TSB—May/June 2016

Page 1



The News Magazine for Public Education in Texas



Texas School Business

School districts share successes with restorative discipline Also in this issue: TACS President Doug Killian TEPSA President Nancy Tovar Spotlight on Rick Cruz, Houston ISD

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Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


TACS President Profile Hutto ISD’s Doug Killian considers the politics of public education


by Ford Gunter

Cover Story


Restorative discipline: How schools are changing culture, conversation around discipline

In the Spotlight Empowering underserved students is a labor of love for Houston ISD’s Rick Cruz

By Merri Rosenberg

by Leila Kalmbach

28 TEPSA President Profile El Paso ISD’s Nancy Tovar to lead 100-year-old organization By Raven L. Hill

Photo Features

10 TSPRA rallies in Marble Falls 18 TCEA attracts techies to Texas capital city 20 SXSWedu draws international crowd 35 TASBO marks 70th in the Big D

Departments 6 Who’s News 30 Regional View 33 The Arts 36 Calendar 38 Ad Index


5 From the Editor by Katie Ford 9 The Law Dawg— Unleashed by Jim Walsh 11 Digital Frontier by Evan Lieberman 13 Game On! by Bobby Hawthorne 22 Past President’s Perspective by Robert Brezina 32 Student Voices by Eric Nguyen 38 The Back Page by Riney Jordan

Cover story photo: Teachers at Manor ISD’s DAEP/MAP school have adopted restorative discipline practices with great success. 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.

Designing new ways to help tell your story: if the brand is the message, the experience is the medium. perkinswill.com


From the editor

couple years ago, I attended a seminar about restorative justice. I was interested because, since 2010, I’ve been volunteer teaching a writing class at a women’s prison. Seated beside me was a formerly incarcerated woman who had been in and out of the system from ages 15 to 37. (She’s now in her mid-40s and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social psychology. But that’s another story for another time.) I remember the presenter explaining that criminal justice asks three questions: What law was broken? Who broke it? What punishment is warranted? Restorative justice, however, asks a different set of questions: Who was harmed? What are the needs and responsibilities of all affected? How do all affected parties together address needs and repair harm? Those same questions apply to restorative discipline, which essentially is restorative justice in a school setting.

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Used both as a preventative measure and as a response, restorative discipline focuses on repairing and strengthening relationships through mediated dialogue. It’s an approach to discipline that encourages empathy, personal responsibility and community. Sounds rather Utopian, right? We’re supposed to gather around, talk it out and better understand one another every time a student mouths off to a teacher or a kid gets bullied? Who has time for that? Well, I say we do — that is, if we care enough to shut down the school-to-prison pipeline that zero-tolerance, exclusionary approaches to student misconduct have created. For our cover story, writer Merri Rosenberg spoke to several Texas districts that are integrating restorative discipline. On these campuses, administrators and teachers still espouse consequences and accountability, but they also make efforts to understand what’s driving a student’s behavior and what support that student may need to turn around. (Hint: It’s not kicking the kid out of school.) So, back to that seminar I attended on restorative justice. I remember the formerly incarcerated woman began to shift in her seat as the presenter explained what restorative justice looked like when it’s practiced by teachers, school administrators, juvenile detention officers, police officers and so forth. Eventually, the woman raised her hand, and that’s when I noticed the tears in her eyes. “Yes?” the presenter asked. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but my mind is going a million miles an hour over here,” the woman said. “Restorative justice sounds amazing; it’s new to me, and I’m so glad to hear people are talking about it. But, at the same time, my heart is breaking a little. “I can’t help but think how my life might have gone differently if the officer who arrested me when I was 15 would have asked me if I was OK,” she continued. “Nobody really ever asked me that.” The room was silent for several seconds, each person sitting with their thoughts. “I just wonder,” she said quietly, almost to herself. “I wonder.”

Texas School Business (ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) MAY/JUNE 2016 Volume LXIII, Issue 5 406 East 11th Street Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-477-6361 • Fax: 512-482-8658 www.texasschoolbusiness.com EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Katie Ford DESIGN

Phaedra Strecher COLUMNISTS

Bobby Hawthorne Riney Jordan Jim Walsh ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER

Ann M. Halstead


Johnny L. Veselka


Ann M. Halstead


Amy Francisco

Texas School Business (ISSN 0563-2978) is published bimonthly with a special edition, Bragging Rights, in December, by the Texas Association of School Administrators, at 406 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78701. Periodicals postage paid at Austin, Texas, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701. © Copyright 2016 Texas Association of School Administrators

Katie Ford Editorial Director Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


Who’s News Abilene ISD Rodney Brown, principal of Clack Middle School, has announced his plan to retire at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. He has spent 25 years with Abilene ISD, serving in his current position since 2005.

Former Austin Elementary School Principal Carla Garrett has been promoted to serve as the district’s executive director of elementary education. She has been an educator for 32 years, teaching at all levels and leading Austin Elementary since 2012. Jackson Elementary School’s Principal Roy Sharp will retire at the end of this academic year. He has been an educator for 30 years, joining Abilene ISD in 1989. He has served at Jackson for the past five years.

Alvin ISD Alvin ISD’s newest elementary campus, Meridiana Elementary School, will have Kimberly Fox as principal when classes begin in the fall. She has been an educator since 1988, an employee of the district since 2000, and principal of Jeter Elementary since 2008. Fox is a graduate of the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and holds a master’s degree in education management from the University of Houston – Clear Lake.

Angleton ISD Roy Gardner has been approved as director of career and technical education. He has spent 28 of his 39 years as an educator with Angleton ISD. Gardner earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas Southern University and his master’s degree in education administration from Prairie View A&M University.

Longtime bilingual teacher and interventionist Marbella Hooper is now the district’s bilingual/ESL coordinator. During her 11 years with Angleton ISD, she has worked at four campuses. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Angel Kersten is now trans-

portation manager, coming to her new job with 11 years of experience in Clear Creek and Columbia-Brazoria ISDs.


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

Prior to being named director of human resources for Angleton ISD, Kristi Kirschner worked in the same field at Dow Chemical. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Stephen F. Austin State University. Now serving as assistant public information officer is Brittany Lamas, a former newspaper reporter. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Texas. The new principal of Angleton Junior High is Doreen Martinez, who has been an educator for 25 years. She has served in Royal, Clear Lake, Pasadena and Victoria ISDs. Her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees were awarded from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Angela Neal, formerly a consultant and

teacher in the district, is now an advanced academics coordinator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of West Florida and a master’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Austin ISD The following new principal appointments are announced by the district: Megan Counihan, Baranoff Elementary


Amber Laroche, Brentwood Elementary


Dora Molina, Blanton Elementary School;


Kenton Nelson, Small Middle School.

Beaumont ISD Now leading Pietzsch-MacArthur Elementary School is Anita Frank, who previously led Fletcher Elementary. The 17-year employee of the district received her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Lamar University and her master’s degree in educational administration from Prairie View A&M University. Gloria Guillory is the newly appointed interim principal of Fletcher Elementary School, where she most recently served as assistant principal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in educational administration, both from Lamar University.

Bridge City ISD

Misti Dawn Roy has been appointed assistant principal of Angleton Junior High and Westside Elementary. She has spent 16 of her 18 years as an educator in Angleton ISD. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University and a master’s degree in mid-management from Lamar University.

Todd Lintzen is the district’s new superin-

Juli Salzman has been named vice presi-

Bryan ISD

dent and elementary division chair of the Texas Music Educators Association. The 16-year employee of the district is a graduate of Arkansas Tech University; she has a master’s degree in education from Louisiana State University. Salzman is at work on her doctorate in education leadership from the American College of Education.

Clayton Stewart, a football and baseball coach for 10 years, is now assistant principal of Angleton High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas and his master’s degree from the American College of Education.

Aubrey ISD Superintendent Debby Sanders will retire in June, bringing to a close a 36-year career in education. The Aubrey High School graduate also worked in the district as a math teacher, girls’ basketball coach, counselor and principal.

tendent, coming to Bridge City ISD from Blue Ridge ISD, where he served since 2008.

Bullard ISD Former Bullard Primary School counselor and Bullard Elementary School Assistant Principal Kim Murphy is now principal of Bullard Primary. Mitchell Elementary School Principal John Rokenbrod will transition over the summer to his new role as the district’s software systems analyst. Rokenbrod came to Bryan ISD in 2014 from Amelia County Public Schools in Virginia, where he was supervisor of technology and public relations and principal of Amelia County Elementary. Superintendent Tommy Wallis has been named the

Texas Computer Education Association’s Superintendent of the Year. The award highlighted Wallis’ “use of social media and video technology to promote learning and celebrate the successes of students.”

Canutillo ISD Maria Reyna Salcedo, a 28-year educa-

tion veteran who has served as assistant principal of Alerete Middle School and

Canutillo High School, is now principal of Childress Elementary. She holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary math education from New Mexico State University and a master’s degree in education from The University of Texas – El Paso.

Carroll ISD Mike Landers is the new principal of Walnut Grove Elementary School, where he served as assistant principal for two years. The nine-year employee of the district holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and a master’s degree in education from The University of Texas – Arlington.

Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Mark Hyatt, associate superintendent and

31-year employee of the district, has retired. He was initially the district’s chief financial officer.

Tonya Tillman, the district’s chief financial

officer since 2012, has been named associate superintendent.

Chico ISD Superintendent Mike Jones, who has led the district since 2013, will retire at the end of August.

College Station ISD Kellie Deegear will be principal of the yet-unnamed Intermediate School No. 3, scheduled to open its doors in August. The principal of Cypress Grove Intermediate received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Stephen F. Austin State University and her master’s degree in education from Trinity University.

Cypress-Fairbanks ISD The new Cypress Park High School, set to open in August of this year, will have Greg Rogers as athletic coordinator and head football coach. He will move to his new job from Cypress Falls High, where he is assistant football coach. Rogers earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and his master’s degree in mid-management from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Dayton ISD Jeff Nations is the district’s new athletic director and head football coach. He has been an educator and coach for 17 years, 12 of those with Dayton ISD, where he was most recently a principal. He earned both his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and his master’s degree in education from Sam Houston State University.

Denton ISD

Eastland ISD

Daniel Lopez, who is the district’s new area

Former Midland ISD Lee High School head football coach James Morton has accepted the offer to lead the football program at Eastland ISD.

superintendent focusing on secondary academics, comes to his job from Spring ISD, where he was executive director of student support services. He is a graduate of The University of Texas at Dallas and earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University at Commerce and his doctorate from the University of Houston. Newly appointed Area Superintendent

Gwen Perkins has moved up from her

previous position as executive director of human resources. She will concentrate on elementary academics. Perkins received her bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Tech University and her master’s degree from The University of Texas – Arlington. She is nearing completion of her doctorate at the University of North Texas.

Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD Beth Epps, former principal of Parkview El-

ementary School, is now principal of Dozier Elementary.

Assistant Athletic Director Steve Griffin has earned certification through the National Interscholastic Athletic Administration Association, a program which is based on continuing education and the promotion of high professional standards and leadership. The new principal of Willow Creek Elementary School, Christal Hollinger, comes to the district from Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD, where she was assistant principal of Harrison Lane Elementary since 2014. She has been an educator for 15 years. Hollinger is a graduate of Tarleton State University with a master’s degree in education administration from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Mindy Miller, who was assistant principal of Highland Middle School for the past four years, has been promoted to principal of Parkview Elementary School. The 20-year educator received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and her master’s degree in education from Lamar University.

Eanes ISD The new executive director of the Eanes Education Foundation brings with her 25 years of volunteer and professional experience. Kathi Haralson was most recently director of development for Partnerships for Children. Wally Moore, who led the

Eanes Education Foundation for seven years, retired in March.

