TSB—June 2015

Page 1

The News Magazine for Public Education in Texas for 61 Years

June 2015

Shaping school culture TASSP President Rita Pintavalle Kennedale ISD

In the Spotlight Lee Sleeper Bullard ISD

ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS NOW! Texas School Business wants to brag about you! Submit your nomination today for possible inclusion in the Ninth Annual Bragging Rights 2015-2016 special issue, which honors 12 deserving school districts and their innovative programs. Every winter, Texas School Business publishes and distributes this special issue to thousands of stakeholders in Texas public education. Does your school or district have a program that’s wildly successful? Then you could be featured among our Top 12! Simply visit www.texasschoolbusiness.com and click on Bragging Rights in the menu to fill out a nomination form. The nomination deadline is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, September 1, 2015. Questions? Contact Texas School Business Editorial Director Katie Ford at katie@texasschoolbusiness.com.


TSB contents news and features

Cover Story Experts share best practices for shaping school culture


by Shelley Seale

photo feature

In the Spotlight


TAGT members unite in the capital city

Bullard ISD technology director makes IT happen


by Leila Kalmbach

Who’s News Ad Index

6 30


TASSP President Profile Kennedale ISD’s Rita Pintavalle finishes term with new insights, fresh direction



by Elizabeth Millard

From the Editor


The Law Dawg  —  Unleashed


Tech Toolbox


by Katie Ford by Jim Walsh

by Doug Brubaker

Game On!


The Back Page


by Bobby Hawthorne by Riney Jordan


Third grade is critical year for mastering literacy, determining child’s future success by Sally Banks Zakariya

Student Voices A matter of character by Caitlyn Denning, Aubrey ISD


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. June 2015 • Texas School Business


67th Annual UT/TASA

Summer Conference on Education June 28–30, 2015 Renaissance Austin Hotel

A Multidimensional Approach to Leading Change The theme for the 67th Annual Summer Conference on Education, sponsored by TASA and The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education, sets the tone for an exciting lineup of General and Concurrent Sessions addressing a variety of school leadership issues.

Gary Marx

Bill McRaven

General Session speakers include Gary Marx, futurist, author, and education leader, discussing 21 trends for the 21st century; and UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven sharing remarks related to his belief that “education has the power to change lives and change the world.” A dynamic and engaging conference strand focused on MISSION: School Transformation is featured. For those looking to advance school transformation efforts locally, four concurrent sessions are offered—each featuring panels of district leaders. Sessions are designed to aid districts in establishing the context and rationale for change and examining the readiness for authentic transformation as described in Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas.

To learn more about this exciting opportunity, visit www.tasanet.org/domain/52.


Texas School Business • June 2015

From the Editor We may have reached the end of another school year, but those in public education know that there’s still much work to be done before the 2015-2016 school year begins. For us at Texas School Business, there’s plenty of exciting things taking place over the summer. First and foremost, we are in the midst of a redesign, and we are re-launching the magazine as a bimonthly publication, beginning with the September/October issue. With these changes, we’ll also add some new regular columns to broaden our coverage of school business. You’ve already witnessed one of those changes with the addition of “Student Voices,” which we’re really pleased about. As you enter the summer months, please carve out some time to nominate a program for our Ninth Annual Bragging Rights issue. (See details on page 2.) Also, I’d love to hear from you if you know someone in your district who would make an interesting subject for “In the Spotlight.” Let me hear about these people and give them the recognition they deserve in our magazine! And, of course, I’d appreciate your assistance in recruiting students to write for “Student Voices.” I welcome all ages, and I’m open to collaborating with the younger ones if they need a little guidance. The most important thing is that the end result reflects the student’s voice. This is a platform for kids of all ages to say whatever they want about their public school experience.

Katie Ford Editorial Director

(ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) June 2015 Volume LXI, Issue 9 406 East 11th Street Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-477-6361 • Fax: 512-482-8658 www.texasschoolbusiness.com Editorial Director Katie Ford Design Phaedra Strecher Columnists Bobby Hawthorne, Riney Jordan, Terry Morawski, Jim Walsh Advertising Sales Manager Ann M. Halstead

Tex. Arch. Lic. #17326

Moore Middle School and MST Magnet Tyler ISD Image from Building Information Model (BIM)

Texas Association of School Administrators Executive Director Johnny L. Veselka Assistant Executive Director, Services and Systems Administration Ann M. Halstead Director of Communications and Media Relations Amy Francisco ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620 Published monthly, except for July/August and November/ December, and the Bragging Rights issue published in December by Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701. Periodical 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 2015 Texas Association of School Administrators June 2015 • Texas School Business


Who’s News Abilene ISD Michael Garcia, most recently principal of Long Elementary, is now principal of Martinez Elementary School. An employee of Abilene ISD for 25 years, he was principal of Long since 2009. A graduate Michael Garcia of Abilene Christian University, he was initially a teacher and coach, taking his first administrative position, as assistant principal of Abilene High School, in 2004. Lisa McCool, former instructional coordinator at Long Elementary, is now that school’s principal. She has been an educator for 25 years, working as a teacher and administrator in Plano and Dallas ISDs, Lisa McCool as well as spending nine years as an educational consultant at ESC Region 11 in Fort Worth. She joined Abilene ISD in 2014. Alison Sims, who had been serving as instructional coordinator at Bowie Elementary, now leads Ward Elementary as principal. A graduate of Abilene ISD’s Cooper High School, she Alison Sims arrived in the district as an elementary teacher in 1998, going on to work as a guidance counselor before taking her most recent job in 2011. The new director of Holland Medical High School is Lyndsey Williamson. She was formerly a guidance counselor at Abilene High School. She came to Abilene ISD in 2005 as a mathLyndsey ematics teacher at Williamson Mann Middle School and, after spending a year as a teacher in Menard ISD, returned to the district as a geometry and algebra teacher at Abilene High. She took her most recent position in 2009. 6

Texas School Business • June 2015

Aransas County ISD The district has tapped Denise Poland as its coordinator of elementary instruction. She comes to her new job from serving as the assistant principal of Live Oak Learning Center. Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz has been elected to the executive committee of the Council of Great City Schools. He will serve a three-year term. Cruz has been a classroom teacher and administrator in ISDs Paul Cruz in South Texas, Corpus Christi and San Antonio. He also is a past superintendent of Laredo ISD and once served as TEA’s deputy commissioner for dropout prevention. He received his bachelor’s degree in education from The University of Texas and his master’s degree in educational administration from Corpus Christi State University (now Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi). His doctorate in educational leadership was awarded from The University of Texas, where he was a fellow in the Cooperative Superintendency Program. Now serving as principal of Kocurek Elementary School is Heather Scholl. She has been with the district for 17 years, previously working as an assistant principal at Pleasant Hill, Palm and Mills elementary schools. Bandera ISD The Bandera ISD Board of Trustees has named Gary Bitzkie director of curriculum and employee services. He takes his new job after serving as principal of Bandera High School. He has been with the district Gary Bitzkie as a middle and high school principal since 1998. In addition, he has been a science teacher, coach and vice principal in Southwest and Pleasanton ISDs. Bitzkie, who holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio, received his master’s de-

gree in educational administration from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. Bastrop ISD A new principal will begin the 2015-2016 school year at Lost Pines Elementary School. Melinda Gardner was the school’s assistant principal since 2012. She has been with the district since 2005, serving as a math and curriculum Melinda Gardner science specialist, in addition to her most recent assignment. She is a graduate of Texas State University, with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. She also has a master’s degree in educational administration from Lamar University. Birdville ISD David Hamilton is principal of Haltom High School. He comes to his new job from Dallas ISD, where he was principal of Conrad High since 2013. He previously was with Birdville ISD as assistant principal of HalDavid Hamilton tom High, from 2011 to 2013. He also worked in Waco ISD, from 2005 to 2011, in teaching and administrative positions. A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Hamilton received his master’s degree from Tarleton State University. Blooming Grove ISD Marshall Harrison, former superintendent of Comanche ISD, is Blooming Grove ISD’s new superintendent. Brazosport ISD Danny Massey has been named superintendent after serving as interim superintendent since January. He has been a Brazosport ISD employee for 24 years.

