August 2022

Page 1

Texas Lone Star


As students return, read about community outreach, health plan changes, and more

A Publication of the Texas Association of School Boards | Volume 40, Number 7 | August 2022

Featured Event

TASB Officers 2021-22

Ted Beard, Longview ISD, President

Debbie Gillespie, Frisco ISD, President-Elect

Armando Rodriguez, Canutillo ISD, Second Vice-President

Rolinda Schmidt, Kerrville ISD, Secretary-Treasurer

Jim Rice, Immediate Past President

TASB Board of Directors 2021-22

Moises Alfaro, Mathis ISD, Region 2

Jesus Amaya, Los Fresnos CISD, Region 1A

Rose Avalos, Aldine ISD, Region 4H

Carlos Bentancourt, Slaton ISD, Region 17

Kamlesh Bhikha, ESC 2, ESC Representative

Darlene Breaux, Alief ISD, Region 4B

Steve Brown, Ector County ISD, Region 18

Kevin A. Carbo, Mesquite ISD, Region 10D

Justin Chapa, Arlington ISD, Region 11C

Thomas Darden, Cooper ISD, Region 8

Karen Freeman, Northside ISD, Region 20B

Sylvia Sanchez Garza, South Texas ISD, Region 1B

Myrna Guidry, Houston ISD, Region 4D

Linda Gooch, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10B

Mary Jane Hetrick, Dripping Springs ISD, Region 13B

Julie Hinaman, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Region 4F

Tony Hopkins, Friendswood ISD, Region 4C

Tricia Ikard, Maypearl ISD, Region 10A

Tami Keeling, Victoria ISD, Region 3

Mark Lukert, Wichita Falls ISD, Region 9

Kathy Major, Liberty Hill ISD, Region 13C

Raymond P. Meza, San Felipe Del Rio CISD, Region 15

Dan Micciche, Dallas ISD, Region 10C

Scott Moore, Conroe ISD, Region 6B

Nicholas Phillips, Nederland ISD, Region 5

Tony Raymond, Sabine ISD, Region 7

Georgan Reitmeier, Klein ISD, Region 4A

Greg Schulte, Katy ISD, Region 4E

Cindy Spanel, Highland Park ISD, Region 16

Becky St. John, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, Region 11A

Yasmin Wagner, Austin ISD, Region 13A

Mildred Watkins, La Vega ISD, Region 12

Greg Welch, Clyde CISD, Region 14

Robert Westbrook, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, Region 20D

Terri Williams, North East ISD, Region 20E

Call for submissions to District Voices!

We want to hear more about what is going on in local school districts around Texas and invite you to send us submissions for our new, occasional feature, District Voices. Do you have an interesting program to discuss? Lessons learned as a school board member? For submissions or questions, contact managing editor Laura Tolley at

We look forward to hearing from you and your district!

For more information about these events or deadlines, visit the TASB website at or call TASB at 512.467.0222 or 800.580.8272 toll-free.

2 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 | Calendar
10 • Preparing to Serve: A Webinar for School Board Candidates — Virtual Event 30 • A Conversation about
Effective Advocate for Public Education — Virtual Event
23-25 • txEDCON22 TASA | TASB Convention — San Antonio OCTOBER 4-5 • TASB HR Services: HR for Campus Leaders — Virtual 6-8 • Mexican American School Boards Association Conference — San Antonio 12-13 • Navigating Educator Certification — Virtual Event 20-21 • TASB Conference for Administrative Professionals — Austin
7-8 • TASB HR Services: HR Academy — Georgetown 7-8 • TASB HR Services: Advanced HR Seminar — Georgetown 16-17 • TASB HR Services: Service Record Management — Virtual Event 30-1 • TASB HR Services: Spending Wisely: The Intersection of Staffing and Pay — Virtual Event
Being an

Texas Lone Star • Volume 40, Number 7 Texas Association of School Boards P.O. Box 400 • Austin, Texas • 78767-0400 512.467.0222 • 800.580.8272

Laura Tolley • Managing Editor Shu-in Powell • Graphic Designer Virginia Hernandez • Photographer 360 Press Solutions • Printer

Contributors: Sylvia Wood, Stephanie Butler, Leslie Trahan, Joan Randall, Melissa Locke Roberts, Jasmine Wightman, Dax González, Kay Douglas, and John Pyle

Texas Lone Star (ISSN 0749-9310) is published 10 times a year by the Texas Association of School Boards. Copyright© 2022 by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). All rights reserved. Reproduction, adaptation, distribution, and exhibition in whole or in part are prohibited under penalty of law without the written license or permission of TASB. Copies of Texas Lone Star are mailed to trustees of TASB member school boards and their superintendents as part of their membership. Subscriptions are available to nonmembers for $36 (1 year), $69 (2 years), and $99 (3 years). Single copies are $5.

