Page 1



Gayle Stinson, President Superintendent, Lake Dallas ISD

Greg Smith, President-Elect Superintendent, Clear Creek ISD

Brain T. Woods, Vice President Superintendent, Northside ISD

Cover Story Page 14

Buck Gilcrease, Past President Superintendent, Alvin ISD

An update on the Classroom Connectivity Initiative


TASA Proudly Announces 2018-2019 Officers

March 4–7, 2019 Austin, Texas


The Future of Learning Starts Here Register to attend starting August 1 for the lowest rate of the season!

follow @sxswedu




Volume 33 No. 2




Texas schools successfully applied for state funding for fiber upgrades



Guns on school premises: What Texas law allows



See something. Say something.



Innovative partnerships for effective teacher preparation

Sandra Stewart and Stacey Edmonson TCEA TECH TAKE


Many paths to online education: Keep an eye out for critical elements

Patricia Abrego TSPRA VOICE


Navigating social media as a public school employee

Rebecca M.Villarreal




OFFICERS Gayle Stinson, President, Lake Dallas ISD Greg Smith, President-Elect, Clear Creek ISD


Brian T. Woods, Vice President, Northside ISD Buck Gilcrease, Past President, Alvin ISD

TASA Professional Learning Calendar



President’s Message


Daniel Treviño, Jr., Region 1, Mercedes ISD

Executive Director’s View


Max A. Thompson, Region 2, Banquete ISD Jeanette Winn, Region 3, Karnes City ISD Charles E. Dupre, Region 4, Fort Bend ISD Richard Bain, Region 5, Silsbee ISD Clark C. Ealy, Region 6, College Station ISD Stan Surratt, Region 7, Lindale ISD Judd Marshall, Region 8, Mount Pleasant ISD Kevin Dyes, Region 9, Holliday ISD Kevin Worthy, Region 10, Royse City ISD


Executive Director

David Belding, Region 11, Aubrey ISD Kevin Brown

Assistant Executive Director, Services and Systems Administration

Ann M. Halstead

Amy Francisco

Director, Communications and Media Relations

Design/Production Marco A. De La Cueva

Editorial Director

Dacia Rivers

INSIGHT is published quarterly by the Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, Texas, 78701-2617. Subscription is included in TASA membership dues. © 2018 by TASA. All rights reserved.TASA members may reprint articles in limited quantities for in-house educational use. Articles in INSIGHT are expressions of the author or interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of TASA. Advertisements do not necessarily carry the endorsement of the Texas Association of School Administrators. INSIGHT is printed by 360 Press Solutions, Cedar Park, Texas.

George Kazanas, Region 12, Midway ISD Jodi Duron, Region 13, Elgin ISD Shaun Barnett, Region 14, Stamford ISD Aaron Hood, Region 15, Robert Lee ISD Donna Hale, Region 16, Miami ISD Keith Bryant, Region 17, Lubbock-Cooper ISD Ariel Elliott, Region 18, Greenwood ISD Jeannie Meza-Chavez, Region 19, San Elizario ISD Michelle Carroll Smith, Region 20, Lytle ISD

AT-LARGE MEMBERS LaTonya Goffney, Aldine ISD Scott Niven, Allen ISD Jamie Wilson, Denton ISD Roland Toscano, East Central ISD

LEGISLATIVE CHAIR Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD

EDITORIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE Brian T. Woods, Northside ISD, Chair David Belding, Aubrey ISD Fred Brent, Georgetown ISD Jodi Duron, Elgin ISD Stacey Edmonson, Sam Houston State University Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD



TASA Professional Learning Calendar For details on our professional development events, please visit us at or call the TASA office at 512.477.6361 or 800.725.TASA (8272)





August 1-2

First-Time Superintendents Academy Various (FTSA) – Session I

Austin Marriott North Round Rock, TX


First-Time Superintendents Academy Various (FTSA) – Session II

Austin Marriott North Round Rock, TX


TASA/TASB Convention

Austin Convention Center Austin, TX


Curriculum Management Audit Training CMSi Level I

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX


Academy for Transformational Leadership Schlechty Center Session I


Curriculum Management Audit Training CMSi Level I

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX


First-Time Superintendents Academy Various (FTSA) – Session III

Austin Marriott North Round Rock, TX


Curriculum Management Audit Training CMSi Level II

TASA Headquarters Austin, Texas


Academy for Transformational Leadership Schlechty Center Session II


Various August


San Angelo ISD San Angelo, TX


29-30 Administrative Leadership Institute Various

San Angelo ISD San Angelo, Texas

Texas A&M University College Station, Texas

December 3-4

CMSi Curriculum Management CMSi Planning Workshop

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX


CMSi Curriculum Management CMSi Writing Workshop

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX



We focus on school safety, so you can focus on your students.


Visit to view a demo.





s we move into the summer season, more than ever we are focused on a time of transition and the opportunity for reflection. The Johnny Veselka Building is welcoming a new face and is abuzz with energy as Dr. Kevin Brown assumes the TASA leadership role of executive director. There’s no doubt that Kevin will respectfully protect the traditions and pillars of excellence cast by retiring Executive Director Johnny Veselka and simultaneously advance the TASA Strategic Framework with centrifugal force. Change is inevitable, but growth is optional, and most assuredly the TASA leadership will continue the upward trajectory with the changing of the guard.

Gayle Stinson

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE TASA 2025 will continue to build leadership capacity, cultivate a culture of transferable learning, champion an educated citizenry and strive to perform at our highest level day in and day out.

