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2021 TASA Legislative Positions & Priorities

Plus - Meet TASA’s Inspiring Leaders pg. 14

COMMITTED TO TEXAS PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR MORE THAN 53 YEARS Today, more than ever, we have seen the incredible impact public education has on our everyday lives. The stories that shape education are the stories that inspire us the most. The triumphs of students are personal to us. They mean more, because they illustrate how learning and shared experience can change lives. At Huckabee, our heart is in public education. So today and every day, Huckabee will stand with Texas educators to support a bright future for all students.










Stopping educator sexual misconduct before it starts

Catherine E. Robert and David P.Thompson TSPRA VOICE

Take the time to nominate a deserving educator, student, or volunteer


Veronica Castillon




Brian T. Woods, President, Northside ISD Doug Williams, President-Elect, Sunnyvale ISD


Charles Dupre, Vice President, Fort Bend ISD Greg Smith, Past President

TASA Professional Learning Calendar


President’s Message


Gonzalo Salazar, Region 1, Los Fresnos CISD

Executive Director’s View


Max A. Thompson, Region 2, Banquete ISD


Jo Ann Bludau, Region 3, Hallettsville ISD Martha Salazar-Zamora, Region 4, Tomball ISD Todd E. Lintzen, Region 5, Bridge City ISD Christie Whitbeck, Region 6, Bryan ISD Stan Surratt, Region 7, Lindale ISD Judd Marshall, Region 8, Mount Pleasant ISD Michael Kuhrt, Region 9, Wichita Falls 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

Editorial Director

Jodi Duron, Region 13, Elgin ISD David Young, Region 14, Abilene ISD Joe Young, Region 15, Brownwood ISD Donna Hale, Region 16, Miami ISD

Design/Production Marco A. De La Cueva

George Kazanas, Region 12, Midway ISD

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. © 2021 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.

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


Gary Bates, Fort Sam Houston ISD Priscilla Canales, Weslaco ISD LaTonya Goffney, Aldine ISD Walter Jackson, La Porte ISD


Jodi Duron, Elgin ISD


Charles Dupre, Fort Bend ISD, Chair Carl Dethloff, San Angelo ISD Jodi Duron, Elgin ISD Stacey Edmonson, Sam Houston State University Michael Kuhrt, Wichita Falls ISD Jeremy Thompson, Era ISD



TASA Professional Learning Calendar For details on our professional development events, please refer to the TASA Daily e-newsletter, visit tasanet.org, or call the TASA office at 512.477.6361 or 800.725.TASA (8272).





March 11

Live Virtual Event



TASA/TASB/TASBO Budget Cohort for Texas District Leaders Event



TASA/N2 Learning Executive Leadership Institute, Session 3 of 4



TASA/N2 Learning Principals’ Institute, Session 5 of 6



Regional Summit ESCs 1, 2, 19, 20


29, 31, April 1

TASA/CMSi Curriculum Writing Workshop



Live Virtual Event


12, 14

TASA/CMSi Curriculum Management Planning Workshop


12, 14, 16




TASA/N2 Learning Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, Session 5 of 6



TASA/TASB/TASBO Budget Cohort for Texas District Leaders Event



Regional Summit ESCs 12, 13, 14, 15


26, 28, 30




TASA Future-Ready Superintendents Leadership Network (FRSLN) Event





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I Brian T. Woods

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE All of us, I believe, have a fundamental need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Kevin Brown and all of the TASA staff on an outstanding, if virtual, Midwinter Conference. I thought the variety of session choices and the quality of those sessions was as outstanding as we normally get at our in-person conference. I also really appreciated the strand of offerings on race and equity, as this is a conversation in which we are going deep. As you know, the opening general session featured a conversation between Kevin Brown and Simon Sinek. I appreciated the opportunity to hear from the best-selling author and self-described “unrelenting optimist.” Many of you know his books. Part of his comments were directed at the difference between what he calls “blind positivity” and optimism. I suspect that this was meaningful to many of us. He said we obviously cannot ignore the challenges we face in the moment or fail to take steps to address what we can, but we also can’t lose focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. The notion that the future is bright is optimism. I acknowledge that there has been criticism of the COVID-19 response in my district. I own some of that criticism. We have all made mistakes in the ambiguous times since March 2020. But, like you I suspect, every leader I speak with from teachers to directors to principals and trustees is looking for solutions for the here and now. No one is ignoring the challenges that we face each day or failing to try and forecast the challenges that are yet to come. Those conversations are real and ongoing. Let’s just not lose sight of that light at the end of the tunnel. It too is real. And it is getting brighter. Hang in there. Related to TASA’s work on race and equity, we were in a meeting with this group right after we recognized the holiday honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and some of the participants were sharing our favorite quotes from Dr. King’s speeches and writings. I was reminded of one I have not seen in a long time that really touches my heart. He said, “Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” All of us, I believe, have a fundamental need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. This is what best-selling author Daniel Pink referred to in “Drive” (which studies the science of what motivates humans) as “purpose.” Whether that “purpose” is found with a church, a civic group, volunteer organization or in our work, we need to belong to something that we believe adds value beyond serving our individual needs. For me, for almost 29 years, that need has primarily been fulfilled by Northside ISD. I believe I was placed here to make a difference in the lives of the children we serve. In spite of all we have been through in the last 10 months, I hope you feel the same way about your work in your district. Brian T. Woods TASA President Superintendent, Northside ISD



N2 LEARNING Helping school districts achieve their highest aspirations

N2 Learning partners with education entities to transform leading and learning. As no two school districts are alike, no two N2 projects are alike. We are dedicated to partnering with clients to create a plan or process that meets unique needs.

