INSIGHT-Fall 2022

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winners & finalists

Plus - Meet TASA’s Inspiring Leaders pg.15

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Celebrating the 2023


Reach every student in Texas. There’s never been a better time to start. Activate PEOPLE Engage students, teachers, and teacher


teams in a learning-focused culture.



Create ROUTINES Develop and institute consistent processes for preparation, instruction, and analysis.




Align PROCESSES Connect all actions in this cycle to one or more of the four critical questions of PLC at Work®.



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Volume 37 No. 3

FEATURE ARTICLES & COLUMNS Get to know TASA’s executive superintendents


Meet TASA’s inspiring leaders


HIGHER EDUCATION Creating employee childcare centers for recruitment and retention by Wesley D. Hickey and Sydni Blundell


TSPRA VOICE Reputation management: more than test scores by Danielle Clark


Celebrating the 2023 Texas Teacher of the Year winners and finalists


LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE The benefits of benefits-based accountability by Quintin Shepherdn and Roland Toscano


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Gonzalo Salazar, President, Los Fresnos CISD LaTonya Goffney, President-Elect, Aldine ISD


Martha Salazar-Zamora, Vice President, Tomball ISD Doug Williams, Past President, Sunnyvale ISD

TASA Professional Learning Calendar


President’s Message


Executive Director’s View



Rene Gutierrez, Region 1, Brownsville ISD Sharon McKinney, Region 2, Port Aransas ISD Jo Ann Bludau, Region 3, Hallettsville ISD Walter Jackson, Region 4, La Porte ISD Stacey Brister, Region 5, Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD Darol Hail, Region 6, New Waverly ISD

INSIGHT EDITORIAL STAFF Executive Director Deputy Executive Director, Member Engagement & Support Associate Executive Director, Internal Operations Director, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Graphics & Multimedia Editorial Director

Chris Moran, Region 7, Whitehouse ISD Kevin Brown Charles Dupre Ann M. Halstead

Michael Lamb, Region 8, Sulphur Springs ISD Sonny Cruse, Region 9, Graham ISD John “JJ” Villarreal, Region 10, Rockwall ISD Jeremy Thompson, Region 11, Ponder ISD Bobby Ott, Region 12, Temple ISD

Amy Francisco 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. © 2022 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.

Steven Snell, Region 13, Liberty Hill ISD David Young, Region 14, Abilene ISD Joe Young, Region 15, Brownwood ISD Sheri Blankenship, Region 16, Hereford ISD Michelle McCord, Region 17, Frenship ISD Samuel Wyatt, Region 18, Rankin ISD Veronica Vijil, Region 19, Fabens ISD Burnie Roper, Region 20, Lackland ISD


Hafedh Azaiez, Round Rock ISD

About TASA

Robert Bayard, Clear Creek ISD

TASA’s mission is to promote, provide and develop leaders who create and sustain studentcentered schools and develop future-ready students.

Tory Hill, Channelview ISD

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.

Roland Hernandez, Corpus Christi ISD


Keith Bryant, Legislative Celina Estrada Thomas, Member Engagement Roosevelt Nivens, Advocacy Macy Satterwhite, Professional Learning


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)




November 2-3

TASA First-Time Superintendents Academy, Round Rock Session 3


Hanover Superintendents Leadership Council Meeting 2 "Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment"



CMSi Curriculum Writing Workshop



TASA/TASB/TASBO Budget Cohort for Texas District Leaders Event 2



TASA Executive Leadership Group Meeting 3



N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Cypress Session 3 (Houston Cohort)

30-Dec. 1

TASA Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network (FRSLN) Event 2


December 1

N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, San Antonio/Allen Session 3 (Austin/San Antonio and Dallas Cohorts)


TASA/TASB/TASBO Budget Cohort for Texas District Leaders Event 3



N2 Learning Principals’ Institute, Session 3



N2 Learning Executive Leadership Institute, Session 2



N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 3 (Virtual Cohort)



N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 3 (Corpus Christi/Victoria Cohort)

Corpus Christi


TASA Executive Leadership Group Meeting 4



Hanover Superintendents Leadership Council Meeting 3 "Building Relationships with Your Board"



TASA Breakaway Leadership Session 1



29 TASA School Finance Template Boot Camp Austin (@Midwinter Conference) 29-Feb 1 TASA Aspiring Superintendents Academy Austin (@Midwinter Conference) 29-Feb 1

TASA Midwinter Conference


30 TASA/TASB/TASBO Budget Cohort for Texas District Leaders Event 4 Austin (@Midwinter Conference)

February 1-2

N2 Learning Principals’ Institute, Session 4



N2 Learning Executive Leadership Institute, Session 3



N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 4 (Corpus Christi/Victoria Cohort)

Corpus Christi

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am excited to serve in the role of president of the Texas Association of School Administrators and to work with TASA staff, our officers, the Executive Committee and each of you to deliver on our mission. This is an opportunity to give back to an organization that has helped me evolve personally and professionally. As a member of TASA for more than 15 years, I have grown through every interaction with the remarkable people I have met as I participated in committees and professional learning sessions.

Gonzalo Salazar

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE This organization has helped me expand my network with knowledgeable, dedicated colleagues who inspire me to want to do more in public education.

I approach this work with a grateful heart as I value the meaningful learning experiences TASA provides. This organization has helped me expand my network with knowledgeable, dedicated colleagues who inspire me to want to do more in public education. I recognized early in my administrative career that investing my time in this first-class organization would pay dividends in professional development and, most importantly, in the positive impact in the lives of the students we serve. I encourage you to engage as an active participant in TASA and take advantage of the diverse opportunities that are available. Most importantly, I urge you to serve in community and policy advocacy so we can amplify the voices of educators and students to assist in shaping the next generation of leaders. I want to tell you a little bit about myself. The first leg of my journey in public education was in the child nutrition department. I worked full time delivering food and supplies to school cafeterias. I was also a full-time student working toward a teaching degree. In the process, I was learning to appreciate the hardworking people who provide nutritious meals to students. After completing my undergraduate work, I served as a fourth grade bilingual teacher. I learned that when we serve students from economically disadvantaged homes, we must create the experiences our students might otherwise not have. The Lord was teaching me to appreciate the passionate teachers and support staff who dedicate their lives to creating the meaningful learning experiences that provide students with the schema to which they can attach new knowledge and change the trajectory of their lives. I have had the privilege of serving in Los Fresnos CISD for the past 22 years. Los Fresnos CISD is located in the heart of Cameron County, just nine miles north of the border with Mexico and 14 miles west of South Padre Island. Each day, we get to serve 10,400 amazing students throughout a geographic area of 451 square miles, a combination of densely populated subdivisions and rural farmland. We work with the belief that this noble profession affords each of us the opportunity to be the light in the life of a child and the conviction that what we do [here] shapes the world. I began my administrative career in Los Fresnos. In this portion of my journey, the Lord helped me understand the enormous responsibility we accept as instructional leaders. I learned to take pride in our work and the enormity of the task. I learned that if we want to build tall structures in the world of education, we need a foundation of humility. As a young

