TSB—February 2014

Page 1


February 2014






One school’s attempt to change the culture of student behavior

In the Spotlight Wanda Smith

TASBO President Kelly Penny Coppell ISD


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TSB contents news and features

A practice in restorative discipline One school’s attempt to change the culture of student behavior


By Shelley Seale

photo feature TASPA, TAEE members gather in Austin




Money talks The importance of explaining fiscal stewardship to your community By Tracy Ginsburg

From Our Readers


Who’s News


Ad Index


columns From the Editor


The Law Dawg  —  Unleashed


Tech Toolbox


by Katie Ford

In the Spotlight Wanda Smith looks back on career spanning almost half a century

by Jim Walsh


by Autumn Rhea Carpenter

by Terry Morawski

Game On!


The Back Page


by Bobby Hawthorne by Riney Jordan


TASBO President Profile Coppell ISD is in good hands with penny-wise CFO Kelly Penny by Leila Kalmbach

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. February 2014 • Texas School Business


From Our Readers Editor’s note: The following is in response to Jim Walsh’s open letter to Sen. Wendy Davis (See “The Law Dawg – Unleashed,” Texas School Business, January 2014). Dear Mr. Walsh: No issue has a greater impact on the future success of Texas than the education of our children. Like you, I believe that Governor Perry has been far too disconnected from the basic needs of our schools. Instead, he has consistently supported education plans that — in violation of our state’s Constitution — fail to give our schools the resources they need to effectively educate our kids. As attorney general, Greg Abbott has wasted taxpayer money defending those unconstitutional plans in court, and I believe that if he were elected governor, Texas schools would see more of the same. Unlike Rick Perry and Greg Abbott, I understand the importance of listening to the teachers, principals and administrators who are on the front lines of our education system. I am proud of my Texas Senate record of promoting the involvement of real educators in the state’s decision-­making. For example,

one of my bills would have required an onthe-ground special education director to be included on the State Advisory Board for Special Education. Making the most of the ideas and expertise of real teachers and administrators is a commonsense way of ensuring that the state is meeting the needs of our schools. As governor, I would actively seek someone with a depth and breadth of experience in the education arena to be the state’s chief education officer. Furthermore, because education is my top priority, I intend to work hand in hand with whomever I appoint to ensure the seamless implementation of my vision for Texas schools. I very much appreciate your raising this issue with me. I depend on voices like yours to hold me accountable on the critical issues facing our state. I look forward to a continued public conversation about the future of our education system and the future of Texas. Sincerely, Wendy R. Davis, D-Fort Worth Texas Senate

I just want to pass along how honored Community ISD is to make your Bragging Rights edition. It is extremely rewarding to see a 3A district like ours along with our bigger neighbors Lovejoy and McKinney. More than just an article, this serves as a “shot in the arm” to our community that we are justified in being proud of our school district and the great things happening here! We were so happy about how the article was written. You truly captured the challenges of our district in the past, as well as the bright future that we believe lies ahead for us. Kudos to you for getting all the information we shared with you in such a concise manner! Even before we could call ourselves a recipient, I have appreciated your magazine and the districts spotlighted in this edition in such a positive way. Thank you for spreading the good news about public education in the state of Texas. Cole McClendon Superintendent Community ISD TSB




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From the Editor In the early 2000s, I spent a few years mentoring children of incarcerated parents — an opportunity made possible through Austin ISD and the Seedling Foundation. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The more I learned about my mentee’s home life, the more I understood her disruptive behavior. Schoolwork and discussions about college seemed — for the moment, at least — completely irrelevant. This adolescent was living in survival mode! Through mentoring I came to learn about another Austin-based nonprofit called Truth Be Told, which offers personal-growth programs to women behind bars. (One of the founders, Nathalie Sorrell, happens to be the wife of our editor in chief!) I was curious to know more about these parents who end up in prison, so when Truth Be Told hosted a graduation behind bars, I attended as a volunteer guest. As I listened to some of these female inmates tell their life stories, I was struck by a thought: “I’m looking at my little mentee, Abigail, 20 years down the road.” Their stories of unstable, nomadic lifestyles and of abuse and neglect were all too familiar. I have since stopped mentoring with Seedling, and I’m now a volunteer prison facilitator for Truth Be Told. As I help these female inmates write the stories of their lives — in essence, the story of what led them to prison — it’s becoming more clear to me that many of them were victims as children before they ever became perpetrators. And, almost without exception, the abuse and neglect they endured as children went unchecked. When they began acting out, abusing drugs and making terrible decisions, the adults in their lives didn’t ask why. They were simply punished and told they were bad. This month’s cover story on a restorative discipline pilot program at a San Antonio middle school gives me hope. It’s my vision that administrators across Texas will feel inspired to incorKatie Ford porate like-minded practices in their districts, and — in doing so Editorial Director — they just might put a sizeable dent in what detractors refer to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

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(ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) February 2014 Volume LX, Issue 5

1601 Rio Grande Street, #455 Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-478-2113 • Fax: 512-495-9955 www.texasschoolbusiness.com Publisher Ted Siff Editor in Chief Jim Walsh Editorial Director Katie Ford Design Phaedra Strecher Columnists Riney Jordan, Terry Morawski, Jim Walsh Advertising Sales Manager Lance Lawhon Director of Marketing and Customer Relations Stephen Markel Office Services Ambrose Austin ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620 Published monthly, except for July/August and November/ December, and for the Best in Class issue published in August and the Bragging Rights issue published in December (12 times a year) by Texas School Business Magazine, LLC, 1601 Rio Grande Street, #455, Austin, TX 78701. Periodical Postage Paid at Austin, Texas and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas School Business,1601 Rio Grande Street, #455, Austin, TX 78701. SUBSCRIPTION RATES: $28 per year; $52 for two yrs; $72 for three yrs. Group rate: 10 or more, $18; single issues, $4.50.

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The 28th Annual


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Speakers and Topics include: THE YEAR IN REVIEW: TOP SPECIAL EDUCATION DECISIONS OF 2013-2014 Jim Walsh, Walsh, Anderson,Gallegos, Green & Treviño, Austin LEGAL ISSUES & PRACTICAL STRATEGIES IN STUDENT TRANSITION PLANS Janet Horton, Thompson & Horton, Houston LIABILITY & PROACTIVELY AVOIDING IT Paula Maddox Roalson, Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green & Treviño, Houston LEADING EFFECTIVE ARD MEETINGS: INCLUDING THE ROLE OF PARENTS, ADVOCATES, AND REGULAR ED STAFF Holly Wardell, Eichelbaum Wardell, Austin STUDENT DISCIPLINE UPDATE: MDRs, REMOVALS & DAEPs Jose Martín, Richards, Lindsay, & Martín, Austin HERE COMES SECTION 504! Shannan Arbabi, Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green & Treviño, Irving

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Texas School Business • February 2014

THE LAW DAWG – Unleashed by Jim Walsh

Free speech incident at California school raises flag


ome kids were told that it was not OK for them to wear T-shirts to school that depicted the American flag, and a federal district court in California ruled that this is not a violation of the U.S. Constitution. The case is now pending before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This doozy of a case arose on May 5, 2010. Does that date strike you as special? Cinco de Mayo, anyone? It was, in fact, Cinco de Mayo Day at the Live Oak High School in the Morgan Hill USD. Celebrations of Hispanic heritage were planned. Mid-morning that fateful day, a student advised Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez that, “You may want to go out to the quad area. There might be some issues.” Another student told Rodriguez that she was concerned about a group of students who were wearing the American flag. The student told Rodriguez that “there might be problems.” On orders from his principal, Rodriguez told the kids who were wearing the U.S. flags that they would have to either turn their shirts inside out or go home for the day. Rodriguez promised the students that if they went home, it would be treated as an excused absence. Rodriguez explained to the students that he was concerned for their safety on this particular day. The principal, Nick Boden, later testified that he had good reason to be worried about safety. During his six years as principal, he had personally witnessed at least 30 fights on campus. Some of these involved gangs, and others were between Anglo and Hispanic students. There was a police officer on campus every day. On top of that, there had been tension on Cinco de Mayo the year before. A group of Hispanic students walked around school that day with the Mexican flag. One of them was shouting direct threats of violence against “them white boys.” The “white boys” responded by installing a “makeshift American flag” on one of the trees on campus and chanting “USA! USA!” This

tension still simmered, as many of the same students were involved in 2010. In short, Principal Boden had good reason to be concerned about safety. But were his concerns sufficient to justify the restriction of free speech? Don’t American citizens have the right to say what they want, even if some people may be offended? That’s the issue the 9th Circuit is grappling with. If this sequence of events had taken place anywhere but in a public school, the students wearing the American flag shirts would certainly prevail. But school administrators can restrict free speech if they can “reasonably forecast” that substantial disruption is about to occur. We shall see if the court thinks that Boden was “reasonable” in his forecast. I listened to the recording of the oral argument of this case. The lawyer representing the students sounds like he is from New Jersey, and he is clearly not familiar with the Hispanic heritage of the Southwest. He repeatedly referred to “Cinco de May-o” pronouncing it as if it were a sandwich spread. Even after one of the judges corrected him, he soon reverted to his erroneous ways. I would rule against this guy just based on that, but presumably the 9th Circuit judges will be more — judicious. But I hope that the court will take into account that school principals need some leeway, some discretion. If we want our schools to be safe, we have to be OK with principals making decisions that some of us disagree with. The principal did not order any longterm punishment. In fact, there was no punishment at all if the students would simply turn the shirts inside out. In any event, stay tuned! 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.

