INSIGHT—Winter 2018

Page 1


Legislative update Get involved and make public education a top priority of the 86th Texas Legislature p. 10

STEM classes for the masses p. 12 Plus: “A lifelong love” by Rep. Gary VanDeaver, on behalf of Texas FFA p. 24



March 4–7, 2019 | Austin, Texas

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Volume 33 No. 4

FEATURE ARTICLES & COLUMNS LEGISLATIVE UPDATE 10 Get involved and make public education a top priority of the 86th Texas Legislature

SPECIAL “A lifelong love”


By Rep. Gary VanDeaver, on behalf of Texas FFA HIGHER EDUCATION


Career readiness in public schools: addressing the challenges

By Elvis Arterbury TSPRA VOICE Customizing a framework for a community vision and strategic plan


By Traci Marlin TCEA TECH TAKE What your technology administrator needs you to know


By Luann Hughes

Clarification: In the spring 2018 issue of INSIGHT, on page 20, we mentioned the gardening program at Morgan Elementary School in Galveston ISD. This program is a partnership with Galveston’s Own Farmers Market through the Young Gardeners Program.




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


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

TASA Professional Learning Calendar



President’s Message


Daniel Treviño, Jr., Region 1, Mercedes ISD

Executive Director’s View


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


Executive Director

David Belding, Region 11, Aubrey ISD Kevin Brown

Assistant Executive Director, Services and Systems Administration

Ann M. Halstead

Amy Francisco

Director, Communications and Media Relations

Design/Production Marco A. De La Cueva

Editorial Director

Dacia Rivers

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

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

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

LEGISLATIVE CHAIR Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD

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



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





January 5–8

Curriculum Management Audit Training Various Level 3

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX

27-30 TASA Midwinter Conference Various

Austin Convention Center Austin, TX

February 6-7

Academy for Transformational Leadership Schlechty Center Session 3

San Angelo ISD San Angelo, TX


Curriculum Management Audit Training Susan Townsend Level 1

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX


Academy for Transformational Leadership Schlechty Center Session 2

Georgetown ISD Georgetown, TX


Curriculum Management Audit Training Susan Townsend Level 1


First-Time Superintendents Academy Various (FTSA) – Session 4

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX

Austin Marriott North Round Rock, TX

25-26 Curriculum Management Planning Workshop CMSi

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX

26 TASA/TASB Legislative Conference Various

Sheraton Austin Austin, TX


TBD Dallas Area

Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Various Network (FRSLN) Event

27-March 1 Curriculum Writing Workshop CMSi

TASA Headquarters Austin, TX

March 20-21

Academy for Transformational Leadership Schlechty Center Session 4

San Angelo ISD San Angelo, TX


Academy for Transformational Leadership Schlechty Center Session 3

Georgetown ISD Georgetown, TX



DESIGN THAT INSPIRES LEARNING As K12 architects, engineers, planners, and interior designers, we collaborate with clients and their communities to deliver dynamic, engaging, and motivating learning environments.

Design with community in mind




s a former student, teacher and principal, and current superintendent and mother, I understand the power of public education. The foundational values of trust, service, humility, integrity, perseverance, kindness and discipline are undoubtedly emphasized to students across the state every day. The democratic structures of public education form both the bedrock and pillars of our American society. Our country is based on a philosophy where the citizenry and education go hand in hand.

Gayle Stinson

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE School districts must be able to respond to the unique needs of the students, educators, families and communities that they serve.

Our founding fathers believed that the cornerstone of democracy rested on the foundation of an educated electorate. Thomas Jefferson insisted that every child, from the richest to the poorest, receive a public education, and in today’s society, the best way to show that Jeffersonian support for every child is to vote candidates into office who believe in public education and the future of the next generation. The midterm elections revealed what has been long been our priority, and that is that the Texas public education system must be supported by the Legislature if we are going to continue our reign as the greatest state in the nation. Now that the elections are over, our legislative representatives can take their seats, start upholding campaign promises, and begin the work of prioritizing public education in Texas. This, however, is not a time for us to rest. We must continue to emphasize the issues that TASA itself has prioritized for the upcoming session. First and foremost, the cornerstone priority for all of our members is increased local control and flexibility throughout the system. School districts must be able to respond to the unique needs of the students, educators, families and communities that they serve. At TASA, our leadership will continue to work alongside advocacy groups as we prepare to support and initiate legislative proposals that align with our priorities. Education and school funding, the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), and assessment and accountability remain the big three missions in our quest for building a sustainable future for our children. In school funding, we must do more than fight against the expansion of charter schools and the voucher system. We must join together to push for enhancements in state-funded school safety initiatives, advocate for increased funding for the technology and materials allotment, seek additional funding for both new and aging facilities as well as the existing debt allotment, encourage additional funding for school systems impacted by catastrophic events like Hurricane Harvey, support an updated, equitable and adequately funded formula-based school finance system, promote a fully funded pre-K program for all children, and oppose the state benefitting from the rising property values that taxpayers assume is benefitting public schools. We must also continue to fight for our retired educators. It’s our obligation to advocate for the continuation of the currently defined TRS program and back increased state funding to assist with rising healthcare costs associated with TRS ActiveCare. We must continue to encourage legislators to develop an accountability system that is meaningful to the students, the educators, and the communities wrapped around them. We must continue to oppose the A-F campus and district ratings. And finally, we must forge our efforts together and fight any means that would divert public tax dollars to private entities, homeschooled students, or parents with no academic or financial accountability or transparency to the state or fellow taxpayers. Yes, we have a full slate of initiatives before us. Yes, there will be many days when we will have a fight on our hands. But, I believe in the power of public education. I believe in the power of the vote. And, I believe in the governmental officials who have vowed to help create a more sustainable and formidable public education system. God bless Texas, and God bless the Texas public education system.




