TSB—November 2013

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November / December 2013






Keith Brown, Bay City ISD Superintendent of the Year

Also inside TASA Outstanding Board Honor Board finalists TSPRA Key Communicator TASA/TASB convention photos

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TSB contents news and features

TASB Superintendent of the Year Bay City ISD’s Keith Brown claims the 2013 top honor by Raven L. Hill


photo features High school coaches convene in Fort Worth


TASA, TASB host annual convention




Key Communicator Award Coppell ISD’s Jeff Turner claims TSPRA’s most prestigous honor

Who’s News


Ad Index


columns From the Editor


The Law Dawg  —  Unleashed


Tech Toolbox


by Katie Ford by Jim Walsh

by Terry Morawski

Game On!


The Back Page


by Bobby Hawthorne

TASA Outstanding School Board Edinburg CISD trustees demonstrate resilience, due diligence and harmony

by Riney Jordan


by Elizabeth Millard

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. November / December 2013 • Texas School Business



Texas School Business • November / December 2013

From the Editor Where has 2013 gone? I can’t believe we’re already putting together the “annual awards issue,” as I like to call it. These stories are always so inspiring because we’re highlighting educators who have been recognized as standouts in their field. The Texas Association of School Boards selected Bay City ISD’s Keith Brown as the 2013 Superintendent of the Year. I think writer Raven Hill did a great job in capturing the man behind the title. In particular, I loved this quote from Brown: “I just put my boots on and try to help as many students as I can. I come to work every day with a lunch pail mentality. I work hard and I will work with anyone. I’m willing to do any job that needs to be done. I’m not a show horse; I’m a plow horse.” Plenty of “lunch pail mentality” also can be found in the trustees who make up the Edinburg CISD school board. These individuals have worked in harmony as they’ve faced numerous challenges, to include a student shooting that prompted the swift creation of safety policies and measures across the district. Also celebrated in this issue is Coppell ISD Superintendent Jeff Turner, who is the 2013 Key Communicator, an honor bestowed by the Texas School Public Relations Association. Turner is no stranger to the spotlight. In fact, one might say he’s quite comfortable in the spotlight, as he has given voice to some of the most-pressing issues that Texas public schools face today. Whether speaking before legislators, his administrative peers at statewide conferences or his staff at home in Coppell ISD, Turner is fighting the good fight for Texas public education. In this issue, you’ll also find pictures from the TASA/TASB annual convention in Dallas and the annual coaching school, hosted by the Texas High School Coaches Association, which took place in Fort Worth. I hope this issue finds you enjoying the holiday season. Season’s greetings to you all!

Katie Ford Editorial Director

(ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) November / December 2013 Volume LX, Issue 2

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© Copyright 2013 Texas School Business Magazine LLC November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


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Texas School Business • November / December 2013

THE LAW DAWG – Unleashed by Jim Walsh

On the hunt for the first school marshal


e were curious about who will be the first school marshal in the state of Texas. You may recall that the Legislature authorized this designation in HB 1009, the Protection of Texas Children Act. We asked intrepid reporter and friend of the truth, Rip Snort, to help us out on this. Snort is an outstanding investigative reporter. If anyone can identify our first marshal, it will be Snort. You see, it is not easy to identify who is serving as marshal. The law says that the identity of the marshal is confidential. You cannot simply make a request under the Public Information Act and get the name of the person. We tried, and most of the responses we got were along the lines of, “We don’t have to tell you!” The school board is not going to emerge from a closed session, open the meeting up and vote to name Joe Somebody as marshal. It’s all hush-hush. You have to be well-trained to serve as a school marshal. First, you have to be an existing school employee. You have to have your license to carry a concealed handgun. Then you have to go through another 80 hours of training and pass a psychological test. If you can do all that, you are eligible for certification by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) and you can be a marshal. So, we passed all that information on to Snort and he jumped on it. What follows is Snort’s report. Snort, here. Rip Snort. Intrepid Reporter. Friend of the Truth. Dawg, we thank you for the interesting assignment, looking for the state’s first school marshal. We think we have found our man, except that it is a woman. So, we think we have found our woman. Well, that doesn’t sound quite right. What I mean is: We think we have found the first school marshal for the state of Texas! Myrtle Cucumber is a fourth grade teacher in a public school deep behind the

Pine Cone Curtain of East Texas. She has been with the district for seven years and, by all accounts, is of sound mind and capable of passing a psychological test. It is well-known that she packs heat when she is not on the job. Her pickup truck carries bumper stickers lauding the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment. She has been known to get into bar fights with liberals who accidentally wander into this county. This last happened in 1998. It was actually the children who drew our attention to Ms. Cucumber. They noticed that she had begun to carry a package under her arm at all times. Children asked her what was in the package. “My lunch,” she replied. But the inquisitive youngsters noted that the “package” was locked and secure. It looked like a safe. Ms. Cucumber explained that: “It is a very good sandwich and I don’t want anyone messing with it.” Why, then, does she still have it on her person at all times, even after lunch? She had an answer to that also: “I eat my sandwich on my grandmother’s special china, in her memory. It’s very valuable.” Dawg, those fourth graders may have bought that story, but not your intrepid reporter. I remembered that the new law requires that the marshal must keep the gun in a locked and secure safe within arm’s reach at all times. This applies if the marshal’s primary duty involves “regular, direct contact with students.” So, there you have it: Myrtle Cucumber is our first Texas school marshal! Thank you, Snort! We will alert all readers to be on the lookout for teachers carrying safes under their arms. JIM WALSH, an attorney with Walsh Anderson Gallegos Green and Treviño P.C., serves as editor in chief of Texas School Business. He can be reached at jwalsh@ wabsa.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jwalshtxlawdawg.