Even so, it’s been a tough year — from bell to bell. We’ve fought hard during a grueling election cycle that continues to target public school educators and our students. And this fall, when classes should have been starting across the state, Hurricane Harvey dealt our friends on the coast and beyond a brutal blow. And as we should have been preparing our kids to walk the stages of graduation across the state, instead we all mourned and grieved for our dear friends in Santa Fe. These are only a few events that marked our year with moments of profound sadness. The road ahead is still not clear. Reflecting upon the last school year, there is ample evidence of the belief that people uniting together as a cord of three strands is exponentially stronger than a single strand. In all situations, the spirit of “no one fights alone” was never more apparent. This was evidenced when we visited Brookside Intermediate in Clear Creek ISD during one of our Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network meetings. To witness the strength shown in the literal eye of the hurricane was profound. As we have seen so many times before, the strength of the community, the strength of educators, and the strength of the families all joined together and accomplished feats that no individual could ever hope to bring about alone. Even during a time of utter destruction, it was touching to see that that the school house still stood as the lighthouse of the community and as a fortress of hope. Moving forward, we can undoubtedly expect a new set of fresh challenges. We think we’ve seen it all before, but each year proves to us that we have not. There is no doubt that school safety and the mental health of our children will be among the forefront of our agenda; however, we also have an important election ahead of us in November, which will be followed by what will most likely be an interestingly contentious legislative session. Our resolve to get out the vote should be stronger than ever. Our profession and our school culture has been under assault, and this is not the time for any of us to sit idly by and watch the changes occur without fighting for what we believe is right. The issues surrounding school choice and voucher systems will no doubt continue to be debated from the legislative hallways to the governor’s office, and we need to ensure that we are an integral part of these conversations. With all of this being said, I am unbelievably excited about the opportunities and the challenges that the upcoming year will bring. There will be a vibrancy associated with our fight for the students and teachers of our great state that should ignite us all. We have shown that we have resolve. We have resilience. And we will prevail. TASA 2025 will continue to build leadership capacity, cultivate a culture of transferable learning, champion an educated citizenry and strive to perform at our highest level day in and day out. The time is now to rally around each other and do everything in our power to support public education and the children of Texas. I hope that you will all join me in a commitment to rolling up our sleeves and fighting for the future of our children. We are #bettertogether! 7

Soldier-Coursed Flash of Inspiration A New Community Gateway Captures Instruction and Imagination in Masonry

Braswell High School serves as a portal to the high-growth corridor east of Denton. Acme’s flashed brick brings rich color with unique range and character to focal points of the new campus. At athletic facilities, the design includes two complementary Hill Country Stone colors for increased scale. Soldier coursing shows the versatility of modular Acme Brick, which contrasts beautifully with larger units. The result is a high school visually organized to support educational excellence and create a lasting, distinctive neighborhood identity.

"We chose three colors of flashed brick—all made at Acme Brick’s Denton plant—for their variations in color and play of light, which helped meet a school district desire for local materials and sustainability. In combination with Hill Country Stone, the brick allowed us to differentiate the buildings’ massings by function and location.” — John P. Brooks, AIA, Senior Associate, VLK Architects

Ray Braswell High School West Field House, Denton ISD Little Elm, Texas architect VLK Architects, Fort Worth general contractor Balfour Beatty, Fort Worth masonry contractor DMG Masonry, Arlington Acme Brick materials Acme Brick (Denton Plant) Cranberry Flash, Ebony, Burnt Pumpkin Modular Ruff Featherlite Building Products Jefferson, Canyon Antique Smooth Architectural Masonry

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hen I entered teaching, I never thought I would need to become an expert in school safety. It wasn’t on my radar beyond routine fire and tornado drills. When I was a principal, well before Columbine, we left exterior doors unlocked most of the time and routinely had parents and students access the campus freely. I’ll never forget a conversation with an angry parent who was frustrated that she could no longer walk into the back door of the school whenever she wanted. Safety is not convenient.

Kevin Brown

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S VIEW Every time we hire a security officer we have to give up a teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal or custodian.

Since then, especially in recent months, our sense of security has been shaken with multiple tragic events in schools and churches. Each occurrence leaves in its wake a traumatized, heartbroken community and a society at large that feels less safe. As school administrators, people often turn to us for answers, but the answers are much more complex than one would think, and they are different for each community. Formulating them requires conversations with staff, boards, parents, law enforcement and safety experts. After each event, we re-examine and implement new safety procedures. We do our safety audits. We purchase automatic locks, put “lock-blocks” on classroom doors, hire police forces, practice drills, do background checks on visitors, install cameras, build safety vestibules, etc., etc. This comes at a financial cost because no additional state funding is allotted for safety. Every time we hire a security officer we have to give up a teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal or custodian. We have to be thoughtful about which safety expenses have the most leverage and the least impact on learning. Financial costs are not the only challenges. While we have to keep our schools as safe as possible, we don’t want them to feel like prisons. We want our communities to feel connected to their schools and encouraged to attend events so they can build strong bonds with our teachers and coaches. Finally, we have to deal with fear. While we must acknowledge safety concerns and mitigate those as much as possible, we also have to be the voice of reason and calm. We cannot let fear overtake our decision-making. That is a difficult balance to strike. Then there is the fact that it is impossible to completely prevent tragedies in a free society. That is a heavy burden. As school leaders, we have to be a big part of the conversation on how to provide security for our communities. As we do so, we must ask ourselves why these shootings are occurring. What are the complex issues our children face that cause them to disconnect from society and have such anger and anxiety that they commit violent acts? How can we attend to their mental health issues and keep all children connected and engaged in school as well as to their communities so they feel they belong? TASA is committed to helping you answer these questions in a way that works best for your community. The theme of our summer conference in June was school safety, and we brought in experts as well as colleagues who shared what they have learned from their own tragedies. This is a societal issue, not just a school issue, but we as school leaders have an important role to play. Our aim is to help equip you to take on this challenge.



LEGAL INSIGHT Guns on school premises: What Texas law allows by Ramiro Canales

Providing classroom teachers with guns has generated praise and controversy from parents, education groups and stakeholders.


he recent mass school shooting at Santa Fe High School has prompted Texas leaders to propose ideas to improve school safety. Acknowledging that action is required in addition to prayers, Gov. Greg Abbott immediately called for roundtable discussions May 22-24, 2018 at the Texas Capitol with legislative leaders, parents, students, administrators, educators, concerned citizens and those who support the Second Amendment. On May 30, Gov. Abbott released the “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan,” which incorporated recommendations from the participants at the roundtable discussions. Providing classroom teachers with guns has generated praise and controversy from parents, education groups and stakeholders. Currently, Texas school districts have the option of adopting a Guardian Plan or participating in the state regulated School Marshals Program.