See WHO’S NEWS on page 8

THE LAW DAWG – Unleashed by Jim Walsh

From teacher to president of the USA


f you ask Google how many U.S. presidents have been teachers, you will get a variety of responses. One website claims that 10 of our presidents have been teachers, but they are including law professors (Clinton, Obama) and university scholars (Wilson). If you look for presidents who have spent time in a classroom with children, you get only five. Four of them served in the 18th or 19th century: Adams, Fillmore, Garfield and Cleveland. I wish that CNN could interview Garfield about his experiences. The reports are that he won the respect of his students only after he came out as the winner in a violent fight with one of his students! That leaves us with only one president who also worked as a teacher in a 20th century public school. We in Texas should take particular pride in this, because that one teacher/president taught in a small town (Cotulla) and in our largest city (Houston). I hope that the teachers of today will take some time to study the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson. LBJ is coming in for increased attention these days, as we mark the 50th anniversary of some of his major achievements. In 1964, he signed the Civil Rights Act into law. In 1965, he penned the Voting Rights Act. Around that time, he launched an ambitious program of social change that he called a War on Poverty. As he is quoted in the Broadway play “All The Way,” LBJ claimed he wanted to “out-Lincoln Lincoln and out-Roosevelt Roosevelt.” Thus, he pushed an aggressive domestic agenda that he truly believed could raise living standards for everyone and eliminate poverty in our country. It hasn’t worked. Furthermore, there is no rush to create a monument or memorial for LBJ, like we have done with Lincoln and FDR. Forty-two years after his death, LBJ remains as controversial and divisive as he was during his presidency. LBJ knew what to do with “political capital.” After the Kennedy assassination, with a strong majority of Democrats in

Congress, LBJ was in a position of power — power he relentlessly sought his entire life. What would he do now that he was in the White House? From what I have read about LBJ, I’ve come to believe that his experiences in public school strongly influenced his choices. He had grown up poor in the Texas Hill Country. Working his way through college, he taught at the “Mexican” school in Cotulla. There, he came face-toface with the combination of poverty, language and cultural barriers, and outright discrimination that led so many of his students to discouragement and despair. As president, LBJ went back to Cotulla in 1966. He recalled his days there, serving as a principal; a teacher of the fifth, sixth and seventh grades; a playground supervisor; a baseball coach; a debate coach; a song leader; and an assistant janitor. He spoke of the importance of education and the urgent need to guarantee a good education to all of our citizens. LBJ said that he learned more than he taught in that year in Cotulla. “And the greatest lesson,” he said, “was this one: Nothing — nothing at all — matters more than trained intelligence. It is the key not only to success in life, but it is the key to meaning in life.” He said: “No longer can we afford second-class education for children who know that they have a right to be first-class citizens.” Texas educators continue to work hard to provide a first-class education to every student who enters the building. I think LBJ would be proud. He did not win that War on Poverty, but if he could see what happens in our classrooms today, from Cotulla to Houston, he would see that the battle against poverty, ignorance and hopelessness continues. Texas educators should be proud of LBJ. He would be proud of you. JIM WALSH is an attorney with Walsh Anderson Gallegos Green and Treviño P.C. He can be reached at jwalsh@wabsa. com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jwalshtxlawdawg.

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Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 6

Brenham ISD The district’s superintendent, Walter Jackson, comes to his new position from Alief ISD, where he was an area superintendent. Bryan ISD Wanda Baker, who was director of instruction for Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, is Bryan ISD’s new director of bilingual education. Todd Hopkins has been promoted from interim principal to principal of Harris School. Cameron ISD Louis Mandanici, who had been serving as assistant principal of Cameron Elementary School, has been promoted to principal. Chireno ISD New Superintendent Tim Norman returns to Chireno ISD from Center ISD, where he was high school principal. He held teaching, coaching and administrative roles in Chireno ISD from 2002 to 2008. He Tim Norman then moved to Center ISD to work as assistant and associate principal before taking his most recent position in 2012. Norman received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University. Coppell ISD Joe McBride is now athletic director of Coppell ISD. He returns to the district from Dripping Springs ISD, where he was athletic director and head football coach of Dripping Springs High. McBride previously Joe McBride coached in Coppell, San Angelo, Magnolia and Lewisville ISDs before taking his first head football coach position at Frisco ISD’s Liberty High. McBride is a graduate of Texas Tech University. 8

Texas School Business • June 2015

Kristen Streeter has joined Coppell ISD as executive director of human resources. An educator for 27 years, she has taught and worked as an administrator in several Texas districts, Kristen Streeter most recently in the Human Resources Department of Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD. Streeter received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Baylor University and her master’s degree in education from Texas State University. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD The district’s new assistant superintendent of elementary administration is Carla Brosnahan. She has spent all of her 32 years in education with Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, beginning Carla Brosnahan as a teacher at Lieder Elementary. She also has been an assistant principal and principal. The district’s Elementary Principal of the Year for 2005-2006, Brosnahan earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and guidance counseling from Houston Baptist University and her master’s degree in administration and supervision from the University of Houston, where she also earned her doctorate in professional leadership. Now serving as assistant superintendent of secondary administration is Travis Fanning, former principal of Cypress Springs High School. An educator for 15 years, he formerly was a principal in GaTravis Fanning lena Park ISD. Prior to that, he was an assistant principal of curriculum and instruction, a GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) advisor and a mathematics teacher. He was Cypress-Fairbanks’ Secondary Principal of the Year for 2013-2014. A graduate of Alabama A&M University with a bach-

elor’s degree in mathematics education, Fanning received his master’s degree in educational management from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Amy Frank will lead Owens Elementary School as principal. She was most recently assistant principal of Sheridan Elementary. Frank has been an educator for 22 years, all with CypressFairbanks ISD. For the Amy Frank first 12 years of her career, she was an elementary teacher and then spent two years as an instructional specialist at Sheridan Elementary. She also has served as an assistant principal of Wilson Elementary. She earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Houston and her master’s degree in educational leadership from Stephen F. Austin State University. Dallas ISD Six district schools have been reconfigured and designated Accelerating Campus Excellence (ACE) Schools. Each will have a new principal. The new leaders and their schools are: • Roshonda Clayton-Brown, Alexander Elementary School; • Laura Garza, Blanton Elementary School; • Angel McKoy, Pease Elementary School; • Janeen Pantoja, Mills Elementary School; • Troy Tyson, Zumwalt Middle School; and • Luis Valdez, Edison Middle School. Denton ISD Five new administrators have been named for the district. They and their schools are: • Marcus Bourland, dean, LaGrone Advanced Technology Complex; • Robin Brownell, principal, Hawk Elementary School; • Leslie Guajardo, principal, Braswell High School; • Rosie Oliveira, principal, Ryan Elementary School; and See WHO’S NEWS on page 10

TECH TOOLBOX by Doug Brubaker

Answering the unasked questions


his year, Garland ISD kicked off a study of Tom Connellan’s “Inside the Magic Kingdom.” Administrators read the book over two weeks, jotted down three points that resonated with them, discussed their findings during a district gathering, and then passed their books to the next round of participants to read and annotate. Future studies are planned throughout the district. One might not expect technology staff development activities to involve printed books and ballpoint pens. However, this book describes strategies that yield powerful insights into how Disney has set a standard for exemplary customer service that other enterprises still strive to meet. One of those strategies is answering the unasked questions. An “unasked question” is one that customers fail to ask because they do not clearly understand their needs. “Unasked questions” are often masked by inquiries that are misidentified as “dumb questions.” The book gives the example of some kids who approached a Disney cast member with a question that could have ended up the subject of a snarky tweet had the Disney employee not been trained on answering the unasked question. The kids wanted to know: “When does the 3:00 parade start?” Instead of responding with derisive laughter or a brusque dismissal, the cast member replied that the parade typically starts on time and advised the kids to arrive by 2:30 to secure an optimal vantage point. The author reveals that the employee delivered exceptional customer service by “answering the unasked question.” The employee determined correctly what the kids really wanted to know and provided the desired information, even before they understood how to articulate those needs effectively. Because of the rapidly changing nature of technology and some peoples’ discomfort in dealing with it, this concept applies especially well to school district staff who provide tech support. In fact, the Internet abounds with sites that mock “stupid” technology questions and negative interactions with customers. For example, technology first-responders help resurrect