Address changes should be sent to Michael Pennant, TASB, P.O. Box 400, Austin, Texas 78767-0400.

Articles in Texas Lone Star are expressions of the author or interviewee and do not represent the views or policies of TASB. Permission to reprint should be emailed to or addressed to the Managing Editor, P.O. Box 400, Austin, Texas 78767-0400.

Texas Lone Star does not guarantee publication of unsolicited manuscripts.

Postmaster: Send address changes to TASB, P.O. Box 400, Austin, Texas 78767-0400. | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 3 Follow us: Features
5 From the Top 7 Editor’s Note 38 A Final Note Columns 2 Calendar 20 Legal News 24 Capitol Watch 26 District Voices 28 News & Events Departments Contents | August 2022 8 Making Connections Hutto ISD finds new ways to engage students and families 12 Benefit Choices Districts can change health care coverage 14 Changing Times Some districts reduce instructional days to attract staff 18 Get to Know Your Lawmaker Lay the groundwork for the next legislative session by building relationships now

Ideas. Insights. Inspiration. Shaping Public Education Together

September 23 – 25

San Antonio


Fulfill required training at txEDCON22:

Preconference session

• Evaluating and Improving Student Outcomes: EISO/SB1566 (Fulfills 3-hour biennial requirement)

Thursday, September 22, 2 – 5 p.m.

Pre-registration and $50 fee required

• Field Trip to San Antonio area elementary and secondary school campuses

Friday, September 23, 7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Pre-registration required, $50 fee required (lunch included)

• Small School District Seminar designed for schools with 750 or fewer students

Friday, September 23, 8 – 11:30 a.m.

Pre-registration required, no additional fee

• New School Board Member Launc h (Registration for the session includes online access to bonus content including required trainings on the Texas Open Meetings Act and Sexual Abuse, Human Trafficking and Other Maltreatment of Children.)

Friday, September 23, 1 – 3:30 p.m.

• School Districts as Leaders in Child Sexual Abuse Prevention (Fulfills 1-hour biennial requirement)

Saturday, September 24, 7:30 – 8:30 a.m.

Don’t forget to attend TASB’s Delegate Assembly

Saturday, September 24, 2 – 4:30 p.m.

Vote on the Advocacy Agenda and elect TASB’s Leadership Team for 2022-2023. Select your board’s delegate at

Henry B. González Convention Center

Our Continuous Journey

We must never stop advocating for Texas public schools

Serving as a school board trustee for so many years hasn’t curbed my enthusiasm for the first day of school. Nothing is more exciting than welcoming students with the promise of growth and learning and the challenge of educating every child in our care. It is a good time to assess how effectively we are advocating for them.

The quest for adequate funding

Recently, I found online a transcript of my mother, Nathalie Beard, testifying before a House subcommittee in her role as the executive director of what was known as the Detroit American Indian Health Center.

As a registered nurse, my mother cared about ensuring access to health care among the underserved, including Native Americans. Her testimony was an impassioned plea for better funding, especially for providing preventative and prenatal services to mothers and their babies.

She spoke of visiting children so ill they required hospitalization and detailed federal efforts to cut funding for Native American health programs. She urged lawmakers to do better so that no mother or child would need to forgo basic health care. Quite simply, she noted that it costs more to hospitalize someone with an illness than to prevent that illness in the first place.

I tell this story about my mother and her quest for adequate funding because it resonates with our work as school trustees. We must continuously advocate to ensure our students have what they need to learn, grow, and aspire to a brighter future.

I was inspired at the recent Summer Leadership Institute when keynote speaker

Dr. Adolph Brown spoke of “seeing the trees within the seeds,” or how as a young boy living in poverty, he received vital support from educators who helped him overcome the challenges of his environment.

