THE INDEPENDENT VOICE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IN TEXAS FOR 55 YEARS
The upside of a down economy Bringing industry talent into the classroom
TASSP President Barbara Paris, Round Rock ISD
In the Spotlight Richard Valenta, Birdville ISD
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CONTENTS Experts say now is the time to bring industry talent to the classroom
Raven L. Hill
In the Spotlight: Richard Valenta, Birdville ISD
TASSP President Barbara Paris’ passion to improve education started with her own
photo FEATURES Middle school educators gather in Galveston for TMSA conference
First-time superintendents train at TASA academy
TASBO is all business at San Antonio conference
TSB Professional Development & Events Calendar
From the Editor
The Law Dawg — unleashed
The Back Page
On this page: Wes Cox, a geometry teacher at Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville ISD, began his professional life as a small business owner. A stint working with children in a Christian ministry program inspired him to pursue a second career as a teacher, which he accomplished after going through the Texas Teaching Fellows program. This year, Cox received the district’s Rookie Teacher of the Year Award for high schools. 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. May 2009 • Texas School Business
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From the Editor Two weeks ago I received a call from my friend Lisa. “Well, I’m officially a statistic,” she said. “IBM let me go today; I’m one of 4,000.” I wish I could say I was surprised, but the moment felt almost anticlimactic. Calls like this are becoming commonplace in today’s economy. I now have five close friends who are highly educated, highly skilled — and suddenly unemployed. These are uncertain times, indeed. But could there be an upside to the down economy? With stimulus funds available for workforce training and the market flush with technically skilled professionals in need of employment, we could be looking at the perfect conditions for addressing a longstanding problem in Texas public education. It’s no secret that Texas lags behind in recruiting and retaining qualified math and science teachers. Some experts say school districts need to act swiftly to bring these laid-off professionals into the classroom so they can share their valuable industry experience with students. And more importantly, districts need to have comprehensive new-teacher induction programs in place to ensure that the talent stays in the classroom. In this month’s cover story, we talk to induction training experts and teachers new to the profession to determine best practices for recruiting and retaining talent. We profile TASSP President Barbara Paris, a middle school principal in Round Rock ISD, and we put the Spotlight on Richard Valenta, director of personnel services for Birdville ISD. More power to all of you as you wrap up the 2008-2009 school year!
Katie Ford, editor
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THE LAW DAWG – unleashed by Jim Walsh
A minute of silence, please
his morning in schools across the Lone Star State, children recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag and the pledge to the Texas flag, and then they observed one minute of silence. The minute of silence — not a “moment,” but a minute — is required by Texas Education Code Section 25.082(d). The statute says that “each student may, as the student chooses, reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.” Now that sounds simple enough — 60 seconds of quiet in an otherwise busy and noisy day. But that 60-second quiet harbor sparked a lawsuit that produced a 23-page opinion from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case of Croft v. Governor of the State of Texas was decided on March 16. The court concluded that a minute of silent reflection — even when mandated by state law, even when it might be used for prayer — is constitutional. The decision makes sense. The plaintiffs argued that this was yet another effort by the vast right-wing conspiracy to bring Jesus back into public school. They asserted that the primary effect of the law would be to “advance certain forms of mainstream Protestant Christian religion.” Bullroar. The law allows all manner of prayer, whether to Jesus, Vishnu, Allah or the oak tree on the school playground. And it does not require prayer at all. It also allows “any other silent activity.” We expect there are more than a few middle school kids who spend this quiet moment thinking about a video game, what’s for lunch or the cutie in the next row. Technically, the statute even would permit silent thoughts about how to cheat on the upcoming math test. It would be interesting to know who does better on math tests — the kids who pray to do well or the kids who use that minute to figure
out ways to cheat. The Texas Legislature did a good job of fashioning this law so that it would withstand the inevitable legal challenge. The plaintiffs argued that the Legislature was motivated by religious impulses. But the record showed that the bill’s author, Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth, carefully constructed it to model a statute in Virginia that the 4th Circuit had approved. The 5th Circuit had the good sense to make a distinction between the motivation of some legislators and the overall intent of the statute: “While there were references by some legislators to returning prayer to schools, the religious motives of some legislators should not deflect us from the secular purposes contained in the plain text of Section 25.082(d) and espoused by the Legislature to justify the 2003 Amendments.” The decision makes sense educationally, also. We have been in public schools and we can report that they are noisy. Lockers slam. P.A. announcements are intrusive and overly loud. Classrooms are full of books dropping on the floor, the click of three-ring binders, the constant chatter of children and the desperate voice of the teacher trying to maintain order. If the Dawg were in charge of public education, there would be one minute of silence every hour — at minimum. Our lives are far too noisy, full of verbal and visual clutter. “A minute of silence, please!” We are not sure it would do any good for the kids, but we are confident that it would help the adults.
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JIM WALSH is editor in chief of Texas School Business and the managing editor of Texas School Administrators’ Legal Digest. Also a school attorney, he co-founded the firm of Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Aldridge & Gallegos PC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.walshanderson.com. May 2009 • Texas School Business
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Texas School Business • May 2009
YOUNG’S INBOX by John Young
Is that (the test) all there is?
ick up the major metro daily and there’s a story about your favorite public affairs topic: education. “Study: Fit kids do better in school.” More specifically, the story says those fit kids do better on tests. A few pages later: “Older fathers’ kids score lower on tests.” Another major metro paper: “Schools offer inducements to pass TAKS” — meaning days off from school, even a trip to Hawaii. Still another: “Principal pushes blacks to boost TAKS scores.” We’re not talking “Stand and Deliver” in this case. We’re talking of rounding up an ethnic group and making its members understand that when it comes to this school being rated too low, they are the problem. We are to assume that this is OK because the principal is black. He’s only thinking of them. Actually, that may very well be the case. This principal’s heart may be golden. But we’ve absolutely got to stop putting every ounce of attention and emotional investment into a standardized test. Do children of older parents do worse on tests than those with younger parents? So says the study. But children of older parents might have a better hands-on aptitude for, say, making internal combustion engines sing or mastering the inner workings of a centrifuge. I have no idea if that’s true, but what are we really learning from this test fixation? In the case of TAKS, we are learning about levels of adequacy. Put a cork in the “raised bar” defense or the “higher-level learning” explanation when comparing TAKS to TAAS. No matter how “rigorous” the test, you can’t have a criterion-based test that is a true measure of excellence for every child. I don’t know who more grievously overstates the significance of TAKS — school policy makers, lawmakers or newspapers. Call it a three-way tie. No thought is given to the underlying purpose of TAKS, which is to truly serve the children. It remains the lamest means
of diagnosing what they know and how they grow. A “growth model” using TAKS is going to be comparable to seeing if a fruit fly prospers in a mayonnaise jar without light or oxygen. I see educators who have TAKS in perspective. I see parents who do too. They know how little significance it has relative to children’s future success. Ask parents, and if anything, they’ll say it is the worst thing that ever happened to their children’s education, and there’s no second or third place.
