TSB—January/February 2018

Page 1



The News Magazine for Public Education in Texas JANUARY / FEBRUARY


Texas School Business

Johnny L. Veselka, executive director of TASA, retires after nearly 44 years of service

Also in this issue: TASBO President Jonathan Bey, Fort Worth ISD TSPRA President Kristin Zastoupil, Corsicana ISD

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14 20 TSPRA President Profile Kristin Zastoupil continues her family’s legacy of service to students

Cover Story Johnny L. Veselka, executive director of TASA, retires after nearly 44 years of service by Dacia Rivers


18 TASBO President Profile Jonathan Bey continues a career of service, dedication

6 Who’s News 27 Student Voices 28 Calendar 32 The Arts 34 Ad Index


5 From the Editor by Dacia Rivers 9 The Law Dawg— Unleashed by Jim Walsh 11 Digital Frontier by Dwight Goodwin 13 Game On! by Bobby Hawthorne

Photo Features

34 The Back Page by Riney Jordan

22 Texas ASCD members convene in Houston for annual conference 24 TAGT members gather in to "connect minds" and "empower futures"

The views expressed by columnists and contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher or Texas School Business advertisers. The publisher also makes no endorsement of the advertisers or advertisements in this publication.




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From the editor


appy New Year, Texas School Business readers. This is a very special issue for us, as we reflect on the career of the Texas Association of School Administrators’ retiring executive director, Johnny L. Veselka. It was my honor to sit down and talk with Veselka, and write our cover story reflecting on his long and successful career working for Texas public schools. I do hope you’ll read it and be inspired. And on behalf of Texas School Business magazine, I’d like to thank Johnny personally for his work for the students in our state. Be sure to check out “Student Voices” this issue, written by an impressive young creative writing student in Lubbock ISD, though it might make you wish to be back in middle school again, with all the wonderful opportunities for Texas public school students. I hope the new year finds you rested and ready to go. I’m looking forward to another year of bringing you the great news about your schools. If you have any story ideas coming out of your district, please don’t hesitate to drop me a note at drivers@texasschoolbusiness.com.

Texas School Business (ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018 Volume LXV, Issue 1 406 East 11th Street Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-477-6361 • Fax: 512-482-8658 www.texasschoolbusiness.com EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Dacia Rivers

Dacia Rivers Editorial Director


Phaedra Strecher COLUMNISTS

Dwight Goodwin Bobby Hawthorne Riney Jordan Jim Walsh ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER

Ann M. Halstead


Johnny L. Veselka



Amy Francisco

Texas School Business (ISSN 0563-2978) is published bimonthly with a special edition, Bragging Rights, in December, by the Texas Association of School Administrators, at 406 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78701. Periodicals postage paid at Austin, Texas, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701. © Copyright 2018 Texas Association of School Administrators

Ann M. Halstead

Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018


Who’s News Aldine ISD Superintendent Wanda Bamberg, who has led Aldine ISD since 2007, has announced her intention to retire at the end of the school year. She began her 36-year career as an English teacher in the district, going on to serve for six years as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction before taking her most recent position as superintendent. Also retiring is deputy superintendent Archie Blanson, who has spent his entire 39-year career with Aldine ISD.

Bastrop ISD Superintendent Steve Murray retired at the end of December after a 36-year career, the past eight spent leading Bastrop ISD. Prior to his time there, Murray was superintendent of Little Elm and La Vernia ISDs and deputy superintendent of Del Valle ISD.

The new principal of Roberts Elementary is Jennifer Nabors, who was assistant principal of Beutel Elementary since 2012. A graduate of Texas State University, she earned her master’s degree in education administration from Lamar University. Lanier Middle School’s new principal, Bridgette Percle, has been with the district for 13 years, working as a teacher, counselor and, most recently, assistant principal of Rasco Middle School. A graduate of Brazosport High School, she holds a master’s degree in education from Lamar University. Richard Yoes is now principal

of Brazosport High School. Previously serving as principal of Lanier Middle School, he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and his master’s degree in educational management from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

The district’s new associate superintendent of academics is Laila Olivarez, who has been an educator for 18 years. She comes to Bastrop from Elgin ISD, where she was assistant superintendent of academics and student improvement. Before that, she was an assistant principal and principal in Del Valle and Bastrop ISDs. Currently working on her doctorate in educational administration at the University of Texas, she is a graduate of St. Edward’s University and Texas State University.

the past eight years, will retire at the end of the current school year. An educator for more than 30 years, she began her career in Winona ISD and came to Chapel Hill as an elementary teacher in 1991. She went on to serve as curriculum coordinator and curriculum director before being named assistant superintendent in 2000. Cook holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Tyler and a doctorate from Texas A&M University at Commerce.

Blooming Grove ISD

Clint ISD (El Paso)

Jack Lee, who had been serving in

an interim capacity, is now district superintendent. He previously was principal of Blooming Grove High School.

Brazosport ISD Rasco Middle School has welcomed Jennifer Gonzalez as principal. Prior to this appointment she served in the top position at Brazosport High School. She is beginning her 18th year as an educator, having worked as an administrator in the district for 10 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Former BISD director of business services Rebecca Kelley is now chief finance and government affairs officer.


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

Coppell ISD Sid Grant has been named the district’s associate superintendent. Ron-Marie Johnson, who

was principal of Victory Place @ Coppell High School for the past 25 years, is now director of career and technical education, physical education and fine arts.

Nicole Jund is the new principal of Coppell High School. Formerly principal of Creek Valley Middle School in Lewisville ISD, she holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas and her master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University. Her doctorate in education administration was received from the University of North Texas.

The board of trustees has named Louis Macias executive director of facilities and special projects.

Chapel Hill ISD

The new principal of Victory Place @ Coppell High School is Jeff Minn, former coordinator for behavior services.

Donni Cook, who has led the district for

Josephine AngersteinGuzman now leads CISD’s

special education department. She is the former principal of Clint Junior High and East Montana Middle School.

Now serving as chief human resources officer is former director of human resources Rene Chavez. Clint Junior High has a new principal. Noemi Hernandez, formerly an assistant principal at Horizon High School, began her career in 2003 as a high school math teacher and basketball coach. She began her assignment at Horizon in 2013. Jonathan Powell has been

promoted to director of transportation from his previous job as assistant principal of Mountain View High School.

Kelly Mires has been hired

as executive director of human resources. She has worked in the field for 18 years, most recently as director of human resources for Allen ISD. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and her master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Now serving as director of communications is Amanda Simpson, who comes to her new position from Texas Woman’s University, where she was director of public relations for the past 12 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas. Lorie Squalls, principal of Austin Elementary School, comes to Coppell from Frisco ISD, where she was coordinator of professional learning and elementary curriculum.

Additionally, the following administrative assignments have been made: Cooper Hilton, principal, Wilson Elementary School; Stephen McGilvray, executive director of


Todd Sissom, director of technology;

Kristen Streeter, assistant superintendent

for administrative services;

Tammy Taylor, director of community


Covington ISD The district’s new superintendent, Christopher Heskett, spent the past nine years as principal of Valley View High School. The 22-year educator received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Midwestern State University and his doctorate in education from Lamar University.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD The new principal of Truitt Middle School is Janet Garcia, who most recently held the top position at Holbrook Elementary. An educator for 32 years, she began her career in the district before moving to California. Upon returning to Texas, she came back to CFISD and began her administrative career as assistant principal of Post Elementary. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University and her master’s degree in education from Stephen F. Austin State University. Becky Koop, former principal

of Pope Elementary School, now leads Smith Middle School. She began her career 22 years ago in San Antonio, joining CFISD after three years in that city. She took her first administrative position in 2003 and was named principal at Pope in 2013. Koop graduated from the University of Texas and received her master’s degree in education from Prairie View A&M University. Former Spillane Middle School principal Mike Maness has been named to lead Cypress Ranch High School. He has been an educator for 24 years, working as a teacher for five years before moving into administration as assistant principal of Ault Elementary. Maness holds a bachelor’s degree from Abilene Christian University and a master’s degree in education from Sam Houston State University. He is at work on his doctorate in educational leadership at Lamar University.

Denton ISD Mark White, former senior engineering

consultant for Zurich Insurance, is Denton ISD’s new director of risk management. He previously served in positions similar to his new one in Lee’s Summit (Mo.) R-7 School District and, in Texas, in Birdville and Cypress-Fairbanks ISDs.

Fort Bend ISD Ridge Point High School has a new assistant principal. Mharbe Masculino has been with the district since 2006, when she began her career as a science teacher at Dulles High School. She is a graduate of the University of Texas with a master’s degree in education from Lamar University.

Frankston ISD A new athletic director has been announced for the district. Kevin Chase is a 25-year educator who, prior to joining Frankston ISD, was with Arlington High School in Arlington ISD. He also coached in Fairfield ISD and was athletic director in Moody ISD.

Garland ISD A new superintendent is in place for Garland ISD. Ricardo Lopez, who most recently led Mission CISD, has more than 20 years of experience as an educator. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and his master’s degree from New Mexico State University. He is a graduate of the Cooperative Superintendency Doctoral Fellowship Program at the University of Texas, where he received his doctorate in educational administration, with honors.