Our strategic initiatives in partnership with the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) are designed


Principals’ Institute


N2 Learning

to create learning opportunities that present career pathways for school leaders across Texas. These initiatives, including the

The Principals’ Institute (PI) is a year-long professional development

Principals’ Institute, the Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, and

series facilitated by N2 Learning in partnership with TASA to

the Executive Leadership Institute, cultivate purposeful networks of

provide a unique opportunity for principals to understand why

leaders engaged in meaningful work that advances the principles in

transformation of public education is necessary and develop the

the New Vision for Public Education.

knowledge and skills required to lead and build the capacity to sustain transformation over time. The PI experience includes

Our experienced team offers proven success in all areas of public

exposure to influential superintendents and speakers, such as Eric

education with specialization in assessment and accountability,

Sheninger, Rob Evans, Alan November, John Tanner, and Jimmy Casas.

leadership and professional development, strategic planning, and transformational learning environments. We are dedicated to


partnering with clients to customize projects that facilitate change

Registration: $6,000.00 per participant (excluding travel expenses)

and ensure success.

Six, 2-day sessions alternating between Austin, Dallas, and Houston


Assistant Principal Leadership Academy


N2 Learning


Executive Leadership Institute


N2 Learning

The Assistant Principal Leadership Academy (APL) is facilitated by N2

The Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) is facilitated by N2 Learning

Learning in partnership with TASA to provide learning opportunities

in partnership with TASA to build the capacity of district executive

to develop, challenge, and inspire assistant principals to be

leaders for system-wide improvements in teaching and learning.

transformative leaders. APL participants will engage in processes

Sessions will include opportunities for leaders to cultivate strategic

which support the development of skills specific to transformational

approaches and actions in order to support district transformational

leadership and building a learning organization while preparing

efforts. In addition to the scheduled sessions, each participant will

them for the role of principal.

receive the support of an Executive Coach throughout the year.



Registration: $1,000.00 per participant for in-person cohort

Registration: $4,000.00 per participant (excluding travel expenses)

(excluding travel expenses); $800 per participant for virtual cohort

Four, 2-day sessions alternating between Austin, Dallas, and Houston

Six, 4-hour sessions throughout the year

Find out more about our partner initiatives with TASA at www.n2learning.org



hen I was in college at the University of Texas, I majored in government and minored in history. For three of my years as an undergrad, I worked as a runner at a law firm in downtown Austin. Each day, I would walk from my dorm room to the law firm. The Capitol building was halfway between the two, and I often stopped inside to watch deliberations on the floor of the House and Senate on my way to work.

Kevin Brown

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S VIEW Thank you for being champions for public education and helping to preserve the nation we love.

Sometimes, I sat in the gallery and did my homework. Yes, I was a nerd … and still am. It struck me as amazing that anyone could walk into the Capitol and see democracy in action, and that anyone could go testify on a bill or visit the offices of a state leader. What an amazing country. Little did I know at the time that I would one day be working in the pink building advocating for public education. I have also had occasion to be in the U.S. Capitol to advocate for public education. I love that building and everything it stands for — democracy, freedom, a rich and complex history, a shining beacon on a hill. What a sad chapter in our nation’s history that some Americans stormed our nation’s Capitol and violently threatened our democracy and our elected leaders to overturn a free and fair election. The freedom for anyone to peacefully engage in democracy and observe it in person was threatened forever. Fortunately, our nation and democracy have survived, but we should all be put on high alert that we cannot take democracy for granted. Our nation is still an experiment in democracy, and it takes all of our participation to protect it. Regardless of party or affiliation, we Americans have always stood for democracy. Right now, it’s more important than ever that we do everything in our power to protect it. That brings me to the current legislative session. The pandemic has made it more difficult, but no less important, to engage during the session. Once again, public education will be in the forefront. Will public education be fully funded, or will we endure cuts like the ones in 2011 that impacted student achievement for a decade? Will we receive hold harmless funding in the spring? Will there be a voucher bill? Will community censorship bills prevent school districts and education associations like TASA from advocating on your behalf? These are just a few of the important issues we will face this session. In some cases, we will be in the Capitol building, testifying on your behalf and asking some of you to do the same. However, the limited access to the Capitol means that we need our members to engage with your locally elected leaders at home more than ever. Whether it’s visiting via Zoom, making phone calls, or meeting at a local office, we hope you will let your local leaders know how you feel about the issues facing your school district. Thank you for being champions for public education and helping to preserve the nation we love.

