TSB—June 2014

Page 1

The News Magazine for Public Education in Texas for 60 Years

June 2014






Finding true North The transformation of North Dallas High

TASSP President Robert Morrison Montgomery ISD

In the Spotlight Sharon Cox Denton ISD

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TSB contents news and features

Enhance effective leadership with relational capacity by Devin Padavil, Pflugerville ISD

8 photo feature


In the Spotlight Denton ISD’s Sharon Cox thrives in community engagement

Finding true North: A principal’s relentless efforts to revive North Dallas High by Bobby Hawthorne

TAGT convenes in Austin for Leadership Conference

departments Who’s News


Ad index




by Elizabeth Millard

From the Editor


The Law Dawg  —  Unleashed


Tech Toolbox


by Katie Ford by Jim Walsh

by Terry Morawski



A meditation on workplace interactions How do you feel?

Game On!


The Back Page


by Bobby Hawthorne by Riney Jordan

by Nancy Oelklaus

TASSP President Profile Principal inspires students to press on By Leila Kalmbach

22 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. June 2014 • Texas School Business



Texas School Business • June 2014

From the Editor They say transformation in a school doesn’t happen overnight. Apparently neither does a feature story about such a transformation. When I started searching for a “turnaround school” to profile for our June cover story, I assumed I’d be swimming in options. Not so. It turns out that people who work in public education aren’t really the type to toot their own horns. About a month into my search, however, I finally hooked a live one, thanks to Mason Moses, chief information officer for the Texas System of Education Service Centers. Mason told me that after putting out some feelers, North Dallas High School in Dallas ISD seemed a very strong prospect. I was so excited to finally have a story to pursue, and I’d be lying if I said it weren’t partially because we were now just days before our press deadline. Without delay, Texas School Business columnist and feature writer Bobby Hawthorne jumped on the assignment and placed some calls to the school. His queries were acknowledged, but not with the urgency he had hoped for. It seemed that bragging to the media just wasn’t a priority with these school folks. They had more important business to address — the business of transforming learning and, therefore, the lives of their students. So, Bobby, who lives in Austin, decided to go the extra mile for this assignment — literally. He grabbed his pocket recorder and his camera and drove a few hundred miles north to meet this remarkable North Dallas High team on its home turf. The result is the story and images you’ll find beginning on page 12. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you, Bobby, for going the extra mile. Because of you, the rest of Texas will know about the awesome transformation taking place at North Dallas High.

Katie Ford Editorial Director

(ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) June 2014 Volume LX, Issue 9 406 East 11th Street Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-477-6361 • Fax: 512-482-8658 www.texasschoolbusiness.com Editorial Director Katie Ford Design Phaedra Strecher Columnists Bobby Hawthorne, Riney Jordan, Terry Morawski, Jim Walsh Advertising Sales Manager Lance Lawhon Texas Association of School Administrators Executive Director Johnny L. Veselka Assistant Executive Director, Services and Systems Administration Ann M. Halstead Director of Communications and Media Relations Suzanne Marchman ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620 Published monthly, except for July/August and November/ December, and the Bragging Rights issue published in December by Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701. Periodical Postage Paid at Austin, Texas and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701.

© Copyright 2014 Texas Association of School Administrators June 2014 • Texas School Business


TAGT convenes in Austin for Leadership Conference The Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented hosted its annual Leadership Conference in April. The gathering focuses on best practices and promising programs.

Debi Torres of Austin ISD and Julie Martin of Frisco ISD. Priscilla Lurz of Northside ISD and Gerry Charlebois of Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD.

Christina Dearman of Denton ISD, Janice Fall of Belton ISD and Janice DeLisle of Lovejoy ISD.

Cheryl Beard of Garland ISD and Linda Rawlings of Eanes ISD. Robin Wright and Lori Gruwell of New Braunfels ISD with Shelly Crowford of Comal ISD.

Todd Kettler of the University of North Texas, Gregory Reeves of ESC Region 17 and Kay Shurtief ESC Region 10.

Janet Anders, Wendy Kruse and Jenna Whatley, all of Prosper ISD. 6

Texas School Business • June 2014

Mitchell Morkin of Dallas ISD, Nicole Clark of Dumas ISD and Jeanette Spaon of Fort Bend ISD.

THE LAW DAWG – Unleashed by Jim Walsh

The case of the ‘Bad Kid Fort’


ur story begins on Dec. 6, 2012, in Parkersburg High School, W.V. We don’t know a lot about the student in this case. We know that he had an IEP, apparently due to autism. According to the report from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the student was “having trouble staying focused” during an eighth-period history class. The teacher responded to this by placing the student inside of a large Smartboard box, which she labeled “Bad Kid Fort.” The box was not entirely enclosed; the teacher had placed long cardboard planks on top of the box for a “roof.” There was a 2-inch gap in the front, which enabled the boy to see the teacher and the Smartboard at the front of the class. The student spent 15 minutes in the “fort.” The student’s father complained about this incident on Jan. 3, 2013. The principal immediately conducted an investigation and held a meeting with the student, the history teacher and another teacher on Jan. 5, 2013. By that time, the family already had filed a child abuse complaint. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources concluded that this incident was not child abuse. This finding came after statements were taken from the student, the parent, the principal, the history teacher and several student witnesses. The kids reported that the alleged “bad kid” was laughing during the incident and did not appear upset. The principal’s investigation led to the same conclusion. The kids told the principal that the “bad kid” was laughing about having “his own fort.” In fact, when the teacher threatened to put another student in the fort, our “bad kid” objected: “No, it’s mine.” But that was on the day of the incident. Later, the student became a victim. He claimed that he was horribly embarrassed. His 15 minutes “in the box” had destroyed his ability to trust teachers. He also reported that the other kids teased him and called him ugly names. A special education teacher worked with the student on this, teaching him strategies to deal with teasing. On top of that, the school admonished the student who had teased him,

and there were no further incidents. The district did other things to respond to this incident as well. The student “victim” was moved to another history class, as requested by the parent. The superintendent apologized to the parent and suspended the history teacher without pay for five days. If that strikes you as a pretty good response from the school, you obviously don’t work for the OCR. OCR found that the district made one major mistake: It failed to notify the parent of the outcome of its investigation. In OCR speak, this means that the district “did not provide an adequate, prompt and equitable disability discrimination grievance procedure.” This error would be viewed as a violation of 504 only if the underlying incident was construed to be illegal harassment. OCR said that it was. Even though the student laughed it off, even though there was no impact on his grades, even though the student was not excluded from any school activity, even though the incident lasted for all of 15 minutes, the district was guilty of creating a “hostile environment” that was “sufficiently severe to interfere with the Student’s ability to participate in the school’s program.” Oh boy. You would think that our Department of Education might trust that competent principals and superintendents can address instances of poor judgment by teachers without such helpful oversight. But this instance of government overreach communicates a complete lack of trust in educational professionals. Moreover, it reinforces “victim” mentality for a student, instead of helping him or her develop social skills to deal with life’s rough edges. We should be teaching resilience, not victimology. We should have a Department of Education that understands the term used by the courts in cases like this: “de minimis.” That’s Latin for “get over it.” JIM WALSH is an attorney with Walsh Anderson Gallegos Green and Treviño P.C. He can be reached at jwalsh@wabsa. com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @jwalshtxlawdawg.

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A Principal’s Perspective

Enhance effective leadership with relational capacity by Devin Padavil, Pflugerville ISD


hen I was little, our family had a doctor we really trusted. She had medical knowhow when it came to diagnosis, but, then again, all doctors can claim a certain level of expertise in their respective fields. More importantly, she had an ability to listen patiently and take her time. She asked a lot of questions before sharing her opinion. Once, when I was nervous, she sat on the bench with me and played cards while asking questions. She intentionally behaved in a way that would help me connect to her so that she could help me. No, we never had dinner together or exchanged Christmas cards. Yet, I believed she cared for me in an authentic, professional way. Think of a leader you’ve trusted or admired. How did this person make you feel? How did that person leverage his or her connection with you to serve a purpose? “Relational capacity” is the ability to foster a professional connection marked by openness and trust through candid, honest conversation. Just like that effective doctor from my youth, a school leader with strong relational capacity is able to: • invest time in building meaningful connections with fellow educators (or patients), • openly communicate with others about their effectiveness and/or behavior (or health), • speak candidly about what needs to be done to improve (be healthier). If you are not having necessary conversations with those doing the critical work in your district or school, ask yourself: Do you have the relational capacity to have those conversations? With relational 8

Texas School Business • June 2014

capacity, both individuals have a reservoir of goodwill protecting them from competing agendas or the sting of perceived criticism. The authority granted in a leadership position can create distance at times. By faulty logic, some leaders protect that authority by keeping those they supervise at a safe, professional distance. But who

‘If you are not having necessary conversations with those doing the critical work in your district or school, ask yourself: Do you have the relational capacity to have those conversations? With relational capacity, both individuals have a reservoir of goodwill protecting them from competing agendas or the sting of perceived criticism.’ does that distance really protect? Perhaps we hope it will be easier to dismiss an underperforming educator if we don’t know their background, goals and personal details. Maybe we fear our decisions will disappoint those we connect with and fray hard-earned relationships. However, by connecting with purpose, we erase these fears and doubts. What is your purpose as a school leader? A physician’s purpose is to improve the health and function of patients.