KEEP CURRENT Accurate, Relevant and Useful Information L GAS for School T AS LE E TEX OL O S’ DIG Administrators SCH R TO TRA INIS and Educators ADM P. ns, L. catio h Publi ace Jim Wals ss rk Pl r: : Pa g Edito r Childre d Siff sher in Publi Manag r: Jennife ficer: Te Of ito om Ed erating t.c Op iges gald Chief w.le


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The Legal Digest is dedicated to Now in its providing 30th year of relevant, publication timely and comprehensive reporting, analysis and training on all aspects of school law. The Legal Digest leads off with an in-depth article on a contemporary school law topic written by Texas attorneys and legal commentators.

r Matte ... Also bject les 8 Su tic • 200ble of Ar Ta



The rest of the issue is devoted to digests of the latest federal and state rulings, Commissioner decisions, special education hearing officer decisions, and Attorney General opinions affecting Texas schools. Adding a dash of humor to each issue is Jim Walsh’s “Law Dawg” column. Published ten times a year, the Legal Digest provides the latest developments in the law to help administrators stay abreast of this rapidly changing field and avoid litigation

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February 2014 • Texas School Business


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Texas School Business • February 2014

TECH TOOLBOX by Terry Morawski

What Steve Jobs taught me


ver winter break, I got the flu in the worst way. One bright spot in a mostly dismal week of Mucinex and Kleenex was I picked up Walter Isaacson’s 2011 book on Steve Jobs. Why did I ignore the book for so long? Initially, I felt the book would be a starryeyed monument to Steve Jobs. I was excited to read the book finally and find that it was a monument to Steve, but not the guy I thought I knew. His accomplishments are impossible to ignore. I’d already heard many of the horror stories about his perfectionism and odd personal habits, but there’s much to admire in his style. Steve gave Isaacson great personal access in his final days and also promised to stay out of the writer’s way in telling an unflinching portrait of him. The following were my main takeaways from reading about Steve, and they all have applications in school leadership. Be bold. At age 12, Steve looked up HewlettPackard CEO Bill Hewlett in the phone book to see if the company had a part he needed for a project he was working on. They did, and Hewlett was so impressed that he offered Steve a job, which became a building block in his career in technology. Make your own rules. Steve was a well-known nonconformist, often passing on common societal norms like shoes and deodorant. Some of these habits were cloying to those around him. In other cases, they worked for him. In college, he decided his classes were too expensive. Instead of dropping out, he convinced the dean to let him audit the classes, thus earning a free education. Pay attention to (every) detail. Steve said he learned from his father that even the parts people don’t see are important. His attention to quality craftsmanship kept his hardware expensive, but there’s no question how well it runs.

Hire the A-team. Steve understood a fundamental thing about A performers: They don’t like to work with B- and C-level employees. So, underperformers don’t only drag down an otherwise good team, they make the A performers want to leave. Ouch. And true. Make something beautiful and simple. We are all creating things all the time. Why not introduce beauty and simplicity into what you do? Master the art of persuasion. One essential element in getting things done is persuading people to play along. When trying to convince John Sculley to leave his post as Pepsi CEO to join Apple, Steve asked: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?” Sometimes leaders need to get out of the way. Jobs was obsessively involved in the parts of products that were important to him, but he knew when to let the experts do their work. Customers cannot tell you what they need. Much of Steve’s innovation was drawn from his raw intuition and listening to the smart people around him. Customers never would have said they wanted an iPod if you asked them how to improve a Walkman. Sometimes you have to take a leap and hope it is the right one.

Re-energize your staff! Lift their spirits! Let him make a difference! • More motivational talks to educators than any other current Texas speaker. • Convocations, Conferences, Staff Development Workshops, and Graduation Ceremonies. • 30 years in Texas public education. • Hear him once and you’ll see why thousands have requested him nationally and internationally. • His best-selling book, All the Difference, is now in its sixth printing.

Did you read a great book that inspired you recently? If so, let me know. TERRY MORAWSKI is the assistant superintendent of communications and marketing for Mansfield ISD. He has had an on-again, off-again love affair with Apple products, but he wrote this article on his MacBook Pro, which he loves. He can be reached at terrymorawski@gmail.com. He sometimes tweets @terrymorawski .

RINEY JORDAN A Motivational Humorist 254-386-4769 www.rineyjordan.com February 2014 • Texas School Business


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Texas School Business • February 2014

GAME ON! by Bobby Hawthorne

An exception to the rule


noticed recently that the Golf Writers Association of America selected Tiger Woods as its player of the year. I assume that means “player of golf.” At any rate, I mention this because I wrote something a while back and have been sitting on it, wondering if and when I’d submit it. The Tiger Woods story triggered my decision to do so, and here’s why: In his mea culpa regarding his marital meanderings, Woods said, “I convinced myself that normal rules don’t apply.” He may well have been speaking on behalf of a generation of talented, young male athletes who are too often taught by parents, teachers, coaches and many others that the normal rules don’t apply to them either. I say this based on a piece by Andrew Smiler, a North Carolina therapist and author of a book about promiscuous young-male sexuality. He examined several incidents where seemingly popular, likeable boys did insidious things, usually to not-so-popular, not-so-likeable, powerless girls. How does this happen, Dr. Smiler wondered. How do otherwise good boys behave like beasts? Well, here’s how, he concluded. • Mom and dad are fans, not parents, so when grades sag, they blame the teacher. He gets in trouble at school, they bail him out. It’s not his fault. The rule isn’t fair. The policy is arbitrary and capricious. He gets in trouble with a girl? “Well, boys will be boys.” • Teachers and administrators fail to enforce rules. He curses a teacher, doesn’t do his homework, flunks a test or a course. Well, there’s always an escape hatch. As they say, the teacher knows the rules; the student, the exceptions. • He is surrounded by servants and sycophants, hangers-on who coddle him, protect him and clean up after him. In some schools, they’re pep or spirit club members. In others, they’re groupies. Either way, he’s treated like royalty.

• His narcissism is constantly stoked. He’s late to class, gets caught sneaking a smoke between classes, rips a toilet out of the bathroom wall, takes a jab at some kid in the hall. Well, maybe he’s just having a bad day. There’s always a coach or a counselor to smooth things over. He might end up running a few bleachers. If worse comes to worst, he might scribble his name on a letter of apology his mother wrote. • His parents feed off of his celebrity. Perhaps mom and dad are socially connected anyway. Maybe they’re chummy with the police chief or the mayor or even a state representative or two — people who are in positions to pull strings, make phone calls, make problems disappear. • He gets whatever he wants when he wants it: a cool car, cool clothes, $500 headphones, access to the liquor cabinet and free weekends devoid of nosey parents who won’t ask what’s going on in there. • He’s raised to believe that men are men and girls are just girls, and anyone who attempts to bend or straddle the line is inferior or weird and thus worthy of whatever comes their way. This is particularly true for sissy boys and mistyeyed girls. • He’s taught to choose his victims carefully, preferably the weaklings, the chemically incapacitated, the mentally or socially impaired. If caught or confronted, he knows the system will blame the victim. They asked for it, after all. And so, this is how otherwise nice, likeable, popular boys come to behave despicably. They’re not victims, not without fault, but they’ve been taught — and they’ve learned — that the normal rules apply to saps, not to local heroes like them. 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.

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TASPA, TAEE members gather in Austin The Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators and the Texas Association for Employment in Education joined forces to host their annual winter conference on Dec. 11-13 in Austin.

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Texas School Business • February 2014

­­ bilene ISD A Mann Middle School now has Kevin Johnson as principal. A 22-year veteran of Texas public education, he spent the past nine years as a middle school administrator in DeSoto ISD, where he had also worked as a coach and math teacher, as well as serving as an assistant principal at McCowan Middle School and East Junior High. Johnson received his bachelor’s degree from Jarvis Christian College and his master’s degree in education from the University of North Texas. Tina Wyatt is the new principal of Bonham Elementary School. She joins the campus from Mann Middle School, where she was an instructional specialist since 2010. Wyatt has been with Abilene ISD for 22 years as a teacher and administrator, including working as a language arts and history teacher at Lincoln, Jefferson and Madison middle schools. She received her bachelor’s degree from McMurry University and her master’s degree from Abilene Christian University. Aldine ISD Jason Spencer, who had been serving as general manager of Houston ISD’s Media Relations Department, is now Aldine ISD’s assistant superintendent of community and governmental relations. Alvin ISD After 37 years in Texas public education, Deputy Superintendent for Business and Support Services Tommy King has announced his upcoming retirement. He began his career in Fort Bend ISD, coming to Alvin 11 years later as assistant superintendent of business and support services. Working alongside five superintendents in his 26 years with the district, he served as interim superintendent in 2010. King is a graduate of Baylor University. Three principals have been appointed. They and their schools are: Elizabeth Garcia, York Elementary; Krystal Hawks, Marek Elementary; and Bobby Martinez, Fairview Junior High. Bonham ISD David Ketcher, who retired in 2010 after 29 years as an educator, has agreed to serve as interim principal of Bonham High School. During his career, he was a coach, dean of students and assistant principal in Little Elm ISD, as well as assistant principal and principal of Lake Dallas High School in Lake Dallas ISD. The new director of finance is Alicia Lang, who comes to Bonham from Cumby ISD, where she was business manager. Prior to that, she was a school district auditor for the Greenville firm of Rutherford Taylor and Co. She earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting and her master’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Angie Richardson is now director of special education for the Fannin County Special Education Shared Services Arrangement (FCSSA), where she has spent the past nine years as a