Georgetown ISD Tiffani Walker, new executive

director of federal and special programs, spent the past six years as director of federal programs for the district. She has 27 years of experience as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and curriculum specialist. A graduate of Tarleton State University, she holds a master’s degree in school administration from the University of Phoenix.

Hays CISD Tobias Elementary School has a new principal. Alisa DiPalma, previously the school’s assistant principal, began her career in Hays CISD in 2002 at Hemphill Elementary, going on to serve as a master teacher, instructional strategist and summer school principal. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University and her master’s degree in educational administration and leadership from Concordia University. Joy Philpott, most recently the district’s director of assessment and accountability, has been named principal of Tom Green Elementary School.

She attended the University of Mississippi, earning a bachelor’s degree in history and English and two master’s degrees, in English and curriculum and instruction. After serving in in the Mississippi Teacher Corps, she moved into administration in Lockhart and San Marcos ISDs before joining Hays CISD.

Hutto ISD The Hutto ISD board of trustees has named Celina Estrada Thomas district superintendent. She comes to her new position from Fredericksburg ISD, where she was assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction since 2015. Prior to that, she was a campus administrator in Austin, Round Rock and Brownsville ISDs and in Bastrop ISD, where she also was director of human resources.

Industrial ISD The district’s new superintendent is Paul Darilek, who previously led Stockdale ISD. An educator since 1991, when he began his career as a teacher and coach, he worked in Aransas County, Runge, Poth and Halletsville ISDs. He took his first administrative position as Halletsville ISD’s high school assistant principal, going on to serve as superintendent of Vysehrad ISD before joining Stockdale ISD seven years ago.

Iraan-Sheffield ISD Superintendent Kevin Allen retired in December. Now serving as superintendent is Michael Meek, who has been with the district for 18 years, the past 13 as business manager. After completing his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Angelo State University in 1989, he began his career as a teacher and coach in Snyder ISD and in Glasscock County ISD, where he also took his first administrative position, as athletic director. Meek completed his master’s degree in school administration at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

Itasca ISD The district’s new superintendent is Mark Parsons, an educator with 15 years of experience. He joined Itasca ISD five years ago as athletic director and head football coach and was most recently principal of Itasca High School. He attended Stephen F. Austin State University and earned his master’s degree from Lamar University. He is at work on his doctorate at Tarleton State University.

> See Who’s News, page 25 Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018



Overworked and underpaid — but the stories! by Jim Walsh


n the 1920s, the U.S. Supreme Court decided two cases that established that parents have a constitutional right to direct the upbringing of their children. Both cases involved public education. But how far do those rights extend? Isn’t the parental right going to bump into the school district’s authority at some point? If you want to find out, here’s one cookbook recipe: 1. Set up a student assembly to address safe sex and AIDS awareness. 2. Make it mandatory. 3. Don’t tell the parents about it. 4. Hire a company called Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions, Inc. 5. Stand back and watch what happens. 6. Get some popcorn. This actually happened in 1992 in Massachusetts (not the popcorn). The aforementioned HSS Productions put on a very lively presentation for 90 minutes. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the presentation was sexually explicit, including simulations of sexual activity. The suit claimed that the speakers endorsed oral sex, masturbation, homosexuality and premarital sex. There were 18 references to orgasm, six to male genitalia and eight to the female variety. Looks like someone was counting. Can you imagine the dinner table conversation that night? Parent: Did anything interesting happen in school today? Child: No. But I learned some new words. What is an “orgasm”? The principal, no doubt, got a few phone calls the next morning. The parents who sued the district alleged that the school’s decision to require attendance at this assembly, without parental notice or the opportunity to opt out, violated their substantive due process rights under the 14th Amendment. Of course they cited

the two Supreme Court cases from the 1920s in support of their argument. But the 1st Circuit found this case to be different from the earlier ones: If all parents had a fundamental constitutional right to dictate individually what the schools teach their children, the schools would be forced to cater a curriculum for each student whose parents had genuine moral disagreements with the school’s choice of subject matter. We cannot see that the Constitution imposes such a burden on state educational systems, and accordingly find that the rights of parents as described by Meyer and Pierce do not encompass a broad-based right to restrict the flow of information in the public schools. The parents lost their case because the constitutional right that they cited did not extend as far as they would have liked. The Supreme Court was not willing to recognize a constitutional right for parents to dictate school curriculum. However, many states, including Texas, have now adopted statutes that allow a parent to opt their child out of a program, activity or class that the parent finds offensive. You can find our statute at T.E.C. 26.010. School law is full of colorful cases such as this one. It’s one of the principle pleasures of being a school lawyer. We don’t have to read boring cases about income tax regulations or antitrust law. We get to read about American life in all its colorful complexity. You readers should remember this. Those of you who toil in the public schools are overworked, underpaid, over criticized and underappreciated. But as this case illustrates, you have one unique job perk: the stories you get to tell. The case of Brown v. Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions, Inc. was decided by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 23, 1995. We found it at 68 F.3d 525.

JIM WALSH is an attorney with Walsh Gallegos Treviño Russo & Kyle PC. He can be reached at jwalsh@wabsa.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jwalshtxlawdawg. Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018





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A technology plan needs to start with the why and not the what by Dwight Goodwin


echnology should enhance and accelerate learning, and a strong technology plan is an important driver to effective change. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of what tools to equip students and staff with, a truly transformational technology plan begins with a simple why?

The fallacy of what we have always done Technology moves at an incredibly fast pace, and to keep up with that pace, flexibility is a must. With the exponential growth of technology creating a rapidly changing culture of students, it’s irresponsible to approach any type of work with technology and learning with the mindset that maintaining the status quo is a viable option. To be truly flexible, you must routinely ask yourself if you are truly benefitting students with your current technology practices. To determine if a practice is effectively benefitting students, it’s important to do a thorough inquiry. Find the people in the trenches doing the work with students and get their feedback. Teachers and staff are on the front lines of changing student culture, and their voices have to be heard if you plan to defeat the status quo.

The fallacy of what everyone else is doing Educators are humans, and human nature involves comparing ourselves to others. We look around at what neighboring districts are doing and want to make sure we are keeping stride. We see impressive headlines of 1:1 initiatives or hear about big technology purchases, and we want our students to have these same opportunities. The intent is good, but it’s important to remember that each

community has different values, needs and budgetary constraints. Districts should base their technology needs on their own unique circumstances. George Couros calls this, “innovation inside the box.” Innovating inside the box requires collaborative thinking and leadership. Have you asked students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members what they want students to do with technology? What do students need to help them acquire the ever so important 21st century skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity? District technology plans need to be personalized to the communities they serve.

The benefits of why Why is the key force behind what we do. As Simon Sinek says: “People don’t care what we do, they care why we do it.” Just as with Sinek, school districts should start with “Why?” when considering their technology vision. What is your purpose for technology? Is it to put technology in the hands of students? Is it to give students the opportunity to connect to resources all over the globe anytime, anywhere? Once you determine your why and purpose, district leaders need to put on their collaborative leadership hats and ask teachers and students how they want to accomplish the Why. Leaders will need to keep an open mind to the best technology for each grade and content area to encompass the district’s Why.

to reflect the unique needs of the district. If a technology plan is truly flexible to change, responsive to feedback, and focused on its students and teachers above all else, only then will it be agile enough to respond to the rapidly changing needs of today’s schools.

'It's important to remember that each community has different values, needs and budgetary constraints. Districts should base their technology needs on their own unique circumstances.'

There is rarely a one-size-fits-all in the K-12 environment, but the important thing about the decision-making process is that vision is set with the Why. The technology plan needs to be co-created by all stakeholders with student learning as the focus. It needs

DWIGHT GOODWIN is the director of instructional technology for Denton ISD. He also currently serves as president of TCEA. Find him on twitter at @scout2i. Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018


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The best man for the job might be a woman by Bobby Hawthorne


year or so ago, I wrote a column that pointed out that of the 1,030 or so independent school districts in Texas, fewer than 20 had hired a woman as athletic director. I called it the “pigskin ceiling.” I’m sure you read it, and I just have to believe school board members and assistant superintendents are scouring the pine forests and coastal plains and high sierras for qualified female candidates, and when they find them, they’ll actually hire them instead of merely including one or two in the batch of finalists as a gesture of goodwill. Well, let’s assume you hire the female candidate, and in two or three years, it doesn’t work out. For whatever reason, it doesn’t click. What happens then? Well, let me tell you a story. I was teaching a writing workshop at a medium-sized Midwest university, and during a turkey sandwich and warm Coke luncheon, I made small talk with the faculty members, university media liaisons, student newspaper reporters, and assorted other sports enthusiasts and communications majors, and I read to them part of the column I mentioned above, as a way of emphasizing the point that they should cover the local stuff instead of gabbing about LaBron or the Cubs or NFL players who choose to take a knee. They mostly agreed with me, and it was all quite pleasant until I began a conversation with a young man sitting across from me. He asked if I was acquainted with the situation at this particular school’s athletic department, and I told him I was not, so he gave me the lowdown: The school had a new football coach and a new athletic director. They seemed to be patching the program back together. “What happened?” I asked, in so many words.