Knowing that purpose, their choices and actions become clear and less “optional.” For school leaders, who are pulled in dozens of directions a day, it is critical to connect with purpose to enhance our decisiveness. A caring and professional doctor does not behave indecisively in the face of unhealthy behavior. Just as a patient is addressed directly and seriously in those scenarios, a principal addresses nonnegotiable behaviors in the school. Placing students first, we address behaviors that compromise student learning and safety, and we do so with optimism and without yielding for fear of harming the professional relationship. Connecting informally At times, I’m an amateur at building relational capacity with my peers. This is a gap I see, but I strive to eliminate it through my choices and interactions as principal. I walk the halls, I stop to talk, and I try to listen more than talk. Despite routine failure, I constantly remind myself to ask questions, paraphrase and listen. As an aspiring school leader, I once heard “real school improvement happens through the small, three- to five-minute informal conversations that happen every day.” This remark didn’t totally sink in until years later. It used to be that I only saw school improvement when formal meetings or group discussions were held to address a specific issue. In reflection, I now see that connection and growth can also occur in the natural exchanges that happen throughout a school day. Connecting with staff members on important issues of student learning is crucial. Doing so informally adds a level of effectiveness not afforded in large group meetings. Engaging informally provides an opportunity to gauge the pulse of the campus and to refocus employees who are See LEADERSHIP on page 10

TECH TOOLBOX by Terry Morawski

Allowing students to sit or stand Increasing engagement time 20% Increasing calorie burn 32%

Think you have a great network? Not so fast!


hese days, it’s commonplace for schools to proudly market their connectivity and connection speeds on campus. But is your school taking full advantage of those Internet speeds? With the vast array of online, interactive teaching tools available for classroom learning, a solid connection is required. Yet, sometimes your school is paying for a much stronger connection than your end users are able to enjoy. How does this happen? Let’s start at the beginning. The whole thing starts with your Internet connection, which is purchased from one of the many fine providers out there. If your campus is having connection problems, it’s likely not your provider’s issue. If you have a full outage, however, it’s likely the provider’s issue. But back to our story. Your Internet connection enters a site via a port on a network server. Next, the Internet connection travels via a network cable to a network switch or router. Very generally speaking, your end users will have a good experience if they connect directly from the switch/router to their machines. The best solution is the simplest connection possible. For instance, it’s likely your home computer is connected directly to a router or modem. This is as good as it gets. Information is sent in “packets” from the source to your computer. Think of these packets as water drops filling a glass. If all is well, it fills up quickly and efficiently like a faucet. If your network is slow, however, it’s possible your glass will never get full. When your connection is slow or spotty, what is going wrong? Let’s take a look at some common culprits. Spaghetti network: Wires, routers and switches can be added continuously over the years. Think of that jumble of wires that might live behind your entertainment center at home. All of these different age and quality pieces of equipment can have trouble

sending a solid stream of information. Also, when equipment fails due to a power outage or other issue, this spaghetti network presents a significant problem when a technician needs to identify specific routers and switches. Windows 95, anyone? People can be quick to blame their Internet connections, but sometimes the problem is an old or sick machine. Viruses can turn an otherwise great machine into a brick. Everyone from Socrates to Dr. Phil will tell you that taking a look in the mirror can be the most important step in making a bad situation better. In this application, take a hard look at your computer (or have an expert look at it) before you quickly blame a bad Internet connection for your woes. HD video: High-definition video requires a lot of your machine, your network and your connection. I’m not saying to avoid HD video altogether, but I am saying to have a solid back-up plan if your lesson plan or presentation is relying on Internet-streamed HD video. If you’re a school leader and aren’t sure how the guts of your network operates, don’t be afraid to ask your IT group. If you get excited about networking configurations and connection speeds, they’ll be excited too. If too little attention and money are put toward routine maintenance and regular upgrades to your network, then you likely will end up with slow machines. A student or teacher attempting to use a slow machine on a slow network is like running a marathon in molasses — with heavy boots on. Pay attention to your machines and your network, and then your campus will be zooming. Good luck out there, and take care. TERRY MORAWSKI serves as the assistant superintendent of communications and marketing for Mansfield ISD. You can email him at terrymorawski@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @terrymorawski.

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June 2014 • Texas School Business


LEADERSHIP continued from page 8

• “Remember to give your students the review schedule.”

strained by the multiple variables competing for their attention. (And those variables often have little to do with teaching and learning.) It also reduces the possibility of important viewpoints fading into the background within the context of a large, formal meeting. Principals represent ideas and perspectives through which they view the work of a school. Every educator represents another unique idea and perspective. Regardless of their similarities or differences, listening openly and asking questions illuminates ideas and perspectives, creating the opportunity to influence and change.

• “Don’t forget to send me a list of your free- and reduced-lunch intervention students.”

Using questions as opportunities to connect Relational capacity is not built on one-way monologues, but on the give and take of conversation. Rather than walking the halls with dictums, it is helpful to ask the right questions. Take, for example, the following declarations that any wellintentioned administrator might use:

• “Tell me what you’re doing to address the kids who failed the quadratics benchmark.” Just as we want teachers to behave with students, administrators can benefit by modeling effective questioning when interacting with those who serve our students. For instance: • “How can I help you with your students during the review sessions?” • “How are you addressing the needs of your free- and reduced-lunch intervention students?” • “How do you feel about the progress of your students on the quadratics benchmark?”

algebra team. I owe it to those teachers to keep focus when I speak to them about learning. Questions are opportunities to connect. A leader focused on key priorities finds the right questions. What is your vision for instruction at your school or within your department today? What is the current reality? Do you see a gap between the vision and reality? As school leaders, we rely on our ability to connect and ask focused questions to help bridge that gap. We increase our effectiveness by using relational capacity to support and guide others to improve student performance. DEVIN PADAVIL is the principal of Hendrickson High School, a 2,700-student campus in Pflugerville ISD. He previously served as principal of Kelly Lane Middle School, also in Pflugerville ISD. He may be reached at devin.padavil@gmail.com.

Each addresses the previously listed need; yet, the owner of the thinking is the teacher and the focus is on them. As I write this, my “wonderings” turn to our algebra students and the work of our dedicated




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GAME ON! by Bobby Hawthorne

A story about game changers


renham head football coach Glen West’s first name isn’t Glen. It’s Gordon. If you know anything about Texas high school football, you might guess where “Gordon” comes from — especially when you learn that West’s daddy grew up in Stamford and played football there for Gordon Wood — the greatest Texas high school football coach ever. Wood coached from 1951-57 at Stamford, which is located 41 miles north of Abilene in the middle of not much and generally dry. The town was built by Swedish immigrants in 1900 along the Texas Central Railroad, so when folks there talk about “the wrong side of the tracks,” they mean it literally. West’s daddy — his name is Kenneth — grew up on the wrong side of those tracks. He was a bad student in a bad situation, but he wasn’t a bad kid. He was mostly lost. His mother was often sick and hospitalized. His dad had trouble finding work, and when he did, it forced him to hit the road, so Kenneth and his two brothers were often left to fend for themselves. One day around 1950, Coach Wood pulled Kenneth aside and said, “Son, straighten up or you’ll end up in a place that’s a lot worse than Stamford.” Of course, he coaxed him to play football, but he knew football alone wouldn’t change what Kenneth needed: a steady, consistent, reassuring voice. Someone to break the chain and stand in the gap. Basically, a parent. So Wood stepped in, made sure Kenneth and his brothers were fed, clothed, doing their schoolwork and sleeping indoors. As for football, Kenneth played tackle — and he played well enough to earn a scholarship with the “Traveling Cowboys” of Hardin-Simmons, coached by Slingin’ Sammy Baugh. By the time Kenneth graduated and served a brief stint in the Army, Wood was coaching in Victoria. Kenneth joined him there, launched his coaching career, met his future wife and started a family. In 1960, Wood moved to Brownwood, and Kenneth followed him two years later, toting with him an 18-month-old son, Gordon

Glen West, who grew up celebrating Brownwood state football victories — especially the 1978 title in which he started as linebacker. “To say that Gordon Wood has had an influence on me is a huge understatement,” Coach West says. “He has had an influence on my whole family.” He says he can’t imagine where any of them would be without Coach Wood. West probably wouldn’t be a coach, and even if he were, he probably wouldn’t be the coach he is — the man he has become. Here’s why: For years, West was nagged by the thought that he needed to be doing more for the athletes and students at Brenham High, something beyond the Xs and Os and coaching poster platitudes. Then, on his way home from a leadership conference, he figured it out: To make a real difference in the lives of some young people, he had to be less like a coach and teacher and more like a father. From that epiphany sprung the Brenham Game Changers, a group of local educators, businesspeople, clergy and civic leaders who have committed themselves to do whatever is necessary to make a difference. West says it’s not about quick-and-easy solutions or instant gratification. “You’re not always going to get the Cinderella ending,” he admits. “The slipper doesn’t always fit, but you just have to keep trying.” Because that’s what Coach Wood would have done. So now, let’s end with an anecdote. Kenneth West eventually became the principal at Brownwood High. One day, Coach Wood pulled little Gordon Glen West aside and said, “Who would have ever thought your daddy would end up being a high school principal?” Coach Wood paused, then added with pride: “Isn’t it great?” as if he were talking about his own son, which, in some ways, he was. 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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Finding true North A principal’s relentless efforts to revive North Dallas High by Bobby Hawthorne


or as much as North Dallas High Principal Dinnah Escanilla savors and is driven by data, this isn’t a story about numbers or statistics or tables or charts. It’s not a story about acronyms or abbreviations. It’s a love story. It’s the story of a once-proud high school that had fallen on hard times and seemed irredeemably ruined, spiraling toward an inevitable oblivion only to be resuscitated by a relentless woman who saw in the school’s revival a way of saying thanks to the country and state and city that took her in and gave her a better life.