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administrator, I learned to work collaboratively with all stakeholders toward fulfilling the hopes and dreams every parent has for their child. I learned that as demanding as this profession is, it is also very rewarding. I spent a couple of years as an assistant principal and went on to serve as an elementary school principal. Then, in December of 2005, I was named interim superintendent. I have served as superintendent in Los Fresnos since June of 2006, when the board entrusted me with an incredible responsibility I do not take lightly. There was a huge learning curve for an elementary principal but, like many of you, I stood on the shoulders of those who came before me and am grateful to everyone who extended grace and continues to provide us with support. Throughout this time, I have had the privilege of serving alongside a team of passionate, talented educators who care deeply about this work and have dedicated their lives to delivering a quality educational experience for all students. I learn from them each day and consider it an honor and privilege to be able to do this work alongside them. As a member of TASA, I am part of an organization that values the strengths, contributions, and varying perspectives of all educational leaders. I will serve alongside each of you to fulfill TASA’s goal 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. On behalf of the TASA officers and the Executive Committee I want to thank Dr. Doug Williams, superintendent of Sunnyvale ISD and TASA’s immediate past president, as well as Dr. Kevin Brown, executive director. We are grateful not just for their leadership, but for the manner in which they led over the past year. We will honor your leadership by working with resolve to create the experiences that promote, provide and develop leaders who create and sustain student-centered schools and develop future-ready students. Respectfully,

Gonzalo Salazar TASA President Superintendent, Los Fresnos CISD





et’s face it, the past two-plus years have been a challenge, though the word “challenge” may be the understatement of the century. We can wallow in that if we want (I certainly have done it more than my fair share) or we can celebrate that, in spite of the challenges, our public schools have much to celebrate.

Kevin Brown

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S VIEW I don’t know if this will be a “normal” year, but I hope it is a year of stability and growth for the students in your community.

1. Our schools rose to the COVID challenge. While many in the private sector shut down, schools kept going. Whether it was pivoting to remote learning, navigating myriad COVID-related issues, ensuring children were fed, reaching out to students through home visits, offering tutoring, summer school, and social-emotional support, the list goes on and on. Public school employees were and are nothing less than heroic. Don’t forget that. 2. National divisions have not divided us. Public schools have become ground zero for the divisions that plague our nation. Yet, public school leaders have done a remarkable job of steering clear of many of the distractions and keeping the focus on serving children. We don’t choose the kids we serve. We serve them all, and we give them our best. Don’t ever let someone diminish the value of serving the children of your community. 3. Parent approval has risen 12%. In spite of the challenges, and during the most difficult time in our lives, the percentage of parents who say they give their local schools a grade of A or B has increased by 12%, according to a statewide poll by the Charles Butt Foundation. That is remarkable, and it certainly stands in contrast to some of the negative rhetoric we hear about public schools. Parents see the incredible work you are doing, and the majority of them appreciate it … a lot. 4. Americans gave their local public schools their highest rating in 48 years, according to the PDK poll recently published. That’s right, the best ratings in nearly half a century. Overall trust and confidence in a community’s public school teachers is 63%, much higher than most every other profession out there. So, to all you educators out there, let me say that in spite of all the rhetoric and all the skeptics and haters out there, most people think you are doing a great job. They are right! 5. Students are showing us their resiliency. Although public schools do far more than what can be measured on STAAR or EOC exams, it is worth noting that students demonstrated significant growth this past year, which I think was the toughest year we have ever faced. Our students, teachers and administrators deserve the largest portion of credit for those gains. While that’s it for my list (for now), based on what I’ve seen happening in districts across the state, I bet yours is much longer. I want to remind you, though, that no one is going to know about all those reasons we have for celebration unless we shout them from the mountaintops (or hilltops, since this is Texas).

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Our public school educators deserve that recognition. They should be celebrated, supported in every way possible, and honored for their hard work and dedication. The innovation and ingenuity they have shown over the past couple of years should be rewarded. (Here’s an idea: What if our state Legislature built a monument to educators on the Capitol grounds as a symbol of the importance of public education in our democracy and the valiant efforts of our educators during the pandemic?) I don’t know if this will be a “normal” year, but I hope it is a year of stability and growth for the students in your community. If the work you have done in the worst of times is any sign of what’s to come, we can tackle 2022-23 with confidence. We got this, folks.

Kevin Brown TASA Executive Director

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Get to know TASA’s executive superintendents Last year, TASA unveiled the executive superintendent program in an effort to support TASA members through networking and mentorship opportunities. The program combines the previous superintendent-in-residence and member services representative programs. Through the program, TASA members have access to 10 executive superintendents, each dedicated to serving administrators in two ESC regions. These 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. Over the past several issues of INSIGHT, we have introduced you to these executive superintendents. In this issue, we feature our final two: Steve Flores, TASA executive superintendent for regions 13 and 14, and Thomas Randle, TASA executive superintendent for regions 3 and 6. For a complete list of TASA’s executive superintendents and their contact information, visit


teve Flores is the newest TASA executive superintendent, but he’s no stranger to the association. For him, the move is a homecoming. During his time as a doctoral student, he worked at TASA for two years alongside former Executive Director Johnny Veselka. Flores says that experience gave him insight into the role TASA plays for administrators, and ignited his desire to become a superintendent. Flores made his foray into public education in 1983 as a freshman at San Angelo State University. He initially planned to study enough criminal justice to become an undercover narcotics officer, following in the footsteps of a cousin. But on his first day of college, Flores’ former coach from San Angelo ISD asked if he would work as a teacher’s and coach’s aid at his former junior high school. Upon returning to the district as a paraprofessional, Flores knew the move was one he wanted to make permanent. “I realized the importance of the ability to aid young people in determining the direction that they could be most successful in,” he says. “I thought, ‘This is a really powerful profession. I don’t want to do anything else.’”

While continuing his education, Flores worked as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal before attending the Cooperative Superintendent Program at the University of Texas - Austin. After receiving his doctorate, he served as an assistant superintendent, area superintendent, deputy superintendent and chief of staff, before landing as the superintendent in Harlingen CISD for five years, then taking the top position in Round Rock ISD for more than seven years, retiring in 2021. From a paraprofessional to superintendent, Flores has held many roles in Texas public school districts, even driving buses. To him, any job involving students is the most important job there is. “I’m very passionate about the fact that there’s not a profession that’s more important than educating our youth of today — the future of tomorrow’s workforce,” he says. “I believe our democracy depends on the quality of our public schools.”