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Texas School Business • November / December 2013

Tech Toolbox by Terry Morawski

How can K-12 benefit from MOOC offerings?


uch attention has been given this year to massive open online courses, or MOOCs. The appeal of this type of learning is easy: Any student in the world with an Internet connection can access a class taught by a university professor for free. Many classes are taught via pre-recorded video lectures, but all types of models are out there. MOOCs have accomplished what any truly disruptive technology can do: It has made education leaders rethink traditional instructional delivery models. The first MOOC appeared in 2008 as an offering by Canadian professors at The University of Manitoba. The course consisted of 25 tuition-paying students and more than 2,000 online students who took the course free of charge. Social technology mostly consisted of RSS feeds, message boards and other simple tools, as more ubiquitous social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were still emerging. Just as online social offerings have grown, so has the world of MOOCs — which brings me to my first question: What kind of MOOCs are out there? Via Coursera (www.coursera.org), more than 500 individual courses are available from 88 partner universities. The universities are located all over the globe, but domestic schools include such institutions as Brown, Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Yale, to name a few. Class offerings are diverse, ranging from humanities to science and beyond. Of special interest to you readers, Coursera offers teacher professional development. Here are a few other courses of note: The Power of Microeconomics: Economics in the Real World (University of California at Irvine), Understanding Media by Understanding Google (Northwestern University) and A History of the World Since 1300 (Princeton University). The EdX MOOC (www.edx.org) was founded by Harvard and MIT. Its stated mission is to “bring the best of higher education to students of all ages anywhere in the world, wherever there is Internet access.” EdX’s interactive courses cover computer

science, public health and artificial intelligence. Other schools are joining the EdX effort too, including The University of Texas. Is a $100 master’s degree a possibility? Sebastian Thrun of the MOOC site Udacity has garnered quite a bit of attention from the media and blogosphere. Thrun, the inventor of Google Glass and recently named the fifth “Most Creative Person in Business” by Fast Company, was inspired to begin a project to explore if it was possible to offer a master’s degree online for $100.

‘Any student in the world with an Internet connection can access a class taught by a university professor for free.’ Currently, Udacity’s courses are free. The site has partnered with the University of California at San Jose for a $150-per-class pilot. (This is about 10 percent of the average college-per-hour cost). This model, of course, will be up for future tweaking should the partnership persist. Despite some questions of the pilot’s effectiveness, Thrun remains unwavering in his goal to offer quality, low-cost higher education to the masses. Either way, I applaud Udacity’s efforts and vision. Are traditional diplomas valid in a world of always-on education? It is a valid question to wonder what happens with these credits once they are earned. Depending on the program, some MOOCs offer a certificate of completion. The Udacity pilot offered real, honest-to-goodness college credit. Author and blogger Ben Casnocha suggests the idea of a standard diploma possibly needs some disruption. According to his blog post, See TECH on page 22

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November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


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GAME ON! by Bobby Hawthorne

For the love of the game


have a friend who teaches at a fancy private school in Houston. She wears expensive glasses and reads poetry and loves Margaret Atwood. We pretty much agree on everything except semicolons and Margaret Atwood and nuances of this item she posted on Facebook: “Is there anyone else who could care less if it is football season? Yes, I’m a recovering cheerleader who really questions the whole culture around football. Sad but true.” This triggered a ripple of “Right on! You go, girl” responses from the mostly female former-cheerleader chorus, and I understand their feelings because I too am occasionally nauseated by Texas’ overemphasis on sports in general and football in particular. So to illustrate that point, let me tell you about a lunch I had once with another good friend. He was ranting about one of his son’s high school coaches. “This guy is horrible,” my friend said. “Worst coach ever.” So, I asked, “Is he a good teacher?” “No. He’s terrible at that too,” he said. So I asked, “What does he teach?” “Chemistry,” he said. So I thought, “Shouldn’t you be upset about that? Your son isn’t going pro, but he’s a smart kid who might one day become a doctor or a scientist. Why aren’t you angry about that?” But I kept that to myself because he would have wondered if I’d had a stroke or something to ask such a dumb question. Instead, I slowly chewed my cheeseburger and my tongue. Now that his son is out of college and working in medicine, maybe I’ll mention it, if we ever meet again for lunch. Maybe not. I suspect he’s still steamed at that coach. Anyway, back to my English teacher friend. I read her Facebook comment and tried to look at it from the point of view of a pretty girl from a small Texas town who, like pretty girls from small towns everywhere, became a cheerleader without thinking too

much about what it was she was cheering for — other than a brother or a boyfriend. Maybe now she looks back and thinks she was duped. I understand that. As the father of a daughter who was also a cheerleader, I know how misogynistic guys can be, and I make no apology for them. Nor do I apologize for Texas’ misplaced priorities. I’m reminded of this quote from “Friday Night Lights” (the book): “I don’t mind that it’s [football] emphasized. I just wish we could emphasize other things. The thing is, I don’t think we should have to go to the booster club to get books. I don’t think we should have to beg everyone in town for materials.” Nor do I, sister, so amen. You go, girl. But here’s what I want you to understand. It’s one thing to recoil at the jock culture and another to love the game. Many of my favorite memories are of after-school games in someone’s backyard, playing nopad, tackle football for hours on end. No crowd. No cheerleaders or band or drill team. No pep rally before. No dance afterward. Just me and the other feral neighborhood boys playing football. My love of the game today is rooted in those days. And while I miss playing high school football, I don’t miss it nearly as much as I miss zigzagging up and down a splotchy vacant lot, dodging clumps of Indian grass and Steve and Buddy and Bunky. Of course, I know I will never play another game of football without suffering for it miserably, and that makes me feel old — which is odd, because otherwise, I rarely feel old, even though I just turned 61. But that’s the power of the game. It becomes a metaphor for your life. A measuring stick. Sad but true, you may say, but here’s the deal: Though I often question the football factory mentality, I never question the game. Never. BOBBY HAWTHORNE is the author of “Longhorn Football” and “Home Field,” both published by The University of Texas Press. In 2005, he retired as director of academics for the University Interscholastic League.

The Independent Voice for Public Education in Texas for 60 Years Since 1954, Texas School Business has published the good news for and about Texas educators and the vendors who serve the public schools. Today, Texas School Business is considered an institution among school leaders and decision makers. Each issue includes: • In-depth features on Texas public education • Who’s News • The Law Dawg – Unleashed • Photo features of association events • Educator and administrator profiles • Riney Jordan • Bobby Hawthorne • Terry Morawski • And more…

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November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


High school coaches meet in Fort Worth The Texas High School Coaches Association hosted its 81st Annual Coaching School in Fort Worth, July 28-31.

Luke Bundick of Texas A&M University with Joel Baker, Andrew Eudy and Taylor Read of Farwell ISD.

Josh Adams, Dustin Nessel, Kensey Allen and Jonathan Nance of Edna ISD.

LaDarien Strauss, Justin Carroll and Harold Jones of Dallas ISD. 12

Texas School Business • November / December 2013

Craig Martin and Preston Meyer of Temple ISD with Lincoln Trulove of Northside ISD.

Rick Sanchez, Mike Vela and Timothy Bordovsky, all of Poth ISD.

Stephanie Rosen, Cindy Pyron, Kristen Christensen and Jessica Lentz, all of International Leadership of Texas.