“Well, we hired a woman AD a couple of years ago, and she tried to get rid of football and men’s basketball while emphasizing the minor sports and intramurals,” he said. “It was a disaster, and everyone around here was pretty upset, so they brought in some new folks.” Well, who could blame them? Certainly not me. But then, the young man added, “We probably won’t be hiring another woman AD around here anytime soon.” I didn’t need to hear that, and I could have slapped his wrist, but I’m glad I didn’t, because he’s a nice kid, and I’m sure he meant no harm. I doubt he understands the full extent of what he said, which was this: Women get one shot. That’s it. Fail, and we pull the plug on the experiment and feel good about ourselves because we did what we could to move the needle, and it just didn’t work out. Too bad, and now, we return to the tried and true. We hire a man, and if he doesn’t work out, we hire another man, and that man will look and sound like the man he replaced, because they all tend to. By the way, the University of Tennessee fired its head football coach the day I wrote this. How much you want to bet their next head football coach will come from the same egg farm that sent them Butch Jones? I’m not suggesting Tennessee hire a woman. I am suggesting that Tennessee — and everyone else — hire the best person available, and if all things appear equal on paper, then they give someone other than Dabo or Jimbo or Butch a shot. More so, I am stating bluntly that the failure of one woman in one situation should not be held against the entire gender in all situations. Women have come too far and endured too much to find themselves in a one-and-done.

BOBBY HAWTHORNE is the author of “Longhorn Football” and “Home Field,” published by UT Press. In 2005, he retired as director of academics for the University Interscholastic League.

Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018



Executive director of TASA retires after nearly 44 years of service by Dacia Rivers


t’s impossible to get Johnny Veselka to brag on himself. As humble as the day is long, Veselka has served as executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators since Jan. 1, 1986. In February, he’ll exit that post and head for retirement, not with a bang, not with a whisper, but with pride in the organization he dedicated nearly 44 years to molding, directing and supporting.

A storied career In the summer of 1974, a young Veselka walked through the doors of the TASA offices (then housed inside the Texas State Teachers Association building in downtown Austin) as an intern. He was working on his master’s in education administration at The University of Texas, planning to do the internship for a year, then finish up his degree and look for a leadership position in a Texas public school district. Of course, things didn’t wind up quite that way. TASA had two full-time employees back then, an executive director and one executive assistant, and at the time, they were working to hire a new director. In January 1976, Charles Mathews became executive director, and after Veselka’s oneyear internship was up, Mathews asked him to stay on through the transition and help him grow the organization. Veselka gladly accepted. “The opportunity to work for the association was intriguing, and it was an exciting opportunity for me, one I really enjoyed,” he says. Veselka wound up working with Mathews at TASA for 10 years. When he retired in 1985, it was Veselka whom the TASA Executive Committee chose to fill the executive director role, a position he’s held ever since. In that 32-year timespan, TASA has grown to 20 full-time employees and moved to its own headquarters building near the Capitol, while continuing to uphold the group’s original mission of supporting and providing services for its members. “I did not envision at the time that I might spend my entire career here,” Veselka says. “But it was a great opportunity to support Texas public schools and school leaders across the state, and work to benefit the children in our public schools.” Veselka grew up in Schulenburg, a town you can’t miss when driving I-10 between Houston and San Antonio. While in high school, he was inspired by his own teachers to pursue a career in education. “I saw [teaching] as an opportunity to help others,” he says. After getting his bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University, Veselka spent five years as a classroom teacher in San Antonio at North East ISD, where he did his student teaching. There he taught middle school social studies and got the desire to earn his master’s and go into administration. That was the push that moved him to Austin, got him connected with TASA, and kicked off his career in association leadership, working to benefit Texas public schools.

▲ Veselka poses at the TASA headquarters back in 1975 with fellow employees Joan Chastain and Pat Johnston, who worked with Veselka at TASA until her retirement in 2015.

A laundry list of accomplishments The accomplishments Veselka has helped TASA achieve during his tenure as executive director are numerous. But chief among them for him is the design and creation of the Public Education Visioning Institute. This work started in 2006, when a group of superintendents began brainstorming ways to take a more positive and proactive approach to public education in Texas, rather than one that largely reacted to whatever was going on in the Legislature at the time.

'I hope that over the next few years, TASA can develop a strong relationship with business leaders and the state to really advance public education.'

TASA stepped up and became engaged in that visioning work, facilitating the institute for two years. The result is a 2008 publication titled, “Creating a New Vision for Public Education,” a document that offered a new concept of public education in Texas — one that fosters a sense of community in its schools and best prepares students for an ever-changing world. “That document really has become the framework for everything we’ve done at TASA since that time,” Veselka says. “We have focused on the principles in that vision as part of our legislative initiatives, and it has guided our work in developing professional learning opportunities for our members.” The visioning document led to legislation > See Veselka, page 16

▲ Veselka, standing, second from right, poses with former Governor Dolph Briscoe, seated. Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018


> Continued from page 15

requiring the creation of a Texas High Performance Schools Consortium. Though TEA was originally tasked with establishing this consortium, in 2012, TASA stepped in and took over facilitation because of the group’s successful experience with the visioning institute. This past year, TASA also created the Texas Performance Assessment Consortium, which focuses on redesigning assessment in school districts, moving away from the high-stakes model and toward more meaningful assessment and accountability. The group is focused on community-based accountability, which allows districts to better respond to the needs and interests of their local communities. “We are hopeful that we can offer recommendations when the Legislature convenes in 2019,” Veselka says. “But more importantly, we are creating a process through which school districts can become involved in collaborating with each other and in implementing better ways of measuring student performance that has more meaning for students, teachers and parents.” Another TASA accomplishment of which Veselka is proud is what used to be known as the TEA Midwinter Conference, which dates back to the 1950s. In the 1990s, when then-commissioner of education Lionel Meno wanted to expand the conference, TASA stepped in to help. So in 2004, when TEA was struggling to continue the expanded conference, TASA was on hand to take the reins.

▲ Veselka poses with Jim Crow, executive director of TASB, at the TASA/TASB convention.


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

This month, the organization will host its 15th annual TASA Midwinter Conference in Austin. The gathering has grown to welcome more than 4,000 administrators annually, making it the biggest school administrators’ conference in the nation — even larger and more well-attended than AASA's National Conference on Education. “It’s wonderful to be able to see how school district leadership teams are coming together [at the conference] and collaborating and sharing programs that work in their district,” Veselka says. “The networking opportunities are significant, and the conference really gives them an opportunity to hear and learn from some of the best thought leaders in public education.” Veselka is also proud of the collaboration with other associations and state agencies during his time in TASA’s top slot. TASA has a good working relationship with TEA, and often works closely with State Board of Education members on policy matters. The organization often partners with other education-related associations, especially the Texas Association of School Boards, with which it has held a joint annual convention since the early 1960s. The partnership that has evolved between TASA and TASB is unprecedented among similar associations across the country.

A commitment to collaboration In his time as TASA executive director, Veselka has worked with 15 different commissioners, seven different governors and 33 TASA presidents. Day in and day out, he has embraced these changing collaborators, staying positive in a way that has allowed him to develop and continue a professional reputation as a dedicated, hard-working and supportive colleague — no small feat in any industry, but

'We’ve had the greatest success when we can come together and represent all types of districts in advocating before the Legislature.'

▲ Veselka receives the 2009 TSPRA Key Communicator award from former TSPRA Executive Director Judy Farmer. especially impressive when you’re dealing with government and the often hot topic of public education. Veselka says the mindset that has kept him going through tough conversations on potentially volatile issues is keeping his eye on TASA’s purpose: benefitting the 5.3 million students currently enrolled in Texas public schools. “It’s such an exciting opportunity to be able to work with such great leaders across the state,” he says. “I’ve always felt that it was important to focus attention on the elected leadership of the organization and give the presidents of our association an opportunity to be upfront in representing the profession.” Working with other organizations and agencies is a big part of directing TASA, and one where Veselka excels. When building teams of TASA members for any purpose, from offering input on TEA programs to addressing the Legislature on funding challenges, Veselka is quick to assemble a diverse group of superintendents from the membership. On any TASA committee, you’ll find administrators from a wide range of Texas districts, large and small, urban and rural, which is especially important when representing such a large and varied state. “We’ve always tried to make sure that individual members with diverse views have an opportunity to participate in developing our legislative priorities,” Veselka says. “We’ve had the greatest success when we can come together and represent all types of districts in advocating before the Legislature for proposals, primarily relating to school funding and formulas that will produce an

adequate and equitable program across the state.” Many of Veselka’s colleagues recognize his impressive ability to unite diverse groups in their work for the greater good of Texas public schools, facilitating conversations and bringing about a consensus calmly and tactfully, without ruffling feathers. “I learned so much from Johnny, watching how he worked collaboratively with others, and his unique ability to bring people to a consensus,” says Tom Burnett, a retired Apple executive who served on a steering committee with Veselka. “There are so many memories I have. The one that stands out is when we were working on a legislative initiative that was stalled. Johnny took the reins of the effort, put his leadership and the power of TASA behind it, coordinated all the various business, education and civic groups, and got the bills passed.” John Folks, also a longtime advocate of public education, having worked for 10 years as superintendent of Northside ISD after serving as Oklahoma’s state superintendent of public instruction, agrees with Burnett’s take on Veselka. “Johnny’s kindness, patience and understanding were so important to school leaders,” Folks says. “He showed us ‘the way’ many times to have an influence on legislators, to adopt innovative programs, and provide a focus on the job superintendents were called upon to do. Johnny’s legacy will be the leadership he has provided for TASA for so many years.” Veselka’s ability to unify folks toward a common goal is a large part of his legacy, and a trait that many career administrators admire, including John Horn, who served as superintendent of Mesquite ISD for 15 years.

