The News Magazine for Public Education in Texas MARCH / APRIL
Texas School Business
The return of empathy
How social and emotional learning helps students thrive Also in this issue: TASB President Teresa Flores TASSP President Carrie Jackson
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16 22 TASSP President Profile TASSP President Carrie Jackson encourages principals to be “all over the building”
Cover Story The return of empathy How social and emotional learning helps students thrive by Dacia Rivers
by Laura Cherry
20 TASB President Profile Teresa Flores aims to inspire advocacy as TASB president by Laura Cherry
7 Who’s News 25 Student Voices 28 TASA Honorary Life 32 Calendar 36 The Arts 38 Ad Index
5 From the Editor by Dacia Rivers 11 The Law Dawg— Unleashed by Jim Walsh 13 Digital Frontier by Sam Farsaii 15 Game On! by Bobby Hawthorne 38 The Back Page by Riney Jordan
14 TASPA/TAEE welcome attendees to annual Winter Conference 27 TASA holds annual Midwinter Conference in Austin 31 TCWSE members gather at TASA Midwinter 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
pring cleaning is the go-to activity for many of us this time of year. The weather lends itself to open windows, to organizing and beginning new projects. While many folks make resolutions that kick off on January 1, I personally like to spend the first two months of the year in recovery and hibernation mode, just waiting for a glimpse of spring weather to inspire me to tackle all the things I’ve been dreaming of getting done. If you’re like me, you’re ready for some inspiration, and in this issue of Texas School Business, we’ve got just the thing you need. Social and emotional learning is a hot topic right now in Texas public schools, and for our cover story, I spoke to a few administrators who are having success incorporating SEL on their campuses. Give it a read if you’re looking for some ideas for how to do so at your schools, or if you’re curious about the results they’re seeing in their students. We’ve also got a great column from a student in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, writing for publication for the very first time. His enthusiasm for his studies is infectious, and serves as a good reminder of the importance Texas’ public schools make in students’ lives. This year, it’s my hope to feature some impressive Texas educators in the pages of this magazine. If you know of someone who goes above and beyond, somehow who has truly dedicated his or her life to Texas public education, we’d love to honor them in our Spotlight column. Just shoot me a quick note at firstname.lastname@example.org with their info, and we’ll do the rest. I hope you all have a wonderful spring. May we all be busy knocking the dust off our boots and tackling our own personal to-do lists during this season of growth and rebirth.
Texas School Business (ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) MARCH / APRIL 2018 Volume LXV, Issue 2 406 East 11th Street Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-477-6361 • Fax: 512-482-8658 www.texasschoolbusiness.com EDITORIAL DIRECTOR
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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
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Who’s News Austin ISD Newly appointed Joslin Elementary School principal D. Patrick Aziz had been serving in the top position at the school on an interim basis. Prior to that, the 13-year AISD employee was an assistant principal and bilingual teacher at Zilker Elementary. He holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Texas and a bachelor’s degree in speech communication from the University of Texas at Arlington. The new principal of Gullett Elementary School, Tisha Brown, served as the school’s interim principal since the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year. She was previously principal of the Austin Jewish Academy and worked as a teacher in Austin and Round Rock ISDs. Her bachelor’s degree in government and master’s degree in education were awarded from the University of Texas, and her juris doctor degree from the University of Houston Law Center. Yvette Cardenas has been named principal
of Pillow Elementary School, having served as the school’s interim principal since August. A 10-year employee of the district, she was previously Pillow’s assistant principal. Cardenas received her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and her master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Texas.
Nicole Johnson, Austin ISD’s chief financial
officer, has been appointed by Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus to the Texas Commission on Public School Finance. She has served in her current position with the district since 2009.
also served as an administrator in El Paso’s Socorro and Ysleta ISDs. Edwards earned his bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in school leadership from the University of Texas at El Paso.
David Tidwell has been inducted into
the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was recognized in January at THSBCA’s annual convention in Waco. He has been a coach for 33 years, 23 of them at Belton High.
Boerne ISD Newly appointed chief human resources officer Elaine Howard comes to her new position from Hays CISD, where she served in a similar capacity since 2014. In addition, she was Judson ISD’s executive director of human resources. Now serving as assistant superintendent for school administration, Ashley Stewart was most recently assistant superintendent for leadership, planning and innovation at Midlothian ISD. She has also worked as assistant superintendent in Graham and San Saba ISDs. Stewart earned her bachelor’s degree from McMurry University and her master’s and doctoral degrees from Tarleton State University.
Bryan ISD Tim Rocka, deputy
Now serving as principal of Andrews Elementary School is Gabriela Soto, formerly the administrative supervisor in AISD’s middle school office. Previously assistant principal of Perez Elementary and in San Elizaro and Clint ISDs, she has a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in education, both from Park University.
superintendent, has retired. He previously worked as a teacher and administrator in Jacksonville, Palestine, Brenham and CypressFairbanks ISDs and joined the district in 2011 as assistant superintendent of human resources. He also served as interim superintendent from October 2016 to April 2017.
The Bastrop ISD board of trustees has appointed deputy superintendent Barry Edwards interim superintendent. He has spent the past 10 years of his 28-year career with the district working as assistant superintendent of human resources and student services before his most recent assignment. He
Now serving as superintendent is Chris Wigington, who previously led Big Spring ISD.
City View ISD (Wichita Falls) Anthony Bushong has been approved to lead
The new superintendent, Tanya Monroe, spent the past four years in the top position in Brownfield ISD.
Now serving as Coppell ISD’s director of literacy is Anita de la Isla, formerly of Irving ISD, where she was coordinator of professional development. An educator for 19 years, she received her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, her master’s degree from Southern Methodist University, and her doctorate in educational leadership from Dallas Baptist University, where she also works as an adjunct professor.
Corpus Christi ISD Yvonne Benavides, an employee of the
district for 18 years, is now assistant principal of Allen Elementary School. She has previously worked as a classroom teacher, Title I program specialist and curriculum assistant. De Zavala Elementary has welcomed
Carolyn Bence as assistant principal. An
educator for 14 years, she has been with CCISD for nine. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Emory University and two master’s degrees from the University of Texas. The district’s new director of technology support services, Marilyn Doughty, was coordinator of network services since 2011. She is a graduate of the University of Texas and has spent 25 years working with technology infrastructure.
Prudence Farrell has been named principal of Hamlin Middle School, coming to her new job from Sam Houston Elementary, where she worked in the same position. Prior to that, she was assistant principal of Miller High School and a special education math teacher and head volleyball coach at Ray High School.
Miller High School’s new administrator for academics and accountability is Marci Fischer, former coordinator for high school completion. An employee of the district for 17 years, she holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in educational administration, both from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.
the district as superintendent.
> See Who’s News, page 9 Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
THE NEXT GENERATION OF INNOVATORS STARTS HERE Architecture Engineering Interiors Planning Technology Facility Consulting
Who’s News > Continued from page 7
Now serving as assistant principal of Moody High School is Erik Galindo. Previously a physics teacher and a football and track coach at Edinburg High School in Edinburg ISD, he is a graduate of Texas Tech University. Kostoryz Elementary School now has Stevie-Rae Garcia as assistant principal. A graduate of Corpus Christi ISD’s Carroll High School, she received her bachelor’s degree in education and her master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. Now serving as director for the office of purchasing is Arnulfo Gonzalez, formerly administrative officer of that division. A professional in the purchasing field for over 25 years, he joined Corpus Christi ISD in 2005 as senior buyer after graduating from the University of the Incarnate Word. The new coordinator of reading instruction and library media services, Cynthia Hernandez, has worked as a campus and central office administrator and at ESC Regions 7 and 12 and the Texas Education Agency. In addition, she was director for educational outreach at Baylor University’s Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research and director of institutional research at Tyler Junior College. Zonia Lopez is the new principal of Sam
Houston Elementary School, having served previously as assistant principal of Webb and Crockett elementaries. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville) and her master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.
Kelsie Morris has been promoted from
assistant principal of Kostoryz Elementary School to principal. A product of Corpus Christi ISD schools, she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas and two master’s degrees, in counseling and educational administration, from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. Lauren Munguia has been
named coordinator of the office of food services. She joined the department in 2014 after graduating from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.