No matter how “rigorous” the test, you can’t have a criterion-based test that is a true measure of excellence for every child. For those learners in the bottom quartile who supposedly are most assisted by TAKS emphasis: Is that really so? Is a narrowed curriculum — a classroom experience that’s mostly rote and of little relevance — good for anyone? No need to answer that. We know the answer. No parent would opt for that, even if it meant his or her child would meet state standards. The parent would say, “I’ll take a flyer on the Technicolor approach and see how we do.” Some Texans deeply interested in quality schools went to Finland recently. They found that (surprise!) the secret to the Finns’ success wasn’t a narrowed curriculum and test emphasis. It was freedom for teachers, who also were well paid and highly qualified. It was professionals encouraged to deliver Technicolor. Test that, Texas. JOHN YOUNG is opinion page editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald and author of Ghosts of Liberals Past. He can be reached at email@example.com. May 2009 • Texas School Business
Texas associaTion of secondary school PrinciPals 1833 South IH-35, Austin, TX 78741 • Phone: 512-443-2100 • Fax: 512-442-3343
TASSP Summertime Events for Administrators Has your school district hired new campus administrators? TASSP Summer Workshop If so, send them to TASSP’s
June 10-12, 2009 • Austin Convention Center Advanced Registration Deadline: May 20, 2009 Housing Deadline: May 18, 2009
New Principal Academy
June 25-28, 2009 • Trinity University • San Antonio, TX Linda Garcia: Leadership/Teambuilding Jim “Law Dawg” Walsh: The Law Richard Sorenson: Navigating Crisis Situations: School Safety, Bullying and Dealing with the Media TASB Personnel Specialist: Avoiding the Most Common Wrongful Employment Practices John Crain: Documentation Skills Gary Williams: Activity Accounting Eric Cupp: Coaching Kids to Success
Attend this professional growth and development opportunity that is designed and programmed to address the diverse facets of secondary school administration. Summer Workshop 2009 offers a variety of presentations that target the “hot topics” of school leadership.
SUMMER WORKSHOP KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Dr. Ronald Ferguson: Teaching the Hard Stuff Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project Norman Kunc: All Kids Excel When All Kids Belong Go online to www.tassp.org for registration, session descriptions and much more information. Register early for discounted fees and an easy check-in.
This training is limited to 75 participants. Contact Tom Leyden at 512-443-2100 ext 224 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Texas Association of Secondary School Principals Visit us on the web: www.tassp.org
realizing potential. To help students bloom, SHW Group designs environments that facilitate learning. Whether it’s engagement through collaboration, project-based learning or problem solving, our team works with clients to design schools that empower students to reach their full potential. In other words, clients provide the education philosophy and curriculum, and we enhance the learning process through innovative design.
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Texas School Business • May 2009
Richard Valenta makes a difference in Birdville ISD and beyond By Elizabeth Millard
hroughout his career, Richard Valenta has been a man of influence, and not just in the districts where he has served. This administrator’s contributions to the field of education reach far and wide. As a young teacher and coach in Irving ISD in the 1980s, Valenta served as the director of recruiting services for the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association. During those years, he also worked with Marketcom, a division of the Sports Illustrated advertising and promotions team, interacting with Little League teams to promote football, baseball, basketball and other competitive sports. “I’ve always enjoyed working with kids, seeing them grow and learn,” says Valenta, who now serves as the director of personnel services for Birdville ISD. Despite his myriad responsibilities, Valenta still found time to enroll at North Texas State University and earn a master’s degree in secondary education with a minor in exercise physiology and biomechanics. He also took a leadership training course, which — along with some personal circumstances — prompted his transition from teaching and coaching to administration. He stepped up to serve as the assistant principal at Sam Houston Junior High in Irving ISD in 1991. “Coaching is great, but at the time, I had three children under the age of five, and my wife was growing weary of raising them alone because I was always at games or trainings,” he says. “I decided to get out of coaching and into administration, and it was the best decision I could have made.” In 1994, Valenta and his family moved to Birdville, where he took a job with the district as an assistant athletic director. Two years later, Birdville ISD’s superintendent, Bob Griggs, asked Valenta to consider serving as the assistant director for personnel services because he thought the job would suit Valenta. “I really thought it would be the most boring job in the world,” Valenta jokes. “But it turns out that I have the best job in
Birdville ISD Director of Personnel Services Richard Valenta reviews staffing for the 2009-2010 school year with Katie Bowman, director of business.