around. He and the TASA officers created the TASA 2025 Task Force, a group of TASA members that has been working to develop a strategic framework for the association that articulates what TASA aspires to be by 2025 and how it plans to get there. “We focused on advocacy, member engagement and professional learning as the three core areas of our strategic framework, and we reorganized our committee structure so we have a committee assigned to each of those areas,” Veselka says. “I think it’s a blueprint for the future, but it also captures the work we’ve been doing over the last 10 years, particularly.” Later this month at TASA Midwinter, the details of the strategic framework will be shared, including the long-term strategies that the association will use in the coming years. Veselka believes the plan will take what TASA has been doing to the next level, raising the bar in many areas, including offering networking opportunities and contributing to grassroots support for public education across the state. “I hope that over the next few years, TASA can develop a strong relationship with business leaders and the state to really advance public education,” Veselka says. “I see us doing much more in the way of online learning and communicating with our members with new technologies. I see us building libraries, resources and archives of best practices and information that our members can share electronically.” This long-term planning will carry Veselka’s work at TASA well into the future. It’s

significant that the person who guided the organization for more than 30 years is on hand to oversee the creation of the plan that will direct TASA’s course as it heads into its 100th year and beyond. It also serves as proof that Veselka’s commitment to TASA is deep. He isn’t one to step away and leave the group in the lurch, searching for direction. In the weeks before his retirement, he’s not gazing out his office window, dreaming of days on the golf course or walks in the woods. There will be plenty of time for planning his retirement after his job is done. Until then, TASA needs him, and it would never occur to him not to be there for the organization he’s been dedicated to for more than 40 years. Veselka’s allegiance to TASA and to public education in Texas is rooted in history, and he leaves behind a legacy that is sure to be felt in the state for decades to come. Gracious as they come, Veselka is appreciative of his time at TASA’s helm, and is thankful to those he’s had the opportunity to work with for helping him achieve incredible success for the organization. “I feel like I was very fortunate to have this opportunity,” he says of his time at TASA. “I’ve really had tremendous support from TASA members throughout my career here, and I had great support from the officers and Executive Committee members, as we have grown the organization to where we are today.” DACIA RIVERS is editorial director of Texas School Business.

“In tandem with his personal modeling of how great leaders lead by example, think divergently, create strategic alliances, and cultivate trusting relationships, Johnny Veselka’s more enduring legacy will be his role as the primary architect and builder of the nation’s premier professional association of school leaders,” Horn says. “Even-tempered but dynamic, resolute but open-minded, cautious but courageous, Johnny makes you to want to be on his team and want him on your team. He can stand up to opposition in ways that are sometimes disarming.”

TASA at 100 In 2025, TASA will turn 100 years old. In one of his last acts as the association’s executive director, Veselka has been working on a blueprint for what the group will look like when its centennial rolls

▲ Veselka shakes hands with John Horn.

Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018



Texas Association of School Business Officials

Jonathan Bey continues a career of service, dedication


variety of factors draw people to work in public schools, but chief among them is the desire to be of service, not only to children, but to the community as a whole. For Jonathan Bey, incoming president of the Texas Association of School Business Officials, it was a desire to work in public service that drew him to the field. After Bey graduated from high school, his mother desperately wanted him to attend college, but the family was unable to cover the costs. Bey enlisted in the Air Force, where he could earn an income while receiving money to attend college. He originally planned to spend four years serving, but found that a life in public service suited him. “It fit me so well,” Bey says. “The discipline and the promotion system, supporting the mission and doing what was best for the country always felt like the right thing to do.” Bey wound up serving 20 years in the Air Force, working in supply, logistics and transportation. During that time, he lso graduated summa cum laude with his bachelor’s degree in Business Management


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

from McMurry University and earned a master’s degree in Procurement and Acquisitions from Webster University before retiring with honors in 2004. “I never could find a good reason to not be there,” Bey says. “Every four years or so you had to re-enlist and they would always ask, ‘Do you want to stay or do you want to go?’ And then when I realized that I could retire at 39 it was like, ‘Oh, wow. Yeah, we could do that.’” After retiring from the Air Force, Bey wasn’t sure what was next on his career horizon. At the time, his wife was working in Fort Worth ISD, and when she saw the district was hiring a purchasing supervisor, they both knew the position was just right for Bey. “It really fit because my background is in supply and logistics and contracting,” Bey says. “I think the biggest thing is it’s a public service type of situation, and I understand public service.” During his time in the Air Force, Bey’s mantra was: “Don’t forget the mission.” It’s one that he’s carried with him in his now 13 years in Fort


Worth ISD, where he currently serves as executive director of purchasing. “Here it’s the same kind of organizational structure where we’re supporting the classroom, where it’s our job to make sure that we provide the best resources available to our teachers, our principals, campus administrators and so forth,” Bey says. “I just didn’t know I was going have this much fun after the Air Force.” Bey has a hand in all purchases made in Fort Worth ISD, and in such a large district, there’s a whole lot of purchasing going on. With nearly 15 years of district support under his belt, he says the biggest change in the work he does is directly related to changing technology. Being able to use online resources to perform price comparisons and order the most useful and cost-efficient items for schools has been a boon to the department. “It’s allowed us to do things way more efficiently and find sources that we didn’t have available to us, and so it benefits our teachers greatly that we can get them what they need faster, at a very competitive price,” Bey says. “They don’t have to leave the classroom, they don’t have to go to a store and spend money out of pocket. We can get them what they need while they’re working in their classrooms.” At the same time, changing technology presents a challenge for a large district trying to stay on top of trends. Bey says his experience in the Air Force helped prepare him for this particular challenge. “There’s always more demand on public schools and not necessarily more funding,” he says. “In the Air Force we call this ‘doing more with less.’” To help with making the transition between careers, the first thing Bey did after coming to work in Fort Worth ISD was to join TASBO. He was looking for training, collaboration and support, and he found it all in the organization. “I was the new guy and was in culture shock, because for one, I don’t know how to be a civilian and then two, I was like, ‘Okay, so where’s the group of folks that know everything about purchasing?’” Bey says. “TASBO became that fountain of knowledge and a networking organization that allowed me to connect with folks that were very knowledgeable and willing to share.” TASBO was a huge help to Bey as he got into his purchasing career, and he is grateful to

the organization. He says that the connections he has made and the confidence he has gained in his own abilities to do his job, thanks to the organization’s training and support, are immeasurable. Being analytically minded, he actually sat down once and tried to measure TASBO’s influence and reach before realizing to do so was impossible, as some of the intangibles the group provides across the state can’t be put into numerical form.

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During his tenure as TASBO president, Bey wants to continue this legacy of support, while also focusing on the importance of customer service, an area he feels is often misunderstood. “Our mission is to support the classroom, and sometimes we could get lost in so much compliance that you can almost get disconnected from the customer,” he says. “I understand it has to be a balance, but sometimes that pendulum can swing so far to the left that we’re so compliance-oriented that we don’t serve the customer, and we’re not focused on the classroom.” For Bey, finding the balance between compliance and customer service is of top importance. In his dedication to “focus on the mission,” he hopes to encourage other TASBO members to remember the effect their decisions have on each student in their district. “If I’m doing something in the business office that keeps a student from learning at their best, then I have to reevaluate why we’re doing that, and sometimes it’s hard to balance it,” Bey says. “I think the short answer is to focus on the classroom.” In his position, Bey says he often receives phone calls from people who apologize for having to call, for taking up his valuable time. He’s quick to dismiss these concerns — after all, he’s there to serve. He sees these conversations as an important part of his job and hopes to foster a professional environment that takes a more customer support-oriented view. “People say, ‘I’ve got a quick question,’ well, it doesn’t have to be quick. The whole reason I’m here is to make sure your life is easier as far as work is concerned,” Bey says. “They feel sometimes that they’re bothering us or asking too many questions or taking too much of our time, and that indicates to me that they don’t understand that I am here for them.” ◄

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Texas School Public Relations Association

Kristin Zastoupil continues her family’s legacy of service to students


any school employees enter the field because they have a family history of working in schools. They teach because their mothers taught. They become principals because their fathers were principals. But for Kristin Zastoupil, incoming president of the Texas School Public Relations Association, her work in schools has its roots all the way back in 1917, when her great-grandmother began working as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Arkansas. “She was 19 years old then, and I have a picture in my office, she’s got about 20 kids with her, and they look like they’re in kindergarten all the way to age 15, in one room,” Zastoupil says. “She’s kind of the family inspiration, and I come from a really long line of people who have worked in public education in some form.” That inspiration has been long-reaching, and now 100 years later, Zastoupil works as webmaster and graphic designer in Corsicana ISD and also serves as executive director of the Corsicana Education Foundation. However, she wasn’t always sure she’d wind up working in education, despite all of her familial connections to schools. Zastoupil’s grandmother worked in a school cafeteria, her mother was a school nurse when Zastoupil was in elementary school, and her older sister has worked as a special education teacher for nearly 20 years.