ducators and public school supporters, including parents, business leaders, students and friends, showed up at the polls in November in record numbers. That is cause for celebration. For at least a decade now, it feels as though public education has been attacked, underfunded, over-regulated, over-tested and underappreciated. That has to end.

Kevin Brown

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S VIEW There is a moral, economic and political imperative to protect, defend, support and

Public education has been a fundamental part of our nation from the very beginnings of our democracy. There is a moral, economic and political imperative to protect, defend, support and improve public education so that our nation will survive and thrive. As we head into a new legislative session with many more friends on both sides of the aisles than we’ve had in a number of years, it’s imperative that we keep our collective feet on the pedal. Tip O’Neill, the legendary speaker of the house in the 1980s, used to say, “All politics is local.” Those words still ring true today. To me, acting locally starts with each of us individually at home. It means that we remind our families, friends and neighbors about the importance of public education and the need for them to support it in every way possible.

improve public education so that our nation will survive and thrive.

Acting locally means sharing positive stories about your local schools. It means having a relationship with your state representatives and senator, making sure they know how you want them to vote on important educational issues. Sometimes, acting locally also means travelling to Austin to testify, visit your reps and make sure that the people at the Capitol understand that it is their job to represent your community and schools. Congratulations, educators and supporters! You made a big difference by showing up at the polls. Now, let’s turn that momentum into greater action during the legislative session by acting on the notion that all politics is local.



Get involved and make public education a top priority of the 86th Texas Legislature

The 86th Texas Legislature convenes in January, and public education is sure to be hotly debated under the dome in the coming days. The TASA Executive Committee has voted on a list of the priorities that are most crucial to Texas school administrators, focusing on three key areas: education funding, the Teacher Retirement System, and assessment and accountability. The TASA Legislative Priorities serve to guide TASA staff and members working to advocate for public education issues during the session. Amy Beneski, deputy executive director of governmental relations at TASA, says the list reflects the membership’s priorities and offers a guideline as to which bills are of particular interest to school administrators. “As bills get filed and heard in the committee, we look and ask, ‘Do these bills fit within our priorities?’ or, ‘Does this bill look like what the membership is trying to accomplish during this session?’” Beneski says. “The priorities are a roadmap for how we look at bills.” Above all, TASA’s key focus going into the session, the two-word mantra that the committee wants first and foremost on everyone’s mind, is local control. At the top of the list of TASA legislative priorities, which you can find at https://www., is this statement: “A cornerstone priority of TASA members is local control and flexibility, as school districts must be able to respond to the differing needs of students, educators, parents, and communities they serve.” 10


Sunnyvale ISD Superintendent Doug Williams, chair of the TASA Legislative Committee, says giving school districts more local control is essential in every area, but especially when it comes to finance and assessment/accountability — two hot button issues in every legislative year. “We want to support measures that allow us to have local control and oppose any piece of legislation that continues to centralize power,” Williams says. “We believe that our individual, elected school boards and the administrations for our districts need to be involved in greater decision-making, whether it is finance, accountability or assessment.” Williams believes that the starting point for education at the Legislature this year is going to be finance. During the special session, House Bill 21 established the Texas Commission on Public School Finance, and Williams says that, based on his meetings with the chairs of the House and Senate Education committees, there’s a strong feeling that the system is due for an overhaul. What that overhaul might look like is anyone’s guess, but Williams stresses that a new school finance system needs to rely less on local property taxes and adjust the basic allotment based on increased property values per student. “We need to make sure that we are funded, that we receive additional funding per student,” Williams says, adding that the increase in property taxes needs to stay with schools rather than being diverted to other parts of the state’s budget. With the focus on local control, Williams also says that any funding increase shouldn’t be dedicated to a specific area. He says any new money needs to go to the basic allotment first, because if additional funds are earmarked for a single purpose, such as security, that funding increase won’t be much help to districts.