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Dallas, TX Washington, D.C. Detroit, MI Rebecca Kraus, Executive Director rkraus@cambridgestrategicservices.org 1-800-343-4590

November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


Who’s News Anthony ISD The district’s new superintendent, Steven Saldivar, comes to his new job from Big Spring ISD, where he also held the top position. He was assistant superintendent of Lamesa ISD and also worked as a teacher and coach in Kress, Ganado and Harper ISDs. Additionally, he was a principal in Ganado, Crane and Reagan County ISDs. Carroll ISD Carroll ISD’s newest assistant superintendent is Matt Miller, who will oversee personnel and policy, facility maintenance and transportation services. Miller had been serving as principal of Carroll Middle School. Matt Miller After receiving his bachelor’s degree in education from York College in Nebraska in 1994, he joined Grapevine-Colleyville ISD as a baseball coach and high school math teacher. He then taught and coached at Castleberry High School in Castleberry ISD in Fort Worth before joining Carroll ISD to teach at Carroll High School. He was named assistant principal of Carroll Middle School in 2004 and principal three years later. Miller’s master’s degree in educational administration was awarded from the University of North Texas. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Frankie Jackson has been named the district’s chief technology officer. She comes to the district with 29 years of technology experience, beginning as a software engineer with McDonnell Douglas and continuing as a program manager with Unisys and as vice president of performance management systems for EPIC Interactive Technologies. She has been chief technology officer for Goose Creek ISD for the past 19 years. Jackson holds an associate degree in data processing from Lee College, as well as a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and a master’s degree in instructional technology, both from the University of Houston at Clear Lake.


Dallas ISD A new senior executive for intergovernmental relations and community engagement, Paula Blackmon, has been hired by the district. She comes to her job from serving as chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. In addition, she was public affairs director for the Real Estate Council and worked as an aide to two former Texas state representatives. She was also the state and local affairs manager for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Denton ISD Mario Zavala Jr., coordinator of communications and community relations, has been named one of the Top 35 Under 35 by the National School Public Relations Association. A member Mario Zavala Jr. of the Denton ISD team for four years, he is a graduate of The University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is at work on his master’s degree in strategic communication from the University of Missouri. Dilley ISD Clint McLain, former assistant superintendent of Westwood ISD in Palestine, is the new superintendent. El Paso ISD Juan Cabrera, former chief legal counsel for Eanes ISD in Austin, takes his first position as a superintendent in El Paso ISD. He spent three years as a classroom teacher after graduating from college. And, except for his time with Eanes ISD, he has spent his career in the private sector with law firms and technology companies in Texas and abroad. A graduate of Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University at Kingsville) with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he completed courses at the London School of Business and the Harvard Negotiation Project and received his law degree from The University of Texas School of Law.

Texas School Business • November / December 2013

Forney ISD Nancy McElroy is the new principal of Johnson Elementary School. An educator for 29 years, she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Sam Houston State University and her master’s degree in eduNancy McElroy cation from Texas A&M University. She has been assistant principal of Johnson since 2009. Blackburn Elementary School now has Jo Lynn Hughes as principal. She was the school’s assistant principal last year. She began her career as a kindergarten teacher in Kaufman ISD, going Jo Lynn Hughes to on teach high school English in Crandall ISD. In addition to working at Blackburn in Forney ISD, she taught English, photojournalism and technology exploration at Warren Middle School. Goliad ISD Former Goliad High School Principal Emilio Vargas III has been promoted to serve as the district’s superintendent. Grapeland ISD A new superintendent is on board for the district as Gregg Spivey returns to Grapeland ISD, where he taught and coached from 1991 to 1993. He was most recently superintendent of Apple Springs ISD. He began as a teacher and coach in Huntington ISD in 1987, then worked as a teacher and coach in Diboll ISD before joining Grapeland ISD in 1991. Two years later, he moved to Apple Springs ISD as a teacher and athletics director. He then worked as a principal before being named district superintendent. Spivey attended Angelina College in Lufkin and then earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephen F. Austin State University, where he also completed his master’s degree in education.

Who’s News Houston ISD Daniel Gohl has been named chief academic officer. He comes to Houston from the New Jersey Department of Education, where he was deputy chief innovation officer. An educator and administrator for 24 years, he Daniel Gohl also spent 10 years with Austin ISD, where he began his education career as a teacher. He next spent seven years, first as a principal and then as executive director of secondary school transformation, in the District of Columbia Public Schools. While there, he designed and opened McKinley Technology High School, which combined college readiness with technology career preparation in biotechnology, broadcast technology and information technology. He also served as executive officer for innovation and change at Newark (N.J.) Public Schools and as chief academic officer for the Future Is Now Schools. Iowa Park CISD Former district Assistant Superintendent Steve Moody has been promoted to superintendent. After earning his bachelor’s degree in education from Midwestern State University, he accepted Steve Moody a teaching and coaching position at Electra High School in Electra ISD. Six years later, he joined Iowa Park CISD, where he was a teacher and assistant principal at Iowa Park Junior High and principal of Kidwell Elementary and of George Middle School before accepting his most recent position. Moody also received his master’s degree in education from Midwestern. Lubbock ISD A new assistant superintendent for student support is in place for the district. He is Lynn Akin, who most recently was executive director of student services. He began his career with Lubbock ISD in

Lynn Akin

1993 as a counselor and campus administrator at Coronado High School. He became principal of Irons Middle School in 2002, remaining there until taking over the top position at Coronado, from which

he is a graduate. Anna Jackson has been named the district’s executive director of leadership and professional development, having served as the coordinator of leadership and professional developAnna Jackson ment since 2010. Prior to that, from 2004 to 2007, she was the positive behavioral interventions and support coordinator. From 2001 to 2004, she worked as a behavior specialist. Jackson joined the district in 2000 as an elementary teacher. She began her career in 1989 in Olton ISD and also taught in Slaton ISD. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, and her master’s degree in counseling is from Texas Tech University. Moving to the position of coordinator of leadership and professional development is Misty Rieber. Palacios ISD Stephanie Garcia has been appointed to serve as principal of Palacios High School. She has been an educator for 17 years and, before becoming assistant principal of Palacios High, was the Stephanie Garcia member supervisor for the POWERSET (Powerful Opportunities for Women Eager and Ready for Science, Engineering and Technology) program. She was also head of the school’s math department. Randolph Field ISD Lance Johnson comes to his new job as superintendent from Warren ISD, where he also served as superintendent.