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

Surrounded by so many school professionals, Zastoupil originally intended to set off in her own direction after college. “I was the one who went to school and said, ‘You know what? I am not going to work in education. I am not going to be a teacher,’” Zastoupil says, laughing at the memory. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and her master’s in journalism from Baylor University, working in various public relations internships during that time. But while in college, Zastoupil heard a presentation about the rewarding work of nonprofit educational PR, and that legacy of school employment deep in her family tree came to life. “I said I wasn’t going to do it, but I fell in love with the idea in college, hearing other people speak about how rewarding it was, and it just stuck,” Zastoupil says. After receiving her graduate degree, Zastoupil worked in PR at a small, private Christian school in Waco. From there, she worked for a non-profit education research company before being hired in Corsicana 12 years ago as a one-person executive director of school communications. She took some time off when her first son was born, then returned to Corsicana, where she has worked in her current position for five years.

“When TSPRA approached me [about serving as president], I was pretty pregnant,” Zastoupil says. “I looked at my husband, because he knows how important this is to me, and he said, ‘You know, this is a dream of yours. If you want to do it, I got you,’ and he sure did.” Zastoupil and her husband brought their then-newborn second son to the group’s conference last year, decked out in a little TSPRA onesie, an adorable mascot for the event. Besides welcoming Zastoupil’s family, TSPRA has benefitted her career in many ways, helping her to connect with others in a field where support can be minimal.

learn just as much as a session that’s being presented by a veteran.”

In communication technology, the only constant is change. To keep on top of the fluctuating field, Zastoupil says TSPRA members are always learning from each other, no matter how long they’ve been in their careers. Each member has his or her own niche and brings an individual expertise to the group, which is set up to share. And there’s no need to wait for an association meeting — TSPRA members have group email lists that allow them to reach out to each other instantly when input is needed.

Zastoupil is grateful for her TSPRA family, where she says she’s made personal and professional connections that will last her a lifetime. She’s excited to lead the group into the future, to foster these types of connections and to increase her own knowledge and help do the same for others in the field that runs so deep in her veins.

“I love that we all have these different positions and we are so dynamic and have so much to learn from each other because our positions are constantly changing,” Zastoupil says. “When I go to a conference, I can visit a session that’s being presented by a rookie and

During her time as TSPRA president, Zastoupil says she plans on continuing the association’s mission while staying flexible in an ever-changing field. “We have to be willing to continually move forward, and I think TSPRA does a good job of that, so I want to continue that as things get thrown at us and situations change,” she says.

“We are a passionate group of lifelong learners, and TSPRA gives us the opportunity to continually learn and keep up-to-date with best practices,” she says. “My pet peeve is when people say, ‘This is the way we need to do it because this is the way we’ve always done it.’ That is not a good reason.” ◄



Zastoupil joined TSPRA 12 years ago when she moved to Corsicana ISD and served as at-large vice president for four years before taking the president-elect position. To her, TSPRA is not only a professional organization, but a welcoming extension of her own family.

“In school PR, there are so many different hats that we wear: web, video, social media, strategic planning, foundations, partnerships; even if you have a couple of people in your department, in a large district with thousands of people, you can feel like the lone wolf, because nobody else does what we do,” she says. “What I love about TSPRA is it feels like a family, where you can go in and find somebody who’s doing what you’re doing and who knows what it’s like to be in your position.”


“I love what I do, and I really feel like Corsicana is home,” says Zastoupil, who grew up in Celeste, a tiny town north of Dallas, where she graduated from high school in a class of 34 students. “I’m here for the long haul because my sons will be products of Texas public education just like I am, and I’m really proud of that.”


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018


Photo Feature

TEXAS ASCD MEMBERS CONVENE IN HOUSTON FOR ANNUAL CONFERENCE Members of the Texas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development joined together in Houston in the fall at the group’s yearly conference. With a focus on crafting innovation, the event offered numerous professional learning opportunities and keynote speeches focused on innovating public education, changing instructional delivery, addressing the participation gap and developing innovative intelligence.

▲Former Commissioner of Education Mike Moses, left, with Texas ASCD Past President Roy Garcia.

▲Dr. Wanda Bamberg, superintendent of Aldine ISD.

▲Texas State Rep. Donna Howard receives the Texas ASCD Award for Distinguished Service to Education.

▲Dr. Bill Daggett, International Center for Leadership in Education.

▲Dr. Sara Ptomey, local arrangements committee chair, Aldine ISD.

▲T.E.A.C.H. Award recipients Debra Kurten and Garrett Gray.


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

▲Texas ASCD President Bill Bechtol.

▲Past Texas ASCD President Roy Garcia, left, and Executive Director/CEO Dr. Yolanda M. Rey.

▲Dr. Elizabeth Clark, Birdville ISD, presents the new Circle of Learning program.

▲Abigayle Barton, Abilene ISD and Kat Satterley, Performance Matters, at the Learning Lounge.

▲Attendees from Northside ISD make good use of the photo backdrop at registration.

▲ Cheri Braden, Jana Rueter, Shelly Huddleston and Jennifer Crutchfield, San Angelo ISD.

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Photo Feature

TEXAS ASSOCIATION FOR THE GIFTED AND TALENTED MEMBERS GATHER IN HOUSTON TO “CONNECT MINDS” AND “EMPOWER FUTURES” TAGT hosted its giftEdD 17 conference in late November, with more than 2,000 attendees coming together for a weekend of inspiring speeches, handson sessions and ample networking opportunities.

▲ TAGT Executive Director Sheri Hicks talks with NASA’s Stephen Smith about his session at giftED17.

▲ Richardson’s Angela Reina-Greca, Monica Simonds and Brandi Jackson, and Somerville’s Lindsay Bell pose in the giftED17 exhibit hall. ◄ TAGT President Priscilla Lurz with her mentor and 2017 President’s Award winner, Joseph S. Renzulli, of the University of Connecticut. ▲ Lizette Diaz and Nereyda Ruiz Gallido from Edinburg CISD get hands-on in a make-and-take session at giftED17. ◄ Jaricha Boswell, Beaumont ISD, checks out the giftED17 app for her next session.

▲ Melissa Hernandez, Brownsville ISD, fills out a survey on how she can volunteer with TAGT in the future in the TAGT coreTEX area.


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

► Jacqeline Pardo,

Killeen ISD, plays a learning game in the TAGT playground area.

▲ MasterMind speaker John Hunter meets with giftED17 attendees after his inspiring keynote.

Who’s News > Continued from page 7

La Feria ISD La Feria ISD has hired its first Hispanic woman as superintendent. Cathy Hernandez, who spent 10 years as an administrator in districts in the Rio Grande Valley, was most recently assistant superintendent of Judson ISD in San Antonio.

Lewisville ISD Lori Rapp has been appointed

deputy superintendent. She will serve as head of teaching and learning and provide oversight for employee services and schools and student activities. She has spent her career in LISD, joining the district in 1996 as a math teacher. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Texas Tech University and her master’s degree in the same field from Texas Woman’s University. Her doctorate in educational leadership was conferred by Dallas Baptist University.

Lubbock ISD Behrl Robertson, Jr., who

has led Lubbock ISD as superintendent since 2013, has announced that he will retire at the end of the school year. He came to the district in 2009 as chief administrative officer after a 10-year assignment leading Roosevelt ISD, where he had begun his career, teaching agricultural sciences, in 1989. From there, he went on to work as the transition coordinator and, subsequently, director of special education for the SELCO (Southeast Lubbock County Organization) Special Education Cooperative, taking his first superintendent position in Southland ISD prior to rejoining Roosevelt ISD. Robertson earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture education and his master’s and doctoral degrees in education from Texas Tech University. In 2015 he was named a Distinguished Alumni of that school. Also retiring in June will be executive director of purchasing Traci Robertson. She has been with the district since 1993.

McKinney ISD Veteran educator Adrienne Morris has been tapped to

serve as director of special populations. A graduate of McKinney High School, she began her career in Melissa ISD, going on to serve as an educational diagnostician in Wylie and Allen ISDs, returning to Melissa ISD as the

district’s special education director. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education and her master’s degree in special education from Texas Woman’s University.

Marlin ISD Teri Rinewalt has been named Marlin ISD’s

special education director. She is the former assistant director of special education for Waco ISD, serving in that position since 2015.

Mesquite ISD Newly appointed assistant superintendent of personnel Mary Randall was previously the district’s executive director of personnel services. She has spent 25 of her 37 years as an educator with Mesquite ISD, also working in Arkansas and in Dallas ISD. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Henderson State University and a master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce.

Nocona ISD David Waters has been approved to serve

as superintendent. He comes to his new position from Llano ISD, where he was assistant superintendent. In addition, he has worked as a high school teacher and elementary and junior high assistant principal.

Pearland ISD Jorgannie Garza Carter, former executive director of financial services for Spring ISD, is now Pearland ISD’s chief financial officer. Previously a financial officer in Laredo ISD and the Harris County Department of Education as well as in various private sector companies, she holds a master’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M University.

Pflugerville ISD George Herrmann, head football coach and athletics coordinator at Pflugerville High School, retired in November, completing his 21st season there, including coaching his team to a state title in 2007. A graduate of Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University) with a master’s degree from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville), his first coaching job was in Seguin ISD. He also served on the board of directors of the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA).

