TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS PROFESSIONAL JOURNAL
Celebrating the 2024
winners & finalists
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS TITANIUM
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Volume 38 No.3
FEATURE ARTICLES & COLUMNS
TASA launches initiative to help districts 12 advocate for what their students, staff need Celebrating the 2024 Texas Teacher 16 of the Year winners and finalists GET TO KNOW TASA’S EXECUTIVE SUPERINTENDENTS
MEET TASA’S INSPIRING LEADERS
HIGHER EDUCATION Practices to enhance school leaders’ ability to engage in instructional coaching by Yanira Oliveras, Ph.D.
TECH TAKE A guide to understanding and implementing the National Data Privacy Agreement Dr. Karla Burkholder, Chair, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD; Chris Langford, Co-Chair, Lewisville ISD; Donna Eurek, Prosper ISD; Brandon Manrow, Corpus Christi ISD; Sandra Olison, Royal ISD; and Dr. Kari Murphy, Deer Park ISD
LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE Leading a school turnaround: strategies from Marlin ISD by Dr. Darryl Henson Jr.
LaTonya Goffney, President, Aldine ISD Martha Salazar-Zamora, President-Elect, Tomball ISD Chris Moran, Vice President, Whitehouse ISD
Gonzalo Salazar, Past President, Los Fresnos CISD
TASA Professional Learning Calendar
Executive Director’s View
Rene Gutierrez, Region 1, Brownsville ISD Sharon McKinney, Region 2, Port Aransas ISD Robert O’Connor, Region 3, Edna ISD Walter Jackson, Region 4, La Porte ISD Stacey Brister, Region 5, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD Darol Hail, Region 6, New Waverly ISD Carnelius Gilder, Region 7, West Sabine ISD
INSIGHT EDITORIAL STAFF
Jason McCullough, Region 8, Mount Vernon ISD Kevin Brown
Sonny Cruse, Region 9, Graham ISD
Deputy Executive Director, Member Engagement & Support
John “JJ” Villarreal, Region 10, Rockwall ISD
Director, Communications & Marketing
Coordinator, Graphics & Multimedia Editorial Director
Jeremy Thompson, Region 11, Ponder ISD
Marco A. De La Cueva Dacia Rivers
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. © 2023 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.
Bobby Ott, Region 12, Temple ISD Steven Snell, Region 13, Liberty Hill ISD David Young, Region 14, Abilene ISD Aaron Hood, Region 15, Robert Lee ISD Sheri Blankenship, Region 16, Hereford ISD Scott Harrell, Region 17, Sudan ISD Samuel Wyatt, Region 18, Rankin ISD Jeannie Meza-Chavez, Region 19, San Elizario ISD Burnie Roper, Region 20, Lackland ISD
About TASA TASA’s mission is to promote, provide and develop leaders who create and sustain studentcentered schools and develop future-ready students. We envision innovative, future-focused leaders for every public school student. TASA values the strengths, contributions, and varying perspectives of all educational leaders. Our goal is to intentionally equip and support school districts and leaders as they foster a culture in which all students and adults are valued for their unique gifts, supported academically, socially, and emotionally, and empowered to reach their full potential.
Sanée Bell, Katy ISD Roland Hernandez, Corpus Christi ISD Paula Patterson, Crosby ISD Diana Sayavedra, El Paso ISD
Donny Lee, Member Engagement Michelle McCord, Legislative Roosevelt Nivens, Advocacy Macy Satterwhite, Professional Learning
EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Martha Salazar-Zamora, Tomball ISD, Chair Keith Bryant, Lubbock-Cooper ISD Roosevelt Nivens, Lamar CISD Celina Estrada Thomas, Hutto ISD Macy Satterwhite, Lubbock-Cooper ISD Stacey Edmonson, Sam Houston State University
TASA Professional Learning Calendar For details on our professional development events, please refer to the TASA Daily e-newsletter, or call the TASA office at 512.477.6361 or 800.725.TASA (8272)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 2 (Dallas-area and North Houston Cohorts)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 2 (East Texas and South Houston Cohorts)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 2 (Virtual Cohort)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 2 (Austin-area Cohort)
TASA First-Time Superintendents Academy, Session 3
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 2 (Corpus Christi-area Cohort)
TASA School Transformation Network Event 2
TASA/TASB/TASBO Budget Cohort for Texas District Leaders Event
CMSi Curriculum Writing Workshop
TASA Live Virtual Event: The Countdown to Retirement
N2 Learning Principals’ Institute, Session 3
N2 Learning Executive Leadership Institute, Session 2
TASA Small Schools Network In-Person Event #1
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 3 (San Antonio-area and Wichita Falls-area Cohorts)
San Antonio, Wichita Falls
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 3 (North Houston Cohort)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 3 (Dallas-area & South Houston Cohorts)
N2 Learning APL, Session 3 (Corpus Christi-area Cohort)
TASA/TASB/TASBO Budget Cohort for Texas District Leaders Event
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 3 (Austin-area Cohort)
TASA Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network (FRSLN) Event 2
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 3 (East Texas Cohort)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 3 (Virtual Cohort)
TASA School Transformation Network Event 3
TASA Professional Learning Calendar Date
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 4 (Corpus Christi-area Cohort)
TASA Breakaway Leadership Session 1
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 4 (Austin-area Cohort)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 4 (San Antonio-area and Wichita Falls-area Cohorts)
San Antonio, Wichita Falls
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 4 (Dallas-area and North Houston Cohorts)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 4 (East Texas and South Houston Cohorts)
TASA School Finance Template (formerly Budget) Boot Camp (in conjunction with the TASA Midwinter Conference)
TASA Superintendent Mentoring Training
TASA Aspiring Superintendents Academy (in conjunction with the TASA Midwinter Conference)
TASA Midwinter Conference
TASA/TASB/TASBO Budget Cohort for Texas District Leaders
TASA Small Schools Network Meetup at Midwinter Conference
N2 Learning Principals’ Institute, Session 4
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 4 (Virtual Cohort)
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 5 (Corpus Christi-area Cohort)
TASA Breakaway Leadership Session 2
N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 5 (Austin-area Cohort)
NEW YEAR, ALIGNED VISION
s a leader in education, every day looks different. Priorities seem to shift depending on the time of the day or the news cycle. We’re constantly thinking about how to keep our schools safe; how to understand test scores against a new accountability system; how to recruit and retain the best educators and staff; and how to keep our teams motivated and excited to continue doing the work that needs to be accomplished.
PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE At times, the only consistency is the promise of inconsistency.