seemingly dead computers and restore lost network connections — by plugging in power cables. Connellan illustrates how similar circumstances can yield significantly different results when viewed through another lens. The author cautions that answering unasked questions is not an easy strategy to master. People who practice it effectively share a firm belief that customers are more intelligent than they occasionally sound. They also have an unshakeable commitment to meet customer needs. Here are some ideas on how one might recast a so-called “dumb question” as an opportunity to answer an unasked question and provide outstanding customer service. • A colleague asks: “How do I insert a music CD into my iPad?” Unasked question: How can I access my music collection on this device? Can I show him other tools that meet this need? • A staff member asks how to find the ANY key referenced in the phrase: “Please press any key to continue.” Unasked question: How do I respond to this prompt and get back to my desktop screen? Can I lead her through that process? • A staff member asks to “reset the Internet.” Unasked question: How do I access online resources that appear unavailable at this moment? Can I answer that question with a password reset or a quick reminder about how to refresh the browser? Garland ISD and school districts across Texas are blessed to have technology professionals who routinely take this gentle, effective approach to working with their “customers.” Their commitment to answering unasked questions empowers them to create Disney magic for the staff and students they serve. DOUG BRUBAKER is associate superintendent of administration in Garland ISD. His areas of responsibility include athletics, the employee clinic, health services, risk management, security and telecommunications, student nutrition, technology and transportation.

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Who’s News and supervision from the University of Houston. Brenda Essenberg has been appointed director of enterprise funds. She was most recently finance director for Copperas Cove ISD. Prior to that, she was director of general services for the city of Killeen. She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Tarleton State University. Longtime educator J.J. Kyle will bring her 45-year career to a close with her retirement at the end of the 20142015 academic year. She has spent 42 years with the district, working as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. She opened Travis High School in 2006 and has served as the school’s principal since that time. She also opened Sartartia and Garcia middle schools. The district’s new chief of staff and strategic planning is Beth Martinez. A graduate of Fort Bend ISD’s Clements High School, she has been with the district for 23 years, initially as an elementa-

WHO’S NEWS continued from page 8

• Shaun Perry, principal, Guyer High School. Fort Bend ISD Julie Diaz is the new principal of Travis High School. She has spent the past six years leading Fort Settlement Middle School. She began her 30-year career as an elementary teacher and has been with the disJulie Diaz trict for 23 years. She has twice been named a campus Teacher of the Year and was a district Elementary Teacher of the Year finalist. In addition, she was recognized as an ESC Region 4 Outstanding Elementary Principal in both the 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 academic years. Diaz earned her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Iowa and her master’s degree in administration

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ry teacher. She went on to serve as an assistant principal, principal, director of staffing, director of organizational development, chief human resources officer Beth Martinez and executive director of talent management. She received her bachelor’s degree from Houston Baptist University and her master’s degree in education from the University of Houston. Granbury ISD Shane Conklin, who has been named Granbury ISD’s human resources director, comes to his new position from White Settlement ISD, where he was director of organizational imShane Conklin provement and leadership development. He was with that district since 2013. Prior to that, he worked in Northwest, Crowley, Grapevine-Colleyville and Hurst-EulessBedford ISDs. He took his first administrative position in 2003 as an assistant principal in Azle ISD. A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Conklin’s master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies was awarded from The University of Texas at Arlington. He is at work on his doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Judy Gentry is the new president of Career and Technical Educators of North Texas, a regional CTE organization that serves the DallasFort Worth areas covered by ESC Regions 10 and 11. She has Judy Gentry been Granbury ISD’s CTE director since 2009, having worked at Granbury High School since 1997. Gentry earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Oklahoma Christian University and her master’s degree in educational administration from Tarleton State University. See WHO’S NEWS on page 16


Texas School Business • June 2015

GAME ON! by Bobby Hawthorne

Keep your hands to yourselves


month or so ago, I was asked to judge a writing competition sponsored by a large, urban school district. To do so, I was required to visit a drab office tucked away in the corner of a half-empty shopping center, where I answered a few questions, signed a form or two, agreed to a background check, and paid $34 cash for a slip of paper and a badge attesting to my piety and incorruptibility. I suspect the next time I agree to judge a writing competition in this large, urban school district, I’ll be asked to return to the same drab office in the same shopping center and fork over another $34. Institutional memory is not one of their strong points. Of course, I understand all of this precaution. Just this morning, I read yet another news story about a Texas teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student. I would love to think this morning’s story represents herd journalism at its worst, as in one shark attack engenders 12 more stories about shark attacks. But it’s not, and I proved that to myself by typing into Google “teacher sexual misconduct with student” and watching the screen explode with an endless succession of accusations, denials, and police mugs of humiliated men and women, arrested in more ways than one. A decade ago, the U.S. Department of Education reported to Congress that more than 4.5 million children had suffered sexual misconduct from adults, ranging from lewd comments to actual physical abuse, and teachers were named as the worst offenders of all. That was 10 years ago. I suspect the problem is worse today, despite efforts by legislators, lawyers, administrators and the human resource types. My gut tells me it’s much worse. I feel compelled to address this sad issue because the son of a very dear friend has been accused of sexually assaulting

two female students. He was a teacher and a coach, and from what I understand, a good one at both. Whether or not he lands in prison, his life, I suspect, is over. If convicted, he will be branded as a sex offender, shunned and hounded. Even if he’s exonerated, he’s scarred forever. How this can happen to a young man brought up in the best of homes confounds me because there’s no explanation. “I was naïve. I was immature. I was lonely. I was stupid. I was weak.” No. I’m sorry. There is no excuse, and no apology suffices, no matter how sincere or heartrending it might be. These are children. We have entrusted them to you. They are free to be naïve and immature. They can be lonely and stupid and weak. But you can’t be, and you — like all educators — know and understand this. You may not be a monster, but you’re no victim, and you will suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, so will your parents and your siblings and your spouse and your children, if you have them. So will your friends — or, perhaps more accurately now — your former friends. I would like to think schools are doing everything they can to staunch this, what with the criminal background checks, the layers of employment screenings, the gaggle of case coordinators and counselors, and the information exchanges out the wazoo. I hope they’re not just assuming that all adults know how to behave all the time. Of course, I trust this Sturm und Drang is worth the time, money and effort. What choice do we have? I just wish schools didn’t need in-service training to remind those adults who need to be reminded to keep their hands to themselves. BOBBY HAWTHORNE is the author of “Longhorn Football” and “Home Field,” both published by The University of Texas Press. In 2005, he retired as director of academics for the University Interscholastic League.



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June 2015 • Texas School Business


by Shelley Seale

Experts share best practices for shaping school culture


ith a focus on learning, curriculum, and preparation for college and the workforce, a school’s main objective is to provide the best education possible for its students. But shouldn’t there be more? As with any organization, beneath its core activities and functions lies a deeper factor: a school’s culture. “The culture of a school consists of the underlying core values, beliefs, rituals and traditions that are oftentimes un-


Texas School Business • June 2015

Kent Peterson

written and below the stream of consciousness but are the most powerful driving forces of what goes on in the school,” says Kent Peterson, co-author of the book “Shaping School Culture: The Heart of

Leadership.” “A positive school culture is motivating and engaging; it produces a place

where teachers want to teach and kids want to attend.” According to Peterson, research shows a relationship between a positive school culture and higher student achievement and better student behavior. In such a culture, there is a clear, shared sense of purpose among administration, staff and students. “Teachers are more engaged and collaborate more,” he says. “There’s more focus on professional development and learning.”