Plano ISD Former Rockwall ISD chief financial officer Randy McDowell now serves in that capacity in Plano ISD. He was with Rockwall ISD since 2015. Prior to that, he served in a similar role in Canyon ISD and was director of information management services and a school finance specialist at ESC Region 16.

Round Rock ISD The new principal of Cedar Valley Middle School, Zac Oldham, has 14 years of experience as an educator and was most recently assistant principal of Pearson Ranch Middle School. Before joining Round Rock ISD, he worked in Midlothian, Ennis, Leander, Burnet and Stockdale ISDs in teaching and administrative positions. He earned his bachelor’s degree from McMurry University and his master’s degree in educational administration and doctorate in educational leadership from Lamar University.

Sanger ISD Sandra McCoy-Jackson, new superintendent, joins the district from Duncanville ISD, where she served as assistant superintendent.

Stockdale ISD Daniel Fuller now serves as superintendent.

Most recently, he served as superintendent of Waelder ISD.

Ysleta ISD East Point Elementary School principal Dana Boyd is one of only six education leaders and former governors appointed by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to serve on the National Assessment Governing Board. During her four-year term, Boyd will help set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which provides data on student performance to the public and to policymakers at the national, state and local levels. Paul Covey, principal of Valle

Verde Early College High School, is 2017’s recipient of the Terrel H. Bell Award, presented annually to principals of National Blue Ribbon schools who have shown outstanding school leadership. Covey, who has led his campus since 2009, was one of only eight principals nationwide and the only Texas principal to be so recognized this year. ◄

Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018


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My experience as a creative ranger by Maya Leisure


hen I started creative writing, I was not expecting to be drawn into the Circle of Death, get a pen name or learn all of the essential parts of becoming a better writer. To say creative writing has been an adventure would be an understatement. In writing class, we learn that “there are no little geniuses,” meaning that you will not become the next J.K. Rowling right when you start. You have to use critical thinking and a lot of effort to grow as a writer, and no one person is going to become an overnight sensation. There is so much work that goes into writing a novel and countless hours of typing or, “banging your thoughts out on a keyboard.” I began the class in my seventh-grade year thinking that it would be a fun, easy writing class, where I would get published for the first book I wrote. While it’s most definitely fun, it’s far from easy. I changed the plot of my story at least three times within the first few weeks. I got stuck in my writing and confused with tying in my plot so many times. I was eaten alive in my first Circle of Death. But all of these experiences made me a better writer. At the start of the semester, each student comes up with a plot and a story pitch. After a few weeks, we have what has been dubbed the “Circle of Death,” in which we go around and each student reads his or her pitch to the class. Our teacher Mr. Dahlstrom named this the “Circle of Sharing and Caring,” but we quickly renamed it the Circle of Death.

Afterward, students are able to ask questions and contribute to a story using critical feedback. Most students tend to be pretty nervous about the circle. Some even cry. But by the end of the year we’re more comfortable with it. The Circle of Death has been one of the best experiences for me, because I think being able to revise and build off of the critique of others and their ideas makes the story “not great, but better.” Also, although we may think our plot is foolish, we are reminded that some stories or movies are strange concepts, too. For instance, who would have thought a show about talking vegetables would make millions of dollars? My experience in the class has certainly been a positive one, even though I was rather intimidated at the beginning. Throughout the year, our class takes trips to the Cowboy Symposium and Texas Tech

University to learn about different crafts and forms of art, including writing. This is also a major help, to learn about other writers and authors and their creative processes. By the end of the school year, some students have written a novel of 50,000 words or more. Mr. Dahlstrom encourages each student to write at least 300 words a day. Some hard-working students achieve 1,000 words in our 45-minute class period. At times, students don’t get to finish their novels by the end of the year, which is also OK because of all of the knowledge we get from taking the class. By the end of the second semester, we send out query letters to publishing companies. I think this is such a beneficial and helpful process to go through, even if we don’t get a response, because it shows us how to get our writing out there, which will be a major help to those who consider a serious writing career. The first and most important piece of knowledge we learn in the class is this: We are not writers simply because we are in a writing class. We have to work to earn the title of “writer.” We are writers because we work hard, critique and pour our hearts out onto the pages. We are writers because we write. MAYA LEISURE is an eighth-grader at Hutchinson Middle School in Lubbock ISD, where she participates in a creative writing class taught by Nathan Dahlstrom.

“Student Voices” is a regularly featured column in Texas School Business. It’s an opportunity for students of all ages from across Texas to share their experiences in K-12 public schools. Contact Editorial Director Dacia Rivers at drivers@texasschoolbusiness.com for publishing guidelines. Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018


Calendar Professional development & events

S TA N D O U T F R O M T H E C R OW D ! Get premium placement and get noticed! For a nominal fee, you can showcase your conference, workshop or seminar on the opening page as a Featured Event. Contact Ann Halstead at ahalstead@tasanet.org for more details. FEB RUARY February 1 TASSP Region 19 Spring Meeting Famous Dave’s, El Paso For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org February 1-2 TASBO Workshop: Bud to Boss TASBO offices, Austin For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: Members, $490; nonmembers, $540. February 3 TSPRA North Central Regional Meeting Argyle ISD, Argyle For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org February 6 TEPSA Region 11 Winter Meeting Location TBA, Keller area For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa. org February 6-7 TASA Academy for Transformational Leadership (session 3 of 4) San Angelo ISD, San Angelo For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org Cost: $1,995. February 6-8 Texas ASCD Instructional Rounds Georgetown ISD, Georgetown For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org February 7 TASPA Personnel Skills Workshop Eanes ISD, Austin For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org Cost: In advance: Members, $100; nonmembers, $125. On-site registration for all: $125.


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

TASSP Region 15 Spring Meeting Cooper’s BBQ, Christoval For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TASSP Region 18 Spring Meeting Location TBA, Midland area For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org

Cost: TASPA members, $100; nonmembers, $125.

members, $465; nonmembers, $515.

TASSP Region 6 Spring Meeting Location TBA, Conroe area For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org

February 19-22 TSPRA Annual Conference Embassy Suites Hotel, Frisco For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org Cost: $470.

TEPSA Region 5 Meeting Location and city TBA For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org TEPSA Region 13 Meeting Location and city TBA For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org

TEPSA Region 16 Winter Meeting ESC Region 16, Amarillo For more info, (512) 478-5168 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org

Texas ASCD Curriculum Leadership Academy XXIII (session 1 of 3) San Angelo ISD, San Angelo For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org

February 11-13 TASSP Assistant Principal Workshop Airport Hilton Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org Cost: Until Jan. 26, $239; after Jan. 26, $289.

February 18-20 Texas Counseling Association Annual School Counselor Conference Moody Gardens Hotel, Galveston For more info, (512) 472-3403 or (800) 580-8144. www.txca.org

February 13 TASB Winter Legal Seminar Holiday Inn, Tyler For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org Cost: $160.

February 19-21 TCASE Great Ideas 2018 Conference Marriott Downtown, Austin For more info, (512) 474-4492 or (800) 433-4492. www.tcase.org Cost: Through Dec. 10: Pre- and main conference, members, $435; nonmembers, $510. Through Dec. 10: Main conference, members, $345; nonmembers, $420. Through Dec. 10: One-day registration, members, $285; nonmembers, $335. Dec. 11-Jan. 19: Pre-and main conference, members, $515; nonmembers, $590. Dec. 11-Jan. 19: Main conference, members, $425; nonmembers, $500. Dec. 11Jan. 19: One-day registration, members, $365; nonmembers, $415. Jan. 20-Feb. 21: Pre- and main conference, members, $615; nonmembers, $690. Jan. 20-Feb. 21: Main conference, members, $525; nonmembers, $600. Jan. 20-Feb. 21: One-day registration,

TSPRA San Antonio Regional Meeting Boerne ISD, Boerne For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org February 14 TSPRA San Antonio Regional Meeting South San Antonio ISD, San Antonio For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org February 15 TASPA Certification Fundamentals Workshop Offices of ESC Region 8, Pittsburg For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org

February 20 TASB Winter Legal Seminar Offices of ESC Region 19, El Paso For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org Cost: $160. TEPSA Region 2 Meeting Kiko’s, Corpus Christi For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org Texas ASCD Workshop: Performance-Based Assessment in the Classroom North East ISD, San Antonio For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (512) 717-2723. www.txascd.org February 20-22 TASA Curriculum Management Audit Training, Level 1 TASA offices, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org Cost: TASA members, $750; nonmembers, $850. February 21 TASSP Region 4 Spring Meeting Lamar High School, Houston For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org February 21-22 TASA First-Time Superintendent Academy (session 4 of 4) Austin Marriott North, Round Rock For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org Cost: All four sessions: TASA members, $695; nonmembers, $795. Any one of four sessions: Members and nonmembers, $250. February 21-25 TABSE/NABSE Joint State Conference Omni Galleria, Houston For more info, (713) 529-3305. www.tabse.net

Cost: Group registration (includes five full registrations): $1,600. Full registration, individual TABSE member, $410. Full registration, individual TABSE nonmember, $470. Full registration, TABSE member retirees and student members, $250. Full registration, non-TABSE member retirees: $310. Concurrent sessions only: $175. February 22 TASSP Region 5 Spring Meeting Nederland High School, Nederland For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TEPSA Region 7 Meeting Hideaway Lake, Hideaway For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org TEPSA Region 12 Meeting Location TBA, Waco For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org February 22-23 TASB Conference for Administrative Professionals TASB offices, Austin For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org Cost: $159. February 26-March 2 TASBO Annual Conference Convention Center, Fort Worth For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: Full conference: Members, $370; nonmembers, $495. One day only: Members, $310; nonmembers, $435. Guests: $150. February 27 TASBO CSMR Course: Fundamentals of Risk Management Convention Center, Fort Worth For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org February 27-March 1 TASA Curriculum Management Audit Training, Level I TASA offices, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org Cost: TASA members, $750; nonmembers, $850.