Who’s News

diagnostician. Before coming to Texas, she was a teacher and coach for 14 years in Oklahoma. Clear Creek ISD A new principal is in place for Clear Creek High School. He is Jamey Majewski, former Bayside Intermediate School principal. In addition, his time with Clear Creek ISD has included service as assistant principal and associate principal of Clear Creek Jamey Majewski High and director of human resources for secondary education. Majewski, who is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, earned his master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Columbus ISD Ester Chandler has been appointed the district’s interim superintendent for a second time. An employee of Columbus ISD for 20 years, she has been a history teacher and counselor at the secondary level. In 2006, she became director of student services. In 2009, she was named interim superintendent. In 2011, she took the job of assistant superintendent. Conroe ISD Former Conroe High School Principal Curtis Null is now serving as Conroe ISD’s assistant superintendent of secondary education. He has been an educator for 13 years, 11 of those with Conroe ISD, where, in addition to his most recent position, he was principal of Peet Junior High, assistant principal of Knox Junior High and athletic trainer at The Woodlands High School. His bachelor’s degree was earned from the University of Houston and his master’s degree is from the University of Florida. Null also holds a doctorate in education from the University of Houston. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Cypress Ridge High School Principal Claudio Garcia, who retired in December, was honored with a proclamation from Gov. Rick Perry, who declared Dec. 11, 2013, Claudio Garcia Day in recognition of his 40 years as an educator. He began his career teaching and coachClaudio Garcia ing in Odem ISD in 1973, going on to work in Brownsville ISD’s Porter High School and Orange Grove ISD’s Orange Grove High School before being named assistant principal at Orange Grove in 1988 and principal in 1992. Six years later, he took the principal position at Flour Bluff Junior High in Corpus Christi ISD. In 2000, he accepted the top job at Corpus Christi’s Calallen High before joining Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in 2001. Garcia’s bachelor’s degree in second-

ary education and master’s degree in educational administration are from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. Stephanie Meshell, who had been serving as the associate principal of Cypress Ridge High School, is now the campus principal. She has been an educator for 22 years, 20 of those with the district. She was a teacher and coach in Woden ISD and in Lincoln Stephanie Meshell Parish schools in Louisiana before moving to Nacogdoches ISD, where she spent two years at Rusk Middle School. She next joined Nacogdoches High School, working for eight years as a teacher, coach and athletic director. She came to Cypress Ridge High in 2003 as an assistant principal, holding that position for three years before being named associate principal. Meshell has a bachelor’s degree in education from Stephen F. Austin State University, from which she also earned two master’s degrees, one in education and one in counseling. Roy Sprague, associate superintendent for facilities, construction and support services, has received the designation of certified educational facility planner from the Council of Educational Facility Planners International. The credential was established to elevate proRoy Sprague fessional standards, enhance individual performance and identify those in the industry who demonstrate superior knowledge of educational facility planning. Sprague began his career in the private sector and has 32 years of experience in the field. He worked in Spring ISD beginning in 1991, joining Cypress-Fairbanks ISD as director of facilities and planning in 1997. In 2001, he was promoted to senior director of that area and then was named assistant superintendent of facilities and construction in 2006. He took his current position in 2013. Dallas ISD Mike Singleton has been named chief internal auditor for the district after having served as executive director of internal audits since August. Prior to joining Dallas ISD, Singleton was Rockwall ISD’s chief financial officer. Eanes ISD Eanes ISD and Westlake High School librarian Carolyn Foote was honored at the White House in November as one of 10 Champions of Change. She was recognized as an educator who takes creative approaches in using technology to enhance learning. Foote has centered her Carolyn Foote See WHO’S NEWS on page 19

February 2014 • Texas School Business


A practice in restorative discipline One school’s attempt to change the culture of student behavior by Shelley Seale


ack (not his real name) was a sixthgrade special ed student with speech difficulties who told his teacher he didn’t want to be at school anymore because other kids were picking on him. Rather than falling back on a disciplinary action to the other student, the teacher called both boys in to discuss the problem, asking Jack to explain to the other student how he felt and what harm was being done. At first, the other student didn’t get it; he just continued to focus on Jack’s irregular speech patterns. “I know I have a problem,” Jack responded, “but every time I walk into a class, that’s the first thing you guys tell me. It’s making me feel really uncomfortable, and I don’t even want to speak in class anymore. I just want to put my head down because I’m embarrassed. You and the other guys are cool and you have a lot of friends, but it’s harder for me to do that.” Suddenly the other boy started crying. The teacher asked what caused him to cry, and that’s when he admitted that he didn’t know how to read. “I just realized that I’m doing the same

thing to him, but I have a fault too. The other kids were doing it; I just thought it was funny so I joined in. I never thought about how it was making you feel,” the boy said. This incident took place at Edward H. White Middle School in San Antonio during the first year of a restorative discipline pilot program. The program was designed to combat the severe discipline problems the school was facing. Recording some of the highest discipline rates in its district, Principal Philip Carney and school administrators had come to the conclusion by early 2012 that they needed to fundamentally change the way they approached student discipline. “Looking not only at our campus data, but also at the student discipline data from across the state, we decided that we must do a better job of helping students to improve their behavioral choices,” Carney says. About that time, he was introduced to the idea of restorative justice through his wife, who was taking a course on the topic at The University of Texas at San Antonio. Legally defined, restorative justice is a philosophical framework and a series of programs for the criminal justice system that

The Ed White Middle School restorative discipline leadership team and students demonstrate a typical circle to resolve a student conflict. In most circumstances, a circle would not include this many adults. Pictured left to right are Assistant Principal Kevin Curtis, Principal Philip Carney, Assistant Principal Rufus Lott, campus interventionist Jacqueline Wade, UT Austin research team member Stephanie Frogge, seventh grade student Jaylen Murray and sixth grade student Darien Maysonet. 16

Texas School Business • February 2014

emphasize the need to repair the harm done to crime victims through a process of negotiation, mediation, victim empowerment and reparation. Seeing the potential application of restorative justice principles at Ed White, Carney set up a meeting with UTSA Professor Robert Rico, who explained restorative justice and its applications to campus and district leadership teams. The intent was to create a restorative justice program within a school setting. Robert Rico “We adjusted the name of the program to restorative disci-

What is restorative discipline? • Restorative discipline is a philosophy and system-wide intervention that places relationships at the heart of the educational experience. • The goal of restorative discipline is to change the school climate rather than merely respond to student behavior. • Restorative discipline focuses on the harms, needs and causes of student behavior, not just the breaking of rules and dispensing of punishment. • Restorative discipline requires a topdown commitment from school board members and administrators. • Restorative discipline uses a wholeschool approach. All administrators, teachers, staff, and students should be exposed to and/or trained in restorative processes, with periodic boosters. • Restorative discipline engages parents and caregivers as integral members of restorative conferences and circles. • Restorative discipline uses an internal leadership response team to spearhead the implementation and help support necessary dialogue. • Restorative discipline calls for an outside restorative justice coordinator to serve on site at the school. • Restorative discipline has a data system to analyze trends and inform early interventions. • Restorative discipline takes time. It is dialogue-driven and rests on the steady establishing and deepening of relationships.

pline, feeling that this would be a more accurate description of what we were attempting to implement at our school,” says Carney. Restorative discipline (RD) is a prevention-oriented approach that fosters consensus-based decisions to resolve school conflict, such as bullying, truancy and disruptive behavior. Rather than focusing on punishment for breaking rules, RD focuses on the harms, needs and causes of student behavior with a goal to change the entire school climate. “Somehow or another, the word ‘discipline’ has lost its original meaning,” says Rico, who acted as a consultant to help Ed White Middle School implement the RD model. “It does not mean punishment; discipline means to train, and that’s what restorative discipline does. It changes behaviors in a more humanistic approach to dealing with student conduct; it also enhances the learning environment in schools and reduces violence. We want these kids to learn something, and they’re not learning anything from punishment. RD does a lot of things that make kids stay in school and not drop out.” Rico has a background in the criminal justice system, having been a police officer for 20 years before moving into public education, and was involved in a restorative justice program for juvenile offenders. The importance of implementing such a program in the school system early on, he believes, is that it prevents kids from entering the criminal justice system to begin with. “The zero tolerance mentality came from the criminal justice system, and it has spilled over into the school setting. We are suspending and expelling kids at alarming rates, and the majority of these are minorities.” Rico says that students who get expelled or drop out of school tend to get involved in the juvenile justice system. “And once that happens, they’re doomed,” he says. According to Rico, this is a big reason why there are 2.5 million people in prison in the United States. “Eighty percent of prisoners in Texas are school dropouts. There’s a big relationship there. Something different needs to happen; zero tolerance policies aren’t working, just like punitive policies in the criminal justice side aren’t working. It’s not changing behaviors; it’s not making schools safer or doing anything else but throwing kids out of school — sometimes for very minor infractions.” After consulting with campus stakeholders and district leadership, the Ed White

campus decided to adopt the RD model. Rico reached out to Marilyn Armour, Ph.D, LICSW, the director of the Institute for Restorative Justice & Restorative Marilyn Armour Dialogue (IRJRD) at The University of Texas at Austin. The institute was established to build a national mindset for embracing restorative justice principles. “It’s very difficult for restorative justice to grow when people have to invent it all by themselves,” Armour says, explaining that one of the purposes of IRJRD is to assist organizations like schools that want to implement such programs. “It’s very tricky as a concept, because it really goes against so much of the social conditioning that people have. It sounds great, but the doing of it is much thornier.“ Armour commends Carney for pushing to adapt an RD model at Ed White Middle School. “To have someone at the top have that kind of vision and really decide to do something that is a huge experiment is very unusual,” she says. Carney asked the institute to write up a proposal for how restorative justice principles could be used at the school, and the result became the restorative discipline pilot program. The proposal’s recommendations included: • Do a strategic rollout, implementing the program one grade at a time, beginning with sixth grade for the 2012-2013 school year, with plans to add seventh grade and then eighth grade in the two successive years; • Hold a two-day training for the teachers at the beginning of the school year; • Hire a consultant to help implement the program; • Form an on-site leadership response team at the grade level that can be responsible for day-to-day implementation; and • Have the institute evaluate the outcomes and the implementation process on a monthly basis so that the knowledge will be transferable. “Every little piece of this has been thought through in terms of not just what’s needed in the school, but what will help to increase credibility, to increase rigor, and what will help in terms of generating a contagion effect. Schools will always do better if they come to this voluntarily. Restorative justice is built on the idea that people participate voluntarily. A whole-school approach is