Now serving as Corpus Christi ISD’s general counsel and chief legal officer is Brian Nelson. His 28-year legal career has included spending 19 years working in
public education, including the University of Houston and Lone Star College systems. He is a graduate of the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in political science and of Michigan State University, where he earned his juris doctor degree. Lucretia Nickleson is the new administrator of assessment and accountability at Coles High School and Education Center. She spent the past 10 years as a career and technical education teacher and assistant tennis coach at Moody High. She earned both her bachelor’s degree in finance and her master’s degree in secondary education from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. Susan Owen, a middle school
teacher for the last eight years, is now assistant principal of Hamlin Middle School. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi with a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington. The district’s new director of the office of instructional technology is Cary Perales, formerly the department’s coordinator. A teacher for eight years, she was Corpus Christi ISD’s first science coach. Cindy Perez has accepted the role of director of the office of professional learning. A graduate of Texas A&M University at Kingsville, she earned her master’s degree in education administration from Lamar University. During her 16 years with CCISD, she has worked in many capacities, most recently as the district’s elementary math specialist. Sukhbir Singh, coordinator for advanced
academics, taught secondary math and worked as a school administrator in India before joining CCISD, teaching math at Carroll High School and serving as an instructional coach for 11 years. He is completing his doctorate in educational leadership at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. Now serving as executive director for school leadership services is Laura Stout. A 20year educator, she previously worked in Harlingen CISD and as an administrator in Irving, Coppell, Grand Prairie, Tyler and Dallas ISDs. She holds bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas at Brownsville and the University of North Texas and a master’s degree in counseling and guidance from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. Her doctorate in educational leadership is from Dallas Baptist University.
The new assistant principal of Montclair Elementary School, Shakirat Taylor, comes to the district from San Antonio’s Northside ISD, where she was science department chair and an instructional coach at John Jay High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology and chemistry from the University of Texas at Arlington and her master’s degree from Lamar University. Annalese Tennyson has accepted the position
of assistant principal of Jones Elementary School after spending the past eight years coaching and teaching in Covington and Hillsboro ISDs as well as in Corpus Christi ISD at King High School. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. Galvan Elementary School now has
Diana Ybarra as principal. An employee of
the district for 15 years, she was assistant principal of Oak Park Elementary. She holds a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in administration from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. Additional new administrative appointments are: •
Robert Arredondo, principal, Dawson
Veronica Bazaldua, band director, Kaffie
Staci Cade, assistant principal, Driscoll
Christine De La Garza, administrator for
John Figueroa, assistant principal, Metro Elementary School of Design;
Stephanie Fling, administrator for
Michael Harrington, assistant principal,
Kristina Kahil, principal, Webb Elementary School;
Bradley Norquist, assistant principal,
Lee Scott, athletic trainer, Miller High.
Elementary School; Middle School;
academics and accountability, King High School;
academics and accountability, Ray High School; King High School;
Fannin Elementary School;
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD The new principal of Pope Elementary School is Elizabeth Bradley, former director of instruction at Kahla Middle School. An educator for 17 years, she initially worked in Houston ISD, coming to Cypress-Fairbanks two years later. She worked as a teacher at Horne and Andre elementaries and Aragon Middle School before taking on her first administrative position in 2010. Bradley holds a bachelor’s > See Who’s News, page 10 Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
degree in educational leadership from West Texas A&M University.
> Continued from page 9
Now serving as assistant principal of Willkie Middle School is Andrew Hohman, a former counselor at Eagle Mountain Elementary. An educator for nine years, he previously worked in Lake Worth and Garland ISDs. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Midwestern State University and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of North Texas.
Groesbeck ISD superintendent.
degree from Sam Houston State University and a master’s degree in curriculum and technology from the University of Phoenix. Jamie Brotemarkle, now
principal of Spillane Middle School, was most recently the campus director of instruction. She has been an educator for 22 years, 14 of those with CFISD. Prior to that, she was a teacher, soccer coach and counselor in Georgia schools. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University and her master’s degree from Georgia State University. Jersey Village High School baseball coach Mike Maddox was inducted into the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association (THSBCA) Hall of Fame in January at the association’s annual convention in Waco. A baseball coach for 32 years, he spent all but two of those at Jersey Village. Sharon Whitfield has
been promoted from assistant principal of McFee Elementary School to principal. She began her career 14 years ago in New York, joining CFISD as a teacher at Copeland, Sampson and Hairgrove elementaries and taking her first administrative position in 2010. Whitfield holds a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Brockport and a master’s degree in education from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Denton ISD Vicki Garcia, former director of finance for
LaPorte ISD, is now Denton ISD’s executive director of financial operations. She began her career in Clear Creek ISD, later joining Santa Fe ISD as director of finance, a position she held for four years. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD Nate Driver, former Willkie
Middle School assistant principal, now serves in that role at Saginaw High School. Aa graduate of the University of North Texas, the 10-year educator holds a master’s
Elgin ISD Shannon Luis, now serving as assistant
superintendent of academics and school improvement, comes to her new position from Somerset ISD. She holds a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in educational administration, both from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her doctorate in school improvement was awarded from Texas State University.
El Paso ISD Bowie High School has welcomed new principal Frank Ordaz, who had been serving in an interim capacity. A 17-year employee of the district, he was previously an assistant principal at Guillen Middle School and at Bowie. A graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso, he holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in educational administration. El Paso High School’s new principal, Mark Paz, comes to the school from El Paso’s Canutillo ISD, where he was principal of Canutillo Middle School. A former basketball and track coach for El Paso ISD, he has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at El Paso and a doctorate from Walden University.
Fort Bend ISD The new assistant principal of Missouri City Middle School is Tania Campbell. Most recently a language arts teacher at Bush High School, she previously taught at Houston ISD’s Westbury High School. She is a graduate of the University of Washington with a master’s degree from Heritage University.
James Cowley has accepted the role of
Harris County Dept. of Education The new curriculum director for special populations in the HCDE’s Teaching and Learning Center is Brenda Arteaga, a 24-year veteran educator who most recently was superintendent of schools and assistant superintendent for academics and operations at Southwest Schools in Houston. Prior to that, she worked in Houston ISD for 18 years as a teacher, dual language/ Title III coordinator, assistant principal and principal. She is a graduate of the University of Houston Central with a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas and doctorate in professional leadership from the University of Houston.
Hays CISD Hays CISD’s new superintendent, Eric Wright, held the top position in Fredericksburg ISD since 2014. He began his career in 1989, working as a teacher in several districts before taking his first administrative position, as an assistant principal in Lufkin ISD in 1996. He went on to serve as a principal and assistant superintendent, accepting his first superintendency in Woodville ISD in 2004. Wright received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Huntsville ISD The second semester of 2017-18 began with a new superintendent for Huntsville ISD. Scott Sheppard, who was assistant superintendent for secondary school administration in CypressFairbanks ISD, has been an educator for 30 years.
Hutto ISD Hutto ISD has named Robert Sormani assistant superintendent for school support. He has been an educator for 18 years, most recently working as executive director of curriculum and instruction and special programs in Manor > See Who’s News, page 12
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
THE LAW DAWG – UNLEASHED
The blame game over the 8.5 percent indicator
by Jim Walsh
ow that everyone has agreed that the 8.5 percent indicator we used to have in the PBMAS was a bad idea, the blame game is underway. The Legislature has ordered TEA never to do such a thing again. The Department of Education has scolded the entire state and ordered corrective action. And the governor has accused school districts of a “dereliction of duty.” That’s a crock. The fault here lies squarely with TEA. The folks at the agency made a mistake, and Gov. Abbott is wrong when he tries to shift the blame. I have never thought that anyone at TEA intended to do anything that would deny services to kids who need them. The people who work at TEA are just like the people who work in your school district. They care about kids, believe in public education, and try do the right thing. But just like all of us, they make mistakes. It was a mistake to adopt a specific number and tell school districts that the percentage of kids in special education should match up with that number. I believe it was a mistake made by good people acting in good faith, but it was a mistake nevertheless. If we’re going to play the blame game, we ought to be fair about it. That means that we look at the entire context. None of this happened in a vacuum. The staff at TEA was under pressure to contain special education costs. The interim report to the Legislature in 2004 recommended a cap on special education enrollment as a means of doing that. With its budget cut, its staff shrunk, and the increase in pressure from the Legislature to cut costs, the folks at TEA made a couple of important decisions. First, monitoring would no longer be done by teams of people traveling from Amarillo to Beaumont. Instead, it would be based on data. Much cheaper. The politicians would like that. Second, the PBMAS would include an “indicator” addressing the numbers in special education.
That’s why we got the 8.5 percent indicator. Some districts treated it as a guideline, and continued to identify more students than the indicator called for. Others treated it like a hard cap and put procedures in place designed to get the numbers to align. It’s very clear in hindsight that TEA did not adequately explain that the number was not a cap. Thus the initial mistake was compounded by the failure to monitor how districts were responding. At the local level, educators tried to meet the targets set by the state agency. What would you expect them to do? Whether you thought it was a guideline or a cap, it was the official word from the TEA. Of course local districts took it seriously. The agency provides leadership and guidance. When the agency says that you should have no more than 8.5 percent of your kids in special education programs, the locals are going to try to meet that target. So local educators beefed up the quality of general education services, and made more use of Section 504. All of this was an effort to meet the needs of the students, while simultaneously hitting the target set by the agency. So it’s a crock for Gov. Abbott to accuse local educators of a dereliction of duty. It’s his agency, headed by his appointee, who bears full responsibility for this costly mistake. The blame game is very popular. I guess it’s always been that way, but these days we seem to play it with uber enthusiasm. We are quick to not only criticize the other guy’s actions, but also his motives. We see evil intentions and conspiracies all around us. We are reluctant to conclude that sometimes the explanation for what went wrong is pretty simple: good people, acting in good faith, making poor decisions. It would be nice if our state leaders acknowledged the hard work of teachers and administrators at the local level, instead of shifting blame to them for mistakes made at a higher level.