An educator since 1998, he began as a coach and teacher in Cushing ISD. Three years later, he moved to Alto ISD in the same capacity, going on to join first Garrison ISD and then Katy ISD. He took his first administrative position in 2006 as girls’ athletics director in Mt. Pleasant ISD. A year later, he became that district’s junior class principal and assistant principal of Mt. Pleasant High School. He then spent two years as Hubbard ISD’s secondary principal before taking on the role of the district’s interim superintendent. He was appointed superintendent of Evant ISD in 2009 and took his most recent position in Warren ISD the following year. Johnson received his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Stephen F. Austin State University and his master’s degree in education administration from Prairie View A&M University. Redwater ISD The new assistant principal of Redwater Junior / Senior High School is Lee Ann Corbin, who has taught technology at Redwater High School since 2009. She also has taught in Atlanta, Fort Lee Ann Corbin Worth, Brock, Crowley and Lubbock ISDs. Corbin, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University, has a master’s degree from the University of North Texas. She is pursuing her doctorate from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Emily Lee is the assistant principal of Redwater Junior / Senior High School. She joins the district from Hubbard ISD, where she has been a teacher and, most recently, an educational Emily Lee coach since 2008. Lee’s bachelor’s degree is from Stephen F. Austin State University and her master’s degree in educational administration is from Texas A&M University at Commerce. See WHO’S NEWS on page 20

November / December 2013 • Texas School Business




Bay City ISD’s Keith Brown exemplifies servant leadership In every job he tackles as superintendent and educator by Raven L. Hill


eith Brown is not your average superintendent. Now in his sixth year leading Bay City ISD, Brown, 46, is responsible for the district’s daily operations, budget and instructional priorities. But if needed, he can drive a school bus, mow the lawn, serve cafeteria food, take out the trash and coach the high school football team. Whatever it takes. Brown’s work ethic — crucial to his success in raising student achievement in the five-school Southeast Texas district — was one of several factors that landed him the 2013 Superintendent of the Year Award from the Texas Association of School Boards in September. Since Brown joined the district in 2008, Bay City has achieved the state’s second-highest rating under the accountability system, even while faced with declining enrollment, school closures and fiscal challenges. The selection committee praised Brown for emphasizing equity for all 3,700 students; realigning curriculum and reorganizing campuses to narrow the achievement gap; and matching career and technical education courses to meet local workforce needs. “I just put my boots on and try to help as many students as I can. I come to work every day with a lunch pail mentality,” Brown said. “I work hard and I will work with anyone. I’m willing to do any job that needs to be done. I’m not a show horse; I’m a plow horse.”

‘Not a show horse’ Growing up near Kansas City, Brown expected to become a psychologist. After transferring from Butler Community College to Southern Arkansas University on a football scholarship, Brown’s defensive coordinator suggested that he consider becoming a teacher and coach. Brown,


known as a leader on the field, had tutored athletes on the side. He changed his major to education and started his career as assistant football and track coach at a suburban Kansas City high school. During his career, he’s held coaching positions and served as an athletics director and as a high school principal. But he also has performed jobs that have taught him about a district’s inner workings. He’s been a school bus driver and conducted bus safety inspections. He’s had to mow lawns and fix a tractor. He’s been in charge of food service. As a young physical education teacher, he kept a hammer in his back pocket to nail down old floorboards after each class. At age 35, he got his first superintendent’s job in Central Texas at Thrall ISD, a rural district in southeast Williamson County. “I’ve been afforded the opportunity to be in charge of every aspect of a school district,” Brown said. “I understand why every position in the school district is essential.” For four years in Thrall ISD, he put his philosophy of “students first” into action while increasing the district’s fund balance and ensuring Title IX compliance. Bay City Board of Trustees President Tim Powell said the district found exactly what it needed in hiring Brown. “We were looking for someone with strong leadership skills who had a good knowledge of school activities. He had pretty much done a little bit of everything,” Powell said. “We were looking for someone who could drive the district forward.” When Brown arrived in Bay City, he found large disparities in academic performance and offerings. It seemed that the upper 15 percent of students were being pushed toward gifted and talented and advanced placement course offerings, while other students weren’t receiving enough

Texas School Business • November / December 2013

support. Moreover, curriculum was not aligned across schools, which hindered the needs of the district’s highly mobile student population. “There were different levels of accountability,” Brown recalled. To make matters worse, Bay City was facing a $4.1 million shortfall due to major reductions in state aid, enrollment declines, lagging economic development and other factors. Brown took action, closing the district’s two intermediate schools. He moved fourth and fifth grades back to the neighborhood elementary schools and sixth grade to the junior high school. He redesigned the curriculum to ensure vertical and horizontal alignment at every grade level in every elementary school. He required science labs from prekindergarten through 12th grade, and high school course offerings were expanded to increase rigor and access. Guiding the district through the school closures was difficult, Brown acknowledged. However, it was made easier through clear communication with employees and the community. He laid out the expectations for curriculum alignment and worked to find displaced employees jobs at other schools. “We did an outstanding job of employing the people who wanted to stay in our schools,” he said. These days, Brown is visible around the district, walking school hallways, eating breakfast and lunch at schools and wearing clothes that indicate maximum approachability — professional shirts with positive sayings, for instance. “I’m a positive person and demand that you have a positive outlook as well,” he said. “We try to capture the kids’ hearts so they know that they are the reason why we are here.”

Brown is particularly adept at pulling together the right team, said Assistant Superintendent Rodney Fausett, who has worked with the superintendent for four years. “He employs strong leaders and allows people to do their jobs, from classroom teachers to custodians,” Fausett said. “He gives guidance as needed and credit to people for their successes.” Most importantly, Brown is a true believer in providing the best education possible for all students, Fausett added. “He has made the necessary moves in the district for success,” Fausett said. “Where we’re not as successful as we should be, he will make the necessary adjustments.”

The road ahead Brown’s ability to work through financial exigency gives board President Powell confidence in the superintendent’s leadership in the years to come. “We were in dire straits,” Powell said of the district when Brown came on board. “He was able to build us back up to a $6.5 million fund balance.” Yet, never one to fall into complacency, Brown realizes that much work remains in Bay City ISD. The district is offering programs like AVID to support first-generation college students and increasing its emphasis on data to help drive teaching and learning. Bay City ISD has made double-digit gains on state assessment tests since Brown’s arrival, but performance still lags for students at certain grade levels. The number of students from economically disadvantaged families —

currently at 73 percent — is growing, requiring additional support, such as free breakfast for all students and backpacks stuffed with canned goods and nonperishable items. The district’s student population is fairly diverse: more than 56 percent Hispanic, 25 percent white and 16 percent African-American. “Our whole purpose is to support the needs of students, no matter who they are,” Brown said. “I’m a prime example. I wasn’t in the top 15 percent of my class, and because of football and academics, I have become fairly successful. I think that I represent all students because of the experiences I’ve had and the places I’ve been.” RAVEN L. HILL is the former education reporter for the Austin American-Statesman.