Guardian Plan The Guardian Plan is a locally approved program. A local board of trustees may adopt a policy that authorizes certain employees to carry guns on the premises of a school. State law does not regulate the Guardian Plan.

School Marshals In 2013, the 83rd Texas Legislature passed HB 1009 by Rep. Jason Villalba of Dallas in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that occurred on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newton, Connecticut. Officially designated as the “Protection of Texas Children Act,” HB 1009 created a new category of law enforcement personnel that could be used by school districts and charter schools to protect schoolchildren. In 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature passed HB 867 by Rep. Villalba, which amended the school marshal program for public schools and charter schools. The bill also allowed the appointment of school marshals at private schools. The school marshal program is not mandatory. A school board of trustees or the governing body of a charter school has the option of implementing the program. For confidential reasons, the exact number of school marshals in Texas school districts and charter schools is not known. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018, the Texas School Marshal Program was hailed as a model for school districts in Florida and across the nation. Texas’ School Marshal Program is found in the Occupations Code and the Education Code and provides as follows: •



Requires the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to establish and maintain a school marshal training program conducted by commission staff or an approved provider for any employee of a school district or open-enrollment charter school who holds a concealed handgun license.

Requires the training program to include 80 hours of instruction designed to emphasize strategies for preventing school shootings and securing the safety of victims of school shootings; educating the trainee of legal issues relating to the use of deadly force and the duties of peace officers; proving the trainee with effective techniques and strategies; improving the trainee’s use of a handgun; and enabling the trainee to respond to an emergency situation.

Requires the Commission to develop and administer a psychological examination to each trainee to determine if the trainee is psychologically fit to carry out the duties of a school marshal.

Provides that the identity of a school marshal is confidential.

Requires the Commission to license a person as a school marshal if the person successfully completes the training program and is psychologically fit.

Allows a local school board or the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school to appoint not more than the greater of 1) one school marshal per “200 students in average daily attendance per campus” or 2) “for each campus one school marshal per building of the campus at which students regularly receive classroom instruction.”

Increasing the number of school district personnel participating in the school marshal program by providing free summer training from June to August 2018

Amending the law to allow one school marshal per 100 students

Allows a local school board of the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school to select an employee of a school district or open-enrollment who has met the training and psychological requirements established by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Repealing the storage requirement to allow school marshals to carry firearms on campus

Streamlining the 80-hour instructional course to obtain a school marshal license by focusing on material that will help school marshals respond to active shooters

Allows the board of trustees of a governing body of a charter school to reimburse an employee the amount paid by the employee to participate in the training program to be licensed as a school marshal.

Allows a school marshal to carry or possess a concealed handgun on the physical premises of a school in accordance with the written regulations adopted by the local board of trustees or governing body of a charter school and at a specific school specified by the board of trustees or governing body.

Allows a school marshal to use a handgun in school under circumstances that would justify the use of deadly force.

Gov. Abbott’s “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan” contains five recommendations to improve the school marshal program. The governor recommends:

School safety will be a key issue for the 86th Texas Legislature. In addition to Gov. Abbott’s recommendations, committees in the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives are studying ways to improve school safety. Recommendations are expected later this fall. Pre-filing of legislation begins in early November and bills incorporating the recommendations by the governor, Texas Senate and Texas House are expected to be filed before the Legislature convenes on Jan. 8, 2019. n

Ramiro Canales is an attorney and the assistant executive director of governmental relations at TASA. Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice.



TEACHER PERSPECTIVE See something. Say something. By Tara Bordeaux

E It takes multiple solutions working in solidarity to enact real change, and it takes the courage and heart of strong leaders to implement them.

very time I see those words, I cringe. During my first year teaching, we had a gun on campus. A student took his own life during lunch, in front of students and teachers, completely changing our community forever. No one was ever the same after that day, and five years later, many of us are still haunted by it. That was one life too many taken, and it devastated us, so I cannot even fathom what it feels like to be at a school like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and now, Santa Fe, where the death tolls more than quadruple ours.A person cannot erase what they see and hear after a gun goes off, especially when dealing with children. One of the hardest parts for the teachers on our campus to swallow about his death, especially those who knew him, or who saw what happened that day, was that moments before he did it, he posted about it on social media, with a goodbye letter stating that he was going to do it, and a photo of him with a gun to his head.There were students who commented on it, but no one turned it in, and no one stopped it.They thought it was a joke.The student was dead within an hour of that post. His friends saw something, but did not say something.And that is why I cringe when I see those words. It takes me back to a day I so deeply wish to forget. After that day, students took those types of threats seriously. If they thought for one moment another student was in trouble, they said something. As teachers, we looked for warning signs even more than before.An unthinkable tragedy brought us all together, and we worked hard to try to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. It only took one lost life for change to happen on our campus. One. We didn’t blame each other or fight about whose fault it was or wasn’t; instead we all came together, supported one another through it, and found ways to try to stop it from ever happening again.

Point of no return As I write this, the voices of a news report play in the background as once again, lives have been taken on school grounds.This time, it hits even closer to home, because it is home.Texas. Santa Fe High School.Ten young souls lost to unnecessary gun violence.At what point do we as teachers, administrators, parents and districts actually take a vocal stand and fight back? How many more lives do we have to lose before we finally say enough really is enough? As a society, every time another school shooting occurs, within seconds of the report, debates start flying across the internet before we even get to the last name on the victim list. Each side immediately clinches the opportunity to stake claim in using the situation to benefit their agendas. One side shouts at us to ban guns, another to add more. One side blames mental health, another says that plays no part. Some demand arming teachers, while others say it’s the teachers’ fault. Everyone seems to be an expert on the issue, especially the keyboard warriors, yet nothing seems to be done about it besides a bunch of adults fighting online and attacking anyone who holds an opposing viewpoint. We have reached a point of no return, and can no longer allow these tragedies to be normalized.We have to be honest with ourselves.This is a multifaceted issue with no simple solution, and it will take



Enough is enough The time has come for school leaders, superintendents, state boards members and education agencies to step up and help put an end to this madness. Enough is enough now.We must stop the partisan division that emphasizes party loyalty over reasoning, and quit placing blame without solving any problems.These are your schools.Your teachers.Your students. And it is your responsibility to protect them. It is imperative that district leaders take the initiative to join together to create solutions and present them to government officials.

all sides working together to protect our students and teachers.We have to be realistic and address the fact that school shootings are not the result of one single thing.These horrific events are both a gun problem and a mental health problem, and we need a solution that addresses both issues.While we’re at it, let’s also accept the fact that a lack of resources and funding shortages also play a pivotal role in school safety. But we can save that discussion for another day.