JIM WALSH is an attorney with Walsh Gallegos Treviño Russo & Kyle PC. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jwalshtxlawdawg. Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
Who’s News > Continued from page 10
ISD. In addition, he held administrative positions in Round Rock and Austin ISDs. He is a graduate of the University of Texas, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English and master’s and doctoral degrees in educational administration.
Katy ISD Katy ISD board of trustees member George Scott has been re-elected to a twoyear term on the board of directors of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). He has served as a KISD trustee since 2016.
Killeen ISD Dagmar Harris, now serving as director of secondary curriculum and professional development, was principal of Union Grove Middle School since 2011. Prior to that, she was curriculum director and assistant principal of Ellison High School.
Now serving as principal of the KISD Career Center is Russell Porterfield, coming to Killeen from Copperas Cove ISD, where he was director of college and career readiness since 2014. He also worked as assistant and associate principal of Copperas Cove High School.
and security specialist, he previously was a police officer in St. Paul, Minn., and with the University of Texas system. Montgomery holds an associate degree in law enforcement, a bachelor’s degree in organizational management, and a master’s degree in educational administration.
Mesquite ISD Kristy Morse has been named
principal of Frasier Middle School. She has spent 22 years in the district, beginning as a math teacher before taking her first administrative role as an assistant principal. She was most recently principal of Thompson Elementary School. Morse earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University at Commerce.
Red Oak ISD Red Oak ISD has a new head football coach and athletic coordinator. Chris Ross has 21 years of experience as a coach and athletic director in Texas high schools and spent the past two years as director of program development for Idaho’s Boise State University. He previously worked in Prosper, Leander, and Wichita Falls ISDs, twice coaching his teams to win the 5A UIL Lone Star Cup.
Round Rock ISD Lexington ISD Tanya Knowlton, former high school principal
in Harleton ISD, is now Lexington ISD’s superintendent.
Lubbock ISD Kathy Rollo has accepted the position of district superintendent. A product of Lubbock ISD schools and an educator for 28 years, she has served LISD as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, executive director for leadership and professional development and, most recently, associate superintendent. In addition, she is an instructor at Texas Tech University, from which she received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
McKinney ISD The district’s new director of safety, security and transportation, Robert Montgomery, comes to McKinney ISD with 18 years of experience in law enforcement and five in school safety. Most recently Allen ISD’s safety
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
Sam Soto has been appointed principal
of Bluebonnet Elementary School after serving as the school’s interim principal since September. An educator for 15 years, 10 of those with RRISD, he was an assistant principal at Bluebonnet and at Caldwell Heights Elementary. He holds bachelor’s degrees in political science from Loyola University and in bilingual education from Our Lady of the Lake University as well as a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Texas.
Royse City A new chief financial officer has been named for the district. Byron Bryant, who has 10 years of experience in school district finance, has worked in Rockwall and Red Oak ISDs and, most recently, in Allen ISD, where he was executive director of finance. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University and is a CPA.
Socorro ISD The district’s new director of human resources for staffing and recruiting, secondary level, is Elva Chavez, a 27year educator who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary HardinBaylor and her master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Texas at El Paso. Previous assignments include working as a guidance and instruction assistant principal, high school English and Spanish teacher, at-risk math teacher, department head and student activities director. Superintendent Jose Espinoza has been presented with the 2017 Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education from TheBestSchools.org. The honor came with a $10,000 individual cash award and an additional $10,000 for Socorro ISD. Espinoza was ESC Region 19’s Superintendent of the Year in 2016 and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Educator of the Year for 2010. Maria del Rosario Flores has
been named principal of Rojas Elementary School. Most recently assistant principal of Keleher Elementary, she began her career as a bilingual educator in El Paso ISD and joined Socorro ISD in 2007. Now serving as director of human resources for staffing and recruiting, elementary level, is Angelica Herrera, who has spent the past 17 years with the district, most recently as principal of Hueco Elementary School. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Sul Ross State University and a master’s degree from the University of Texas at El Paso. Jessica Macias has been promoted from principal of Rojas Elementary School to SISD’s school improvement officer. She has been an educator for 14 years and was the district’s Teacher of the Year for 2006-07. Adam Starke, newly appointed director of state and federal programs, began his now 22-year career in El Paso’s Ysleta ISD, going on to work as an assistant principal and at-risk and testing coordinator in San Elizario ISD. His bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees were conferred by the University of Texas at El Paso.
> See Who’s News, page 35
Learning from the machine by Sam Farsaii
rom providing devices to each student to ubiquitous access to technology anytime, anywhere, technology continues to have major impact on all aspects of our lives, and education is no exception. The purpose of technology in school is not to teach technology, but to teach with technology to enhance learning. Technology is a tool, augmenting and facilitating learning. For example, the other day we took our 9-year-old grandchild to the zoo. She had a long-term project on animal habitation. Like any good researcher, she interviewed the staff (animals too), took notes and snapped some pictures. A week later she shared her research with us. Among them were amazing drawings of lions and gorillas. Later on, I learned that she had taught herself on her own how to sketch animals with proper shading from YouTube. She then wrote up her notes on the computer and printed out her research for her display poster. Mind you, she did this without any direction from anyone. She is a self-starter anyway, but actively seeking assistance from technology is now an integral part of our lives and is here to stay. None of this is new anymore. What’s next? Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning is the new frontier. These systems can see, hear, learn and speak, but more importantly make recommendations and help us discover new insights to make decisions. They excel at pattern recognition, prediction, classification, image recognition, text conversion to natural speech (or vice versa), personalized automated searches, natural language generation and interaction. Think of Siri, Echo, or simply, the way Mr. Spock does all the logical thinking and processing so that Captain Kirk can make the
final decisions. Think of AI as the new personalized power tool, but customized just for you. It’s like a personal trainer that discovers our innate weaknesses and helps enhance us to reach our maximum potential. For the past couple of years, I worked closely with IBM and Apple at my former district to pioneer the first artificial intelligence system in education using Watson Technology. The product, Watson Element, has unlimited potential. It’s designed to transform the classroom by providing critical insights to the educator about each student’s strengths, challenges, learning styles and their demographics to optimize learning. The data that is minute, insignificant, and often overlooked may paint a bigger picture to help each child reach his or her maximum potential. It’s an omnipresent system that is constantly learning from its environment to improve student learning. The possibilities are endless. Here’s a personal example. Paper doesn’t have a spellchecker, so writing on a computer is a given for bad spellers like me. Unfortunately, spellcheckers don’t help us become better spellers. All the unique errors about my misspelling patterns are lost and never collected. An AI system can potentially harvest that data and not only correct my spelling, but also actively help me become a better speller. Imagine a system that looks at all your writings, tracks misspelling patterns and collectively compares them to other students of a similar age group to find common misconceptions. Next, it might make some intelligent suggestions to improve your spelling. For example, the mnemonic absent or ab-sence to help trigger and remember the correct spelling of the word “absence,” which is not “abscence,” as I often write it.
A personalized AI system that insightfully improves my bad habits can grow with me in a symbiotic relationship. I need the AI application to become a better speller, and the AI system needs me in order for it to learn, grow and become a better product. That is the nature of AI systems — they constantly learn from their environments.
'Despite the common misperception, AI will not take over our lives. It will not supersede us, but rather it will enhance us.'
Despite the common misperception, AI will not take over our lives. It will not supersede us, but rather it will enhance us. Oh, is that how you spell supersede? Peculiar, but yes. In fact, it’s the only word in English ending in -sede, hence the need for AI.
DR. SAM FARSAII is a retired chief technology officer from Coppell ISD and a member of the Texas K-12 CTO Council. Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
TASPA/TAEE WELCOME ATTENDEES TO ANNUAL WINTER CONFERENCE The Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators and the Texas Association for Employment in Education held their yearly winter conference recently in Austin.
▲ Sheri Blankenship, Hereford ISD, recipient of the 2017 TASPA Distinguished Service Award, and 2018 TASPA President Dr. Sundie Dahlkamp.
▲ Paige Curry, Birdville ISD, recipient of the 2017 Dr. Mary Hopkins Personnel Administrator of the Year Award, and 2017 TASPA President Willie Watson.