THE SCHOOL Here’s how old North Dallas High is: It was built in 1922 — the year before Dallas’ first traffic light began blinking and the year after a local radio station, WRR, became the nation’s second to begin transmitting. The city grew around it, but the locals resisted efforts to change the name, so it 12

Texas School Business • June 2014

remains “North Dallas High,” even though it’s not even three miles from Dealy Plaza. Despite all the commercial wealth that surrounds it, the students who now attend the school are far from rich. They are black and brown and several shades in between, and they come from all over with issues seemingly unmanageable and experiences often unimaginable. Four years ago, the school was failing — in the bottom 5 percent of the lowestperforming high schools in the state. Suffice it to say, all the good numbers were way down, and all the bad numbers were way up. It didn’t help that one in 10 of its students was homeless or living in a supervised residential facility. The school was a poster child for everything wrong with urban public education. A few weeks before the start of the 2010 fall semester, the district assigned to it a new principal and told her in so many words, “The school is already lowperforming, so you have your work cut out for you. By the way, you can be replaced, so don’t make it worse, if that’s possible.”

THE PRINCIPAL By then, Dinnah Escanilla had been in Dallas ISD for eight years. She was born and raised in the Philippines and taught physics and chemistry in a Manila middle school until she learned that Texas needed teachers, so she signed up and immigrated to the United States with her 3-year-old daughter. She landed in Dallas in 1993 and was dispatched to San Benito, where she taught for two years. In 1996, she returned to Dallas and found a job as a math and science teacher. Smart, energetic and a natural leader, she scrambled up the ladder — from classroom teacher to instructional specialist to assistant principal to principal at North Dallas High. The moment she arrived on the cramped campus, she thought, “Whoa, what a chance to really make a difference.” THE PLAN “I came in late,” Escanilla said. “It was the middle of August, and I didn’t get to bring in my own people.”

In hindsight, it was a blessing. “It would have just created tension between the old group and the new group, anyway,” she said. “Instead, I relied on the historical knowledge of the people here. The key was, ‘Get the person who will be your ally, who knows the school and who has the passion for the kids — not any loyalty to a former principal or whatever.’ And that’s how I found my team. I needed people who not only knew the problems but who had some idea how to fix them.” She personally picked each member. “I didn’t just send out a mass email and ask, ‘Hey, who wants to do this?’ No, I chose them, one by one.” The team had a choice. Pick one: Close the school. Restart it. Turn it around. Transform it. They chose to transform it. “The first meeting of the committee lasted two hours, and I asked them to list everything they thought they needed,” Escanilla said. “The first thing we all agreed on: quality teachers. They didn’t ask first

for materials or equipment. They asked for committed, dedicated teachers.” Then, they listed the other things they needed. Equipment. Technology. Space. Someone even suggested “parking lot.” At the time, the faculty parking lot wasn’t paved. THE LEADERSHIP TEAM Dream big. Use your imagination. “That’s what Ms. Escanilla asked us to do,” recalled Michael K. Gayles, a master teacher. “’What would you change? What would be better for kids?’” They studied the numbers. They talked Michael K. Gayles to parents and students. They wanted to know exactly why the school was failing. Was it doomed to fail regardless? Did anyone care, anyway? In particular, they needed to know whether teachers would climb aboard.

North Dallas High School Principal Dinnah Escanilla was born and raised in the Philippines and taught in a Manila middle school before immigrating to the United States with her 3-year-old daughter. Smart, energetic and a natural leader, she has worked her way from classroom teacher to instructional specialist to assistant principal to her most current role as principal of North Dallas High. “We understand why she fights so hard. It’s always for the right reasons,” says Liliana Valadez, executive director of the North Dallas feeder pattern. “She’s going to do whatever she thinks will make this a better school, which means a better life for the kids who leave here.”

See NORTH on page 14 June 2014 • Texas School Business


Michelle Wright, Brandi Cranmer and Lisa Buitron (left to right) were handpicked by Principal Escanilla to serve on the school’s leadership team.

NORTH continued from page 13

“From the teacher side, change feels like, ‘You’re just bringing stress to my life,’” said Gayles. “Everything was a threat. … So a lot of the buy-in wasn’t there up front. It took time for teachers to begin to fully embrace the process, to see what we were doing not as a ‘gotcha,’ but as real support. That took some time to happen, but it did change as we built credibility and they started seeing results.” A key appointee was grant project coordinator Michelle Wright, who immediately applied for a $6 million federal School Improvement Grant, which arrived in 2011 with all kinds of strings attached. “Operational flexibility became an issue,” Wright said. “Team members wanted freedom to spend what they wanted on what they needed when they needed it,” which doesn’t always fly with central office managers. “Of course, they always want to make sure we are spending it in compliance with 14

Texas School Business • June 2014

federal accountability laws and things of that nature,” Wright said. “There were lots of people and channels at Dallas ISD and TEA we had to go through. We had to convince them that we were making the right decisions for the campus.” Another complication? Anticipating change. “In writing a grant, you must remember that you’re planning to spend money in the future, so you must anticipate changes in technology and software — how even the language of education will change over the course of the next three or four years,” Wright said. “That was one of our biggest challenges. The terminology didn’t always match up.” THE TRANSFORMATION Seniors Jose Ramirez and Jessica Segura both say the school is far different today from what it was when they were freshmen. “Teachers are more focused on building a sense of community with the students and with helping them out after school with whatever they need,” said Ramirez, who’ll graduate as the 2014 valedictorian. Students are more positive, said Segura, senior class president and a member of

the drill team and yearbook staff. “Everybody has a team they’re on, and we all want to help the school,” said Segura, who’ll major in nursing at Texas Woman’s University next fall. “We want our students to do and be the best, and we’ll move mountains to succeed.” More importantly, teachers are obsessed with college and career prep. “We are changing, for sure,” added Ramirez, who will attend Cornell next year on full scholarship. “There are so many people dedicated to students that it’s hard not to move in the right direction. Both kids are the first in their families to go to college. It would be unrealistic to think that all teachers have been as enthusiastic. “There is a small group who look at all of this and say, ‘It’s too much. This is not what I signed up for,’ and they self-select themselves out,” Gayles said. “But most people go into education because they want to make a difference, and this is a way for them to do just that.” He remembers one teacher in particular. “We were talking about the elements of high-quality instruction in the classroom, and this teacher is rolling her eyes, and she’s skeptical, and she says to me, ‘I know you’re just telling me this because, politi-

cally, this is what you have to do.’” Just another fad masquerading as reform. By mid-semester, though, she had signed on. “After I came into her classroom and, together, we did some of the strategies, she watched her kids respond. She started implementing the strategies, and then she became the ambassador,” Gayles said. “So now, she is telling her fellow teachers, ‘This stuff really works. I believe in it.’” Even some of the hardest-case kids bought in. “A homeless boy was living with different people, bouncing around from place to place, in and out of shelters, and he didn’t want to do the school thing,” Wright said. “He thought he could just go out there and get a job.” He talked with the school’s social services adviser, who told him he wasn’t going to like the jobs open to high school dropouts, but he didn’t listen and landed a construction gig, mostly hauling bricks. Suddenly, school looked a lot more inviting. “Now, he’s back,” Wright added. “If you saw him today, you would never guess that he was living in a shelter a year ago. He’s in ROTC. He’s on the wrestling team.