It’s not just a “now” thing In 1999, Columbine brought mass shootings into the mainstream. Many people forgot about the 1997-98 school year before, when four multiple-fatality shootings occurred, including the one at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro,Arkansas, when an 11-yearold and a 13-year-old opened fire, killing four students and a teacher, and injuring 10 others. But school shootings did not start at Jonesboro, or Columbine. It’s not just a “now” thing, and it isn’t even just a 21st century issue.We are facing a problem of epidemic proportion that has been a part of our culture since Colonial America. Teachers and students have been wounded or killed on school grounds throughout the history of the United States. Even the simplest of research pulls up a plethora of shootings that occurred centuries ago, and none of the lists are necessarily all-inclusive. Whether elementary, secondary or higher education, single or mass shootings, suicides or accidental, America has a problem, and it keeps being swept under the rug and hidden by false rhetoric and unwarranted arguments by irresponsible adults who value their agendas over human lives. As students find the strength to lead the way, we as adults must muster the courage to stand beside them and fight for the change our students are advocating for.

Texas has more districts and more teachers than any other state in our nation. Rural or urban, large or small, this issue affects us all. No district is exempt from this type of tragedy, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but if every superintendent in Texas came together, there would be an unprecedented change in the American school culture and the way in which educational policy is written. I believe in the power of Texas educators, and I have faith that we can find a way to make our schools safer for students and teachers. A school should be one of the safest places a person ever steps foot in. Stronger gun control measures. Funding for more mental health resources.Triage and crisis training for teachers. Stricter security measures on campuses. They are all needed, but we cannot just pick one solution out of a hat and when it fails say, “but we tried …” It takes multiple solutions working in solidarity to enact real change, and it takes the courage and heart of strong leaders to implement them. Fear has no business in schools, and no more children should lose their life while pursuing an education, nor should any more teachers lose their lives trying to make a difference in the world.We can no longer pretend that this won’t happen to us; at least I know I cannot. If we do not change the system, the system will change us. After all, see something, say something, right? I think we’ve said enough. Now it’s time we do something about it.n Tara Bordeaux, is the 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year and the audio-video production teacher at Lanier High School in Austin ISD.



An update on the Classroom Connectivity Initiative Texas schools successfully applied for state funding for fiber upgrades By Dacia Rivers


ast and reliable internet access is no longer a luxury for Texas’ public schools, but a necessity. As of September 2017, 358,995 public school students in 85 Texas school districts still experienced a level of connectivity that fell below the minimum recommended bandwidth goal as set by the Federal Communications Commission. Two years ago, when the discrepancy was even larger, Gov. Greg Abbott launched the Texas Classroom Connectivity Initiative, with the goal of increasing access to affordable, high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi access. A partnership with the TEA and EducationSuperHighway, the Initiative serves to help schools secure funding available through the federal Erate program. As part of the initiative, the Texas Legislature also appropriated $25 million in state matching funds, which is matched dollar-for-dollar by additional federal funds to help fund the cost of fiber construction projects. In 2017, school districts across the state requested funding to build roughly 1,036 miles of fiber to improve connectivity. Thus far in 2018, districts have asked for funding to build an additional 3,210 miles of fiber; however, even if all current projects are approved and finalized, approximately 45 school districts in the state will still have at least one campus lacking fiber. 14


The benefits of a well-connected campus Just west of Lubbock, Morton ISD is a small, rural district that has struggled with connectivity issues. A year ago, the district got by with slow, lagging internet access, but this fall, after taking advantage of the Classroom Connectivity Initiative, officials in Morton ISD plan on reaching faster speeds that will make a radical difference for students and staff. Trying to enact a one-to-one technology program in the district was impossible, as there wasn’t enough bandwidth for every student to connect all at once. “We were having problems because we had more devices than our Wi-Fi access point can handle,” says Morton ISD Superintendent Karen Saunders. As the upgrades have been completed, high school students in Morton have gained better access, and the district is in the process of buying Chromebooks and rolling out one-to-one coverage for all students. A nearby business, Next Era Energy, chipped in to help cover some of Morton’s technology upgrades, and the district has been able to update some of its switches and access points to provide better connections for everyone.

“There are many resources online that our kids in elementary and middle school have not been able to access because their computer systems are so slow,” Saunders says. “Their computers might take eight minutes to log on, so it’s a sitting resource, and not being used like it could be.” With the added bandwidth, students in Morton ISD will gain access to the wealth of information available online, and teachers will have new tools at their disposal, such as whiteboards and 3D modeling software. “The teachers are excited,” Saunders says. “It’s a positive and exciting time right now.” In Damon ISD, south of Houston, the district made use of the initiative starting in late 2016, and is now reaping the rewards of improved connectivity. “It was amazingly bad before. Amazingly slow,” says Bobby Goodman, IT manager and computer teacher in the district. “Back then, people couldn’t stream any video, or you’d get one or two people trying to do something online and the whole school would slow down.” Such a slow connection not only hindered students and teachers in the district, but also made work difficult for school staff who were unable to upload important documents such as payroll files. By the summer of 2017, Damon ISD had greatly increased its connectivity for the district of about 200 students. This improvement allowed Damon to provide Chromebooks for its high school and middle school students and to add a computer lab for elementary students. “There is no way we could have done that before, at the speeds we were at,” Goodman says. “Before we had Smart Boards, but we couldn’t do a lot with them because it would lock up the internet when you started using any multimedia presentation. Now, we don’t have that issue.”