At times, the only consistency is the promise of inconsistency. This is the job. The only constant is in the vision we have for more than 5 million of the students we support in the great state of Texas. Regardless of any circumstance, every decision, action, and response is made with their best interests and futures in mind. This especially hits home for me when I visit campuses on the first day of school and see students of all ages and different phases of their journey. But before the school year even officially begins, we use that time to remind ourselves, and each other, of our responsibilities. We realign with our strategic plans and priorities. We ground ourselves in our mission and vision. And if we’ve done our job well, we’ll have communicated that vision to every district team member. As your proud president, I leaned into TASA’s mission in my year’s visioning process: a mission to promote, provide and develop leaders who create and sustain student-centered schools and develop future-ready students. I focused specifically on the development of our leaders, because without exceptional leaders, student-centered schools and future-ready students are not realistic outcomes. During our summer workshops, several speakers shared powerful stories that allowed for self-reflection and motivated us to keep doing the work, no matter what gets in the way. They really put things in perspective. We’re all going through something; all trying to find a solution, find balance, or find an answer. In the coming months, as schedules get busier and work becomes more challenging, I encourage you to reconnect with our shared vision and set clear goals for yourself by considering these questions: 1. How does my day-to-day role contribute to the overall vision of TASA? 2. How can I elevate the standards for myself, knowing that a better me leads to better student outcomes? 3. How can I, as a leader, share my knowledge with educators with less experience? It is through this intentional and collaborative approach that we move forward in the same direction each year. In Aldine, we start each school year with a new hashtag that helps us stay connected and encompasses how we want to approach the year. This year, it’s #MyAldine, which represents
not only our district’s stories and collaborations, but our sense of belonging and ownership. It represents the many voices and colors and sounds of our school community. #MyAldine is used in meetings, in social media, on our website … you name it. It’s a rallying theme for us. It has worked. I’ve overheard staff reminding students that they are part of Aldine. So whether it’s a set of goals, hashtag, a theme song, or even a quote … find something to rally around that refills your tank when you’re running on fumes and reminds you that every day is a new opportunity to try again, and you are someone’s greatest hope.
LaTonya Goffney TASA President Superintendent, Aldine ISD
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WE CAN'T LET LAWMAKERS ABANDON THEIR OWN JUDGMENT
ou know, there's something ... immoral about abandoning your own judgment ... We just can't let this get out of hand. And we're gonna do whatever we have to do to make this come out right." —John F. Kennedy in the movie "JFK"
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S VIEW The future of our state’s economy and democracy depends on the success of our public schools, so the future of our state truly hangs in the balance during this special session on vouchers.
In every state that uses taxpayer money to subsidize private school education for a select group of children, there has been a significant, sometimes devastating, impact on public schools. The future of our state’s economy and democracy depends on the success of our public schools, so the future of our state truly hangs in the balance during this special session on vouchers. Texas simply can’t afford to fund three different types of school systems (traditional public, charters and private) with three different sets of rules. The thing is, most legislators in both parties agree. Some of them have taken courageous votes against vouchers in spite of enormous pressures. Others, who privately share their grave concerns about vouchers, have voted in favor of them in spite of their misgivings. They have abandoned their own judgment. Public schools are starving for funding right now. Our students, teachers and schools need financial support, especially since we are coming out of a pandemic and facing a federal funding cliff. Yet a promise of short-term funding in exchange for a voucher program that will siphon more and more funds away from public schools will only make it worse. It is cynical politics at its worst when critical school funding for more than 5.4 million students is held hostage to achieve a pet project for a few. I fear for the future of our state. During this third called special session of the year, one in which private school vouchers is the only educational issue called (at least at the time of this writing), state educational leaders and supporters should reach out and say thanks to those legislators who have not abandoned their own judgment. They support children. They support teachers. And they need our encouragement so they can continue to stand strong and vote according to the will of their local communities. To those who would permanently harm our public schools, it is time to say "no." We must let them all know how we feel by calling, writing or visiting in person. In the movie "JFK," Kennedy says the words printed above when he was under enormous pressure. He was playing a game of chicken with the Russians over the Bay of Pigs, and in the end, he did not flinch. He followed his own judgment, knowing that history would judge him and him only — not his advisors and not his adversaries. Let’s pray that our leaders will make the right moral decision and protect our public schools, which are critical to the future of our children, communities, state and nation ... if for no other reason than they should want to be on the right side of history.
Kevin Brown TASA Executive Director
TASA launches initiative to help districts advocate for what their students, staff need Earlier this year, former Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods became TASA’s first deputy executive director of advocacy. INSIGHT sat down with Woods for a Q&A to discuss his new role, the goal of his efforts, and the work he now does for districts in support of TASA’s Strategic Framework.
Why did TASA create this position? What goals was your new role created to work toward? Advocacy is very much in our strategic plan and has been now for a while. We see advocacy two ways. One is around specific policy, and that's really the work of Amy Beneski and Casey McCreary and the governmental relations (GR) team. The other piece is grassroots advocacy. That's work in local communities to try to improve how we're advocating for public schools. So, there's a two-pronged part of the way we see advocacy, and mine is the grassroots piece.
How does your work relate to the TASA Strategic Framework? The TASA Strategic Framework (see https://tasanet. org/about/tasa-strategic-framework/) includes three main strategic areas. One is member engagement, and another is professional learning. The third of those is advocacy, but again, we break advocacy into two parts. One is the “capital P” policy advocacy in Austin, in the Capitol, and the other is grassroots advocacy, which is really improving the way that school people engage and helping their communities be successful in their advocacy efforts.
Community + Policy
Engagement + Support
Can you define “grassroots” advocacy? What does that entail? Grassroots advocacy is working with school people, meaning superintendents, their staff, trustees, board members, and local community folks who are interested in their schools — whoever that is, parents, students, business leaders — to better advocate on behalf of their schools. That work happens in the field. I've been to seven or eight areas of the state in the last month, meeting with people and trying to get this work going. There are pockets where folks are passionate about this work, but then we have a lot of room to grow as well. So, my work is in the field with school people, asking them to tell us what they want to advocate for, because that’s not TASA's role. It isn’t our role to dictate a school or a region's priorities. Our role is to say, “Tell us what your schools need, let’s get some agreement locally, and then we will help you advocate for that need.” There are similarities as you go around the state, but there are also unique needs. They’re unique to certain parts of the state or certain districts depending upon their financial circumstances. So, there are local needs that can be better advocated for.
In what ways might your work overlap with TASA’s GR department? As a superintendent, I spent time in Austin and worked with legislators in the Capitol. Nobody is saying, “Well, in your new role you're not going to do that anymore,” because once you have that experience, it's a shame to waste it. So, I will be doing that kind of work in the Capitol when needed, talking to legislators when we’re at a critical point on an issue that we really care about. That part of the work will continue, but now I’ll focus more of my time on talking with those folks when they are not in Austin, which is most of the time. I’ll mostly spend time in the field, talking with folks about how they can improve advocacy efforts locally.