Texas Association of School Boards officer Andra Self and award sponsor Paul Cheek of Balfour present the 2013 Superintendent of the Year award to Bay City ISD’s Keith Brown (center). November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


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Texas School Business • November / December 2013



State, regional finalists also honored at TASA/TASB annual convention


ASB also recognized the five state finalists and 11 regional winners for the annual Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) award during the TASA/ TASB annual convention. The 2013 state finalists and their nominating education service centers were Bobby Burns, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, ESC 10; John Chapman III, Comfort ISD, ESC 13; James Ponce, McAllen ISD, ESC 1; and Guy Sconzo, Humble ISD, ESC 4.

John Chapman III

Guy Sconzo

With a total of 24 years in public education administration, Bobby Burns Bobby Burns serves some 25,000 students. He has led Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD for five years. Noted by the committee were the district’s implementation of an ambassador program and emphasis on high achievement for all students. Burns earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at East Texas State University, now known as Texas A&M at Commerce, and doctorate at the University of North Texas. John Chapman III has 13 years of administrative experience and has been superintendent of Comfort ISD for six years. He serves approximately 1,200 students. The selection committee cited his emphasis on service and twoway communication and increased attendance in parent-community forums. Chapman earned a bachelor’s degree at McMurry University, a master’s at Wayland Baptist University and a doctorate at Texas Tech University. At the helm of Humble ISD for 13 years, Guy Sconzo has a total of 35 years in education administration and serves more than 38,000 students. Of particular interest to the selection committee were the district’s specialized programs for at-risk students and its communitycentered approach. Sconzo earned a bachelor’s degree at Wagner College, a master’s at New York University and a doctorate at Ohio State University.

James Ponce

Serving approximately 25,000 students, James Ponce has led McAllen ISD for three years and has 14 years in education administration. The selection committee cited his success with parental engagement; district partnerships with universities and city and county agencies; and student opportunities for earning dual-credit for career and dual-credit for college. Ponce earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at The University of Texas at Austin.

The 2013 regional winners were Joseph Patek, Aransas County ISD, ESC 2; Richard Bain Jr., Silsbee ISD, ESC 5; Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD, ESC 7; Traci Drake, Hubbard ISD, ESC 8; Kent Crutsinger, Sanger ISD, ESC 11; Scot Kelley, Penelope ISD, ESC 12; Jay Waller, Ira ISD, ESC 14; Gary Laramore Jr., Texline ISD, ESC 16; Toby Miller, Southland ISD, ESC 17; Ralph Traynham, Fort Stockton ISD, ESC 18; and James Stansberry, Medina Valley ISD, ESC 20. November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 15

Rhonda Roberts is the new principal of Redwater Junior / Senior High School. She hails from Corpus Christi ISD, where she worked since 1998 as an assistant principal, middle school principal Rhonda Roberts and, most recently, as executive director of instructional support. Roberts holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M University at Texarkana and a master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.

Round Rock ISD A new superintendent is in place. He is Steve Flores, who was an assistant superintendent for the district in the 2004-2005 school year. He returns to Round Rock from Harlingen ISD, where he served as superintenSteve Flore dent since 2008. Prior to that, he was with Dallas ISD, first as that district’s Area VI superintendent, then as deputy superintendent and, ultimately,

as chief of staff. He has also served as an assistant superintendent for Pflugerville ISD. The district’s visual arts curriculum specialist Tim Lowke has been named the 2013 Supervisor of the Year by the Texas Art Education Association (TAEA). He will be honored in November at the TAEA annual Tim Lowke conference in Dallas. Lowke, who oversees 92 visual arts teachers at the elementary, middle school and high school level, has been with the district for 22 years. Michelle Swain, director for gifted and talented academic services, has been recognized as the 2013 State Administrator of the Gifted by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT). She will reMichelle Swain ceive her honor in December at the association’s conference in Houston. Callison Elementary School now has John Weishaar as principal. He has 29 years of experience as an administrator at all levels. He was most recently

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Texas School Business • November / December 2013

principal of Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, Colo. In addition, he was also the executive director of curriculum, instruction and assessJohn Weishaar ment in Falcon, Colo. With his new appointment at Callison, he returns to Round Rock ISD, where he served as principal of Cedar Valley Middle School. Also in the district, he was an assistant principal at Westwood High School. He was a teacher for 10 years. Weishaar, who earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Stephen F. Austin State University and his master’s degree in educational administration from Emporia State University in Kansas, holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. San Felipe Del Rio CISD The new superintendent is Carlos Rios. A native of Del Rio and a graduate of Del Rio High School, he attended Angelo State University and earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in political science and history. He then served in the U.S. Navy. Upon completion of his Navy career, he returned to College Station, where he taught and coached at the high school level and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in educational administration. Rios has been principal of Saegert Middle School in Seguin ISD, Travis High School in Austin ISD and Del Rio Middle School in San Felipe Del Rio CISD. In addition, he was executive director of academic compliance and accountability in Laredo ISD and assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Seguin ISD. Tomball ISD Now serving as an assistant principal of Tomball Elementary School is Kerri Ashlock. She began her career 14 years ago as a fifth grade teacher in Hempstead ISD, joining Tomball ISD two years later as Kerri Ashlock a third grade teacher at

Who’s News Tomball Elementary, where she went on to work as that school’s gifted and talented specialist. She also has been with Creekside Forest Elementary and Tomball Intermediate School. Ashlock earned her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce and her master’s degree from Sam Houston State University. Marcy Canady is the new principal of Canyon Pointe Elementary School, beginning her 26th year as an educator this year. She began as an elementary bilingual teacher in Goose Creek ISD, going on to work in Tyler, Marcy Canady Katy and Spring Branch ISDs. Canady holds a bachelor’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Pam Chatham has been chosen to serve as assistant principal of Tomball Elementary School. She became an educator 21 years ago when she was a special education paraprofessional in Clear Creek ISD. Pam Chatham She then taught kindergarten and second and fourth grades before becoming an assistant principal. She moved to Amarillo ISD, where she served in the same capacity at two elementary schools. Chatham earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Stephen Hinze began the new school year as an assistant principal at Tomball Memorial High School. He began his career in Houston ISD as a math and science teacher and as a coach. He also has worked in Stephen Hinze Alief, Fort Bend, Channelview and Cypress-Fairbanks ISDs. He came to Tomball Memorial as a science teacher and coach. Hinze holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of