Help when you need it By going through the initiative, districts had the opportunity to apply for funding for their fiber improvements, they get much-needed help navigating the upgrade process of paperwork, bids and installation. In Damon, Goodman says he initially felt the district was stuck with poor connectivity because of its small size and rural location.

man says. “They encouraged us that it was possible and showed us some ways we could get funding that we didn’t even know was available to us.” The partnership with the nonprofit allows districts to get assistance throughout the process, something that has been a boon to many. “We would do conference calls with them and they would walk us through parts of the paperwork,” Goodman says. “When we got a bid, we would send it to them to look over the contracts and tell us what they thought. All the way through, we would go to them for feedback and help.” Judy Fincher, instructional coordinator in Brady ISD, located halfway between Austin and San Angelo, agrees that the help she received from EducationSuperHighway was crucial to upgrading the district from an unreliable wireless connection to fiber. “‘I wouldn’t have even attempted it without them,” Fincher says. “There’s no way we could have come up with an RFP like they helped us create.” Switching to a fiber connection in Brady will allow teachers to use streaming videos in their classrooms, something they haven’t been able to do due to buffering. The district’s phone system also currently goes through the wireless connection, which causes dropped calls and interruptions — a constant annoyance for staff that won’t be missed when the upgrades are completed. “I could not have done it without EducationSuperHighway,” Fincher says. “Every time I have a question, I call them, and they are there.”

When opportunity knocks Now is the time for any district in Texas struggling with poor connectivity to jump on the bandwagon. Although the opportunity to apply for the state matching fund has passed, school districts may continue to apply for the federal E-rate program to fund their Internet upgrades. As a reminder, each school district has $150 per student to upgrade their internal connections and equipment and this is the last year a school district may apply to use the funding if they haven’t already. The process can be a lengthy one, but the

“Once we started to talk with EducationSuperHighway, we got a lot more information,” GoodSUMMER 2018


benefits of well-connected students and staff are numerous, from providing rural students with as much outreach and information as their urban peers, to easing workloads for district employees. Districts looking for more information on the process can visit

nectivity to learn about the available assistance and initiate a conversation on where to begin. For more tips and tools, visit the EducationSuperHighway blog at educationsuperhighway. org/blog. n

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HIGHER EDUCATION Innovative partnerships for effective teacher preparation by Sandra Stewart and Stacey Edmonson


istorically, university teacher preparation programs and public school districts have coordinated, but not necessarily collaborated, efforts to meet the primary goal of preparing teachers for Texas classrooms. However, university-based preparation programs are responsible for preparing entry level teachers in content and pedagogy that meet the needs of all public schools. Districts across Texas differ in size, setting and cultural identities that cannot be generalized for all. For example, although both are committed to providing the highest quality education possible for their students, a 2A rural district an hour north of Houston and a 6A urban district in the heart of Houston have unique cultural identities that shape the learning environment and focus on diverse student populations and learning needs. This potential disconnect between university preparation programs and school districts may contribute to the high teacher attrition rates over three to five years. Texas reported only a 73 percent teacher retention rate during a five-year period from 2012 to 2017, resulting in one out of every four teachers in Texas leaving the classroom within five years. In addition, professional development and induction for novice teachers is a costly investment, placing a financial burden on districts when those teachers leave the teaching field in a short time frame. Collaboration between university educator preparation programs and district partners is key to ensuring that all Texas classrooms have the most successful teachers possible. In a competitive era in which teacher certification programs are advertising shorter, faster and cheaper paths into public classrooms, research suggests just the opposite; teacher preparation programs must provide more targeted and meaningful field experiences that ensure teacher retention and preparedness. Darling-Hammond (2010) reported that underprepared teachers in the field resulted in lower student achievement; however, high-quality preparation programs that included three to four years of initial preparation in model schools with strong mentoring increased student achievement and teacher retention. In addition, imminent teacher shortages, especially in highneeds areas such as bilingual, special education, math and science have forced many districts to hire underprepared staff to fill these classrooms. Therefore, it is incumbent on teacher education programs to collaborate with districts in creating innovative programs that ensure high-quality teachers in every classroom and higher retention rates over five years. Faced with teacher shortages and teacher scarcity in many areas, districts are often eager for opportunities to support teacher candidates in field placements and clinical teaching through innovative university programs such as Grow Your Own teacher and paraprofessional initiatives, 4+1 professional certification programs, and residency yearlong clinical teaching assignments. These types of innovative programs help meet campus needs in both hard-to-fill content areas as well as rural or urban districts that may otherwise lack a sufficient pool of teacher candidates to effectively fill their classrooms with highly qualified teachers.



One effective way for districts to grow teachers, especially in high-needs areas such as bilingual and special education, is providing support for current paraprofessionals to become certified teachers. In this type of program, campus principals recommend current paraprofessionals they believe have the potential to be successful future teachers. Grow Your Own paraprofessional initiatives are beginning to develop in some universities across Texas and are supported by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) through recent grants awarded to district/university partners. These universities offer courses and certification plans for paraprofessionals that are specifically designed to schedule coursework and field experiences around the paraprofessionals’ work schedules. Coursework is typically offered faceto-face at night and on the weekends and is also available online. A mixture of these types of opportunities can be found in various university settings. For example, one university offers an allonline coursework program using live feed web-based observations of teaching lessons, and other programs provide blended face-to-face teaching on campuses within several school districts. Grow Your Own programs focus on early teacher preparation and targeted field-based experiences, often beginning in the junior year of high school. Many Grow Your Own programs across the nation, primarily in urban and rural areas, are designed to ensure that university-prepared students become teachers in the districts and schools where they were educated. These programs begin with university outreach with high school juniors and seniors in programming such as “Ready, Set, Teach,” CTE courses aligned to the teaching profession and in future teacher organizations such as the Texas Association of Future Educators (TAFE).