▲ John Hancock, TASPA’s 2017 Honorary Member, and 2018 TASPA President Dr. Sundie Dahlkamp.
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
Lessons from the playing field
by Bobby Hawthorne
little over five years ago, I wrote about Stephen Lemmon, an Austin sixth grader who had decided to go out for football though he had never thrown or caught or carried one. Upon hearing this surprising news, his mother laughed and blurted, “You’ll get killed.” It’s OK, his father assured her. “He needs to play a team sport. Let him try.” So, Stephen did, and he rode the bench as a third string tight end most of that season, but the next fall, Stephen improved considerably, and — long story short — next year, he’ll be a freshman defensive end at Grinnell College in Iowa. In returning to that original story about Stephen, I opened the file where I store all the pieces I’ve written for Texas School Business. Unless my math is wrong, the column you’re reading now is Number 49, which means the next is 50, so I spent a couple of hours thumbing through these archives to see if I could I detect any patterns, and I think I did. Here are a few recurring themes: • It’s not as important to know where you’re going as it is to know where you’re headed. • When given a choice between clever and smart, choose smart. • We shouldn’t glorify sports, but we should admire the kids who play them and the adults who coach them. • It would be nice if schools didn’t need in-service training to remind some of those adults to keep their hands to themselves. • More and more young people don’t seem to understand that education is a process that is acquired over a lifetime through persistent, focused effort. They think it’s a product that can be bought and sold or, even worse, can be handed to them, free of charge. • The result of this delusion is profound. People who are willfully ignorant, who believe their thought bubbles weigh just as much as your verifiable facts are unable to separate the
witch doctors from the brain surgeons. • Social media exacerbates this problem and presents extraordinary challenges as it relates to athletes. There may be no “I” in team, but there is one in “Twitter,” and there are two in “suicide.” • Though progress has been achieved, two enduring challenges — gender and race — remain unresolved. • As for gender, it’s shameful to generalize the failure of one woman in one situation to the entire gender in all situations. Women have come too far and endured too much to find themselves caught in a one-and-done. • Regarding race, I met a black kid wearing a football letter jacket, and everything I initially thought about him, everything I was led to believe about him was wrong. If I hadn’t gone out of my way to meet him, to talk to him, to get to know him, those first impressions would have calcified and confirmed a lie. • It sickens me when educators ignore despicable behavior by athletes up to the point that it becomes criminal — the bullying of the weak and timid, the harassment and objectification of women. And I still can’t shake the image of a football official’s head snapping back, his cap flying backwards as the first boy blindsided him on a field in Marble Falls. • The cardinal sin of teaching? Defining students by their disabilities rather than their abilities. Simon Sun, a Michigan kid with muscular dystrophy, taught me that. • Few things are harder than having to fire a coach, so do it right. By the time a coach is released, he or she should be the least person surprised. Finally, I meant to ask Stephen Lemmon why he choose Grinnell over the other offers he’d received, but the last time I saw him, he was busy being inducted as an Eagle Scout. Besides, I couldn’t stop gazing at his paternal grandfather’s elegant face, so flushed with pride and joy that he could barely contain himself.
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 MARCH / APRIL 2018
The return of empathy
How social and emotional learning helps students thrive by Dacia Rivers
ocial and emotional learning (SEL) is a buzzword that’s hard to escape right now. But administrators across Texas who are incorporating SEL lessons into their campuses are quick to point out that this isn’t a fad or a flash in the pan like other “new” ways of teaching. In fact, for many of them, it’s not a new method of teaching at all, but more of a return to tried-and-true methods. “This is not a new program created over the last five or six years,” says Peter Price, SEL director for Austin ISD. “You go back to the ancient Greeks 2,500 years ago, and Socrates was talking about ‘knowing thyself,’ and you go back a couple hundred years ago, in oneroom schoolhouses, character education was the mainstay.” Jim Calvin, principal of the STEAM Academy at Stribling Elementary School in Burleson ISD, points out that SEL really has one concept at its core: empathy. “Addressing SEL has always been a part of what we do in the classroom,” Calvin says. Over the last year and a half, he’s helped his school transform from a traditional campus into a STEAM academy, and in doing so, incorporating design thinking has lead to an increased awareness of empathy on campus. “One of the principal elements that begins design thinking is empathy, and that’s really where we’ve seen our students and campus culture begin to grow, as design thinking has become a part of what we do every day,” Calvin says.
helped immensely, including paying salaries for 15 SEL specialists who work with SEL ambassadors and facilitators on each campus. These specialists are able to finetune SEL lessons to best meet the specific requirements of each school. “Our specialists go into the campuses and work with administrators and teachers to identify the unique needs of every individual campus’s culture and history,” Price says. “Systems are established, and once that discussion takes place, professional development is customized to meet the needs of every campus.” At Chisholm Trail Intermediate, McKeel says support from the district has greatly helped her to implement SEL at her school of nearly 900 students and 100 staff members. “I can know what I want for the campus, but I can’t make it happen — it’s my teachers that can make it happen, and we have a phenomenal committee that has really invested in [SEL].” McKeel says. On McKeel’s campus, educators use the Education Department’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) program and AVID as SEL models to guide them in fostering a positive, forwardlooking school culture. “We needed kids in class more, and we needed a more caring atmosphere in our
building,” McKeel says. “People are at different comfort levels with some of this, but they’re all engaged and they’re all trying really hard — I’m very proud of the staff.”
In practice SEL lessons take many forms. At the STEAM Academy, the focus is on design thinking, where the first step is “Imagine.” For Calvin, taking this step seriously is a natural move toward a more social and emotional type of thinking. “‘Imagine’ is more than just that,” says Calvin. “It’s empathy. It’s looking through the eyes of a character in a story, it’s looking through the eyes of someone in your community, and then beginning to plan what you could do to help solve that problem.” On Calvin’s campus, he says SEL practices are incorporated throughout the school day in all classrooms. In language arts classes, STEAM Academy students consider how characters are feeling, and what might be done to help them make their way through the story better. In math classes, students stand up and work together to solve escape-room type puzzles. In science, every experiment starts with a design, and at the root of that design planning is digging into feelings of empathy to find the best solution. > See Return, page 18
In Keller ISD, Chisholm Trail Intermediate School Principal Trish McKeel sees a need for SEL in classrooms due to the ever changing and increasing social and emotional demands placed on students. “Our kids go through a lot of trauma that is emotional trauma,” McKeel says. “A lot of things have happened to them that they’re dealing with, and sometimes they’re just not ready to learn because of that.”
A good place to start Six years ago, administrators in Austin ISD joined a national SEL group through the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), working alongside other districts across the U.S. to explore and incorporate SEL on their campuses. According to Price, having this support was beneficial as the district slowly rolled out their SEL initiative. “We started out with two vertical teams, then two more, and the year before last, all 130 schools in the district had been exposed to SEL training,” Price says. The district has been lucky to receive funding from outside benefactors, which Price says has
▲ Students on all Austin ISD campuses participate in social and emotional learning exercises.
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
> Continued from page 17
At Chisholm Intermediate, daily morning meetings serve as a way to help kids vent or cope with any emotional baggage hanging over their heads so they can be better prepared to learn. At the start of each school day, every classroom holds a 20-minute meeting. McKeel encourages all staff members to attend the meetings as well, from office administrators and custodians to music and art teachers, as well as bus drivers. During these meetings, teachers introduce a topic from the “Essential 55” by Ron Clark. These include essential communication skills such as how to shake hands with an adult and how to properly greet someone. They also teach other beneficial skills, such as relaxation and breathing techniques. In addition to taking this time to learn these SEL skills, students can use the morning meeting to talk about anything that might be bothering them. “It helps our kids and teachers know each other better, because they share some information about their lives and how they handle different situations, so that frees up some of the kids’ minds and thoughts, and now they’re more ready to learn,” McKeel says.
In Austin ISD, SEL lessons follow a program called Second Step. These are typically 30or 45-minute lessons on SEL topics such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship-building, decisionmaking and mindfulness. Teachers then incorporate these skills into their daily lessons. “Let’s say they’re talking about perseverance, so during math class, the teacher might remind them of a way to attack a word problem and that they’re all going to work together to solve a problem, and if you have a problem, you’re going to have to ask another student or teacher,” Price says.
Results At Chisholm Trail Intermediate, McKeel says you can walk in the door and feel the difference in the campus culture since students have been receiving SEL lessons. And the students can feel that difference, too.
▲ At the STEAM Academy at Stribling Elementary School in Burleson ISD, students learn to collaborate and work together on projects. on tardiness, as students look forward to starting their school days off in this new and positive way.
“It’s warmer, it’s more inviting,” McKeel says. “We did a survey last year at the beginning of school, where we asked how many kids enjoyed being at CTI, and 24 percent said they liked being here. We did the same survey this year, and I believe it was 86 percent that liked being here.”