Flores credits TASA with helping to shape him into the leader he became. For him, returning to TASA after his retirement to work as an executive superintendent was a simple choice to make. “I learned with TASA that as a superintendent, you’re never out there alone,” he says. “For me, this was a call to give back to TASA and its members what TASA gave to me. I really feel like I am coming home.” In his role as an executive superintendent, Flores hopes to be a sounding board for TASA members as they navigate their careers. “I want to be a person they can feel comfortable with to help make their work not only doable, but impactful.” Above all, Flores says he wants public school leaders to know that this moment offers a unique and excellent opportunity to lead. “In our country, there’s not a leadership surplus, there’s a leadership vacuum,” he says. “With the vision of TASA, we want to assist in creating our future leaders, not only in Texas, but throughout the nation. We believe we can be a model for the rest of the nation, and anyway that I can assist, I’m just a phone call away.”


homas Randle knew he wanted to be a teacher from the moment he entered high school. A graduate of Brenham High School, Randle had an agriculture teacher who supported and encouraged him, becoming his career role model. After receiving his degree from Texas A&M University, Randle began teaching in Sweeny ISD. “I loved every minute of it,” Randle says of his time in the classroom. After four years in Sweeny, Randle spent 13 years in Conroe ISD, serving as a grade-level principal and administrative assistant principal at McCullough Junior High School in the Woodlands. He then became the principal at Knox Junior High School, a position he held for five years before changing roles to serve as assistant superintendent in secondary education in the district. Six years later, Randle moved into his first superintendency, taking the position in La Marque ISD. After six years in La Marque,

he became superintendent of Lamar CISD, a position he held for 20 years until his retirement in 2021. Following a long and storied career in education that spanned more than four decades, Randle took the opportunity to serve TASA as an executive superintendent. It wasn’t his first leadership role with the association; Randle also served as TASA president in 2007. “I feel like this is an opportunity to give back to TASA,” Randle says. “It has reminded me how important it is to mentor and support leadership in the state. TASA does a great job of that.” As executive superintendent for regions 3 and 6, Randle visits and stays in touch with superintendents in both regions, encouraging them to take advantage of the benefits TASA has to offer them. He also serves as a mentor, listening and supporting superintendents with the insight he gained from 26 years in the superintendent’s seat. While Randle works to support other TASA members, he says that staying involved benefits him as well, helping him stay connected with school leaders from across the state. “To work at the Midwinter Conference, as well as at TASA|TASB, gives you an opportunity to interact with superintendents that you knew, as well as new superintendents coming on board. I enjoy having an opportunity to engage in conversations around what are the types of things we can do to support superintendents who are actually doing the day-to-day operating of schools now.” The career of a public school leader has experienced seismic changes since Randle stepped into the role more than 26 years ago. As he supports new superintendents, Randle says one of the biggest changes he sees for them compared to when he started is the influence of social media on how they interact with the community. “When I first started as superintendent, we had a little more time to work on issues that came up,” he says. “Whereas now, a superintendent has to respond immediately. They have to have the ability to know how to respond to a situation quickly.” Despite the many challenges that come with the job, Randle says that working in education is one of the most honorable professions there is. In Lamar, he oversaw nine graduating classes for which he was the superintendent for their entire stints in the district, from kindergarten through 12th grade. “Having the opportunity to influence the lives of students really and truly helps our communities and our country to grow,” he says. “It is both an honor as well as a challenge, but I really and truly believe that being a teacher is one of the most noble professions that exists.”

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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

Travis Fanning In 2020, Travis Fanning stepped into the superintendency in Beeville ISD, a Coastal Bend area district that serves more than 3,200 students, 88% of whom are considered economically disadvantaged. Since he took the helm, the district has seen academic performance improve, achieving a “B” rating from the state, something that makes him proud of the staff, students and entire Beeville ISD community. “This is huge for our district and community,” Fanning says. “We worked hard to get to this place, and we did so by focusing on student growth. Our success was made possible by the support of our board of trustees and community, in conjunction with buy-in from our students and staff. We are not a perfect district, but we are making exceptional progress daily.” Dr. Tiffany Spicer, formerly chief of staff in Beeville ISD and now the superintendent of Buna ISD, says since Fanning came to Beeville, he has poured his heart, time and talent into providing access and opportunities to all students. It’s an effort she says is palpable. “He has a saying that, ‘Beeville ISD is the best kept secret in South Texas,’” Spicer says of Fanning. “He also says that we are not a secret anymore. Since his tenure the district has been placed on the map.” Under the weight of the many challenges that come with leadership, Fanning says he keeps his head up through faith, grace and gratitude. “I believe in the power of positive thinking and a growth mindset. It fuels me. I start my day with a prayer and a positive attitude. I try to work from that place throughout the day.” Fanning also finds drive in the challenges. “It may be a bit weird, but I thrive in stressful situations,” he says. “I think that is probably a common trait in all superintendents.” Throughout his career in education, which stretches more than 20 years, Fanning says he has reaped the benefits of strong mentorships. Now he makes it a habit to turn around and offer the same support to others — something he says still benefits him in return. “As I seek to lift and inspire other administrators, I learn greatly from them. It is undoubtedly a give-and-take relationship. Leadership can seem scary and lonely when you think of the weight and burden that the position requires you to carry. Serving as a mentor allows you the opportunity to reassure them, help them focus, guide them to reflect, and encourage them to know that they are prepared to lead.” 15 FALL 2022

Anita Hebert For two years, Dr. Anita Hebert has served as superintendent of Shallowater ISD in West Texas, a district with around 1,500 students. A West Texas native, Hebert says the people in the Shallowater ISD community make her proud to lead the district. “We have incredibly hardworking, amazing staff who will go over the top to take care of business,” she says. “It is the true secret to our success. Working with people like this makes my job so rewarding.” Jeni Neatherlin, superintendent of Granger ISD, says Hebert is a perfect fit for the district. “Anita leads with her words, actions and demeanor,” Hebert says. “She has such patience and fortitude. Her words inspire others, and she leads her community with a calm approach.” Ever since she was in first grade, Hebert knew she wanted to be an educator. With an extensive career that began in 1997 in Clint ISD, she has worked in a handful of Texas school districts, and says she truly loves coming to work each day. “All my decisions revolve around how we can make a difference for those who stand in front of our kids every day and change their lives. Teachers are the heart of education, and I try never to lose sight of that.” Hebert says mentoring is an important part of being an administrator, and she is happy to support others in the ways she herself has received support, something that’s appreciated by her peers. “Anita has a teaching style in her leading and I enjoy our discussions, because her style always adds to how I will approach challenges in our district,” Neatherlin says. “Mentoring is important to me because of the respect I feel for those who invested in me,” Hebert says. “They helped guide me and give me sound principles of leadership. By working with others and offering them principles of leadership, I can pay it forward and invest in the foundations of the future. Excellence is transcendent of generations and matters today and tomorrow.”

Rickie Harris Now in his seventh year as superintendent of West Orange-Cove Consolidated ISD, Dr. Rickie Harris has been a public school educator for more than two decades. He leads the East Texas district of about 2,500 students with a goal of using the educational system to not only transform the lives of students, but to benefit entire family systems and boost the community. Harris says he is exceptionally proud of the way WOCCISD aims to educate the whole child by striving to make sure students’ needs are met both in the classroom and at home. “Our school board is passionate about removing any barriers that will hinder our children from being successful,” Harris says. “We do whatever it takes to expose our students to the positive things that they normally would not be exposed to. We serve a student population that is 90% economically disadvantaged, but when they are under our care they lack for nothing.” The dedication Harris shows serves to encourage and inspire others, and his colleagues notice and admire his efforts.