This is what happens when you provide an environment in which the students can connect.” THE BOTTOM LINE It’s about vision. “When you have so many challenges, so many obstacles, and you’re talking about a transformational school, it’s tough,” Wright said. “Knowing that vision and knowing your mission is what keeps you going.” It’s about teamwork. “This campus is unique in the sense that the turnaround occurred by way of the leadership within — by utilizing the capital that was already here to build from the ground up,” said social studies master teacher Brandi Cranmer, who went through a similar school transformation effort in another district. “Here, you want to be part of the team,” she added. “It didn’t feel that way at the other place. Everything was top down.” Of course, it’s about leadership. “Ms. Escanilla is relentless, especially when I say no or the district says no,” said Liliana Valadez, executive director of the

North Dallas feeder pattern, which includes three high schools, two middle schools and nine elementary schools. “Dinnah will try to work around it, but Liliana Valadez sometimes, no means no. Still, we understand why she fights so hard. It’s always for the right reasons. She’s going to do whatever she thinks will make this a better school, which means a better life for the kids who leave here.” Finally, it’s about patience and love. “I won’t want to bring my culture into this conversation, but we Filipinos always give back to those who help us,” said Escanilla, adding that Dallas ISD helped her daughter earn a full scholarship to New York University, where she’s graduating this spring with a degree in architecture. “Do you know how expensive NYU is? And so, with that alone, I see it as a life fortune to have an education,” she said. “And that’s why every time I speak to a senior class, I tell them my story. I say, ‘Look, we almost have the same story. I arrived here in the United States with only a bag of clothes.’” It just takes time and determination. “People think the turnaround will take place overnight,” Escanilla said. “It won’t. Even now, a year later, we’re asking, ‘What else can we do? What other kinds of systems can we put in place? What systems need to be tweaked?’ Our story isn’t over. We are still writing it. The chapter gets longer. The book gets thicker. But it’s the same story.” A love story. 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. Seniors Jose Ramirez and Jessica Segura say North Dallas High is not the same school they attended as freshmen — it’s better. Ramirez, who is the 2013-2014 valedictorian, plans to attend Cornell University next fall on full scholarship. Segura, who serves as class president and is a member of the drill team and yearbook staff, plans to major in nursing at Texas Woman’s University next fall.

June 2014 • Texas School Business


Who’s News Atlanta ISD Former Assistant Superintendent Sidney Harrist is now Atlanta ISD’s superintendent. A graduate of Atlanta High School, he has been with the district for 40 years, beginning as a history teacher at Atlanta High School. He went on to serve as the high school’s counselor and principal and as principal of Atlanta Elementary. Austin ISD The Austin ISD Board of Trustees has named Paul Cruz the district’s interim superintendent. He steps in for former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, who accepted the top administrative position for Atlanta (Ga.) Public Schools. Cruz came to Austin ISD in 2006 as an assistant superintendent, after working in districts in Corpus Christi, Round Rock, San Antonio and Laredo. He was most recently Austin ISD’s chief of schools. Birdville ISD Patrick Guy has been appointed principal of Foster Village Elementary School, where he served as assistant principal from 2005 to 2009. Most recently the district’s federal programs coordinator, he Patrick Guy also has been principal of Holiday Heights Elementary and taught at Haltom Middle School and Richland Elementary. Guy received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Memphis and his master’s degree from Texas Christian University. Brazosport ISD Shannon Hester, who had been serving as assistant principal of Lanier Middle School, is now principal. She held the assistant principal position at Ney Elementary for two years prior to joinShannon Hester ing Lanier. Initially a fourth grade teacher in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, she came to Brazosport ISD in 2010. Hester holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Dallas. Her master’s degree 16

Texas School Business • June 2014

in educational administration was awarded from Lamar University. She is at work on her doctorate in the same field from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Roberts Elementary School now has Sarah WrightBrannen as principal. She comes to her new job from Lake Jackson ISD, where she was assistant principal of Brannen Elementary. Wright began her career Sarah WrightBrannen as an elementary teacher, going on to teach junior high math and science. In 2009, she took her first administrative position and has since worked at both the primary and secondary levels. Wright, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University, holds a master’s degree from Lamar University. Bryan ISD After almost 29 years in Texas public education, 26 of those with Bryan ISD, Athletic Director Harry Francis is retiring. A graduate of Bryan High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and returned to his home district for his first teaching and coaching assignment, before accepting a job in Brenham ISD coaching varsity baseball. Three years later, he returned to Bryan ISD as head baseball coach of Bryan High, where he also taught history and government. Francis, who was an official for the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association for 10 years and served a term as president, spent two years as assistant athletic director before taking the top department job in 2007. Bushland ISD Jimmy Thomas is the district’s new athletics director. He was most recently head football coach and athletic director of Danbury High School in Danbury ISD. Jack Turner has been named principal of Bushland Middle School. He had served as assistant principal of Bushland High School since joining the district in 2005.

Carroll ISD Longtime educator Debra Moore, who has been principal of Durham Intermediate School since 2010, has announced her retirement. She began her 28-year career in education as a teacher in Lubbock after graduDebra Moore ating from Texas Tech University. Before taking her most recent position, Moore was Coppell ISD’s director of student services. She also worked at Burleson High School in Burleson ISD as associate principal for academics. Central Heights ISD (Nacogdoches) The district has welcomed a new superintendent. Bryan Lee was most recently superintendent of Iredell ISD. A graduate of Nacogdoches High School, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University. He has been an educator for 22 years, 17 of those as an administrator and the past seven as a superintendent. Lee began his career as an elementary physical education teacher at Raguet Elementary in Nacogdoches ISD, transferring two years later to Chireno ISD as an elementary classroom teacher. He took his first administrative position in Diboll ISD, where he was an assistant principal at Temple Elementary. He then spent four years with Garrison ISD as a middle school and elementary principal, a textbook coordinator and a transportation director. He also was a principal in Mt. Enterprise ISD for four years and in Star ISD for one year. He held the top job in Iredell ISD for seven years. Lee is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University. Cleveland ISD Darrell Myers is Cleveland ISD’s new superintendent, joining the district from Livingston ISD, where he held the top position for seven years. Prior to that, he was superintendent of Bridge City ISD for two years and spent six years as superintendent of Big Sandy ISD, where he also served as a high school principal. Additionally, he was an elementary principal for Devers and Colmesneil ISDs and

Who’s News worked as a teacher and coach in Hardin ISD. He also held the title of superintendent of schools in Del Norte, Colo., and was a county extension agent. Myers, who graduated from Sam Houston State University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, earned his master’s degree in education from the same institution and his doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. College Station ISD A new superintendent has been selected for the district. He is Clark Ealy, who was formerly the deputy superintendent for administrative services. Initially a high school English teacher and basketball coach in AlClark Ealy vin ISD, he next served in the same capacities at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas. He joined Texas A&M University for a year as a research assistant in the Department of Educational Administration before spending four years in Mesquite ISD, first as a teacher and coach and then as a high school assistant principal. He came to College Station ISD in 2000 as director of planning, program assessment, evaluation and accountability. He then was executive director for accountability and planning, before taking his most recent position in 2009. Ealy received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a doctorate in educational administration from Texas A&M University. His master’s degree in educational administration is from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Colmesneil ISD Newly hired Superintendent Angela Matterson was formerly the director of the Polk County Special Services Coop. Conroe ISD Paula Nicollini will lead Hauke Academic Alternative High School as principal when the new school year begins in August. She has been an educator for 29 years, the past five with Conroe High School as an assistant principal. She holds

bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California. The new principal of Peet Junior High School is Tasha Smith, who has spent her 13Paula Nicollini year career with Conroe ISD, working most recently as associate principal of school operations at Conroe High. She also has been summer school principal and assistant principal of that school and has served as an academic Tasha Smith achievement specialist. She was an eighth grade math teacher at Washington Junior High. Smith earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Sam Houston State University.

Coppell ISD The district’s newest elementary campus, Lee Elementary School, will have Chantel Kastrounis as principal when it opens for the 2014-2015 academic year. Currently serving her third year as assistant principal of Cottonwood Creek Elementary, Kastrounis has 19 years of experience in education, including 16 years as a teacher and administrator in the district. Superintendent Jeff Turner has announced his upcoming retirement, effective in August, after 12 years in the district’s top position. However, he is not leaving public education behind. In October, he will become the exJeff Turner ecutive director of the Texas Association of Suburban/MidUrban Schools (TAS/MUS). See WHO’S NEWS on page 21

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June 2014 • Texas School Business




Denton ISD’s Sharon Cox thrives in community engagement programs by Elizabeth Millard


haron Cox isn’t clairvoyant, but she can see the future. “The senior population in our district is anticipated to increase by 800 percent in the next 15 to 20 years,” she says. “If we don’t actively get them involved in the district, then we’re ignoring an incredibly valuable resource. Also, we need to keep reaching out to local businesses, because what happens at the district affects us all.” As director of communications and community relations for Denton ISD, Cox is leading the way when it comes to forging partnerships with local companies; involving parents and grandparents in school activities; and assisting in passing bond elections. Not only does she focus on the district’s current needs, she also looks at demographic and educational trends to anticipate future needs. With deep, established ties to the community, Denton ISD is well-equipped

to meet the ever-changing needs of its students. “People here have so much to share with our students,” she says. “It just makes sense to keep fostering those connections.” Although Cox is passionate about her communications and outreach efforts for Denton ISD, she didn’t start out as a PR firebrand. She began her career as a journalist, working at the Fort Worth StarTelegram for almost 20 years, where she developed a keen interest in education. That specialization led to her establishing a weekly magazine, Class Acts, geared toward young readers. It brought together 120 student reporters and became a major force for promoting literacy in the community. As Cox recruited more school districts to get involved in the magazine, her focus on student advocacy grew stronger — so strong, in fact, that the superintendent of Grand Prairie ISD asked her