This year, as districts open the doors to millions of young Texans, let’s try to remember that the students in our care come to us with needs and circumstances that require us to see the “trees within the seeds” and look beyond the obvious to address social, emotional, and academic needs.

school finance system to make it more equitable, increase funding for education and teacher compensation, and ensure our taxpayers can get some relief. Let’s hope that 2023 is the session where real progress is made to see that every child in Texas has access to a well-funded public education.

In the meantime, I’m going to take inspiration from my mother’s relentless commitment to improving health outcomes for Native Americans so many

This work is never easy and promises to be even more challenging as we prepare for the next legislative session and all the threats to public education, including the perennial debate over what constitutes adequate funding.

A commitment to real progress

I was pleased to see that the TASB Legislative Advisory Council voted at its June 16 meeting in San Antonio to include school finance in its recommended slate of priorities to the TASB Board for eventual consideration by the TASB Delegate Assembly in September. We all know the Texas Legislature needs to update our

years ago. She wasn’t deterred by naysayers or those who argued that funding was better used elsewhere.

There will always be those who seek to divert public education dollars. We as trustees must advocate for our schools, our educators, and our students, whose needs are always our top priority. Let’s commit to serving all students, using data to make the best decisions, and using our strength as the largest group of elected officials in Texas to ensure that education comes first.H | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 5
From the Top
Ted Beard, a Longview ISD trustee, is 2021-22 president of TASB.
Let’s try to remember that the students in our care come to us with needs and circumstances that require us to see the “trees within the seeds” and look beyond the obvious to address social, emotional, and academic needs.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR! GALVESTON, TX MARCH 1–4, 2023 POWERED BY STUDENT VOICE OPENING ON NOVEMBER 1 • Session submissions for districts • Student demonstrations submissions • Scholarship applications

Back to Class!

The new school year is always an exciting time

Loaded with new school supplies and filled with excitement, millions of Texas children and teenagers are heading back to class this month. It promises to be as hot as you know what, but I doubt that the high temps will lower anyone’s enthusiasm for starting a new school year.

I’ve long considered fall a time of new beginnings, and I know it’s because that’s when the new school year begins. Fall meant moving up to the next grade, getting different teachers, seeing friends again, embarking on new adventures.

efforts to better connect with parents, families, and the rapidly growing community northeast of Austin.

Engaging the community

Like other districts across Texas, Hutto understands the growing importance of communicating beyond the classroom walls. Way back when I was in school, about the only time parents officially heard from the district was when their child was in trouble. (That happened one very memorable time for me in high school, and my mom/public school teacher was not pleased.)

A mix of local residents have attended the program; some have children in schools, some don’t. Hippo Nation graduates, after gaining a greater understanding of the district, often become advocates in the community. Some grads also are tapped for district committees or other efforts.

And at least one has returned to the district in an official role.

Shara Turner, who attended the first class of Hippo Nation University, is now a school board member.

“I just wanted to learn more about the school district,” Turner told me at the Summer Leadership Institute in San Antonio. But the course also “gave me the confidence to say I could run for the school board.”

Although Turner had been a PTA leader, she said she still learned so much about the district through the program.

To put a big exclamation point on the new school year, Hutto ISD is hosting a special “Back to School” rally the first Saturday of this month. Teachers, counselors, coaches, staff, school board members, PTA representatives, and others will be in attendance at the new high school stadium to welcome all Hippos to the 2022-23 school year.

I’m sure many other districts will be holding special events as well. I mention Hutto because Sylvia Wood and I wrote in this issue (page 8) about the district’s Parent and Family Engagement Department, which organizes numerous outreach

In addition to their community outreach efforts, Hutto also has a special program to draw residents back to class. Five years ago, it launched Hippo Nation University to give interested adults the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the school district and everything it does to provide the best education possible to its students.

One Saturday a month for seven months, participants spend half the day in class learning about a range of district issues, including overall goals, finances, construction projects, and other important matters.