the district. I get to work in every aspect of the district, from finance to recruiting. I really feel like I’m making a difference in the lives our students.” In 1999, Valenta was promoted to his current position as director of personnel services. But his interest in statewide work has never waned. He is a longtime member of the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators. In 2001, he accepted an offer to be a district representative for TASPA. Valenta also has worked with the State Board of Educator Certification and the Texas Education Agency. Valenta recently participated on SBEC’s task force on certification realignment, which resulted in the new K-6 certificate. He also served on an advisory board for the Education Career Alternative Program (ECAP), the first private certification program in Texas. “What I appreciate most in getting involved with these organizations is the relationships that you make with quality people throughout the state,” Valenta says. “The opportunity to learn from them is invaluable, and you really get to discuss the larger issues.” By working with administrators from
different parts of the state, Valenta says that issues such as teacher certification and curriculum development can be addressed at a higher level, creating more cohesion and support for districts of every size. Valenta’s influential work has not gone unnoticed. In 2008, TASPA named him School Personnel Administrator of the Year. “Richard is committed to being a voice in issues that ensure the availability of effective teachers in our profession He is an outstanding human resources administrator, one who has taken leadership roles at the district, regional and state levels,” says Tamira Griffin of Plano ISD, who nominated Valenta for the award. “Every decision he makes, and every piece of advice he provides, is based on what is best for the profession, not what is in his best interest. “People trust Richard to do the right thing, and he does not disappoint.” ELIZABETH MILLARD is a freelance journalist who also writes for District Administration, a national magazine for school administrators. May 2009 • Texas School Business
The upside of a down economy By Raven L. Hill
Some experts say it’s an ideal time to recruit industry talent to the classroom
t took Lottie Peppers 10 years to find her way back to school. As an undergraduate pursuing a bachelor of science degree in biology at Texas Tech University, Peppers had considered a teaching career. However, a fellowship program that enabled her to do Lottie Peppers graduate-level research work inspired her to take a different path. After college, Peppers went to work for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and later for a pharmaceutical company in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Peppers admits her career in scientific research was fulfilling. However, last year, when her husband landed a job in the Dallas area and her employment options in the research field seemed limited, Peppers decided to revisit her long-lost ambition to teach. She enrolled in the Texas Teaching Fellows’ alternative certification program (ACP) and became a high school science teacher at a high-needs campus in Carroll12
Texas School Business • May 2009
ton-Farmers Branch ISD. Texas Teaching Fellows is an affiliate of The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that aims to recruit more teachers into high-needs schools. Peppers says the ACP, with its collaborative meetings between other first- and second-year teachers and assistant principals, proved invaluable to her successful career transition. “The district has been helpful, but the single-most helpful has been the ACP,” says Peppers, a biology and chemistry teacher at Early College High School. “The students have been very responsive to the techniques I learned in the program.” District officials around Texas say they need more teachers like Peppers — those with solid work experience in scientific, mathematical and technical fields. The good news is that now might be the best time to find them. The economic downturn has left countless professionals out of work as some of the state’s largest employers, including Dell and Texas Instruments, downsize their workforces.
The private sector’s loss could be a gain for public schools. “It is an ideal time to pick up these people,” says Ed Fuller, a University of Texas researcher who has studied teacher quality and turnover rates. “They have great practical experience. If we can help them along, give them enough training and support, it can be a valuable asset to education in Texas.” Texas schools face an acute shortage of well-qualified and adequately prepared science and math teachers, Fuller says. According to a Texas Business and Education Coalition and Texas Instruments study conducted by Fuller, the state is recruiting only half of the math teachers and less than a quarter of the science teachers it needs. In high school science, the shortage of science teachers has increased by more than 80 percent since 2004. Fiveyear projections show no signs of the trend slowing down. While there is no “silver bullet” to rectify this problem, the study suggests several statewide policy changes, including: • making a larger investment in mentoring for beginning math and science teachers; • providing funds to pilot urban school STEM (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering) academies, where aspiring teachers study under master teachers while working to complete certification requirements; • increasing the standards for all teacher preparatory programs; • providing service scholarships to lower the cost of teacher preparation for those who will teach secondary math and science for at least four years. In the meantime, districts are working on ways to recruit and retain math and science teachers. Many have set their sights on offering enhanced mentoring and induction programs and paying closer attention to the needs of new hires who are new to teaching. “Just as learning isn’t one-size-fitsall, we have to adapt to who we’re providing professional development to,” says Michelle Leake, coordinator of district initiatives and grant evaluations in Fort Michelle Leake Worth ISD. While traditional teacher preparation programs tend to result in better retention rates, alternative certifi-
cation programs (ACP) now produce most of the state’s math and science teachers. With better retention rates, school districts could save between $3.5 million and $7 million annually on training math teachers, and between $2.7 million and $5.4 million annually on science teachers, according to Fuller’s research. He adds that recovered funds could cover mentoring and induction for all new math and science teachers. Many people who opt for second careers in teaching go through alternative certification programs. The programs differ in cost and requirements. Some programs, like the highly selective Texas Teaching Fellows, require practical experience. But many do not. Fort Worth ISD has adapted its induction and training strategies from an “everything at once” approach in the beginning of the year to a “just in time” model with sessions offered throughout the school year. According to Leake, the support that new teachers want before school starts is often very different from what they ask for after they’ve completed their first six weeks. The impact of good mentoring on new hires cannot be understated, she adds. “When you look at the impact of mentoring — when it’s structured and based on observation and reflection — it has a small, positive impact on their decision to remain in the district,” she says. “But if they have a ‘drive-by’ mentor who offers little support and guidance, it has a much larger, negative impact.” Pasadena ISD is working with the Texas Education Agency to revamp the district’s mentoring initiatives. TEA’s Beginning Teacher Induction and Mentoring grant has enabled Pasadena ISD to give every new teacher a mentor, provide additional training and support to mentors, and increase the stipend mentors receive for participating. “That has paid off in the kind of support they’re giving new teachers,” says Diana Gomez, the district’s coordinator of mentoring. “We’ve gone from having lots of ‘buddies’ to having mentors who can Diana Gomez be true coaches.” Cypress-Fairbanks ISD is one of many districts that offers induction programs for teachers who are either new to the district or to the profession. The district hosts a New Teacher
Induction Program that includes time for new teachers to discuss skill improvement with their mentors, and for all grade-level core content teachers to discuss instruction and units as a team.
‘If we can help them along, give them enough training and support, it can be a valuable asset to education in Texas.’