However, Peterson says that some schools, for a variety of reasons, turn so dysfunctional or toxic that they become downright unhappy places to be. “Those dysfunctional cultures produce schools where teachers are often absent; there’s not a level of energy or motivation there,” he says. “That negative attitude can often turn into behaviors that damage the school, when people don’t want to problem-solve together and work to improve things.” When a school lacks a vibrant, engaging culture, it’s as if the heart and soul are missing from the school, Peterson says. It’s often a lack of real leadership that leads to stagnant or toxic school cultures, and this was something that Principal Jason Short was aware of — and strived to avoid — when he led the openJason Short ing of Asa E. Low Jr. Intermediate School in Mansfield ISD in the fall of 2009. “My leadership team and I digested one fundamental truth that we all agreed with: Our school was going to have a culture or climate, and it was either going to develop on its own, which can lead to a negative environment, or we could develop it intentionally with the goal of creating an ongoing positive environment for all stakeholders,” Short says. “School culture and climate are the backdrop for success.” Short wanted to create an environment that was a positive daily experience for everyone involved. He says that this involved being attentive to several key aspects: • school and student safety; • high expectations for student behavior and academic success; • shared leadership (teacher involvement in decision-making); • strong relationships with students, parents and colleagues; and • recognizing and celebrating successes and accomplishments (of students and teachers). With a collaborative leadership style, Short worked hard to involve his assistant principals, counselors, office staff and teachers in shared decision-making. “Anytime I could have a committee or group of people take a look at or develop an idea, I would do that,” he says. “I realized early on that we have a lot

It’s often a lack of real leadership that leads to stagnant or toxic school cultures. of smart people working together in this building and that their ideas and opinions matter. Many times, they would come up with ideas that I would have never thought of on my own.” The first thing Short and his team did was develop a shared mission statement and shared vision for the school. They wanted students to learn at high academic levels, develop their critical-thinking skills and enjoy coming to school every day. “In addition,” says Short, “we want our school to be a place that teachers absolutely love coming to work each day. That involves being a part of something bigger than themselves, which I think is accomplished by working in a positive, teamcentered environment. When people feel involved, they take ownership. And when they take ownership, they clearly have a stake in the endeavor being successful and will work that much harder to do all the things necessary to make it so.” So, what are some practices that schools can put in place that will create a winning culture? Peterson lists several key components: Assess the current culture. Administrators and staff must learn how to read the school climate and assess the underlying norms and values of the teachers to discover what parts of the current culture need nourishment and work. The assessment also should address those aspects that are positive and can be reinforced on a continuous basis. It isn’t always easy to objectively assess your environment, but a good indicator is how you feel when you walk into a classroom or school event. Do you feel welcomed, accepted and an important member of the group? Or uncomfortable and tentative, as if you were intruding? A sense of belonging and shared purpose should be evident.

Marcia Dowell, a teacher at West Delaware Community Schools in Manchester, Iowa, says to resist the temptation to answer right away. In an article in “Education Week”, she recommended first walking around the school and photographing the posted signs, materials on lockers, doodles on notebooks and whiteboard graffiti. The reason for this, Dowell says, is because it’s exactly what we don’t immediately notice that shapes our school culture. “People are bombarded with hundreds of messages each day that influence their self-identity, either telling them they matter or that they are an afterthought,” Dowell says. “What messages is your school sending to students, support staff and teachers?” Celebrate success stories. Talk about student accomplishments, recognize teachers, and have truly authentic ceremonies and celebrations of their successes. One way Principal Short at Asa E. Low does this is with a “Brag Board.” This is a bulletin board where teachers post positive things their colleagues are doing. Short says he had no idea just how much of a positive impact it would make on the campus. “That board is filled up monthly with positive praise from teachers for other teachers; you can hardly find room to put a new card on it,” he says. Asa E. Low students also are recognized through a program called “Character Counts,” which focuses on six pillars of character: responsibility, respect, citizenship, trustworthiness, fairness and caring. Students earn tickets for exhibiting these positive behaviors and can “spend” those tickets on items in the school’s Panther Store. See CULTURE on page 14 June 2015 • Texas School Business


CULTURE continued from page 13

Peterson adds that principals can take time to reinforce the culture’s core values and relationships by taking daily walkabouts in their schools and recognizing individuals when they see something good that’s happening. “I’ve heard of principals who, during their tours, they’ll have their phones and they’ll tweet some great teaching they saw going on. Or they’ll take a picture of a student’s performance and put it online,” says Peterson. School websites and social media are often underutilized and are great places to highlight successes, as well as plans and hopes for the future. Share ideas. Asa E. Low teachers visit their colleagues’ classrooms on a regular basis to get new ideas and share what works. To ensure that the teacher being visited doesn’t feel intimidated or judged, the visits are non-evaluative in nature, with a “no criticism” policy. Visiting teachers leave a note highlighting only the positive things they take away from the lesson they observed. “As the administrators of our school, we wanted our teachers to know that we value their efforts and that we are supporting them by creating and supporting a classroom environment in which they can teach and students can learn,” says Short. A new initiative was started in the 2013-2014 school year called “The Power of One,” which emphasizes how one teacher can make a difference. Each teacher selected one word as their focus word for the year. They wrote these words on pieces of paper that were put together to make a One Word Blanket. When a teacher is down or struggling, they can focus on that word for inspiration. This also led to discussion about how word choice can impact attitudes and perceptions. For instance, teachers at Asa E. Low talk about “our kids” and “we need to…” rather than “those kids” and “they need to… .” Peterson stresses that these initiatives and actions to improve school culture should be nourished on a constant basis. “If principals and teachers together don’t reinforce the culture during their daily activities, their interactions with others, the stories that they share amongst themselves — even a positive culture 14

Texas School Business • June 2015

Peterson adds that principals can take time to reinforce the culture’s core values and relationships by taking daily walkabouts in their schools and recognizing individuals when they see something good that’s happening.

can really wither and die,” he says. “The teachers can easily become isolated in their classrooms; maybe they are doing good teaching, but they aren’t getting that whole school culture that can lead to greatness. My co-author, Terry Deal, and I are continually surprised at how quickly a good culture can slide into passivity, becoming less vibrant and then eventually dysfunctional.” Yet, Peterson says he’s never known of a school that couldn’t be turned around with a winning culture. Depending on the situation and level of work to be done, it

may take a long time to turn a negative culture into a great one, but Peterson says it can be done. “Every school has enough heart and soul to become a positive place, where students can thrive and succeed,” he says. SHELLEY SEALE is a freelance writer in Austin.

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June 2015 • Texas School Business


Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 10

When longtime educator Carol Howard retires in August, it will bring to a close a 36-year career in Texas public education. She began as a middle school language arts teacher in Keller ISD, going on to work Carol Howard as a teacher, librarian and counselor in Leander, Channelview, Fort Davis, Balmorhea, Troy and Edgewood ISDs. She spent 1989 to 2002 as a counselor and school psychologist for special education cooperatives based in Edgewood, Nocona and Henrietta ISDs. For the next three years, she was a specialist at ESC Region 9 in Wichita Falls, before joining Fort Stockton ISD to oversee programs for bilingual/ESL and atrisk students, the district’s disciplinary placement campus and district testing. She came to Granbury in 2009 and leaves the district from her position as assistant superintendent. Howard earned her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of North Texas and her master’s degree in education from Sul Ross State University. Houston ISD Gloria Cavazos, former assistant superintendent for Aldine ISD, is the new chief human resources officer. Initially a teacher in McAllen ISD, she was a teacher, principal and area superintendent in Aldine ISD before taking her most recent position there. Houston ISD trustees have named Andrew Houlihan as chief academic officer. He had been serving as chief human resources officer. Houlihan began his career as a teacher in North Carolina, followed by a stint in New York. He also worked in Austin and Houston ISDs. Irving ISD Ernesto Mendizabal has been named director of the district’s Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) and Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs. He was previously student services and involvement coordinator. Mendizabal has 16