Ector County ISD Danny Servance has been hired as athletic

coordinator and head football coach at Odessa High School.

Fannindel ISD Superintendent Harvey Milton will retire in June, bringing to a close an education career spanning 60 years. He began as an agriculture teacher in 1956 in Peacock, going on to teach in Quinlan, as well as Ladonia and Honey Grove ISDs. He was principal of Fannindel High School from 1960 to 1979. He retired from serving as superintendent of Honey Grove ISD in 2001 but came out of retirement five years later to take on the superintendency of Fannindel, where he remained until announcing his second retirement.

Fort Bend ISD Bobby Darnell has accepted the position of head football coach and athletic coordinator at Clements High School. The former assistant head football coach at Ridge Point High graduated from Baylor University, where he played football for the Bears, with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications. His master’s degree in sports management is also from Baylor.

The Dulles High School Vikings now have J.L. Geist as head football coach and athletic coordinator. He comes to Fort Bend ISD from Leander ISD, where he was the varsity coach at Vista Ridge High. A coach for 27 years, he earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Texas A&M University. Now serving as assistant principal of Baines Middle School is Marc Muscarello, an 18year veteran of public education who most recently was a special education department head and teacher at the school. He is a graduate of Western Illinois University with a degree in mathematics and received his master’s degree in educational administration from Lamar University. TaTanisha Parker, former lead counselor at Travis High School, is now assistant principal of Hightower High School. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Houston and her master’s and doctoral degrees, both in counseling, from Texas Southern University.

> See Who’s News, page 8 Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


Who’s News > Continued from page 7

Frisco ISD Phil Evans is now secondary

area director for curriculum and instruction. He joined the district in 2008 and was most recently principal of Cobb Middle School. Evans, a graduate of Baylor University, received his master’s degree from the University of North Texas. Currently serving as assistant principal of Trent Middle School, Mitzi Garner has been promoted to principal of Nelson Middle School, beginning with the new academic year. She holds a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and two master’s degrees, one in curriculum and instruction from San Diego State and one in educational administration from Concordia University. When the new Vaughn Elementary School opens for the 2016-2017 academic year, it will be led by Susie Graham as principal. She joined the district in 1994 as a first grade teacher and has been principal of Bright Elementary for 10 years. Both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees were awarded from Stephen F. Austin State University. Sadd Jackson, former ath-

letic director of Manor ISD, is the athletic coordinator and head football coach of the new Lebanon Trail High School. The school is scheduled to open in August. Jackson began his coaching career at the college level as an assistant at Texas Christian University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. His master’s degree was awarded from The University of Texas – Arlington. Ashley Miller, assistant

principal of Sem Elementary, will take on the role of principal of Miller Elementary in the fall. An educator for 10 years, she holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas and a master’s degree from Concordia University. She was named 2015 Region 10 Assistant Principal of the Year by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. Kimberly Pickens has been

hired to serve as the district’s chief financial officer. She comes from Richardson ISD, where she was executive director of financial


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

services. Pickens, who is also an adjunct instructor for The University of Texas at Dallas, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University.

Galveston ISD Superintendent Larry Nichols, who has led the district since 2010, will retire in August. Prior to his time in Galveston, he was superintendent of Calhoun County ISD.

Groesbeck ISD Keri Bailey-Allen, who has been an educa-

tor for 15 years, nine of them with the district, is now principal of Groesbeck High School. She received her master’s degree in education from Texas A&M University at Commerce.

Hallsville ISD The Hallsville ISD Board of Trustees voted in favor of hiring Jeff Collum as the district’s superintendent. He returns to Texas, where he earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Stephen F. Austin State University, after serving as superintendent of schools in Benton, Ark. He is at work on his doctorate.

Houston ISD Ken Huewitt has been named interim su-

perintendent, moving into his new position from serving as the district’s chief financial officer and as a deputy superintendent. He spent 11 years as the district’s controller.

Irving ISD The former athletic coordinator and head football coach at Frisco ISD’s Centennial High School now holds the same position at Irving ISD’s MacArthur High. Ronny Mullins, who has 29 years of experience as a teacher and a coach, earned his bachelor’s degree in speech communications from The University of Texas.

Karnack ISD Amy Dickson, newly appointed district

superintendent, has been an educator for 22 years, her most recent assignment being director of elementary education for Marshall ISD. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Keller ISD When the new Sunset Valley Elementary School opens for the 2016-2017 school year, Kristen Eriksen will be at the helm as principal. The Auburn University graduate has spent the past four years as principal of Keller-Harvel Elementary. She received her master’s degree in education from The University of Texas at Arlington.

Christy Johnson has been named principal

of another new district school, Keller Early Learning Center South. She will take her new job after two years in the same capacity at Keller Early Learning Center North. Johnson received her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in early childhood education from Stephen F. Austin State University and her master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies from The University of Texas at Arlington.

The Keller ISD Education Foundation Board of Directors announces the appointment of Paige Pohle as its new executive director. She has more than seven years of experience in community development and management in both the nonprofit and public sectors. Pohle is a graduate of Texas Christian University. She has a master’s degree in business administration from The University of Texas in Dallas.

Kerens ISD Jason Adams, newly appointed superinten-

dent, was most recently Huntington ISD’s high school principal. A coach, teacher and administrator since 1997, he holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and history from Sam Houston State University and is at work on his doctorate in education from the University of Arkansas.

Kerrville ISD Susana Alejandro has been named director

of early childhood programs. She has spent the past 14 years as assistant principal of Daniels Elementary School. Both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees were awarded from Sul Ross State University. Former Tivy High photojournalism teacher Holly Vogt is now the district’s public relations specialist. Her bachelor’s degree in mass communication is from Texas State University.

Lamar CISD Elementary School No. 24 has not been officially named, but Tom Thompson has accepted the job of leading it as principal when the campus opens for the 2016-2017 school year. He is an assistant principal at Hubenak Elementary. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from the University of Houston in Victoria.

Lampasas ISD Troy Rodgers has returned to Lampasas ISD, where he once was quarterback for Lampasas High School, to serve as head football coach and athletic director. Since his graduation from Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in kinesiology, he > See Who’s News, page 19


No more sweeping under the rug by Jim Walsh


he first step toward resolving a problem is to recognize that the problem exists. For that reason, I count it a good thing that we, as a society, have acknowledged that there are some ugly realities that we’d rather not deal with. One of those is child abuse. It was not until the 1960s that child abuse laws became common. Now, of course, we take it for granted that people — especially teachers — will report suspected abuse. It is always chilling to hear reports of child abuse, but I count it as a sign of a maturing society that we no longer sweep this under the rug. We’ve grown up.

Superintendents today should be very aware of how dramatically this has changed. Our rules now require superintendents to report certain types of teacher misconduct to the State Board for Educator Certification. This includes situations in which the teacher resigns in the face of “evidence that would support a finding” that the teacher “solicited or engaged in sexual conduct or a romantic relationship with a student or minor.” The superintendent is required to inform the teacher, in writing, that a report to SBEC will be made. The resignation cannot be accepted until that happens.

Here’s a second example: bullying. We all know that our society has tolerated bullying for generations, both in school and out of school. Now, we have committed to doing something about it. Step one, again, is to acknowledge the ugly truth.

This is one of those legal requirements that will create discomfort among the grownups, in service of protection for the kids. Notice that the superintendent is required to report to SBEC even when the case has not been proven. The accused teacher Do faces dilemma. notacut off If the teacher resigns, the report be made blackwill outline anyway. If the teacher does not resign, he or she faces a termination hearing.

Here’s a third example: teachers having sex with students. In my legal career, I have witnessed a major change on this one. In days of yore, superintendents would address this As further evidence of our society’s willingproblem as quietly as possible. If there were ness to face this troublesome issue, I offer two evidence that a teacher had crossed the line, recent decisions from the Austin Court of the superintendent usually would confront Appeals. Both cases followed the same trajecthe teacher and seek a resignation before tak- tory: SBEC revoked the teacher’s certificate; a Advertiser: Architects, Inc. ing it to the school board. Almost always, theWRAdistrict judge in Travis County reversed that teacher resigned, often amidst protestationsThursday, Art Deadline: February 04, 2016 decision; and the Court of Appeals reinstated of innocence. WithSubmitted written Date: resignation inFriday, Januaryruling. 29, 2016 SBEC’s hand, the superintendent would heave a sigh Publication: School Business Magazine of relief and go on to the next problem. NoTexasThe first512-963-6584 case, SBEC v. Montalvo, involved Ann Halstead, one wanted to talk about it. After all, the per-a h a lrubdowns, Jacuzzi ste a d @ ta saa n et .o rgand 480 phone calls with son had not been found guilty; he or she had a student during a four-month period. The resigned. It was considered best not to talk second, SBEC v. Lange, was about a teacher Pub Date(s): 2016a consensual sexual relationship about it. In fact, talking about it might leadMarch-April who had to legal trouble. with an adult (18 years old) who was a high school student, but not in his school. Ad Size/Color: 1/3-page vertical, full color Reputation intact, the teacher would move 2.5” wide x 9.75” tall on to another school district. Then, after Reporting teacher misconduct is no fun. But Contact: L. Frank, AIA three or five or sevenArtyears, word would driftGradyremember: This is what grownups do. back. “Did you hear that that guy resignedWRA Architects, Inc. over there? No one knows why. No one’s214-750-0077 main talking.”

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g f r a nGallegos k @ w r aTreviño a r c h i tRusso e c t s .&c oKyle m PC. JIM WALSH is an attorney with Walsh He can be reached at jwalsh@wabsa.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jwalshtxlawdawg. Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


Photo Feature

TSPRA RALLIES IN MARBLE FALLS The Texas School Public Relations Association hosted its annual conference in March in Marble Falls.

TSPRA past President Kirk Lewis of Pasadena ISD.

Lee Hooper and Louise Henry of Harris County Department of Education.

2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples of Amarillo ISD.

TSPRA past presidents Denise Blanchard of Lamar CISD and Lorette Williams of Corpus Christi ISD.

Rick Hill of Elementary Schoolmate and Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD.

Media Award recipient Shannon Colletti of Community Impact Newspaper, Professional Achievement Award recipient Monica Faulkenbery of Northside ISD and Bright Idea Award recipient Craig Verley of Mission CISD.


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

Valerie Hull of Barbers Hill ISD and TSPRA President Ian Halperin of Wylie ISD.


Use it or lose it: Four ways to make room for the new by Evan Lieberman


herlock Holmes said the brain is like “a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out or, at best, is jumbled up with a lot of other things.” Get rid of the old to make room for the new. This idea might apply to the mind of the world’s second-greatest fictional detective (Batman is the greatest, of course); yet it also accurately describes the wise use of our school district warehouses and campus storerooms. Before filling up these areas with the equipment and technology of the future, we need to clear out the old junk. Deciding what to keep and what to get rid of can be easy by using one simple rule: If you haven’t used it in a year, you probably don’t need it. (This rule also can apply to your wardrobe closet if you’re running out of hanger space.)