really the most effective way to do this. It needs a sense of safety for it to work, and that’s not going to be the case if the rest of the school is punitively oriented. You can’t be focused on the kids’ behavior; the focus has to be changing the climate in the school.” Training teachers on RD principles and practices and how to apply them in the classroom was paramount. Armour decided to bring in someone with a national reputation in the field. Dr. Nancy Riestenberg from Minneapolis Public Schools conducted a two-day training in August 2012, where she introduced the foundation of RD practices to 40 Ed White teachers, staff members and administrators, along with other district personnel. Armour says it was important that other stakeholders beyond the sixth grade teachers know what the RD program looked like and what it meant. “We purposefully brought people in, to be transparent about the process and to engage them in the learning part of it, along with the teachers,” says Armour. After training, the model was taken back to the Ed White campus, where a framework was built for implementation. “We began by using circles to help solve conflict and confrontation when situations arose,” Principal Carney says. Led by an adult facilitator, a circle brings together the students in conflict in a setting that emphasizes mutual respect, deep listening and the search for a consensusbased solution. The agreed-upon solution is then written in a binding document that all circle participants sign and promise to uphold. Says Carney, “We also formed a restorative leadership team that monitors the implementation process on the campus. Kevin Curtis, an assistant principal and the RD campus coordinator, plays a critical role in this process. He has personally worked through many of the obstacles that we have encountered, and he develops creative solutions to help the campus, teachers and students find success with RD.” There have, of course, been challenges. Carney and Rico both agree that the biggest of those was convincing teachers that the RD model would be effective. “Most educators operate under the paradigm that we can punish our way to better behaviors,” Carney says. “They were so used to traditional discipline that they did not expect a satisfactory change in behavior from students sitting in a circle talking about their feelings. We had to help teachers realize that these traditional practices were not See RESTORATIVE on page18 February 2014 • Texas School Business


RESTORATIVE continued from page17

working for the students.” While some teachers were initially skeptical, their level of “buy in” increased dramatically once they experienced a circle and began to see changes in student behavior. “Whenever you start something new or try to change something, you meet with resistance,” adds Rico, who says that veteran teachers seemed to be the most resistant. “They weren’t really implementing the restorative discipline, and they were the ones

who were having a lot of issues with the students. The other teachers who were actually using [the RD principles] were seeing a difference in the way students acted; the relationship between student and teacher was better.” Another challenge was the time involved. It takes time to run a circle — time that, in some teachers’ eyes, detracts from classroom instruction. RD practices are not a quick fix, particularly if the goal is to truly change mindsets. “When a student misbehaves, instead of saying ‘go to the office,’ it’s about stop-



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ping and engaging with that student in a meaningful way,” Armour says. “It is timeconsuming, but it’s about investing in the creation of a different kind of climate that pays dividends when times get tough.” Being the first school in Texas to implement the program without an existing model to reference also presented an obstacle. But with feedback and guidance from IRJRD and Rico, the school has created a model that eventually could provide a blueprint for other schools. Now that Ed White Middle School is halfway through its second year of using RD practices with both sixth and seventh graders, some remarkable results are coming to light. There has been an 84 percent drop in off-campus suspensions in the past year, along with a 44 percent drop in total suspensions. Armour stresses that the drop in suspensions does not necessarily mean that there are fewer student conflicts. It simply reflects that teachers are responding to student misbehavior in a different way. “Because only one-third of the campus was engaged in and understood restorative practices [last year], there were challenges that arose from the majority of the campus operating under a different discipline approach,” Carney says. “This year we have two-thirds of the campus operating under restorative practices, and the cultural shift is evident. You can feel the difference as you walk down the hallways. It is now a regular practice for students in conflict to seek out an opportunity to ‘circle it,’ rather than engage in a verbal or physical confrontation. It has been amazing to see the impact on the students and how quickly they have taken to this alternate way to handle conflict.” Ultimately, the method is about building relationships. With more dialogue involved in conflict resolution, teachers often learn about issues outside of school that are impacting their students’ behavior and performance. And for students in conflict, it can be a powerful experience to have adults taking the time to look behind the behavior and ask them how they feel. They begin to see teachers as partners in their education and school experience, rather than just another authority figure. “The kids have a lot to say,” Rico says. “It’s building a relationship, where before they didn’t have that, and that’s the biggest thing.” SHELLEY SEALE is a freelance writer in Austin.

WHO’S NEWS continued from page 15 work in Eanes ISD on ways in which technology can deepen and transform student learning and research. She played an introductory role in bringing one-to-one tablet devices into the district. Superintendent Nola Wellman has announced her upcoming retirement, effective at the end of the current school year, bringing to a close a 10-year stint with Eanes ISD. Prior to joining the district, she spent 16 years with the Cherry Creek School District in Denver, Colo., Nola Wellman including five years as assistant superintendent for performance improvement and five as executive director of middle schools. She was also a middle school principal in that district and in Estes Park, Colo. Wellman began her career as a middle school English and reading teacher after earning her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Texas Tech University. She went on to receive a master’s degree in reading and administration from Colorado State University and a doctorate in administration, curriculum and supervision from the University of Colorado. Early ISD The district’s board of directors has appointed Larry Taylor as interim superintendent. Edna ISD Robert O’Connor has accepted the position of district superintendent. He most recently held the top position in Columbus ISD. After beginning his career as a teacher and coach in Bellville, Palacios and Sealy ISDs, he worked as a principal and superintendent in Kansas.

Who’s News

populations. While at El Paso ISD, she implemented a bilingual education program that was adopted by several areas in the district. She also participated in the design and implementation of a middle school program for ESL students. Durant Ivonne Durant then joined Dallas ISD in 1990, working as a principal, area superintendent, executive director of a multi-language enrichment program and a comprehensive school improvement program and, most recently, as chief academic officer. Durant earned her bachelor’s degree from Western New Mexico University and her master’s degree from The University of Texas at El Paso. She expects to complete her doctorate at Texas A&M University at Commerce this year.

education who does an exceptional job of disseminating positive information about public education to communities and citizens, was presented to Meador at the annual Texas ASCD conference in October in Corpus Christi. Meador, who was formerly a legislative and campaign aide to U.S. Representative Charles W. Stenholm, has been with the district since 2007.

Goose Creek ISD Diane Silvas is the new area executive director for the Lee High School feeder pattern. An educator for 32 years, she has been assistant superintendent for pre-K-12 curriculum in Robstown ISD and for Alice ISD. Silvas earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas Pan American and her master’s degree in education from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. Edward Villanueva, an educator for 16 years, is now principal of Hopper Primary School. Before joining the district, he was an assistant principal and principal in Alice ISD. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting from The University of Texas at San Antonio and his master’s degree in education from Walden University.

Hardin ISD The new director of business services is Chris Contreras. He formerly worked for the city of Dayton (Texas), serving as the finance and administrative services director and as assistant city manager. In addition, he has a background in management, banking and finance, having worked as a bank officer in the areas of operations, compliance, accounting, information technology and auditing. Contreras attended Jackson College of Ministries, earned three banking certifications and three technology-related certifications and completed the Southwest School of Governmental Finance at Texas Tech University.

ESC 19 Executive Director Jimmy Vasquez retired in December. He came to El Paso 16 years ago after working for the Texas Education Agency and after more than 30 years with Edgewood ISD in San Antonio. As superintendent of that district, he led the landmark 1984 lawsuit that resulted in the first successful court battle for equitable funding of Texas public schools. Vasquez, who turned 81 in November, began his career as a classroom teacher, going on to work as an assistant principal, principal and, ultimately, superintendent. He left his position with Edgewood ISD to join TEA. In 1991, he had his first exposure to El Paso when he was the state-appointed master for Ysleta ISD. His fondness for the city led to his decision six years later to leave his education consulting firm and take his most recent position with ESC 19.

Gorman ISD Superintendent Gary Speegle comes to Gorman ISD from Goldthwaite ISD, where he was the high school principal. After earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Tarleton State University in 1988, he took his first job teaching life science and coaching football, basketball and track at Comanche Junior High in Comanche ISD. A year later, he transferred to Comanche High, where he taught biology and was head boys’ and girls’ track coach and assistant football and basketball coach. He joined Goldthwaite ISD in 1998, serving as the high school’s biology and AP biology teacher, head track coach, and assistant football and basketball coach. He became principal of Goldthwaite Middle School in 2006, remaining in that position until becoming principal of Goldthwaite High. Speegle received his master’s degree in education from Tarleton State University.