“We don’t need it to be dictated how we spend the money,” Williams says. “It really needs to be spent according to what a school’s needs are.” Local control also means local accountability and assessment, and Williams would like local communities to have the opportunity to determine what accountability looks like to them. He hopes to see legislators consider lessening the focus on high-stakes tests and make a shift toward communitybased accountability, though he understands that will be an ongoing discussion under the dome and not a change that will happen overnight. On the TRS health insurance front, Williams says deductibles and premiums are rising so much that school staff sometimes receive a raise only to see it spent on insurance premiums, meaning no added take-home pay. Retired educators also struggle with rising premiums through the TRS-Care system, and Williams hopes to see the Legislature address those increases while keeping the system in place. Advocacy When TASA adopted its 2025 Strategic Framework to guide the association into the future, advocacy was one of three strategic areas of focus for the organization. Serving to “aspire to cultivate a diverse and extensive collaborative of champions equipped to advocate for an educated citizenry,” TASA provides a wealth of information, tools and resources to members. In this connected age, advocating for public education has never been easier. It’s also never been more important, and Elgin ISD Superintendent Jodi Duron, chair of the TASA Advocacy Committee, encourages school administrators to get involved. She’s seen firsthand the difference doing so can make. “Sometimes it is intimidating to sit in front of those [House and Senate] committees, but if you’re truly pas-

sionate about something, if you truly believe that it’s right for kids, we have a responsibility to be their voice,” Duron says. “We have nothing to lose, but we have everything to gain by using our voice.” Beneski agrees and adds that while she’ll be lobbying at the Capitol for TASA’s priorities throughout the session, getting school administrators in the room makes the biggest impact. “It lets legislators know that their constituents are watching what’s happening in Austin, and it puts a more personal touch on the message,” she says. “When superintendents come down with their school board members and members of their local chambers of commerce, that’s something you can’t get with just a lobbyist. It personalizes what legislators are doing in Austin when they go home.” Testifying at the Capitol is one of the best ways administrators can advocate for public education, but other methods, such as communicating with local stakeholders and writing letters or placing phone calls can also make a difference. TASA has plenty of resources on hand for anyone looking to get more involved. “TASA has really done a tremendous job in providing a framework for those of us who are maybe out of our comfort zone to do some of this advocacy work,” Duron says. It’s always good to strike when the iron is hot, and if the November election is any indication, this could be a big year for change. “Coming off of the election, we clearly saw the benefit of educators energized and enthusiastic about a common purpose,” Duron says. “I do believe that the more we engage with our Legislature and the more that we take the time to speak on issues that are important to us … I believe they’re listening.”



Advocacy tools TASA offers many advocacy tools for anyone looking to use their voice to help public education at the state level. Through, you may access the following resources: Online advocacy toolkits — Visit

to find three toolkits: one focusing on elections and voting, one offering resources to aid you in reaching out to your elected officials, and a third focused on advocating for public schools and engaging with policymakers. These kits contain everything from printable fliers and PowerPoint presentations to helpful calendars and informative links.

Important dates of the 86th Legislature Tuesday, Jan. 8: (1st day) 86th Legislature convenes Monday, Jan. 14: Legislative Budget Board budget estimates delivered to the governor and the 86th Legislature Tuesday, Jan. 15: Legislative Budget Board general appropriations bill delivered to the governor and the 86th Legislature

Session sign-up form — As a school leader, you are in

Before the governor’s State of the State address to the 86th Legislature: The governor delivers the governor’s budget to the 86th Legislature

a position to be an important advocate for Texas public schools. If you are interested in coming to Austin to testify before a legislative committee, please complete the short online form at to indicate your general availability and issues of interest.

Friday, March 8: (60th day) Deadline for the unrestricted filing of bills and joint resolutions other than local bills, emergency appropriations, and emergency matters submitted by the governor

Capitol Watch Alerts — As a TASA member, you’ll

Monday, May 27, 2019 (140th day) Last day of 86th Legislature (sine die)

receive frequent emails during the session letting you know what committee meetings are coming up and what bills will be discussed so you can sign up to testify. You’ll also receive follow-up alerts after the hearings, filling you in on how things went. Only current TASA members receive these alerts. Talking points documents — TASA is working on

talking points documents for public education advocates to use when speaking with legislators. These will be available on topics ranging from public school finance to TRS issues. Watch for these to be shared in Capitol Watch Alert and/or TASA Daily emails. Bill Tracker — During the session, head over to to look up specific bills for summaries and a list of any actions taken. This is a great way to keep up to date on bills related to public education.






