coverage (e.g., the evening or the next morning after an arrest to beat media coverage the morning after an arrest, in most instances). Also, it’s critical to ask a police department PIO if they plan to tweet or release information to the press or the public. For example, I worked a response of a staff member arrest and did not ask the law enforcement agency whether or not they were sending a press release about the arrest. I assumed they would not because it was a misdemeanor crime, but when they did, the news hit local newscasts before we informed our parents. During the collaboration process, we are evaluating the need to send outbound communication about an incident. In supporting students, we know minimizing the disruption to the learning environment is critical. We want to remain transparent and open with our parents, but keeping kids focused on their academic and social growth is the most important work we do. Before we send communication to families and staff during a crisis or incident, we consider: •
is there an imminent or valid threat;
is there a lockdown, lockout or concern of stranger danger (automatic messaging with template); or
was the instructional day or a school event significantly disrupted?
For a disruption, we consider:
heightened police presence on or near the school;
an impending media story;
frequent phone calls or emails;
a local, regional or national issue that results in high stress; or
an interruption to the planned school day or event, such as a change in the bell schedule, start time or drop-off/pick-up procedures. INSIGHT
The Leander ISD school and community relations team works a continuous improvement effort to collect post crisis data from principals, social media, surveys to families and regular meetings on processes and procedures with the district’s student support services team.
When we have an incident requiring outbound communication, we always send the details to our board of trustees using the free Remind application. In some instances, our superintendent and/or chief of staff call trustees directly to share details. Remind allows us to send a one-way text message to board members without starting a group discussion and violating the open meetings act.
Speedy and accurate response Before we send an outbound communication, we work with the response team to verify facts as best we can from multiple people. We use Google Docs to create messaging so principals and key response team members can review the final message before we hit send. Google Docs allows administrators to use the tool from their phone; tag and create notes for review; and adjust messaging without managing different document versions through back-andforth email. Google Drive allows us to have a library of templates ready to go for most incidents. We do a regular evaluation of those templates and utilize the Texas Association of School Public Relations (TSPRA) Document Vault and membership to share common messaging and new ideas. Templates allow us to have translations ready to go for our multilingual community. We are fortunate to have a biliterate staff member on our team who can add to the translated documents for Spanish versions. There are also services, like Alboum Translation Service, who provide access to translators for reasonable fees.
In developing a final message, we must be considerate of the critical privacy rights and legal obligations to our students and staff, as well as the communication constraints of open police investigations. After we send communication about an incident, we share the information to an alerts webpage on our website and refer recipients to that page for details during an ongoing incident. We aim to open an incident with a notification, update the alerts page throughout, and close an incident with a direct notification (email, phone call, and/or text message, depending on the situation). Taking full advantage of your district’s bulk communication system is critical to your success in distributing a message. For a variety of reasons, we want to narrowly target the audience for the message as best we can. In SchoolMessenger, we can create lists based on student identification numbers to send messaging to specific students assigned to a particular bus. We can contact students, staff and families by school and grade level. If we have an incident specific to one classroom, we work with our student records team to get a list of student ID numbers in that class to send to only those specific students. For 2019–20, we launched a guardian contact model for SchoolMessenger, which allows our families to customize how they receive messaging in specific situations (e.g., choose to have phone calls, text messages, and/or emails based on the communication type). Because of this upgrade, we will be sending more phone calls and text messages next year without worrying parents will opt-out of emergency messaging.
Closing an incident
generate a post-incident performance score and develop new ideas for improving our process. For the 2019–20 school year, we are including a response questionnaire on the bottom of our emails and alerts page to assess the messaging. We also use our social media and Let’s Talk data, as well as media reports, to determine effectiveness. Every other month, our student services and school communication relations teams meet to discuss the preceding incidents and evaluate our strategies. When we make recommendations to change our protocols, I take the recommendations to our superintendent’s cabinet for review and final approval before we implement changes in our practice. When I started working in school public relations, we did not have the amount of tools and access points for communication. We did not have social media groups and areas for our public to assess our response and performance. While schools are some of the safest places in our communities, the perceptions of school safety are shifting. It’s our job to be transparent and respectful of school climate as we continue to evolve, adjust and meet the needs of our families. n
Corey Ryan advocates tirelessly for public school students in Leander ISD, serving as the chief communications officer. He serves as the central area vice president of the Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA), where he has been a member for 10 years. He has served schools in Harlingen CISD, Round Rock ISD and Leander ISD during his career. He is an award-winning public relations professional, journalist and technology leader. Most importantly, he is a proud father and husband. Contact him on Twitter @CoreyLISD or online at https://bit.ly/CoreyLISD.
We never open an incident without closing it. If we directly push a message to parents, we always send a recap back to the same contact group. For example, if there’s a lockout at a campus, we will always send a message to parents about what caused the action on campus. We keep the updates and information on our alerts web page for 48 hours. This allows our administrative assistants, frontline staff and media partners the ability to access information during and after an incident, allowing us to focus on the messaging and the response team to support the campus.
Review for continuous improvement After an incident requiring communication occurs, I sit down with the principal to discuss our team’s response,
The Leander ISD school and community relations team utilizes a flexible and responsive process for supporting schools with crisis and incident communication. LISD centralizes its process for crisis response so principals and school staff can focus on managing school operations and safety.
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TASA Corporate Partners TASA thanks our 2019–20 corporate partners for their support. PRESIDENT’S CIRCLE Apple, Inc. DLR Group Dell ETS Edgenuity Forecast5 Analytics Google for Education Huckabee K12 Insight LPA, Inc. Leader in Me NaviGate Prepared NWEA PBK Raise Your Hand Texas Scholastic Stantec Thoughtexchange PLATINUM ClassLink College Board Dr. Ruby K. Payne dba aha! Process, Inc. Discovery Education Edmentum Education Advanced, Inc. Education Elements Houghton Mifflin Harcourt INDECO Sales, Inc. InClass Today itslearning, inc. Milliken Pearson Right at School TCG Advisors VLK Architects
GOLD Achieve3000 ETS ProEthica engage2learn Houston ISD - MFCS Naturally Slim Mutualink N2 Learning Panorama Education Renaissance Schneider Electric SILVER H-E-B Pearson Legal, PC Scientific Learning Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle P.C. BRONZE ABM Education AXA Advisors AlphaBEST Education, Inc. BTC BetterLesson Curriculum Associates Gaggle Gexa Energy Solutions HKS, Inc. Hewlett Packard Hilltop Securities, Inc. Istation iteachTexas Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, LLP Lone Star Furnishings, LLC MIND Research Institute MeTEOR Education Page Steelcase Education Vanir Construction Management WRA Architects as of 10/1/19
Learn more about TASA’s Corporate Partner Program https://tasanet.org/partnerships/corporate-partners/
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INSIGHT is the association's professional quarterly journal contains news, features, research findings, and articles on issues related to ed...