Houston and a master’s degree from Texas Southern University. Tomball Memorial High School now has Chad Smith as its associate principal. A 15-year veteran educator, he has been a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal, including stints in Kennard and Hudson ISDs. Chad Smith He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University. Principal Chad Stolle has returned to Willow Wood Junior High, where he began his career teaching Spanish and coaching. He also has served in Klein ISD as an assistant principal at the intermediate Chad Stolle and high school level. He received his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and his master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University. Uvalde ISD Jeanette Ball is the new superintendent. Prior to joining the district, she spent her career in San Antonio’s Southwest

ISD. While there, she was a history and ESL teacher, assistant principal, principal, director and executive director. She was most recently assistant superintendent Jeanette Ball for administration and human resources. Ball received her bachelor’s degree in education from Schreiner University and her master’s degree in education leadership from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Her doctorate was awarded from Texas A&M University. Ann Marie Espinoza is the district’s first executive director of communications and marketing. She has been an educator for 13 years, the past two as director of communications for Southwest ISD in San Antonio. She Ann Marie Espinoza began her career as a teacher in Clark County ISD in Las Vegas, Nev., returning to teach third grade at Sky Harbour Elementary in Southwest ISD. She was the school’s campus instructional technologist from 2006 to 2008, when she was promoted to See WHO’S NEWS on page 22




November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


Who’s News worked at Trinity Valley Community College and as a technology director for LaPoynor ISD.

WHO’S NEWS continued from page 21

the position of district technology specialist. She spent a year as communications coordinator before taking her most recent position. Espinoza holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio.

Ysleta ISD An interim superintendent has been named for the district. Anna Perez, a veteran educator with more than 40 years of experience, had retired from the district in 2010 after serving as associate superintendent of operations and associate su-

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perintendent of schools in Ysleta ISD’s Area 1. She began her career in Fort Worth ISD as an instructional aide, spending 21 years in that district as a teacher, teacher Anna Perez leader, human relations trainer, principal and assistant director of elementary schools. She then moved to Carlsbad, N.M., where she was superintendent of schools. In 1994, she joined Cobre Consolidated Schools in Bayard, N.M., where she worked for nine years, initially as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction and, ultimately, as superintendent. In addition, she was an adjunct professor at San Diego State University, Texas Christian University and Western New Mexico University. Perez holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in special education, both from Texas Christian University. Her doctorate in educational administration was awarded from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.

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careers require individuals to receive further education and training. Also, individuals are able to seek out opportunities via MOOCs. Maybe instead of a diploma, education and training achievements would look more like a LinkedIn profile. So, what does all of this have to do with K-12 education? Everything, if you ask me. The current financial challenges in Texas mean we should all hunt for greater efficiency of instructional delivery like MOOCs. If the face of college education changes, the elements of secondary education need to fall in line to prepare students for an evolving future. Exciting times, indeed. What do you think? Please share your thoughts via email or Twitter. TERRY MORAWSKI is the assistant superintendent of communications and marketing for Mansfield ISD. Please send all future column ideas, reading suggestions, questions and comments to terrymorawski@gmail.com or connect with him on Twitter: @terrymorawski.


2013 T

Coppell ISD’s Jeff Turner claims TSPRA’s most prestigous honor

he Texas School Public Relations Association has named Jeff Turner, superintendent for Coppell ISD, as the association’s 2013 Key Communicator. Turner received the award in recognition of his significant contributions to the public’s understanding of public education in Texas through effective communications. Turner has been a leader within his district and throughout the state in identifying and articulating ways public schools can adapt and advance to better prepare students for the 21st century world. Turner received his award from TSPRA President Patti Pawlik-Perales at the 2013 Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards Convention in Dallas in September. “TSPRA is proud to present Dr. Jeff Turner with our most prestigious honor, the Key Communicator Award,” said Pawlik-Perales. “His dedication and willingness to take on leadership roles on a variety of educational issues encapsulates what our association looks for in a Key Communicator.” During his 12 years as the superintendent at Coppell ISD, Turner has been consistently at the forefront of debates on some of the state’s most-pressing educational issues. As TASA’s president in 2012-2013, Turner worked with members of the Texas Legislature and other interest groups throughout the 83rd legislative session to present or testify on several of the largest education initiatives, including House Bill 5, which reduced the number of high-stakes, end-of-course tests that Texas high school students have to take before graduating. In the spring of 2012, Turner wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Perry calling for a reduction in high-stakes testing. He and the members of the North Texas Regional Consortium, a collaboration among nine districts that Turner helped found, authored a resolution questioning the state’s reliance on such examinations. The resolution garnered statewide support and led

to the adoption of similar resolutions by hundreds of local school boards, parentteacher associations and similar regional organizations. “Jeff Turner has played an integral part in developing successful education programs within Coppell ISD and around the state as a leader in his profession, a visionary for the future of our students and an advocate for public education,” wrote House Rep. Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell, in his recommendation letter for Turner receiving the Key Communicator Award.

In 2006, Turner served as the chair of the design team of the Visioning Institute, a group of approximately 30 superintendents focused on developing a new model for public education and 21st century learning. The Texas Legislature used the work of the Visioning Institute to create the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium in 2011, charging the group with improving student learning in the state by developing innovative, high-priority learning standards, as well as assessment See KEY on page 24

TSPRA President Patti Pawlik-Perales presents the Key Communicator Award to Coppell ISD Superintendent Jeff Turner at the TASA/TASB convention in Dallas. November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


KEY continued from page 23

and accountability systems. Turner serves as co-chair of the consortium. “Dr. Turner has taken a large-scale view of where education is and where it needs to go in the future to meet the needs of students,” said Anthony Hill, president of the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees. Turner has served as a superintendent in Texas since 1991, leading districts in Burleson, Jacksonville and Van before coming to Coppell. In 2012, he was the Texas nominee for AASA National Superintendent of the Year, and Baylor University once named him an “educational change agent.”