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HIGHER EDUCATION Career readiness in public schools: addressing the challenges by Elvis Arterbury


t is a well-known fact that approximately 75 percent of Texas high school graduates leave our public schools without a career or technology certification and do not enroll in a college or university. This situation creates dire circumstances for too many of our young people as they attempt to enter the Texas workforce as full-time employees. To address this undesirable situation, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Education Agency to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for Texas secondary school programs. The results produced the 60x30TX Strategic Plan that states by the year 2030 at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25 to 34 will have a post-secondary certificate or degree. Connecting high school to career and college will improve rigor, relevance and student engagement, and the plan should become a major priority for Texas public schools. Many Texas school districts have embraced the logic and challenge embodied in the plan and have initiated the planning and implementation of various program components. The cost of establishing and maintaining the infrastructure required to provide the laboratory environment necessary to attain state of Texas certifications for many of the jobs that are available is prohibitive for most of our independent school districts. Many school districts are struggling to maintain a salary schedule that will attract and retain a fully qualified teaching staff and also meet the demands of increased operational costs. As a result, funds are seldom available to address most of the career and technology certification program costs. These undesirable circumstances prompted ESC Region 13 to initiate a first-step effort to address the lack of sufficient resources facing most of the region’s school districts that have students with a desire to enroll in career and technology certification programs. Below is a list of questions we asked Dr. Rich Elsasser, executive director at Region 13, about the center’s efforts to help school districts establish CT programs for their students. QUESTION: There is a new triple-wide trailer house parked on the Region 13 parking lot. How do you describe it and how do you envision it being used? ANSWER: It is an innovation classroom on wheels, and we refer to it as a mobile lab. It is a teaching tool to be used for instruction in CT programs by providing practical field experiences that students would not otherwise have the opportunity to master. QUESTION: What motivated you to buy this “innovation classroom”? When and where did you adopt/develop this concept? ANSWER: Well, I guess I began to be concerned about a lack of CT options for secondary students in 2013. I was superintendent in a smaller district when HB 5 became law in Texas, and I discovered that we had few program options for our students. It was discouraging to realize that we could not address four of the five endorsements outlined in the new law. We adopted a CT cluster model with a neighboring district, and that helped several of our students. We also used the available mobile library and dental programs, but we did not feel that our efforts were adequate. The issue of how to cluster/ network district efforts continued to be part of our focus as I moved to Region 13. 14


QUESTION: Please describe circumstances that justify thework and expense behind the mobile lab effort.

-Workforce commission

-Service center

-School districts ANSWER: At the service center we look at the economy of scale of an option. Numerous -Businesses seeking workers districts have developed CT program options appropriate for their districts, but nearly all -College instructors encountered difficulty in adequately meeting the financial demands of providing field expe• The Workforce Commission will proriences for students. The magnitude of the vide a continuous flow of job-related problem became even more apparent when information. Having the latest inforTEA developed and released the 60x30TX mation about the demand for workers Strategic Plan. This upped the stakes for the in various career positions is vital to challenge ahead of us. maintaining viable CT programs for secondary students. QUESTION: What are some of the hurdles that must be resolved for the mobile lab • The service center will assume an concept to be successful? active coordination role for the business model and providing a utilization ANSWER: Probably the biggest issue we plan for the mobile lab(s) will be one experience is the speed of technological of its primary functions. Coordinadevelopment that moves decidedly faster tion of program funds, identification/ than school districts can respond. An development of appropriate curricuexample was the wiring of buildings. By the lum, identification of qualified teachers time many districts could “earmark” money and daily logistical issues surrounding to install wiring on campuses, they discovthe CT program operations will also ered that using wiring was outdated and be major responsibilities of the service inappropriate. Even the example of wiring center. is now obsolete. Most job/career certifications require newer technology than school • School districts will develop student districts can provide, so we have addressed schedules, seek state funding for CT that in our business model that will provide a programs such as dual credit, etc., properly outfitted mobile lab. provide student transportation and provide program status data. BenchQUESTION: Please describe or explain mark and follow-up data will be vital the implementation model that is planned to maintaining viable programs for for the mobile lab along with some of the students. hurdles successfully resolved. ANSWER: As I stated previously, we refer to it as our business model. Most jobs utilize the latest technology. The business model would attempt to address job requirements by having an input process that would bring the following entities together to identify the field experiences and the equipment and resources needed to teach the skills required to attain the CT program certification and ensure success of the job. Those participating in the committee input process would include:

• Businesses seeking qualified workers will function as CT program partners. They will provide funding to keep the mobile lab equipment and resources current with the latest technological developments. They will also provide follow-up data on students’ success as contributing members of the business. And perhaps most important, they will hire CT program completers. • Colleges will also become partners in the business model. They will provide

qualified instructors for the CT programs. The program content portion will be taught online, and the field experiences will be face-to-face in the mobile lab. A program goal is to use the mobile lab every minute possible.