What does your work look like right now, on a day-to-day basis? I’m talking with superintendents in the different regions, and saying, “Let’s talk about what it is that y’all want to try to advocate for.” Then I try to create an individualized plan to help with that. For instance, there’s a region in the state where the superintendents
getting better policy for students and the adults who work with them. That’s absolutely what this is about. I think there is a misconception in some places that folks don’t have time for advocacy, or that it is just an extra role that has to fall on the superintendent. One of the points I’m really trying to get across to people is that this isn’t just the superintendent’s work. It can't be. There are 1,100 superintendents in Texas. If those 1,100 are the only people advocating for our schools, we’re in trouble. We’ve got to broaden this to include other people who care about our public schools, including board members, parents, business leaders, educators, etc. So, that’s one of my jobs: to assure superintendents that a little investment in this space will really improve their overall advocacy efforts, because it will mean it’s not solely on their plates.
really want to work together more as a region rather than as individual districts with regard to advocacy. They have crafted a set of regional priorities that they shared with their legislators ahead of this fall’s special session. There are also districts working to improve the way they advocate for their own priorities. They already have an advocacy committee set up with local leaders, and they want to talk about improving those efforts and expanding to more people in their areas. The work I’m doing is and will be very much individualized to the needs of districts. Initially, what that looks like is a lot of presentations at superintendent meetings regionally and in school districts about what advocacy is, and how to be comfortable with it and not be afraid of it or concerned about it. I think folks assume that if it’s “advocacy,” it must be political, and that’s not the case. It can be done in ways that aren’t partisan or political. Once folks get past that, we can say, “All right, how do we advocate for what your students and the adults who work with them all day long really need?”
What is this grassroots initiative NOT? I think one thing to be really clear about is that this is not about TASA setting folks’ local priorities. That’s not our role. This is also not about partisan politics. That’s not what we do at TASA in any aspect of our work. We feel we can advocate for schools in a way that’s not partisan, and we work well with members of both parties. The other thing that I would point out is that this is purely about
If a district leader wants assistance with grassroots advocacy, what can they expect from TASA? I’ve had district leaders ask for support in working with their local advocacy committees on setting priorities. In other words, what are the things we want to advocate for? I'm doing quite a bit of work in districts on that. Once the district has those priorities, the next step is, "What do we do with them?" And that means getting them comfortable talking and meeting with their legislators. Again, the folks who are meeting with those legislators should not just be the superintendent, but also parents and community members, business leaders and students — all of whom care about the priorities and the success of their schools. It sends a powerful message to lawmakers when it’s not just the superintendent but that it’s all these other people who really care about this school system.
You may contact Brian Woods at email@example.com or 210.844.2671 to find out how he can assist your district with its advocacy efforts or to learn more about grassroots advocacy.
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Celebrating the 2024 Texas Teacher of the Year winners & finalists On October 20, TASA named Taniece Thompson-Smith, a fifth-grade science teacher at Abilene ISD’s Stafford Elementary, the 2024 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. Naveen Cunha, an eighth-grade robotics teacher at Stephen F. Austin Middle School in Bryan ISD, was named the 2024 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year. Thompson-Smith was chosen to represent the state as Texas Teacher of the Year in the National Teacher of the Year competition, making her official title Texas Teacher of the Year.
2024 Texas Teacher of the Year Taniece Thompson-Smith Taniece Thompson-Smith is a fifth-grade science teacher at Abilene ISD's Stafford Elementary, where she has taught the past two years of her 14-year career in education. Due to her travels as an 18-year military spouse, Thompson-Smith has taught in more than seven school districts across the U.S., Jamaica, and Japan. She consistently collaborates with community members and experts in the science field to design science-based experiential learning opportunities. Thompson-Smith says she believes “each encounter with children must be transformational and awake a sense of curiosity or thirst for knowledge that only education can quench.” She leads district-level professional development workshops, which includes analyzing testing data and integrating science with reading language arts. In addition to being named the Region 14 Elementary Teacher of the Year for 2023, Thompson-Smith was the Abilene ISD Teacher of the Year and her campus teacher of the year in 2022. In April 2023, she partnered with Future College Curls as a mentor speaker for 75 middle school and high school girls, and in May 2023, she presented at the Clay Minerals Society International Organization’s Annual Meeting. Thompson-Smith holds a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College in New York and graduate-level teacher certification from Rider University in New Jersey as well as a master’s degree from California State University in Fresno.
2024 Secondary Teacher of the Year Naveen Cunha Naveen Cunha has taught eighth-grade Robotics 1 at Stephen F. Austin Middle School in Bryan ISD for the past six years of his 30-plus year career in education. As the coordinator of the district’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) academy, he helps students identify and utilize all disciplines in their learning while being supported by some of the latest technological advancements. “I became a teacher because of my desire to be a life-learner and to share that passion with others,” Cunha says. “Advocating for our program and students have been a mindset since the beginning which has reaped rewards in many ways.” In 2002, he received the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST). This was followed by his selection as a NASA Educator Astronaut finalist and receiving an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship. These experiences, along with his recent International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) Teacher Excellence Award, he says, have exposed him to federal agencies and programs that allow him to share new resources with his students. Cunha holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s from Texas A&M University.
Teacher of the Year Finalists Isela Russell Isela Russell, Ph.D., is a third-grade Spanish immersion program teacher at Wellington Elementary in Flower Mound (Lewisville ISD), where she has taught for the past four years of her 20-year education career. Prior to that, she was an instructional specialist/data coach and math teacher, because math has a special place in her life. When her family moved from Mexico to the U.S., she was forced to repeat third grade because of the language barrier, but through math, she was able to demonstrate her knowledge and shine. “Now as an educator, it is through math that I can show my own students that language is not a barrier, and regardless of their backgrounds, my students can, and will, excel,” she says. Russell says she is a strong believer in César Chávez’s phrase, “Sí se puede,” (Yes, you can!). “I have worked tirelessly to never have an ‘Isela González’ sitting in my class feeling lost or ‘less than,’ Russell says. “My mission of believing in my students, building relationships, and cheering them on, has created a learning environment where we don’t give up.” In 2023, Russell was not only honored as the Region 11 Elementary Teacher of the Year but also as the Lewisville ISD Teacher of the Year, and as the recipient of the Texas Lifetime Honorary PTA Award. In 2022 she was named a “Best in Denton County” Elementary Teacher. And in 2010, she was named Irving ISD Teacher of the Year. Russell holds two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a doctorate from The University of Texas at Arlington.