Ed Fuller The University of Texas
“When we look at our new teachers’ perceptions of the support they receive, the team-planning process is right up there in the top three, along with the time they have with their mentors,” says Robin McGlohn, coordinator of the staff development department. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD has used TEA grants to train mentors on observation strategies and on providing feedback to novice teachers, to provide retention stipends, and to provide extra coaching support in math and science. The district also has created an ACP mentoring institute to better train mentors. “[ACP grads] have worked in a specialized field, and they come with a wealth of experience. We want our mentors to maximize and build on that,” McGlohn says. “While many may be new teachers,
they’re not necessarily inexperienced professionals.” Still, districts must keep in mind that ACP candidates are in transition, and ramping up in a new job — no matter the industry — is “really a tough place to be,” McGlohn says. Teaching is no small business Wes Cox, a geometry teacher at Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville ISD, began his professional career as a small business owner. After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin, he started an outdoors adventure company. A year later, he joined a Christian ministry program that works with children and teenagers. That experience led him to switch professional tracks and pursue a full-time teaching career. He was accepted into the Texas Teaching Fellows. “I wanted to change lives,” says Cox, who adds that teaching summer school through the Texas Teaching Fellows program provided the best preparation. He spent mornings working with a veteran teacher and afternoons in training. “You start out as the [other teacher’s] sidekick,” Cox says. “By the end, I was planning entire lessons. When I walked into Hendrickson, I had a good idea of not only how to manage a classroom, but a realistic expectation of what it would take to be an effective teacher.” See ECONOMY on page 15
Wes Cox, a geometry teacher at Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville ISD, began his professional life as a small business owner. A stint working with children in a Christian ministry program inspired him to pursue a second career as a teacher, which he accomplished after going through the Texas Teaching Fellows program. This year, Cox received the district’s Rookie Teacher of the Year Award for high schools. May 2009 • Texas School Business
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ECONOMY continued from page 13
This year, Cox received the district’s Rookie Teacher of the Year Award for high schools. Keeping the focus on students is vital for any mentoring or induction program to succeed, says Julie Greenberg, a senior policy analyst at the National Council
on Teaching Quality in Washington, D.C. “If induction isn’t generating better [student] performance, then we’ve got to figure out something else to generJulie Greenberg ate performance gains,”
Greenberg says. “It’s not enough to just make [new] teachers happy. In some way, shape or form, you have to look at the performance of the kids.” RAVEN L. HILL is a writer based in Maryland. She specializes in education reporting and formerly worked at the Austin American-Statesman.
Getting support from the state and federal governments President Barack Obama has vowed to make improving teacher quality one of his administration’s hallmarks. School districts nationwide are hoping that funding from Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will help them fulfill the President’s vow at the local level. Approximately $100 billion of the $787 billion stimulus funds are earmarked for public education “We’re delighted to have the President’s agenda pointed toward public schools in this way,” says Susan Holley, associate executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators. Districts can submit proposals to the U.S. Department of Education to fund specific projects. The stimulus funds will only be available for, at most, three years. The U.S. Department of Education guidelines dictate that school district proposals for funding must address long-term reforms in one of the following areas: • rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments;
better data systems to track student performance;
improved teacher quality, distribution and effectiveness, or;
support and interventions for low-performing schools.
Texas legislators also are looking at ways to improve teacher quality. Several bills have been proposed during this legislative session that would provide annual stipends to teacher-mentors; create scholarships to encourage students to pursue math and science teaching careers; and improve teacher-mentor assignments and coaching. Ed Fuller, a researcher at The University of Texas, says the state should pursue increased stipends or forgivable loans to put more qualified teachers in the pipeline, and that districts should pursue stimulus funds for innovative teacher prep programs, such as urban teacher residencies.
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TAssP-LegAL dIgesT Conference on education Law for Principals JuNe 9, 2009 at the Austin Convention Center 500 E. Cesar Chavez • Austin, Texas
NeW for 2009:
Lawyers available to answer your special questions. Visit our “Ask the Lawyer” booth throughout the conference!
A special Report by Jim Walsh
on how new federal stimulus money for education will impact you.
CONfeReNCe AgeNdA Changes to the AdA and § 504: What does This Mean To You? Jim Walsh Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Aldridge & Gallegos, P.C., Austin Personal Liability for school Principals Jim Raup McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore, Austin How to Avoid Claims of discrimination and Retaliation D. Craig Wood Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Aldridge & Gallegos, P.C., San Antonio 2009 Legal update on student discipline Issues David Hodgins Thompson & Horton, Houston The Latest on Cell Phones and student discipline Marquette Maresh Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Aldridge & Gallegos, P.C., Austin dealing With Custody and Other Issues Involving Parents Kevin Lungwitz Lungwitz & Lungwitz, Austin Legal Issues in extracurricular Activities Joy Baskin or Holly Claghorn Texas Association of School Boards, Austin
Register Online and sAVe!
Texas School Business • May 2009
Professional Development & EVENTS WEEK OF JUNE 1 June 4 Managing Personnel Records Professional Development Center, El Paso For more info, (512) 494-9353 or (800) 346-4111. www.taspa.org Cost: By May 28, $75; after May 28, $90. June 5 Personnel Skills Workshop Offices of El Paso ISD For more info, (512) 494-9353 or (800) 346-4111. www.taspa.org Cost: By May 28, $75; after May 28, $90.
WEEK OF JUNE 8 June 8 Traditional Block Scheduling Offices of Tyler ISD For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org Cost: Texas ASCD members, $125; nonmembers, $150. June 9 Annual TASSP-Legal Digest Conference Convention Center, Austin For more info, (512) 478-2113. www.legaldigest.com Cost: Legal Digest subscribers/TASSP members, $125 by May 9, $150 after May 9. Nonsubscribers/nonmembers, $175 by May 9; $200 after May 9. June 10 Managing Leaves and Absences TASB offices, Austin For more info, (800) 580-7782. www.hrservices.tasb.org Cost: By May 27, $180; after May 27, $230. June 10-12 TASSP Summer Conference Convention Center, Austin For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org Cost: Members, $195; nonmembers, $365.
June 10-12 TEPSA Summer Conference Renaissance Hotel, Austin For more info, (800) 252-3621. www.tepsa.org Cost: Members, $203 before May 13; $228 after May 13. Nonmembers, $442 before May 13; $467 after May 13.
(800) 880-7300. www.tahperd.org Cost: TAHPERD professional members, $25; professional nonmembers, $73. TAHPERD student members, $20; student nonmembers, $40. Nonmember rates include a one-year TAHPERD membership.
June 11-13 TASB Summer Leadership Institute Marriott Rivercenter, San Antonio For more info, Kathy Dundee, (512) 467-0222, ext. 6171. www.tasb.org Cost: Thursday-Saturday, $325; Friday-Saturday only, $255.
June 12-14 Texas AFT Annual Convention Marriott Quorum, Dallas/Addison For more info, (512) 448-0130. www.tx.aft.org
WEEK OF JUNE 15 June 15 Improving TAKS Scores in Math, Science and Language Arts Ysleta Administration and Cultural Arts Center, El Paso
June 12 Be Safe, Be Kind, Be a Mover: A Workshop for K-12 P.E. Teachers Maverick Activity Center, University of Texas at Arlington For more info, (512) 459-1299 or
See calendar on page 18
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May 2009 • Texas School Business
Professional Development & EVENTS
calendar continued from page 17
For more info, (888) 529-8672. www.tmsanet.org Cost: TMSA members or teams of 10 or more, $95; individual registration, $109. June 15-17 Leadership Academy Schlechty Center, San Antonio For more info, (512) 477-6361 or (800) 725-8272. www.tasanet.org June 15-17 Questioning for Learning: Improving the Thinking and Achievement of All Students Holiday Inn Town Lake, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361 or (800) 725-8272. www.tasanet.org Cost: TASA members, $675; nonmembers, $800.