Why should we keep Zip drives if campuses don’t use them? Who needs scanners if campuses have copiers and printers with built-in scanning capabilities? Why do we need so many tape recorders if libraries don’t use cassette tapes anymore? If we’re not using the equipment now, chances are slim that we’ll need it later. This article offers creative ways for your district to maximize the limited space in your warehouses and storerooms. These ideas also can benefit your district by generating revenue, repurposing equipment and improving community relations. Donate to a local community center. Many local community centers and charitable organizations have limited budgets for computer equipment and office supplies. Computers that are old enough to be replaced might be obsolete with regards to the classroom, but it doesn’t mean they are unusable. Your district can supply a homeless shelter or a foster care organization with furniture for their offices and computers for their clients. A TV-andVCR combo might be appreciated by a group

home or halfway house. Five-year-old technology might be too old for the classroom, but it could greatly benefit someone who otherwise would not have access to a home computer or laptop. Offer old equipment to local thrift stores. Providing free items to nearby resale shops can create positive relationships with small businesses in your district. Donating technology and furniture to thrift stores can generate goodwill throughout the community through word of mouth. These small business owners will appreciate and remember that your district supports them. Host an internal open house. Invite teachers, administrators, technology specialists, maintenance staff and office workers to browse the district warehouse. (Serving refreshments can encourage attendance.) Office assistants and clerks will find creative ways to repurpose old office equipment and unused technology. Furniture that has been moved out of the classroom can be put back into use, keeping your district from spending more money on new items. Your warehouse might unknowingly be hiding something that your front office staff desperately needs. Have a warehouse clearance sale. Generate income from old equipment, retired computers and other items that have not been recently used. Some items (like record players, chalkboards and old Mac computers) might be considered too old to be used in the classroom but are valued for their “vintage” or “retro” qualities. Multimedia projectors and smartboards have replaced overhead transparency projectors, but artists, muralists and signmakers might want this “antiquated” technology for their creative work. With a well-advertised warehouse sale or auction, your district can turn potential interest in old equipment into revenue. Note: Districts with all-in-one record players for sale can contact the author directly.

EVAN LIEBERMAN serves as an instructional technology facilitator for Edgewood ISD in San Antonio. He hosts a website at Personcentered.tech and can be reached at drevanlieberman@gmail.com.

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History in the making by Bobby Hawthorne


month or so after graduating from Houston Worthy High School in 1967, Michael Hurd lumbered into an Air Force recruiting office and informed the officer working the desk that he’d like to be a fighter pilot. Certainly there was a need for them. The war in Vietnam was nearing its bloody apex, and U.S. pilots were engaged in desperate battles against Russian-supplied MIGs in the skies over Hanoi and Haiphong. Michael had decided he’d had enough of school for now, and it was just a matter of time before Uncle Sam came calling, so why not enlist and pursue his dream? Well, here’s why not: Michael is an African-American, and the recruiting officer couldn’t picture a black kid sitting in the cockpit of an F-4 Phantom, and, truth be told, Michael couldn’t either. So, he shrugged and signed up and served a year as a medic at the Phu Cat Air Force Base in the Central Highlands, approximately 60 miles north of Saigon, where American boys were taking heavy casualties outside An Loc and Kontum. The Viet Cong was repulsed only after heavy U.S. air and artillery attacks. Of course, that was a long time ago. Michael never saw combat action, never fired a weapon in anger and was never specifically fired upon, other than the occasional mortar round that landed on or near the base. The only lasting injury he suffered during his 12 months in country was to his pride. He knew — or, at least, he came to know — that he was assigned to a medical outfit instead of a fighter unit for one reason: the color of his skin. And there wasn’t a thing he could do about it. His high school education in segregated schools — first through third grade in Texarkana, fourth through 12th grade in Houston — had poorly prepared him to acknowledge, much less challenge, the status quo. He’d never heard of the Tuskegee Airmen or Daniel “Chappie” James or any other black fighter pilot. As far as he knew, none existed.

The sad truth is, almost none did. One authoritative source places the number of black fighter pilots serving in Vietnam at 17, and almost all of them were originally commissioned either during World War II or Korea. Michael knew nothing about any of this, and he graduated from Worthy with honors. “Here’s what I knew of black history,” Michael says. “There was slavery. Then, there was Lincoln and, then, there was emancipation. That’s it. There was no before. There was no after. Certainly, there was no context.” Today, Michael’s job and his passion are to provide that context. An author and a former Houston Post and USA Today sportswriter, he is the director of the Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture at Prairie View A&M University. Michael came to that post from Austin, where he served as managing editor for the Texas Black History Preservation Project (TBHPP). “With schools squeezed by standardized testing cutting back on ethnic studies, it’s even more important to somehow provide context,” he says. Michael flinches at using the “Black Lives Matter” slogan, preferring instead “Black Lives Matter Too.” And he knows so many of these stories have not been — and are not being — recorded, taught and told, so the TBHPP has built and is expanding on an online encyclopedia devoted to Texas black history and culture that goes far beyond the cliché list of Bessie Coleman, Barbara Jordan and the Buffalo Soldiers. It’s the story of how African-Americans from all walks of life helped build this state. So, here’s what Michael wants from you: Visit the website, www.tbhpp.org. Incorporate the information into your lesson plans. Contribute your stories. Help build the context for the next kid who lumbers into an Air Force recruiting office and says something as unheard of as: “I’d like to be a fighter pilot.”

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.

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Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016



Instructional coach Reginald Brown facilitates a circle with Missouri City Middle School students. Principal Jerrie Kammerman says restorative discipline aligns with her personal philosophy when it comes to working with children.

Restorative discipline

How schools are changing culture, conversation around discipline

By Merri Rosenberg


issouri City Middle School Principal Jerrie Kammerman in Fort Bend ISD knew something had to change. Frustrated with the number of suspensions at her school of 1,200 students, Kammerman discovered a new way to address disruptive student behavior at a 2014 principals’ conference in Austin. The approach was called restorative discipline, which promotes honest dialogue, collaborative problem solving, personal responsibility


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

and mutual respect within a school community. When students misbehave and cause others harm, restorative discipline aims to help the person(s) harmed, as well as offer support to the person(s) who did the harm so they can be a positive contributing member in the school community. “It aligned with my personal philosophy of how to work with kids,” Kammerman recalls.

Since integrating restorative discipline on her campus, Kammerman has found it a “wonderful tool, which changes the way teachers deal with our kids.” During the past year, there has been a 64 percent reduction in suspensions on her campus. In recent years, more Texas public school administrators have been eyeing restorative discipline practices, recognizing that the traditional zero-tolerance, punitive approach to student misconduct has inadvertently

created a “school-to-prison pipeline” that disproportionately affects AfricanAmerican and Hispanic students. It’s hard to ignore the sobering statistics: • A 2015 Texas Appleseed study revealed that during the 2013-2014 school year, Texas schools issued 88,310 out-ofschool suspensions. • A 2015 Council of State Governments Justice Center study cited that “at least one in three incarcerated youth is identified as needing or already receiving special education services, a rate nearly four times higher than youth attending school in the community.” • A 2015 University of Pennsylvania study reported that in 132 Southern school districts, African-American students were disproportionately suspended at rates five times or higher than their representation in the student population. • Lastly, a 2015 American Academy of Arts and Sciences report showed that spending on corrections in the United States has grown much faster than education spending in the past three decades. Restorative discipline gained traction in Texas in February 2015 when the Texas Education Agency granted a little more than $500,000 to provide trainings at 10 education service centers. An additional 10 ESC regions plan to add restorative discipline trainings in the 2016-2017 academic year. “It’s all voluntary,” explains Gaye Lang, TEA director of restorative discipline. “We’d like (schools) to use it, to offer other options. The possibility is that if they do this with fidelity, there’s a good chance they can reduce disproportionality and reduce suspensions.” Since training has been available, 206 of Texas’ 1,200-plus school districts have taken advantage of it. About 1,400 to 1,500 administrators have been trained so far. “The message was conveyed to superintendents and principals all over the state that the current disciplinary system [for students] is punitive and exclusionary,” says Marilyn Armour, director of the Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue at The University of Texas. A foundational practice in restorative discipline is facilitating a “circle,” where participants circle up and engage in a structured dialogue. It can be done either as a preventative measure or to repair

relationships after an incident has occurred. Circles typically are conducted by a trained facilitator, and a “talking stick” (or other handheld token) is used to indicate who has the floor and everyone’s undivided attention. In these circles, a situation can be examined, and a remedy — or a pathway to a remedy — can be created together. Usually the circles address conflicts among students or between students and teachers, but they can involve the larger community as well, such as administrators, parents, coaches, cafeteria workers, custodians and bus drivers. “Circles are invited by whoever is taking responsibility for the practice,” explains Armour. She adds that an administrator, coordinator or counselor typically calls for a circle. According to Armour, there is no exact blueprint for restorative discipline because each school’s practices and processes reflect its unique culture. She stresses that restorative discipline has to be part of a school’s or district’s culture to really take root. “You have to have administrative buy-in, with a deep sense of mission and purpose that’s shared at the campus level,” says Armour. “It’s not just a program for ‘bad kids.’” Accountability and the idea that things must be made right between the aggrieved party and the one who inflicted harm are crucial. Some student transgressions — such as those involving drugs or weapons — still call for mandated suspensions. However, many school incidents that have potential to escalate and lead to punitive responses — such as teasing or a heated exchange between teacher and student — can be addressed through restorative circles. The reality is that when students are suspended from school, they miss class time and fall further behind academically, which means they’re more likely to act out or be disruptive when they return.

Charles Dupre Superintendent, Fort Bend ISD

“Students can’t learn if they’re not in school,” says Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre. “Our trends were very concerning with the high rates of suspensions. Kids have to be in class.” When Dupre became Fort Bend ISD’s

superintendent in 2013, he launched a thorough review of the district’s disciplinary policies, procedures and practices, including its response to truancy.

‘The question is, if you suspend the student, does the student return ready to learn? There should be consequences and meaningful accountability. It is much more work for the teacher and student to sit down and talk about it.’ — Trudy Bender, Waco ISD behavior intervention coordinator In March 2015, he wrote an op-ed piece and released it to the media. In it, he confessed: “As an educator and African-American male with two sons, I share concerns about the number of African-American and Hispanic students who are subject to disciplinary actions in Fort Bend ISD and across the state.” In addition to creating a Department of Student Affairs during the 2013-2014 school year to ensure student-related policies are applied consistently throughout the district, Fort Bend ISD this year launched a restorative discipline program aimed at sixth graders across the district’s 14 middle schools. One of the program’s objectives is to impart problem-solving skills so that students can self-regulate their behavior. Moving from a punitive to a preventative model, such as the one in Fort Bend ISD, can be challenging for staff to adopt, says Trudy Bender, a behavior intervention coordinator in Waco ISD, which introduced restorative discipline practices this past fall. “It’s a paradigm shift for the teacher who wants to have the kid hear the ‘thump,’” she says. “The question is, if you suspend the student, does the student return ready to learn? There should be consequences and meaningful accountability. It is much more work for the teacher and student to sit down and talk about it.”

> See RESTORATIVE, page 16

Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016



Cynthia Brewers, a high school English teacher at Manor Alternative Placement Program in Manor ISD, facilitates a circle with students. According to Principal Marcus Jones, since introducing restorative discipline on his campus, teachers are more willing to stay in conversation with disruptive students versus sending them out of the classroom.