February 28 TASSP Region 2 Spring Meeting Ray High School, Corpus Christi For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org

M A RC H March 1-3 TASB Winter Governance and Legal Seminar Galveston Island Convention Center at the San Luis, Galveston For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org March 2 TASBO CSRM Course: Funding School Risks Convention Center, Fort Worth For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org March 6 TEPSA Region 18 Meeting Location and city TBA For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org March 7 TASSP Region 13 Spring Meeting Weiss High School, Pflugerville For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org March 8 TASSP Region 3 Spring Meeting Location TBA, Edna/Victoria area For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org March 9 TSPRA Central Regional Meeting Lake Travis ISD, Austin For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org March 21 TASSP Region 10 Spring Meeting Spring Creek Barbecue, Richardson For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TASSP Region 14 Spring Meeting Abilene Country Club, Abilene For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TSPRA San Antonio Regional Meeting Offices of IDRA (Intercultural Development Research

Association), San Antonio For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org March 21-22 TASA Academy for Transformational Leadership (session 4 of 4) San Angelo ISD, San Angelo For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org Cost: $1,995. March 25-28 Texas High School Athletic Directors Association State Conference Convention Center, Waco For more info, (832) 623-7803. www.thsada.com March 27 TASBO Academy: Bonds, Building and Beyond Radisson North, Fort Worth For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: Members, $215; nonmembers, $265. March 27-28 TASA Spring Leadership Conference UTSA, San Antonio For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org March 27-29 Texas ASCD Instructional Rounds Northside ISD, San Antonio For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org March 28 TASSP Region 9 Spring Meeting Offices of ESC Region 9, Wichita Falls For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TASSP Region 17 Spring Meeting Coronado High School, Lubbock For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TEPSA Region 9 Meeting ESC Region 9, Wichita Falls For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org

APRI L April 5 TEPSA Region 10 Meeting Hackberry Creek Country Club, Irving For more info, (512) 478-5268

or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org TASSP Region 11 Spring Meeting Joe T. Garcia’s, Fort Worth For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org April 6 TSPRA North Central Regional Meeting Terrell ISD, Terrell For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org April 8-10 TRTA Annual Convention La Cantera Resort and Spa, San Antonio For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org TSPRA San Antonio Regional Meeting San Antonio ISD, San Antonio For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org April 9-10 TASBO Workshop: Bud to Boss Allen ISD, Allen For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: Members, $490; nonmembers, $540. April 11 TASSP Region 16 Spring Meeting ESC Region 16, Amarillo For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org April 13 TSPRA Central Regional Meeting Hutto ISD, Hutto For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org April 15-17 TAGT Leadership Conference Renaissance Hotel, Plano For more info, (512) 499-8248. www.txgifted.org Cost: Members, $225; nonmembers, $325. April 16-17 TASBO Workshop: Bud to Boss TASBO offices, Austin For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: Members, $490; nonmembers, $540. April 17 TEPSA Region 14 Meeting Location and city TBA For more info, (512) 478-5268

> See Calendar, page 30 Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018


> Continued from page 29 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org

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April 18 TASSP Region 12 Spring Meeting Midway High School, Waco For more info, (512) 4432100. www.tassp.org April 18-20 TASA Curriculum Management Audit Training, Level 2 TASA offices, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org Cost: Members, $750; nonmembers, $850. April 20 TASB Special Education Solutions Members’ Conference Marriott La Frontera, Austin For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org TEPSA Region 20 Meeting Alamo Cafe, San Antonio For more info, (512) 4785268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org April 23 TASSP Region 7 Spring Meeting Whitehouse High School, Whitehouse For more info, (512) 4432100. www.tassp.org April 25 TASBO CSMR Course: Measuring School Risks Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Houston For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org TEPSA Region 6 Meeting Location TBA, The Woodlands For more info, (512) 4785268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tspsa.org

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Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

TEPSA Region 4 Meeting University of Houston, Houston For more info, (512) 4785268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org April 26 Legal Digest Spring Special Education Conference Embassy Suites, San Marcos www.legaldigest.com For more info, (512) 478-2113. Cost: Early Bird registration (through Jan. 15): $175; regular registration (after Jan. 15): $205. TASSP Region 8 Spring Meeting ESC Region 8, Pittsburg For more info, (512) 4432100. www.tassp.org TEPSA ESC Region 8 Meeting ESC Region 8, Pittsburg For more info, (512) 4785268 or (800) 2252-3621. www.tepsa.org TEPSA Region 17 Meeting People’s Bank, Lubbock For more info, (512) 4785268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org TEPSA Region 3 Meeting Location and city TBA For more info, (512) 4785268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org

MAY May 1 TASSP Region 1 Spring Meeting United High School, Laredo For more info, (512) 4432100. www.tassp.org May 2 Legal Digest Spring Special Education Conference Convention Center, Arlington For more info, (512) 478-2113. www.legaldigest.com

Cost: Early Bird registration (through Jan. 15): $175; regular registration (after Jan. 15): $205. TASPA Certification Fundamentals Workshop ESC Region 15, San Angelo For more info, (512) 4949353. www.taspa.org Cost: Members, $100; nonmembers, $125. May 3 TASBO Workshop: EDGAR Procurement Laws Offices of ESC Region 11, White Settlement For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: Members, $205; nonmembers, $255. May 3-4 TASB Risk Management Fund Members’ Conference Hilton Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org May 4 TSPRA North Central Regional Meeting Arlington ISD, Arlington For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org May 9 TASBO CSRM Workshop: Funding School Risks TASBO offices, Austin For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org TSPRA San Antonio Regional Meeting Floresville ISD, Floresville For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org May 11 TSPRA Central Regional Meeting Bastrop ISD, Bastrop For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org ◄

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News in fine arts education

Changing lives on stage PSJA’s children’s shows captivate generations By Claudia V. Lemus-Campos

▲The cast of PSJA ISD's Southwest Early College High School's 2017 musical, Aladdin.


ou don’t understand, Claudia,” I recall my sister Selena saying to me about her theatre fascination as we walked home from the bus stop. “When I am up on that stage it’s like magic, like if I can be anyone in the world.” Being the typical self-centered senior at the time, I blocked off my sister’s poignant words, not realizing that at that moment she had poured her heart out to me. Growing up, Selena had always been timid in public settings. We were both quiet, little nerds in elementary. Looking back now, I have come to realize how all that changed when she first joined drama in middle school and got selected to play various roles while at PharrSan Juan-Alamo North Early College High School (PSJA North ECHS).


Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

Although we stopped seeing eye-to-eye soon after, my little sister gradually blossomed into an outspoken, outgoing and courageous individual who was no longer afraid to be in the limelight. From a shy little freshman to an audaciously passionate senior, I witnessed Selena live her high school years madly in love with theatre and what she strongly referred to as her “drama family.” Drama family? I never quite understood what she meant by that, until now. Like my sister, each year hundreds of PSJA students anticipate participating in the school district’s various high school theatre children’s shows. This year, the public is experiencing “Aladdin,” “The Addams Family,” “Beauty and the Beast” and even “The Lion King, Jr.,” through the magical world of live

theater productions that light up the lives of thousands of youth. While in many places throughout the U.S. theatre is embedded into communities and kids grow up having watched countless plays, the truth is that a large majority of people in the Rio Grande Valley or deep South Texas often live their lives without experiencing the magic of a live theatre performance. For that reason, children’s shows in PSJA ISD, which is located in one of the poorest regions of the country, have become a remarkable tradition for families in the school district and the community. According to PSJA Fine Arts Director Jon Taylor, due to the many low-income families the school district serves, the shows provide

tary schools and the support from various leaders. “We have the whole community and the district’s support,” says Zepeda. “This involves all elementary schools, their principals and the support of the superintendent.” Due to the high interest of the community in the shows each year, ticket prices are kept low, at $5 to $7, so entire families can afford to attend the magical shows despite their limited means. In addition to the community, the winter plays have become so popular that even winter Texans look forward to attending each year. According to the directors, the high school students performing in the children’s shows inspire younger students to try to follow in their footsteps.

▲ Cast member from PSJA ISD's North Early College High School production of The Lion King, Jr.

“The heroes for our kids in this community are our kids,” smiles Zepeda. “We create the heroes and villains on stage. In this district, it’s a big deal for the little kids to get the autographs of all the actors, and they aspire to get to high school to get into these productions.”

a very special experience for families.

A glimpse to the past

“It’s probably the only experience that most community members have with live theatre,” says Taylor.

Although the various PSJA theater productions have come a long way and are now an incredible attraction to the RGV community, the reality is that it wasn’t always so. According to Zepeda, in the beginning of his career at PSJA, the theatre department had to give away 100 tickets to try to fill the audience, tickets were sold at the box office for only $1.50, and the theater put on just one public performance aside from the school performances.