“That’s their time to share, it’s their time to talk, and they don’t want to miss it,” McKeel says.
Morning meetings at Chisholm Trail have also increased attendance and cut down
“To see the way the students work in pairs, or teams, in the classroom — the way they collaborate is different than it’s been done before,” Calvin says. “Because they understand that there isn’t one solution, and so one person doesn’t come in and dominate the group. Everybody understands that they all have a part to play, and that means they listen well and try to take what others bring to the table to come up with a better solution than any of them could have brought by themselves.”
At the STEAM Academy, Calvin says he’s seen his students experience growth in the area of the four Cs: creating, collaborating, communicating and thinking critically.
A move toward empathy Price wants to make sure that administrators know that incorporating SEL on campuses shouldn’t add more burden to teachers’ already full plates. He says it’s more about increasing educators’ awareness of SEL methods and their benefits.
▲ Austin ISD students participate in interactive exercises on topics including relationship-building and mindfulness. 18
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
“It’s really just an adjustment of the adult’s mindset and also knowledge about recent brain research that demonstrates pretty much irrefutably that social and emotional competencies are closely connected to academic learning,” he says. “It’s not just for students to feel good, but it’s for shortterm academic gain and long-term success in the workplace and your own personal relationships.”
▲ Students at Chisholm Trail Intermediate School in Keller ISD start each day with a morning meeting. Price suggests that schools get into SEL slowly and in small doses at first, as SEL is a large concept, and taking on too much at once could be overwhelming. He’s also quick to shut down misinformation about SEL. “There are some misconceptions about SEL, that it’s sort of touchy-feely, and we’re all gonna hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya,’ but schools are a business of teaching and learning,” he says. Calvin encourages administrators that are interested in SEL visit a children’s museum. He remembers when he was a child, the way many exhibits were to be looked at and read only. Now children’s museums are bursting with hands-on activities, which encourages children to get involved and reaches them on a deeper level. “That’s the way kids learn best,” he says. “They bring a different lens now then perhaps they did before, because they have a better perspective of what empathy is all about.” McKeel agrees that SEL is not a teaching fad that will disappear anytime soon. But she stresses that administrators must make the need for SEL visible to teachers and support
them through the implementation of an SEL program to reap the most benefits. “Some teachers are reluctant to spend their time if a new program’s not going to be there long, but that’s not the case here,” McKeel says. In Keller ISD, PBIS and SEL lessons will be incorporated on every campus by 2020.
test.’ It really demonstrates how the social and emotional relationship components relate to our level of learning, even as adults.” DACIA RIVERS is editorial director of Texas School Business.
“We’ve got to do it,” McKeel says. “Our kids are losing that social-emotional learning and their relationships.” With six years of work focusing on incorporating SEL in a large district under his belt, Price was on the forefront of bringing these hands-on lessons to Texas schools. And he’s certain that using SEL teaching methods is a positive and permanent change that can only serve to benefit students in countless ways as they continue their educations and careers after graduation. “When you think about the best teacher you ever had, most people will say, ‘That teacher demonstrated his love and concern for me;’ ‘That teacher really challenged me;’ ‘That teacher supported me outside of school,’” Price says. “But, you’ll never, or rarely, hear, ‘That teacher helped me pass the STAAR
▲ At morning meetings, Chisholm Trail Intermediate School students are invited to share what's going on in their lives. Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
Texas Association of School Boards
Teresa Flores aims to inspire advocacy as TASB president by Laura Cherry
or Teresa Flores, incoming board president of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), the drive to serve was born of a desire to give back to the community and school that raised her, without which she says she wouldn’t be where she is today. Flores has deep roots in her home district of Ingleside ISD, where she’s served on the local school board for 18 years. She started first grade at Ingleside Elementary (at the time, there was no kindergarten), and graduated from Ingleside High School. Both of her children went through Ingleside ISD, and her grandson is currently a senior there. She first became interested in serving on the school board as a way of giving back. “I’ve always been volunteer-oriented. When my son was in baseball I was very active in the little league organization,” says Flores. She was president of the high school band boosters for five years, and
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
has served in various other officer roles in the community. It was in these roles that she gained exposure to and experience in leadership positions. She joined the Ingleside ISD school board because she wanted to be a part of the decision-making process. “At the end of the day,” she says, “I wondered at the logic behind some of the work and requirements students were sent home with. Why was it done that way? I wanted to be involved in the decision making.” As she learned about local issues and processes, Flores began to see that there were many things that fell outside of the purview of the local school board. “So much more is controlled at the state and legislative level than what you can control at the local level,” says Flores. “So when the
T E X A S C O M P U T E R C O O P E R AT I V E
TCC KNOWS TEXAS TASB director position at Region 2 became open and there was no incumbent in the seat, I decided to take a shot.” With that, she says, a whole new world opened up. “Most school board members will tell you they became involved because they wanted to make a difference,” Flores says. “While you can make a difference at the local level, at the state level it’s just such a bigger impact.” The ability to advocate at the state level is what got Flores involved with TASB. “I’ve always been interested in local politics and politicians, so it seemed like a natural next step,” she says. TASB members can make use of of the policy services team, which writes new and updated laws in policy-friendly language so districts can update their policy manuals without having to hire attorneys to interpret the legalese. Another TASB benefit, one Flores jokes she doesn’t know how they did without in the past, is BoardBook. “When I started out, you would get your board meeting prep materials in a 6-inch-tall binder,” Flores says. “Everything is electronic now. The superintendent’s secretary can build the agenda and supporting documentation in BoardBook and shoot it out electronically to everybody. We can also log in to view it. Not only do you get to see everything you need at your fingertips, on your phone, or wherever you are when you’re preparing for a meeting, but you also have an archive.” TASB also provides training to board members and hosts workshops and professional development throughout the year. “That networking opportunity is invaluable,” Flores says. “Whenever we have an issue, we know we don’t have to reinvent the wheel — someone’s already been through it. There are a lot of benefits to being a member of TASB. One of the parts of their mission statement is to serve school districts and schools, and that’s exactly what they do.” The TASB presidency has a tenure of one year. Flores says she still has to pinch herself to believe that she has the opportunity to serve as board president.
see how things work,” she says. “But with a one-year term, you’ve got to hit the ground running.”
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It wasn’t a complete baptism by fire, though. Flores was elected by the Region 2 boards in 2006 and served two years on the officer track before assuming the presidency. Prior to that, she served as first vice president, and president-elect. She has been a TASB member for 11 years. Flores’ big goal for her tenure is to increase community and school involvement, get people voting to put legislative representatives in place who support public education, and then stay in front of them. She also wants to bring more visibility to the positive things happening in public education through news and social media. But she is especially passionate about getting people to vote and communicate with their legislators. “There are a couple of reasons I think people don’t vote, and you can go to any election and see what a small percentage of people actually turn out,” Flores says. “I think some of it is that they lack the interest, but even more so, they don’t know who to vote for. Part of what I’m trying to get done this year is getting school board members involved (we have to start with ourselves) and spreading the message out to the community to continue to advocate so we can get people in place that value public education.” When Flores accepted the gavel at the delegate assembly in October that started her presidency, she said a few words of acceptance and then she asked everyone to stand up. “I said, ‘you’ve just taken the first step in standing up for public education,’ and that’s my message: Stand up for public education. It is the root of success.” LAURA CHERRY is an education content specialist and former teacher in Austin. She has been a freelance writer and copy editor since 2010, covering food, gardening and education topics for a variety of magazines and individual clients.
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“Most of the time, when someone moves into a position like this, they have time to get acclimated, to sit back and observe, to
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Texas Association of Secondary School Principals
TASSP President Carrie Jackson encourages principals to be “all over the building” by Laura Cherry
arrie Jackson, incoming president of the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP), comes from a long line of educators. She knew she would follow in her family’s footsteps and teach, but her ambition didn’t stop there. “I had an interest in teaching, but also in sports. By eighth grade, I knew I was going to be the world’s best basketball coach and I was going to teach. I had it all figured out,” she laughs. She did become a teacher, and in her second year, her family relocated to Houston from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. There, she took a job at an alternative school in Alief ISD called Alief Learning Center, teaching English to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who came from a variety of backgrounds and some difficult situations. At Alief Learning Center, she worked under two principals, both of whom had a lasting impact on her. “I had two principals during that time,” Jackson says. “Each of them had different styles, but they were both styles I really liked. Both of them had a deep love for the kids who came to them with sometimes tremendous disadvantages, and they both knew how to find teachers who had that same kind of love for kids. By the time I moved back to the DFW area, I knew I wanted to be a principal.”