Texas School Business • May 2009
June 16-19 Curriculum Management Audit Training, Level I Airport Marriott South, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361 or (800) 725-8272. www.tasanet.org Cost: TASA members, $675; nonmembers, $800.
June 18-19 Improved Questioning, Advanced Seminar Holiday Inn Town Lake, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361 or (800) 725-8272. www.tasanet.org Cost: TASA members, $675; nonmembers, $800.
June 17-20 TESA Summer Work Conference Marriott Westchase, Houston For more info, (512) 477-1848. www.tesatexas.org Cost: All-inclusive package (includes President’s Luncheon, banquet and Sunday brunch), TESA members, $200; inclusive package (does not include President’s Luncheon), TESA members, $175. All-inclusive package, nonmembers, $265; inclusive package, nonmembers, $235. For STEM and other workshop options, see Web site.
June 18-19 Maximizing Student Success Offices of Frisco ISD For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org Cost: $349. June 18-19 TASBO Summer Conference Heritage High School, Colleyville For more info, Linda DuFault, (512) 462-1711 or (800) 338-6531, ext. 218. www.tasbo.org Cost: Conference: Members, $50;
Professional Development & EVENTS
nonmembers, $90; each additional guest, $20. Certification course: Members, $140; nonmembers, $180. June 18-20 TASA Summer Leadership Institute Renaissance Worthington, Fort Worth For more info, Kathy Dundee, (512) 467-0222, ext. 6171. www.tasb.org Cost: Thursday-Saturday, $325; FridaySaturday only, $255. June 18-20 TASB Summer Leadership Institute North Renaissance Worthington, Fort Worth For more info, (512) 467-0222. www.tasb.org Cost: Thursday-Saturday, $325; FridaySaturday only, $255.
June 18-20 TREA Summer Conference Hilton Airport Hotel, San Antonio For more info, Janice Brown, (903) 575-2719. www.txrea.com Cost: Team of five, $650; each person in addition to team of five, $130; individuals, $150.
WEEK OF JUNE 22 June 25-28 New Principal Academy Trinity University, San Antonio For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org Cost: By June 1, $750; after June 1, $850. June 26-28 TCWSE Summer Conference Renaissance Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361 or (800) 725-8272. www.tcwse.org
Cost: Preregistration (through June 19) and 2009-2010 membership dues, $170; on site, $195. Student conference preregistration, $105; on site, $130. Oneday preregistration and 2009-2010 dues, $115; on site, $140. Joint preregistration for TCWSE Summer Conference, including 2009-2010 dues and UT/TASA Summer Conference on Education, $285; on site, $310. Student preregistration for TCWSE Summer Conference and UT/ TASA Summer Conference on Education, $160; on site, $185. June 28-30 UT/TASA Annual Summer Conference on Education Renaissance Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361 or (800) 725-8272. www.tasanet.org Cost: See TCWSE Summer Conference registration above. See calendar on page 20
We need your help
in singling out the programs — and the people — who deserve some positive press! In December, Texas School Business will publish its Third Annual Bragging Rights 2009-2010 special issue, which will honor 12 deserving school districts and their innovative programs. Do you have a brag-worthy program? Just send an email to email@example.com. Describe your program, how it came about and some of the program’s noteworthy results. Winners will be announced in the Third Annual Bragging Rights 2009-2010 special issue on December 1. Nomination deadline: August 31, 2009. Questions? Email Editor Katie Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your success stories. Texas School Business wants to brag about you!
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Professional Development & EVENTS
calendar continued from page 19
WEEK OF JUNE 29 June 30 Personnel Skills Workshop ESC Region 16 offices, Hereford For more info, (512) 494-9353 or (800) 346-4111. www.taspa.org Cost: By June 23, $75; after June 23, $90.
WEEK OF JULY 6 July 8-10 National School Board Association Southern Region Conference Peabody Hotel, Little Rock, Ark. For more info, (512) 467-0222. www.tasb.org Cost: Before April 30, $325; after April 30, $350.
July 12-14 TAHPERD Summer Conference University of San Antonio For more info, (512) 459-1299. www.tahperd.org Cost: Professional and associate members early-bird registration, $75; preregistration, $85; on-site registration, $95; retired and student members earlybird registration, $35; preregistration, $35; on-site registration, $45.
WEEK OF JULY 13 July 14-15 Curriculum Leadership Academy (second session of three) Offices of Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD For more info, (512) 477-8200. www.txascd.org July 15 The Basics of Investing School Funds Offices of Ysleta ISD, El Paso For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org Cost: TASBO members, $140; nonmembers, $180.
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Texas School Business • May 2009
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July 16 Investing School Funds Offices of Ysleta ISD, El Paso For more info, (512) 462-17ll. www.tasbo.org Cost: TASBO members, $140; nonmembers, $180. July 19-22 TASA/Syfr Conference: Tomorrow’s Education in Today’s Classrooms: A Whole New Brain (part two of three in a series) Hyatt Lost Pines Resort, Austin For more info, Susan Holley, (512) 477-6361 or (800) 725-8272. www.tasa.org Cost: Contact TASA for details regarding registration for one or all sessions.
Professional Development & EVENTS
WEEK OF JULY 20
WEEK OF AUGUST 10
WEEK OF AUGUST 17
July 21-26 TSTA Ambassador Academy Omni Southpark, Austin For more info, (877) 275-8782. www.tsta.org
August 13-14 Maximizing Student Success Offices of Sheldon ISD, Houston For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org Cost: $349.
No events listed.
July 22-24 TASPA Summer Conference Doubletree Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 494-9353 or (800) 346-4111. www.taspa.org Cost: Members, $150; retired members, $75.
WEEK OF AUGUST 24 No events listed.
WEEK OF AUGUST 31 No events listed.
July 24 TASPA Half-Day Law Conference Doubletree Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 494-9353 or (800) 346-4111. www.taspa.org Cost: $75.
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WEEK OF JULY 27 July 27-28 Jumping Hurdles and Raising the Bar: Toward Achieving Excellence in Science Offices of Greenville ISD For more info, (512) 477-8200. www.txascd.org Cost: Members, $249; nonmembers, $295.
