THE INDEPENDENT VOICE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IN TEXAS FOR 55 YEARS
Staying ﬁscally ﬁt CU NEW HT IRES SLA PROGRSH AMS
EASE INCRS SIZES S CLA E INAT ELIMAISES R
E RAIS ES TAX
SHUT D FACILI OWN TIES
School districts react to economy
Also in this issue: TASPA photo feature TCTA Friends of Education In the Spotlight Kevin Dyes, Bandera ISD
Meet the President TASBO’s Pattie Griffin, San Angelo ISD
TSB CONTENTS School districts explore how to stay fiscally fit in an ailing economy
Raven L. Hill
TASBO President Pattie Griffin embraces spirit of collaboration among public educators
Amy E. Lemen
Texas Classroom Teachers Association bestows Friends of Education awards
TASB/TASA salary survey tallies teacher pay across the state
In the Spotlight: Superintendent Kevin Dyes, Bandera ISD
PHOTO FEATURES TASPA hosts winter conference in Austin
TSB Professional Development & Events Calendar
From the Editor
The Law Dawg — unleashed
The Back Page
From our Readers
Katie Ford Jim Walsh
On this page: Pattie Griffin, TASBO president and director of human resources for San Angelo ISD, reviews the district’s compensation plan with Jeff Bright. 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. February 2009 • Texas School Business
From the Editor As I write this, we are one week away from the kickoff of the Texas Legislature’s 81st Regular Session. I know I am among many who are eager to find out what our legislators will decide when it comes to policies affecting public education in our state — particularly given the weakness and uncertainty of the state’s economy. There’s no doubt Texans are feeling the recession. With all state revenue sources taking a hit, it likely means that our school districts will have to continue doing more with less, but let’s see what our elected leaders decide. In this month’s cover story, Raven L. Hill talks to education experts and economists to find out how school districts in Texas and nationwide are reacting to the recession — from making budget cuts to reducing new hires. Speaking of school business, in this issue we also feature San Angelo ISD Human Resources Director Pattie Griffin. We talked to her about her role as the president of the Texas Association of School Business Officials. And “In the Spotlight” this month, we bring you a colorful tale on Bandera ISD Superintendent Kevin Dyes. Early in his career, this longtime cowboy found a way to combine his passions for education and for ranching. As he puts it: “I think there are parallels between being a rancher and being an educator. It’s all about watching things grow and develop and making a difference in that process.” We hope you enjoy the February issue. It was a lot of fun to put together. As always, I welcome your feedback, which you can send to email@example.com. You’ll note on page 22 that I’m also soliciting ideas for future “In the Spotlight” profiles. If you or someone you know has an interesting story to share, I’d love to hear from you. Happy reading! Katie Ford, editor
(ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) February 2009 Volume LV, Issue 5 1601 Rio Grande Street, #441 Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-478-2113 • Fax: 512-495-9955 www.texasschoolbusiness.com Publisher Ted Siff Editor in Chief Jim Walsh Editor Katie Ford Design Phaedra Strecher Columnists Riney Jordan, Jim Walsh, John Young Advertising Sales Manager Jim Johnson Business Manager Debbie Stover Director of Marketing and Customer Relations Stephen Markel ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620
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THE LAW DAWG – unleashed by Jim Walsh
Practicing lawful love
he state of Texas has done us all a great service by spelling out exactly what it means to “solicit a romantic relationship.” With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we wanted to remind our Faithful Readers to study up on this important skill. So, let’s take a look at 19 T.A.C. 249.14(m)(2). Are you surprised to hear that there are official administrative regulations that teach us what we are supposed to do with our S.O.s (significant others)? Well, perhaps that is because the regulations take such a negative view of the matter. They are all about educators who solicit a romantic relationship with students. Our state rightly takes a dim view of that sort of activity. But in the process of defining exactly what teachers should not do with a student, it also tells us what we should do with the Right Person. The regulations tell us that “solicitation of a romantic relationship means deliberate or repeated acts that can be reasonably interpreted as soliciting a relationship characterized by an ardent emotional attachment or pattern of exclusivity.” Now that is helpful. The Dawg has had the same OTL (One True Love) for more than 35 years now, but we can always use a little helpful advice in the romance department. Based on this official Texas administrative regulation, I have reworded my Valentine’s Day card to make sure that I get my message across in a lawful way. Thus, it reads as follows: Sweetheart: This card is deliberately intended to convey the message that I am soliciting a relationship with you that is characterized by an ardent emotional attachment. Furthermore, I seek exclusivity in this relationship. I intend to follow up (the regulation calls for “deliberate or repeated” actions) with a gift of some sort. The attached note will read: I am ardently attached to you, emotionally, and I seek your ardent and exclusive emotional attachment to me. But the definition is just the beginning. The regulations spell out in detail how one can tell that Party A seeks
a romantic relationship with Party B. It includes “statements of love, affection or attraction.” We are instructed to examine the nature, the timing and the extent of the communications. Signs that a romantic relationship is sought would include such things as “inappropriate hugging, kissing or excessive touching.” Thus, as Valentine’s Day approaches, you should be clear with your S.O.: “I would like to hug you inappropriately” or “I think it would be mutually advantageous to engage in some excessive touching.” These expressions of love, attraction and affection are state approved! If both of you are Texans, you are practically required to follow these guidelines. It’s in the Texas Administrative Code! We hope you will study these regulations twice. First, study them in your official capacity as a school administrator. These regulations are a serious effort to address a real problem. If you supervise educators, you should make sure that all of them are aware of this rule and how broadly it defines inappropriate behavior between teachers and students. If a teacher crosses the line, these regulations give you a tool to use in your documentation of the problem. Teachers need to understand that our rules do not just prohibit sex with students, they also prohibit all those small steps that are designed or likely to lead to that outcome. But then you should read the rule again, strictly in your personal capacity. Soliciting a romantic relationship is not always a bad thing. If our mothers and fathers had not solicited romantic relationships with each other, where would we be now? Study these regulations, and go for it. The Dawg wishes all of you an ardent emotional attachment with the Right Person. JIM WALSH is editor in chief of Texas School Business and the managing editor of Texas School Administrators’ Legal Digest. Also a school attorney, he co-founded the firm of Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Aldridge & Gallegos, P.C. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.walshanderson.com.