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“Dr. Harris is an inspiring leader because he never hesitates to help others,” says Amy Reyna, superintendent in Milford ISD. “Despite day-to-day issues, he is always quick to remind others about the importance of keeping a main goal in sight, and to provide reflection on how we as leaders can maintain our vision for moving forward. Dr. Harris is a leader-learner and never stops growing himself in order to help grow others.” Mentoring others is an important part of leadership for Harris, who says that because Texas public school administrators come from so many diverse backgrounds, being open with others can only help the profession grow as a whole. “It can be lonely as an administrator. There are so many things that you are responsible for, and most of it you can't share with those within your organization. It’s great to have someone outside of the organization that you can bounce ideas off of, and get guidance on how to handle different situations. Honestly, sometimes you just need to know if you’re going in the right direction.”

Rosy Vega-Barrio Along the U.S.-Mexico border, Tornillo ISD serves around 1,000 students with Rosy Vega-Barrio in the superintendent’s office, a position she’s held since 2017. Before coming to Tornillo, Vega-Barrio spent 17 years in Socorro ISD working as a teacher and administrator. A Tornillo graduate herself, she says it’s a privilege for her to return to lead the district. In her five years at the helm, Tornillo ISD has opened an early college high school, offered industry-based certifications, provided access to certifiable college and career pathways, and made PK-12 STEAM curriculum and programming available to all students. “Aside from educational access opportunities, our belief is that if the community thrives, then our students will thrive in the classroom,” she says. “Therefore, we pride ourselves in the time and resources invested towards our community such as the building of Coyote Park, offering of adult education classes, hiring locally with an emphasis on growing our own talent, and providing many social services such as medical, food and even a local library.” School district leadership can be isolating, but Vega-Barrio says the rewards motivate her and keep her focused when challenges arise. “Finding the joy in everything I do is where I find success and happiness. My philosophy has always been, if you aren’t surrounded by laughter, positive people, great thoughtful thinkers and truly loving your people, then challenges, stressors and feeling overworked and underappreciated will weigh you down. I refuse to let that happen to me or to those I serve.” Veronica Vijil, superintendent of Fabens ISD, says Vega-Barrio leads with a servant’s heart, always setting a strong example for her colleagues and peers. “You will consistently find her in classrooms, PLCs and multiple events that support her staff and students,” Vijil says. “Rosy’s humor and her joyous laugh are some of the characteristics I appreciate about her. Rosy listens and lifts everyone around her; I can count on her guidance and listening ear consistently. I am proud to call Rosy my friend.” Vega-Barrio says strong relationships with other administrators keep her from feeling alone in her work. “I have been very fortunate with the mentors I’ve encountered throughout my career, and their influence is what guides me in mentoring the next generation of administrators. While our work and decisions are individual, I believe that every successful administrator requires a network of individuals who have had a hand in helping through the thinking, planning and decision process. Everyone benefits from building these strong mentoring relationships, especially students.” 18


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HIGHER EDUCATION Creating employee childcare centers for recruitment and retention by Wesley D. Hickey and Sydni Blundell


everal years ago, a superintendent of a small rural school in Texas walked the campus halls and noticed that many of his teachers were young, recently married, and likely going to start families before too long. These were great teachers, many of whom bled school colors and were deeply entrenched in the culture of the school, and he was worried that they might leave their positions after having kids. Decisions about employment after having children can be affected by the desire to connect better with the child, or because of a need for convenience in childcare. This led to an idea that he hoped would be valuable to the employees and would help with retention. He began the process of creating in-district childcare. School districts and universities are struggling to recruit and retain quality employees. The market for great teachers has always been competitive for educational institutions, but the current struggle has a near crisis feel. Salary is important, but auxiliary support can be a deciding factor for young professionals in determining which job to accept … or keep. A differentiating factor can be the availability of high quality childcare that is convenient and cost efficient. This is why many educational organizations are considering the benefits of having a childcare facility on-site for serving the employees of the institution. There are a number of considerations on creating childcare for employees, with the primary one being facilities. Most schools and universities are likely to use an existing space to house the childcare, and the facility being considered must meet licensing requirements. Basically, there are two limiting factors for a childcare facility: 1. square footage; and 2. number of sinks and toilets. A childcare facility needs enough space for a child to move and explore. Licensing requires that there be at least 30 square feet per child. In addition, bathroom facilities are important, and the requirement of one sink and toilet per 17 children is designed to make sure there is adequate restroom space. These are minimum requirements, and exceeding these will make the process of educating and caring for children more comfortable. The facility also needs a safe location for drop off and pick up, control of traffic, and a risk management review to make sure there are no safety hazards. A fenced off playground area is a must, and the structures must meet age requirements. The ground around the playground structure must meet regulations regarding impact absorption, which is often accomplished through a loose rubber base. Most modern playground equipment will include recommended ages for use, so this must be considered before buying. Having an acceptable facility for childcare is a good start, but determining staffing comes a close second. Licensing requirements have ratios to which the center must adhere, and these requirements change based upon the age of the child. Infants (up to 18 months) must have one caregiver for every four



children, 18 months to three years need a 11:1 ratio, three year olds require 15:1, and at four years 18:1. The childcare facility, just like the general educational institution, would like to retain great workers, and salary will be an issue.

School districts and universities are experiencing challenges in finding and keeping great teachers. An employee childcare facility can be an important component in the recruitment and retention plan.

The expected hourly pay is going to be different depending on the part of Texas being considered, but anywhere from $12-15 per hour will be likely. The cost of the childcare will be paid by the employees who use it, and setting the right cost is important to ensure expenses are covered.

Decisions regarding one’s children are important to parents, and a district that creates childcare on-site makes this integral decision easier. The freedom to drop off and pick up one’s preschool age children at work has many benefits, including increased time and closeness to one’s children.

School districts will likely use an enterprise fund for the revenue and expenditures associated with the childcare facility. A district can provide benefits to all employees, but subsidizing childcare does not fit under this umbrella.

From the district’s perspective, the creation of a childcare center requires some logistical decisions, but providing an on-site option can create a benefit that has long-term positive benefits for both the employee and institution. n

Childcare is not a potential benefit for all employees since many will not have young children; therefore, those that choose to send their children to the facility will pay for it. Like employee pay, the cost of childcare will vary depending on location, but most parents usually pay around $700 a month per child. The bottom line is that the employees using childcare must pay enough to cover expenses; otherwise, it is not sustainable.

Wes Hickey is a former biology teacher, coach, principal, superintendent, university department chair and dean. He is currently professor of educational leadership at UT Tyler. Sydni Blundell is a leader among administrative staff, having won the UT Tyler STAR award, president’s Passion and Service Awards, and has recently even served as Staff Senate President. She is currently special assistant to the Dean for the College of Education and Psychology.

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TSPRA VOICE Reputation management: more than test scores by Danielle Clark


ow people perceive your school district or campus plays an important role in the overall success of your organization.