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‘Dr. Turner has taken a large-scale view of where education is and where it needs to go in the future.’ — Anthony Hill, president, Coppell ISD board “This grassroots support and the ongoing work of the consortium, the regional consortia, and school and community leaders throughout the state have redirected the conversation about public education toward Texas schools being transformed into places of learning, where students are fully engaged and there is an emphasis on high-priority learning standards and greater community involvement,” said TASA Executive Director Johnny Veselka in his recommendation letter. “Dr. Turner’s visionary leadership, passionate commitment and guidance have enabled this work to endure.” Ian Halperin of Wylie ISD chairs TSPRA’s 2013 Professional Awards Committee, which includes Candace Ahlfinger, Richardson ISD; Celina Bley, Del Valle ISD; Angela Shelley, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD; 
Brian Morris, Lubbock ISD; and Steve Valdez, Weslaco ISD. TSPRA has issued the Key Communicator Award each year since 1981. The recipient may be a legislator, educator or a professional in another field who has improved school communications, or a member of TSPRA who has contributed outstanding service to the school communications profession. Recipients have included leaders from business, media, PTA, politics and education. 24

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Texas School Business • November / December 2013


2013 E

Edinburg CISD trustees demonstrate resilience, due diligence and harmony by Elizabeth Millard

dinburg CISD trustees claimed the top prize as the 2013 Outstanding School Board, bestowed annually by the Texas Association of School Administrators at the TASA/TASB annual convention. The selection committee’s decision was based on several criteria, including the board’s support for educational performance, support for educational improvement projects, commitment to a code of ethics, and maintenance of harmonious and supportive relationships among board members. The selection committee’s

chair, McAllen ISD Superintendent James Ponce (whose board won the 2012 distinction), noted that the Edinburg CISD board has a record of establishing programs and policies that benefit all students, from international baccalaureate to dropout recovery to student safety programs. “We’re blessed to have this board,” said René Gutiérrez, Edinburg CISD superintendent of schools. “In many districts, the boards are divided and that impacts their effectiveness. Here, we have a close-knit group of individuals who work as a team.”

Major initiatives A large part of the board’s prominence and effectiveness over the past few years centers around two main challenges: increasing school safety and fostering growth while dealing with significant financial cuts. Safety came to the forefront in December 2011 when a hunter who claimed to be target practicing shot two students. One student recovered, while the other is permanently paralyzed. According to poSee OUTSTANDING on page 25

Edinburg CISD trustees include (back row, left to right) Martin Castillo, Superintendent Rene Gutierrez and David Torres; (middle row) Jaime Chavana and Juan “Sonny” Palacios; (front row) Carmen Gonzalez. Not pictured are Robert Peña Jr. and Jaime Solis. November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


OUTSTANDING continued from page 25

lice reports, the shooter said he was aware that a middle school was in the trajectory of the targets where he was practicing. Because the district encompasses 945 square miles, dealing with security concerns presents significant challenges, says board President Juan “Sonny” Palacios. When the 2011 shooting occurred, the board immediately took action, creating a special initiative that brings together police departments, school administrators and parents. The district placed a police officer

‘While other districts were laying off staff and cutting back, we were hiring. It was a daunting task, but we did all that while maintaining a healthy fund balance.’ — Edinburg ISD board President Juan “Sonny” Palacios on every campus and hired a district police chief to helm a district-wide safety initiative. The board also spearheaded a campaign to raise funds for a 13-member Specialized Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) team that would increase overall safety in the area without adding cost to the district. The board also oversaw efforts to conduct security assessments, particularly in older schools, and came up with plans to build new schools with safety controls in place. Moreover, the district’s school buses all have video cameras as of this school year to help curb bullying, and the board also issued a district statement on bullying to the news media to emphasize its commitment to security and safety for all students. “We made safety our mission, and we did whatever we could to protect our children better,” said Palacios. “We also saw


the need to make sure that what happened in our district wouldn’t happen anywhere else.” During 2012, the board, along with Gutiérrez, worked with local lawmakers to draft House Bill 801, which called for legal consequences to firing bullets across the property line of a school. An Edinburg delegation, which included board representation, testified on behalf of HB 801 at a committee hearing of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee in Austin, where it received unanimous support. Although the vote didn’t go to the Texas Senate before the end of its regular session, Palacios is hopeful that the law will pass in the next session so that children can be better protected. Another challenge cropped up when the district needed a new high school in the midst of a state budget crunch. Edinburg CISD had $24 million cut from its budget over two years, but the board didn’t want to abandon plans for the much-needed school. Instead, the trustees worked together to tighten fiscal control and find the funds where they could. “While other districts were laying off staff and cutting back, we were hiring,” Palacios said. “It was a daunting task, but we did all that while maintaining a healthy fund balance.” Showing impressive fiscal responsibility and completing projects on time and on budget have shown the public that the Edinburg CISD board takes care of tax dollars, Gutiérrez added. “The board is very transparent in everything they do,” he said. “That goes a long way toward creating trust within the community.” Team approach Edinburg CISD’s board oversees the education of 34,000 students in 43 schools, with a staff of more than 4,500 employees. In the next five to 10 years, the district intends to open another four elementary schools, an additional high school and two middle schools. Also, Palacios noted, the district is seeking to build a partnership with The University of Texas, which has plans to expand medical education in Edinburg. Last year, the university announced that

Texas School Business • November / December 2013

it will provide significant investment toward increasing residency programs and infrastructure. It also mentioned building a clinical simulation facility in the area. Those developments are likely to create a population boom throughout the district and open opportunities for the district to establish a STEM campus at the university. Palacios said he anticipates the board will be involved in working with the university to help groom more graduates in math and science, including programs within the district where students can earn associate degrees. Those possibilities are in line with the board’s vision. The trustees led the district into the 2013-2014 school year with a new mission statement, focused on preparing students to be college- and career-ready. “We see so many great things ahead,” said Palacios. “Fortunately, the way that we work together will help the district to grow.” Although board members disagree occasionally, they never lose the sense of being a team, he said. Once decisions are made, the board offers full support and works toward quick implementation. Palacios added that all members have deep respect for each other and a commitment to the district. That goes a long way toward being effective. He said: “We approach every topic with the view of, ‘What’s best for the kids?’ With that as our goal, we know we can do the best for the district.” The board also works in close connection with Superintendent Gutiérrez, who finds the trustees’ cohesion both refreshing and effective. “This is a united board that works together very well,” Gutiérrez said. “There are no political lines of division, and I think that makes them unique. They are strong advocates for our students and our community, and they’re focused on making sure that our students and staff have the best resources that we can get.” ELIZABETH MILLARD also writes for District Administration.