Texas School Business • June 2015

been an educator for 21 years, working as a secondary Spanish and computer science teacher, lead bilingual elementary teacher and campus instructional Ernesto specialist. In addition, Mendizabal he has been a campus principal and administrator in Cotulla, Melissa, Dallas and Irving ISDs. A native of Bolivia, Mendizabal attended East Texas Baptist University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He also has master’s degrees in educational leadership and educational administration from Texas Woman’s University. He is pursuing a doctorate from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Jacksonville ISD Wayne Coleman is the new athletic director and head football coach. He brings 25 years of coaching experience as he returns to the district, where he was offensive coordinator from 1991 to 1996. Coleman spent the past seven years as assistant head coach of Gilmer ISD’s Gilmer High School. He began his career in Marshall ISD. Lamar CISD A new head football coach and campus coordinator has been appointed for Lamar Consolidated High School. Rick LaFavers has 18 years of coaching experience, including stints with the Big 12, Southeast Rick LaFavers Conference, C-USA and Mountain West Conference, as well as in Texas high schools. He was a biology teacher and defensive coordinator at Lamar Consolidated High for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. LaFavers graduated from Texas Christian University, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Leander ISD A new principal has been named for Bush Elementary School. Kristine Kline has rejoined Leander ISD after serving nine years as lower school

principal of Hill Country Christian School, where she initially worked as a teacher. With LISD, she was previously a teacher at Naumann Elementary Kristine Kline and a literacy assistant at Block House Creek Elementary. Kline received her bachelor’s degree from Tarleton State University and her master’s degree from Texas State University. Cathie Robinson will lead Steiner Ranch Elementary School as principal beginning with the new school year. She comes to Leander from Spring Branch ISD, where she was most recently Cathie Robinson executive director of that district’s “to and through post-secondary” program. Also in Spring Branch, she was a principal, director of accountability, and executive director of teaching and learning. Robinson earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Houston. Lexington ISD Brad Schnautz, former principal of Magnolia High School in Magnolia ISD, is now superintendent of Lexington ISD. Lubbock ISD Amy Stephens, former principal of Wright and Bozeman elementary schools, is now leading Bayless Elementary School as principal. Dorthery West is the newly appointed assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. She had served in several administrative roles in Garland ISD since 2002. Lumberton ISD A new head football coach and boys’ athletics coordinator has been hired for the district. Chris Babin played for the Lumberton High School Raiders from 1996 to 1998 and was the team’s offensive coordinator during the 2007-2008 See WHO’S NEWS on page 18

TAGT members unite in the capital city LaTisha Cawley of Hayes CISD and Twiana Collier of Aldine ISD.

The Texas Association of the Gifted and Talented hosted its annual conference in April in Austin.

Lisa Dunn Flores and Mario Rosales of United ISD. Janice Baker of ESC Region 7, Mary Lea Pfenninger of ESC Region 3, Lynn Dodge of ESC Region 2 and Patty Rendon of ESC Region 1.

Lisa Wooley of Pasadena ISD and Shirley Bachus of Pflugerville ISD.

Caroline Garcia of Lovejoy ISD and Rolando Ruvalcaba of ESC Region 20. Jose Bormea and Laura Gutierrez of Crystal City ISD. Shelley Bolen-Abbott and Andrew McBurney of ESC Region 4.

Monica Brewer of TEA and Sherry Myers of Aransas County ISD.

Michel Morken of Dallas ISD, Janice DeLisle (retired from Lovejoy ISD) and Marilyn Swanson of Southern Methodist University. June 2015 • Texas School Business


Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 16

season. He coached for Deweyville ISD in 2012 and 2013 and was head coach for the past year in Warren ISD. Marion ISD Kelly Walters is the district’s new superintendent. Marlin ISD Jack Davis has been named the district’s interim superintendent. He was superintendent of Chilton ISD, from 1993 to 1997, and of Tolar ISD, from 1997 to 2008. He also served as interim superintendent in Cranfills Gap ISD for a year. He is a graduate of Sul Ross State University. Maypearl ISD Ritchie Bowling has been chosen to lead the district as superintendent. He was previously assistant superintendent of Howe ISD. An educator since 1997, Bowling began his education career in Sherman ISD as a teacher, tutor and summer tech camp director. He next joined Lovejoy ISD as a testing coordinator and assistant principal. Bowling came to Howe ISD in 2005, where he was principal of Howe Elementary and Howe Middle School and the district’s homeless coordinator before accepting his most recent position. Bowling earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and his master’s degree in education administration from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Merkel ISD Superintendent Bryan Allen has been promoted from his previous position as Merkel High School principal. Initially a coach and high school social studies teacher in Ballinger, Rankin and Hearne ISDs, he Bryan Allen spent a year as a retention coordinator at Texas State Technical College before returning to teaching and coaching in Mansfield and Frisco ISDs. He took his first administrative position in Bridgeport ISD and worked there for 18

Texas School Business • June 2015

three years before joining Merkel ISD in 2012. Allen, who received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University), holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Lamar University. Bill Hood, who has been district superintendent for the past 13 years, has announced his retirement. An educator since 1974, he began his career in Dalhart ISD, where he taught science, math, reading Bill Hood and social studies. He went to work for Iraan-Sheffield ISD in 1985, initially as a teacher and then as head teacher and principal of Sheffield Elementary School. He was an athletic director and superintendent in Three Way ISD, as well as superintendent of Blackwell CISD. Hood graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in education. He earned his master’s degree in education from Wayland Baptist University. Mesquite ISD The new principal of Cannaday Elementary School is Lauren Chism, who has spent her 14-year career with Mesquite ISD. Starting as a teacher, she served as the assistant principal at Shands Elementary Lauren Chism and, most recently, at Cannaday. Chism received her bachelor’s degree from Dallas Baptist University and her master’s degree through the cohort program at Texas A&M University at Commerce. Tomika Johnson, principal of Price Elementary School, is a 15-year veteran of Mesquite ISD. She served as a teacher at Seabourn Elementary before being named assistant prinTomika Johnson cipal in 2007. In addition, she has worked at Smith, Achziger and Gentry elementary

schools. Johnson obtained her bachelor’s degree from Jarvis Christian College and her master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University. The 2015-2016 school year will begin with Jennifer LaPlante as principal of Gray Elementary. She has been an educator for 18 years, all but one of those in Mesquite ISD. She spent Jennifer LaPlante a year as a fifth grade teacher in Princeton ISD. In Mesquite ISD, she has been a teacher, a testing coordinator, a curriculum instructional specialist and an assistant principal. LaPlante received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University at Commerce, where she serves as an adjunct professor. Plano ISD Brian Binggeli, the district’s new superintendent, comes to Plano from Brevard Public Schools in Viera, Fla., where he also held the top position. His 34-year career has included working as a Brian Binggeli teacher, principal and administrator. Binggeli holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy studies from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He has a bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Ohio and a master’s degree from Virginia State University. Pleasanton ISD Matthew Mann has accepted the role of superintendent. A native Texan, he began his career in Colorado, where he was a middle-school teacher for the Sierra Grande Schools. He then returned to his home state, where he worked in three San Antonio districts: Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, East Central ISD and Southwest ISD. He also worked in Jourdanton ISD before coming to Pleasanton ISD as principal of PleasanSee WHO’S NEWS on page 20


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WHO’S NEWS continued from page 18

ton High School in 2012. Mann earned his bachelor’s degree in history and government from Adams State University in Colorado and his master’s and doctoral degrees in education from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. Port Aransas ISD Former Port Aransas High School Principal Sharon McKinney has been named the district’s associate superintendent. Chris Roche, who had been serving as principal of Brundrett Middle School, is now principal for that campus and Port Aransas High School. Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD A new director of secondary education has been named for the district. Mike Wohlfarth began his career at San Antonio’s Northside ISD in 1981 as a teacher and coach. He came to SCUCISD Mike Wohlfarth in 1996 as principal of Clemens High School and then Dobie Junior High. He has led Steeple High School since 2008. A

Who’s News graduate of St. Mary’s University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Wohlfarth earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville). Sunnyvale ISD Gerald Thorne is president-elect of the National Rural Education Association (NREA). The retired hospital administrator is serving his third term on Sunnyvale ISD’s board and is a graduate of 2007’s Leadership TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) class. In addition, he represents Texas on the National Rural Education Advocacy Coalition (NREAC). Tyler ISD Tara Brown, formerly with Manor ISD, is principal of Orr Elementary School. Jonathan Kegler, who was previously with Nacogdoches ISD, will lead Peete Elementary School as principal when the new academic year begins in August.