A reputation is built on more than logos and test scores. The foundation is constructed by simple, everyday interactions between an organization and its stakeholders. It’s the personal experience at every touchpoint within and outside of district boundaries. It’s the navigation of your website. It’s the immediate feeling a parent or community member gets when they walk into your building. Every experience, even the small ones, impact your reputation. Fortunately, there are simple ways to manage your district or school reputation that do not cost money or require an investment in extensive staff training. These include building a culture that supports creating memorable customer experiences, empowering staff to solve problems within their sphere of influence and recognizing the interplay of the five senses with the physical environment.

Service vs. experience When looking at reputation management, organizations need to focus on culture, not just service. Culture is how your district does things and how someone feels about it. So, while customer service is important, a customer’s perception of an interaction is ultimately what defines their truth. So, every interaction between the school and community informs what people think of your district. This includes personal interactions with frontline employees, digital interactions through your website and how school buses share the streets with residents around town.

CULTURE NOT SERVICE  Perception + Experience = Customer Truth  Consistency v. Compliance  Make Memorable Events  People judge their experience by the way they are treated, not by the way their problem is treated  Emotion drives people

Culture: The way we do things here. FALL 2022


All these interactions will lead the public to form a general opinion of your district. And these opinions create your district’s reputation. One way to ensure positive experiences, and thus enhance your district’s reputation, is to move from providing customer service to generating a memorable customer experience. Jan Carlzon, president of Scandinavian Airlines, which made a great turnaround in the airline industry and became a model for success, coined the phrase “moments of truth.” This was defined as any interaction that creates a positive or negative impression in the customer’s mind and generates a memorable experience. These experiences can be created through personal or digital interactions between the district and community. That means your website and social media engagement impact reputation. The ease with which someone can navigate your website is an indicator of how much your district values the customer experience. How difficult is it to find information? How many clicks does it take to get to a specific page? How is the navigation structured? All these questions lead to interactions and experiences that further define opinions about an organization. Thousands of people view a district website daily, and many times, it’s the only point of contact someone has with your school or district. For this reason, it’s necessary for it to make a positive impact right away. Organizing the website by content, not organizational chart, leaves a positive impression upon visitors. Too often, we in education believe our organizational structure is intuitive. However, this is not always the case. Some people do not know to look for bus schedules under Operations or recognize that Secondary Education supervises the athletic director. And to be honest, they do not care which department handles the issue. Parents and community members want the information they are seeking quickly and without hassle. Structuring the main website through the eyes of the community leads to greater engagement. This creates a positive digital experience, which translates into trust. You have just enhanced your district’s reputation using your website. Everyday personal experiences can also impact your district’s reputation. When staff talk to parents and community members at the grocery store, they are managing the school’s reputation. They are brand ambassadors in the community, and everything from their tone to demeanor to body language influence what people think. Additionally, the length of time it



takes finance to pay vendors guides what local businesses think about the district and its value as a partner. And the courtesy (or lack thereof) of bus drivers on the road leads to community perception. All of these interactions can generate a positive or negative impression of your district. Internal audiences also play a key role in your district’s reputation. An employee’s experience will inform opinions about your organization, which hold great sway with the community. If your custodian thinks your schools are in disrepair, you can bet anyone who interacts with him or her, either personally or professionally, will have the same opinion. This is true for every type of interaction between the district and employees including how fast checks are deposited, onboarding for new staff members and the reliability of email and internet. Every time a stakeholder (past, present or future) interacts with your organization, either as an employee or external customer, they are forming ideas and opinions about your brand. This leads to emotions based on their experience, which translates to a perception of your organization. And that further defines your district’s reputation.

Empowering employees In education, districts often focus on compliance and efficiency instead of courtesy and emotions. Process is placed above perception. As a result, responses to customer concerns and issues are automated based on established protocol and guidelines. In the book, “If Disney Ran Your Hospital,” author Fred Lee (a healthcare executive who worked at Disney as a cast member and consultant) said, “Culture eats strategy for lunch every day of the week.” Culture is the expectation of how things are done. Strategy is teaching someone how to do something. Lee further noted that if an organization’s culture does not support positive interactions, efforts at customer service will likely fail, despite training on best practices and protocols. When an organization empowers and encourages staff to solve problems within their sphere of influence, it creates a support-minded environment that permeates the entire organization. This new perspective establishes customer-first expectations at all levels, which change behavior. Changes in behavior impact customer interactions, which determine an organization’s reputation. Typically, districts train frontline employees to be kind and polite as part of a greater customer service effort, but sometimes this is not enough. Employees can get so caught up in what their job is, they forget their true role. Secretaries, bus

drivers, custodians and teachers influence perception and opinions about a school and/or district every day. But employees often receive task lists for dealing with the public. This creates a sense of compliance instead of one that values relationships within a customer-centric mindset. Research shows feelings drive customer (stakeholder) decisions and opinions. And those opinions determine your district’s reputation. Consider this scenario: Parent A comes to School A to resolve an issue where the child’s lunch account does not reflect the correct balance. The secretary at the front office is kind and polite, but not especially helpful. She listens to the concern and follows protocol: Inform the parent that Central Office must resolve the issue. The parent calls Central Office and is connected with a Child Nutrition staff member who tells them it is a software issue. The parent is told to call the IT help desk. The parent then speaks to a help desk technician who says the department is dealing with many other issues and cannot get to the problem for at least a week. What is that parent’s perception of the school and district? They probably feel their child is just a number or that nobody cares if their child may not be able to eat for a week. This is a very impersonal interaction that will color that parent’s opinion about the district for many years. Contrast this with a scenario where the district has created a culture focused on the role of a person, not just their job description or title. In this district, the secretary is a customer ambassador and empowered to solve small issues if he/she has the

information or ability to do so. In this scenario, Parent A calls School A with the same concern. Just like the other scenario, the secretary is kind and polite. However, instead of following a prescribed protocol, the secretary calls the cafeteria manager and asks her to check the child’s lunch account. The manager finds a recent deposit is not showing in the account balance and subsequently submits a ticket to the help desk regarding the issue. The manager personally tells the parent she has identified the issue and has submitted a request for technical support. The manager reassures the parent the child will be able to continue to buy lunch until the issue is resolved. She also offers to call the parent when technology has resolved the issue. What is the parent’s perception of this district and its culture? How will this interaction influence how this parent talks about the district with friends in the community? Small differences in how staff interact with parents and residents can greatly enhance or detract from a district’s reputation. By empowering staff to be aware of customer feelings and solve problems at their level, a district can create a culture of community engagement. This allows for quick resolution to issues with a customer-first perspective. Combined, these actions account for feelings instead of just facts, which supports the community in believing the district listens to their concerns. This belief influences the community’s view of the district’s reputation.