El Paso ISD Ivonne Durant has been named the district’s deputy superintendent and chief academic officer, returning to the district where she began her career. She started with El Paso ISD in 1975, then was with ESC 19 as a bilingual education consultant, director and division administrator for special

Granbury ISD Public Information Officer Jeff Meador has been honored with the F.L. Elder Award for Outstanding Reporting in Education from the Texas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). The award, which is presented to an individual working in Texas public

Greenwood ISD Ariel Elliott is the district’s new superintendent. A 21-year veteran of the district, he began as a teacher and coach at Brooks Middle School, moving a year later to the high school, where he remained until being appointed interim superintendent last June. Elliott, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Sul Ross State University, holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

Harlingen CISD A superintendent has been named for the district. He is Art Cavazos, who was serving as deputy superintendent for transformation and school support. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas Pan American in 1987, he took a position as a math teacher in Edinburg CISD. He joined McAllen ISD in 1990 to work as a math teacher, counselor and principal. In 1996, he moved to Mission CISD as director of secondary education. Cavazos came to Harlingen CISD to serve as assistant superintendent for secondary education and took his most recent position with the district in 2009. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in education, with a major in counseling and guidance. In 2012, his doctoral degree in education was awarded from The University of Texas. Hondo ISD A’Lann Truelock is Hondo ISD’s new superintendent. She spent the past 10 years with Johnson City ISD, the past six as assistant superintendent. Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD Viridian Elementary School, the district’s 20th elementary campus, will open in August with Oscar Figueroa as principal. Currently serving as principal of Hurst Hills Elementary, he is a 21-year See WHO’S NEWS on page 24 February 2014 • Texas School Business


Money talks

The importance of explaining fiscal stewardship to your community by Tracy Ginsburg My mom was an elementary school secretary and also worked for the district’s athletic director when I was growing up in Hobbs, N.M. Therefore, I spent lots of weekends at athletic events or summers helping schools get ready for the first day of classes. Lots of things have changed in the intervening years, and many things have stayed the same. School professionals remain dedicated to optimizing resources to deliver the highest-quality instruction. However, the challenges of public stewardship seem to be much more difficult in the age of 24hour news stations and social media. One of the greatest challenges facing school districts today is sifting through the volumes of available data and finding the information that best communicates a district’s fiscal stewardship and academic results in a manner that the general public can understand. However, even after publishing expansive volumes of data to better inform our audiences, the public, in many ways, is less informed today than ever before in history. A growing portion of our taxpayers do not have school-age children and have placed public education in their rearview mirrors. As a result, the volumes of data that districts publish may be largely ignored — or worse, misunderstood and misinterpreted. Rather than looking at the data, community members may draw conclusions about their district’s success from the latest headline or morning show sound bite. As business officials, we understand that the children who come through our doors have a multitude of learning styles that we must address with total fidelity. But by publishing volumes of data in an effort 20

Texas School Business • February 2014

to be transparent, are we really helping the public understand how successful our schools are? I have difficulty explaining certain terms like weighted average daily attendance, the cost of education index and completion rates to my peers, much less to the average layperson. As school officials, we should respect our taxpayers for the daily demands of their careers and families and stop assuming that they are apathetic or disconnected. The rules and regulations governing our school districts have become far too complicated and difficult to understand, and a layperson likely does not have the capacity and/or time to absorb the additional mountains of data that we provide or attend an evening meeting that interferes with family dinner or homework time. In most communities, the school district manages the largest business enterprise and employs the most people in the community. School business officials are responsible for managing operating budgets that in Texas total in excess of $40 billion — far larger than the GDP of a small country. So, it may appear that there is plenty of room for waste and misuse of valuable tax dollars. When I was chief financial officer in Fort Bend ISD, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the size of the district’s budget and the associated responsibilities that came along with it. And yet, Fort Bend ISD’s educational and facility needs far outpaced the available resources. Had I been the CFO of a for-profit company of similar size, I would have been pushed to increase production and/or diversify the product line so that the company could fulfill its obligations to shareholders. As a public school district, those options simply aren’t available. It was difficult educating community members about the challenges the district

faced and the increasing economic and educational diversity within our community. On one particular occasion, I recall giving a presentation to a group of citizens and was surprised to learn they were unaware of how many economically disadvantaged students we had, along with the multiple (100-plus) languages and dialects spoken in the district. From that point forward, basic facts about the district became commonplace in all our presentations as we worked to educate the community.

A growing portion of our taxpayers do not have school-age children and have placed public education in their rearview mirrors. As a result, the volumes of data that districts publish may be largely ignored — or worse, misunderstood and misinterpreted. According to the Legislative Budget Board, when adjusted for inflation, Texas public education spending per student has declined $1,224, making it difficult to support the argument that there is waste within our educational system. Nevertheless, it is an argument we hear time and time again. As school officials, we must find alternative means to engage our communities, and we must become great storytellers able to relate facts about our districts that the public can understand

to build trust and understanding on an ongoing basis. Community members might be surprised to learn the number of miles the district’s bus fleet drives, the number of meals served in the cafeteria or the number of nurse visits in a given school year.





everyone in the United States three are mornings this week and expenditures adaptingbyeach $69 million, even Districts “going green” though the number of students and meal to every person’s special dietary needsoverall in the process. the square footage of buildings and have reduced have increased. utility disadvantaged expenditures bystudents in classrooms • The percentage of economically • The Texas Legislature’s funding million, though of services for students with increases each year; it now$69 exceeds 60even percent. disabilities has declined each the number of students For instance, do you know what it schoolstate year when viewed as a •takesDistricts will adhere of deadlines for federal and to serve public school students to in aa multitude percentage of spending in the and the square footage of state the size of Texas? General reporting — up to 1,000 solely for grants that are administered byFund. the Texas buildings have increased. • School buses in Texas will travel I’ve been accused more than once of more than Agency. 400 million miles Education being far too technical. Learning to tell the — the equivalent of more than story of a school district in layman’s terms in the process. overall utility 95,000 round betweengreen” the • Districts aretrips “going and needs have reduced expenditures by making takes effort. Yet, it’s an effort worth east and west coasts of the United to ensure our public fully understands the The percentage of economically $69States. million, even though the• number of students and the square of that each challenges andfootage “opportunities” disadvantaged students in classof us face on a daily basis. In gaining their rooms increases each year; it now • School cafeterias will serve more buildings have breakfast increased. understanding, we gain their support — exceeds 60 percent. than 800 million and at board meetings, at the polls and, most lunches to our students — the • Districts will adhere tofor a multitude • The Texas Legislature’s funding of services students with disabilities importantly, in the classroom. has equivalent of attempting to make of deadlines for federal and state breakfast for nearly everyone in — upas to 1,000 solely for declined school year whenreporting viewed a percentage of spending in the the Unitedeach States three mornings grants that are administered by the TRACY GINSBURG is the executive this week and adapting each meal Texas Education Agency. director of the Texas Association of School General Fund. to every person’s special dietary •

Districts are “going green” and

Business Officials (www.tasbo.org). She can be reached at tracyg@tasbo.org.

Percent FSP State Revenues for Direct Costs for Special Education Compared to Direct Costs in General Fund per Fiscal Year and School Percent FSP State Revenues for Direct Costs for Special Education Compared to Direct Costs in General Fund perYear Fiscal Year and School Year 60.0% 50.0% 40.0% 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0.0%

2001-­‐ 2002-­‐ 2003-­‐ 2004-­‐ 2005-­‐ 2006-­‐ 2007-­‐ 2008-­‐ 2009-­‐ 2010-­‐ 2011-­‐ 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012

Percent FSP State Aid Funding 54.3% 52.1% 51.6% 50.8% 47.9% 46.5% 46.1% 43.7% 40.3% 40.0% 38.6%

February 2014 • Texas School Business




Wanda Smith looks back on career spanning almost half a century by Autumn Rhea Carpenter


or decades, men filled the education administration ranks. But for Wanda Smith, a newly hired superintendent in the 1980s, the boys’ club doors swung wide open and its members shared valuable tips that would guide her through the rest of her career. By the time she retired last summer, Smith had logged 45 years in public education, 30 of those serving in Texas public schools. The early years While awaiting her husband’s college graduation, Smith accepted her first teaching position in 1963 in Syracuse, Neb., teaching

second and third grades. When the couple moved to Texas in 1970, Smith was hired as a kindergarten teacher in Waxahachie ISD, where she eventually was named Teacher of the Year for Outstanding Classroom Individualism. In 1974, having earned a master’s degree in counseling and guidance from Texas Christian University, Smith later became a counselor at the Waxahachie school. Later, having transferred to Keene ISD to teach seventh and eighth grades, Smith, in 1979, applied for a part-time superintendent’s position for a K-8 program in the district. Amidst two male applicants, Smith was hired as the part-time superintendent, and

Former Keene ISD Superintendent Wanda Smith (left) retired after 30 years with the district. She is shown with Wanda R. Smith High School Principal Sandy Denning. The school earning recognition from U.S. News and World Report magazine. (Photo courtesy of Paul Gnadt of the Keene Star.) 22