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YOUNG’S INBOX by John Young
The Wobegon education model
n Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon,” all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average. We don’t know what the average policy maker thinks of women’s strength in Texas or men’s looks. We do know that each child has been mandated to be at or above average, nothing less. If more, don’t expect the state to help. The “Lake Wobegon” education model, as I’ll call it, is a convenient template and very self-assuring. It’s also ridiculous. Consider that the state, though it gives weighted funding to gifted and talented students, sets a cap of five percent of its students to do so. That means a lot of school districts limit enrollment in G-T programs to only what the state will fund. A lot of gifted children are left to let their minds wander in the land of the average or the slightly above. Name your challenge — bilingual, ESL, special education; the state is very grudging in acknowledging that not all students learn at the same pace. And policy makers in Austin have little curiosity — and hence, little understanding — of the actual costs of meeting each child’s needs. OK, they just don’t want to know. That’s because in the case of funding, all is built around biennial no-new-taxes promises, rather than educating children. To penurious constraints in a state of plenty, add the straightjacket restraints that come under “accountability.” Consider the federal zoot suit that education professionals know as NCLB. It also could have been coined TNPJ — for Trust No Professional’s Judgment. For instance, because No Child Left Behind (NCLB) places onerous restraints on how many children can be classified special education for testing purposes, teachers find themselves pleading cases they never would have had to make before acronyms started raining all over the educational landscape.
A reasonably sculpted vehicle for assessing student skills in Texas was overridden by the big-wheel Humvee of NCLB. It doesn’t matter how many students actually have mental retardation, autism or severe learning disabilities; school districts are allowed only so many per capita under “accountability.” The rest are counted against that district’s definition of “above average.” What that means is that some children with serious learning problems end up under the gun to perform on state tests because the school’s good name rides on it. This is so that someone time zones away can say he mandated that “all third graders will read at grade level” — or else. But is that third grader really reading at a third grade level? Or is he still in first in every way but the physical way? Lest we spend too much attention on the bottom learners — one of the curses of the “accountability” age — let’s contemplate those children whose skills and interests far exceed their grade levels. They are the scientists and innovators to whom our policy makers have pinned our global competitiveness. Do policy makers match that rhetoric with funding or policies that truly encourage the brightest students to push the envelope? No. First, they only grudgingly fund programs for exceptional students. Second, they hold back the fastest learners by gearing instruction to criteria-based assessments that don’t challenge them. Life in the town of Lake Wobegon is self-assuring. And why not? All the children are above average. If not, the townspeople will elect someone to insist on it.
JOHN YOUNG is the opinion editor and a columnist for the Waco Tribune-Herald. He also is the author of “Ghosts of Liberals Past.” He can be reached at jyoung@ wacotrib.com. February 2009 • Texas School Business
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TASA Legislative Conference .BSDIo t)ZBUU3FHFODZ"VTUJOt"VTUJO 59
How can YOU make a diﬀerence during the 81st Session of the Texas Legislature? Get involved and stay informed!! oin us for TASA’s 2009 Legislative Conference where you’ll hear the latest on what’s happening at the State Capitol—from official actions in the House and Senate to the equally intriguing conversations behind the scenes! Everyone knows the hot topics of today may be cold news tomorrow, so we keep this conference agenda fluid…you’ll hear only the latest from a group of informed experts and entertaining pundits on the inside track of legislative activities. This conference will arm you with the information and resources you need to talk to, and work with, your own legislators to help make public education a winner in the 81st Legislative Session.