Kevin Brown TASA Executive Director



2021 TASA Legislative Positions & Priorities Last year, the TASA Executive Committee approved TASA’s 2021 Legislative Positions & Priorities, which were developed by the TASA Legislative Committee, with assistance from the TASA Governmental Relations staff. During the 87th session of the Texas Legislature this spring, TASA is supporting and initiating legislation that aligns with, and is working with other associations and groups to advocate for, the positions and priorities set forth in the document, featured on the following pages.



Local Control 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 the communities they serve. Oppose measures that erode local discretionary money. Oppose legislation or measures that seek to limit school districts’ or administrators’ ability to have representation before the Texas Legislature, state agencies, and the executive branch. Oppose legislation that would implement additional course requirements for high school graduation or reduce the number of elective courses currently available to students to take as part of the Foundation High School Program. Oppose legislation that would erode flexibility for Districts of Innovation. Support current state laws relating to superintendent contracts. Education Funding Advocate for an adequate and equitable school finance system that raises per pupil funding to the national average. Support sustainable state funding for HB 3 (2019). Advocate for local discretion with spending to ensure that the needs of students, staff, and communities are met. Property Value Growth

Oppose any effort to divert local property tax revenues that taxpayers are told will be used to support local public schools to non-public educa- tion purposes.

Foundation School Program (FSP)

Oppose any cuts to school district FSP funding. Advocate for adequate and equitable formula-based funding that takes into account student and district characteristics to meet state and local standards. Advocate for funding full-day pre-K programs through the FSP for all students. School Safety

Advocate for increased funding of the School Safety Allotment and local flexibility to ensure districts can adequately meet student and staff safety needs. Technology and Instructional Materials Allotment (TIMA)

Advocate for increased funding for the TIMA to ensure districts can provide adequate technology and instructional materials to meet higher standards for students. Oppose any carveouts from TIMA that decrease the amount of funds to school districts, including efforts by the state for rating instructional materials. Advocate that funding for “quality” reviews be allocated from a source other than TIMA. Facilities Funding

Advocate for additional funding for the Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA), Existing Debt Allotment (EDA), and the New Instructional Facilities Allotment (NIFA). Oppose additional funding for charter school facilities until adequate state funding is provided to traditional school districts. Accelerated Instruction

Advocate for additional funding with local flexibility for state-required accelerated instruction in grades 3–8, as well as for end-of-course exam remediation. Disaster Relief

Advocate for additional funding for resources to assist school districts impacted by events, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, which result in portions of the state being declared natural disaster areas.

Amy Beneski, abeneski@tasanet.org Casey McCreary, cmccreary@tasanet.org



Charter Schools

Oppose the further expansion of publicly funded charter schools, including increases in the number of campuses under existing charters, unless charter schools are subject to the same accountability and transparency laws and regulations as traditional public schools, including those related to: special education requirements, public notices, school discipline, financial dealings (leases, mortgages, bond debt, contracts) transportation, bilingual programs, policy notices, employment contract policies, parental rights, lobbying and political expenditure restrictions, student data privacy, efficiency audits, lunch programs, and nepotism. Advocate to improve transparency, notice, input, and consideration of the state and local district impact before a charter can be approved or expanded. Advocate for tying charter school “small and midsize allotment” to the same 5,000-student cap as the district small and midsize adjustment. Support legislation that increases local community involvement in the charter approval and expansion process similar to those required of traditional public school districts in bond and tax ratification elections. Special Education

Advocate for increased state funding for special education students, especially for those with the greatest needs. Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) TRS Pension Program

Advocate for the continuation of the current defined benefit pension program for TRS members. TRS-ActiveCare

Advocate for increased state funding to assist with increased healthcare costs associated with TRSActiveCare and TRS-Care. Advocate for alternatives to TRS-ActiveCare that would provide additional options to districts while sustaining the current system for those districts that remain in the system.

Legislative advertising paid for by TASA



Vouchers, Taxpayer Savings Grants, Virtual Vouchers Oppose any state plan that would use vouchers, tax credits, taxpayer savings grants, tuition reimbursements, or any other means to divert public tax dollars to private entities, homeschooled students, or parents, with no academic or financial accountability or transparency to the state, taxpayers, or local communities. Assessment & Accountability Advocate for the establishment of a comprehensive accountability system that looks beyond high-stakes, multiple-choice exams to meaningful assessments that have value for students, parents, and teachers, as well as flexible measures that local communities value. Oppose A–F campus and district ratings that oversimplify the complex work of schools and incentivize teaching to the test. Advocate for an accountability system that does not apply the same sanctions to campuses and districts that receive a D-rating over two consecutive years as the sanctions applied to F-rated campuses. Support allowing D-rated campuses and districts time to fully implement their targeted improvement plans. Advocate for an accountability system that does not automatically lower a district’s overall or domain performance rating of “A” to a rating of “B” if the district has even one campus with an overall or domain performance rating of “D” or “F.” Advocate that the state student assessment program be limited to only those assessments required to meet ESSA (federal) requirements. Advocate for the removal of grade advancement requirements that are tied to the state standardized assessments in reading and math for grades 5 and 8. Advocate for the continuation of Individual Graduation Committees whose members have authority to allow a student to graduate when the student has successfully completed all curriculum requirements for high school graduation and have failed no more than two end-of-course exams.