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Appropriate body language

FALL 2022



ENVIRONMENT  Branding  Signage

5 Senses


 Furniture & Plants


 Cleanliness, Smell TASTE

 Lighting

Environment Digital and personal interactions are not the only things that matter to people. The physical environment of a school sends a clear message to the community about the priorities of the district. From branding through logos and signage to cleanliness of floors, bathrooms and windows, the community gets a strong indication of the level of importance your district places on the learning environment. This type of attention to detail leaves an impression — either positive or negative — that impacts the district’s reputation. People think with their senses. If a potential or current family sees a dirty bathroom, they will assume the school does not care about their child’s health. If they can smell garbage from the cafeteria in the halls, they will believe classroom trash cans are likely overflowing, too. Flickering lights produce dark rooms which lead to feelings of despair. Contrast this with bathrooms that sparkle, fresh scents in the air and LED lighting that produces a daylight effect. These sensory influences produce an impression upon visitors that impacts the district’s reputation. There is a reason stores like Williams Sonoma purposely have a distinct scent in the air. Lemon, vanilla and rosemary (the recipe for the Williams Sonoma scent) are known to evoke a sense of calm and exclusivity. This concept is so popular, there are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to how to make a house smell like Williams Sonoma, Anthropologie and Nordstrom. Your senses create feelings, which influence what you think. 26



When applied from a community perspective to your district, the senses help drive your district’s reputation. So, take a look at your buildings through the eyes of a visitor and see what tickles the senses. Minor changes can make a dramatic difference in what someone thinks about an organization. When a district builds a culture that values positive customer experiences, empowers staff to be problem solvers and develops a physical environment that evokes positive sensory influences, it will begin to see more memorable interactions with the community it serves. These memories will stay with visitors for years and lead to positive perceptions, which in turn, will produce favorable opinions. And that becomes your district’s reputation. Manage it wisely.

Tips to consider when managing your district/school reputation: •

Focus on culture and customer perceptions Ā

Remember: culture eats strategy for lunch.

Emphasize what impacts the emotional state of feelings Ā

People form opinions based on emotions, not just facts.

Courtesy trumps efficiency Ā

Focus on the “role” not the “job” Ā

Empower your employees to be problem solvers, not just follow a protocol.

“See” with your senses Ā

Look at outcomes, not just processes.

Your environment creates a perception that impacts your district’s reputation.

Rework your vocabulary Ā

Service to Experience


Manager to Leader


Compliance to Empowerment


Accountability to Ownership

Danielle Clark, APR, is chief communications officer for the Harris County Department of Education. A TSPRA member for four years, she serves the association as APR chair.

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Celebrating the 2023

winners & finalists On October 21, TASA named Shelley Jeoffroy, a fifth-grade math teacher at Otis Brown Elementary in Irving ISD, the 2023 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year. Jeoffroy was chosen to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition, so she will have the title of 2023 Texas Teacher of the Year. Chris McLeod, a rocket engineering teacher from Brazosport ISD, was named the 2023 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.

2023 Texas Teacher of the Year Shelley Jeoffroy With a background that includes work in orphanages and with child-focused programs in Peru, Kenya and Morocco, Shelley Jeoffroy now teaches at Otis Brown Elementary School in Irving ISD. Joeffroy has taught all subjects, but now mainly teaches math and science classes. She has previously served as a science curriculum writer, mentor teacher, team lead, gifted and talented building committee member and Destination Imagination coach. Among the many projects Jeoffroy has introduced to her students, one is an entrepreneur club, where students collaborate to design and market a product or determine a service that could be of benefit to their local community. One group of students marketed a highly successful sock drive, giving many of them their first experiences in community outreach, which Joeffroy believes can ignite a lifelong spark for encouraging and supporting those around them. “As my educational philosophy is to provide my students with inspiration that connects them to experiences and the world at large beyond the walls of their classroom, I strive to show them how classroom learning applies to real world opportunities,” Jeoffroy wrote in her program application. “Through my years, I have sought out a multitude of ways to connect the community to the classroom. I believe students not only need to be exposed to career options, but also to diverse examples of people who hold those careers. They need the opportunity to see that people they can relate to have achieved professional dreams, and those possibilities and more are real prospects for their futures.” 29 FALL 2022

2023 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year Chris McLeod At Brazoswood High School in Brazosport ISD, Chris McLeod teaches STEM-focused classes including Rocket Engineering for students in grades 10 through 12. An educator since 2011, McLeod is focused on connecting his students with local community business partners. Some of his students have had the opportunity to partner with officials from Blue Origin, SpaceX, NASA, Dow and BASF. Each January at the school year’s midpoint, McLeod challenges his students to create a rocket that can carry a one-pound payload one mile into the air. “This program I teach is not just for the ‘smart kids’ or the engineers,” McLoed wrote. “It is for any student who shows the slightest bit of interest in building, making or creating. I believe every student should work with their hands, contribute to a team, solve complex problems and be edified and encouraged along the way. Background and prior knowledge have little to do with success in my classroom compared to curiosity and teamwork.”

Texas Teacher of the Year Finalists Kari Johnston Since January 2018, Kari Johnston has worked in Austin ISD as a fourth and fifth grade dual-language teacher at Perez Elementary School. In her work at the school, Johnston has integrated lessons so that all subjects are self-contained, with a hope that her students will move on to middle school with a deep confidence in who they are, where they came from and what they can achieve. Johnston has worked to create units of study that connect to her students’ cultures and passions. With a group of other AISD teachers and a literacy coach, she helped to rewrite her school’s literary canon, including more books that offer her students abundant opportunities to see themselves and their families reflected in the reading materials. “This project has helped to bridge the gap that culturally and linguistically diverse students can feel exists between school and home,” Johnston wrote. “We have revised our canon of literature each summer since. As students come and go, as new books are published, and as the communities around our campus change, so will our canon of literature. We are committed to representing all backgrounds, abilities and identities through this work.”

Andrea Larson Andrea Larson is the coordinator of the English Learner program in Round Rock ISD. She teaches English Language Arts for English Language Learners along with Spanish classes at McNeil High School. Larson has worked in the district for 20 years, where she also serves on the Language Proficiency Assessment Committee and as a teacher coach. 30


Larson’s dedication to multilingual learners is at the core of her work philosophy. She believes all students have the right to the same caliber of educational experiences. “One of my core beliefs is that every story matters,” Larson wrote. “Every person has a story to tell and when we make space for the telling of those stories and time to really listen, we become transformed. Sharing stories allows us to see the threads of experience that bind us all together, and sharing stories highlights the amazing diversity that exists even among people who might otherwise seem so like us.”

Lisa Mackey Currently an art teacher at Fox Elementary School in Klein ISD, Lisa Mackey has been an educator for more than a decade. In her classroom, she uses an “Art Around the World” program to introduce her students to artistic methods from across the globe. Mackey also teaches a unit that focuses on careers in the arts, demonstrating for students how a background in art can prepare them for varied careers, from architecture to advertising, culinary to hair styling, and beyond. Mackey says school culture is one of the most important aspects of her work. To build community in her schools, she has painted hallway murals, created an interactive science lab, introduced a dedicated reading room, started an annual talent show, sponsored Destination Imagination teams and worked to revamp morning announcements. Above all, her goal is to support a culture in which students are free to explore and find their unique talents and interests. “Students who follow their passions are known to retain and learn more,” Mackey wrote. “In an ideal world, this is how education could and should transcend the classroom. As an art teacher, I have a unique opportunity to pull out creativity in every way possible. However, having been a classroom teacher before transitioning to art has made me appreciate and integrate cross-curricular activities into many of my lessons.”