Sharon Cox (at right), director of communications and community relations for Denton ISD, works with fourth grader Jacob West and his grandparent mentor, Christi Melo. 18

Texas School Business • June 2014

to become the district’s communications director. She said no. The superintendent asked her three more times, but Cox remained steadfast. “I didn’t want to ‘sell out’ by going into PR,” she recalls, with a laugh. “But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense for my career because I’d become so focused on student advocacy.” While pursuing her master’s degree in school communications from the University of North Texas, Cox studied the effects of involving grandparents in public schools. When she eventually signed on with Denton ISD, two senior citizens came to her and asked her to implement a grandparents program so they could be more involved in the district. Cox established a task force of local grandparents to plan a comprehensive program to get seniors involved in a variety of school initiatives, not just the occasional volunteer activity. Officially launched in 2001, the grandparents program has attracted about 120 senior volunteers and mentors in more than 10 schools in Denton ISD. From a 99-year-old grandfather who serves as a mentor to a senior group that teaches students how to play pickle ball, the grandparents have become a valuable resource for the district. “I’ve always treasured the special magic that occurs between grandparents and their grandchildren,” Cox says. “I wanted to see that magic taking place in our schools.” The successful program has attracted attention from local media. Cox believes the ripple effect of that positive press can be seen in achievements such as the recent passage of a $312 million bond package. Cox also has helped to build the district’s Adopt-A-School program and has established more partnerships between local businesses and organizations.

For example, class ring and yearbook producer Jostens has a manufacturing plant within the district. Cox approached the company and asked it to donate a gold ring for the Secondary School Teacher of the Year award. When Jostens was receptive to the contribution, Cox broadened the discussion and an even better deal was struck: Jostens would supply gold rings for honored teachers, and the recognition would be named Jostens Teacher of the Year. That interaction is the crux of what makes Denton ISD so successful in creating partnerships, Cox notes. Rather than asking parents, grandparents and companies to contribute time, energy and funding with little in return, the district makes sure that donors receive as much as they give. Grandparents are recognized several times a year, for instance, and Cox funds appreciation luncheons and discounts to sporting events for local business sponsors. “Developing valuable partnerships is a matter of two-way giving,” she says. “Those programs are successful because we don’t just ask for things; we partner with them, and that’s key.”



Time period in history I’d like to visit: The 1700s, so I could help write the U.S. Constitution and assist in the formation of our wonderful country and government. Ideal vacation spot: Florence, Italy Skills I’d love to learn: Horseback riding and water-skiing First thing I’d buy if I won the lottery: I would need to win the Power Ball lottery so I could staff public schools with a community liaison position or a Community in Schools representative. That way, every school could recruit more grandparents, volunteers and community mentors.

Cox say she is excited for the future, and the opportunity to keep expanding the programs, particularly because she’s seen such a positive impact from community involvement. “When you see a grandparent working with an at-risk child, or you see the

local bank president greeting kids at an event, you realize how priceless that kind of support can be,” she says. ELIZABETH MILLARD is a freelance writer who specializes in stories about education and technology.

June 2014 • Texas School Business


A meditation on workplace interactions How do you feel? by Nancy Oelklaus


he teacher at the other end of the telephone was exasperated. “I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried everything. This child’s behavior is horrible, and nothing I do seems to help. Today was a nightmare.” Listening on the other end of the line, I wasn’t sure what to say. I’m not an expert on behavior. I was three hours away from this teacher’s classroom. So I simply asked: “Today, while you were working with this child, what were you thinking about him?” A long pause preceded her confession of the terrible things she was thinking about this little boy as she tried, without success, to control what he was doing. Then I asked: “Is there anything you like about this child? Is there anything he does well?” Another long pause. Finally, she said: “He’s really good in math.” “Let’s try an experiment,” I suggested. “Because nothing else has worked, let’s change your feelings toward him.” Then, together, we drafted an intention for her to follow the next day, and every day after that, for at least 40 days. We wrote: “I create a good environment for this child to develop his beautiful math skills.” It was a month before we talked again. I asked how the little boy was doing. “Much better,” she said. “No more problems.” I had discovered the power of one’s state of mind several years before when I worked with curriculum leaders who were drafting an early version of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. My job was to design a process that assured connection and coherence across the curriculum. Conflict had dominated the first two sessions, and we needed to reduce it so that we could focus on achieving the goal. I began the third session by handing each expert an index card. I asked every 20

Texas School Business • June 2014

person to write on the card how he or she wanted to be treated. I waited while they wrote in silence. Then I said: “Read what you wrote and make a commitment to treat everyone in this room in that way.” Once the session got under way, it didn’t take long for one of the main conflict-instigators to lean forward, ready to pounce. But then something amazing happened: He paused, picked up his index card, read it, eased back into his seat and made a contribution in a non-confrontational way.

‘What I’m talking about is a simple truth that both philosophy and neuroscience affirm: It is our emotional state of mind that is most important in all human interactions.’ As Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” What Maya didn’t say was: “And they respond accordingly.” What most people don’t realize is their own emotional state as they do their work and interact with others. This is what others receive. Our emotions are contagious. We spread them. So, if we’re not getting what we want, the first place to look is within. Recently a superintendent asked me to view a video she had released to the staff and community. The next time we met I said: “I watched the video three times. There was so much in it that I felt overwhelmed and afraid.”

She laughed. “That’s exactly how I feel!” She didn’t realize I wasn’t trying to be funny. She didn’t understand that what she was spreading throughout the community was fear. She did not accept that the fearful, even angry, community was mirroring her feelings. What I’m talking about is a simple truth that both philosophy and neuroscience affirm: It is our emotional state of mind that is most important in all human interactions. A principal took this truth to heart. One afternoon, late in the day, a father, obviously furious about something, burst past the front office, past the receptionist and into her office. The principal stood up and said, “Oh, my goodness! My neck is probably splotchy right now because that’s what happens when I’m startled and frightened. I need to excuse myself and go to the bathroom to calm down. If you’ll be seated, I’ll be back in just a few minutes. I’ll be better prepared to hear what you have to say.” She left the room. She went to the bathroom to get some wet towels for her neck. She breathed several times, deeply. She said a prayer. Then she returned to her office. The father, now calm, was waiting. They were able to find a resolution for his concern. What I’m suggesting involves continuous awareness and self-discipline. It’s a daily choice. It’s a truth we all know but more readily apply to others than to ourselves. So, I challenge you: If there’s someone who is difficult for you, what are you thinking about that person? Be honest. Decide to shift out of negativity into a neutral zone. Sometimes simply asking oneself the question, “How might I ease her difficulties?” yields amazing results. NANCY OELKLAUS is the author of “Journey from Head to Heart: Living and Working Authentically” and “Alphabet Meditations for Teachers.” You can send her an email at: nancyoelklaus@ gmail.com.

Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 17

Crockett ISD Superintendent Douglas Moore has announced his retirement, effective at the end of June. He began his career in 1968 with Hull-Daisetta ISD, spending the next 12 years there as a teacher, coach and principal. He Douglas Moore then began his 34 years as a superintendent in Texas districts, ranging in size from 1A to 5A. Moore, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University and his doctorate from East Texas State University, worked closely with then-Gov. George W. Bush to establish an alternative education program that was implemented in several districts. Terry Myers has been named the district’s new superintendent. He comes to Crockett ISD from Clovis (N.M.) Municipal Schools, where he was superintendent for four years. Prior to his time in New Mexico, Terry Myers he was superintendent in the Texas districts of Mount Pleasant, Cleveland, Castleberry and Nueces Canyon. Myers also has worked as a teacher, coach and principal. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD Darlene Davenport, director of guidance and counseling, has been selected by the College Board to serve on the inaugural Membership Advisory Team, sponsored by the Membership MobilizaDarlene tion and Engagement Davenport Division. Davenport has been an educator for 36 years, including teaching in Kingsville ISD and in North Forest ISD, where she also worked as a counselor at Smiley High School. She joined Cypress-Fairbanks in 1992 as a counselor at Cypress Falls High School, working there for 12 years before being named lead counselor at Cy-Fair