> Continued from page 15

Waco ISD placed two full-time restorative discipline counselors at Waco High School and Carver Middle School at the beginning of the school year. Since then, the district says suspension rates have declined by 35 percent at Waco High and by 57 percent at Carver. “It’s very encouraging,” Bender says. “We’re excited going forward. What we’re seeing has produced results. The more time in class, the better student academic achievement.” Being aware of how the community feels about student discipline is important when integrating restorative discipline practices on a campus. For instance, it might be hard for a parent to understand why a student who teased or bullied their child remains in the classroom. Thus, it’s important to communicate to the entire school


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

community that restorative discipline is about repairing harm and restoring relationships, versus exclusion and isolation. It’s about understanding what’s driving disruptive student behavior and — if an incident has occurred —addressing the needs of both the person harmed and the one who caused the harm. With restorative discipline, students are challenged to find healthy ways to resolve their differences, which fosters compassion, empathy and a sense of personal responsibility. Consider Ed White Middle School in North East ISD, which was the first school in Texas to embrace restorative discipline during the 2012-2013 school year. (Editor’s note: See our February 2014 cover story for an in-depth look.) The year before the pilot program started, Ed White Middle School led the district in suspensions, accounting for 29 percent of all suspensions. During the first year of the pilot program, suspensions

went down by 87 percent. Even as the district overall experienced a 17 percent increase in suspensions, Ed White Middle School had a decrease of 72 percent. “Teachers generally understand that the traditional way of doing things isn’t as effective as more and more of our kids are less and less Philip Carney traditional,” says Philip Carney, who Restorative was the principal discipline of Ed White coordinator, Middle School North East ISD when the program was launched. He is now North East ISD’s restorative discipline coordinator. Carney says districts interested in making a similar cultural shift need to make sure

there is someone on campus who can model restorative discipline language and behavior, as well as offer constructive feedback — mostly to teachers, but effectively to the whole school community, including students, administrators and parents. Carney himself meets three times a week with teachers to facilitate restorative circles, where they are free to discuss what is working for them and what they need to be successful. Giving students a leadership role in restorative circles has been effective for Spring Branch ISD. “With a youth apprenticeship model, where students take an active leadership role in conflict resolution, (students) are Anita Wadhwa much more willing to buy in,” says Restorative justice Anita Wadhwa, coordinator, the restorative justice coordinator Academy of at Spring Branch Choice, Spring ISD’s Academy Branch ISD of Choice. She is the author of “Restorative Justice in Urban Schools: Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline” and conducts trainings for Spring Branch ISD staff. “We’re about building agency in kids.” She cites a situation in which two groups of boys had planned to jump a Spanishspeaking student. After the two groups and the targeted student talked it out in a restorative circle, everyone agreed to drop the conflict. Marcus Jones is the principal of the Manor Alternative Placement (MAP) school in Manor ISD, which serves students ages 11 to 18 in grades 5 to 12. According to Jones, Marcus Jones he has found that having his teachers Principal, Manor participate in circles Alternative with their students Placement, three times a week Manor ISD as a preventative measure has reduced the suspension rate and built better relationships among students and teachers. “The first semester, the suspension rate decreased by 90 percent,” he says.

Jones shares a story of one teacher’s response after a student had cursed at her. Jones asked the teacher if she wanted the student to have disciplinary consequences, and the teacher’s reply was no. “She told me, ‘That would destroy the progress that had been made,’” recalls Jones, who says teachers seem more inclined to stay engaged with their students — versus sending them away when problems arise. Even in its earliest stages of adoption, restorative discipline can make a discernible difference. Kevin Phillips, executive director of the Caprock Cluster in Amarillo ISD, is in one of the districts that has taken advantage of the regional Kevin Phillips trainings. Like other districts, Executive director Amarillo ISD administrators were of the Caprock concerned that Cluster, their disciplinary Amarillo ISD approaches had created a disproportionate number of suspensions involving minority students. “We want to look at discipline differently,” he says. “It has helped us think about different options besides suspension.” Fostering a culture that strengthens relationships among all members in a school community is an essential ingredient to restorative discipline. “One of the biggest hurdles is the disconnect between the cultures,” says Sherwynn Patton, program director of Austin’s Life Anew Restorative Justice, which provides restorative discipline trainings to school districts. “The teachers don’t necessarily identify with the culture they’re teaching. Our training is how to connect with the community and school to change the climate. We train teachers to listen empathetically to the needs of the student and family. We’re helping to break down stereotypes. The behavior is a symptom of the problem.”

Trainings and resources To learn more about restorative discipline, check with your regional education service center or contact the Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue at The University of Texas at (512) 471-3197 or irjrd@austin.utexas.edu. The institute offers a list of reference materials and announces trainings. Visit the institute online at http://bit.ly/1Hz1Jlg.

kids being accountable in a meaningful way.” When cultural change occurs, it’s undeniably gratifying. Carney shares a recent incident between a seventh grade boy and girl. The boy had insulted the girl and then later acknowledged his errant behavior and wanted to make amends. During a restorative circle, the two students were able to listen to one another and work it out. “Kids know there’s a solution,” Carney says. “They don’t want to be in conflict. This gives them an out.” The same goes for teachers and others in the school community, but it takes time for the culture to shift. “In many situations, when teachers first sit down in a circle, they may say, ‘I’m here, but that kid is not coming back to my classroom,’” says Dupre. “After a while of working with restorative discipline, though, that changes to, ‘No one is ever taking you out of my class.’” MERRI ROSENBERG, a former freelance education columnist and reporter for The New York Times Westchester section, is a New York-based writer and editor who reports on educational issues for regional and national publications.

Restorative discipline can’t be rushed, warns Armour. “Don’t push to do a quick fix,” she says. “This is at least a three- to five-year slow cooker to be successful and sustainable. Success is about process.” “You have to understand what accountability looks like,” adds Carney. “We know what punishment looks like. Restorative discipline is about accountability. It’s not therapy; it’s about

Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


Photo Feature

TCEA ATTRACTS TECHIES TO TEXAS CAPITAL CITY The Texas Computer Education Association hosted its annual conference in February. The five-day event featured more than 900 industry expert and peerled presentations on technology integration across all curricula areas for pre-K through higher education.

▲ Annie Birrell-Miller, Angela Silvas, Katie Leining and Alayna Stoll of Round Rock ISD.

▲ Veronica Johnson, Misty Bellard and Heggie Coulter of Orangefield ISD. ▼ Jeffrey Brewton, Greg Smith, Justin Snider and Erin Appl of Round Rock ISD.

▲ Sarah Altom and Brenda

Coffman of Weatherford ISD.

▲ Sherrie Berry, Julie Salvato and Shelley Kozma of Lampasas ISD.

► Maggie Fulton and Kate Ogden of The Lamplighter School.

▲ Dee Fitch and Diane

Ramsay of Mount Vernon ISD.

▲ Connie Wetuski, Brenda McDonald, Joanna Sorenson and Brittney Wade of Anderson-Shiro CISD.


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

▲ Amy Soupiset, Rachel Moczygemba and Gracie Brim of Alamo Heights ISD.

Who’s News > Continued from page 8

has coached in numerous Texas districts, most recently leading North Shore High School in Galena Park ISD.

Leander ISD Rob Schoenfeld has been chosen to serve as Glenn High School’s athletic coordinator and head football coach. He has been with the district since 2012 as a coach at Cedar Park High. Schoenfeld is a graduate of The University of Texas and has a master’s degree from the University of Houston in Victoria.

Lockhart ISD Lockhart ISD has hired Kimberly Brents as deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction. An educator for 23 years, she comes to her new job from Lake Travis ISD, where she was principal of Lake Travis High for seven years. Brents received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s degree in educational administration from Texas State University.

Lorena ISD Sandra Talbert — an educator for 32 years, 14 of those with the district and the past 10 as superintendent — has announced her retirement. Her career has included assignments in both Mississippi and Texas and experience at the elementary, secondary, administrative and college levels. Talbert, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and a master’s degree from Sam Houston State University, received her doctorate from Tarleton State University.

Lubbock ISD Marcus Shavers, who was associate head football coach and defensive coordinator at West Mesquite High School in Mesquite ISD, is now head coach and athletic coordinator for Estacado High. He played football at the University of Arkansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education.

Former middle school Principal Mike Worth has been selected to serve as associate superintendent. He began his career in 1990 as a teacher and took his first principalship in 2005. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech University.

McKinney ISD Former McKinney North High School Lead Assistant Principal Paula Kent has been promoted to serve as the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. The 24-year veteran educator received her bachelor’s degree from East Texas State University and her master’s degree in biology and natural sciences from Stephen F. Austin State University. She is pursuing her doctorate at the University of North Texas.

Mansfield ISD Athletic Director Debbie Weems, one of the first women to hold that post in Texas, is retiring. After serving as the district’s girls’ head basketball coach for six years, she became assistant athletic director and was named to the top position in 1996. Her retirement will bring to a close a 36-year career in education.

Northwest ISD (Fort Worth) Travis Pride has been

approved to serve as head football coach and athletic coordinator at Nelson High School. He has worked as a coach for 24 years, 11 of those in positions similar to his new one, most recently in Mansfield ISD. Pride received his bachelor’s degree from Mesa State College. After 11 years as district superintendent, Karen Rue has announced her upcoming retirement, effective at the end of the academic year. Prior to her time with Northwest ISD, she was superintendent of Tuloso-Midway ISD.

Pflugerville ISD Longtime educator Chico Portillo, who has been with Pflugerville ISD for 25 years, most recently as coordinator of fine arts, retired this spring.

Marshall ISD An interim superintendent has been announced for Marshall ISD. He is J. Brian Nichols, who served in the same capacity in 2012. Prior to that, he spent eight years as the district’s superintendent before retiring in 2002, after which time he served as dean of education at East Texas Baptist University.

Maud ISD

Steve Scheffler, former director of college relations for the Lone Star College System, is now Pflugerville ISD’s communications officer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Texas and a master’s degree in public administration from Sam Houston State University.

Charles Martin, who had been serving in an

Rankin ISD

Mineral Wells ISD

Keith Richardson, who had been leading the district in an interim position, is now the superintendent.

interim capacity, is now superintendent.

Veteran educator Larry Blair has agreed to serve as the district’s interim superintendent. He has served in the same position in several Texas districts, most recently Pampa ISD. In addition to numerous administrative posts, he was an adjunct professor at Sam Houston State University and Texas A&M University. Blair earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Angelo State University and his doctorate in education from The University of Texas.

Mt. Vernon ISD Former New Summerfield ISD Superintendent Greg Weiss now leads Mt. Vernon ISD as superintendent.

Navasota ISD Patrick Goodman has been named athletic director and head football coach. He has been with the district for 11 years, serving as head basketball coach and assistant football coach.

Richardson ISD Rebeca Henriquez comes to her new position as principal of Richland Elementary School from Dallas ISD, where she led Cowart Elementary. The 16-year veteran educator earned her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Puerto Rico and her master’s degree in education from the University of North Texas.

Round Rock ISD Cathy Malerba has accepted the position of executive director of assessment and evaluation, moving up from serving as director of research and evaluation since 2011. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of Texas, where she also earned her doctorate in human development and family studies.

> See Who’s News, page 37 Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


Photo Feature

SXSWedu ATTRACTS INTERNATIONAL CROWD Educators worldwide gathered in Austin this past March for SXSWedu, a four-day education festival featuring keynote speakers Temple Grandin, Jane McGonigal and Ayah Bdair.

▲ Samantha Tankersley and ▲ Jessica Ozuna of Hutto ISD with

Sarah Bishop-Root of Foundation for Excellence in Education in Washington, D.C.

▲ Hayley Phillips, Justine Zimmer and Lori Swartzendruber of ACT Foundation.

Cindy Brackmeyer and David Surdovel of Manor ISD.

▲Lynne Cole of Education Funding Partners and Chip Fesko of Edutopia.

▲ Saskia Marquis, Karen Acton and

Leslie Newman of Upper Grand District School Board in Ontario, Canada.

▲ Allison Waddell and Erin Olnon of the University of Washington.

Deana Cady and Becky Webster of Leander ISD.

▲ Randa Ruiz and Ryan Harvey of Round Rock ISD.