WEEK OF AUGUST 3 No events listed. Correction On page 15 of the April issue of Texas School Business, we misspelled the name of Anne Mills of Tri-County Special Education Co-op. We sincerely regret the error.
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Applications are PEIMS compliant. See a complete list at www.esc20.net/TCC. Coming soon…the TxEIS™ solution - an integrated Enterprise Information System for Texas schools For further information, contact your regional education service center or Education Service Center, Region 20 • John McCauley, Information Technology email@example.com • (210) 370-5250 • fax (210) 370-5752 May 2009 • Texas School Business
TMSA hosts annual event in Galveston
Benetta Murley and Angela Evans of Frisco ISD.
Robin Scott and Stacee Huffer of Frisco ISD.
Matthew Adams and Manuel Munoz of Mission CISD.
Gina Hackett and Shannon Jackson of Lone Oak ISD.
Jeongae Kang and Soojin Lee of Houston ISD.
Will Moore and Todd Bramwell of Ferris ISD.
Pauline Burns and Catherine Morris of Waco ISD.
Rosalinda Jimenez and Patricia Rodrigues of Eagle Pass ISD.
Laura Sage and Jeri Grogan of Nacogdoches ISD.
Debbie Gunn and Lori Fields of Ferris ISD.
Susan Barthelme of San Antonio ISD and Tanya Trout of Northside ISD.
Texas School Business â€˘ May 2009
TASSP PRESIDENT profile Middle School Principal Barbara Paris’ passion to improve education started with her own
By Jennifer LeClaire
orn and raised in London, England, Barbara Paris dropped out of high school when she was 16 years old. Little did she know that about three decades later, she would be principal of a middle school in the United States and president of the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals. Having served more than 20 years in education, Paris has a bachelor’s degree in education and French; a master’s equivalent in deaf education from Oxford, England; and a master’s degree in education administration. She is certified to teach in three states and three countries, and her career spans from early childhood to adult education. For her work in public education, Paris has received numerous accolades, including a U.S. Commander’s Award for Public Service, a CBS affiliate Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching and Region XII Outstanding Principal of the Year. How did a former high school dropout climb to such heights in the field of education? Some might call her story ironic; others might call it destiny. Paris calls it a lifelong journey to improve education — beginning with her own. Paris explains that as a teenager she became “disillusioned” with the United Kingdom’s education system, so — with her parents’ permission — she dropped out and took some classes at a junior college. It was during this time that a friend sent her on a job interview as a prank. Paris was told where to show up, but was given no information about the job. After fumbling her way through the interview, Paris — who could speak some French — landed the job. The British Royal Family hired her as a bilingual administrator to the royal furnishers, a division responsible for decorating the royal houses. Not long after she was hired, Paris’ supervisor saw her potential and insisted that the teen go back to school to earn a college degree.
“I wanted to be a better teacher than the ones I had in high school, so I went on and got my bachelor’s degree in education,” Paris says. While earning her degree, she did her practice teaching at a school for the deaf; one particular student’s tenacity to learn inspired Paris to get certified in sign language and teach at Lady Spencer Churchill College of Education at Oxford. She also pursued a master’s equivalent in deaf education in Oxford. Paris’ life took another major turn when she married a U.S. military officer and came to the States in 1984. The newlyweds were transferred to Kentucky. Paris recalls that American Sign Language seemed like a foreign language to her, and the students couldn’t read her lips because of her accent. “They say the United States and Great Britain are two great nations separated by a single language,” Paris quips. “That’s been one of my largest realizations since I got here.” Determined to stay in education, Paris taught math and English to soldiers in Kentucky. When Paris and her husband moved to California, she again worked with deaf children. Four years later, the couple and their two children moved to Round Rock, where Paris now serves as principal at Canyon Vista Middle School. She says she loves working for Round Rock ISD because “they get it.” “They get that notion that every student who walks through our doors is valuable. There are three rules for any student to be successful: show up, pay attention, and make a contribution. That’s it,” Paris says. “Especially with middle school students who get wrapped up with so many things, if you can sit them down and show them how to succeed, they understand. It’s exciting to be part of that process here.” Paris jokes that she never thought she would “cross over to the dark side” and go into administration. What changed her
Barbara Paris is principal of Canyon Vista Middle School in Round Rock ISD.
mind was watching how a principal in Copperas Cove ISD empowered teachers in the classroom. That principal gave teachers freedom to try new things, to make mistakes and to grow. Paris’ leadership style of empowering others has paid off at Canyon Vista. As TASSP president, she travels frequently, which means her faculty and staff sometimes have to make executive decisions while she is away. The results speak for themselves: After a year and a half with Paris at the helm, Canyon Vista ranks as an “exemplary” school, and it has received The University of Texas’ Center for Performance Excellence Award. “We have been looking at the notion of how to get from good to great.,” she said. “That’s the journey we are on. Courageous principals are the ones who accept there is no status quo in education. We are either a growing, living organization, or we are dying.” JENNIFER LECLAIRE is a freelance writer based in South Florida. She covers education, business, technology and creative industries. May 2009 • Texas School Business
Who’s News Abilene ISD John Martinez has been named the first director of the district’s Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy that will open in the fall. Martinez has been an educator for eight years, five of which have been spent as John Martinez a technology teacher. He also has served as an elementary/intermedi-
ate school principal and a college adviser at Abilene High School, a position he held for two years. He has a bachelor of science degree in multidisciplinary studies from McMurry University in Abilene and a master’s degree in school administration from Angelo State University in San Angelo. Andrews ISD After 36 years of working in education, Superintendent David Mitchell has announced his retirement, which is
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Texas School Business • May 2009
effective at the end of this school year. Mitchell has worked in Andrews ISD since 2003. After graduating from high school in 1966, Mitchell served his country in the Armed Forces from 1968 to David Mitchell 1970. Upon completion of duty, he obtained a bachelor of science degree from Sul Ross State University in 1973. Mitchell began his career in education as a teacher and coach for Kermit ISD, where he stayed until a brief venture into oil drifting took him away from teaching from 1976 to 1980. Mitchell came back to public education in 1980, when he became a teacher and coach for Denver City ISD. After another brief absence from teaching from 1982 to 1986, he re-entered the classroom and spent the next 20 years teaching and coaching in Seagraves ISD and in Denver City ISD, until finally landing at Andrews ISD as the assistant superintendent of instruction in 2003. He became the superintendent in 2006. Mitchell has a master’s degree in educational leadership, as well as his principal certification and superintendent certification, all from The University of Texas– Permian Basin. Assistant Superintendent for Operations Thomas Carroll also has announced his retirement, effective at the end of the school year. Carroll served his entire career in education in Andrews ISD. After graduating from San Angelo State Thomas Carroll University with a bachelor of science degree in 1981, he joined Andrews ISD as a physical education teacher in 1983. Carroll spent the next 10 years in that position before becoming a high school assistant principal in 1993. In 1994, he became the assistant principal of Andrews Middle School, where he stayed and eventually served as principal from 1998 to 2002. That year, he landed his current position as assistant superintendent of operations. Carroll has a mid-management certification from Sul Ross State University. Birdville ISD Carla Saddler Rix, current principal of North Ridge Middle School, has been named the new principal of Richland High
Who’s News School. She takes the position left vacant by Randy Cobb’s recent move to Irving ISD. Prior to taking the helm at North Ridge Middle School in 2006, Rix served as a science teacher at Richland Carla Saddler Rix High School from 1984 to 2004. She taught middle school science from 1979 to 1984 at East Newton School District in Granby, Mo. She also taught at Christ the King School in Okinawa, Japan, for one year after working at Union School District in Tulsa, Okla. Rix earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and her master’s degree from Tarleton State University.