High School in 2005. She took her current job three years later. Davenport has been a member of the board of directors of the Texas School Counselors Association for five years. She is currently the presidentelect. Trustee Darcy Mingoia has been named the North Harris County Branch of the American Association of University Women’s 2014 Education Honoree. A trustee since 2012, she is the executive director Darcy Mingoia of the Lone Star College Foundation and was president of the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce from 1998 to 2007. Mingoia was an active member of the Cy-Fair Educational Foundation for 19 years before taking her election to the board of trustees. Hamilton Middle School science campus content instructional strategist Mary Patterson is one of 14 educators selected from around the country to participate in the 2014-2015 Albert Einstein Distinguished Mary Patterson Educator Fellowship (AEF) program. Beginning in September, Patterson will serve an 11-month fellowship in Washington D.C. at the National Science Foundation, providing the foundation with practical classroom insight to inform the development and implementation of education programs and policies, especially those related to STEM education. She will serve in the computer and information science and engineering directorate for cyberinfrastructure and cyberlearning. Duncanville ISD The new chief technology officer is Kyle Berger. He has 13 years of experience in school technology services, having been executive director of technology for Cedar Hill and Alvarado ISDs. He also worked as a techKyle Berger nology project manager

for Keller ISD. Berger, who is a graduate of Duncanville High School, has a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Arlington. Brian Merchant is Duncanville ISD’s new director of transportation. He returns to the district from Mansfield ISD, where he was assistant director of transportation. Merchant’s bachelor’s Brian Merchant degree was awarded from the University of Phoenix. Sherri Smith has been named principal of Central Elementary School. She has been with the district for 13 years, working as an interdisciplinary coach since 2012. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree from Sherri Smith Texas Woman’s University and a master’s degree from Lamar University. El Paso ISD The district announces that Tom Miller has been hired as chief of staff. An 18year employee of El Paso’s Ysleta ISD, he has served as chief of staff, interim superintendent, executive director of academics, executive Tom Miller director of math and science, interim executive director for assessment, and curriculum support specialist. He was most recently an area superintendent. He has additional classroom and administrative experience in New Mexico schools and was an assistant professor at New Mexico State University. Miller earned his master’s degree in secondary education and his doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Mexico. Fort Bend ISD A new principal has been named for Quail Valley Elementary School. She is See WHO’S NEWS on page 25 June 2014 • Texas School Business


TASSP PRESIDENT PROFILE Principal inspires students to press on By Leila Kalmbach


eing a school administrator is like being a mosquito at a nudist camp, says Robert Morrison. It’s hard to know where to start. Morrison would know. As an associate principal at Montgomery High School in Montgomery ISD and as the president of the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals (TASSP), he sees life as a school administrator from a big-picture angle, as well as up close and personal. And he loves it. TASSP’s motto fits him well: “Above all, students first.”

‘The NFL was just icing on the cake. I always knew that when I got out of there, I was excited about teaching.’ Morrison’s teaching career started early. He grew up in the small town of Lexington, Texas, raised by his grandparents after his mother died when he was 3. The African-American pocket of the community was tiny, and Morrison became the Sunday school teacher to his younger peers by default when he was just 7 or 8 years old. Integration of the school system didn’t start until the early-to-mid 1960s in Lexington, and Morrison was among the first waves of African-American students at Lexington High. That wasn’t always easy, but Morrison says that racism has never made sense to him, so he’s always found ways to connect with others. School was a safe haven for him. “Growing up without your mom, you realize there’s something missing,” Morrison says. “I love my grandparents. They were good people, but I realized they were my grandparents, not my mom and dad. So school became my extended family.” Morrison excelled in school, becom22

Texas School Business • June 2014

“My grandparents, they didn’t have much, but whatever they had, they would share with their neighbors,” says Montgomery High School Principal Robert Morrison. “I realized I wanted to give back and help people who couldn’t help themselves.”

ing a natural-born leader among his peers. Inspired by leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, he knew early on that he wanted to help others. “My grandparents, they didn’t have much, but whatever they had, they would share with their neighbors,” Morrison recalls. “I realized I wanted to give back and help people who couldn’t help themselves.” He saw a lot of helpers within the school system, so he went to Howard Payne University with the intention of becoming a coach. He was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in physical education. After college, Morrison was signed to play professional football with the Seattle Seahawks, but a knee injury eventually took him off the field. He returned to Texas and took a job coaching at Bangs High School in Bangs ISD. Some people assumed he was falling back on Plan B. Morrison disagrees. “It was always my plan to be an educator,” he says, “so when it came to the NFL, that wasn’t my goal like it was most people’s. The NFL was just icing on the cake. I always knew that when I got out of there, I was excited about teaching.” Bangs was a rural community, and the school was rife with social and economic challenges. Morrison, however, quickly made connections with his students. “The kids of color who moved in there were the first ones in that area,” Morrison says. “I realized that with some of the things I had experienced, I was able to help them navigate through some of those experiences. Every place I’ve been, I’ve been that first person of color, so I feel that responsibility of bringing different cultures or races together.” Schools around the state wanted Morrison to coach for them, and after five years at Bangs, he became a coach and teacher at Westville High School in Spring ISD and then an administrator at Spring High School, also in Spring ISD. He finally moved to the 2,250-student Montgomery High in Montgomery ISD, where he remains. Morrison has garnered a number of awards and accolades during his career, but while they’re nice in the moment, “they don’t really mean anything to me. The awards I put on a shelf and they collect dust.”

Instead, Morrison is proud of being told he’s a great influence on his nieces and nephews, of students naming their children after him, and of the relationships he still maintains with many of his former students and their families — including kids from those early days at Bangs High. “I get invited to a ton of weddings and an equal number of funerals,” he says. And then there was a wedding a couple years back that one of Morrison’s colleagues attended. The bride had shared with her guests that she was as happy as could be now, but that she’d had a rough start to her life. The colleague later told Morrison: “She said, ‘There was this one big, black guy who worked at my school, and he stood in the hall. I would stop and talk to him. … He gave me strength, and I am what I am today because of him talking to me and giving me confidence.’” Morrison’s colleague had approached the bride afterward and asked where she had gone to school. Montgomery High was her answer. And the colleague said, “Then, you mean Mr. Morrison.” It’s moments like that, that explain why Morrison has never thought about retirement. He plans to keep putting students first for as long as he can, both through TASSP and in day-to-day life at Montgomery. Full speed ahead, with no time for negativity. As his grandparents used to say: Arguing with an idiot is like wrestling with



The craziest thing I’ve ever done was: go on a blind date to Florida for three days. On the weekends, you’ll most likely find me: in front of the television during college football season. When I need to unwind, I: get outdoors to see the things God made. A shortcoming of mine is: I’m very private with my personal life. I’ll go out of my way to help other people, but sometimes they want to help me and I’m very private.

a pig in a mud hole. And there’s just no point in that. LEILA KALMBACH is a freelance writer in Austin.

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Texas School Business • June 2014

Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 21

Shenique Spears, who was the school’s assistant principal and, since January, interim principal. She began her career as a pre-K teacher for Head Start in Marshall, then was an assistant principal at a Title 1 Vietnamese bilingual campus in Pflugerville ISD. Also in that district, she worked as an administrator in a middle school credit recovery program and as an ESL general education interventionist. Additionally, she was a curriculum coordinator and a family and community partnership specialist with Head Start in the WinstonSalem/Forsyth County (N.C.) Schools, and an assistant principal in a Title 1 bilingual school in Austin ISD. Spears earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and her master’s degree in education from The University of Texas. Granbury ISD Stephen Schmidt is the new head coach of the Lady Pirates basketball team at Granbury High School. An educator for 24 years, 19 of those as a head girls’ basketball coach, he comes to his Stephen Schmidt new job from Eastland ISD, where he served since 2011 as head basketball coach and girls’ athletics director. He began his career in Tulia ISD as head cross country coach at Tulia High and assistant coach for the high school and middle school basketball and track teams. He then worked as head coach in Clarendon, Pampa and Argyle ISDs. Schmidt, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, was named 2006 Coach of the Year by the Texas Girls’ Coaches Association. A new assistant superintendent for finance and operations has been named for the district. Dobie Williams was most recently in a similar role in Clyde CISD, working there since 2005. He began his career in Dobie Williams public school business in 2002 with Colorado City ISD, where he

was business manager and chief financial officer. Prior to that, he owned and operated a business in Colorado City and spent 10 years in the financial industry, working for a bank, a savings and loan, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Angelo State University and a master’s degree from Texas A&M University at Commerce. A member of the Texas Association of School Business Officials, he holds the designation of Registered Texas School Business Administrator. Huntington ISD David Flowers is now the district’s superintendent. Lefors ISD New Superintendent Joe Waldron was formerly Childress ISD’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and federal programs and also served as assistant principal and principal of Childress High School. Waldron Joe Waldron earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., and then came to Texas, where he attained his master’s degree in kinesiology from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls. He took his first teaching position at Zundy Junior High in Wichita Falls ISD, moving two years later to teach biology and preAP anatomy and physiology at Rider High School in the same district. He returned to Illinois in 2005 to teach anatomy, physiology, biology and AP biology at Manteno High School in Manteno, Ill. While there, he completed a second master’s degree, in educational administration, from Governors State University. Additionally, he coached volleyball and soccer at both Illinois and Texas schools. He has done doctoral coursework in educational leadership at Lamar University in Beaumont. Lubbock ISD Lori Stephens, assistant principal of Evans Middle School, was honored in April as the state’s Assistant Principal of the Year by the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals. She received