your story is simple Your school district is

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The biggest hurdle successfully resolved is the design and construction of the mobile lab. An architect assisted in the design of the lab, and an RFP for construction of the lab generated several responses and one company emerged with a desirable product. That product is the mobile lab currently parked on the parking lot at the ESC Region 13 parking lot. QUESTION: What are some of the hurdles still to be resolved? ANSWER: The usual hurdles are always present. For example, adequate funding, technology obsolescence, qualified instructors and scheduling are ever-present challenges for CT programs; however, our business model outlines a diligent consortium approach as a successful way to proactively address them. 16


QUESTION: What do you envision the results of the mobile lab and CT programs to be? ANSWER: Our primary goal is to make the pilot program using the mobile lab successful. We will use data to assist us in identification of needed improvements. We hope to expand our efforts in Region 13 and perhaps transport it to other areas of the state. We are counting on our business model to attract major businesses. For example, if a company chooses to interface with one of our programs, we could help equip area students with specific work skills they are seeking in workers. We want to be part of the solution to helping our school districts become more efficient and effective. It is obvious that TEA’s 60x30TX Strategic Plan projects and encourages a positive future for Texas secondary students. It is equally obvious that the mobile lab

concept exhibits positive potential to enable additional public schools to provide quality certification programs they would not be able to provide with the traditional in-school career lab format. In the future, if you are out on the road and happen to see a big trailer bearing the ESC Region 13 logo, you are encouraged to honk and wave. n

Elvis Arterbury is a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Lamar University. He has more than 50 years of experience as an educator in Texas public schools and universities.

TSPRA VOICE Customizing a framework for a community vision and strategic plan By Traci Marlin

Start humming Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” to set the mood and read on …


ver the past few years, Midway ISD leadership has developed a series of personalized decisionmaking instruments. Maybe we just tend to like the local control concept over the state control (don’t you?), and it works for us. Midway ISD does things “the Midway way,” resulting in a personal approach to address issues that is quite effective. Go ahead and try it — throw away those stagnant, one-size-fits-all templates and do things “the [insert your district name here] way.” Examples of Midway’s customized decision-making drivers include a superintendent’s evaluation instrument that guides action for the entire cabinet and an internal survey analysis for board team building. Most significantly, the district has pursued an authentic listening process in the development of a community vision. Creating our own community visioning process

First the fine print: There are benefits to hiring a strategic planning firm to guide you in the strategic planning process. They have experience, comparison information and you don’t have to invent the wheel. However, Midway’s leadership felt compelled to invent some wheels, and we focused on four of them. The school board met and grouped all of the district’s goals, core beliefs and critical issues into four basic categories: 1. 2. 3. 4.

student achievement, community engagement, funding priorities, and facilities.

Within each category, trustees gave input on areas where we needed to check the pulse of the community, such as tolerance for the size of our growing campuses. The concept of authentic listening is that we hear the loudest, squeaky wheels as well as find the voice of the silent majority, we seek those with outside knowledge and we ask without assumption. We do not plan directions before getting input. We



LOGISTICS: Our consultant provided the technical services of surveys, calculating results and preparing and delivering presentations. We handled logistics such as rooms, food and RSVPs on our own.

THE HANDOFF: After the community visioning process concluded, our consultant led administrators through development of an action plan to address the community’s priorities and ideas. But from there, the beauty of it was the handoff into a living, breathing, ongoing plan.

Maintaining momentum of a living strategic plan

are not recruiting rubber stampers. We are not making decisions based on anecdotal reports. Traditional opinion leaders are on equal footing with other vested stakeholders. Now that’s enough talk of lofty concepts. I specialize in details. While we didn’t choose to go with an established strategic planning firm, Midway ISD hired a consultant to partner with us to invent our own approach. She had a history of success in other school/community partnerships such as the establishment of education foundations, had school board experience and made a natural fit for bridging a connection between the district administration, trustees and constituents. The advantages were: •

CUSTOMIZATION: Instead of hiring a firm that does strategic planning year-round, we hired a consultant open to crafting a unique plan with considerable input from our superintendent and school board. We were able to maintain full direction on the formation and details of our process.

GUIDANCE: Our consultant served as a fresh set of eyes and impartial guide to help us form surveys and focus group prompts that had neutral language, unassumed outcomes and best practices in a myriad of survey options. We also had assistance from a volunteer Ph.D. in sociology specializing in statistics. Help with appropriate survey wording may be as accessible as a local statistics grad student.

CREDIBILITY: The third-party proctor established credibility with naysayers that the district wasn’t controlling the outcome. She also led the focus group discussions with some of our strongest critics to help us preserve relationships that were capricious at best. After surveys and focus groups, she summarized pull-out data to best represent the voice of the community.