Genesis Yougas Genesis Yougas teaches pre-K Head Start at McKinney ISD's Lawson Early Childhood School, where she has taught for the past three years of her 10-year education career. In 2021, she wrote and secured a grant through the McKinney Education Foundation for inclusive play equipment. “As a teacher of a student with spina bifida, I saw a problem with accessible play equipment for children with disabilities,” Yougas says. “Through this grant, I was able to secure inclusive play equipment for my campus that is available to all kids, including those who use walkers or have other health impairments.” Yougas says she wants all students to have an accessible learning environment where learning is individualized and adapted to meet the needs of all students. “It’s the little things,” she says. “The small moments of pure joy bring teachable moments that allow students to feel safe, loved and connected. These same moments also build brain strength by releasing endorphins to help students feel positive and confident.” Yougas holds a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University-Commerce and a master's degree from the University of North Texas. She has plans to pursue a doctorate.
Schrundagale Griffith Schrundagale Griffith teaches sixth-grade math at Foster Middle School in Longview ISD, a position she has held for the past two years. She has taught in Texas public schools since 2009. Griffith says she prides herself on helping her students discover the joy of learning through exploration and discovery, trial and error, and productive struggle. “Students can learn from what they do right, and what they have done wrong. Creating a safe place for students to learn is and will always be my goal,” she says. In 2021, Griffith was honored with Ellen Degeneres’ Kleenex Nominate your Incredible Teacher Contest Award, and she received Peltier's Outstanding Teacher Award. She says that her most prized awards, however, have come from her students. Students have featured her in a Forever Friends Exceptional Influencer Poster Campaign, and she was also selected to receive the school's “You Rock” Award for outstanding character, leadership abilities, community service, and for empowering students to develop and implement initiatives that benefited the school and community. Griffith holds an associate degree from Kilgore College, a bachelor’s from LeTourneau University, and a master’s from Texas A&M University.
Cynthia Hopkins Cynthia Hopkins, Ph.D., has taught science at Harold C. Kaffie Middle School in Corpus Christi ISD since 2007. She sponsors the school’s robotics, coding, drone, engineering, science fair, and STEM honor clubs. Hopkins also chairs her district advisory team, serves as a mentor teacher for new teachers, and has hosted nine clinical teachers. “Students are not a blank slate for me to fill with science and robotics knowledge,” she says. “They investigated the world around them for 12 years before stepping into my classroom. I want to honor that knowledge while providing opportunities for students to attach new experiences to their prior knowledge.” Hopkins, who serves as an instructor for the Region 2 Educational Service Center and as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC), is a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescence Science. She is the only teacher from Region 2 on the state’s Teacher Vacancy Task Force. Hopkins holds a bachelor’s degree from American University and three master’s degrees (curriculum and instruction, special education and educational administration) and a doctorate from TAMUCC.
2024 Regional Elementary Teachers of the Year
2024 Regional Secondary Teachers of the Year
88th Legislative Session
Final Bill Report 2023
Download the ﬁnal report at https://bit.ly/23-bill-report
Get to know TASA’s
executive superintendents TASA’s executive superintendents serve as an extension of TASA staff and are on hand to support TASA members in a variety of ways, with an emphasis on helping new superintendents navigate the role. As seasoned administrators, these superintendents are able to listen and provide support based on their own experiences. In this issue of INSIGHT, we introduce Doug Williams, who became the newest TASA executive superintendent this fall. He serves TASA members in Region 10. For a complete list of TASA’s executive superintendents and their contact information, visit https://bit.ly/exec-supes.
o his new role as executive superintendent, Doug Williams brings more than 30 years of public education experience. He began his career as a teacher and coach, and most recently spent 15 years as superintendent in Sunnyvale ISD.
Williams spent the first 12 years of his career teaching social studies and government at the middle and high school levels, as well as coaching football. A father of three, Williams says that his decision to move from teaching and coaching into an assistant principal role was ultimately a choice he made for his family. He made the transition into administration while working in Winnsboro ISD, and while the role change was a better fit for his family, he also appreciated the increased opportunities the move allowed him to become a leader in the education space. Williams credits former Brownsboro ISD Superintendent Elgin Caldwell for encouraging him to seek the superintendency. Caldwell was also the one who encouraged Williams to get involved with TASA. And during his time in administration, Williams became highly involved in TASA, serving on the Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network and the Texas Public Accountability Consortium. He also served as TASA’s Legislative Committee chair along with holding the TASA presidency in 2019-20. Working as an executive superintendent, Williams will offer support to superintendents in Region 10 as they navigate their careers.
“I will be serving as an ambassador, representing TASA in Region 10,” Williams says of his role. “I hope to become a point of contact between TASA and our members and assist them to fully access the benefits TASA
Williams is no stranger to the benefits TASA offers its members, and through his experience with the association, he will be able to connect members to numerous available resources. “I can connect them to great professional development opportunities, various benefits to enhance their well‐being, and tools to advocate for their school and community,” he says. Above all, Williams is happy to be able to continue his support of TASA following his retirement, and to continue his role as a veteran education leader through supporting Texas’ public schools. “I am looking forward to continuing to stay connected with an association that has meant so much to me during my career and engaging with school administrators that I respect so much for the service they provide to students.”
Breakaway Leadership is Back for Year 3! TASA's Breakaway Leadership is a diﬀerent type of leadership development program. It's a six-month, mostly virtual program intended to help you (district- and campus-level leaders) learn new habits and skills that will enable you to perform at the highest levels of leadership 24/7. Topics include: • mental and social-emotional health • sleep and stress management • time management • exercise and weight management • plus how each area aﬀects your leadership capacity By focusing on developing and improving all aspects of your well-being in Breakaway Leadership, you will come to the leadership table with a level of ﬁtness that enables your to lead from a position of strength and clarity – all day every day.