Texas School Business • February 2014

freshening the elementary school’s walls with new paint topped her to-do list. “I wanted those 136 students to be proud of their school,” Smith says. “Back then, if you wanted something done, you did it yourself. We painted the drab, industrial hallways with bright stripes, and the kids and parents were thrilled.” In 1981, Smith became the full-time superintendent. When she stepped up to lead, Keene ISD had no established federal programs, including no breakfast or milk programs. Facilities included a block building and an asphalt basketball court. While students walked home for lunch or brought sack lunches, Smith worked with her mentors to navigate the application process. Smith joined a co-op with other local schools to gain the necessary funding. She canvassed the community, campaigning for a bond issue to build a new elementary school that would house grades K through eight. The bond passed by a margin of 3-1, resulting in a new building, offices, a cafeteria and a gymnasium. The building now serves as the core of the remodeled and expanded elementary school. In 1983, many of the students in Keene attended the Keene Adventist Elementary School and continued their secondary education at Chisholm Trail Academy. Students then transferred to Cleburne ISD for a transfer fee of $300 to attend high school. With a new elementary school, Keene residents longed to bring their high school students back home instead of sending them to Cleburne ISD. Under Smith’s leadership, land was purchased and another school building was constructed. Grades nine through 12 were added one year at a time, until a full program was completed in 1990. In 2006, the school board voted to name the high school Wanda R. Smith High School in Smith’s honor. “The board was always very supportive during my tenure, and this gesture truly humbled me,” says Smith. Smith’s experience also includes serving as the first female president of the Texas Association of Community Schools (TACS) from 1989 to 1990. When the TACS insurance

pool bankruptcy occurred in 1987, Smith took it upon herself to maintain the support of the executive committee and members. Smith knew that TACS was a vital organization for small schools and that it needed to survive. “We made a lot of personal phone calls and explained honestly what had happened,” she says. “We also made a huge effort to recruit members and keep support high.” Smith relied heavily on her male colleagues, calling them kind and supportive. “I never experienced unnecessary competition. Most of my superintendent career was spent with very few other female colleagues,” says Smith. “I’ve seen the field blossom over the past few years, with more women represented. It’s not that women weren’t always capable; there was just the perception that it was a ‘man’s job.’” In 2001, the Texas House of Representatives officially recognized Smith as the longest-tenured female superintendent still working in the state. “We face the same problems today that we faced 30 years ago with school finance and with the Legislature,” Smith continues. “With more women represented in administrative roles and serving on school boards, the public can finally see that women are as competent as their male counterparts. Today’s women are more assertive and are going for the good jobs.” Smith retired — perhaps for the last time? — at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. This is her second pass at retired life; her first one was in 2006, when she retired as Keene ISD’s superintendent. She initially spent her retirement consulting for Itasca ISD. Yet, soon she was working as an elementary principal for Grand Prairie ISD and as a junior high principal at Cleburne ISD. By

WANDA SMITH A resolution for the new year: “Lose weight and study my Bible more often.” My closest friends would describe me as: “I’m a No. 1 shopper who likes to have fun and be with friends.” Something most people don’t know about me is: “When I was married and had my only child, I rode a dirt bike motorcycle for fun.” Early bird or night owl? “I’m a night owl, if it’s not past midnight.”

AUTUMN RHEA CARPENTER is a freelance writer in Kingwood.

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and later return home. I’m proud to know that I helped create a top-notch program.” Smith says that her second retirement will stick. She’s making the most of it by travelling, decorating her new home, playing Bunco with friends and volunteering for the Keene Chamber of Commerce, which she helped to establish. “I’m enjoying my freedom, but will always miss school,” she admits.

2011, Smith’s replacement at Keene ISD, Darlene Callender, resigned, and the school board asked Smith to return to her post. Many members of Smith’s family pursued careers in education. Her deceased husband was a superintendent and Smith’s mother, sister and brother-in-law were teachers. “When we were growing up, women’s career choices were limited to being a teacher or a nurse,” says Smith. “But I think that I would still have chosen education because I love children. My heart was in Keene ISD, and I enjoyed watching the students grow up

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February 2014 • Texas School Business


WHO’S NEWS continued from page 19 veteran of Texas public education. He joined the district in 2007 as the bilingual/ESL coordinator, holding that position for four years before taking the top job at Hurst Hills. Figueroa previously worked in Richardson ISD, Oscar Figueroa opening Bukhair Elementary in 2004 as principal. In addition, he was Little Elm ISD’s gifted and talented coordinator, grant writer and bilingual/ESL coordinator. He was also the principal of pre-K and preschool programs for children with disabilities (PPCD) at King Early Childhood Center. A graduate of North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minn., he earned his master’s degree in education from Southern Methodist University. Irving ISD The district’s new superintendent is Jose Parra, who comes to his new position from Lockhart ISD, where he served as superintendent for six years. During his 26 years as a Texas educator, Parra was a high school English teacher in Seguin and New Braunfels ISDs and spent six years as a Jose Parra district administrator in New Braunfels ISD, eight years as a campus administrator in Wylie ISD and three years as assistant superintendent in Kerrville ISD. In addition, he has taught English and educational administration at the college and university levels. Parra holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from The University of Texas at San Antonio. His doctorate in educational administration was awarded from Columbia University in New York. Johnson City ISD John Schumacher has been chosen to serve as Johnson City ISD’s assistant superintendent. He has been with Marble Falls ISD since 2003, beginning as an elementary school assistant principal and going on to serve in the same position at the district’s middle school. Judson ISD Trustee Gilbert Flores has been elected to serve a three-year term with the Texas Association of School Boards. A former school board president, he will represent Region 20D. He is a graduate of Leadership TASB and is considered a “master trustee.” Flores is an accountant for the city of San Antonio. Katy ISD Superintendent Alton Frailey is the new president of the Texas Association of Suburban/ Mid-Urban Schools.


Texas School Business • February 2014

Who’s News

Kerrville ISD Superintendent Dan Troxell was named chair of the 2013-2014 University Interscholastic League Legislative Council during the UIL’s Annual Legislative Council Meeting in October. Troxell served as chair of the UIL Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Academics for the Dan Troxell past several years. He has held the top position in Kerrville ISD since 2003. Prior to that, he was an assistant superintendent in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. He also has been a middle school teacher, middle school and high school assistant principal and high school principal. In addition, he has served as an adjunct professor at Schreiner University and at the University of Houston. He has been a part-time professor at Sam Houston State University. Troxell earned his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas, which also awarded his doctorate. His master’s degree in education is from Texas State University. Lamar CISD

Christina Martinez-Benitez

Wessendorff Middle School Director of Bands Christina MartinezBenitez was honored in Las Vegas in November with a Latin Grammy for Best Children’s Album. She and her husband, Noe, were the producers of “Fantástico!,” a collection of songs performed by Lucky Diaz.

La Marque ISD Terri L. Watkins is the district’s new superintendent. An educator for 31 years in Galveston and Texas City ISDs, she has been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, executive director of human resources, executive director for elementary education, assistant superintendent for administration and co-interim superintendent. Most recently, she was assistant superintendent for support services for Texas City ISD. Lamesa ISD The new superintendent is John Ramos, who had been serving as the district’s high school principal. A native of Lamesa, he began his career teaching English and language arts before becoming an administrator. He served as assistant principal and principal of Lamesa Middle School and principal of Lamesa High School, as well as director of human resources for Lubbock ISD. Ramos is a graduate of Texas Tech University and earned his master’s degree from Lubbock Christian University. He is completing his doctorate in curriculum and instruction at Texas Tech University. Lockhart ISD Former Deputy Superintendent Janie Wright has been named the district’s interim superinten-

dent. A graduate of Lockhart High School, she spent her high school senior year working as an office aide at Lockhart Elementary. After obtaining her degree from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University), she returned to the district and has remained there for the past 36 years, working as a teacher, assistant principal, elementary and secondary principal, executive director and assistant superintendent. Wright’s master’s degree in education was awarded from Texas State University. Longview ISD A new assistant superintendent has been hired for the district. He is Horace Williams, who was most recently superintendent of Cedar Hill ISD. Prior to that, he was superintendent of Diboll ISD and spent 14 years with Houston ISD as a teacher and principal. Marble Falls ISD Brett Koch, who was superintendent of Early ISD, is now interim principal of Marble Falls Middle School. He has been an educator for 25 years, working as a teacher, coach, athletic director, principal, and middle school and high school principal. Koch, who received his bachelor’s degree from Angelo State University, holds a master’s degree in education from Tarleton State University. Martin’s Mill ISD James Oliver, former superintendent of Nazareth ISD, is now superintendent of Martin’s Mill ISD. Martinsville ISD A new superintendent has been named for the district. He is Jay Ratcliff, who was the high school principal in Waskom ISD. Medina ISD An interim superintendent has been named for the district. He is Jack Cockrill, who has been superintendent of Kerrville ISD and interim superintendent of Ingram ISD. Midlothian ISD Chelsi Frazier is now the education foundation and community development coordinator. Most recently the marketing coordinator for Citizens National Bank in Waxahachie, she also has been an adjunct instructor at Navarro College and a social coordinator and risk management coordinator at Tarleton State University. Moulton ISD The new superintendent is Jennifer Hranitzky. She was most recently with Del Valle ISD, where she was the district’s coordinator for accountability and data and coordinator for testing. She began her career as a science instructor at the University of Illinois, going on to teach science in Katy ISD. In addition, she was a graduate student instructor at Texas A&M University, an administrator for the city of Houston’s police academy,

program director for the Nevada Police Corps, a teacher and assistant principal at LBJ High School in Austin ISD, an adjunct instructor for Concordia University in Austin, and an instructional administrator at Popham Elementary School in Del Jennifer Valle ISD. A graduate of Hranitzky Texas A&M University, she holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. Newton ISD Michelle Barrow, who had been serving as assistant superintendent, has been promoted to superintendent of the district. Northside ISD Now serving as principal of Health Careers High School is Linda Burk. She comes to her new job from Business Careers High School, where she also held the top position. Burk began her career as a content mastery teacher at Clark High School in 1994, going on to work at O’Connor High Linda Burk before taking her first administrative position as an assistant principal at Marshall High. She next was academic dean at Holmes High/Business Careers High before taking her most recent job in 2010. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Our Lady of the Lake University. Phillip Edge, who was vice principal of Connally Middle School, is now principal of Construction Careers Academy. He began his career as a business and computer programming teacher at Pearsall High School in Somerset ISD, then worked first as the school’s interim principal Phillip Edge and then as assistant principal. He joined Northside ISD in 2010. Edge, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University), holds a master’s degree from the University of Colorado. Claudia Lizcano, former vice principal of Lieck Elementary School, is now principal of Wanke Elementary. She began her career in 1995 as a teacher in United ISD. She transferred to Laredo ISD in 2003 as the district’s dual language coordinator, going on to Claudia Lizcano serve as assistant principal of Martin Elementary there. She came to Northside ISD in 2007 as vice principal of Passmore Elementary, then opened Lieck in 2011. Lizcano holds a bachelor’s degree from The