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

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A football family legacy


By Robert Brezina

The Brezina brothers stand next to the bronze cougar statue that commemorates their family’s football legacy at the University of Houston. Pictured are Gus, Bob, Bernie, Mark, Steve and Greg.


n the Legends Plaza in the forecourt of the new football stadium at the University of Houston stands a life-size statue of a magnificent cougar sculpted in bronze. A creation of artist David Nelson, the statue’s onyx marble base is engraved by Lonnie Bryson and tells the story of a legendary Texas football family. At the beginning of the 2015 football season, the University of Houston celebrated the story of the “Brezina boys,” who left an unparalleled legacy at the institution. Former University of Houston head football coach Bill Yeoman, who led the program from 1962 to 1986, summed up the Brezina family’s contribution to college football when he said: “The Brezina name will forever be entwined with the University of Houston and will always be a part of the great American tradition of college football.” I was the first of the Brezina boys to attend the University of Houston. After college and a brief stint in the NFL, I dedicated my career to the field of education, which included serving as president of TASA from 1991 to 1992. So, I was truly honored when TASA invited me to tell our story. Every great story includes wonderful characters, humble beginnings, a bit of tragedy and redemption and a happy ending. The Brezina family is one such story, an amazing story of family and faith. Our dad was a strong man of faith whose intention was to become a priest. However, he had to leave the seminary due to a medical condition before being confirmed; otherwise, I would not be writing this article today. He was born with a hole in his heart, and a long life for him was not expected. Instead of giving up, my dad decided to persevere and make the most out of the life God had given him. He became a loving husband and dedicated father. He loved us and our mother with every ounce of energy he had. He was limited with what he could do to provide for our family, but he persevered always. One of the things I remember most about Dad — besides being a fun-loving, hard-working man — is that he was a true innovator. Ahead of his time, he was acclaimed for his forward-looking methods


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

in farming and cultivation. Many times, I am asked what made the Brezina boys so competitive. I just smile and tell the story of how Dad would line us up for a foot race, careful to place us in line based on our abilities so we would all have an equal chance to finish first. It was a 50-yard dash for me, the oldest, and a little less for Steve, the youngest. Those times form my fondest memories of Dad and the competitive yet family-first nature he nurtured in all his children. He passed away at the age of 37 and left his wife, Gertrude (“Gertie”), with eight children — seven boys and one girl. Six months later, our youngest brother, only a little more than a year old, died of polio. It was the year before the vaccine was discovered. Relatives counseled our mother to divide up her children, but she held firm: “God gave me these children and God will keep these children with me.” Faith always has been the guiding light for our family. Whether it was praying every morning and night or before meals, we took time to be thankful for what God had given us and prayed for his continued guidance and blessings. We never missed Mass on Sunday. Our mother led by example, rather than talking a good game. She taught us solid core values. One we heard over and over from her was: “I never quit, and I won’t let you quit.” Through hard work and perseverance, she raised our family. To help feed us and make ends meet, she worked in the school cafeteria, ran a paper route, raised chickens and pigs, and had a milk cow. We knew we’d better get a gallon of milk every morning and evening and complete all of our chores, or we would have to go back and finish the job before we went to bed. We all learned the meaning of hard work and commitment early on in life. All of this laid the framework and enabled us to be a key part of the University of Houston legacy. The Brezina children — Gus, Bernie, Greg, Mark (“Butch”), Steve, Nancy and me — amassed more than 90 varsity letters at Louise High School. All six boys received football scholarships to the University of Houston. We are the only family in American football history to have six brothers play on scholarship for the same major college and under

the same head coach. Collectively, we earned 16 varsity letters at the University of Houston. We were blessed to be honored with several accolades, including three All-Americans, two team captains, one MVP of University of Houston football, one MVP of the Bluebonnet Bowl, one MVP of the All-American Bowl and two recognitions of Defensive Player of the Year. Greg, Mark and I went on to play professional football. In 1962, I was honored to be the captain of Coach Yeoman’s first team. Twenty-five years later, my son, Rob, became captain of Coach Yeoman’s last team. What a blessing it was for us all to have the privilege to play for Hall of Fame Coach Bill Yeoman. No one can replace our father, but Coach Yeoman certainly provided support, discipline and life lessons like a father, and for that, we are all eternally grateful. Who would have imagined that a single mother who, through a life of sacrifice, dedication and deep love, would become the matriarch of one of the nation’s most notable college football families? In his book, “Texas High School Football,” author Bill McMurray penned: “The Brezina Family has left a memorable imprint on the sport.” If it were not for our mother believing in us and Coach Yeoman and the University of Houston giving us a chance, none of us would have had the opportunity to go to college, much less graduate. Our life lessons and education enabled all of us to pursue and obtain success in the fields of education, business and public service. Following our mother’s death in 2011, the Houston Chronicle best summed up her life and legacy, her incredible, indomitable spirit: “The Matriarch of Texas’ most prolific football family is remembered for faith through difficult times that inspired her children and grandchildren. In the process, she enabled them to carve out a unique heritage at the University of Houston.” To our surprise and deep appreciation, the University of Houston Alumni Association honored her by lowering the University of Hous-

ton flag to half-staff in her honor. What a tribute to a remarkable woman. The beauty of this story does not end there. At the dedication of the Legends Plaza last fall, the new University of Houston football coach Tom Herman and I were discussing the traits and values of the “Brezina boys.” When the conversation came up about our mother’s mantra about never quitting or letting us quit, Coach Herman pulled out his pen and pad and started writing. We talked about how relatable this was to Cougar football. Over the years, the Cougars often have been the underdog and have had to fight for respect on the national sports scene. Like Mama, the Cougars never quit. Cougar pride never dies! Motivated by this story, Coach Herman decided to create a new tradition for the new stadium and the new statue. Prior to each game, Coach Herman had each of the players and staff form a line to file past the statue and rub the head of the cougar. We heard about this before the second home game, so several family members went to see it for ourselves. What a thrill and deep sense of pride for our family, our university and Cougar football it was to see the beginning of a new tradition inspired by our mother. I don’t think this had much to do with the fantastic success of our Peach Bowl Champion Cougars, but we like to think that it may have had a little impact on this team and their positive family attitude! Just like our mother, who never quit and never let us quit, the University of Houston Cougars will never quit. Go, Coogs! ROBERT BREZINA served as TASA president from 1991 to 1992.

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Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016



Texas Association of Community Schools

Hutto ISD’s Doug Killian considers the politics of public education by Ford Gunter

“There’s a segment of society that is absolutely attacking public schools, and it’s just not an accurate portrayal of what’s going on or of our challenges,” says Hutto ISD Superintendent Doug Killian.


arly on, Doug Killian had a plan.

“I had a goal in the fourth grade of what I wanted to do with my life,” says Killian, the incoming president of the Texas Association of Community Schools. “Military, pilot, astronaut, politics, then teach.” Four out of five isn’t bad. “It’s gone similar to that, just a little out of order,” says Killian, an Air Force brat, raised in two countries and five states. He had moved 10 times by the time he graduated from high school in San Antonio. Killian first checked the military box, entering the Air Force after earning degrees in political science and history from Southwest Texas State University. (He refuses to use the newer name, Texas State.) An eyesight issue ended pilot training, so Killian switched to the Marine Corps, derailing any plans that involved outer space. “There aren’t many Marine astronauts,” he says. After leaving the Corps and an unfulfilling stint in retail, Killian wanted to teach. At the time, he was helping his wife scout nursing degrees. A department head at one of the programs she was considering, Texas A&M International, knew someone in United ISD in Laredo looking for a first grade teacher. “They took a risk on me,” he says with sincere gratitude. “I went in with an emergency permit to teach first grade. I have a great appreciation for early childhood teachers.” After two years of teaching first grade, Killian moved to the disciplinary alternative program (DAP) high school, where he taught social


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

studies for a year. When an assistant principal job opened up at another high school, a friend encouraged Killian to apply. “My friend said I needed to be in administration,” he says. “I like to fix things. I wanted to be someone who didn’t just complain, but made change. It’s always been a move to impact more kids.” At age 27, with only three years of teaching experience, Killian made the leap to the front office, where he finally checked that politics box. “To be successful, you have to build a consensus; that’s the politics of it,” Killian says of his career in administration. “I enjoy listening to people say what they think we need and then trying to make that happen and collaborating on that.” In a way, it reminds Killian of the conversations he and his sister would have at the dinner table with their parents while growing up. Politics, economics, literature, life — nothing was off the table. Everyone’s ideas and opinions were encouraged. Killian carried this collaborative, inclusive ethos with him early in his career, but it really blossomed when he took an assistant superintendent position in Poteet ISD, which led to being superintendent there and then of Huffman and Hutto ISDs. “When you’re able to get something done that in the past couldn’t happen, that’s the most rewarding thing,” he says. “It’s more rewarding when it’s not your idea. Everyone thinks they have the idea, but when it’s everyone’s idea, it’s more impactful.” Naturally, Killian expects politics to play a role in his tenure as the president of the Texas Association of Community Schools, but not in

the dirty sense of the word. His politics are idealistic, encompassing and welcoming. “Ever since I’ve been involved with TACS, the organization has been very service-minded to the needs of its members, very interested in making a difference and very responsive to what the super leadership and districts want to do,” he says. “Public education is, what, a third of the state budget? It’s a pretty important venture, and essential to the future of the state.” Killian’s focus over the next year will be voter turnout, creating advocates for public education from the ground up. “I’m very conservative, but very much an advocate of public schools,” he says, aware that today, those two don’t often jive. “One of (Texas’) grievances with Mexico, why we revolted, was there was no system of free public schools. We’ve lost track that that was in our core values. It’s one of the reasons the country of Texas was founded in the first place.” While choking off the public school system may be the rallying cry of yet another vocal political minority, Killian sees apathy and indifference as public education’s chief enemies. “There’s a segment of society that is absolutely attacking public schools, and it’s just not an accurate portrayal of what’s going on or of our challenges,” he says. “You hear politicians



bashing a failing school but not addressing the rising challenges facing schools. What test are we on for accountability? We’ve had TEAMS, TAAS, the other TAAS, TAKS, EOC, and we’ve added in STAAR. We’re about to go into next-generation assessments. We cranked up the degree of difficulty of the test over the past 30 years and, at same time, gotten to be a poorer demographic of children. “We’ve held our own in a lot of ways,” he says. “There are more kids taking the SAT or ACT. Scores are flat, but if you have a larger population taking the test, that’s a win. You’re testing a deeper field of kids.” In some ways, Killian has come a long way from the self-described “precocious, inquisitive” youngster. In other ways, he’s still kicking ideas around the dinner table. “It’s been 12 years as a super now, and I also turned 50 this year,” Killian says. “I’m very philosophical about what I’ve done well and what I’ve done wrong. Public school employees and member districts, we can be our own worst enemies. But we’re ambassadors. We need to get the word out that we’re listening to our communities, our business owners. It’s not all about testing.”

Some good news I recently received: My oldest son got a 33 on his ACT.

Where you’ll find me on the weekends: My wife calls it “old man breakfast.” Generally, you’ll find me at a café, eating breakfast and visiting with people. Then, you might find me at the gun range, too, because I’m an avid shooter.

A daily habit or ritual I have is:

I have a cup of coffee every morning and read my email and education news on Texas ISD and Harvey Kronberg’s “The Quorum Report.”

My closest friends would describe me as: passionate, talkative.

FORD GUNTER is a writer and filmmaker in Houston.