Registration is now open! https://bit.ly/breakaway-leadership
Meet TASA’s Inspiring Leaders Now more than ever, Texas public school staff members are looking to leaders to inspire them in their day-to-day work as we all cope with an ever-changing educational landscape. TASA’s “Inspiring Leaders” tagline is not just a reminder of TASA’s commitment to leadership development — it describes our members themselves. In this and future issues of INSIGHT, you’ll meet some of those Inspiring Leaders, and it’s our hope that they will guide you and invigorate you in the work that you do. To nominate a leader for inclusion, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rick Kershner Since August 2020, Rick Kershner has served as superintendent in Royal ISD with a daily goal of improving the lives of students. Previously, Kershner worked in administration in Splendora ISD. As a district leader, he aims to invest in the future through a hands-on, studentfocused approach, to provide the best possible opportunities to Royal ISD students. Phylicia Glover, executive director of teaching and learning in Royal, says that the district has experienced a shift in culture since Kershner took the helm. Rick’s emphasis on transparency, open communication and accountability has fostered an atmosphere of trust and unity,” she says. “Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning journey. Parents are more engaged and involved in their children's education, feeling confident that their concerns are being heard and addressed.” While Kershner says that many aspects make him proud of Royal ISD, he points to some of the innovative programs the district offers to its students as one of the best examples. “Our 2-8 STEM program utilizes Project Lead the Way to help learners leverage their curiosity as a tool for exploration and mastery,” he says. “With 12 CTE pathways and a robust early college program, we meet the strengths of each individual student, ensuring that we are truly investing in our tomorrow.” Glover says Kershner is genuinely invested in the success of others — and not just students, but the staff and community in Royal ISD as a whole. “He is not merely a manager but a mentor, always willing to provide guidance, support, and opportunities for growth,” she says. “Rick believes in the potential of every individual and actively seeks ways to nurture that potential.” In a job that can be challenging, Kershner says focusing on the “why” of his work keeps him driven to ensure that every student, teacher and community stakeholder in the district is better served each day. “As a teacher I worked each day to improve the life of my students, showing them the opportunities that were available with hard work and grit,” he says. “As I moved into leadership, I was motivated to build capacity in others, ensuring that students had the best teachers who made the biggest impact.” Kershner’s impact in Royal ISD can be felt throughout the district, according to his colleagues. Since his arrival, the district has experienced improved academics along with a cultural shift, resulting in a close-knit community and an inclusive and welcoming environment. “One of Rick's standout qualities is his ability to rally people around a common goal,” Glover says. “He has successfully brought together teachers, parents and students to collaborate and create a harmonious and productive learning environment.” 25 FALL 2023
Mentorship and communication are key skills for a successful leader to hone, and ones in which Kershner sees much importance. As an added benefit, he says maintaining connections with other education leaders helps keep him grounded. “The impact of mentorship and genuine relationships will outlive us all. The leaders that I mentored are now beginning to mentor others. Seeing people that truly value education and prioritize relationships standing at the center of leadership means the work will outlast my position.”
Monica Simmons In Elysian Fields ISD, Monica Simmons has served as superintendent since April 2022. Before taking the office, Simmons worked in the district for a total of 19 years as a teacher and administrator. As superintendent, Simmons has a passion for learning, and is dedicated to supporting staff and students so that they can meet their potential. “Mrs. Simmons believes in public education, and most importantly, Mrs. Simmons believes in success for all students and for all staff,” says Martha Lovaasen, principal at Elysian Fields Middle School. “Her goals center around leading by example, leading with the very best for all students and staff.” To Simmons, Elysian Fields is the best little school district in Texas, and she is proud of how everyone works together to put students’ needs first. C
“The support for each other and our tight family atmosphere through good times and bad times are what make it a truly magical place,” she says. “Though we have had lots of change the last few years, everyone has embraced it well and supported each other. We are three campuses, yet we are one district, and one team wanting the same outcome: student success.”
Being an inspiring leader means stepping up when things become challenging, and leading a team by example, with confidence and compassion. Lovaasen says Simmons does this with aplomb. “Mrs. Simmons has had to lead us through some of the most difficult times any family, educator or student could possibly face. She has shown grace under pressure and stepped up to take the lead and give guidance and comfort and establish a sense of stability when our whole world was off balance. Mrs. Simmons knows that leading a school and a community through hard, difficult times is a marathon, not a sprint. She’s in it for the long haul.” Simmons says that knowing the decisions she makes every day will have an immediate and significant impact on students’ lives keeps her going on her toughest days. “Our students give me purpose to push through, because I know they are depending on me,” she says. “My students and staff motivate me to continue the work we have started, and each day I am motivated to do a little more and little better. I want to be a child's champion, andI want students to know that they can be anything they want to be.” In EFISD, Simmons’ dedication inspires those around her. She encourages hard work among staff and students alike, while encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones to achieve their dreams. “Monica Simmons is an inspirational leader because she not only leads with the strength and will to do the hard stuff, but she also leads with a heart full of love for our school family and community,” Lovaasen says. “She has big dreams for Elysian Fields ISD, and the energy and drive to make them happen. A leader shows their true heart and leadership style when things get hard, difficult or unpleasant. It’s easy to lead the way when the waters are calm; when a storm blows in, you see the true leadership skills emerge in someone.” For Simmons, maintaining relationships with other administrators is a key part of her job, as she believes they are all able to learn from each other in a way that helps them grow their careers and achieve their best in the work that they do. “I know I do not have all the answers,” she says. “I trust my mentor/coach to challenge my thinking so that I can become better at solving problems. I want to be the best educator I can be, so I am always open to strategies and constructive feedback. Sometimes the truth hurts, but to grow and be the best for our students we have to be open to listening.”
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HIGHER EDUCATION Practices to enhance school leaders’ ability to engage in instructional coaching by Yanira Oliveras, Ph.D.
s instructional leaders, we generally go into classrooms with the ultimate goal of supporting teachers in their professional growth to enhance teaching and learning. To have that desired impact, we must be cognizant of the unintentional consequences of the positional authority that influences our interactions with teachers, as well as of the dispositions we must develop. Over the last three years, a team of Texas educators and I have been working with the Belize Ministry of Education to establish instructional coaching systems and practices that focus on the use of observational data to guide reflective practices while encouraging deliberate discourse to mitigate the impact of our positionality as school leaders. My team and I learned that the intentionality of our actions and language are critical to the success of leaders’ attempts to serve as instructional coaches. Belize teachers and school leaders reminded us of the importance of embracing and implementing four integral principles of instructional coaching for school leaders to succeed in this role.
Evaluation vs. coaching Teachers and school leaders must clearly understand and intentionally separate evaluation from instructional coaching. The purpose of the coaching cycle is to improve student outcomes through the development and enhancement of instructional practices. We must focus on the engagement of teachers in conversations where they are required to self-reflect and engage in the inquiry process, and not on the assessment of the teachers’ practices. When we repeatedly focus on the ratings of the lesson after observations, we significantly diminish the impact coaching can have on teaching and learning. Evaluation is the process through which we determine the effectiveness of a lesson; however, no learning comes from an evaluation. Consider how much you would learn if a professor returned an exam with your grade but failed to indicate which questions you missed and why. Teacher growth and improvement comes from reflection, inquiry, and conversations about teaching and learning, not from the ratings. We must establish a shared understanding of the purpose of coaching and strategically separate the two processes to diminish the impact of the ever-present positional authority we possess.
The mindset Once teachers and school leaders are cognizant of the differences between evaluation and coaching, it is our responsibility as leaders to build relationships grounded on trust and a growth mindset rather than a deficit mindset. Throughout the work in Belize, teachers regularly stated that after years of evaluations without coaching, they expected school leaders to point out what they were doing wrong and directives on how to improve. They rarely experienced coaching cycles through which the implemented effective instructional practices were acknowledged. They were rarely, if ever, allowed to engage in self-reflection to identify areas to improve based on their perceptions, professional goals, and their students’ needs. Hence, they went into post-observation conferences expecting direct communication led by the school leader where the teacher was the passive recipient
of knowledge and expectations. While in some school districts across Texas we have shifted to coaching using the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) structures, we must continue to support the shift of our mindset when engaging in instructional coaching. We must purposefully establish a culture of self-reflection by moving away from a deficit mindset and embracing one of growth whereby teachers’ expertise, experiences, and perceptions are valued and respected. The implementation of instructional coaching requires that teachers engage and believe in self-reflection for continuous improvement of teaching, student learning, and achievement. It is a partnership where both participants bring value to the process and through which teachers take ownership of their learning and professional growth.