Advocacy Tools

Important Dates

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

March 12

Online advocacy toolkits

Visit tasanet.org/toolkits 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.

(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 May 31

Last day of 87th Legislature (sine die) June 20

Last day of 87th Legislature (sine die) August 30

Effective date of most legislation (91st day after adjournment)

Capitol Watch Alerts

As a TASA member, you’ll 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.

2021 TASA/TASB Legislative Conference

Talking points documents

Each session, TASA produces talking points documents for public education advocates to use when speaking with legislators. Watch for these to be shared in Capitol Watch Alert and/ or TASA Daily emails. Bill Tracker

Head over to http://billtracker.tasanet.org/ 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.

March 12 | Free Virtual Event TASA and the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) partner to host the TASA/TASB Legislative Conference each legislative session to provide school board members and administrators with an update on legislative happenings and a chance to hear about important education legislation from political insiders. TASA and TASB Governmental Relations staff will provide updates on important bills and issues.



Meet TASA’s

Inspiring Leaders

Now more than ever, Texas public school staff members are looking to leaders to inspire them in their day-to-day work as we all cope with an ever-changing educational landscape. TASA’s “Inspiring Leaders” tagline is not just a reminder of TASA’s commitment to leadership development — it describes our members themselves. In this and future issues of INSIGHT, you’ll meet some of those Inspiring Leaders, and it’s our hope that they will guide you and invigorate you in the work that you do. To nominate a leader for inclusion, email drivers@texasschoolbusiness.com.

Susan Bohn In 2018, Dr. Susan Bohn stepped into the superintendency in Aledo ISD, ready to lead the district into a new era, focused on instruction and best-practice teaching methods. With Aledo ISD’s fast-growing population, she has also overseen the construction of new schools and significant renovations, while forging new connections with the district’s local community. Bohn is committed to providing exceptional experiences for Aledo’s students, a goal that has not wavered during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I am so proud of the incredibly high expectations that we have for ourselves in our service to our students, each other and our community,” she says. “Because our community is so centered around the well-being and success of children, we are fortunate to walk arm-in-arm every day with our community members in support of our students as they grow.” Aledo’s deputy superintendent, Lynn McKinney, says Bohn has maintained her focus on identifying future educational opportunities for students even while responding to the ever-changing needs caused by current events. “Dr. Bohn’s balanced approach to seeking input from all stakeholders, researching best practices and relying on a team approach, all with a focus on clear, consistent communication, inspires our district to move forward with an intentional focus for our students, staff and community,” McKinney says. To keep this forward-looking mindset, Bohn says she relies on three concepts. 1. “Always do the right thing for the children you serve. Period … no matter what the personal consequences may be. 2. Do not take things personally. Most of the criticism that you receive in a leadership position is about the decisions you make, not the person you are. 3. Remember that everyone is dealing with something. The negative situations, reactions or feedback that you receive (especially this year during the pandemic) are typically rooted in some very deep pain that another human being is having to navigate. Give grace.” Mentorship has been a factor in Bohn’s life since she was in the fourth grade. She believes that everyone can benefit from communication and collaboration with their peers. “One of my favorite things to do is to encourage others to pursue the superintendency. I tell them that while it might not be the easiest job to land, it is absolutely an attainable goal,” Bohn says. “With my mentees, I mostly just listen, take notes and steal their ideas! It is impossible to lead well if you don’t learn something from every interaction and conversation you have.”



Celina Estrada-Thomas Dr. Celina Estrada-Thomas has spent her entire 38-year career in public education, serving as superintendent in Hutto ISD since 2017. With a lifelong goal of ensuring equality for all children, Estrada-Thomas has been inspired by her family, including her father, an immigrant raised in poverty who was able to overcome numerous obstacles to become a successful business owner. Her work extends beyond the borders of Hutto, as she also serves as a board member for the Texas Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (TALAS) and dedicates her time to mentoring upcoming superintendents. “We all get ahead by pulling each other up, especially when we mentor other female superintendents,” she says. “We are slowly making inroads in the Texas superintendent ranks; roughly 17% of all superintendents in Texas are female. Regardless of gender, the mentor grows as much, if not more than, the mentee in a mentoring relationship.” Stan Paz, executive director of TALAS, says that Estrada-Thomas is an outstanding role model for Latina women hoping to serve in the superintendency, and recently continued her work remotely while suffering from COVID-19. “She weathered the illness while continuing to lead her school district and participate in our virtual TALAS meetings,” Paz says. “Celina is truly an inspirational and unselfish leader who steps up and tackles the toughest issues facing us in Texas.” In the face of challenges, Estrada-Thomas turns to her personal philosophy to “leave no stone unturned” as she focuses on her ultimate goal. “When it comes to serving Hutto ISD, I challenge myself to work through every possibility, every opportunity and every possible outcome that is best for the students and staff,” she says. “The worst form of stress for me is knowing that our students or staff missed out on something because I failed to look ‘under that one last stone.’” Staff and students in Hutto ISD have a motto of “better together,” and Estrada-Thomas says it’s become more than just a catchphrase as the district weathers a global pandemic. “What makes me exceptionally proud is our ability to hold on to being better together. We will persevere through this crisis because we rely on each other for reassurance, for hope, for virtual hugs, for each other’s expertise, and most importantly, for emotional support.”