Fun Facts About Doug Killian –


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Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016



Thought leaders and innovators in education

Empowering underserved students is a labor of love for Houston ISD’s Rick Cruz by Leila Kalmbach

Houston ISD EMERGE students jump for joy during a tour of Harvard University.


ou might think a central office administrator in a major school district wouldn’t have time to make home visits to check on a student’s welfare — certainly not the chief of a whole division. There’s no way an administrator of that caliber would have time to make visits that run later than 10 p.m. and involve students who have already graduated but are facing real-world challenges — like preparing to return to college following an accident. But if you think that, you’ve never met Houston ISD’s Rick Cruz. Cruz started as a fifth grade teacher in the district through Teach for America in 2008. Four years later, the mayor of Houston declared an official “Rick Cruz Day” to celebrate the educator’s successes. “That was a little surreal,” Cruz admits. Since then, he has moved on to serve as assistant superintendent for college readiness, as major projects officer and, beginning this past January, as chief of major projects. The Houston ISD Major Projects Division oversees a number of initia-


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

tives, programs and departments focused on preparing students for postsecondary success. Under Cruz’s leadership, the district has seen huge improvements in the numbers of students applying to college, in the quality of colleges applied to, and in SAT scores and AP scores. The Major Projects Division also oversees the EMERGE program, which helps students from underserved areas prepare for success at the nation’s top colleges. Cruz started EMERGE with a group of colleagues and friends in 2010 during his second year of teaching. “We were leading the program after school and on the weekends,” he says. “We started at one school in the district, and it was very successful at getting a group of kids to go off to great schools. They were the first in their families to go to college.” The program now works with approximately 700 students across the district’s high schools. It even has spread to nearby Spring Branch ISD. Cruz, who grew up in Mexico, throughout the United States and in South America, knows how influential a teacher or administrator can be in a student’s life. He decided to major in literature at Yale University, thanks to a high school literature teacher who encouraged him. Initially, Cruz thought he would become a college professor, but his keen desire to help empower people from underserved communities led him to become a public school teacher.

Although EMERGE is aimed at high school students, Cruz says the fifth graders he taught were a big part of his inspiration. Most of them were from low-income or immigrant families. “They were so talented and so smart,” he says. “Those kids kept me on my toes, and it was really them, those 10- and 11-year-olds, who prompted me to start the program. They’re capable of [getting into college], but they don’t necessarily know what the process is like.” In the years since EMERGE began, the successes of the students served have been Cruz’s proudest moments. He recalls one student who wasn’t in the district, but he would drive in every day for EMERGE activities. He was an immigrant who was worried he wouldn’t be able to go to college due to his family’s finances and his legal status. “One of the most exciting days of my life, I was driving on the way to work when I was teaching, and I got a phone call from this student early in the morning,” Cruz says. “I thought, ‘This is either going to be good news or very bad news.’” It turned out to be good news: He had been accepted to Yale on a full scholarship. The student cried as he told Cruz, and Cruz cried with him. “I remember getting goosebumps and going to school; all I could talk to my students about

that day was that kid and how they could do it too,” he recalls. These days, Cruz doesn’t get to work directly with students and families as much as he did when he was a teacher, and he says he misses that interaction. He admits that working in administration can sometimes be discouraging, and that’s why it’s so important for administrators to visit the schools and maintain a connection with the students. In his limited free time, Cruz loves to travel and experience different cultures. He also loves cooking, eating international cuisine, spending time with his family and his two pugs, reading, listening to music and fishing. He’s also working toward a doctorate in the cooperative superintendency program at The University of Texas. His ultimate goal is to continue to make sure that more kids are graduating from high school and moving on to colleges and careers in which they’re successful — though he’s not sure exactly how that will play out in the future. “I love the work I’m doing now,” he says. “I hope to continue to be able to expand on it, continue to make a bigger impact.” Meanwhile, he continues to receive good news from students he already has reached, such as one of the very first students who

Fun Facts About Rick Cruz –

Three artists you’ll always find on my playlist:

The Beatles, João Gilberto, Coldplay.

Something most people don’t know about me:

I grew up in three countries and have parents/grandparents from five different countries.

If I could trade places for a day, I would be: deep-sea fishing off the Florida Keys.

Something that keeps me up at night is:

thinking about ways we can better serve our underserved student populations.

went through the EMERGE program. He is graduating from Oberlin this year. “He sent me an email just out of the blue last week, telling me that it has been challenging but incredibly rewarding,” Cruz says, “and that he’s now going to enter education because of the effect that EMERGE had on him. He wants to pay it forward.” LEILA KALMBACH is a freelance writer in Austin.


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Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association

El Paso ISD’s Nancy Tovar to lead 100-year-old organization By Raven L. Hill

h TEPSA President-elect Nancy Tovar discusses public education with U.S. Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, D-El Paso.


arly photos of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA) show the face of school leadership back then: male and mostly white. As the association prepares to enter its second century of service to principals and school leaders, incoming President Nancy Tovar, a woman of color, reflects today’s more diverse education landscape.

She saw the true value of TEPSA four years later when she took on her first principal assignment. Tovar says through the group’s First-Time Campus Administrators Academy, she received vital mentoring and support at a time when she was most in need of both.

While much about public education has changed over the past century, Tovar says she believes TEPSA has the “recipe for success.”

She recalled that one academy speaker compared a year as a principal as going from a “grape to a raisin.”

“We provide continuous and unwavering support for principals and school leaders,” she says. “Our vision is always looking to the future.” An affiliate of the National Elementary School Principals Association, TEPSA will celebrate its centennial year in 2017. Formed in 1917 by a group of 50 principals that met each year at the Texas State Teachers Association convention, the membership now totals nearly 6,000 prekindergarten through eighth grade school leaders. Tovar speaks with pride and excitement about leading the organization at this stage in its history. “My presidential year is shining a spotlight on the organization and a celebration of 100 years of singularly doing what we are doing. We are the only organization in Texas that meets the needs of this group of school leadership,” says Tovar, a former principal who now leads elementary personnel and recruiting in El Paso ISD. “My goal for this year is to share with Texas and the nation that TEPSA is an amazing organization. It’s support that we all rely on.” A TEPSA member since 1999, Tovar joined at the urging of her principal and mentor, Don Smelser. He encouraged the novice teacher to join a professional organization for networking purposes. Tovar started going to meetings and, just like that, “I was absolutely hooked on it.”


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

“The first three years as a principal is when you need the greatest support and guidance from others,” she says. “It’s kind of a lonely job.”

“TEPSA is how you plump yourself back up to grape,” Tovar muses. “In those meetings, I would go from raisin back to grape. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise. I think many of our principals need that kind of mentoring, and I really think TEPSA fits the bill.” Her passion for the organization is obvious. “I love what I do,” she says, “and I love TEPSA.” Her involvement on the TEPSA Board of Directors is varied and includes stints as event chairman, member at large, Region 19 president and first vice president. Similarly, Tovar’s career path is anchored in experience at different levels – seven years as a teacher, four years as an assistant principal, more than a decade as a principal and now as a central office administrator. The El Paso native is the daughter of career educators and a graduate of The University of Texas in El Paso. “Education and the school district are in my DNA,” she says. “El Paso has always been home and it always will be.” She has worked in all parts of the district throughout her career, from schools near Fort Bliss to the border. She has worked with English language learners from humble beginnings to students with more affluent roots.

Smelser, her former principal, says he believes Tovar’s experience will translate well to her new role. “She knows the principalship. She knows the needs of students in the classroom. She’s worked at different campuses,” he says. “She’s worked on committees with principals around the state. She’s got a good grasp of what needs to happen in the state of Texas.” For TEPSA’s success to continue over the next 100 years, Tovar says, the organization will need to sharpen its focus on preserving public education. “As an organization, we spend a lot of time advocating for our teachers, students, schools and school leaders,” she says. “We will have to keep fighting that good fight every day to keep the funding and focus on public education.” “Fighting that good fight” also includes supporting changes that reflect the state’s changing demographics and students’ learning styles, she adds. Tovar’s philosophy on education administration was shaped in large part by the four years she spent as an assistant principal working under Sandy Stone. The two women worked side by side, sharing an office in a school that was not built with much administrative space.

every move,” she recalls. “I learned so much from her about the importance of working collaboratively with teachers and setting high expectations for students, teachers and yourself as the leader.” More importantly, Tovar says, she learned the importance of leading with heart. “(Stone) believed strongly in not just developing students academically but socially and emotionally — the importance of creating an environment where children are valued and supported in every aspect,” Tovar says. “The school should become a home for your staff and for students. The students should see school as a place where people take care of them.”

Fun Facts About Nancy Tovar –

Two words that describe me when I was in elementary school: Incessant talker.

A bad habit I’d like to break:

Bingeing on candy. My favorites include Chewy SweeTarts, Smarties, Skittles and Mentos.

Favorite part of the day: Dinner with my family.

A skill I’d like to learn: Play the guitar.

Stone, who is now retired, has wonderful memories of her former assistant principal and high hopes for what Tovar has in store for TESPA. “She is the best — absolutely the best they could have. When she sets her mind to something, it happens,” Stone says. “People will follow her because she exudes that confidence.” RAVEN L. HILL is a former Austin AmericanStatesman education reporter.

“It was an amazing experience to watch her

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Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016



Education service center programs & practices

ESC Region 7 supports early childhood education through Ecoland ▲

By Ashley Holt Patterson

Students are invited to “camp” at ESC Region 7’s Ecoland while on safari. The Serengeti center provides students with real­-life camping gear, including tents, clothing, binoculars and cooking utensils. From cooking dinner over the fire to observing animals, the students learn how to live and survive in this harsh environment.


group of preschoolers are filled with wonder as they adventure together through a make-believe safari. They ride in a 12-passenger Jeep outfitted with LCD monitors for a windshield and windows that display moving images of wildlife in their natural habitat. With wide eyes and curious minds, they watch. Nearby, a giraffe reaches for its afternoon snack, licking leaves off a nearby tree. The children erupt in giggles and cries of “ewww” as they discover the giraffe’s tongue is really long and — gasp! — “It’s black! It’s black!” The giggling continues as the teacher engages her class in an inquiry-based discussion that challenges her students to compare that silly-looking tongue to their own and to investigate how long the giraffe’s tongue might be. Welcome to EcoLand, where a safari adventure is one of many authentic learning experiences bringing science to life for early learners in East Texas. EcoLand, ESC Region 7’s new early learning center in Kilgore, began as the dream of several Region 7 visionaries. Since opening its doors in October 2014, EcoLand has served more than 13,000 of Region 7’s


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

pre-K, Head Start, preschool programs for children with disabilities (PPCD) and kindergarten children. It is available at no cost to these populations in Region 7’s 17-county service area. EcoLand features nine content-rich learning centers that make up four pods, including Serengeti and Polar; Wind, Energy and Solar; Water, Plants and Animals; and Rocks and Recycling. Each learning center and its related instructional materials are designed to promote shared-learning experiences for children through common concepts and linked activities. In addition to going on a safari, children can generate power by pedaling exercise bikes in the energy room. They can look for rock-dwelling lizards in the rock center or for a pair of chinchillas in the plants and animals center. In the recycling center, students can build, categorize and create things with sustainable materials and learn how to preserve the earth’s resources. All of these experiences incite excitement and interest, and many more hands-on, authentic learning experiences await those who enter EcoLand’s doors.

Extending classroom learning EcoLand’s unique environment extends learning opportunities beyond the early childhood classroom, as teachers are able to customize their visits based on content they are teaching. Children are provided with meaningful ways to connect what they experience with the learned content, and this process is known as the “EcoLand Experience.” Each center is set up as an individual classroom, complete with components of an ideal early learning environment, such as child-sized furniture, hands-on instructional materials, multisensory stimuli, and spaces for independent and small and large group activities. Also, class sizes are capped at 12 students. Instructional materials and activities also are aligned with the state’s pre-K guidelines and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards, which ESC Region 7 Associate Director for Curriculum Services Betty Steele says is important in creating a developmentally focused learning environment.