The four major high school theatre productions at PSJA ISD include PSJA ECHS Thespians, PSJA North ECHS Theatre, PSJA ECHS Wolverine Theatre and the PSJA Southwest ECHS Theatre. As an annual tradition, the live theatre productions include students singing, dancing and acting, as well as support from a behind-the-scenes technical crew of teenage aficionados. Each year the shows draw in thousands of people in the area, something that is rare in high school theatre, according to Gilbert Zepeda, PSJA ISD theatre specialist. “An hour before the show starts, there’s a line in the parking lot of people who want to see these shows with their families,” shares Zepeda, who started the program with the first children’s show in 1979 at PSJA High School. “That’s very unusual for a Hispanic community, especially high school theatre. The students are getting to have a live arts experience and don’t have to go anywhere else to do it. They can see our students and our teachers put on a live fine arts experience for them, produced and performed by their peers.” In addition to evening performances open to the general public, the high school productions perform during the day for PSJA second- through fifth-grade students. The PSJA theatres’ success is due to district-wide collaboration with high schools and elemen-

“We had seven actors, a tech crew of about 20 kids,” recalls Zepeda. “Now we’re working with about 150 kids putting together the production.” Like Zepeda, Gabriel Ramirez, the PSJA Memorial Early College theatre director, says they have seen tremendously significant changes. According to Ramirez, the program now performs for middle and elementary schools and has had an influx of freshmen interested in participating every year. “Now we can double-cast and do big shows. Not only does this allow students to alternate between performances to alleviate fatigue, it gives more students the chance to feel the limelight,” says Ramirez enthusiastically. “Junior high kids watch our shows and know that no matter what high school they end up at, they can join the program.” At many school districts, theatre is often an extracurricular activity. At PSJA ISD, children’s shows are part of Theatre Production, a class that has become so popular it’s now offered during the evenings to allow

students with conflicting class schedules to participate. Although theater production gives students the opportunity to unleash their creativity, students must pass all of their classes to participate. According to the directors, participating in the theatre productions while maintaining their grades teaches PSJA students to be responsible, manage their time wisely and communicate effectively — skills that make them valuable when applying for colleges. The class attracts a diverse group of students as even cheerleaders and football players audition and often get casted. “Colleges aren’t just looking for students who have advance credits, but kids who did something else,” says Jon Taylor, the fine arts director of extracurricular activities. “Whether it’d be participating in the theatre program, athletics or whatever it might be.” The PSJA theatre program is already seeing the fruits of their labor as numerous students have gotten accepted into colleges each year and several have even made it into Hollywood. Some prime example of students who serve as inspiration to the school district are Cristela Alonzo, who became the first Latina to create, produce and star in her own original sitcom, “Cristela” on ABC, and David Barrera who’s appeared in numerous television shows, including “The Bridge,” “NYPD Blue,” “The Big Bang Theory,” and “The Wizards of Waverly Place.” “We talk about the little gains every time a Hispanic wins an award, or is nominated for a Tony or when one of our own kids gets a job in the industry,” says Zepeda about the importance of increasing the number of Hispanics in theatre. “We make them very aware, and proud, of their heritage. We have had several PSJA alums accepted to prestigious drama universities and many are working in the industry.” As a result, the PSJA Drama Department has become like a second family for generations of students who participate, and yes even for my sister. Although she graduated from PSJA North ECHS in 2013, she continues to stay in touch with her drama peers and makes plans to watch the plays each winter. Offering nights of magic and captivating audiences for decades, the PSJA Drama Department looks forward to continuing what they have started for many more to come. “For over four decades we have become one of the biggest shows in Texas,” says Zepeda with a smile. “We’re really happy to be doing it.” CLAUDIA V. LEMUS-CAMPOS is public relations specialist for Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD.

Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018



Good friends. Good people. Good memories. by Riney Jordan

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ohnny L. Veselka. If you’re a school administrator in this state, you know the name. And, he’s retiring after being in education all his adult life, including serving the Texas Association of School Administrators organization for the past 43 years! He’s been the executive director for the past 32 years. When I think of Johnny Veselka, I immediately think of a somewhat reserved man who gives a hint of a smile when he greets you, never forgets a friend, and genuinely cares about other people. There’s nothing magical about it. Johnny just uses common courtesy. He’s approachable. He’s considerate of others. And let me pay him the ultimate compliment: He’s a good ol’ boy! In Texas, that is a positive thing, but it carries a certain amount of responsibility to others. Believe it or not, the term is defined in modern dictionaries as, “a person who belongs to a network of friends and associates with close ties of loyalty and mutual support.” Now that is Johnny Veselka — a good guy who is there when you need him. Recently, as I was perusing the posts on my Facebook account, I read an interesting comment from a longtime friend of our family regarding their deceased daughter, Tish. She was one of the students in the school where I served as principal, and although she had experienced some difficulty learning, she also seemed to have trouble walking. As she would walk or run, she tended to almost drag her right foot. In spite of these problems, she was always so friendly to everyone, and continued through school until her high school graduation. Her smile was always there, and you can imagine the grief and shock when we learned that she had passed away in her sleep a year or so

after getting married. She was only 32 years old. Until the day she died, Tish was a true friend to everyone who knew her. Her mother’s Facebook entry read: “I went out this morning to put new flowers on Tish’s grave. As I approached, I could see a white tab at the base of the vase, and when I removed the old flowers I could see it was a folded note. I finished arranging the flowers and unfolded the paper. Here’s what it said, ‘Hey Tish. Well, we had our 30-year reunion today. I sure missed seeing you. Lots of our friends were there. But lots of them weren’t. Tim didn’t show up. But I just wanted you to know that I thought of you a lot.’” Now, there was a friend, who, after all those years, just felt the need to express his love for a friend. Those of you who have heard me speak may remember some of my stories about our son, Todd. He had difficulty in school, yet was always blessed with friends, because he was a friend. Today, he could be described as one of those “good ol’ boys.” Like Johnny and Tish, he is someone you can depend on. Call him when you have a problem, and he’ll be there for you. Oh, by the way, I failed to mention who had written the note found at Tish’s gravesite. It was signed by our son, Todd Jordan. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Good friends. Good people. Good memories. As someone once said, “Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave and impossible to forget. That’s Johnny. That’s Tish. That’s Todd.

RINEY JORDAN is the author of two books and a frequent public speaker. To invite him to speak at your convocation, graduation or awards banquet, visit www.rineyjordan.com.


Texas School Business

Texas School Business JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2018

gkbaum.com Harris County Dept. Education.................... 26, 30 www.hcde-texas.org Houston ISD Medicaid Finance and Consulting..................8 eshars.com MeTEOR..............................................36 meteoreducation.com NaviGate............................................10 navigateprepared.com PBK Architects.................................32 pbk.com Richard Erdmann.............................35 Spectrum Corp.............................5, 13 spectrumscoreboards.com TASPA................................................. 13 Taspa.org Texas Computer Cooperative..... 19 Texascomputercooperative.net Texas ASCD........................................ 21 txascd.org Texas State Historical Association.......................................9 tshaonline.org

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Doing case studies for Syfr Learning has been both revealing and rewarding. I am glad that Richard and Christine’s work will be available to more educators through this thoughtful book. The work stands on the shoulders of giants in cognition research but is accessible to any reader. Jennifer S. Jones, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, Director of the U.T. Tyler Texas Turnaround Initiative, Superintendent Program Coordinator, Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal: Diversity, Social Justice & the Educational Leader, School of Education The University of Texas at Tyler, former teacher, turnaround principal, superintendent

As a curriculum and instruction veteran, Pursuing the Peak: Perfecting Practice is a must-read for anyone whose interests lie at the heart of learning! The authors reach across many disciplines to clearly connect the art and science of learning to the design for effective instructional practice. Greg McIntyre, Chief Administrative Officer and former C&I Deputy Superintendent, principal and teacher, CSISD

Pursuing the Peak: Perfecting Practice takes us below the surface of learning to its fundamental principles and lets teachers and students build the learning. It is personalized teaching and learning wrapped up as one. It makes closing gaps and raising the bar seem within reach. This book will challenge and change the way you think about teaching and learning. Educators will talk about this book in the future as a game changer. Peter Negroni , Ed.D., former teacher, principal, urban superintendent and Vice President of the College Board for K-12 Education

In Pursuing the Peak: Perfecting Practice you literally see learning evolve from the use of prior knowledge and experience and then understand the science behind it. It introduces a simple concept as the core for school improvement - limit the input and expand the output. Engage students in more output that challenges them to remember, think and apply. This book brings learning down to a simple set of principles and reframes our mental models. Richard Middleton, Ph. D, former teacher, principal and superintendent of North East ISD, former regional Vice President College Board.

When I began teaching over thirty years ago, I envisioned a profession where I could hone a craft, working with professionals who saw opportunities and possibilities in students and in curriculum. Syfr Learning continues to renew that vision and encourage thoughtful teaching. Teachers today need the ok to pursue creative but effective learning strategies for their students and for themselves. The ideas presented in Pursuing the Peak: Perfecting Practice promote the kind of optimism in the profession that is much needed in the current culture of education. David Youngblood, Veteran Teacher of 30+ years

Pursuing the Peak: Perfecting Practice Richard Erdmann, Thought Leader Lecture TASA Midwinter 2018



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