Full details and registration information are available online at www.tasanet.org! 10
Texas School Business • February 2009
TASBO PRESIDENT PROFILE San Angelo ISD’s Pattie Griffin embraces collaborative spirit of peers in education By Amy E. Lemen Pattie Griffin’s path to a career in education started with a passion for helping children. The recently installed president of the Texas Association of School Business Officials graduated from San Angelo State University with a degree in sociology and a goal to “save all the abused children in the world.” “I’d done an internship at the Concho Valley Home for Girls while I was in school,” she says. “I thought if I could do anything to prevent abuse or at least help (children) if they were abused, then that was what I wanted to do.” But then, as she says, “reality hit.” During the internship, she saw too much at a young age about what some parents are capable of doing to their children, and she knew that making a career in that field wasn’t for her. But her drive to help children remained. “I got on a substitute teacher list and thought I’d sub until I found a job,” Griffin recalls. “An elementary school principal in San Angelo called and said she needed a cafeteria aide. I figured I’d do it temporarily, but five years later I was still at the school.” Griffin says the job put her “in the trenches of public education.” It was a challenge she relished every day, because she loved the people she worked with and the children she and her coworkers were there to serve. “I knew my place was in public education,” she says. “It’s a very sharing environment, whether you’re in a large or small district and no matter what position you’re in, and whether you’re sharing challenges or accomplishments.” In education, Griffin had found her calling. After working her way up in various administrative positions at Bowie Elementary in San Angelo ISD, Griffin spent eight years as an executive assistant to the district’s superintendent of business. She says this role paved the way
Pattie Griffin, TASBO president and director of human resources for San Angelo ISD, reviews the district’s compensation plan with Jeff Bright, assistant superintendent of business and support services.
to her understanding of a school district’s inner workings. “I didn’t think I was suited for the job, but they kept calling,” she says. “I learned a lot about school business because our department oversaw everything related to operations — transportation, maintenance, food service, accounting, everything.” Her newfound institutional knowledge earned her a promotion in 1998 as coordinator of benefits for San Angelo ISD. In that capacity, Griffin learned the ins and outs of health insurance, workers’ compensation and more. She was promoted to director of employee benefits in 2000. Today, Griffin is San Angelo ISD’s director of human resources — a position she has held since 2002. “It’s given me more time to focus on the needs of our employees and the services we provide, including hiring and re-
taining staff so that the kids benefit,” she says. “It’s a good mix to learn about the kids and the teachers, what they need in the classroom and how we can help.” Griffin credits her career success to having mentors along the way. She says her mentors’ involvement in TASBO spurred her interest in the organization. “(My mentors) introduced me to the organization, and I’ve been a member now for 13 years,” she says. “I really believe one of the reasons I am where I am today is because of the organization and its members.” Griffin praises TASBO’s training programs and the networking opportunities the organization provides its membership. She says there’s great value in sharing workplace challenges and solutions with peers in your field. See PRESIDENT PROFILE on page 13 February 2009 • Texas School Business
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PRESIDENT PROFILE continued from page 11
“We share what works, what doesn’t,” she says. “That (level of sharing) is not as common in private business. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I’m not alone — that there’s a group that’s willing to share and talk, listen and advise.” She also has the support of her husband, Griff. Married 18 months, Griffin is a newlywed — and a giddy, grateful one at that. “We were both married before, and with him came a beautiful, intelligent, witty, 17-year-old daughter,” she says. “I hadn’t had children, so to get Sarah was a neat package deal. I have just been blessed with this child.” Griffin, Griff and Sarah teach Sunday school classes together, sing in a church choir together and love the outdoors — whether it’s a day at the beach, at the pool or camping. They’re embarking on a Caribbean cruise in June to celebrate Sarah’s high school graduation. Griffin and her husband also enjoy the camaraderie of their mutual friends. She and Griff have a five-year game of partner spades going with another couple, who are their best friends. The foursome have played about 20,000 games together. “Our score sheets are an ongoing journal of our experiences together,” Griffin laughs. “It’s a fun journal of our friendship.” Leading TASBO into 2009 As incoming TASBO president, Griffin wants to continue the organization’s mission to be the “trusted resource for public school operations.” And that includes providing services to members in increasingly challenging times for school districts. “The laws and regulations are challenging financially because they’re not funded by those who mandated them,” she says. “We’re also asked to do more with less every year in every district. I want to know what members needs are and help them meet those challenges, whether it’s through training and education, giving them facts to make decisions or how best to prepare them for what’s ahead.” For Griffin, it all comes back to the kids. It’s the kids who are the primary beneficiaries of what she does as an administrator. “What does it take to give students the best education possible, and how can we
best support teachers?” she asks. “I was raised in a family where my parents taught me that I could be whatever I wanted — no goal too big, no challenge too great.” With those high aspirations instilled in her, Griffin has taken on the very noble cause of trying to make a difference in the lives of Texas schoolchildren. “That is my personality: a servant’s heart,” she says.
‘I really believe one of the reasons I am where I am today is because of the [TASBO] organization and its members.’ Pattie Griffin TASBO President San Angelo ISD
AMY E. LEMEN is a freelance writer in Austin, who also contributes to Austin American-Statesman and Texas Monthly.
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