David Gonzalez With nearly 30 years of work in public education under his belt, David Gonzalez has been serving as associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction in United ISD since 2014. In his time in the district, Gonzalez has helped to create numerous initiatives, including Project Unify, a district-wide program promoting acceptance and unity among all special needs students, and the Polar Plunge, a means to raise funds for the Special Olympics. He has also supported the infusion of state-ofthe-art interactive technology in UISD’s more than 1,950 classrooms. “When we make district decisions, we should always look beyond formulas and trends,” Gonzalez says. “We must never forget that we are first teachers/educators. It’s imperative to visit classrooms and talk to teachers, our students and the school staff. As school leaders, we must never lose sight of what’s happening in our classrooms.” David Canales, executive director for middle schools in UISD, describes Gonzalez as an inspirational and visionary leader. “Mr. Gonzalez’s knowledge, experience, dedication and love for our community children have supported his ascent in the field of education,” Canales says. “It is his experience, heartfelt commitment and dedication to the students, teachers and administrators that are the driving force toward academic excellence for United ISD.” When the work gets challenging, Gonzalez focuses on the district’s accomplishments and remembers that if things are stressful for administrators, they’re often even more challenging for others. “If you think our job is challenging, visit a special education classroom,” Gonzalez says. “Those teachers and students are consistently working, regardless of the situation, yet they always have a smile on their faces. We learn more from them and why our challenges are so insignificant when compared to theirs. They teach us that challenges are just opportunities to better ourselves.” Gonzalez is a strong proponent of mentorship and believes that working with others offers considerable learning opportunities for those on both sides of the partnership. “Learning never stops, and working as a mentor provides us with that platform,” he says. “Having mentorships and working with others allows us to develop new approaches and tackle challenges differently. After all, we are longtime-learners, and this endeavor is a means to practice what we teach as we model to our students.”



Lori Rapp Dr. Lori Rapp has spent her entire professional career in Lewisville ISD, beginning as a math teacher and moving through several administrative positions to her current role as deputy superintendent. In her work, Rapp leads 70 principals along with numerous program directors and support staff members to serve the district’s more than 50,000 students. She is proud of the way Lewisville ISD focuses on students and staff as individuals while seeking out innovative education methods to meet individual needs. “The collaboration within our district toward a shared mission and vision creates a culture where you know that everyone is working hard every day to meet the unique and diverse needs of our students,” Rapp says. “I am extremely proud of the values that our district holds, where we believe that students are more than a test score and that we serve as advocates for public education.” Robert Thornell, chief executive director of learning and teaching in the district, says Rapp is a calm and reflective leader, serving as a constant, stable influence in the district in times of challenge. “Dr. Rapp is truly a servant leader, and she works with others to make them better and does so in a humble, understated way, but delivers the most powerful message I have witnessed because of the respect everyone has for her work ethic, her heart and her commitment to both individual and district success,” Thornell says. “Every single person in LISD would run through a wall for her, and that is not an exaggeration.” The personal philosophy Rapp uses to keep focused on her goals in times of stress involves taking things one day at a time and remembering the bigger picture. “Choosing to work in education was a calling for me and that only continues to grow deeper the more you realize that every day you are doing work that helps prepare students for their future,” she says. “The future of our communities and our society will be in the hands of our students, and to know that what I do can help, in even a small way, impact someone’s life for the better inspires me to serve each day.” Mentorship and collaboration are crucial to Rapp, who says that working with and learning from others in her field has inspired her to tackle many of the difficulties that all educators face. “Education is one of the most rewarding industries to work in because of how people help one another, find creative ways to serve students, and lift up their communities. It’s these stories of service and heroic acts that are important to share with one another.”



HIGHER EDUCATION Stopping educator sexual misconduct before it starts by Catherine E. Robert and David P. Thompson


he identification and prevention of educator sexual misconduct (ESM) in Texas continues to be important work, even in the unprecedented circumstances introduced by the current pandemic. The Texas Education Agency (2020) in 2019-20 opened 402 investigations into alleged inappropriate educator relationships with students and/or minors (IRWSM). While this represents the first decrease in this number since the 2008-09 school year, closer examination of the data reveals that, were it not for the 2020 COVID-induced pivot to virtual learning in March and April 2020, TEA was arguably on pace to exceed the number of investigations opened in 2018-19 (442). At the same time, TEA reported that it also opened 216 investigations into the other major category of offenses that constitutes ESM in Texas, e.g., sexual misconduct, which generally constitutes criminal sexual misconduct, including indecent exposure; possession, sale or manufacture of child pornography, and indecency with a child. This number increased dramatically from 61 in 2018-19. To be sure, the increased reporting requirements for administrators to report ESM to the Texas Education Agency and the possible sanctions for failure to do so, continues to contribute to rising reports of ESM investigations opened. Paradoxically, the shift to online learning adds additional opportunity for ESM offenders to engage in grooming behaviors that target at-risk students (Black et al., 2015).