Coaches as learners Our work in Belize accentuated the importance of establishing mutually beneficial processes and relationships through which the teacher and the supervisor are constantly learning and improving their craft. Coaching conversations ought to
focus on teacher improvement and development. The discourse should not be about the coach’s ideas of what teachers should do, but rather about the teachers’ goals and needs to become more effective. However, school leaders must also demonstrate their desire to grow, develop, and improve their craft as instructional leaders and coaches.One of the biggest insights provided by Belizean teachers during our work was the critical need for educational leaders to enhance their understanding of effective, student-centered practices, as well as develop better listening skills to understand needs. School leaders’ success as classroom teachers often bring about opportunities to move into leadership. However, leaving the classroom must not halt our professional growth related to teaching and learning to solely focus on the development of our leadership skills. We must constantly improve to stay abreast of research-based pedagogies with the goal to facilitate meaningful conversations during coaching, which also require strong communication skills. While we might believe we are very capable of listening to teachers, the instructional coaching process requires us to listen for
understanding in order to better guide teachers through self-reflection. As leaders, we often listen to respond, to provide an answer or a solution to a problem. If we listen to respond, we are not focusing on what the teacher is saying in regard to their perceptions, needs, and goals. Instructional coaches must purposely engage in practices that facilitate enhanced listening and communication skills. For instance, we must develop our ability to paraphrase to ensure a shared understanding of what the teacher is attempting to convey. We must also enhance our ability to ask questions that facilitate teachers’ in-depth self-reflection and inquiry that will lead to teachers’ growth and development. The Belize school leaders engaged in open, honest conversations about their need to develop their instructional capacity, to deepen their understanding of best practices, and their need to continue to develop their instructional coaching skills. Their vulnerability earned them deeper respect and established trusting, stronger relations with teachers as both saw themselves as learners. (As part of the Belize project, the team developed two instruments to facilitate reflection among instructional coaches to help guide the development of their instructional coaching skills.)
Time commitment As instructional leaders, our main goal ought to improve teaching and learning in our schools. However, anyone that has served as a school leader is keenly aware of the plethora of responsibilities that keep us away from classrooms and divert our attention from our primary goal of being learning organizations. Consequently, for school leaders to be successful instructional coaches, it is imperative to establish a shared commitment to dedicate the needed time to effectively implement instructional coaching. The commitment to engage in coaching must be a mutual agreement between the teacher and the coach. The commitment is not solely from the school leader to be in the classrooms conducting observations; it also requires the commitment to schedule the most significant components of instructional coaching, the pre-observation and postobservation conferences. It is during these conferences and the subsequent self-reflections where professional learning and growth take place. Observations without reflective conversations are assessments focused on the identification of strengths and weaknesses and misses the opportunity to engage in processes that promote growth. It is our responsibility as school leaders to establish a culture of self-reflection and continuous growth. Setting aside time to engage in these processes aligns actions to words. Moreover, once we schedule these conferences, we must set clear expectations for teachers to commit their time to reflect and prepare for the conferences. Scheduling a conference and meeting are starting points, but the learning and improvement will take place once the participants commit to engaging in honest reflection, inquiry, and discourse. Research studies have documented that instructional coaching can impact student learning and achievement. However, if we do not commit and do not purposely plan, prepare, and set aside time for this process, it will not have the potential impact on student learning and achievement. Understanding the components of instructional coaching and creating systems that facilitate the implementation of these processes are integral to becoming effective instructional coaches. Modeling our commitment to professional learning is also critical to the process, but most importantly, showing our teachers that we are invested in their professional growth through trusting, mutually beneficial relationships will enhance school culture and begin to diminish the unintentional consequences of the positional authority that influences our interactions with teachers. n
Oliveras is an associate professor of Curriculum & Instruction and Educational Leadership at The University of Texas at Tyler. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on instructional supervision from Penn State University. She has been an educator since 1994 and has been providing educational service in Belize since 2016. For additional information about the instructional coaching self-efficacy scale and coaches’ reflection rubric developed as part of her work in Belize, please contact Dr. Oliveras at email@example.com.
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TECH TAKE A guide to understanding and implementing the National Data Privacy Agreement Co-authored by TETL Next Digital Shift Committee Members: Dr. Karla Burkholder, Chair, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD; Chris Langford, CoChair, Lewisville ISD; Donna Eurek, Prosper ISD; Brandon Manrow, Corpus Christi ISD; Sandra Olison, Royal ISD; and Dr. Kari Murphy, Deer Park ISD
he Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC) is a community of schools, districts, states and vendors that developed the National Data Privacy Agreement (NDPA). According to their website, the agreement was “developed with extensive review and comments from all stakeholders and is designed to address common student data privacy concerns and streamline the contracting processes for users with limited legal or fiscal resources ….” The Texas Standard Student Data Privacy Agreement (TX-NDPA) is a product of the Texas Student Privacy Alliance (TXSPA) and is a state-specific version of the NDPA. It has been reviewed by multiple attorneys at state and district levels to ensure it aligns with Texas legal requirements and priorities. Districts automatically become members of the TXSPA when they join Texas Education Technology Leaders (TETL), and they are entitled to use the vetted agreement to request privacy agreements with vendors and service providers. By using a standardized form, districts benefit from familiarity when vendors recognize something that is in common use. Districts also have the ability to leverage agreements already executed by other schools if the vendor has signed a “General Offer of Privacy Terms” allowing multiple schools to “piggy back” off of the same agreement.
Why use a data privacy agreement? A high percentage of data breaches are caused by third-party vendors and service providers. Districts have no control over vendors’ and service providers’ data center environments, processes, or the steps they are willing to take to ensure the security of district data while in their possession. A data privacy agreement is necessary to ensure that vendors are responsible for how they collect and use student information. By having vendors sign a strong Data Privacy Agreement, including indemnification, a district can prevent a costly court battle with a vendor should district data be accessed by unauthorized agents while in the vendor’s possession.
How do you get started? 1. Visit the Texas Student Privacy Alliance website and familiarize yourself with the resources available: https://sdpc.a4l.org/view_alliance.php?state=TX 2. Request an account through the Alliance website. 3. Download the TX-NDPA v1r6 agreement and share it with district leadership for their consent to use it. When district leadership is on board, the importance of using it flows down to all other levels. 4. Have your district’s attorney review the agreement if necessary.