to Texas to be a middle school teacher for Mesquite ISD. She began her career in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD as a teacher at Dean Middle School; she also served one year as a helping teacher for at-risk students at Cypress-Fairbanks High School. Snockhous has a bachelor’s degree in education from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in education from Sam Houston State University. Janet Bakondy, formerly the assistant principal at Jowell Elementary School, was recently named the new principal at Ault
Elementary School, effective in March of this year. Bakondy is no stranger to Cypress-Fairbanks ISD; she has spent all 14 years of her career in the district. She began teaching for Ault ElemenJanet Bakondy tary School nine years ago and spent two years as an instructional specialist. She then served in the same See WHO’S NEWS on page 26
Comal ISD Wisconsin native Michael Keranen, current principal of Robert E. Lee High School in North East ISD, will be Smithson Valley Middle School’s new principal next year. He has 21 years of education experience underneath his belt, including 17 years in administration. Prior to his arrival in Comal ISD in 2004, Keranen served as a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal in Brownsville ISD. Since arriving at Comal ISD in 2004, he has led two magnet programs and a comprehensive high school of nearly 2,400 students. Keranen has degrees from the University of Wisconsin– LaCrosse and The University of Texas– Brownsville. Judson ISD Principal Jackie Sundt will return to Comal ISD as Specht Elementary’s new principal in the fall. Prior to spending the past eight years as a principal of Salinas Elementary in Judson ISD, Sundt served as an assistant principal and principal at Bill Brown Elementary School. Sundt began her 20-year career in education in East Central ISD, after obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Trinity University. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Vicki Snockhous, associate principal at Cypress-Fairbanks High School, will take over as principal for the 2009-2010 school year. She brings with her 25 years of experience in education, starting in Oklahoma as a high school Vicki Snockhous teacher before moving May 2009 • Texas School Business
Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 25
position at Keith Elementary School, before becoming the assistant principal of Jowell Elementary in 2005. Bakondy obtained her bachelor of science degree in education from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and her master’s degree in education from Prairie View A&M University. Ector County ISD Gary Gaines is returning to the district as the head football coach and
athletic coordinator for Permian High School. Gaines’ first stint as head coach in Ector County ISD, from 1986 to 1989, was the inspiration for the book “Friday Night Lights.” Prior to his return to the district, Gaines served as the assistant coach at Texas Tech University, and as a head coach at Abilene Christian University, Abilene High School and San Angelo High School. He also spent two years as the executive director of athletics for Ector County ISD and two years in the same position in Lubbock ISD.
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Texas School Business • May 2009
Harlingen CISD Alejos Salazar is the new principal of Wilson Elementary School. Salazar began his career in education as a bus driver for South Texas ISD, where he later served as a paraprofessional. He then moved on to fill the positions of special eduAlejos Salazar cation resource teacher and football coach for Santa Maria ISD and Santa Rosa ISD. After serving a short term as the special education transition unit case manager, Salazar became the assistant principal at Myra Green Middle School in Raymondville ISD. He then returned to Harlingen CISD in 2005 as the first assistant principal of Moises V. Vela Middle School. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from The University of Texas–Brownsville and a master’s degree in education administration from The University of Texas–Pan American; he is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in education. Irving ISD After 44 years of serving Irving ISD, Superintendent Jack Singley has announced his retirement, citing health reasons. He joined Irving ISD in 1965 as a math teacher at MacArthur High School, where he continued on to serve as a teacher, principal, personnel director and eventually the assistant superintendent for administration until 1988. That year, he was appointed to superintendent, making Singley one of the longest-serving school superintendents in Texas. Since becoming superintendent, eight schools have been added to Irving ISD, enrollment has grown from 21,887 students to approximately 33,233, and graduation averages have increased tremendously. Singley is a member of the Texas Association of School Administrators and was named the 2002-2003 Region 10 Superintendent of the Year. He holds a bachelor of science degree and master of education degree from Texas A&M University, where he majored in mathematics and school administration. He received his superintendent’s professional certificate from the University of North Texas. Mandy Hamilton is now executive director for the Irving Schools Foundation. She is a nonprofit veteran, having worked for such organizations as Best Buddies InSee WHO’S NEWS on page 28
Administrators train at TASA First-time Superintendents Academy Guadalupe Briones, Edmond Martinez and Naomi Byrne of Clint ISD.
Glenda Heil and Susie Court of Mesquite ISD.
April Kelly and Diana Gutierrez of Clint ISD.
Elaine Howard and Leslie Martin of San Angelo ISD.
Gary Preston of Paris ISD and Juan Villarreal of Arlington ISD.
TASA Assistant Executive Director Susan Holley and Darryl Cross of Weatherford ISD.
Betty Steffy of The University of North Carolina School of Education and Carolyn Downey of San Diego State University College of Education.
Arlene Federico and Guadalupe Briones of Clint ISD.
William Poston of Iowa State University and Fenwick English of The University of North Carolina School of Education.