her recognition during National Assistant Principals Week in the District of Columbia. Stephens, who has been an educator for 23 years, has been principal at Lori Stephens Evans for the past four years. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s degree in educational leadership from Texas Tech University. McKinney ISD Jennifer Peirson has been named principal of Boyd High School. An educator and administrator for 19 years, she has been associate principal of the school for the past six years and had Jennifer Peirson been serving as interim principal. She began her career as a special education teacher and swimming coach at San Angelo ISD’s Central High School, going on to work in Garland ISD at South Garland High School, until she was chosen to serve as an assistant principal at Webb Middle School. Three years later, she moved to Lakeview Centennial High School as assistant principal, remaining there until 2008, when she joined McKinney ISD. Peirson earned her bachelor’s degree in special education and her master of education degree in mid-management from Angelo State University. Her doctorate in school administration was awarded from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Midland ISD Jeff Horner, former Midland High School principal, has been chosen to serve as executive director of secondary education. Diane Lopez is now the district’s executive director of elementary education. She was most recently principal of Lamar Elementary School. Jane Rambo, former executive director of elementary education, has been appointed executive director of district literacy. See WHO’S NEWS on page 26 June 2014 • Texas School Business


Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 25

Northside ISD (San Antonio) Jenna Bloom is the new assistant principal of Brandeis High School. She began her career in the district as a math teacher at Luna Middle School and then taught the same subject at Briscoe Middle School, when it opened in 2010. In 2013, she took the position of student success advisor at Taft High School, where she was also a teacher. Monica Galan, who was assistant principal of Jefferson Middle School, is now the campus academic dean. She began her career as a geometry and algebra teacher at MacArthur High School in San Antonio’s North East ISD, taught math at Highlands Junior School in Goose Creek ISD, served as the ALEKS math program coordinator at the Gervin Academy in San Antonio, and was department coordinator at Rudder and Jefferson middle schools in Northside ISD. In addition, she was an adjunct professor of math for secondary teachers at San Antonio Community College. Galan holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University and a master’s degree from Walden University. Blattman Elementary School’s new principal is Donna Gavegan, who was previously the campus vice principal. She began her career in 1991 in San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston ISD as a third grade teacher, going on to work as a grades K-1 teacher and math specialist. She joined North East ISD in 2000 as a counselor at Longs Creek Elementary and, five years later, was named principal of Bulverde Elementary. She came to Northside ISD in 2008. Gavegan received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Eve Zepeda, former accounting manager, is now director of accounting. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from The University of Texas at San Antonio and has worked in numerous private-sector businesses in the city as an auditor, accountant, controller and budget analyst. Sealy ISD The district has approved a new superintendent. She is Sheryl Moore, who 26

Texas School Business • June 2014

was executive director of secondary education of Montgomery ISD since 2012. She began her career in Spring Branch ISD as an eighth grade science teacher Sheryl Moore and took her first administrative job in that district, working as an assistant principal in Spring Oaks Middle School and Memorial High School. She then moved to Conroe ISD to serve in the same capacity at The Woodlands High School. She next was assistant principal of Montgomery High School in Montgomery ISD, where she spent 10 years as principal of Montgomery Middle School, before accepting her most recent position. Moore, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Earth science from the University of Northern Iowa, has a master’s degree in education from the University of Houston. Seguin ISD Seguin High School head football coach and Athletic Director Wayne Walker has announced his upcoming retirement, bringing an end to a 27-year career. He previously coached in La Grange and Ennis ISDs. Shepherd ISD Jody Cronin, who has spent 23 years with the district, the last eight as superintendent, will retire at the end of August. After graduating from Sam Houston State University in 1981, he worked for Shepherd ISD for three years before taking a position with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. He returned to public education two years later, working in Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD for eight years, before returning to Shepherd ISD as an agriculture teacher. He then served as principal of Shepherd High School and as director of auxiliary services. Cronin’s retirement will be effective at the end of August. Southwest ISD (San Antonio) Jorge Cruz has been named assistant principal of Southwest High School’s Ninth Grade Campus. He spent the past 12 years in the classroom, beginning as a math and Spanish teacher in San An-

tonio’s Northside ISD. He was named an assistant principal in San Antonio ISD in 2010 and joined Southwest ISD in 2012 as assistant principal of Southwest Jorge Cruz High School. Cruz, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Angelo State University, earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. Southwest ISD’s new director of public relations is Adriana Garcia, who joins the district from the city of San Antonio, where she was an executive recruiter. Prior to that, she was vice president of comAdriana Garcia munications for the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She also has been a marketing manager, marketing and community relations specialist, and chief news and information officer. A graduate of Southwest High School, Garcia has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in communication arts. Now serving as the district’s director of data systems is Edgar Guajardo. A member of the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, he earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in technology from Edgar Guajardo the University of Phoenix. Jason Migura is now the district’s director of human resources, coming to his new job from McNair Middle School, where he was principal. He has been an educator for 16 years, beginning as a middle school science teacher and going on to serve as an assistant principal, before taking his most recent position at McNair. Migura holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from St. Mary’s University and a master’s degree in education from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. The former assistant principal of Southwest High School’s Ninth Grade

Who’s News Campus, Joseph Olivarri, now leads McNair Middle School as principal. He began his career in 1995 as a world geography teacher in Southwest ISD, Joseph Olivarri going on to work in Charlotte, San Antonio and South San Antonio ISDs. His bachelor’s degree in kinesiology was awarded from The University of Texas at San Antonio, and his master’s degree in education administration is from Texas A&M University at Kingsville. The new principal of Big Country Elementary School is Antoinette RiesterWood, who has 22 years of experience in public education and privateindustry consulting to educators across the country. She began her Antoinette career as an elementary Riester-Wood school teacher in Northside ISD, going on to serve in several capacities with East Central, North East and Northside ISDs, all in San Antonio. Riester-Wood earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Texas Tech University, her master’s degree in school psychology from Trinity University, and her doctorate in educational leadership from Texas A&M University. Southwest ISD’s new assistant director of transportation is Manuel Tamayo. A graduate of Southwest High School, he received his bachelor’s degree from Southwest Texas State University Manuel Tamayo (now Texas State University). He has worked in numerous capacities in the district, most recently as a visiting teacher and coach. Spring Hill ISD Former Mount Vernon ISD Superintendent Richard Flanagan has been tapped to serve as Spring Hill ISD’s interim superintendent. An educator for 42 years, he began his career as a teacher and a coach at the Greenhill School in Dallas and then worked in the same capacities in high

schools in CarrolltonFarmers Branch, Texarkana, Longview and Denton ISDs. He joined Mount Vernon ISD in 2000, taking his first administrative posiRichard Flanagan tion as assistant principal of Mount Vernon High, where he eventually was principal. He served as superintendent from 2004 through 2009 and then came out of retirement in 2011 to work as interim superintendent of Quitman ISD. Flanagan earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas. Spur ISD Loretta Velez, who had been serving as the district’s elementary principal, is now superintendent. Texas Association of Suburban/MidUrban Schools After serving as executive director for 13 years, Marvin Crawford has announced his upcoming retirement. In addition to his service to TAS/MUS, he was superintendent of Spur, Lindale, Carthage and Grand Prairie ISDs and of Oklahoma City (Okla.) Public Schools. Crawford’s doctorate in education was conferred from Texas A&M University at Commerce. Tornillo ISD Jeannie Meza-Chavez has been named the district’s superintendent. She comes to Tornillo ISD from El Paso ISD. A graduate of Ysleta High School in El Paso’s Ysleta ISD, she received a bachelor’s degree in English creative writing from The University of Texas at El Paso and a master’s degree in education from Sul Ross State University. Her doctorate is in curriculum and instruction. MezaChavez began her career in Socorro ISD in El Paso and also worked in San Antonio ISD as principal of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy. Most recently director of secondary personnel and recruiting for El Paso ISD, she also has been a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, student activities director and human resources director.