5. Make it a part of your RFP/bidding process so that vendors are aware of it from the beginning.
applications that incorporate staff data that needs to be protected. Some examples of district vetting processes are:
6. Determine by whom and how the DPA will be executed for each vendor. Districts handle this process in a variety of ways. Some examples are:
Lewisville ISD - Requests are submitted via a laserfiche form that first goes to the department head, then to the supervisor, then to the content area admin impacted (primary and secondary), then to the Director of Digital Learning, and finally to the Director of Technical Services for final approval.
Lewisville ISD - The Director of Technical Services is the point of contact for initiating and collecting agreements. If there are any proposed vendor modifications, a meeting is scheduled with legal services to review. The Executive Director of Procurements and Contracts acts as the agreement LEA for any signatures. Prosper ISD - Technology and Curriculum & Instruction departments partner together to make the DPA a part of the software approval process to ensure that the agreement is in place for each vendor. Corpus Christi ISD - The Coordinator of Business Information Systems manages the agreements in collaboration with legal, purchasing, benefits and book processing departments. Deer Park ISD - The Cybersecurity Specialist sends the agreements to vendors and the Chief Technology Officer signs them when the vendors agree to the terms, sign, and return the agreement. 7. Develop a process for tracking the status of agreements. The process can be as simple as a shared drive organized to reflect which vendors have been asked to complete DPAs, communication regarding agreements that are in the process of being executed, and the final executed agreements once complete. The SDPC site can be used to track the status of agreements at a high level including new requests, vendor unresponsive, renewal pending, active, and inactive. Other platforms used in your district such as content management systems, project management systems, or even ticketing systems can be adapted to track agreements and what stages they are in during the process of executing them. The TXNDPA is signed for a three-year term, so agreements should be renewed as terms expire or contracts for software are renegotiated or renewed. 8. Develop a vetting process. Before purchasing any online application or resources, it should be vetted by multiple departments for alignment to instructional goals, compatibility, security, account management requirements, purchasing, and professional development requirements. Remember to include non-instructional groups since they also utilize 34
Deer Park ISD - When a teacher wants an application they submit a request to their Campus Technology Integration Specialist (CTIS) who will decide if it is worth pursuing. The CTIS will then enter a work order that goes to the Instructional Technology team to determine if it is appropriate for instruction. Finally, the Cybersecurity Specialist determines if the application is safe in regard to student data privacy. Prosper ISD - Requesters fill out an online form requiring the title of the application, details about instructional purpose, licensing information, URLs of product information and privacy policies, etc. The approval workflow has two parallel paths for Technology and C&I. Technology vets the compatibility of the product and initiates a DPA request with the vendor (or searches for an Exhibit E if it exists). C&I vets the application for instructional value. Both Technology and C&I must approve and a DPA must be in place before a title becomes an authorized application for the district. 9. Develop and post a list of approved software. Some districts use an internal network or site so that teachers and instructional staff can check for approved applications, while others publish approved software on a public-facing website so that families and the community are also able to view what is available to students. Districts can also choose to upload their agreements to the TXSPA website and publish the site to staff and families. The TXSPA website is where you can search for agreements already signed by vendors for other districts. Access is part of your TETL membership. 10. Develop expectations for data privacy and use of approved software and incorporate them consistently in professional development and staff communications.
What are the challenges of implementing the Data Privacy Agreement? Establishing a culture and true understanding of data privacy for student and staff data can be challenging when technology resources are so readily available and social
norms encourage information sharing. It’s also an ongoing endeavor to make teachers aware of the software approval process and remind them regularly of the expectations to keep personally identifiable information (PII) safe. In addition to teachers, administrative departments and non-instructional staff need to realize the software process applies to them as well. Prior to staff using free and or paid resources, they need to have an understanding of what information is collected and/or needed to provide the resource. Making teachers aware that not all apps are for instructional purposes, nor are they trustworthy, is also important. They may not always understand that not all software/websites/apps are safe. Working with vendors takes time, commitment, and manpower. Identifying the right person to contact within a company isn’t always easy, and responding to requests for a privacy agreement isn’t always a high priority with vendors. Every vendor encounter is different, with some readily signing the standard TX-NDPA and others involving legal teams that request numerous changes to the agreement. Many vendors balk at assuming added risks, therefore, they might want language in the agreement to be changed so that it is less stringent to the vendor, making them less culpable should there be a data incident while the data is in their possession.
Conclusion TETL has worked to establish and maintain our participation in the National Data Privacy Alliance. Our organization pays the fees for any Texas district to be a member at a significantly reduced rate. This benefit is included in our membership package. You can now join TETL at the state level only to become an active member and have access to the agreements. There are currently 124 districts that are participating. If you would like to join the alliance, your district can request access at: https://sdpc.a4l. org/add_district_account.php?state=TX. If your district already has an account, contact your district admin for access. If you do not know your district admin, you can contact Dianne Borreson (email@example.com). Students and their families entrust our districts with something very valuable when they provide personal information such as demographics and educational records, and there are many malicious forces who are motivated to misuse it if they can. The responsibility to protect that information when it’s in the hands of third parties is daunting, but utilizing tools and processes such as the TX-NDPA and Texas Student Privacy Alliance makes the work easier. Joining Texas Education Technology Leaders provides your district with an automatic membership in the Alliance and the ability to take advantage of its resources. n
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LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE Leading a school turnaround: strategies from Marlin ISD by Dr. Darryl Henson Jr.
eing a historically poorly rated school district is extremely discouraging for everyone involved. It has a negative impact on the students, the staff members, the families, and the entire community. It affects morale and motivation. It’s an incredibly difficult situation all around, especially for a district that serves historically marginalized student groups. This was the situation at the Marlin ISD when I joined as superintendent in 2020. Marlin ISD, which serves 880 students in a small community just outside of Waco, had experienced unacceptable or failing ratings for more than a decade. It had lost its accreditation status, was under state supervision, and many parents elected to have their children bussed to other, higher-rated schools. When I came in, I said, “Enough is enough.” In order for this district, and these students, to have a chance, we knew had to change the narrative in big way — and change it we did by making some significant shifts surrounding culture, accountability and retraining. In 2019 we were rated an “F” and we improved to a “B” in 2022, raising our academic rating 30 points in just three years. Here are some of the strategies we used to achieve what ended up being an historic turnaround for this district, and one that continues to this day.
We changed the culture My motto when I was hired was “Marlin is mine.” This is my district, and my responsibility. I wasn’t going to let us fail. My team and I knew that to improve student outcomes we would have to change the narrative. We needed to erase the idea that we were a “failing” district and create a culture of success and of winning. Here are some of the things we did: •
We made sure employees were more visible on campus so students would have daily positive interactions with them. This helped students feel motivated, cared for and respected. If you show students you believe in them wholeheartedly, they will meet and even exceed your expectations.