Tricia Shay Tricia Shay is an English I teacher at Borger High School in Borger ISD. She has taught in the district for two years, initially beginning her career as a journalist for the Borger NewsHerald. During her time at the paper, she covered the education beat, and now uses the skills she learned as a journalist to help her students find their own unique writing voices. Shay’s daughter-in-law is also a teacher, and the two paired up on an assignment recently, where Shay’s students composed children’s books for her daughter-in-law’s younger students to read. Shay’s students wrote personalized books for the younger students, and offered them up as end-of-the-year gifts. She says the English I students worked with purpose on the project, hoping their stories would bring joy to the younger kids. “Students are more than a test score, more than young minds ‘to mold,’” Shay wrote. “Our goal as teachers is to really see our kids (and they are our kids), to encourage them and to be a stepping stone toward their final destination, whatever and wherever that might be. It has been my experience that many students need a reason to try, a reason to show up to school, and that reason might just be you.”

FALL 2022


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LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE The benefits of benefits-based accountability by Quintin Shepherd and Roland Toscano


e have long believed that every single day schools and school districts across the country get the very best report card they could ever hope to get from every single student in their district. It happens when students get home and are asked, "How was school today?" This one simple question completely flips the paradigm on what most people think about when they hear “accountability.” This simple question flips the paradigm on finding genius. This question flips the paradigm from teaching to learning. It's strange to think that the answers have been mostly unavailable to the public for many decades, until now. Just how did judgment become the only accountability paradigm in education? Accountability in other fields and professions includes the capacity of an organization to shape itself for the future and emanates from within the organization. But for some reason, education is different. External judgments via test-based accountability are considered more than adequate when that cannot be the case. Test-based accountability is built on compliance frameworks. Graduation rates are an example. Communities whose residents have a high net worth do not have to even think about graduating 100% of students. Other communities struggle to get to 70%. The graduation rate does not tell us the truth about either schools or communities. The truth is that the first school is not the model for how to best graduate kids. Further, why would we tell this school they do not have any work to do? This is compliance thinking. It is not suited to effectiveness or improvement. Worse, compliance systems and thinking forestalls all districts from becoming transformational. Most state accountability ratings systems are not much more than compliance frameworks and do not answer the simple question of “how was school today,” let alone what benefit they provide for the local community. From the Texas School Alliance media release dated Aug. 17, 2022, “... because it relies heavily on the STAAR test, school accountability ratings continue to tell us more about family income than the full range of things that make for a good school.” Just as it is untrue that schools in wealthier neighborhoods are mostly good and those in poorer neighborhoods are mostly bad, it is misguided to believe standardized test scores can indicate the quality or effectiveness of schools and the educators in them. Most test-based accountability systems are built upon the disrespectful assumptions that teachers’ and educators’ feet must be held to fire because they cannot be trusted and must be controlled. The punishment and public shaming (judgment) that accompanies these types of systems place educators, especially those serving poorer communities, in a difficult position: Focus on test scores, or do what is right for kids? The dilemma is that the more a school system focuses on test scores, the worse the results. The solution to this problem is to adopt a bifurcated approach, one that does less damage and induces real change from the inside out.

FALL 2022


The reason for this is that the overreliance on standardized test scores validates the erroneous judgments that accompany them and perpetuates an undesirable cycle of compliance and mediocrity.

organizations. Our kids deserve better from all of us because they are more than a test score. When a student declares themselves as more than a test score, they are conveying that they are in school to accomplish something.

While we may not be able within the current policy environment to undo test-based accountability or the negative judgments and consequences that come with it, we can introduce a better and more useful system that will shift focus from being rear facing to forward facing, from a partial account to a complete account, and from being technically overcomplicated to offering clarity around the benefits a school/school system provides for stakeholders.

That student has a relationship with a school and rightly expects to benefit as a result in a way test scores miss. That student’s parents expect certain benefits as a result of entrusting their child’s education to us, and our community expects certain benefits as a result of their investment in and support of our schools.

Our transactional language of judging schools based on their compliance with a sense of what test scores should be has created paradigms, hierarchies, and power structures that have found their way into our policies and our laws. One of the worst examples of this is that far too many people think comparability is accountability. While comparisons can be useful to researchers capable of pointing out the limitations in their research, using them as the source of judgments is lunacy. If I were to compare your height (or weight, or intelligence, or test score) with others and hold you accountable for having something more like someone else, I am by default pretending you are enough alike that you should produce a similar result. If you aren’t like them, I’m essentially asking you to change and be like them, even though that would be impossible. However, we also attempt to use accountability mechanisms to rank ourselves compared to others, and that message is to be better than others. Our comparison sends an ambiguous message: “Be like others, but better.” That is lunacy. We have much work in front of us if we are going to transform and tell the truth about the effectiveness of our schools, our communities, and our governments. We say that our kids are more than a test score, but are they? The message they receive from our current accountability system is that they exist to earn high test scores, not learn or grow or get ready for their futures. And because accountability always carries real weight, the current system creates serious conflicts with the messages educators send every day that students are so much more. The problem is we tend to think of accountability as a program or initiative done to schools by a larger authority, when we should think of accountability as a part of the DNA of our 34


This idea of “stakeholder benefit” (a phrase introduced into the educational lexicon by John Tanner) is not new. Every organization exists to provide some number of benefits to its stakeholders and schools are no different. But, for a host of reasons, we have not been very good at identifying what those benefits are or our effectiveness at delivering them. That creates a distance between a school and its community and that, we believe, is a mistake. Closing this gap requires complete honesty as to where we are being effective and benefiting our children and where we are not yet as effective as we must be. To be clear, everyone working in a school system expects to be held to account and is enriched by an accountability process that is transparent, understandable, and builds trust. This can only be accomplished with an accountability system that promotes meaningful change, is future-focused, elicits innovation, and acts as a tool to help schools be great instead of one that tries to keep schools from “failing.” In his book, “The Accountability Mindset,” John Tanner suggests that creating an Organizational Accountability System that is benefits-driven is an effective way to provide clarity and build trust between a highly technical organization and its nontechnical stakeholders. He argues that the way to do this is through what he calls a benefits-based approach to accountability. One of the key differences between benefits-based accountability and the more familiar test-based accountability is that a benefits-based accountability system uses simple language, formats, and designs to create a partnership between the ISD and the community. The resulting system will be one that embraces radical, easyto-understand transparency as we share where we are effective

and where we are not yet effective. When done well, a benefit-based accountability system utilizes the hopes, dreams, and expectations of stakeholders to design every aspect of the organization and deliver desired outcomes and experiences.

There is no such thing as a standard community, so there is no benefit to a standardized school system and even less to a standardized accountability system. Each system should be uniquely designed and tightly coupled to the expectations and needs of the community it serves.

The benefits are communicated in a manner that allows for those with technical knowledge as well as those without strong technical knowledge to understand the benefits from their different perspectives.