These efforts may also include college/university dual credit opportunities, summer camps and internships, district incentives, ongoing mentoring from high school to university graduation, and collaborative professional development with university faculty, district mentors and university teacher candidates. Many districts have signing days with hiring commitments to high school students who will come back to the district and teach. Universities may also offer opportunities for future teachers to experience teacher education while in high school through interactive summer camps that focus on classroom environment, effective planning and instructional technology, among other relevant topics. Immersing high school students in the teaching process early builds their confidence in the teaching profession and generates excitement for college teacher education coursework. Another opportunity for developing strong initial teacher candidates is the 4+1 certification and master’s degree option. The 4+1 professional initiative affords teacher candidates the opportunity to complete their undergraduate degree with initial certification along with a master’s degree in five years. Teacher candidates accepted into this unique program at Sam Houston State University complete the full undergraduate degree and teacher preparation requirements, just as traditional teacher candidates do, exclusive of the final semester of student teaching. In lieu of one semester of clinical teaching, these high-achieving candidates begin the master’s program in Curriculum and Instruction and complete initial certification through a yearlong paid teaching internship while enrolled in graduate level courses. Candidates must have a minimum 3.25 GPA and must participate in a rigorous interview process to ensure they are prepared to teach in their first year. In addition, all candidates must pass their

content TExES exam prior to summer graduation. During the first year teaching internship, faculty teaching the coursework provide ongoing and meaningful feedback through strong classroom mentoring and coaching; faculty also conduct the formal T-TESS evaluation that is required by the state. Professional development is provided by the university and faculty coaches for all district mentors. The collaboration and professional development are designed to provide the teacher, coaches and district mentors with the support needed to ensure a high-quality program that produces a master-level classroom teacher. Another opportunity for preparing effective entry level teacher involves yearlong residency in clinical teaching experiences. A clearly articulated district partnership can be used to facilitate the development, implementation and evaluation of a yearlong residency; this purposeful approach also fosters the capacity to measure the impact on teacher candidates, university site coordinators, district mentors, university faculty and staff and most important, K-12 public school students. In one university model, for example, teacher candidates are assigned a district mentor teacher in the summer and participate with this mentor in district professional development, the first days of school, lesson planning, PLCs, Meet the Teacher, faculty meetings, etc., throughout the year. In addition, mentor teachers participate in a half-day summer mentor professional development with a university faculty liaison (i.e., site coordinator), as well as a consultant whose role is to provide ongoing and meaningful feedback using effective coaching and co-teaching models.



T-TESS evaluations are conducted by the site coordinators for teacher candidates. Site coordinators also facilitate four governance meetings per year in each district. Student perception data, state data and campus data are analyzed to determine growth in the teacher candidates teaching effectiveness, campus curriculum gaps and university program/curriculum improvement needs. Texas K-12 public school children deserve the highest quality and most effective and innovative teachers possible in their classrooms. Forging collaborative relationships between

universities/colleges and school districts is vital in preparing and retaining teachers committed to effectively educating all Texas K-12 children. University/district partnerships are supported both at the national and state levels. Title II grants, funded by the federal education department, require districts to use a certain percentage of these funds to partner with colleges and universities. The TEA also funded Grow Your Own grants to support paraprofessionals seeking teaching certification and yearlong residency clinical teaching. Programs such as Grow Your Own, 4+1 and yearlong residencies place teacher candidates in the field earlier and

for longer durations with the support of and ongoing formal and informal teaching feedback from highly trained district and university personnel. No longer can educator preparation programs prepare future teachers without strong district partnerships. The commitment to filling all classrooms, and serving all students, with highly effective teachers is the shared responsibility of both districts and preparation programs, and these types of innovative program opportunities help both successfully address this responsibility in meaningful ways.n

Dr. Sandra Stewart is associate dean for teacher preparation at Sam Houston State University Dr. Stacey Edmonson is the dean of the College of Education at Sam Houston State University. Resources:

Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). Effect of mentoring on the teaching skills of B.Ed.-level students during teaching practice. International Journal of Learning, 17(7).

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TCEA TECH TAKE Many paths to online education: Keep an eye out for critical elements by Patricia Ábrego

The reality is students today learn very differently and we need to continue to adapt practices to meet their needs.


chool administrators are constantly looking for innovative solutions to educational challenges. One of these challenges is access to educational opportunities for their students. Advancement in online education technologies, enriched digital curriculum content and access to mobile devices are providing viable solutions to school administrators. However, with so many options on the market, school administrators may not be sure of how to evaluate the best content for their students. This article provides practical guidelines for the evaluation of online and blended content for grades 6-12.

Definitions Perhaps the most comprehensive definition of blended learning was the one provided by the Clayton Christensen Institute in their “Is K-12 Blended Learning Disruptive?” paper. They define it as a “formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home…and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience”(Christensen, Horn, & Staker, 2013). According to iNACOL (2011), full-time virtual school is “a formally constituted organization (public, private, state or, charter) that offers full-time education delivered primarily over the internet.” Online learning is also known as cyber learning, virtual learning and e-learning. Typically, high schools enroll their students in supplemental online courses for dual credit and credit recovery from institutions of higher education and third-party providers.