Honor Board state, regional finalists celebrated at convention


n addition to Edinburg CISD’s top accolade, four Honor Board state finalists were recognized during the first general session of the annual TASA/TASB Convention. They hailed from Aldine, Hillsboro, Mesquite and Wortham ISDs. Also, three regional honor boards were recognized. They were from Hardin-Jefferson, Livingston and Franklin ISDs.

Hillsboro ISD

Wortham ISD

Aldine ISD trustees include (left to right) Jose Palacios Jr., Viola Garcias, Marine Jones, Merlin Griggs Sr., Steve Mead, Superintendent Wanda Bamberg, Alton Smith, Rick Ogden and Rose Avalos.

Aldine ISD

Mesquite ISD trustees include (left to right) Phil Appenzeller, Kevin Carbo, Archimedes Faulkner, Superintendent Linda Henrie, Christina Hall, Cary Tanamachi, Gary Bingham and Robert Seward.

Mesquite ISD

Hillsboro ISD trustees include (left to right) Norman Baker, Jamie Siddons, Karen Smith, Lupe Mancha, Gregg Hill, John Sawyer, Chris Teague and Superintendent James Gilcrease.

Wortham ISD trustees include (left to right) Doug Miller, James Sessions, Bruce Tabor and Sam Wright. Not pictured: Jeff Jones, Tadd Dunnahoe, Billy Perez and Brent Jones. November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


Administrators, trustees gather in Dallas for TASA/TASB annual convention The Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards hosted their annual convention in Dallas in September. The keynote speakers included author Steven Johnson and former First Lady Laura Bush.

Jeff Whitten and Ronnie Thompson of Hooks ISD.

Tony Ayub, Gary Gandara, Cynthia Najera, Paul Guerra, Tony Reza, Jose Espinoza and Thomas Eyeington of Socorro ISD.

Tina Garza and Norma Garcia of Harlingen ISD.

Wende Haney and Janie Holmes of Hawkins ISD.

Anna Montney and Shirleen Zacharias of Somerset ISD.

Jessie Austin and Martin Dailey of Van Vleck ISD.

Jody Thomas and Lee Farris of New Boston ISD.

Scott Osman and Sherrie Evans of Stephenville ISD. Matthew Weber and Rachel Arcaute of McAllen ISD.


Texas School Business • November / December 2013

Jeff Pendill, Mike Cook and Troy Bontrager of Community ISD.

Dee and Greg Howard of Wimberley ISD with Randy and Leslie Graham of Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD.

Tina Kadlecek, April Mabry and Diana Freeman of TASB.

Robert McLain, David Spinhirne and Jay West of Channing ISD.

Letty Albright, Niki Spears and Seeju Dupre of Fort Bend ISD.

Stan Swann of Crowley ISD and Dewitt Smith of Wink-Loving ISD.

Jacqueline Shuman, Tia Timm and Bonnie Haecker of Santa Fe ISD.

Brad Lancaster of Lake Travis ISD with Kimberly McAdams and Sheila Brawner of College Station ISD. Jim Chadwell of Eagle Mt.Saginaw ISD with Tom Myers and Jim Whitton of Brackett & Ellis P.C. November / December 2013 • Texas School Business


THE BACK PAGE by Riney Jordan

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Above and beyond the call


ou can spot them every time. I’m talking about those teachers and administrators who love kids — and the kids love them! As I am waiting to speak to a group of teachers, I often watch the interactions among teachers, and it’s particularly interesting when students enter the mix. You can see immediately which teachers the students love and respect the most. The expressions on the students’ faces tell it all. Such was the case as I waited to speak at a school convocation. When the students came into the room, they spotted their “favorite” teacher. There was lots of laughter and hugging. It was obvious that here was one of those teachers who thoroughly enjoyed working with, and for, students. After my talk, this teacher was one of the first to come forward. She was so positive and encouraging; I knew why the kids responded to her. At one point, she reached into her purse and took out her wallet. “You have to see a picture of my son,” she beamed. As I looked down at the picture, I saw a smiling young man in a wheelchair, head turned at an angle, with a look of contentment on his face. “This is Christopher,” she added, “and he has cerebral palsy.” I wasn’t fully prepared for the story that followed. You see, she had first met Christopher when he was 6 years old and admitted to the school where she taught special education. According to his doctor, Christopher required a feeding tube and had been declared legally blind. As the year progressed, more information became available about this boy. He was eventually removed from his home and, as you know, children with special needs are rarely chosen by adults wanting a child. As Christopher approached his 13th birthday, this amazing teacher made a life-changing decision: She became a


foster mom to this young boy. But the story doesn’t end there. Two years later, this teacher decided to adopt him as her son and, on a hot summer day, a judge slammed her gavel and announced, “Congratulations! You are the mother of a bouncing baby boy!” This rare lady, with a heart as big as Texas, continues her role as a teacher, as a mother and as an inspiration to everyone she meets. “Christopher is one of the best things that ever happened to me,” she said. Oh, I’m not proposing that teachers start adopting every child who has a need! But, we can do amazing things each and every day that will impact students in such a powerful way. It’s as simple as stop, look and listen. Stop for a moment and just imagine the sort of life your students have outside of school. Look for the obvious signs of loneliness, depression, anger, and rebellion and remember that they are typically signs of a much bigger problem in a student’s life. Trust me. There are many who have no one in their lives who show they care. Take the time to listen. I’m convinced that this is one of the most crucial things we can do for our students. Listen as they talk to others. Listen when they approach you. Listen for the clues they’re giving you. I applaud this teacher who truly went above and beyond the call of duty to make a difference in the life of one of her students. Her name is Carolyn Jean Durham, a remarkable individual in Santa Rosa ISD. She proved once again that our students “don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.” So proud of you, Carolyn! Tell Christopher we are proud of him too! RINEY JORDAN, whose best-selling book “All the Difference” is now in its sixth printing, is an international speaker and humorist. He can be reached at riney@yahoo.com or by visiting www.rineyjordan.com.

Texas School Business • November / December 2013

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November / December 2013 • Texas School Business



Join education’s most energetic and innovative leaders at SXSWedu to connect, collaborate, create and change how we teach and learn. 2013 Keynote: Bill Gates

The Wheeler Brothers at the 2013 Conference & Festival Party



Thursday’s 2013 Closing BBQ

Make plans to register to attend SXSWedu 2014! Visit SXSWedu.com

2013 Registrants