Waxahachie ISD Finley Junior High School will have a new principal, Wade Bishop, when the new academic year begins. He comes from Ennis ISD, where he was assistant principal of Ennis High School. Wade Bishop Before taking his first administrative job, he taught English, health and speech. Bishop is a graduate of Texas A&M University at Commerce and holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Lamar University, where he is completing his doctorate in the same field. The new principal of Howard Junior High School is Jacob Perry. He began his career as a biology teacher and basketball coach at Waxahachie High School, moved on to Palmer and Ennis ISDs before returning Jacob Perry to Waxahachie. Perry holds a bachelor’s degree from East Texas Baptist University and a master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Whiteface CISD Cassidy McBrayer, former assistant superintendent of Snyder ISD, now leads Whiteface CISD as superintendent.

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Bullard ISD technology director makes IT happen by Leila Kalmbach


n 1972, a few years into Lee Sleeper’s career, something special happened at the utility company where he was working at the time: The company bought a computer. It cost millions and took up a whole floor of the office building. And, if the temperature rose above 72 degrees, the computer would shut off. “Now, I’m sitting here with an iPhone on my belt that is a handheld computing device with 16 gigs of memory,” says Sleeper, who now serves as the director of

operations and technology for Bullard ISD. “That’s not all that long ago.” Sleeper was recently named the winner of the 2014-2015 Texas Computer Education Association’s Making IT Happen award. The award is given to an individual who makes a difference in public education and successfully integrates technology into the classroom. Sleeper has been involved with TCEA since 1999 and has held several leadership roles, including president, financial vice president and area director.

According to TCEA, Sleeper — who works in a district with 2,500 students — serves as a mentor to many of its members, who hail from districts of all sizes. Sleeper credits one of his mentors, the late Richard Brown, as the man who got him thinking on a statewide level about technology in education. Sleeper says his involvement with TCEA has been the most important aspect of his professional life. “I was able to interact with colleagues from much larger organizations

Bullard ISD Technology Director Lee Sleeper was recently named the winner of the 2014-2015 Texas Computer Education Association’s Making IT Happen award. The award is given to an individual who makes a difference in public education and successfully integrates technology into the classroom. 22

Texas School Business • June 2015

who were much more experienced, and that gave me really good insight into what I should be doing in my district,” he says. Sleeper started out his career in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He worked at a daily newspaper, in media market television, and in public relations and marketing for many years. He was always interested in how technology can create cost savings and increase organizational efficiency — perhaps a little too interested, according to one boss. While working at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Sleeper bought a second computer for the office, and his president criticized him for the choice. “I got a ding on my evaluation because I had too many computers,” he laughs. At Sul Ross, Sleeper spent a large part of his day working with staff on how to use technology effectively in the office. He also collaborated with the local school district to create courses in instructional technology. So, it was a natural fit when Alpine ISD advertised for a technology director. Sleeper stepped into the role and then moved on to Bullard ISD in 2002. A lot has changed in Bullard ISD since then, thanks to Sleeper’s contributions and the increasing role of technology in school. “When I got to Bullard, a student could actually go through their entire school career and never take a technology course,” he says. “My first dream was to create an environment where a student could walk across the stage (at graduation) and walk into the world and function at any level.” After all, technology is not optional anymore. It’s a regular part of academia and the business world. For Sleeper, this point was driven home for him recently when he visited a big box store to buy fencing materials. The employee who helped him had to log into a computer database to find the material’s price. “He’s a deckhand and, yet, part of his job requirement is computer proficiency,” he says. In his role at Bullard ISD, Sleeper has administrative oversight over custodial, transportation, maintenance, HVAC, electrical and all of technology. He says he is proud of the strides he has made in helping Bullard ISD teachers familiarize

‘When I got to Bullard, a student could actually go through their entire school career and never take a technology course.’ their students with technology. He is also proud that five years ago Bullard ISD was able to implement a one-to-one computer ratio for seventh through 12th graders.

Despite his insistence on the importance of technology in education, Sleeper says that if he could give administrators one piece of advice on technology, it would be: It’s simply a tool. “It is not a be-all, end-all magic bullet,” he says. “The technology-based instruction is a good supplement, but it will never replace that one-to-one teaching from a good teacher.” LEILA KALMBACH is a freelance writer in Austin.


Fun facts ab



on’t p: I really d p a te ri o v My fa se the rite app. I u ent. have a favo at the mom d e d e e n n applicatio hout: not live wit n a c I y g lo Techno nnectivity Internet co eceased) (living or d le p o e p e Thre ntasy ite to my fa I would inv son and y: My wife, rt a p r e n in d daughter atles Stones? Be Beatles or

June 2015 • Texas School Business


TASSP PRESIDENT PROFILE Kennedale ISD’s Rita Pintavalle finishes term with new insights, fresh direction By Elizabeth Millard


nyone glancing through Rita Pintavalle’s childhood scrapbooks and high school research papers might have guessed her eventual career direction. “I loved school, so everything I collected was about being a teacher,” she says. “I wrote papers about the impact of poverty on children’s education. But I still didn’t take a direct route.”

First, she majored in child psychology and envisioned a career as a therapist specializing in younger patients. But, in her junior year, she went to a football game back home and sat next to her former English teacher. Between plays, she received some life-changing career advice. Before the last kickoff, she was headed into education for good.

“I realized that I could impact far more lives in this field than in psychology,” she says. “I still see enormous value in that career, but I wanted the greatest possible reach, and that’s the direction I took.” After college, Pintavalle found that it was easier to get a position if she agreed to be a coach. Having played softball at Baylor University, she was happy to sign

During her TASSP presidential term, Kennadale ISD’s Rita Pintavalle traveled frequently to speak with principals from around the state, but she still made time to mentor her staff at home as the principal of discipline and discretionary grants. 24

Texas School Business • June 2015

on for coaching duties, as well as teaching English. Soon, she found that the influence she was seeking to have on young lives was even deeper, thanks to coaching. “Teachers naturally build a relationship with students, but when you coach, you engage with students at a different level,” she says. “You also begin to understand the importance of extracurricular activities as a way to keep students in school.” Coaching gave her insights that led to a master’s degree in educational administration and, not long afterward, to an administrative position. Her superintendent at the time recruited her for a satellite district that partnered with the University of North Texas. Pintavalle embraced the opportunity to use what she could learn. She recalls a fellow coach asking her why she’d want to be a boss, and she answered that she didn’t; she wanted to be a leader.

‘I try to find the strengths in my staff and students and provide opportunities to empower them to be leaders and do what they enjoy.’

“When I think of ‘bosses,’ I think of power-hungry management types,” she says, adding that real leaders rise to the top because of their ability to empower others. That became her main focus. “I try to find the strengths in my staff and students and provide opportunities to empower them to be leaders and do what they enjoy,” she says. “I had people doing that for me my whole life — my parents, coaches, teachers — and as a teacher, my principals.” Another strong connection has been her commitment to her district, Kennedale ISD. Not only did she grow up in the area, but she also started her career there in 1991 and stayed there for five years before leaving to go into administration. In 2002, she returned and is now the district principal of discipline and discretionary grants.

Fun facts about

RITA PINTAVALLE My dream summer vacation would entail: a Mediterranean cruise. Last book I read and really liked: “Five Levels of Leadership” by John Maxwell. Something people don’t know about me: I’m a certified hypnotherapist. My favorite song: “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?” by George Strait.