Who’s News

University of Texas at San Antonio and a master’s degree from Texas A&M International University. Glenda Munson, currently serving as principal of Stevenson Middle School, will lead a new campus, Bernal Middle School, as principal in August. She began her career in Vidor ISD as a high school English teacher, joining the district in 1988 teaching the same Glenda Munson subject at Pease Middle School. She took her first administrative position as assistant principal of Rudder Middle School in 2000. In 2001, she was named vice principal of Stevenson Middle School, becoming principal in 2004. Munson holds a bachelor’s degree in English and communication from Lamar University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from The University of Texas at San Antonio. The new principal of Business Careers High School is Randy Neuenfeldt. He began his career as a physics and chemistry teacher at Taft High School in 2003, and, in 2009, accepted the position of vice principal of Communication Arts High School. Randy Neuenfeldt Neuenfeldt, who earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University, holds a master’s degree from The University of Texas at San Antonio. A new principal is in place for Langley Elementary. Leticia Ramirez had been serving as vice principal of Galm Elementary. She has spent her career in Northside ISD, beginning as a special education teacher at Esparza Elementary, then working in the same Leticia Ramirez capacity at Fisher Elementary, beginning when the school opened in 2006. She was next a behavior master content teacher at Cable Elementary and then a content master center teacher at Langley, when that school opened in 2009. She was also special education campus coordinator at Cable and Langley elementary schools before taking her most recent job at Galm. Ramirez received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and her master’s degree in administration from Lamar University. A new assistant superintendent for budget and finance has been named for the district. He is David Rastellini, who was director of accounting. He first worked in San Angelo ISD as director of finance and accounting and moved, 13 years later, to Austin ISD as that district’s budget director. After two years in that position, he joined New Braunfels ISD as business manager. He next served as Waco ISD’s associate superintendent for business and support services, then as associate su-

perintendent for financial services in Dallas ISD. He came to Northside ISD in 2008 to take his most recent position. Rastellini, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Tech University, received his master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Taking on the district’s newly created position of principal coach is Don Van Winkle, who had been serving as principal of Wanke Elementary School. An educator for 28 years, he was a campus principal for 15 of those. He also was a fifth grade teacher at KnowlDon Van Winkle ton and Galm elementary schools; vice principal of McDermott, Howsman and Valley Hi elementary schools; and principal of Oak Hills Terrace Elementary, before opening Wanke in 2006. Both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees were awarded from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Other recent appointments are: • Lisa Baker, vice principal, Northside Alternative High School; • Noelia Benson, director of bilingual and ESL education; • Ryan Boyle, vice principal, Lieck Elementary School; • Tracie Camp, vice principal, Connally Middle School; • Christopher Duke, assistant principal, Zachry Middle School; • Monica Galan, assistant principal, Jefferson Middle School; • Maria Gabriela Jimenez, vice principal, Adams Hill Elementary School; • Suzanne Lansdale, vice principal, Nichols Elementary School; • James Mears, assistant principal, Warren High School; • Faustino Ortega, vice principal, Ross Middle School; • Virginia Parker, vice principal, Steubing Elementary School; • Christine Perez, academic dean, Connally Middle School; • Veronica Pritchett, assistant principal, Brennan High School; • Leticia Ramirez, principal, Langley Elementary School; • Paul Ramirez, assistant principal, Ross Middle School; • David Romero, vice principal, Fernandez Elementary School; • Richard Stout, vice principal, Business Careers High School; • Jennifer Tiller, assistant principal, Connally Middle School; • Patti Vlieger, assistant principal, Rawlinson Middle School; • Leanna Young, vice principal, Communications Arts High School; and • Richard Yzaguirre, assistant principal, Jay High School. See WHO’S NEWS on page 28

February 2014 • Texas School Business


TASBO PRESIDENT PROFILE Coppell ISD is in good hands with penny-wise CFO Kelly Penny by Leila Kalmbach


elly Penny’s life changed over a game of Bunco, and she’s never looked back. In 1996, Penny, who is now chief financial officer of Coppell ISD and president of the Texas Association of School Business Officials (TASBO), was a stay-at-home mom who was spending a lot of time volunteering with the PTA at her daughter Ashly’s elementary school. She regularly got together with a group of women to play Bunco, a dice-based parlor game. One of the women was the director of the Tax Office for Richardson ISD. Penny mentioned that she wanted to get back into the workforce and would love to go into education. The woman told Penny of a temporary

staff accountant position with the district. Penny, who had an accounting degree from The University of Texas at Dallas, applied for it and landed the job. (She since has earned a MBA from Texas A&M Commerce and is a registered Texas school business administrator.) “I got lucky,” Penny says. “It just fell into place with something as simple as a Bunco game.” Penny says that she’s always been a big believer in public education. A product of public education, she was the first person in her family to graduate from college. Yet, she had never thought about going into education until seeing the daily operations at the school while volunteering.

Coppell ISD Chief Financial Officer Kelly Penny serves up plates at the Annual Thanksgiving Feast at Austin Elementary, where parents come have lunch with their children. “It is one of the most enjoyable activities I volunteer at annually,” Penny says. “The students are so excited during that time of the year.” 26

Texas School Business • February 2014

‘I pretty much have my dream job. I don’t have direct contact with students one to one, but I know what I do is extremely important in making sure that a child gets a quality education.’ After landing the accounting job, Penny quickly moved up the ranks. The temporary job turned permanent, and a year later the director and executive director of the finance department left the district. When they weren’t immediately replaced, suddenly Penny was the senior person in the office. It was coming up on year-end too, so she began working until nine or 10 o’clock at night and on weekends to pick up the slack. “That’s kind of scary when you don’t have that much experience and haven’t been with the school district for that long,” she says. “To get us through the year-end process, get the books closed and have a good audit, that was huge.” It was a defining moment and a big confidence boost for Penny, who realized that if she could handle year-end, she could do very well at the job. She spent several years as director of finance for Richardson ISD and then moved to Rockwall ISD in 2001 before taking on her current CFO position in Coppell ISD in 2007. Penny’s early success was far from her last. When she started in Rockwall ISD, “it was a district that was called a CTD — circling the drain,” she admits. “They were basically broke; they had a deficit fund balance.” But by the time that Penny left six years later, Rockwall ISD had a roughly $18 million fund balance. And then there’s everything that’s happened since she’s been at Coppell ISD

— a successful tax rate ratification election, a double-A-plus credit rating from Fitch that’s been increased twice since she’s been there, two successful bond elections, a five-star score per the Comptroller’s rating system and superior scores on FIRST, to name a few. It’s obvious that Penny is highly accomplished, but as she talks about her achievements, there’s one key factor she mentions over and over: other people. “I’ve been blessed to work in districts where I’ve had great staff and supervisors or superintendents,” she says. “I’ve always had great people around me to help me — and mentors as well.” Penny cites mentors she has met through TASBO as some of the most important to her success. Having first gotten involved in the organization in 1997, she was elected to TASBO’s board of directors in 2010, an experience she describes as humbling. Last year, she was elected president and she officially begins her term this month. “I’ve been very fortunate because since I started with school district business, people who were very involved in TASBO took me under their wings and got me involved,” she says. “They understood the importance of TASBO and the impact that it can make — the professional development, contacts, networking — so they laid the foundation.”



I made my first dollar: giving horse-riding lessons as a teenager. Best financial advice I ever received: (1) save money and (2) never buy a new car. Something most people don’t know about me: “I’m a thrill-seeker. The year I turned 50, on Friday the 13th my husband and I went skydiving.” If I had to choose an entirely different career path, I would: “Growing up, my dream job was to be a professional horse trainer, but now I have no desire to go into a different field. I’m very happy.”

Penny is excited to begin her term as president alongside the new executive director, Tracy Ginsburg. TASBO is working to revamp its continuing education to be more current, offer additional online courses and develop new methods of delivery. It’s also in the early stages of developing strategic partnerships with sponsors and vendors. Penny loves the work she does, both as TASBO president and as a district CFO. “I pretty much have my dream job,” Penny says. “I don’t have direct contact with students one to one, but I know what I do is extremely important in making sure that a child gets a quality education. I’m very happy that I get to do this.”

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Penny’s desire to make an impact extends to her personal life as well. In her free time, Penny enjoys dancing and golfing, but her biggest passion is fostering dogs for DFW Rescue Me, an all-volunteer organization in Dallas. Of their four dogs, Penny and her husband, David Tiffin, have a 1-year-old foster dog and a 3-year-old adopted dog who started out as a foster. “There’s a lot of work involved, but I’m passionate,” she says. “I love kids and I love animals. You never know how an animal might impact someone else’s life.” LEILA KALBACH is a freelance writer in Austin.