“Instruction must support children academically, socially and emotionally,” says Steele. “At EcoLand, learning takes place in a real-life, science-rich environment, where children are engaged in inquiry and exploration as defined in the guidelines.” EcoLand’s two instructional specialists, Amber Johnston and Lisa Richardson, work with Region 7 Head Start and curriculum specialists to plan and create instructional materials and activities to ensure alignment with guidelines and standards. Planning is focused on expected learning outcomes and instructional support. “We use research-based strategies to support teachers in their instruction,” says Richardson. “Modeling best practices is key to successful learning. We want these ideas to be springboards for future teaching and learning in the teachers’ classrooms.” Sheron Darragh, ESC Region 7 director for curriculum services, says EcoLand is unlike typical field trips, where students are led through various activities and displays and then go home. Approximately 10 or more suggested activities have been designed for each learning center, including pre- and post-activities that teachers are expected to use to extend student learning beyond the EcoLand Experience. “EcoLand’s activities are designed to promote effective teacher-student interaction,” Darragh says. Adds Johnston: “EcoLand gives teachers a place to facilitate common experiences for their students to draw from when learning. Students are then able to make connections to their EcoLand experiences throughout the year when they learn something new in their traditional classroom.” Instructional materials and resources are available for teachers when they enter each center. “Teachers enjoy the simplicity of walking into the learning center and having everything they need right in front of them,” says Richardson. “The activities, materials and environment have been created. Teachers only need to implement the activity based on the needs of their students.”

Modeling excellence through professional support To ensure teachers know how to implement the activities and use the supporting instructional materials and resources, teachers must become EcoLand certified prior to scheduling an EcoLand Experience. Johnston and Richardson offer EcoLand teacher certification trainings in the summer. To date, 650

Students ride exercise bicycles and watch as the energy they produce illuminates the wall display in front of them at Ecoland’s energy center.

pre-K, kindergarten and Head Start teachers have obtained an EcoLand certification. “Just like it is imperative for teachers to plan for purposeful instruction in their classrooms, the same is true for their visit to EcoLand,” says Johnston. “Without training, teachers would blindly use the given materials with no real direction or purpose. Training allows teachers to maximize instructional time and in-depth planning.” Teachers have the opportunity to walk through every learning center during the training to explore materials and create instructional plans. Once certified, they are provided with access to a variety of online instructional tools to use before, during and after their EcoLand Experience, including comprehensive activity guides and video tutorials. Kitty McComas, a kindergarten teacher at Northside Primary in Palestine ISD, says her training resulted in a seamless and fun EcoLand Experience in early March. “From the training for teachers to the facility and activities, EcoLand is, by far, the best experience my students and I have had,” she says. “The certification training, materials and resources helped me understand all of the activities and objectives for the learning pod we visited, which allowed me to better help my students engage in each activity. It was wonderful.” Recommended teacher-student ratios of 2:12 are maintained by requiring teachers to use online resources to train accompanying volunteers on all activities and facility rules. Teachers also must verify that a district has an approved background check on file for each volunteer. Says Richardson: “We encourage teachers to be very proactive in training and choosing reliable volunteers.” Although volunteers are helpful in supervising students, they often play a more vital role. “Volunteers are of utmost importance in the

learning centers because they, too, take on an instructional role,” says Richardson. “They assist with activity implementation and one-on-one discovery. This greatly impacts learning experiences by supporting smaller groups and lower adult-student ratios.” Parents of early learners often serve as volunteers, which Richardson says supports parent-child interactions at home. “Volunteer parents are immersed in the learning process here,” she says. “We hope this experience inspires and excites parents, so they will continue to be engaged and supportive in their child’s education.” Additional embedded training opportunities are available for teachers and volunteers through the Investigation Station, EcoLand’s model classroom for early childhood learning, which teachers may visit when scheduling their EcoLand Experience. In the model classroom, Johnston and Richardson demonstrate instruction geared toward further mastery of the TEKS or pre-K guidelines. “After we demonstrate an activity, teachers and volunteers try it out with their small group of students,” says Johnston. “Teachers and volunteers begin to emulate higher-order questioning and vocabulary used in our demonstration, which is exciting to watch. There are many ‘a-ha moments’ had by all at EcoLand, and we are grateful for the opportunity to provide Region 7 children and teachers with their favorite place to learn and teach.” EcoLand and ESC Region 7 staff are making plans to accommodate an additional 5,200 students in the 2016-2017 school year. For more information, visit Ecoland. esc7.net. Ashley Holt Patterson is the former ESC Region 7 communications specialist and now serves as the online instructional designer for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, Okla.

Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016



Why I love technology By Eric Nguyen


echnology is best when it brings people together.” — Matt Mullenweg

Technology is progress. One of the greatest things about being alive right now is being able to look back and see how much we have evolved as humans. From communicating through snail mail to being able to have fullon conversations with people while looking at them through apps such as Skype, it’s pretty easy to say that our advancements have been tremendous. If it wasn’t for the laptop I have, I wouldn’t be able to type this article right now, and there would be no way for me to communicate any of my thoughts, which, in turn, would lead to me mainly keeping these thoughts to myself. But I have been blessed with the opportunity to share my opinions on technology with an audience, so I will do my best to convey what I have on my mind. The best thing about how much technology has evolved — other than through amazing video games that I love so dearly — is through communication. Technology allows us to express ourselves in ways that weren’t imaginable in the early days of pyramid construction and lack of cell phones, which would’ve made life so much easier. Imagine the early river civilizations texting each other about what goods to make, goods to trade, early river drama, et cetera. With how big the Earth is, it’s reasonable to understand why it’d be convenient to be able to

communicate with someone on the opposite side of the world. Communication is the best — and probably the only — way to relay a message to someone. (Did I mention I make bad jokes?) Technology has helped me get to where I am now — for example, when I won the Superintendent’s Rising Star Award for a short film I made. That would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the skills I learned when using Adobe Premiere and putting the film on YouTube, which helped it reach thousands of people. It’s because of film-editing software and YouTube that I’ll be able to reach a larger audience than if it were by newspaper ads alone. I intend to master the art of Adobe software, which will lead to a more promising career in the film industry than if all I knew was Microsoft Movie Maker. With YouTube as an outlet for my passion in film, I believe I have a fighting chance in the film industry. Being able to talk to my fans really helps with the creativity process, and I can’t express how important communication is, or how much it has really advanced to our advantage. After high school I intend on attending the University of North Texas to pursue a double major in film and computer science. I’m hoping that with a film major, I will be able to make a name for myself in the film industry, which is a lifetime dream of mine. But because of how difficult it is to get into

the industry, my backup plan is computer science, not only because of the rising job market in that area, but also because I love computers in general, partly due to my love for computer gaming. I started a YouTube channel in the summer of 2014 and have gained 181 subscribers as of March 28. On this channel, I made my award-winning short film, “Alone: A Depression Short Film,” and a few other videos, ranging from me awkwardly singing to a documentary about my high school’s academic decathlon team that has made state for 20 straight years. GO, NIMITZ VIKINGS! If anything, I’m really hoping that my YouTube channel will end up being my “foot in the door” for the film industry. I really do hope that the potential others see in me is good enough to make a difference in the film industry. If I can affect the lives of many with my films, then I can truly be happy. Making a difference in someone’s life — that’s what I really hope to be able to do. ERIC NGUYEN is a senior at Nimitz High School in Irving ISD. He recently participated in the district’s iCreate Next Generation Showcase, hosted by the district’s Digital Development and Digital Media and Learning Resources departments. The showcase gave students the opportunity to demonstrate how they are applying the digital tools offered in Irving ISD classrooms.

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


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


News in fine arts education


Comal ISD student sound technician Andrew Gonzales ensures the audience can hear all actors, music and sound effects.

Going backstage with the New Fine Arts TEKS By Roxanne Schroeder


ith your ticket in hand, you enter the Fine Arts Building or cafetorium at your school. You find your way to your seat and look at the program to see which of the students you know. You look at the stage with anticipation. You see the theater director and send a little wave. Have you ever asked: What is happening backstage? Who is running the show? What has happened in the many

weeks before this evening to make the production you are about to see possible? What have the young people learned through the process of readying this production? In April 2013, the State Board of Education approved revisions to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in fine arts. At the core of these revisions are 21st century skills and life skills. The introduction

to the TEKS for all arts disciplines (art, music, dance and theater) reads: “The fine arts incorporate the study of dance, music, theater and the visual arts to offer unique experiences and empower students to explore realities, relationships and ideas. These disciplines engage and > See ARTS, page 34 Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


> Continued from page 33

motivate all students through active learning, critical thinking and innovative problem solving. The fine arts develop cognitive functioning and increase student academic achievement, higher-order thinking, communication and collaboration skills, making the fine arts applicable to college readiness, career opportunities, workplace environments, social skills and everyday life. Students develop aesthetic and cultural awareness through exploration, leading to creative expression. Creativity, encouraged through the study of the fine arts, is essential to nurture and develop the whole child.” This is what’s happening backstage: active learning, critical thinking and innovative problem solving. These skills are developed and practiced over several months to make each production possible. Young people are developing essential skills that will help them wherever they go and with whatever they do in their lives. Students come together to analyze plays, to relate them to their lives, current events and their communities. They think about what they want to say to their audience through the work they are putting on stage. They collaborate and build a community of artists, and they solve problems together in rehearsal. They use their creative muscles to think about how the story can best be told. Student stage managers must demonstrate critical leadership skills during a performance. Through a microphone headset, they communicate with student actors, soundboard operators and lighting crew. The costume crew must resolve wardrobe problems on the spot. Student actors must demonstrate strong improvisational skills as they face late entrances, missed cues and missed lines during a live production. The theater group as a whole is demonstrating collaboration, problem solving and creativity — skills that will serve them for years to come. Most educators have had the experience of a former student approaching them at the grocery story to tell them how the class they took 20 years ago still influences them today in their jobs or in their roles as parents or community members. Essentially, the revised TEKS is acknowledging and encouraging more of those encounters. Let’s again consider the language in the revised fine arts TEKS. The rationale for the importance of fine arts in a child’s development is in this language. Creativity, encouraged through the study of


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

Comal ISD student stage manager Jessica Coleman keeps all players running smoothly.

the fine arts, is essential to nurture and develop the whole child. The new TEKS asks fine arts teachers to assure that all students, no matter how many courses they take in any fine arts discipline, come away with knowledge and skills to take with them wherever they may go. The next time you go to a theater program at your school (and thanks for going, by the way!), think about all that you are not seeing and all the skills that these students are taking away

from the experience — beyond what they are learning about the art form itself, which also has great value. ROXANNE SCHROEDER is an assistant professor of theater education at The University of Texas. Also a director, performer and playwright, Schroeder taught high school theater in Texas for six years before moving into higher education.

Photo Feature

TASBO MARKS 70TH IN THE BIG D In late February, members gathered in Dallas to attend the Texas Association of School Business Officials’ 70th annual conference.

▲ Author Stephen M.R. Covey and Horace Mann Assistant Vice President Omarr Guerrero.

▲ Tara Rockafellow, Mansfield ISD; Debra George, Elgin ISD; ▲ TASBO Communications Director Tom Greer (middle) with Cole Hentschel and Nathan Smith of First Public.

Kala Moore, Jacksonville ISD; Lindy Finley, Jacksonville ISD; Chris Odom, SFE; Tracy Ginsburg, TASBO; Ashly Penny Witek, Irving ISD; Kelly Penny, Coppell ISD; Audrey Wiesman Ambridge, Klein ISD; and Karen Wiesman, Mansfield ISD.