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
Jackson moved back to Dallas/Fort Worth and became a teacher at Crockett Middle School in Irving ISD, where she taught for three years and was assistant principal for two years. She then moved to Nimitz High School where she spent three years as assistant principal. In her third year at Nimitz, her daughter Rylee was born, and she decided it was time to find a job closer to home and to pursue her first principalship. She found it in Keller ISD, where she has served as principal for the last 12 years, first at Indian Springs Middle School, and then at Timberview Middle School, which she opened and has been running for the last eight years. She’s been a TASSP member for 17 years, and has served on multiple committees, including the Legislative Committee and the Texas Study Committee, as well as the NASSP Committee on Student Contests and Activities. “I’ve always enjoyed being around our association work and around the other members and the staff,” Jackson says. “It’s a genuinely student-centered and principal- and assistant principal-loving group. The TASSP motto is ‘Above all, students first.’ That’s always resonated with me as a person who loves to work with kids. It’s been a big deal for me to be able to support and work with an association that puts kids first.”
Over the years, Jackson attended a number of summer workshops hosted by TASSP and was moved by many eloquent, passionate speeches by TASSP presidents. She knew that she wanted to do what they did, but figured it was further down the road for her. She became an officer just to get more involved. When the position of assistant state coordinator opened up, she decided to throw her hat in the ring, and got the position. It isn’t necessarily a position that leads to the presidency, but it was through this position that she says she got to know many great leaders in the organization. From there, she moved on to be the state coordinator, and as she was finishing up her tenure, the next person in line for the presidency was called away to serve in his district as a deputy superintendent, leaving a hole in the position. “I was almost through with my tenure, so it just seemed like the right time to step up,” she says. “It all just fell into place.” Jackson says her theme for her tenure as president is, “The future is now.” “Often, as leaders, we think in terms of
‘someday,’ but we don’t step up to implement change,” Jackson says. “I visited each of the 20 TASSP regions in the fall along with Archie McAfee (TASSP’s executive director), and we shared my list of five things school leaders can do now to make schools awesome for their kids. We’ll do it again in the spring with five more things. I want to give schools some things they can take home tomorrow to make their schools better.” Some of those items included making school magical for kids with fun surprises, being a model of servant leadership, and being present. “Be all over the building!” Jackson says, and it’s something she knows well — she gave up having her own office at her school. Between teachers, staff and 1,250 kids in fifth through eighth grade at Timberview, space has become limited. “I decided to just not have an office,” Jackson says. “I have a chair in my secretary’s office and I’m out and about. I encourage other principals to do the same. Just be out and be present. Be that source of support for teachers and kids and everybody in the building.”
Being a principal is a tough job, and Jackson admits it’s hard to recruit principals who love the job and want to stay. “It may be that many get overwhelmed and decide it’s not for them,” she says. “Criticism comes from all directions, and they don’t get a lot of positive reinforcement. Their job is to give, give, give. For me, being TASSP president is a blessing and an opportunity to give back to those principals. I get to travel all over and help people who are breaking their backs to help students be successful. I’ve always felt that when you leave a TASSP meeting, you leave feeling like you’re doing something important and that you’re valued. I’ve always appreciated that as a TASSP member, so for me to be able to go out and provide that reinforcement and affirmation that other principals and assistant principals don’t get on a daily basis is very cool.” LAURA CHERRY is an education content specialist and former teacher in Austin. She has been a freelance writer and copy editor since 2010, covering food, gardening and education topics for a variety of magazines and individual clients.
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The importance of STEM beyond the classroom
attend school in the Pharr-San JuanAlamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD), which has become a leader in early college education. The school I attend is a school focused on STEM. PSJA ISD’s Thomas Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School, colloquially known as T-STEM, mainly focuses on the provision of the STEM curriculum. This gives the school the reputation of a reserved campus, a treasure held by limitation you could say. This treasure is the focus that the school offers to each of its students and the freedom given, which allows the student to succeed on his or her own terms. Nevertheless, the school encourages students to follow a STEM-oriented field. Most people do not think much of this, but the orientation to the sciences pushes something into the mind of a student; it incorporates a desire and a dedication to the search for the truth. This dedication to questioning and creating is what makes the STEM program the treasure of Thomas Jefferson ECHS. My personal experience and observations are the basis of my claims. Through the STEM program I was introduced to a different kind of school, to students and teachers with whom I shared a common interest: the unknown. In my first two years in high school, I learned a variety of subjects ranging from computer science to Spanish literature. Admittedly I never really used a computer before my sophomore year, but the STEM program allowed for my natural intrigue to flourish, and I learned to program that same year. I have had the privilege to be invited to conferences and given the opportunity to present in a few of them. I sought and I
by Emiliano Nuño Gutierrez found, from the SSEP to the regional finals of varsity swimming, the STEM program of my high school gave me and my classmates the necessary liberty to find our interests, and with the implementation of Early College, we got a chance to develop these interest to the best of our abilities. This proof might be anecdotal, but it is constant through the school I attend, so it appears to be a fair representation of my observable reality. Observation is key for me, since I am a chemistry major, chemistry being a field close to the backbone of STEM itself. The system led me to the scientific traditions that created our modern world, and I know this is the case for many of my peers. I argue that the origin of STEM in western culture was in the renaissance — a period where human understanding grew to grasp concepts buried through centuries of darkness. The renaissance began by a
few men and women seeking freedom in knowledge. They believed that truth will set them free, and they sought truth with methods that are to this day the basis of STEM and all STEM programs, in my opinion. Questioning became being, and understanding turned into doing. From this search came a better society. Teaching students these methods and aspirations is the way STEM programs come to be functional. It is these core fundamental techniques that allow for the individualization of each student. EMILIANO NUÑO Gutierrez was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico. He currently lives in Pharr, Texas, and is a senior at Thomas Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD school district. He is currently working on his last credits to complete his associate degree in chemistry from South Texas College prior to his high school graduation. This is the first time he has written for an audience larger than his family and teachers.
▲ An experiment designed by a group of juniors at PSJA T. Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School in PSJA ISD was selected as a finalist for the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) Mission 11 to the International Space Station (ISS). Pictured left to right: Anna Pineda, Kristina Evasco, Emiliano Nuño, Kirk Miller and Abigal Salazar.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org for publishing guidelines. Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
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Texas School Business
MARCH / APRIL 2018Grades 2–5 26 PreK–2
TASA HOLDS ANNUAL MIDWINTER CONFERENCE IN AUSTIN In January, school leaders from across Texas came to Austin for TASA’s annual three-day Midwinter Conference. During the conference, TASA officially launched a long-range plan that will guide the association as it approaches its 100th anniversary in 2025 as well as a new logo and tagline to represent TASA’s vision of innovative, future-focused leaders for every public school student.
▲ At Midwinter, TASA unveiled its new strategic framework and long-term strategies by releasing beach balls adorned with the association’s new logo during the first general session.
▲ The Lehman High School Mariachi Los Lobos from Hays CISD perform at the third general session.
▲ Midwinter attendees spend time in TASA’s Member Engagement Center during the conference.
▲ The Lopez High School Symphonic
Band from Brownsville ISD performs at the second general session.
◄ TASA President
Buck Gilcrease, Alvin ISD; President-Elect Gayle Stinson, Lake Dallas ISD; retiring Executive Director Johnny Veselka; Past President Kevin Brown, Alamo Heights ISD; and Vice President Greg Smith, Clear Creek ISD. The TASA officers announced the naming of the TASA headquarters building in Austin in honor of Veselka, who has served the association for more than 43 years.
▲ Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath addresses attendees of the Blue Ribbon Schools luncheon held in conjunction with the conference.
▲ TASB staff host a booth inside the exhibit hall at Midwinter.