Online and blended education in Texas In Texas, school administrators have access to online and blended options for students through the Texas Virtual School Network (TXVSN), institutions of higher education and third-party providers. TXVSN manages the majority of the state’s online activity through two programs: a supplemental statewide course catalog of high school courses and Online Schools (OLS) for grades 3-12. During the 2016-17 academic year, TXVSN served 19,842 students through their supplemental and full-time course enrollments. This is modest enrollment considering that Texas has 5.3 million K-12 students enrolled in 993 school districts. Moreover, 49 percent of the state’s public school students are educated in a mix of suburban and rural areas with 459 districts classified as rural. Rurality was the driving force behind the creation of a task force by Commissioner Mike Morath in 2016 as rural school districts face many educational challenges unique to their size and region. A report published a year later by the Texas Rural Schools Task Force recognized the need to “increase the quality and accessibility of online learning, including the TXVSN, by addressing misconceptions, facilitating aggressive marketing and outreach, removing financial disincentives, supporting greater bandwidth, implementing a longer grant cycle, and improving 22


teacher selection, training, and support model.� These task force recommendations will most likely be incorporated into the Texas Education Agency’s strategic operations and support to rural school districts in upcoming years (Texas Education Agency, 2017). The idea of continual improvement is already in place in schools, and is embraced as an important piece of school improvement. Here are some of the places where the plan, do, check and act process is already being used. In addition, recent legislation through HB 505 changed the policy regulations for dual enrollment. These changes include the removal of a limit on the number of college credit courses or hours that a high school student may enroll in (each semester and academic year), and the limit on the grade level at which a high school student is eligible to enroll in dual enrollment courses. Another recent change is covered in section 130.008 of the Texas education code, which states that school districts no longer are restricted or obligated to receive dual enrollment offerings from the community college in their service area (Miller et al., 2017).

Standards of quality As TEA clears the path to greater access for online and blended educational opportunities, school administrators need to know what to look for when evaluating courses for quality. For more than 15 years, providers of online and blended courses have looked at the Quality MattersÂŽ (QM) program as the national standard for quality assurance for post-secondary content. Due to the increase in demand for an instrument to evaluate secondary and publisher created content, QM consulted with best practice standards from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL); the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE); the Partnership for 21st Century Skills; and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) to develop their current rubric. According to the QM website, the K-12 Secondary Rubric is intended for use with courses that are delivered fully online or blended. School districts and state education agencies use the QM rubric to help them design, improve and evaluate their courses. There are nine general standards and 41 specific standards in this rubric that will be used by the review team to determine whether or not a course meets standards.

Content written with the learner in mind When evaluating course content, it is important to view the course through the lens of the learner. QM standards of quality stress the importance that explicit instructions have on navigation, ease of finding components and comfort level of the learner. Instructions on how to get started should be visible and prominent as the learner enters the course, and links to support mechanisms (e.g. help desk for technical issues and tutoring services for academic support) should be displayed in multiple places within the course. Similarly, prerequisite knowledge in the discipline and required competencies should be clearly stated.

Measurable objectives and mastery of the content Undeniably, objectives play a fundamental role in any online course. Objectives identify what students should know at the conclusion of an instructional activity and those activities should provide the means on how to achieve them (Mager, 1997). Instructional objectives should be written so that all levels of knowledge are addressed. QM stresses the importance of varied methods of assessment to provide multiple ways for learners to demonstrate mastery and be able to measure their learning progress.

Meaningful and purposeful instructional materials Every instructional material including instructional media must have an intended purpose in the course. Examine instructional materials well to make sure that they are going to help students meet a learning outcome, serve an instructional strategy or address a learner characteristic. They should be purposeful, appropriate to the reading level of the students, culturally diverse and free of bias.

Interaction and engagement Interaction has been shown to be a key component to the success of online and blended learning. QM recognizes three types of interaction: learner-content, learner-other learners and learner-teacher (Moore, 1989). Examples of learner-content interactive activities include multimedia presentations, FAQs, links to related learning materials, etc. Learner-instructor artifacts that must be present in an online

A review of these quality guidelines recommends the following components as essential during the evaluation of online and blended courses.



environment include email, chat rooms, discussion forums and virtual meeting rooms, to list a few examples. Finally, in the learner-learner interaction realm the use of email, discussion forums (Chou, 2003), and social networking tools allows learners the opportunity to actively engage in real-time discussions and share questions and resources outside of the formal virtual classroom (Veletsianos, 2016).

Alignment between components At the heart of QM is the concept of alignment. Instructional alignment is the process by which the different instructional elements are connected to each other and, in the end, make the instructional material effective. Reeves and Herdberg (2003 as cited in Reeves, 2006) recognize the importance of alignment among eight critical factors: 1) goals, 2) content, 3) instructional design, 4) learner tasks, 5) instructor roles, 6) student roles, 7) technological affordances and 8) assessment. In their numerous evaluations of online, traditional and blended courses they found that the most commonly misaligned factor is assessment. Therefore, school administrators should ask tough questions regarding assessments

ensuring the purpose, scope and nature of their assessment aligns with the stated objectives (Terenzini, 1989 as cited in Reeves 2006). Implementation of the recommendations of the Rural Schools Task Force will result in an expansion of rural students’ access to online and blended course offerings. School administrators should be mindful of the quality guidelines presented in this article to make informed decisions when considering online content from institutions of higher education, virtual schools and third-party providers.n

Dr. Patricia Ábrego is the director of Academic Technology at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. She is a Quality Matters master reviewer and currently serves as the lead QM coordinator for the Texas A&M system. She serves as Area 1 director of TCEA.

References Chou, C. (2003), Interactivity and interactive functions in web‐based learning systems: a technical framework for designers. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34: 265-279. Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Staker, H. (2013). Is K-12 blended learning disruptive? An introduction to the theory of hybrids. San Mateo, CA: Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation. Retrieved from iNACOL (2011), “The Online Learning Definitions Project.” Retrieved from DefinitionsProject.pdf Mager, R. F. (1997). Preparing instructional objectives: A critical tool in the development of effective instruction. Retrieved from https://www.wou. edu/~brownbr/Classes/Writing_Goals_Objectives/1_Mager_Prepare_Behav_Obj.pdf Miller, T, Kosiewicz, H, Wang, E, Marwah, E, Delhommer, S & Daugherty, L (2017) Dual credit education in Texas: interim report, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica. Retrieved from Moore, M. (1989). Three types of interaction; The American Journal of Distance Education. Reeves, T. C. (2006). How do you know they are learning?: The importance of alignment in higher education. International Journal of Learning Technology, 2(4), 302–304. Standards from the Quality Matters K-12 Secondary Rubric, 4th Edition. Quality Matters. Retrieved from default/files/PDFs/StandardsfromtheK-12SecondaryRubric.pdf Texas Education Agency (2017). Elevating Support for Texas Rural and Small Schools. Retrieved from Educator_Initiatives_and_Performance/Rural_Schools_Task_Force/ Veletsianos, G. (2016). Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning. Foundations and Applications. Retrieved from wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Veletsianos.pdf. Moore, M. (1989). Three types of interaction; The American Journal of Distance Education.