Tyler ISD Three longtime employees are retiring from the district. Gloria Bell, director of federal programs, has been with Tyler ISD for 35 years, beginning as an aide at Griffin Elementary School. From that position, she went on to be the director of the school’s TEA grant project, director of technology as a second language for Edison Schools Inc., and coordinator of Head Start education and Title I and compensatory programs. Bell, who earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from The University of Texas at Tyler, holds a master’s degree in education administration from Texas A&M University at Texarkana. Darlene Marshall, executive director of elementary education for area 1, has been an educator for 32 years, 15 of those with Tyler ISD. Superintendent Gary Mooring has held the Darlene Marshall top job in Tyler ISD since 2013. He joined the district in 2012, in an interim position. Karen Raney, director of assessment and accountability, began her career as a teacher with the Tyler Catholic School System in 1979. She joined Tyler ISD in 1984, working as a teacher, administrative intern, assistant Karen Raney principal, principal and director of secondary education, before taking her most recent position in 2009. Valley View ISD The Valley View ISD School Board has named Rolando Ramirez the new superintendent. He had been serving as interim superintendent. He graduated from Valley View High School as class valedictorian, returning to begin his career as a history teacher in the district after completing his bachelor’s degree at The University of Texas Pan American. He went on to serve as a high school principal and assistant superintendent. See WHO’S NEWS on page 28 June 2014 • Texas School Business


Who’s News WHO’S NEWS continued from page 27

Warren ISD The Warren ISD Board of Trustees has finalized the appointment of Chris Babin as the district’s athletic director. After graduating from Texas A&M University at Commerce, Babin took a coaching position at his alma mater, Lumberton High School, in Lumberton ISD. Two years later, he was promoted to offensive coordinator. In 2009, he accepted the head football coach position at Houston ISD’s Scarbrough High School. He returned to Lumberton High in 2010 as offensive coordinator, remaining there for two years before taking his most recent position as athletic director in Deweyville ISD.

Wichita Falls ISD Several new administrative appointments have been made. They are: • Troy Farris, principal, Milam Elementary School;

• •

Larry Menefee, coordinator of school administration; Shane Porter, principal, Zundelowitz Middle School; Laura Scott, principal, Scotland Park Elementary School; and Jesse Thomas, principal, Kirby Junior High School.

Wylie ISD A new principal has been named for Hartman Elementary School. Shawna Ballast, who was assistant principal of Watkins Elementary, began her career in Dallas ISD in 1995. She moved to Mesquite ISD in 2000 to work as an elementary school teacher and curriculum instructional specialist. She joined Wylie ISD in her most recent position in 2010. Ballast, who was named Teacher of the Year in both Dallas and Mesquite ISDs, holds a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in administration.

Zapata County ISD The district’s new superintendent, Raul Nuques, comes to his job from Austin ISD, where he was director of special education. A native of Ecuador who was raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., he earned his bachelor’s Raul Nuques degree in chemistry, master’s degree in international trade and master’s degree in administration from Texas A&M International University. He is at work on his doctorate in administration from Texas A&M University. Past career assignments have included junior high principal, assistant principal for curriculum and instruction, high school assistant principal, grant coordinator, dean of instruction, and secondary math and science teacher. Additionally, he has worked as the supervisor of campus ESL, special education, gifted and talented, and scheduling and staffing programs. TSB

Share your kudos! In every issue, Texas School Business publishes personnel news and announcements from across the state. With a circulation that reaches every school district, Texas School Business is an effective communications tool to share news about the movers and shakers in your area. Share your personnel news with us today!

Submit Who’s News to: news@texaschoolbusiness.com

www.texasschoolbusiness.com 406 East 11th Street | Austin, TX 78701 512-477-6361 | Fax 512-482-8658


Texas School Business • June 2014

Now accepting Bragging Rights nominations! In December, Texas School Business will publish its

Eighth Annual Bragging Rights 2014-2015 special issue, which will honor 12 deserving school districts and their innovative programs. Do you have a brag-worthy program? Visit the Special Editions section of www.texasschoolbusiness.com to fill out an official nomination form. Describe your program, how it came about and some of the program’s noteworthy results. Winners will be announced in the Eighth Annual Bragging Rights 2014-2015 special issue, which releases December 1.


Nomination deadline: September 1




Send an email to katie@texasschoolbusiness.com.

Send us your success stories. Texas School Business wants to brag about you!

June 2014 • Texas School Business


THE BACK PAGE by Riney Jordan

Advertiser Index DK Haney Roofing ................................ 10 www.dkhaneyroofing.com

Improving our public schools, Part IV: Emphasizing social issues


s I was watching the morning news, I became increasingly disturbed over the stories of violence, of disregard for one another, of racial insensitivity, and of greed and just a general lack of respect for others. When the newscast ended, I thought about the faces I had just seen. These adults were guilty of murder, bigotry, hatred, cruelty and selfishness. And then I tried to imagine them as children, sitting in a classroom. They were innocent, eager to learn, happy. What had happened? Perhaps if we had spent more time discussing the important role each of us plays in making our world a better place, things might have turned out differently. However, some critics of our public school system say we spend too much time trying to solve every social issue known to man — be it global warming, human rights, human sexuality, alcoholism, drug abuse, bullying, food safety, tobacco, environmental issues, suicide. The list goes on. Yes, I suppose that it’s true to some extent. We do take on social issues that some might think are “none of our business,” but if not us — then who? Comedian and actress Lily Tomlin once said: “I always wondered why someone didn’t do something about that. Then I realized that I was somebody.” When I taught fifth grade, I kept hearing about kids who started smoking around age 10 or 11. I ordered every poster and teaching aid I could find to help my students see the dangers and long-range effects of smoking. As a result, some parents came to me and said they had stopped smoking because their children had come home and shared what they had learned. Just recently, one of my former fifth grade students who is now an adult became friends with me on Facebook. The first thing she wrote to me was: “I’ll never forget how you showed us all those horrible things that could happen to your lungs if you smoked. You’ll be happy to know that I never forgot it … and I NEVER smoked!” Does the public school take on too many social issues? Well, if it will help one child to refuse to sample drugs, is it worth it? Or if one student


Texas School Business • June 2014

realizes that suicide is not the answer, is it worth it? If our water supply can be saved, is it worth it? If one individual can make the conscious decision to help another person in need, is it worth it?

We do take on issues that some might think are “none of our business,” but if not us — then who? Oh, you know the answer. Of course it is! So maybe we have to make some tough choices in the future. Allow me to play devil’s advocate for just a moment. Imagine if teaching kids the importance of acceptance of one another was a priority. What if that was the most valued lesson we taught? What if every kid had to demonstrate “mastery” of this life-changing concept? What if these kinds of concepts were deemed much more useful and important than academic ones? Would it make a difference in the world we now know that is filled with so much hate and indifference? I would love to think that it would make a difference. I wish I knew the answer. It’s true that many of these social issues should be taught in the home, but let us be realistic. We know that it is simply not happening in far too many cases. As I still tell teachers during one of my workshops, “I’m sorry you have to be Mom and Dad to so many of the students you serve, but you do.” And I say to you once again: If not you — then who?

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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Advertise with us! Texas has more than 4.6 million public school students and over 1,000 school districts that need your company’s products and services. Let us help you reach this vast market – advertise in Texas School Business magazine. For specs and rates, contact lance@texasschoolbusiness.com or by calling 512-832-1889.


The sense of brotherhood and culture of ambassadorship in our “district has never been stronger. Ambassador training has helped unite our team around our schools and our profession.”

-- Scott Niven, Superintendent, Red Oak ISD


hen my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.”

-- Thomas P a i n e


Thomas Paine’s political declaration in Common Sense helped direct the energies of the rebels and point the way to American independence from England. The Ambassador Training Academy staff development program is inspired by Thomas Paine’s work. There are many parallels between educators today, condemned by blinded reformists, and early Americans, condemned by a blinded Crown. Just as Paine “enunciates... the specific right of the people to challenge unjust laws and an unjust government”, we are mobilizing an army of educators to challenge unjust criticism and false accusations of widespread failure.

Class of 2011 Red Oak ISD Ambassadors Academy

Friends of Texas Public Schools is educating Texans about Texas public schools and their many strengths and achievements through Ambassador Training and other initiatives in order to: 4 4 4 4 4 4

Underscore the significance of them; Unite Texans around them; Restore pride in them; Strengthen confidence in them; Lift spirits among them; and Inject resources into them…

…all of which will lead to even greater performance.

Stir your team into champions for your students, district, and profession by enrolling your school district in our Ambassador Training Academy.

It’s time for every educator to stir Visit www.fotps.org to learn more, or email us at lmilder@fotps.org.


2014 WINNERS! Local educators and schools awarded

over $800,000 Awarded $5,000 | Rising Star Winners

Awarded $10,000 | Leadership Winners

A matching grant went to their schools.

A matching grant went to their schools.





Cesar Chavez Elementary Pharr, Texas

Earl Warren High School San Antonio, Texas

Hillcrest Elementary Austin, Texas

A&M Consolidated High School College Station, Texas

Awarded $25,000 | Lifetime Achievement Winners

Awarded $10,000 | Principal Winners

A matching grant went to their schools.

A $25,000 grant went to their schools.





Crockett Elementary San Marcos, Texas

Alton Memorial Jr. High School Alton, Texas

Chilton Elementary Chilton, Texas

Maurine Cain Middle School Rockwall, Texas

Awarded $100,000

Awarded $50,000

Awarded $25,000

Large District Winner

Small District Winner

Early Childhood Winner

Awarded $25,000

Over 230 finalists and semi-finalists were also recognized with awards ranging from $250 to $5,000. School Board Winner

Visit heb.com/education to learn more about the Excellence in Education Awards program. ©2014 HEB, 14-4043