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
TASA 2018 Honorary Life Members The following TASA members were recognized as 2018 Honorary Life Members during the Midwinter Conference in January. JANICE BEASLEY
Assistant Superintendent Eustace ISD 7/31/17 40
Assistant Superintendent Highland Park ISD (Esc 10) 2/28/17 40
Assistant Superintendent Boerne ISD 6/30/17 39
HAROLD D. RAMM
Superintendent Stratford ISD 8/31/17 33
Superintendent Friendswood ISD 8/31/17 40
Superintendent Groesbeck ISD 12/31/17 49
JIM THOMAS RUMAGE
Superintendent Orange Grove ISD 6/30/17 40
Superintendent Kirbyville CISD 6/30/17 33
Superintendent Crane ISD 8/31/17 27
DONALD RAY JEFFERIES
Superintendent Stanton ISD 6/30/17 36
Superintendent Greenville ISD 3/30/17 41
Director of Alternative Education Mexia ISD 5/31/17 28
RAY A. LEA
Superintendent Lockney ISD 6/30/17 29
Superintendent Azle ISD 6/30/17 39
Superintendent Clyde CISD 2/17 35
DEE A. MATTOX-HALL
Assistant Superintendent Hawkins ISD 6/30/17 33 CLAUDE EUGENE FRANKLIN
Superintendent Campbell ISD 2012 36
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
Senior Director of Schools Harris County Department of Education 8/31/17 40
Superintendent D'Hanis ISD 1/31/14 38
TERRY PITTMAN Superintendent Sweetwater ISD 6/30/17 35
Superintendent Kress ISD 1/31/17 29
LESLIE LEE VANN
Superintendent Johnson City ISD 8/31/17 34
Superintendent Grapeland ISD 6/30/17 30
Superintendent Comfort ISD 7/31/17 32
JOHN R. THOMAS
MARY ANN WHITEKER
Superintendent Van Alstyne ISD 7/31/17 40
Executive Director Region 18 Education Service Center 8/31/17 40
Superintendent Hudson ISD 6/30/17 44
Superintendent Decatur ISD 8/31/17 35
Superintendent Seagraves ISD 6/30/17 29
Superintendent Industrial ISD 8/31/17 30
Superintendent Hunstville ISD 9/30/17 36
2019 Honorary Life Nominations Now Open! Honorary Life Members receive regular news and information from the association through our popular TASA Daily e-newsletter. Honorary Life Members also are listed in the TASA membership directory, Who's Who in Texas Public Schools. Please visit tasanet.org/honorarylife for more details.
If you or someone you know will be retiring from education this year, submit a nomination* for Honorary Life Membership in TASA. The association's Honorary Life Members are school administrators who have demonstrated extraordinary devotion to education and to the association who meet the following criteria: •
Retirement from one of the administrative positions listed in Article III, Section 2, of the TASA Constitution
At least 25 years of experience in education
10 years of membership in TASA
A member of TASA upon retirement
A record of outstanding service to the education profession
Approval by the TASA Executive Committee
*Nomination forms are due in the TASA office no later than Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. TASA's 2019 Honorary Life Memberships will be presented at the TASA Midwinter Conference on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, at the Austin Convention Center.
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
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4/24/17 10:45 AM
TCWSE MEMBERS GATHER AT TASA MIDWINTER The Texas Council of Women School Executives held its annual conference in Austin in January with a theme of Framing Our World: The Words We Speak, the Hands That Work.
▲ Jennifer Jones, an assistant professor in
the education department at the University of Texas at Tyler, addresses attendees.
▲ TCWSE awards recipients walk the red carpet. ◄ Kathryn Washington,
Goodrich ISD, receives a 2018 Bravo Award, which serves to recognize exemplary practitioners, innovative programs and initiatives that promote community and parental involvement.
▲ Tina Herrington,
Wharton ISD, receives the Margaret A. Montgomery Leadership Award.
► Linda Wheeler, Katy ISD, accepts a 2018 Bravo Award.
◄ Jade Hodges, Judson
ISD, takes notes during a presentation.
► Vicki Miller and TCWSE Past President Shirley Coleman pose at the TCWSE conference. Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 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 email@example.com for more details. 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
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
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 TASA Curriculum Management Planning Workshop (by CMSi) TASA offices, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6363. www.tasanet.org Cost: Members, $450; nonmembers, $500. 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 TBA, Abilene For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org April 18 TASSP Region 12 Spring Meeting Midway High School, Waco For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference University of Houston, Victoria For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.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) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference IBC Bank, Laredo For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org April 23 TASSP Region 7 Spring Meeting Whitehouse High School, Whitehouse For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, Dallas For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org April 24 TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference ESC Region 9, Wichita Falls For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org
April 26 Legal Digest Spring Special Education Conference Embassy Suites, San Marcos www.legaldigest.com For more info, (512) 478-2113. Cost: $205.
TASBO School Records Management Academy Courtyard Marriott, Allen For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: TASBO members, $295; nonmembers, $390. TASSP Region 8 Spring Meeting ESC Region 8, Pittsburg For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TCASE/Legal Digest Special Education Law Conference Embassy Suites, San Marcos For more info, (512) 474-4492 or (888) 433-4492. www.tcase.org Cost: $205. TEPSA ESC Region 8 Meeting ESC Region 8, Pittsburg For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 2252-3621. www.tepsa.org TEPSA Region 17 Meeting People’s Bank, Lubbock For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org
April 25 TASBO CSMR Course: Measuring School Risks Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Houston For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org
TEPSA Region 3 Meeting Location and city TBA For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org
TEPSA Region 6 Meeting Location TBA, The Woodlands For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tspsa.org
TEPSA Region 4 Meeting University of Houston, Houston For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org
May 1 TASSP Region 1 Spring Meeting United High School, Laredo For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference Holiday Inn Select, Tyler For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org
May 2 TCASE/Legal Digest Spring Special Education Conference Convention Center, Arlington For more info, (512) 478-2113. www.legaldigest.com Cost: $205. TASPA Certification Fundamentals Workshop ESC Region 15, San Angelo For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org Cost: Members, $100; nonmembers, $125. TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference Memorial Church of Christ, Houston For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org 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. TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference Church of the Good Shepherd, Brownwood For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference ESC Region 11, Lubbock For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org May 3-4 TASB Risk Management Fund Membersâ€™ Conference Hilton Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org May 4 TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference First Baptist Church, Nederland For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference
First United Methodist Church, Longview For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org TSPRA North Central Regional Meeting Arlington ISD, Arlington For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org May 8 TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference ESC Region 12, Waco For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org May 9 TASBO CSRM Workshop: Funding School Risks TASBO offices, Austin For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference ESC Region 11, White Settlement For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference St. John Lutheran Church, Robstown For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org TSPRA San Antonio Regional Meeting Floresville ISD, Floresville For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org May 10 TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference First Christian Church, San Marcos For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org May 11 TSPRA Central Regional Meeting Bastrop ISD, Bastrop For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference
ESC Region 18, Midland For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org May 14 TASBO Construction Academy Marriott Town Square, Sugarland For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: TASBO members, $295; nonmembers, $345. May 15 TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference ESC Region 19, El Paso For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org May 17 TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference ESC Region 6, Huntsville For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org
Floresville Event Center, Floresville For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org June 8 TAHPERD Summer Workshop for K-12 Physical Educators University of Texas, Arlington For more info, (512) 459-1299. www.tahperd.org June 11-13 Texas ASCD Ignite Conference Convention Center, Irving For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org June 13-15 TASSP Summer Workshop Convention Center, Austin For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org TEPSA Summer Conference Renaissance Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 478-5268 or (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org
May 24 TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference ESC Region 14, Abilene For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org
June 14-16 TASB Summer Leadership Institute Marriott Rivercenter, San Antonio For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org
TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference ESC Region 16, Amarillo For more info, (512) 476-1622 or (800) 880-1650. www.trta.org
Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented Gifted Plus Conference Eilan Hotel, San Antonio For more info, (512) 499-8248. www.txgifted.org
JUNE June 5 TASB Workshop: Managing State and Federal Leave TASB offices, Austin For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org June 6 TASB Workshop: Get a Grip on the FMLA TASB offices, Austin For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org June 7 TRTA District Spring Leadership Development Conference
June 19-20 Learning Forward Texas Annual Conference Convention Center, Irving For more info, (512) 266-3086. www.learningforwardtexas. com June 24-26 UT/TASA Summer Conference on Education Hyatt Regency Austin, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org June 20 TASBO Workshop: School Safety from A-Z Update for CSRM American Bank Center, Corpus Christi For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org
> See Calendar, page 35 Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
> Continued from page 33 June 28-30 TASB Summer Leadership Institute Omni Hotel, Fort Worth For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org
JU LY July 11 TASPA Summer Law Conference Renaissance Hotel, Austin
For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org July 11-13 TASPA Summer Conference Renaissance Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org July 12 TASBO New Business Managers Boot Camp Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center, Georgetown
For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: TASBO members, $215; nonmembers, $265. July 15-17 TAHPERD Summer Conference Location TBA, Frisco For more info, (512) 459-1299. www.tahperd.org
July 25 TASPA Documentation Workshop Klein ISD, Klein For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org Cost: TASPA members, $100; nonmembers, $125. ◄
Who’s News > Continued from page 12
Teague ISD Chris Skinner has been promoted from principal of Teague ISD to superintendent. He began his career in Dew ISD, joining Teague ISD in 2007 as transportation director and assistant principal of Teague High School. He went on to serve as assistant principal of Teague Junior High and director of facilities before taking on the role of principal of Teague High in 2014. Skinner is a graduate of Navarro College with a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Temple ISD A new director of food services is in place for Temple ISD. Suzanne Murdough has been assistant director of school nutrition since April. Prior to that, she was ESC Region 12’s child nutrition specialist. A graduate of the University of the State of New York, she received her master’s degree in business administration from Western Governors’ University of Texas.