TSPRA VOICE Navigating social media as a public school employee by Rebecca M. Villarreal

Allowing a business to identify its desired involvement helps FISD understand the business’ interests and helps the company connect appropriately with campus needs.

“Be careful!” It’s the shortest, most common phrase you’ve probably heard repeatedly from your mom, your friends or any other acquaintance, and it can apply to just about any situation. But has anyone told you to “be careful” when you are navigating through today’s social media platforms? We all enjoy our online persona through social media, but rarely do we consider the effects of our posts both now and in the future. After attending various trainings through the years and a recent legal seminar, I decided to help my colleagues in education navigate social media with care. My first step was to gather as much research as I could about online responsibility and guidelines for our employees. Through my research, I developed the acronym C.A.R.E. to share with my fellow employees.

C is for Conduct & Confidentiality with both being a priority when navigating social media. A is for Associations with both past and present being a representation of you and your employer. R is for Responsibility that we must fully accept considering we are role models to the students and public servants in our communities. E is for Expectations that Everything we share online is public and Everyone is watching. The lines between public and personal are blurred online. We, along with our stakeholders, utilize social networking to connect us to more than just our family and friends. The online community is also a place to learn and share and should be utilized in that manner. We, however, have to be responsible for what we publish and know that once it is posted, it becomes public. Regardless of your privacy settings or what sharing selections you choose, a screenshot can be taken and shared without your knowledge.

What should I not do online? First and foremost, do not share personal or confidential information related to work that might fall under FERPA or HIPPA. It is also important that we don’t misuse images that fall under trademark or copyright restrictions. When interacting online, don’t pick a fight or talk negatively about coworkers or other acquaintances, whether it’s a brief mention of an individual or an organization as a whole. The last thing we want to show the public is our discontent and lack of satisfaction with our workplace. This is why we should also encourage our staff not to share negative experiences they’ve had with students or parents using social media. In 2013, a teacher was suspended after writing on Facebook that she felt like a “warden,” and referred to students as “future criminals.” This could have been avoided on so many fronts, but the teacher took to social media to air her complaints and inevitably lost her job.



How should I communicate online? We encourage everyone to respect the law and opinion of their audience and to also take the time to check facts and sources before posting. Following the Code of Ethics and Standard Practices should be top of mind as well as being honest and truthful when posting. Finally, we ask that everyone give the proper person’s contact information to anyone who posts a complaint or requests work-related information on social media.

How can I help others? Over the years, social media guidelines for public school employees have evolved from the standard handbook version to multiple pages that employees can use to guide them in the right direction. If you need some samples of these guidelines, just ask any of our TSPRA members and they will be happy to share what they have.

How can I avoid issues? We, as public school employees, are held to the same professional standards even when away from work. With this mentality, we can avoid situations such as the teacher who was fired in 2014 for sending out a profanity-laden tweet with racist overtones referring to the Ferguson, Missouri, riots. Or in 2017, when a teacher was disciplined after posting a meme on a community Facebook page mocking the incumbent mayor who lost reelection. Even with your privacy settings selected, all you have to do is offend one person who could report your post. Having a work account separate from a personal account is also suggested, but not a fail-safe, since both can still be public. When you are online and networking, you should always identify yourself by giving your name and relevant role. When networking online you could be 26


communicating with a parent, a district vendor or even a future district parent. The last thing you want is to start venting about your work conditions or your boss and inadvertently cause one of your acquaintances to hesitate when school registration opens.

What can we do to improve our image? The biggest trend I see among my own online network is constant posts complaining about work. It can be as innocent as posting a meme that more than likely will get you a laugh or a ton of likes. Your message can easily be misinterpreted, especially if it relates to your lack of enthusiasm to go to work. Yes, on occasion we may frown upon the fact that the weekend went too fast, but posting about it could be seen in a different light that is not flattering to your employer or supervisor. So instead of posting about a picture of someone running out the door on the last day of school or celebrating, maybe post a message that shows your gratitude or well-wishes for a great summer. Just do a search online for “last day of school teacher memes” and you will see what I mean. It’s also suggested that we all do a quick assessment of our online social media accounts to determine if we are using them for work or personal use. If you are posting family or vacation photos on the account or anything other than work-related information, it’s a personal account.

How can I protect the students? Our employees also need to understand that when a parent makes their selection on the directory consent form to allow the district to share FERPA-related information, the consent is only given to the school district, not the individual teachers. Personal electronic media pages of employees are not considered school-related, and photos of students should not be shared on a personal social network or other electronic mediums.

What is considered a record? Finally, anything you post on social media can be considered a public record under the Texas Public Information Act. The information can be considered transitory, and a post can become “a record” if any of the following apply: it’s customer-service related; it includes citizen feedback that contains a grievance or complaint; it contains a request for public records; it’s a public safety or emergency announcement; or it discusses student education records. When all else fails, print a copy and save it in the student’s file or refer to your district’s open records manager for guidance. With the benefits of utilizing social media still outweighing the downfalls, be sure to navigate with C.A.R.E. n Rebecca M. Villarreal, APR, is the director of communications for New Braunfels ISD. She has nearly 20 years of experience as a public relations practitioner with a majority of her experience working in education. She is currently serving her first term as vice president of the Texas School Public Relations Association’s Central Texas Region and earned her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) in 2017.

References IBM Social Computing Guidelines. (2017). Available at en/guidelines.html Alton, Larry. (2017). “How to Create Social Media Policy for Your Employees,” Social Media Examiner. Retrieved from http://www. Hallam, Susan. (2013). “Social media safety for businesses: ten tips for online responsibility from Hallam Internet,” The Drum News. Retrieved from news/2013/12/05/social-media-safetybusinesses-ten-tips-online-responsibilityhallam-internet

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