Our research to date In six years of ESM research, we have documented gaps in social media policies that enabled misconduct, analyzed ESM within the context of all disciplinary incidents of Texas teachers, and built a database of 20 years of sexual misconduct offenses by Texas certified educators. Each of these projects has provided policy guidance for identifying ESM offender patterns and preventing future ESM offenses. For example, in our 2015 analysis of employee conduct policies, we determined that 8% of school districts completely omitted the mention of electronic media in their policies (Robert & Thompson, 2015). Since that time, the state passed Senate Bill 7, requiring all districts to have an electronic communications policy. Our next work in 2016 surveyed Texas educator misconduct from 2008-14 and considered how offenses are reported and sanctioned (Robert & Thompson, 2019). We found inconsistencies between educator discipline documents and the public listing of offenses, and these errors have since been corrected. We also found wide variation in the length of investigations and variation in sanctioning practices for ESM. In 2017, the agency requested and received additional staffing to streamline investigative backlogs. By minimizing the time from an offense report to the time of sanction, ESM offenders were prevented from moving to other school districts while under investigation. In our most-recent grant-funded project1 that includes the ESM database, we analyzed offenders’ demographics, certification routes, turnover rates, and district types compared to the same for all Texas teachers. We then developed online professional learning modules targeted for early-career intervention and prevention.



Our findings from the research As the first known comprehensive longitudinal database of ESM in Texas, our work provides key characteristics of offenders and clarifies previous conflicting reports regarding the demographics of ESM offenders. Our analysis below includes 1,951 cases from the years 2008-18. TEA changed coding and classification methodology in the middle of 2008, rendering it impossible to combine cases from 1992-2008 with cases from 2008-18 without extensive review. The average age of offenders varies widely based on the type of certification. While teacher and para offenders have similar average ages at time of sanction (38 vs. 36), para offenders are more likely to be younger; 39% of para offenders are aged 20-29 and 39% of teacher offenders ages 30-39. Administrator offenders skew older in all offenses. Three in four ESM offenders are male and are more likely to commit sexual misconduct offenses (exemplified above). IRWSM is the most common form of ESM (75% of infractions). IRWSM offenders are younger (75% are under age 40) than sexual misconduct offenders, where only half are under age 40.

To compare teacher certification routes of offenders with certification routes of all teachers, we utilized TEA’s report showing certified, employed teachers by preparation route for 2017-18. The two most common certification routes for all teachers are Standard (56%) and Alternative (31%). A higher percentage of ESM offenders hold alternative certification compared to all teachers (38% vs. 31%). Comparatively, fewer ESM offenders hold standard certification compared to all teachers (34% vs. 56%). These differences show the need to emphasize training for candidates in alternative certification programs. In calculating ESM offender turnover and the district types of their employment (teachers only), we established a trend line to determine the cutoff year for analysis. The average turnover of all Texas teachers in the years 2008-09 through 2013-14 was 14% (using annual rates provided in the TAPR reports). ESM offender teachers in the same school years, however, turned over at a rate of 26%. This demonstrates that offenders move to different districts and/or leave teaching more frequently than the average teacher. In order to determine the district type of ESM offenders, we used the district they were employed in as of the investigation start date and TEA’s assigned district types for that school year. Next, we calculated the percentage of all teachers employed by





each district type within each school year in order to assign a percentage of overall teacher population to each district type. District types B (Major Suburban) and C (Other Central City) have significantly lower percentages of ESM offending teachers (26% and 13%) than their overall population (32% and 16%). Urban districts have an equal percentage of offenders and overall teachers (18%).

Professional learning for Texas teacher candidates Passed in 2017, SB 7 for the first time required Texas educator preparation programs to “provide information regarding... appropriate relationships, boundaries, and communications between educators and students” (Tex. Educ. Code. Sec. 21.044 [g][6]). Thus, the second objective of our grant-funded project was to develop high-quality, evidence-based instructional modules for use at no cost exclusively in approved Texas Teacher Certification Programs. According to the State Board of Educator Certification, an annual average of 25,000 individuals received initial Texas teacher certification from 13-2014 through 2018-19. Thus, we believe this part of our project will have a significant impact on pushing quality professional learning to Texas teacher preparation programs as part of our efforts to prevent ESM. Our developmental process was divided into four phases spaced over a period of roughly nine months. In phase 1, we (a) reviewed evidence-based materials on instructional material development, (b) reviewed and content-analyzed evidencebased materials focusing on ESM prevention, and (c) consulted with experts in this area. In phase 2, we drafted the instructional materials. Phase 3 involved the production of the online instructional materials, including web-based assessments; and the preparation for field-testing the materials. Finally, in phase 4, we field tested the materials with roughly 239 clinical teachers at two Texas public universities (efforts to involve alternative certification programs were unsuccessful); collected evaluative data from the field test; and began the revision of the instructional modules based on field test data. As a result of this process, we developed six 30-minute, interactive, online modules with in- and post-module assessments covering the following six topics of ESM: (1) an overview of ESM, (2) ESM in Texas, (3) maintaining appropriate educatorstudent boundaries, (4) recognizing signs of ESM/grooming, (5) reporting educator sexual misconduct, and (6) ESM and social media. In field testing across all six modules, the two highest rated items were “provided professionally relevant information” and “able to apply in a professional setting.” The feedback from clinical teachers points to the need to add additional interactivity to the modules to increase engagement. 20