◄ TASBO Commitment to Excellence recipient Frankie Jackson (middle) of Cypress-Fairbanks ISD with (left to right) TASBO Executive Director Tracy Ginsburg, TASBO Vice President Randy McDowell of Rockwall ISD, TASBO President-elect Karen Smith of CypressFairbanks ISD and 2015-2016 TASBO President Karen Wiesman of Mansfield ISD.

▲ Tara Rockafellow of Mansfield

ISD, Amanda Reed of Gonzales ISD and Todd Fouche of Frisco ISD.

▲ 2015-2016 TASBO

▲ Jeremy Tremble of Eanes ISD

and Audrey Ambridge of Klein ISD.

President Karen Wiesman of Mansfield ISD and 2016-2017 TASBO President ▲ House Rep. Jimmie Don Karen Smith of Aycock, R-Killeen, with TASBO Executive Director Tracy Ginsberg. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.

▲ Sequetta Marks, Debo Adesina and Tiffany Brooks of Dallas ISD.

Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016


Calendar Professional development & events


For more info, (713) 696-1306. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $60.

Get premium placement and get noticed! For a nominal fee, you can showcase your conference, workshop or seminar on the opening page as a Featured Event. Contact Ann Halstead at ahalstead@tasanet.org for more details.

TASPA Workshop: Personnel Skills for Administrators Harris County Department of Education, Houston For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org Cost: Members, $95; nonmembers, $115.

June June 2 Text Structure in Content Area Reading for High School Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-1310. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $125.

Cost: TAHPERD professional members, $25; TAHPERD student members, $15. June 13-15 Texas ASCD Ignite 16 Convention Center, Irving For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org

June 7 Classroom Management Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-8223. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $125.

June 14 Text Comprehension, Grades 6-8 Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-8223. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $125.

Social Studies and Literacy Field Experience: Holocaust Museum Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-1310. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $125.

June 15 TASBO Workshop: Bullying Prevention Update for CSRM Convention Center, Irving For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org

TASB Workshop: Managing State and Federal Leave TASB offices, Austin For more info, (512) 467-0222. www.tasb.org Cost: Members, $200; nonmembers, $250. June 8 TASB Workshop: Get a Grip on the Family and Medical Leave Act TASB offices, Austin For more info, (512) 467-0222. www.tasb.org Cost: Members, $200; nonmembers, $250. TSPRA Central Regional Meeting Location TBA, Round Rock For more info, (512) 474-9107. www.tspra.org June 10 TAHPERD Areas 6 and 7 Workshop UT-Arlington Maverick Activity Center, Arlington For more info, (512) 459-1299. www.tahperd.org


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

June 15-16 Learning Forward Texas Annual Conference Conference Center, Hurst For more info, (512) 266-3086. www.learningforwardtexas.org Cost: $349. June 15-17 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 Cost: Members: Early registration (by May 17), $344; late registration, $394. Nonmembers: Early registration (by May 17), $583; late registration, $633. June 16 Great Explorations in Math/ Science: Environmental Detectives Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston

Understanding Dialects and Variations that Affect Students’ Writing, Speaking, Reading Skills Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-8223. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $125. June 16-17 Texas ASCD Curriculum Leadership Academy XVII (session 2 of 3) Georgetown ISD, Georgetown For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (800) 717-2723. www.txascd.org June 16-18 TASB Summer Leadership Institute Marriott River Center, San Antonio For more info, (512) 467-0222. www.tasb.org June 20 Reading Interventions/ Strategies Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-1310. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $125. June 22-23 Texas K-12 CTO Council Doubletree Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 672-3254. www.texask12ctocouncil.org June 23 Great Explorations in Math/ Science: Electromagnetic Spectrum from Radio Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-1306. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $60.

June 28-30 UT/TASA Summer Conference on Education Renaissance Hotel, Austin For more info, (512) 477-6361. www.tasanet.org Cost: $225; students, $50. June 30 Differentiated Instruction (K-5) Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-8223. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $125. June 30-July 2 TASB Summer Leadership Institute Omni Hotel, Fort Worth For more info, (512) 467-0222. www.tasb.org

July July 10-12 Texas Association of Health, PE, Recreation and Dance Summer Conference Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center, Frisco For more info, (512) 459-1299. www.tahperd.org Cost: Early-bird registration (by May 15), $85; preregistration (by June 15), $95; late registration, $105. July 12-14 Texas Girls Coaches Association Summer Clinic Convention Center, Arlington For more info, (512) 708-1333. www.austintgca.com July 13 TASPA Summer Law Conference Westin Hotel at the Domain, Austin For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org July 13-15 TASPA Summer Conference Westin Hotel at the Domain, Austin For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org July 14 TASBO Workshop: Certified School Risk Managers Measuring School Risks TASBO offices, Austin For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org

July 14-17 TASSP New Principal Academy Trinity University, San Antonio For more info, (512) 443-2100. www.tassp.org July 17-20 Texas High School Coaches Association Convention and Coaching School Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio For more info, (512) 392-3741. www.thsca.com July 25 Interpreting Multiple Representations of Data in Grades 3-5 Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-1306. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $150.

Proportionality, Grades 6-8 Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-1306. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $150. July 28 Unlock Real Success: 4 Keys to Leveraging Leadership/ Potential Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-1306. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $85.

August August 2-4 Texas ASCD Instructional Rounds Location TBA, Bastrop For more info, (512) 477-8200 or (512) 717-2723. www.txascd.org

Who’s News > Continued from page 19

Now serving as director of elementary staffing is Mya Mercer, former principal of Old Town Elementary School, where she worked as an assistant principal. She has been with the district for eight years. Mercer is a graduate of Eastern New Mexico University and holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Lubbock Christian University. A new director of library services has been named for the district. Ami Uselman has been with the district for 21 of her 26 years as an educator. She was most recently librarian for Cedar Ridge High School. Annette Vierra has been

appointed executive director for human resource services. She was director of secondary staffing since 2010. A graduate of the University of Arkansas with a degree in elementary education, Vierra received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Texas Tech University.

San Marcos CISD Willie Watson Jr. has been approved as the district’s new assistant superintendent of human resources. With more than 18 years of experience as an educa-

August 31 Grants for After-school: How to Get and Sustain More Funding for Learners Harris County Dept. of Education, Houston For more info, (713) 696-1393. www.hcde-texas.org Cost: $45.

Se pt e mbe r September 11-13 Texas Association of Community Schools Annual Conference Hilton Palacio del Rio, San Antonio For more info, (512) 440-8227. www.tacsnet.org

September 25-26 TASPA Fall Support Staff Conference Westin Hotel at the Domain, Austin For more info, (512) 494-9353. www.taspa.org Cost: Early bird registration (expires Aug. 14): $175, members; $195, nonmembers. September 29 TASBO Workshop: Certified School Managers - Measuring School Risks Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Houston For more info, (512) 462-1711. www.tasbo.org

September 23-25 TASA/TASB Convention George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston For more info, (512) 467-0222 or (800) 580-8272. www.tasb.org

tor, he has served as an administrator in Manor, Pflugerville and Round Rock ISDs. He was the Central Texas president of the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators before being named that organization’s president-elect in December. Watson earned his bachelor’s degree in public administration from Stephen F. Austin State University and his master’s degree in the same field from the University of North Texas.

Seguin ISD A new district athletic director and head football coach has been named. Travis Bush has been a teacher and coach since 2000. He most recently served as an offensive assistant coach with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. He received his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science from Texas State University and his master’s degree in education administration from Texas Christian University.

Shepherd ISD Brenda Cronin, a teacher and administrator

for more than 30 years, is the new director of personnel and publicity. She was most recently principal of Shepherd Middle School.

Silsbee ISD Randy Smith, former offensive coordinator at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD’s Cypress Ranch High School, is now Silsbee ISD’s athletic director and head football coach. After graduating from Hardin-Simmons University, he earned a master’s degree in educational administration from Lamar University.

Tatum ISD The new athletic director and head football coach, Craig Barker, most recently held the same job at Kaufman ISD.

Thorndale A new superintendent has been approved for the district. Adam Ivy was most recently assistant superintendent of Latexo ISD.

Victoria ISD Superintendent Robert Jaklich, who has led the district for the past four years, will retire in August. Jaklich received his doctorate in education from The University of Texas. He began his education career in 1981.

Ysleta ISD Lynly Leeper has been named chief financial officer. She began her career in 1987 after earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Tech University. She has worked in the private sector since that time, most recently as chief budget officer for the city of El Paso. Abigail Tarango is the director of special projects and strategic initiatives. She was most recently a family and consumer sciences education agent for Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Education. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in family and consumer sciences from Mexico State University. CORRECTIONS: In our March/April issue, Gail Gregg’s job title was listed incorrectly.

He is deputy superintendent of Abilene ISD. Also in that issue, Cynthia Pavia’s job title was listed incorrectly. She is the assistant principal of De Zavala Elementary School in San Marcos CISD. Texas School Business regrets the errors. Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016



Empathy makes all the difference by Riney Jordan


f I asked you to tell me in a few words what is the single-most important purpose of education, what would you say? I recently posed that question to a group of bright, young future teachers. Their answer, I’m happy to report, was the same as mine. Simply stated, our mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of each of our students. This, of course, raises the next question: How do we do that? In my lifetime, I’ve spoken to thousands of teachers and other school personnel. I’ve supervised hundreds of them. This experience has led me to the following conclusion: To make a positive difference in the lives of students, teachers must have empathy for their students. I recently met a young high school teacher who was making a huge difference in her students’ lives, because she possessed an enormous amount of empathy for them. She knew their likes and dislikes, their dreams and their weaknesses. She had taken the time to get to know her students, and she focused her energy on helping each one meet his or her goals. If college was on a student’s horizon, she helped him or her select appropriate campuses and even assisted in completing scholarship applications. She often brought in professionals and other members of the community to encourage and inspire her students. And you should see her classroom! The walls are covered with photographs of former students and memorabilia that grateful and appreciative students have given to her. Each year, she has a photographer take a group photo of the senior students she teaches. She explained: “I don’t want to ever forget a single one of them.” This teacher values each of her students, and the empathy that she shows for them is undeniable. What is the best indicator that a teacher pos-

sesses empathy? Just listen. You’ll discover students talking about how much they like a certain teacher. Parents will request, and often insist, that their children be assigned to her class. Out in the community, you’ll hear parents and other adults speaking positively about this teacher. Yes, empathy for others is contagious. It is life-changing. It is that essential ingredient that is required if our schools are going to truly make a positive difference in the lives of the students we serve. Merriam-Webster defines empathy as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” Yes, it’s putting yourself in their shoes. It’s realizing what their lives are really like. It’s feeling their pain, experiencing their joy and knowing them well enough that you sense when something has changed. If you want to improve your empathy toward others, begin by becoming a better listener. When a student speaks to you, offer your undivided attention, making it clear that he or she is the most important person in your life in that moment. Life is difficult enough at its best, but going through it alone is never easy. When a student knows that a teacher genuinely cares about him, it’s much easier for him to reach out for help, advice, compassion and understanding. As Carl Jung once said: “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Warmth. That’s the empathy I wish every educator could possess. A warmth that sends students a message that says: “I’m here to help. I care about you. Let’s walk through this together.”

RINEY JORDAN’S “The Second Book” is now available at www.rineyjordan.com, along with his other publications. You can contact him at (254) 386-4769, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter: @RineyRiney.


Texas School Business MAY/JUNE 2016

Texas School Business Advertiser Index

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