She notes, with a laugh, that she never really left. Even when she went to another district, she served on the Kennedale ISD school board and stayed connected with the teachers there. They had taught her while she was growing up. “The relationships I’ve built here are crucial, because I know the teachers, the administrators and the community,” she says. “They understand my commitment to this district, and that goes a long way toward open communication and effectiveness.” While honing her administration skills, Pintavalle wanted to broaden her impact and address statewide issues, so she joined the Texas Association of Supervisors and Secondary Principals. During this past year as TASSP’s president, she has traveled to all 20 of TASSP’s regions twice and deepened her involvement with the National Honor Society and the Future Educators Association. She notes that TASSP’s membership is up from last year, and she’s confident that the organization can keep meeting membership goals. Over the course of her travels, Pintavalle passionately explained to principals the importance of sharing their visions — not just with their districts, but also with others in the state. She notes that administrators are sometimes hesitant to divulge

their larger goals, in case those visions don’t come to pass. But she made it a priority during her presidency to encourage that kind of sharing. “We all need to be heard and to emphasize the victories that are going on in each district,” she says. “We have to harness the tools available to us to connect with each other — and to communities. Communication is key for sharing our successes and our vision for the future.” Pintavalle is particularly keen on technology tools for connecting principals and other administrators, and she encouraged TASSP to hire a social media expert who could advance the organization’s message online. She also worked to build relationships with principals across the state — and across the nation — by launching a series of well-attended Twitter chats on Saturday mornings. “TASSP provides so many opportunities, but each of us has to be sure that we’re networking and sharing insights and being proactive, so we can keep building relationships,” she says. “We always need to make sure we’re seeking answers outside ourselves and connecting with each other, because that’s what changes education.” ELIZABETH MILLARD also writes for American City Business Journals. June 2015 • Texas School Business


Third grade is critical year for mastering literacy, determining child’s future success by Sally Banks Zakariya


he research is clear: If children cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade, they face daunting hurdles to success in school and beyond. Third grade marks a pivotal point in reading. In fourth grade, students begin encountering a wider variety of texts. Able readers can extract and analyze new information and expand their vocabulary through reading. But struggling readers at this stage rarely catch up with their peers academically and are four times more likely to drop out of high school, which may lower their earning power as adults and possibly cost society in welfare and other supports. Those struggling students are disproportionately poor students and students of color, according to an analysis of reading scores on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The assessment found that the score gap between children from higher- and lower-income families was 29 points. For children of color, the gap — while reduced by a single point since the 2009 test — was still 25 points. Faced with these unequal outcomes, many states are working to improve third grade reading with assessments to pinpoint problems, interventions for struggling readers and possible retention of third-graders who do not meet grade-level markers. At the local level, some 350 school districts — representing 16 percent of all children in U.S. public schools — have committed to actions 26

Texas School Business • June 2015

designed to help more children from low-income families read at grade level by the end of third grade. What the research says about early literacy Reading is the “Open, sesame!” for acquiring knowledge. Learn to read and you can read to learn just about anything. But learning to read is a complex matter that begins long before a child starts school. Researchers now know that the foundation for reading lies in the oral language children are exposed to and develop in the first three years of life. The parents’ level of education also can make a difference in a child’s readiness for school, as can other factors, such as family makeup and income and access to quality pre-kindergarten and teachers. The Parent Factor: Both the quality and the quantity of verbal interaction between parent and child are major factors in developing literacy skills and reading readiness. Researchers observed a number of what they called “quality features” in this regard. Diverse vocabulary and sen-

tence formation are among them, as are initiating conversation, prompting response and listening actively to a child. In addition, children whose parents were more highly educated earned higher NAEP reading scores in 2009, but fewer minority students had college-educated parents. The Income Factor: Researchers also found striking differences in the verbal abilities of children from affluent families compared to low-income families. Poor children, they found, heard as few as 3 million words in their first three years of life, compared to 11 million words for children in wealthier families — a verbal gap that predicted a gap in academic achievement by the time children reach the age of 9 or 10. Again, the NAEP data reveals proficiency gaps, in this case between students from moderate and high-income homes and those from low-income homes, as measured by eligibility for free and reduced-price lunches. The Community Factor: Students in preschool and the early elementary grades learn anywhere and anytime, not just at home and in

4th graders who score at proficient or better by race and family income, 2013 51



Percent proficient

(Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from “Learning to Read, Reading to Learn: Why Third Grade is a Pivotal Year for Mastering Literacy,” a white paper released by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education.)





 White

 Black

 Hispanic

 Asian/Pacific Islander

 American Indian/Alaska Native

 Eligible for Subsidized lunch

 Not eligible SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, NAEP 2013

school. Libraries, recreational facilities, museums and other communitybased organizations share with families and schools some of the responsibility for children’s learning and development. The Harvard Family Research Project has linked student achievement to early learning experiences at home and in the community and to meaningful engagement of families in schools and other community organizations. The Early Learning Factor: Children who attend pre-kindergarten programs do better in kindergarten. This outcome holds true for children of all racial groups, but the impact is greatest for children of color, children from low-income families, and English language learners. A longitudinal study of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project, for example, found that, at age 5, virtually half (49 percent) of students who attended pre-K went on to read at the basic level or higher by the time they were 14, compared to only 15 percent of those who did not have the benefit of pre-K. The Teacher Factor: What teachers know about reading instruction, how they focus their teaching and how much time their classes spend on reading can all affect students’ reading skills. Effective prac-

tices include a focus on phonics in- 4th grade reading scores are improving struction in kindergarten and, in first but gaps remain between groups grade, a focus on phonics and inte235 grated language arts activities — vo- 229 232 cabulary, discussion and explaining what is read. Unfortunately, in their 224 study of trends in professional development, Ruth Chung Wei and her col207 leagues found a sharp decline in the 207 206 amount of funding for professional 201 205 development in reading instruction 199 and an accompanying decline in the intensity of such professional devel2002 2005 2009 2013 opment.  White  Black  Hispanic What school boards and administra-  Asian/Pacific Islander  American Indian/Alaska Native tors should know SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, NAEP 2013 This research points out a series of issues school board members and administrators should understand. Attendance Works and the Campaign Some factors that affect students’ for Grade-Level Reading. The more reading proficiency are outside the children are chronically absent in school’s realm — family and neighpre-K, kindergarten and first grade, borhood poverty, for example, and the more they need help with reading the parents’ level of education. But by the end of second grade. School schools districts can have an impact interventions can make a real difon other important factors. ference and so can helping families Time in school. As important as overcome problems with transportaparent and community support are, tion, health concerns and other barriif children are not in school, their ers to attendance. achievement suffers. One in 10 stuTime in grade. If children have dents in kindergarten and first grade not established basic reading skills by miss nearly a month of school each year, according to a 2014 report from See FUTURE SUCCESS on page 28

Black, Hispanic & American Indian children are less likely to have college-educated parents School-age children by highest education attainment of at least one parent, 2011

Percent of children 6-18 yrs



31 22

20 16




Bachelor’s degree or higher  White

 Black

 Asian/Pacific Islander

 American Indian/Alaska Native

Less than high school diploma  Hispanic

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, 2012

June 2015 • Texas School Business


FUTURE SUCCESS continued from page 27

Hispanic and American Indian children gain the most from high-quality preschool but are the least likely to be enrolled. Effects of preschool on literacy skills

Enrolled in preschool 49

52 48



Percent enrolled

Effect size (gains)


0.99 0.6

 White

 Black

 Hispanic


0.76 0.74



applied problems  Asian/Pacific Islander





3- and 4-year-olds in preschool or nursery school



letter-word ID



 American Indian/Alaska Native

SOURCES: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2015; Cannon & Karoly, RAND, 2007, Data from Gormley, 2005

the end of third grade, it might seem logical to hold them back a year. That has been a common, though controversial, practice. But Harvard’s Martin West reports that students who are held back a year face lower achievement and worse social-emotional outcomes than similar students who are promoted. They also are more likely to drop out of school. In the early grades, however, the outcome can change when intensive remediation accompanies retention. Bottom line: Retention is no substitute for a comprehensive strategy to reduce the number of struggling readers, and appropriate interventions for retained students should be part of that strategy. Extended learning opportunities. Young children spend easily two or three times fewer waking hours in school than out of school. Much of their learning takes place in those outof-school hours. Over summer vacation, they stand to lose some of what they have learned in school. Recognizing this lost opportunity, groups like the National Education Associa28

Texas School Business • June 2015

tion recommend extended learning opportunities, such as before- and after-school programs, summer school, Saturday academies and an extended school year. Teacher capacity. In the face of state and district cutbacks in resources allocated for professional development, it is challenging to build teacher capacity. Wei and her colleagues suggest renewed focus on induction and mentoring programs for beginning teachers and opportunities for collaborative work for all teachers. Also important, of course, is hiring certified teachers who have strong backgrounds in education and training. Family and community engagement. There’s broad agreement — and strong research to back it up — that family engagement is linked to student success. Parental beliefs, attitudes, values and child-rearing practices all play a part in school readiness, according to the Harvard Family Research Project, as does homeschool communication. Partnerships that involve community groups and

local government agencies — health and social services, for example — can strengthen the result. Yes, all this is costly, but economic analyses show real cost benefits. Giving children a strong early start on literacy provides significant savings to federal, state and local governments — not only reducing the need for special education but also increasing the likelihood of healthier lifestyles, lowering the crime rate and reducing overall social costs. SALLY BANKS ZAKARIYA is the former editor-in-chief of “American School Board Journal” and director of publications for the National School Boards Association. This paper is a collaborative effort between NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education, the Black Council of School Board Members, the National Caucus of American Indian/Alaska Native School Board Members and the Hispanic Council of School Board Members.