We branded our community vision turned strategic plan “Midway Momentum.” We use it as a framework that is revisited at least monthly by the full district leadership team. A simple five minutes on the monthly agenda are dedicated to reviewing the action plan items to denote progress being made, adjust timelines and to suggest evidence of work completed. Then all of this is interpreted for the community on a dedicated website, http://www. Did I just lose you when I suggested building a website? Don’t worry; it’s really only a WordPress blog. The graphics that are shown to monitor progress are just Google Slides. However you choose to do it, the most important factor is to find a way to demonstrate progress to your community. We chose to have a timeline that changes color from gray to blue when completed, and also established a Momentum in Action evidence section that highlights anything related to the actions taken. There are posts as simple as a short article written by an intern or a PDF of a financial report slide to posts as complicated as creating a four-part series explaining school finance that no one watched. Really, even with cute kids and a two-minute time limit, we didn’t top 100 views. (In a future article maybe we can discuss audience attention spans.) The beauty of a living plan is that we can learn from the project, adjust our aim and work on a new approach to informing the community about school finance. We are continuing to maintain the Momentum branding as we carry out the components of the plan. Just this fall, we have established a Momentum Facility Study Committee, tying the progress (and attention) of this committee back to our community vision. n Traci Marlin is the public information officer in Midway ISD.


Let’s talk specifics. Put these on your checklist.

☐☐ Partnered with local Chamber of Commerce to reach employer stakeholders. ☐☐ Contacted neighborhood associations and homeowner associations to reach non-parent stakeholders. ☐☐ Dissemination of survey and information included website, chambers, emergency contacts, newsletter, principal newsletters, foundation donor and alumni list, and PTA members. ☐☐ Be brave. We created graphics for emails and social media that referenced hot button topics. ☐☐ Our survey included questions about things that would not necessarily factor in a strategic plan, such as the importance of STAAR testing, simply so we had statistics to use as talking points. (Does it surprise you that respondents ranked STAAR scores at the bottom of the list for factors to evaluate student achievement?) ☐☐ Culled down to fewer than 10 questions for each survey section, allowed anonymous responses and included invitation to participate in focus group after completing the survey. ☐☐ Some school board members felt strongly that students should be included in the surveys and focus groups, but we conducted the student focus group separately from adults to prevent undue influence. (The superintendent led the student focus group, which I loved as the PR person. It couldn’t have been more endearing.) ☐☐ Focus group proctors were aspiring administrators and doctoral students needing hours for their degree plans. ☐☐ A Google Sheet is revisited monthly by our leadership team to update progress and suggest ideas for evidence for Momentum in Action. It’s allowable to adjust timelines or even the action items.



TCEA TECH TAKE What your technology administrator needs you to know By Luann Hughes

Your technology administrator has


have been in public school education technology for the past 18 years — in technology terms, since the Stone Age. Technology in public schools has evolved from a “nice thing to have” to an essential part of school and home life. Thankfully, along the way, technology has become more portable, easier to use and more accessible.

to be more nimble and responsive than ever before to rapidly changing technology and instructional needs.

These changes have shifted the way technology departments have to support their administrators, teachers and students. I want to share some ways that you as an administrator can help your technology department be successful in this new landscape.

The backbone is king If your network infrastructure and cabling isn’t solid, nothing will be right. Unfortunately, keeping networks up-to-date is as glamorous as maintaining air-conditioning and plumbing. It’s easy to forget about it until it isn’t working, and it’s a large ticket item. Core networking equipment should be on a refresh or rotation schedule. You also need to keep your connections between campuses and in the buildings upgraded as needed. Thankfully, E-rate can help with the cost. E-rate is a program from the Federal Communications Commission that provides discounts to public schools, charter schools and libraries for connections and core equipment. The Schools and Libraries Program (commonly called E-rate) provides discounts between 20 and 90 percent depending on your free/reduced lunch numbers (Category One) or based on your enrollment (Category Two). Category One: Category One awards are percentages based on your National School Lunch Program (NSLP) numbers. You can file Category One funds for: 1. Some core network equipment that support data connections, 2. Internet connections, and 3. Network connections between campuses. You can get help with leased lit fiber, leased dark fiber or build your own fiber network. Leased lit fiber is a connection where the service provider owns and manages the network, and the district pays a monthly fee. Leased dark fiber is where the district leases a portion of a fiber network and lights the fiber with their own equipment. In general, when a district leases lit fiber, they are only leasing a portion of the bandwidth available on the connection. When a district leases dark fiber, there is no restriction on the connection.



Category Two: All districts have Category Two services. Category Two funds are based on approximately $150 per student and have to be used within a five-year span. There is one more year to apply for Category Two funds. There is talk of renewing the cycle, but there are no definite plans yet. Category Two funds can be used for access points, switches, routers and wiring. Category Two money is allocated by campus, not at the district level, so your allotted money will change each year. Eligible services can change, so if you don’t have an E-rate expert on staff, you may want to contract with a service to help you navigate the paperwork. There are five key things to remember when applying for E-rate: 1. You need to plan out at least one year. The application and funding cycle will take at least that long. 2. You have to provide the funds that aren’t covered in the discount. For instance, if you have an 85 percent discount, you will be responsible for 15 percent of the eligible costs. For large projects, you may also have supporting costs that aren’t covered by E-rate. 3. There are many deadlines and forms. Make sure you have a good line of communication established with your technology and purchasing departments. 4. If you use a consultant, be sure they aren’t representing a vendor. 5. Have a plan B. Your network needs to be upgraded regardless of whether or not you get E-rate funding.