Standardized and test-driven state accountability is incapable of determining the effectiveness of a school, a teacher, and certainly the potential of a student. It lacks the capacity to inform teaching and learning in any sort of detailed way, and it lacks any ability to forecast human potential.

This is the kind of accountability system that can be the genesis of transformational change. Traditional test-based accountability does not seek this authentic partnership with a community because it does not care to ask what the community desires. Being accountable to the state of Texas for high and rising test scores is a far cry from being accountable for benefiting students. The lion’s share of accountability belongs to local taxpayers for meeting their expectations. Pillars such as student learning and progress, quality and commitment of staff, student safety and well-being, post-secondary readiness, community engagement and partnerships, and fiscal and operational systems make up a more complete representation of what an accountability system should monitor and report.

A benefits-based accountability system starts by answering the question: “To whom are we accountable and for what?” From this, a community can help a school system categorize every aspect of the organization into pillars. Within each pillar, benefits and key questions are identified and utilized to initiate a continual change engine. As a school system answers key questions using any and every relevant data source available, progress is affirmed and opportunities for improvement are identified. Armed with this type of intelligence, meaningful change happens in an ongoing rhythm, prompting continuous improvement that can be reported publicly using signaling in a cadence that enables clarity, simplicity, and real-time transparency. Each year culminates with the publication of a comprehensive community report. Continues on page 36

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As benefits become clearer to stakeholders, trust, confidence, and student outcomes improve. High quality performance is not a destination but a perpetual journey of relentless forward progress in pursuit of realizing the hopes, dreams, and expectations of all stakeholders. To be sure, several of our brothers and sisters around the State of Texas have been hard at this work for the last six years, and we have made good progress in our communities. Of course, some are further along than others. Building upon the strong theoretical foundations laid forth by John Tanner, TASA has convened 60-plus public school districts that are each focused on turning theory into practice. The Texas Public Accountability Consortium stands ready to support school districts that are interested in creating a more useful accountability system that reliably drives improvement and strengthens the relationship between a community and its schools. Decades of test-based accountability have not produced the outcomes we want for children in Texas, now is the time to lead the change our state deserves. This process of being accountable for student benefit never ends. Our community will change, as will the needs of our students. Schools are dynamic institutions and will need to constantly stay on top of where they are and are not yet effective, as that too will change and shift over time. The best way for us to become irrelevant or obsolete is to stand still, which we do not intend to do. While we will likely have to live with test-based accountability for the foreseeable future, that in no way prevents us from building locally developed accountability systems that inform meaningful change. These systems can be communicated in real-time, are aligned with the hopes, dreams, and expectations of the unique community each serves, and, done well, will build trust between the schools and their communities we all so desperately need. n

Texas School Public Relations Association TSPRA is a professional organization whose members are dedicated to improving public education in Texas by: PROMOTING effective public relations practices PROVIDING professional development for its members IMPROVING communication between Texans and their public schools Member benefits include: NETWORKING

Quintin Shepherd, Ph.D., is superintendent of Victoria ISD and works as adjunct professor at University of Houston-Victoria. He has served as a superintendent for the past 19 years in three states. Roland Toscano, East Central ISD superintendent of schools since 2014, is an East Central graduate who has served all 26 years of his career in public education at East Central ISD.






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Ten Short Everyday Mindfulness Practices Take a mindfulness break in 5 minutes or less

If you’ve ever found yourself rushing from task to task with little time to consider how you’d like to proceed, these quick practices are just what you need to reset and steer your day into a better direction. It only takes a couple minutes to create some space in your daily routine. Try these short and sweet practices between phone calls, meetings, or other scheduled activities and make your life a little more mindful today. Start today by clicking here to create an account with eM Life.

Program includes:

Box Breathing

Naming Emotions

We all get triggered by difficult emotions. Lessen the power by naming the emotion to keep calm and clearheaded.

Feeling stressed, or finding it hard to focus? Try this practice to clear your head and calm your nerves.

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Play Episode Connecting with Nature

Getting Grounded

Spend a few minutes in the natural world to wash away stress, and feel more grounded and alive.

Plant your feet on the ground to get out of your thinking mind and be present in the moment just as you are.

Play Episode

Play Episode Being in the Body

Being Kind to Ourselves

If you’re feeling scattered, go inwards and pay attention to your body to connect with yourself and the present moment.

When times are tough, being selfcritical only adds to our stress. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding to ease the discomfort.

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Play Episode Finding Gratitude

Savoring the Good

Pay attention to the little wins and things that you appreciate to cultivate more joy in everyday moments.

Direct your attention to a positive experience. This allows you to pause and truly appreciate the moment.

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Play Episode Cultivating Inner Calm

Tapping Into Beginner’s Mind

Craving some calm? Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and triggers the relaxation response.

Rediscover a sense of wonder and enjoy the world in a fresh new way by practicing curiosity with small everyday things.

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Play Episode

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Breakaway Leadership is Back for Year 2! Earlier this year, TASA launched a different type of leadership development program — Breakaway Leadership. It's a six-month, mostly virtual program intended to help you — whether you're a school leader at the district or campus level — 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 participants' leadership capacity All participants will also be provided with access to Wondr Health, a 52-week virtual wellness program that is research-based, engaging, and proven to be extremely effective. Rory Gesch, deputy superintendent of operations in Alvin ISD, is one of four administrators in his district participating in Cohort 1 of TASA's Breakaway Leadership program. Hear what he has to say about his team's participation.

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. Learn more at

TASA Corporate Partners

TASA is grateful to our 2022–23 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 Edmentum eM Life™ Frontline Education Huckabee Imagine Learning K12 Insight LPA, Inc. N2 Learning NWEA Paper PBK Raise Your Hand Texas Scholastic Stantec Trusted Capital Group (TCG), a HUB International Company ThoughtExchange VLK Architects Wondr Health PLATINUM Capturing Kids’ Hearts Carnegie Learning Cenergistic CENTEGIX ClassLink CollegeBoard Dell Technologies Digi Security Systems DLR Group engage2learn EveryDay Labs Gaggle GermBlast Google for Education Hazel Health Houghton Mifflin Harcourt The Justice Claims Group Lone Star Furnishings, LLC Milliken & Company SAFARI Montage Savvas Learning Company

GOLD Amplify Centric Learning Corwin Press, Inc. Education Advanced, Inc. Gulf Coast Educators Federal Credit Union MeTEOR Education Newsela Renaissance Savvas Learning Company WRA Architects SILVER Corgan Curriculum Associates FranklinCovey Education Harris County Department of Education H-E-B Schneider Electric Stephens Inc. Subject Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle P.C. BRONZE ABM BTC Care Solace Discovery Education GPD Group GreenWatt Lighting Solutions Hilltop Securities HKS Inc. INDECO Sales, Inc. Istation Linebarger Noggin Blair & Sampson, LLP M&R Roofing and Construction Company, LLC. MIND Research Institute, Creators of ST Math MSB School Services Panorama Education Pogue Construction School Innovations & Achievement (SI&A) The Commencement Group Uncharted Learning Entrepreneurship Vanir Construction Management

Learn more about TASA’s Corporate Partner Program

FALL 2022