Future directions for our work Our research continues in identifying and preventing ESM. As we revise the instructional modules, we will seek funding for managed hosting services to launch during 2021. We believe the focus on preservice teachers will help stop inappropriate behavior before it starts. It is critical for new teachers to recognize and understand appropriate educator/student boundaries in addition to knowing the reporting requirements if they witness inappropriate behavior in peer educators. n

Footnotes 1This research and subsequent discussion of the production of

online instructional modules was supported by a grant from the Texas Governor’s Office of Criminal Justice Division (Project No. 3606901). In addition to our gratitude for this support, we are grateful for the work of our then-graduate research assistants, Dr. Alejandra Gonzalez-Mejia, Dr. Brandon Tate, and Dr. Manisha Vaswani (listed alphabetically).

Catherine E. Robert is assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies and co-director of the Center for Research, Policy, and Practice in the College of Education at the University of Texas at Arlington. She is a longtime member of both TASA and the Texas Council of Professors of Educational Administration. David P. Thompson is professor of educational leadership and policy studies and assistant dean of school and community partnerships in the College of Education & Human Development at The University of Texas at San Antonio. He is a longtime member of TASA and has twice been president of the Texas Council of Professors of Educational Administration.

References Black, P. J., Wollis, M., Woodworth, M., & Hancock, J. T. (2015). A linguistic analysis of grooming strategies of online child sex offenders: Implications for our understanding of predatory sexual behavior in an increasingly computer mediated world. Child Abuse & Neglect, 44, 140-149.

Robert, C., & Thompson, D. P. (2015). Texas school district policy responses to educators’ use of electronic media. Insight: The Professional Journal of the Texas Association of School Administrators. 30(4), 24-27. Robert, C., & Thompson, D. P. (2019). Educator sexual misconduct and Texas educator discipline database construction, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 28(1), 7-25. https://doi-org. ezproxy.uta.edu/10.1080/10538712.2018.1476999

TSPRA VOICE Take the time to nominate a deserving educator, student, or volunteer By Veronica Castillon


hat an extraordinary year 2020 was. It’s just the kind of year after which Texas public schools could use a little more good news and reasons to celebrate.

Nothing makes a school district prouder than seeing one of its own win a prestigious honor. This is especially true if the award is given to an educator, student, alumni or parent volunteer for contributions and achievements in the school community. The accolade will boost the winner’s confidence and add professional credibility to their résumé. Submitting a winning entry takes some time, but it’s certainly worth the effort because award programs provide organizations with the opportunity to: •

sing about the unsung heroes whose work often goes overlooked,

motivate staff members to push themselves and try new ideas,

identify inspiring individuals to share their experiences and to acknowledge their dedication, and

let the nominees shine as examples of excellence in Texas public schools

What’s the secret to submitting a winning entry? It’s really no secret at all. It’s just a matter of complying with all the instructions and submitting the completed application on deadline. Those submitting the nomination should do the following: •

become acquainted with qualifications to make sure the nominee meets the requirements,

understand the guidelines and the application process, and

submit the completed application and supporting documents by the required date with accompanying signatures.

let the nominees shine as examples of excellence in Texas public schools

Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in extended deadlines for many award programs. It’s still best not to wait until the last minute to submit an application. While electronic submissions are convenient, unexpected glitches and overwhelmed networks could prevent an application from being received on time, causing it to be disqualified and not considered for the prize. Good writing skills also increase the chances of bringing home the gold. This includes fact-checking and using the spelling and grammar tools on your computer. A fresh set of eyes is a good idea for editing and catching mistakes.



How does Education Elements help Texas educators? Strategic planning • Blended learning Personalized learning • Data culture Teacher retention • Equity Leadership • Team culture Visit www.edelements.com to learn how we can help you

Responses for an award application must tug at the heartstrings and elicit an emotional response from the judges’ panel. Judges love nothing more than supporting a candidate they believe is passionate and committed to the sponsoring organization’s mission. For example, recent winners of the Texas Teacher of the Year program shared personal experiences and expressed their devotion to their career. Their honesty and stories won the admiration of the judges more than data on test scores, although that didn’t hurt their chances of winning. On the judgify.me website, Digital Marketer Anna Tomakh offers some good advice on deciding who deserves an honor or an award. “The first thing that is necessary before writing an award nomination letter or speech, is to understand who deserves the honor of being awarded,” Tomakh writes. “You may begin by referring to your nominee’s achievements that are related to the criteria of the award.That is, if an award is being given for community work, it would not be appropriate to highlight the educational achievements of your nominee. Therefore, the achievements must be relevant. 22


“Furthermore, you must clearly understand the meaning of the achievements in the context of the award. For instance, achievements that are associated with community work will mostly be in terms of the benefits that the community gained as a result of your nominee’s efforts,” Tomakh adds. “The benefits can be in the form of the number of people who completed a particular educational program that was designed to improve their literacy skills, or the number of streets cleaned, etc.” Award nomination text should include more than a list of achievements. Judges prefer to read how the achievements actually make a nominee deserving. “For example, you may write that your particular nominee volunteered in a community program and because of that he/ she deserves to get an award. This is quite vague and does not elaborate how the nominee contributed to the cause which the community program aimed to support,” Tomakh offers. “A more appropriate way to write would be to explain the activities that the nominee carried out and, if possible, how did they help achieve the overall goals of the program.”