When your technology administrator brings up networking needs, work with them to develop a schedule that your district can maintain. The network is the basis of a good technology user experience.

Internet isn’t just bandwidth If your district is like mine, everything is pushing out to the web. Not only instructional resources, but key systems such as email, student management and finance systems are increasingly standardizing on cloud platforms. There are certainly some advantages to cloud-based services. If you have a small tech staff, good cloud services can provide redundancy, backups and support on a larger scale with dedicated experts managing the services. Web-based services are available anytime, anywhere and on any device. But if you move to cloud-based services, you have to make sure your connection to the Internet is solid. That doesn’t just mean adding another 2 gigabytes to your internet provider contract. Below are some key points: 1. Access points. Many classroom devices are wireless. Having too few access points can cause connection problems, but so can too many access points too close together. Your technology admin can guide you on the right configuration or find a consultant to help with the design. Just like switches and routers, access points need to have a regular refresh schedule. 2. BYOD. While bring-your-own-device is a great option for many districts, you cannot control what kind of demand personal devices are going to place on your network. If you allow BYOD, be sure you have good tools to track usage and ensure that your core network services have priority. 3. Firewall. The district’s firewall is the first line of defense in network security. Your firewall has to have adequate connections available to allow the all the traffic in and out of the network. Be sure the firewall is on a regular refresh schedule also. 4. Content filter. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires districts to have a content filter in place if they apply for E-rate funding. Content filters look at internet traffic and block inappropriate sites. Make sure to size your content filter to match your Internet bandwidth needs.




Technology integration

Should the technology department be responsible for security? Absolutely ‌ to a point. Your technology administrator should be overseeing software and solutions to help keep malware and attacks out, manage SPAM and stop unauthorized access. But, think of it this way: You keep your house well secured with locks and alarms. But if someone has the key and lets someone in or leaves the door open, security is compromised.

Without clear and frequent communication, curriculum and technology departments can often be on different pages. Technology tools sometimes have the allure of being the solution to educational needs; however, technology tools are just that — tools. In the hands of great teachers, technology can enrich, enhance and expand learning. Instructional technology specialists need to work closely with curriculum and campus staff to align the right tech tools with what is going on the classroom. Technology administrators need to be able to translate the instructional needs into the right technology for the district. That requires open dialogue between staff members who can make the decisions to move initiatives forward and a senior administrator who can make sure that initiatives are well coordinated.

The key in this analogy is passwords. Users must be well-educated about password security, and there must be procedures in place to manage how passwords are used by both staff and students. Letting someone in happens when students or staff members allow malicious attacks through spamming or phishing. Phishing emails attempt to obtain personal information from the recipient, while the primary use of spam is for advertising. Phishing emails look like they came from a person or organization you trust, but they’re sent by hackers to get you to click on or open something that will give the hackers access to your information. The most likely targets of phishing emails are office workers and administrators, particularly those who work with money. Leaving the door open happens when computers and applications are left unsecured. That can happen on a district computer or any device that a staff member uses outside the district. For example, most districts allow teachers to use their gradebooks from any device. If a teacher leaves his gradebook open on the family computer, anyone in the family could have access to student data. Procedures must be in place for both staff and students to ensure security.

Your technology administrator has to be more nimble and responsive than ever before to rapidly changing technology and instructional needs. When working together regularly, technology administrators, district administrators and campus administrators can ensure that technology is used to its fullest in school districts. n

Luann Hughes is the director of technology for Temple ISD and director of TCEA Area 12.

The technology department needs the support and direction of administrators and the human resources department to make sure that training and procedures are in place to keep both data and technology services secure.

References 1: 2: 3:





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Jennifer Wilhelm, Assistant Superintendent of Learner Services, Allen ISD



love By Rep. Gary VanDeaver, on behalf of Texas FFA




t’s rare to be connected to an organization your entire life.