A matter of character by Caitlyn Denning


ecently, my high school hosted a meeting in the gym with motivational speaker Wade White. His powerful message left a resonating impact on me: We are all measured by our character — what we do, what we say and, most importantly, how we make others feel. With this in mind, I began contemplating how that applied to my experience in high school. I thought about my awkward, self-conscious freshman self and the people who have helped build me into the young

‘Everyone leaves an impression, I realized, from the kind smiles the lunch ladies send my way every afternoon to the way a teacher conducts his or her class.’ woman I am now. Everyone leaves an impression, I realized, from the kind smiles the lunch ladies send my way every afternoon to the way a teacher conducts his or her class. Marching band, for example, has been a major catalyst in my life. I have been in band since seventh grade, but it didn’t truly become my home until freshman year. The upper-classmen were welcoming and kind, teaching me that making friends wasn’t as hard as I had always thought. By being myself and not changing who I was to impress them (no matter how much that idea lingered in the back of my head), I made plenty of friends. “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 Katie Ford at katie@texasschoolbusiness. com for publishing guidelines.

The One Act Play, which I joined my junior year as a hopeful understudy, taught me to have confidence in myself. The directors, Mr. Joseph Dassinger and Ms. Dawn Dooley, along with my fellow cast and crew members, opened their arms to me and gave me a sense of belonging. They taught me through the inside jokes and laughter we shared that I could do anything I set my mind to if I was willing to learn. The common themes that encompass my four years at Aubrey High School are these: If you do your best, you will always succeed. Also, have faith in who you are. I was inspired by the character of those surrounding me to better myself. A handful of teachers were my main source of motivation. The fact of the matter is that good teachers are essential to creating strong young men and women of character. Mrs. Brandee Gallagher taught me the value of genuinely caring for the people around myself. Mr. Rashidur Rahman showed me how to respect people and the importance of humbly putting others before myself. Mr. Dassinger, through his jovial, outgoing personality, provided a perfect example for me

about being comfortable expressing myself, no matter how silly I’m being. Ms. Dooley taught me how to open my mind to new possibilities for music and writing. There are many more teachers who inspire a love of learning in their students or an interest in a certain topic that I could include, but it all boils down to this: We all leave an impact. Mr. White told a gym full of students: “You are the only person with your exact fingerprints in the world. You are the only person who gets to decide how you impact others in the amount of time you’ve got here.” As I stated earlier, people aren’t going to remember you for what you wear. People won’t remember you for what you say or what you do. They will remember how you made them feel, and my experiences at Aubrey High School have impacted my decision that I want to do my best to make people feel happy. CAITLYN DENNING graduated as part of the class of 2015 from Aubrey High School in Aubrey ISD. June 2015 • Texas School Business


THE BACK PAGE by Riney Jordan

Advertiser Index

An open letter to retiring educators


o, you’ve decided to retire. I know that was a tough decision. But congratulations to you! I want to take a few minutes to reflect on your life as an educator, because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to realize the full impact of what you have done in your life up to this point. First of all, there are students who will remember you all the days of their lives. They will tell stories about their time in your classrooms when memories are recalled at reunions and other gatherings. They’ll be smiling and they’ll laugh, and perhaps even a tear will come to their eyes as they recall how you went above and beyond the call of duty to see that they succeeded. And some will never tell their stories, but they’ll remember. They will harbor the memory of the time they weren’t sure they could hold on to life, but you sat with them in that lonely classroom, heard their story and put your arm around them as you both quietly wept. You helped them get through when their lives were being torn apart by divorce, about the fear of moving away and starting over, and the sadness of losing a parent. You lovingly gave counsel to a student about an unplanned and unexpected pregnancy. You were the tower of strength that a child needed when they were thrust into the role of being a parent to their younger siblings. You took compassion and made exceptions, because you knew that it was the right thing to do. Your heart broke when you began to see the signs that some were making bad choices, and they were coping with life’s trials and tribulations by using drugs and alcohol. You recognized the signs and you pulled them aside one day and talked to them with tough love, all because you cared. Oh, you have counseled, you have encouraged, you have shown compas-


Texas School Business • June 2015

sion, and you have — in far too many cases — cared more than the parent. You have made sacrifices for them, spent time and money on them, and sometimes even ignored your own family because of them. Others will never know — and you may never know — all the times you made an indelible difference in the life of one of your former students. But they will. You’ll not remember the words you spoke so compassionately when they needed it. But they will. You’ll not recall the time you wrote an encouraging note to a student. But they will, and they treasure it to this day. Yes, you have been there for your students every step of the way. Oh, of course, it hasn’t been easy at times. You weren’t compensated nearly enough for your service. But to those who were given the gift of teaching, you didn’t do it for the money. You didn’t do it for the glory. You did it because you cared. And because of your compassion, your understanding, your genuine love for others, you have made a lasting and permanent difference. They may never personally thank you. They may never acknowledge what you meant in their lives. They may never remember the curriculum you taught, but they will never forget you as an individual who passed through their path of life and made a huge difference. So, as you leave after these years of service, go knowing that the world is a little better place because of you, and your efforts will continue to impact others long after you are gone. And that is far more than most in this world will ever accomplish. RINEY JORDAN’s “The Second Book” is now available at www.rineyjordan.com, along with his other publications. You can contact him at (254) 386-4769, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter: @ RineyRiney.

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Advertise with us! Texas has more than 4.6 million public school students and over 1,000 school districts that need your company’s products and services. Let us help you reach this vast market – advertise in Texas School Business magazine. For specs and rates, contact ahalstead@tasanet.org or by calling 800-725-8272. TexasSchoolBusiness.com

School’s out for summer! Congratulations on another successful year!



Texas School Business • June 2014

The sense of brotherhood and culture of ambassadorship in our “district has never been stronger. Ambassador training has helped unite our team around our schools and our profession.”

-- Scott Niven, Superintendent, Red Oak ISD


hen my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.”

-- Thomas P a i n e


Thomas Paine’s political declaration in Common Sense helped direct the energies of the rebels and point the way to American independence from England. The Ambassador Training Academy staff development program is inspired by Thomas Paine’s work. There are many parallels between educators today, condemned by blinded reformists, and early Americans, condemned by a blinded Crown. Just as Paine “enunciates... the specific right of the people to challenge unjust laws and an unjust government”, we are mobilizing an army of educators to challenge unjust criticism and false accusations of widespread failure.

Class of 2011 Red Oak ISD Ambassadors Academy

Friends of Texas Public Schools is educating Texans about Texas public schools and their many strengths and achievements through Ambassador Training and other initiatives in order to: 4 4 4 4 4 4

Underscore the significance of them; Unite Texans around them; Restore pride in them; Strengthen confidence in them; Lift spirits among them; and Inject resources into them…

…all of which will lead to even greater performance.

Stir your team into champions for your students, district, and profession by enrolling your school district in our Ambassador Training Academy.

It’s time for every educator to stir Visit www.fotps.org to learn more, or email us at lmilder@fotps.org.

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