Utopia ISD Superintendent John Walts has announced his upcoming retirement, effective the end of May. An educator for 34 years, he was initially an agriculture teacher and principal
in the district before taking the top position at Utopia ISD 15 years ago. In addition, he served as superintendent of Panhandle and Reagan County ISDs.
Venus ISD Former Anahuac ISD superintendent James Hopper has been named superintendent of Venus ISD.
Waco ISD The 2018 National ACTE Administrator of the Year honor has been presented to Donna McKethan, director of career and technical education, by the Association for Career and Technical Education. McKethan, who was one of five national finalists, has been an educator for 30 years, working in Bosqueville ISD before joining Waco ISD as career placement facilitator.
Weatherford ISD Now serving as principal of Crockett Elementary School is Jaclyn Lisle, who began her career in 2004 as a kindergarten teacher at the district’s Austin Elementary. She then was a counselor at Martin Elementary, stepping into the assistant principal role in 2013. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Texas Tech University and her master’s degree in counseling from Tarleton State University. Kelsey Smith, a graduate of Weatherford High School, has been named principal of
Austin Elementary School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Tarleton State University and joined Weatherford ISD in 2010 as a teacher at Austin Elementary. She has served as the school’s principal since 2010. She holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from American College of Education. ◄
Texas School Business
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Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
News in fine arts education
Making creators by Nathan Dahlstrom
▲Nathan Dahlstrom and his Creative Rangers from IB World School in Lubbock ISD.
Creativity is intelligence having fun. — Albert Einstein
an my protagonist have eyeballs all over her body?”
“Can I write about a talking
“Can I write about love?” (much giggling) I teach creative writing and English at a fine arts magnet, IB World School, in Lubbock. Buddy Holly went here and strummed on our stage when he was in middle school. We believe his 13-year-old ghost still haunts these halls. We pay him homage by creating.
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
The goal of each student in my creative writing classes is to write a novel. Yes, that sounds like a laughably daunting task for a seventh- or eighth-grader. Not only do they have to write the novel, they have to edit and revise it, write a query letter, research publishers and submit the manuscript in May. I call them my Creative Rangers. By the second six weeks, most kids are really seeing their protagonist. Their main character has come alive and now they are just watching the story happen. Each day
they get 50 minutes of undistracted, phonefree, internet-free minutes to create. I stop the furious keystrokes sometimes and look at their word count. “Do you realize you have just written 5,000 words?” They look up at me from their screen and smile. Most have never written anything much longer than the STAAR test personal narrative or expository essay. Those famous 26 lines add up to somewhere around 350 words. And that tested essay
feels exhausting to most students. Now, a classroom full of kids are just getting warmed up at 5,000. And more than that, they marvel that they have created something. They have brought a character into the world. They have birthed this little idea and given it wings and the fact that it now exists … what did not exist before, is intoxicating. There is a magic in this. There is a spirituality to it that is authentic as flesh and bone. Kids that touch creativity like this are never the same. To get them going, I tell them no idea is stupid. In fact, a motto we have printed on our class T-shirts is “The stupider the better.” Eyeballs covering a body, talking burritos or love. In the beginning, who would have believed in a boy wizard with a lightning bolt scar, Minions or a talking lion named Aslan? Writing heroes we analyze together, like Dr. Seuss and William Shakespeare, made up plenty of words, such as stupider or funner or truffula trees or new-fangled. Squiggly red lines don’t faze us. With this kind of freedom, the kids begin pushing themselves. They organically begin to see the problems with their characters and their plots. They begin staying up late at night working and thinking about their stories. They start talking to each other and arguing and researching for story elements, names, locations, plot twists and story devices. They begin teaching themselves. Throughout the year we take several field trips to places such as Texas Tech University and the National Cowboy Symposium. We have as many visiting authors as possible. We’ve hosted best-sellers John R. Erickson (Hank the Cowdog) and Jodi Thomas, among others. I make them read their original work to the group every six weeks, a practice kid-named as “Circle of Death.” A sweet and quiet girl bravely read her piece aloud during the first gathering, through tears and a shaking voice. She grew from the experience and the third time through, later in the year, she seemed eager, hopeful to read. “Molly,” I asked her in private. “Do you still feel like a seventh grader in here?” Her serious face broke and she grinned ear to ear, thoughtful, for about a second. “Well, no” she said. “When I’m in here I feel like I’m not even in school.” All I really do is give them the keys to the car. I provide the outrageous suggestion of a novel, follow that with a protected
▲Dahlstrom and principal Heidi Dye pose with horse Fancy. opportunity, and then provide subtle nudges of encouragement and professionallevel feedback. Suggestion. Opportunity. Encouragement. Then they write like thirsty travelers coming out of a desert. I tell them that creativity is like carrying a billion dollar credit card to the mall. There is nothing that they cannot buy. But the mall metaphor dies pretty quickly. They build new worlds to spend the kind of cash they have now. When they find that world, their world, there is nothing they cannot buy. They just have to dream it. By Christmas every student is a real writer. Each one will have a minimum of 10,000 words. By May most will have a 40,000word, original manuscript. Many write more than 80,000 words. Their lives are changed in more ways than they know. To write a 10,000-word book in eighth grade, even if it is a terrible book, is a lifetime achievement. They are being exposed to the apprenticeship of the artist. They are learning by doing, not by preaching. All kids have creativity in them. It’s like underground oil deposits, but we have to go looking for the valuable petroleum. Their surface rights have all been clotted up with concrete and cities and screens, so that almost no real, green, native growth can poke through. It’s like they are dead
… waiting for the next reheated Batman feature or click candy on YouTube. But if we can suggest great things to them, and fight off the distractions of the world, there is nothing they can’t accomplish. Creativity unleashed, feeds itself.
'And more than that, they marvel that they have created something. They have brought a character into the world. They have birthed this little idea and given it wings and the fact that it now exists … what did not exist before, is intoxicating.'
NATHAN DAHLSTROM has taught for five years at J.T. Hutchinson International Baccalaureate World School in Lubbock. He is also the author (pen name S.J. Dahlstrom) of the award-winning Wilder Good book series, The Adventures of Wilder Good.
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
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An event that changed a life by Riney Jordan
one of us will ever know the full extent of our influence on others. But, occasionally, on a blessed day, some of us will get a glimpse into what an impact we have made on another human being. Recently, while waiting backstage for a brief presentation I had been asked to make, a nice-looking middle-aged man came up to me and introduced himself. It was the typical statement that is often made by a student to a teacher or principal years later. “You probably don’t remember me, but I’m ….” Well, in this case, I did remember him, as well as his parents. He didn’t waste any time saying what was on his mind. “I just wanted to tell you, Mr. Jordan, that everything I needed in life I learned in Dove Elementary where you were the principal.” I had been principal of that elementary for five years, and I must say, they were five of the most enjoyable and rewarding years of my career. “Wow! That’s quite a statement,” I stammered. “Thank you! That means a lot!” But nothing could prepare me for what he said next. “I’ll never forget my teacher in third grade,” he said softly. “Our entire class was being disrespectful and rude to her one day, and she, uh ….” He hesitated for what seemed endless moments. And then, he quietly uttered, “She … she cried!” The longing in his eyes screamed that he was truly ashamed of the way that they all had acted. Then, as if to squeeze some goodness out of his actions, he said, “That event literally changed my life. Until that day, I never really believed that teachers and other adults cared for us as
much as they do. I’m telling you, it honestly changed my life!” Describe our schools anyway you want, but more than anything, they should be facilities where individual lives are improved, encouraged and directed toward making the world a better place. When all the tests and the policies and the “junk” is cleared away, we realize that our function is simply to change lives, one individual at a time. The most important lessons we teach don’t come from a textbook, but from our own actions and reactions. Are we kind to others? We need to be, because they’re listening.
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Do we show them that we genuinely care about them? We need to, because they may not be sensing that from any other individual in their lives.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget that brief encounter with a single student from an elementary school where I served as principal more than 30 years ago.
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And, once again, it reiterates the fact that all of us can, and do, make a positive difference in another person’s life.
So, on those days when you feel defeated, when you feel as if your efforts went unnoticed, or when you think for a moment that you’d like to quit, remember that there is a kid out there who needs someone like you in their life. Remember that it’s likely that your one small act of kindness that day was observed and recorded in the mind of another individual. Academics, programs and policies are important, but nothing is more valuable and worthwhile than meeting the needs of the student. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be that person who makes such an impact on a kid’s life that one day he will say, “Thank you. You truly changed my life.”
convocation, graduation or awards banquet, visit www.rineyjordan.com.
Do we reach out to help those who are hurting? We need to, because they’re watching.
RINEY JORDAN is the author of two books and a frequent public speaker. To invite him to speak at your
Texas School Business MARCH / APRIL 2018
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