I am 60 years old and still young at heart, but my hair is more gray than when I was a high school student. I am now a Texas state representative and have been part of public education for most of my lifetime. Texas FFA has been in my life for nearly 45 years. I have seen this organization from every perspective — as a student in the 70s, an agricultural science teacher and FFA advisor at Avery High School, a parent of two daughters who joined FFA, an administrator in New Boston, and now a legislator paving the way for our state’s public education. Watching the Texas FFA organization evolve over the past few decades shows me it has continued to grow with societal and technological shifts. The core values of leadership, personal growth and community service are as present as the infamous blue jacket that currently hugs thousands of students and has embraced many alumni. With nearly 123,000 members and $2.3 million in scholarships available annually, the Texas FFA isn’t just adapting to current culture, it’s preparing today’s students to solve tomorrow’s problems. An FFA student in the 70s The 1970s was a decade unlike any other. As a teenager, I saw the battle for civil and women’s rights and clips from the Vietnam War each night on the news. I grew up in Clarksville, and joined Texas FFA as a freshman in high school. In the 70s, the FFA was full of farm boys, all worn-out leather boots and hard work. Down the hall, my female peers sat in home economics classes. We didn’t have iPads, computers or even updated textbooks. This has changed tremendously over the years within Texas FFA and in everyday life.

rewarding. I worked with countless outstanding students in and out of the classroom, and I still keep in touch with many of them. The best part is that more than just one or two have become leaders. Many of them are on school boards, leaders in their communities, veterinarians, lawyers, etc. It is incredible to see how Texas FFA shapes these young adults into becoming our leaders and changemakers. But that’s the thing about FFA, the students are the timeless stories because of the fundamental values that FFA provides its members with early in life. These principles reside with you forever and guide you to personal and professional success. Two daughters, a father and four pigs What I have to thank Texas FFA for most is the time spent with my two daughters, Kacey and Katelyn, when they were members in high school. As any father can attest, you aren’t exactly your daughter’s best friend when she’s a teenager. Kacey and Katelyn both fell in love with Texas FFA early in life, just like I did, and it gave us the opportunity to bond and work together. Both of them raised pigs in school. I still remember the pigs’ names to this day: Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica, from the Archie comics. It was special to see my daughters experience the same things I did when I was their age and even more impactful to see women demonstrating incredible responsibility through active FFA engagement. Both of my daughters have experienced tremendous professional success

Throughout my education, I had a teacher that took great pride in grooming me into a leader with a strong work ethic and confident public speaking skills. Many of the traits I developed in Texas FFA as a young adult led me down the career path I created for myself. Today as a state representative, I still use the leadership skills the organization instilled in me. Leading the next generation After graduating from Texas A&M University-Commerce, I was drawn back to Texas FFA and became an agricultural teacher and advisor after majoring in agricultural science. This time period as a teacher with Texas FFA was the most



since their involvement in FFA — one is a prosecutor in Galveston and the other is a math teacher. It is remarkable to see them transition those fundamental values into what they are doing today in their careers. I have Texas FFA to thank for that, especially since the organization has been giving women, like my daughters, the same opportunities that young men have had for more than 50 years. A Texas FFA state representative Today, it is an honor to sit as a Texas state representative on the House Public Education Committee. I never would have thought as a young boy sitting in an agricultural science class that I would be leading our state through education changes and growth periods. Much of what I do as a



legislator draws upon what I learned through FFA, especially the leadership skills I gained. Today, I remain involved in Texas FFA by volunteering to judge public speaking contests and help encourage students to succeed. I think public speaking is one of the most valuable skills I was able to master, so I focus on grooming today’s students and helping build their confidence. I also participate in Texas FFA’s Day at the Capitol in Austin every year. This is a beneficial program that the organization put together for students to speak with our state’s leaders and learn how our government operates. Day at the Capitol really brings my time with FFA full circle. Continued on page 29

The 1983-84 Avery FFA Chapter Officers were (front row, left to right) Kenny Cain, Vona Trimm, Steven Whiteman, (back row, left to right) Jimmy Stanley, Terry Burkett, Ken Sims and Rep. Gary VanDeaver. Many of VanDeaver’s students were not able to purchase their own FFA jackets, so he would lend them his old jackets.




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An everlasting Texas FFA How does a 90-plus year organization remain cutting edge? Ask Texas FFA. The group of students, teachers, sponsors, etc. is not the group I once saw as a 14-year-old. It is diverse, it is solving real world problems, it is connecting STEM to society and it is here to stay. Students are exposed to all kinds of potential careers throughout their time with the organization. With courses from Veterinary Medical Applications and Professional Standards in Agribusiness to Advanced Animal Science and Agricultural Structures Design, students can set a path for their lives and careers. Because I have seen this organization through each and every lens, I know that many misperceive what Texas FFA is all about. It is not the FFA many people my age grew up knowing. This is no longer a vocational agriculture group, it is a premiere science organization. In Texas FFA, you aren’t simply working a geometry problem on a piece of paper, you are living and solving the problem to provide real-world solutions that will propel our world in the future. n Dr. Gary VanDeaver is state representative for Texas House District 1 and was first elected in 2014. Prior to his election to the Texas House, Gary was a 33-year educator, serving most recently as superintendent of New Boston Independent School District in Bowie County.


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