Detailed measures of success and significance of action can help the nominee stand out from the rest of the candidates being considered. Take into account meaningful accomplishments such as celebrating big milestones, breaking records, completing or managing major projects that affect others in a school district, or implementing an initiative that benefits everyone in the community. Nominate employees or students who always go out of their way to help others. Awards programs exist for all categories of school district employees, parents, community members and students. The Texas Education Agency recommends schools to the U.S. Department of Education for the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award. The TEA webpage on awards and recognitions offers information on Employers for Education Excellence, the Heroes for Children Award, Milken National Educator Awards, Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, Board of Education Heroes for Children Awards, and Board of Education Student Heroes Awards. Log on to the TASA website to gather information on the following awards: the Texas Teacher of the Year program, School Board Awards, the Johnny L. Veselka Scholarship, the Golden Deed for Education Award and Superintendent of the Year, awarded by the Texas Association of School Boards. TASA’s website also includes archives of previous awards recipients. Check out the winners and research what makes them so worthy of recognition. H-E-B sponsors the Excellence in Education awards for Rising Stars, Leadership, Lifetime Achievement, School Principals, Early Childhood, School Board, Small School District and Large School District. An extensive list is also available on the AASA website, including a lengthy list of awards and scholarships. The most comprehensive list of recognition programs is available at awards-list.com. Their list “includes all the most credible educational awards open to global entry.” Their list can be pared down by industry and world regions. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Keep submitting applications and soon you’ll have a finalist and then a winner. At the very least, the nominee will feel good about their efforts on behalf of Texas public school students. n


Veronica Castillon, APR, serves as president of the Texas School Public Relations Association and has been a member of TSPRA for 25 years. Castillon is the executive director of communications for Laredo ISD. Laredo ISD is home to eight National Blue Ribbon Schools, a former Superintendent of the Year, a former Milken National Educator Award winner, several Board of Education Heroes for Education and Board of Education Student Heroes Award winners.



How is your district preparing teachers for distance learning? OnRamps and Crowley ISD are partnering to provide more than 1,100 teachers of grades five and up with curated, just-in-time professional development modules and coaching feedback through the OnRamps Distance Learning Catalog. This collaboration builds on OnRamps’ deep expertise in distance education to address critical classroom needs and ensure teachers are supported in cultivating positive student-centered practices for the distance and hybrid classroom. “Every teacher in our district will have the skills they need to foster meaningful experiences and a quality education in the virtual classroom,” —Dr. Michael McFarland, Superintendent of Schools, Crowley ISD See how OnRamps can serve your district. Explore the Catalog modules.

Contact us at DLC@austin.utexas.edu



The largest convening of Texas public education policymakers

September 24–26, 2021 • Dallas

Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center


TASA Corporate Partners TASA is grateful to our 2020–21 corporate partners for their support. Each level of the Corporate Partner Program is designed to offer our partners quality exposure to association members. Partners at the President’s Circle, Platinum, and Gold levels may customize special events and opportunities. PRESIDENT’S CIRCLE Apple, Inc. Edgenuity Forecast5 Analytics Google for Education Huckabee LPA, Inc. NWEA PBK Raise Your Hand Texas Scholastic Stantec Thoughtexchange VLK Architects PLATINUM ClassLink College Board DLR Group Dr. Ruby K. Payne dba aha! Process, Inc. Edmentum Education Advanced, Inc. Education Elements GermBlast Gravely Attorneys & Counselors K12 Insight Milliken Navigate360 QuaverEd.com Renaissance Savvas Learning Company TCG Advisors

GOLD Achieve3000 Amplify Discovery Education ETS engage2learn Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Houston ISD - MFCS N2 Learning Naturally Slim Schneider Electric SILVER Carnegie Learning Corgan EveryDay Labs Harris Co. Dept. of Education H-E-B Pearson Legal, P.C. Walsh Gallegos Trevino Russo & Kyle P.C. BRONZE BTC Caissa K-12 Curriculum Associates Hilltop Securities INDECO Sales, Inc. Istation iteachTEXAS Kognito Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, LLP MeTEOR Education MSB School Services Naviance by Hobsons Panorama Education R-Zero Vanir Construction Management WB Manufacturing LLC WRA Architects

Learn more about TASA’s Corporate Partner Program https://tasanet.org/partnerships/corporate-partners/

as of 02-08-21

Profile for Texas Association of School Administrators

INSIGHT—Winter 2020-21