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Who’s News

WHO’S NEWS continued from page 25 Northwest ISD The district has named Kim Caley as its new executive director of human resources. She moves to her new position from Schluter Elementary School, where she served as principal since opening the campus in 2011 as an America’s Choice School. Caley, who has been with Northwest Kim Caley ISD since 1999, has also been principal of Hughes Elementary and assistant principal of Justin Elementary. Before coming to Northwest ISD, she was a teacher and administrator in Denton and Grapevine-Colleyville ISDs. Caley, who earned both her bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in education from Texas Woman’s University, is at work on completing her doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Oglesby ISD Jason Jones, the district’s new superintendent, was most recently a principal in Ector County ISD. He began his career in 2000 in Campbell ISD as a coach, also teaching junior high and high school business and physical education. He became an assistant principal in that district in 2005. Jason Jones He transferred to Howe ISD in 2006, serving as assistant principal for the middle school and high school until 2008, when he joined Ector County ISD. Jones earned his

bachelor’s degree in business administration and his master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Former Assistant Superintendent Conrad Arriola is now serving as the district’s interim superintendent. Superintendent Clarke Boyd retired in December. Pflugerville ISD A new superintendent is in place for Pflugerville ISD. Alex Torrez comes to his new position from Clear Creek ISD, where he was assistant superintendent for secondary education since 2005. A native of Lubbock, he began his career as a junior high and high school history Alex Torrez teacher in Lubbock ISD, working there from 1987 to 1992, when he joined Denver City ISD as a high school Spanish and ESL teacher. He returned to Lubbock ISD in 1995 to serve as associate principal of Lubbock High School until being named principal of Cavosoz Junior High. He then was principal of Marble Falls High School in Marble Falls ISD until taking his most recent position in Clear Creek ISD. Torrez holds a bachelor’s degree from Lubbock Christian University and a master’s degree in mid-management from Sul Ross State University. His doctoral in educational leadership was awarded from Prairie View A&M University. Port Arthur ISD A new superintendent is in place for the district. He is Mark Porterie, who has been with

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the district since 1992, beginning as a teacher and going on to serve as an assistant principal and then deputy superintendent. Porterie, who is a graduate of Nova Southeastern University, earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Lamar University and his master’s degree in educational administration from Prairie View A&M University. Queen City ISD A new superintendent is in place for the district. Angela Gutsch, former assistant superintendent in Uvalde CISD, began her career as a teacher and coach in Pottsboro ISD before joining Uvalde CISD in 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Emporia State University in Kansas and a master’s degree from Texas A&M University, from which she expects to receive her doctorate this year. Richardson ISD A new principal has been named for White Rock Elementary School. She is Lee Walker, who began her career with Richardson ISD as a teacher and most recently was White Rock’s assistant principal. For six years, she taught math at Liberty Junior High, where she also served in adLee Walker ministrative roles and was an assistant principal for Pearce High summer school. In addition, she worked in Farmersville ISD. Walker is a graduate of Sam Houston State University, which she attended on a basketball scholarship. Robinson ISD Sara Laughlin has been appointed principal of Robinson Intermediate School. She began her career in Plano ISD and was most recently middle school/high school principal in the Estes Park R3 School District in Estes Park, Colo. Laughlin earned her bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and her master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Colette Pledger is now director of curriculum and instruction. She joins the district from Celina ISD, where she held the same position. A graduate of Texas A&M University with a master’s degree from Tarleton State University, she began her career in Temple ISD. Round Rock ISD Retired Superintendent Jesus H. Chavez received two awards from the Round Rock ISD Council of PTAs. The National PTA Life Achievement Award recognizes those who are committed to children on a daily basis and act as advocates for their education, Jesus H. Chavez health and well-being. The Texas PTA Extended Service Award is presented to individuals who are PTA life members and have been actively involved

in Texas PTA for 10 years or more in recognition of their service to Texas PTA. Chavez, who served on the Texas PTA Board Royal ISD Stacy Ackley, the district’s new superintendent, is a 19-year veteran of Texas public education. Most recently, he served as superintendent of Colmesneil ISD, spending five years in that position. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and his master’s degree from Tarleton State University. San Antonio ISD A new deputy superintendent for teaching and learning has been named for the district. He is Emilio Castro, a 19-year education veteran who has been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, area superintendent, superintendent and leadership consultant. He comes from Lewisville Emilio Castro ISD, where he led the Professional Learning and Leadership Development Department. He also spent 13 years with Dallas ISD and two with Kingsville ISD. Castro received his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas and his master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University at Commerce. San Benito ISD Ismael Cantu has been selected to serve as the district’s interim superintendent. San Diego ISD A new superintendent has been chosen for the district. He is Samuel Bueno, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. He began his career in San Antonio’s Harlandale ISD, teaching there for two years before moving to Alice ISD, where he spent four years as an elementary teacher. Bueno has served as principal of all three of the district’s schools. Sealy ISD Nicole Poenitzsch, a former elementary school teacher for the district, is now serving as assistant superintendent. William F. Walker Jr. has been appointed the district’s interim superintendent. He had retired as superintendent of Randolph Field ISD in San Antonio. Walker received his doctorate from Lamar University. Seguin ISD Superintendent Karen Garza has been appointed to the governing board of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. She will be one of 19 representatives from several states and Puerto Rico. The organization’s goals include improving Hispanic students’ access to quality post-secondary education opportunities.

Who’s News

Texas City ISD Northside Elementary School now has Anne Anderson as principal. An employee of the district for 16 years, she began as a fourth grade teacher at the school in 1997. She also taught science for two years at Fry Intermediate School and then was a science/math Anne Anderson instructional specialist for four years. She was most recently assistant principal of Kohfeldt Elementary School. The new principal of Fry Intermediate School is Tony Furman, who was the school’s assistant principal for the past four years. Before coming to Texas City, he worked in Pasadena ISD as a peer facilitator, social studies Tony Furman teacher and chair of the Social Studies Department. Holly La Roe is now principal of Texas City High School. An educator for 22 years in the district, she was principal of Fry Intermediate School for the past four years. Prior to that assignment, she was assisHolly La Roe tant principal of the school for two years. In addition, she was a special education facilitator at Blocker Middle School for seven years and taught special education at that school for another seven.

Tornillo ISD An interim superintendent is in place for the district. Mike Quatrini has come out of retirement to accept the position. He spent 15 years as superintendent of San Elizario ISD before retiring two years ago. He also served as a principal and teacher in Socorro ISD in El Paso. Vega ISD A superintendent has been named for the district. Paul Uttley comes to his new position from Stratford ISD, where he was the high school principal. Waxahachie ISD Prior to coming to Waxahachie ISD, Superintendent Jeremy Glenn held the top position in Central Heights ISD, near Nacogdoches, since 2008. He was also an English teacher and coach in Mineola ISD and high school principal and assistant superintendent in Trinity ISD. Glenn holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from The University of Texas at Tyler, where he also earned his master’s degree in educational administration. His doctorate in educational leadership was awarded from Sam Houston State University. Wharton ISD King Davis, who was assistant superintendent of Crosby ISD, is the new superintendent. TSB

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February 2014 • Texas School Business


THE BACK PAGE by Riney Jordan

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Life lesson from a 6-year-old cowboy


know we’ve all heard the expression “Never say never.” But there are some occasions when it is most worthwhile to use the word never. For example, I was watching television the other evening when a commercial for Lowe’s came on the screen. I really didn’t pay much attention until the announcer said, “Never stop improving.” “Wow! That’s good,” I thought to myself. Of course, they were talking about improving your home and getting the materials for the project at one of their stores, but I immediately thought of us as individuals. What good advice! Never stop improving! I’m reminded of the time when I was serving as a principal of a new elementary school. Many of the children lived in lowincome housing. Nearly all of them were eligible for free lunch, and many lived with grandparents or foster parents. As the year progressed, I became more and more aware of the ugly things in this world that many of those children had seen and heard. It was heartbreaking to hear their use of profanity, to learn of inappropriate music lyrics they knew word for word, and to hear their references to inappropriate movies and television shows. To instill some values in their minds, I wrote a little pledge and called it the “Today” pledge. It simply said, “Today I will do more than I have to do. I will treat others as I want to be treated, and I will try to become a better person.” The idea was for all of us who said the pledge to improve, to become better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we were today. Just like the commercial said, “Never stop improving.” I’ll never forget my last day in the school prior to retirement. The teachers


Texas School Business • February 2014

insisted that all the children have a chance to tell me goodbye, so one by one the children came up to me as I sat in the front hallway. Many had pictures they had drawn or notes they had written, but there was enough love poured onto me that day to last a lifetime. Perhaps the most memorable came from a little first grade cowboy named Christopher. Boots and all, he sauntered up to me and said in his slow, Texas drawl, “I’m shore gonna miss ya, Mr. Jordan.” “I’m going to miss you, too, Christopher. By the way, you haven’t been to the office in quite a while for using those bad words. I’m proud of you.” “Want me to tell ya why I don’t say those cuss words anymore?” “Sure,” I said. “Well, becuz ever mornin’ we say that pledge. You know, ‘Today I will do more than I have to do. I will treat others as I wanna be treated, and I will try to become a better person.’ Well, when I say that ever mornin’, I just think to myself: ‘Now, Christopher, see if you can go all day and not say one cuss word.’” I couldn’t help but smile and think that something so simple as that little pledge had helped make a big difference in his little life. And then he added: “It’s shore workin’, ain’t it?” Improving ourselves. What a worthwhile goal. We all can make valuable and important changes in our lives. The problem is believing in ourselves enough to step out and begin making those improvements. As they say: “Change is inevitable. Self-improvement is a choice.”

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.

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VISION What is the future of your Educational Community? How can you create a Strategic Plan to move forward?

The Result‌ Unified Team Engaged Community Identified Priorities Maximized Resources Facilitated Success Recognized as the leading provider of strategic planning for K-12 education.


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

February 2014 • Texas School Business



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