We held celebrations to reward students and teachers for their work. Recognizing hard work and celebrating accomplishments has a big impact. When students made academic gains, we celebrated. We brought in snow cone trucks and organized parades and other types of celebrations to reward students and staff for their accomplishments.
We provided students with brand name clothing for their school uniforms. It may sound like a small thing, but kids care how they look. This helped instill a sense of pride and shows that little details can make a big difference.
We focused on data and accountability
in which everyone understood what was required and helped them implement the changes needed to support student growth.
Back in 2020, the average Marlin ISD student was 2.5 years below grade level. To accelerate student learning, we had to assess where students were, and figure out how to address their learning gaps. We did our research and ended up adopting an online assessment and instruction program called i-Ready for reading and math. It helped us to identify the specific skills students needed and also included lessons to support those skills. Because i-Ready is aligned with the Texas state standards it was easy for teachers to see where their students were and track student growth during the year.
Four leadership tips
Teachers also started using “know and show” charts to help students meet their goals. For instance, if a student must know the Pythagorean theorem at the end of the year, this helped them determine what they needed to learn first to get to that point. Class periods were extended by 25 minutes to teach prerequisite skills for students who were behind and to help close those gaps. Adopting specific tools and practices like these was an important aspect of improving students’ academic growth and has worked for some of our longest struggling learners.
We changed how we hire and how we train When I started to build my team, I hired people who didn’t just look good on paper. I picked people with whom I had personal experience and who I knew were going to be able to do the job. I give this analogy: “If you want to get the work done on your house, are you going to bring in random people or are you going to bring in people you know and trust?” I would choose the latter. I needed to know that the people I was hiring could do the job. They say, “Don’t hire your friends,” but I hired my friends because I knew their hearts were for children. I subscribe to quality instruction and teaching children right. I want my team to care, and to be able to teach. I made sure everyone understood why they were here and I held them to high standards for both how they support academics and in how they treat and communicate with students. Along with shifting our hiring practices, we also revamped professional development. We had our staff go back to the basics — everything from how to have a lesson cycle to what to write on the board for learning objectives and closure activities. We focused on making sure all teachers understood the STAAR accountability system and how to show student growth. These shifts in professional development provided a solid foundation 40
In addition to these strategies, the most important thing for a school or district leader to know to turn a school around is how to lead. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is rewarding beyond measure. I encourage school and district leaders to keep these four things in mind. 1. Be unapologetically yourself. If you don’t want to lead, don’t be a leader. If you’re going to be a leader, lead with conviction and stay true to yourself and your principles. 2. Have a heart for children. That means doing what’s best for them, no matter what. Nothing we do in education is about ourselves. Hold students to high standards, but also treat them with grace and mercy. 3. Have a will to win. If you win in education you are winning for children. 4. Understand your influence. You’ll likely influence people in three different ways. 1) Through your position. People will do what you ask because you’re the superintendent. 2) Through your relationships with your staff members. If you treat them with love and respect, they will do the same. 3) Through being competent. No one wants to follow a leader who doesn’t know their craft. If Bill Gates started talking to us about computers, we’d all take notes, right? If people know that you know what you’re talking about, they will listen and respect what you have to say. Students in Texas and nationwide deserve to have a high-quality education and opportunities to grow, learn, and reach their full potential. Leading a district turnaround is challenging, but the strategies above can help leaders set their staff members and their students up for success. n
Dr. Darryl J. Henson is superintendent of Marlin ISD. Prior to coming to Marlin, Henson was assistant superintendent of school leadership at Cedar Hill ISD. He has also served as a teacher, instructional specialist and principal at districts throughout Texas. Henson began his educational career as a fourth grade teacher in Austin ISD, later serving as a middle and high school mathematics teacher, instructional specialist, and principal in Lockhart, Ysleta and Houston ISDs. Henson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education, the University of Texas at Arlington with a Master's of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and the University of Houston with a Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.
A New Network Exclusively for Small Districts • Created to oﬀer additional support to Texas' smallest school districts (fewer than 1,300 students) • Modeled after TASA's popular Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network (FRSLN) and designed by a team of small-district leaders • In-person events that feature campus visits in small districts (The deadline to attend Event 1 in Blue Ridge has passed, but you can still participate in the Port Aransas event next spring.) • One in-person meetup at TASA Midwinter Conference in Austin in January + one virtual meeting in March • Superintendent may attend alone or bring one or two district colleagues for $500 per seat (travel not included)
TASA Corporate Partners TASA is grateful to our 2023–24 corporate partners for their support. Each level of the Corporate Partner Program is designed to offer our partners quality exposure to association members. Partners at the President’s Circle, Platinum, and Gold levels may customize special events and opportunities.
PRESIDENT’S CIRCLE Apple, Inc. Coryell Rofing DLR Group eM Life Frontline Education Gaggle.Net Inc. Huckabee Imagine Learning (formerly Edgenuity) N2 Learning NWEA PBK Stantec Trusted Capital Group (TCG), a HUB International Company ThoughtExchange VLK Architects Wondr Health WRA Architects PLATINUM Age of Learning Capturing Kids' Hearts CENTEGIX ClassLink College Board Curriculum Associates Edmentum EF Education First engage2learn GermBlast Google for Education Grand Canyon University Hazel Health Houghton Mifflin Harcourt K12 Insight Lone Star Furnishings, LLC LPA, Inc. Meteor Education Milliken & Company Paper SAFARI Montage Scholastic
GOLD Amplify Corgan New Tech Network Raise Your Hand Texas Renaissance Savvas Learning Company
SILVER Corwin Press, Inc. Dell Technologies Education Advanced, Inc. Gulf Coast Educators Federal Credit Union Harris Co. Dept of Ed. H-E-B Indeco McGraw Hill|Achieve3000 NoRedInk Pfluger Architects Schneider Electric Stephens Inc. Tutor.com & The Princeton Review® Walsh Gallegos Trevino Kyle & Robinson P.C. Whizz Education
BRONZE BTC Educate Texas FranklinCovey Education Hilltop Securities, Inc. HKS Inc. Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP M&R Roofing and Construction Company, LLC Marsh McLennan Agency MIND Education, Creators of ST Math MSB School Services Newsela Panorama Education ProSolve Vanir Construction Management, Inc.
Learn more about TASA’s Corporate Partner Program https://tasanet.org/partnerships/corporate-partners/
Looking for investment options for your district? Look to Lone Star. Now is a great time to review your investment options. Our Lone Star team is ready to talk with you about the investment possibilities we have available to take advantage of current rates. Why choose Lone Star? Our funds offer daily liquidity and competitive yield. Our friendly, Texas-based staff are registered and licensed with FINRA, making Lone Star a trusted source for fund management since 1991. Large amounts or small, Lone Star invests it all.
TASA celebrates Lone Star Investment Pool’s more than 30 years of service to Texas Public Schools. 800-558-8875 Lonestarinvestmentpool.com