Kristi Callihan and Althea Dixon of Paris ISD.
May 2009 â€˘ Texas School Business
Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 26
ternational, the American Heart Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Killeen ISD Robert Muller, who has served as the interim superintendent since October, is now the superintendent. Muller has been a part of Killeen ISD since 2003. He has served as the executive director for student services, assistant superintendent for administration and operations and deputy superintendent. He also has held positions
25th Anniversary 1984–2009
as associate commissioner and chief of staff with the Texas Education Agency. Moreover, his résumé includes a stint at Van Alstyne ISD, where he served as a high school principal, teacher and Robert Muller coach. Muller obtained a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University and a doctorate degree from The University of Texas.
TCWSE celebrates its 25th Anniversary at
this year’s Summer Conference! Join us in welcoming dynamic speakers, including Janet Hood-Hanchey, Lindy Robinson, and Dr. John Horn. The entire weekend will be a celebration of TCWSE and the accomplishments of its members. We’ll reflect on our past, celebrate today, and anticipate our future.
Texas Council of Women School Executives Summer Conference n June 26–28, 2009 n Renaissance Austin Hotel
Register online today! You’ll meet amazing women, learn a lot, and have a great time doing it! We look forward to seeing you in Austin in June!
OFFICE OF DISTANCE EDUCATION Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS SYSTEM 200 Whittington, Hot Springs, Arkansas 28
Texas School Business • May 2009
Marshall ISD After a brief trial run in the position, Carrie Alexander is now officially the district financial services director. She took on the duties of the office earlier this semester after Zane Beck held the post for a brief interim. New Boston ISD Fourteen years in education have gained Jennifer Cokely a recent appointment to principal of Crestview Elementary School. Cokely will take office for the 2009-2010 school year as Crestview Elementary transitions from a pre-k to fourth grade campus to a third grade through fifth grade school. She currently is in her second year serving as Crestview Elementary’s assistant principal, as well as a reading coach and gifted and talented teacher. Prior to joining New Boston ISD in 2001, Cokely coordinated the gifted and talented program for six years at Simms ISD, where she also taught middle school English, high school theater arts and middle school speech. She holds a bachelor of science degree and a master of education degree from Texas A&M University–Texarkana. She received her principal certification in February 2008. River Road ISD Sarah Lawson, current assistant principal at Amarillo High School, is the new principal at River Road High School. A native of Princeton, Texas, Lawson began her 25-year career in education in Hereford ISD, where she gained her first experience in administration at the middle school and high school levels. After serving 17 years at Hereford ISD, Lawson then moved on to serve the next eight years in Amarillo ISD, where she was a state finalist for the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals’ Assistant Principal of the Year Award in 2008. Pasadena ISD Executive Director of Technology Services Bob Daughrity has been named CTO of the Year by the Texas K-12 CTO Council, a chapter of the Consortium for School Networking. Prior to obtaining his current role in 2004, Bob Daughrity Daughrity served as the director of technology for Brazosport ISD for two years. TSB
TASBO hosts annual conference in San Antonio Bob Scurzi and Marc Janusz of Killeen ISD.
Sharon Mangum of Bushland ISD and Lisa Lobue of Bridgeport ISD. Kathy Glosup and Jan Vaughn of North Hopkins ISD.
Teri Reese and Barbara Rodriguez of San Antonio ISD.
Gary Shaw and Mike Gilley of Springtown ISD.
Debbie Largent and Jan Trimble of Lewisville ISD.
Jane Trammell of Texhoma ISD and Debi Meng of Bridgeport ISD.
Charlotte Byrum and Pam Clark of Lufkin ISD.
Danny Morrow of Van ISD and Robby Fair of Hawkins ISD.
Ure Wariboko and Martha Ewane of Houston ISD. May 2009 â€˘ Texas School Business
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by Riney Jordan
Just a little can make a big difference
uenos nachos!” I announced confidently as we left a mission in Queretaro, Mexico, late one evening. Our daughter immediately let out a sound remarkably similar to that of a laughing hyena at mealtime. “Dad, you didn’t say, ‘Good night.’ You said, ‘Good nachos!’ I think you mean ‘Buenos noches.’” Oh, what a difference a couple of letters can make. And it’s true of so many other things as well. I remember reading about a new ad campaign for Pepsi that simply said: “Pepsi comes alive!” Sounds great in English, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, when they translated it into the Chinese language, it read: “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” Oops! Not good. There are so many times when just a little something can make a huge difference. Too much salt. It makes a difference. Driving a few miles faster than the speed limit. It can make a difference. Not giving encouragement when someone needs it. It can make a difference. I remember a young man who became a close friend of mine when I was in college. For whatever reason, we all called him “Buzzy.” Here was one of the finest young men you’d ever meet. Friendly. Smart. Fun. Outgoing. It seemed that everyone he met loved being around him. When the Vietnam conflict began, he enlisted. While serving, he was introduced to marijuana. Just a little bit. One thing, of course, led to another. And that “little bit” turned into a lot. As you might guess, a totally different friend returned to the United States after the war. All of his old friends talked about the difference they saw in him. His appearance was so dramatically changed that you wouldn’t have recognized him had you passed him on the street. Gradually, 30
Texas School Business • May 2009
those old friends began to disappear from his life. As a young teacher, I often thought that I should drive the two hours back home and talk to him. He had developed some serious addictions to drugs and needed some serious help. “Oh, he’ll grow out of it in a year or two,” I thought. “I’m busy this weekend. Maybe I’ll call him next week.” A little encouragement might have made a difference. A little support might have made a difference. A little compassion might have made a difference. But a little “whatever” never happened. And one starlit summer evening that old friend put a pistol to his head as he lay under a tree in his parent’s front yard, and that one little bullet made a lot of difference. I’ve thought a great deal about my friend Buzzy over the years. Would he be alive today if more of us had taken the time and effort to try to make a difference? I don’t know the answer to that, but I know now, that when someone appears to be troubled, I make a conscious effort to give them encouragement, hoping it might make a difference. As school administrators, teachers, support staff or parents, we need to take the time to communicate with those around us. We never know when a kind word or a smile or a pat on the back might change the course of things. So right now, as you are reading this, commit to becoming an encourager. Because a little something really can make a big difference. RINEY JORDAN, whose best-selling book, “All the Difference,” is now in its fifth printing, is an international speaker and humorist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.rineyjordan.com.
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