Her experience reminds me — again — of how teachers, staff, school leaders, and board members are truly dedicated to the students and their success. As children head back to class for the 2022-23 school year, we honor the commitment and expertise of those involved in their education and wish them the very best.H | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 7
Editor’s Note
Laura Tolley is managing editor of Texas Lone Star
Five years ago, Hutto launched Hippo Nation University to give interested adults the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the school district and everything it does to provide the best education possible to its students.
Laura Tolley


Hutto ISD finds new ways to engage students and families

8 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |
Jennifer Dodd, a library digital media specialist at Hutto ISD, reads to children in the reading lounge section of a school bus

Hutto ISD staffer Joe DeLeon spent a lot of time this summer at the pool with some good books — 5,000 of them.

As a specialist with the district’s Parent and Family Engagement Department, DeLeon and other staff members visited neighborhood pools across Hutto in a school bus loaded with books and an air-conditioned reading lounge in the back for kids and parents to enjoy. They went to pools two or three days a week, setting up a canopy under the trees, putting out boxes of books and bowls of fruit.

“Every neighborhood has its own pool in Hutto,” DeLeon said on a hot June morning at one of the pools. “It gives us a great opportunity to meet families, let them know who we are, what we do. We tell them how we are here for them. It’s been very successful.”

The Reading Ready Bus Tour had 5,000 books to give away, and children could take home as many as they wanted to help them keep up with their reading skills over the summer.

Throughout the year, the department also is out in the community, setting up booths at local festivals, market days, and other events to distribute district information, answer questions, and conduct short surveys about the district.

In addition, the department’s Hutto Hippos Hospitality Herd organizes welcome-wagon style visits to the homes of new students and their families. The hospitality teams, which include board members, drop off welcome bags loaded with district information and a contact business card, local business coupons, a map of the city, and even a Hutto Hippo toy.

District officials, like those in other districts across Texas, understand the increasing need to engage students, their families, and the whole community outside of the classroom as part of their educational mission.

Emily Snow, who moved to Hutto recently with her husband and three young sons, said the reading tour gave her

children access to more books as well as a chance to get to know the area by visiting different neighborhood pools.

“We have absolutely loved the reading bus tour! All of those involved have been very kind and welcoming, which has been nice for us as we are new to this area,” said Snow, whose oldest son is attending Cottonwood Elementary School this year.

“I was extremely grateful that we were not only able to take some books for our own home library but our neighborhood’s little free library as well. My boys like to check our library every day for new books to read,” Snow said. “I think it is really wonderful that they have been able to reach out to so many people and offer free access to books, healthy snacks, and a safe space to be during the summer.”

Community support important to districts

Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield, TASB’s deputy executive director, said parent and community support is vital to Texas public schools. Establishing a parent engagement accountability lead is a good practical step that districts may want to consider. | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 9
A sister and brother pose with a Hutto Hippo toy in a school bus that visited neighborhood pools as part of a book giveaway project. A mother reads to her daughter in the Reading Ready Bus. Photos courtesy of Hutto ISD

“Trustees and district leaders smartly understand the need to improve the way their district communicates with parents and community members, including the incorporation of strong channels for two-way communication,” Dunne-Oldfield said.

She said trustees and superintendents need to have a long-game strategy for building and managing their district’s reputation and brand. And that plan must include processes, practices, and messaging that ensure a district is viewed as parent and community friendly.

The Hutto district established the Parent and Family Engagement Department a couple of years ago to help inform and engage students and families across this fast-growing district about 30 miles northeast of Austin. The welcome visits, which began in the 2021-22 school year, are an important part of outreach efforts.

“Our community is growing so quickly, and we want to catch those families when they move in,” DeLeon said, adding that many families tell them they have never had any other school district officials pay a personal visit. “At that point, they’re already falling in love with the district. We’re already building the relationship outside the walls. We want them to build that strong relationship with the school.”

DeLeon said the department staff is constantly looking for ways to reach out to Hutto families and other residents. “We’re that outside voice,” he said.

The Hutto Hippo Nation

Hutto Hippo pride has been strong across this once-small farming community, and school district officials want to keep that hometown connection with the increasing population.

The area is experiencing explosive growth, mostly because of the high-tech industry. City officials recently announced plans for a new high-tech industrial park, the giant Tesla factory is nearby, and Samsung Electronics will build a $17 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility a few miles down the road in Taylor.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hutto’s population grew from 14,698 to 27,577 from 2010 to 2020. The district has 9,204 students enrolled, and the population is expected to double in 10 years.

The engagement department uses the new student welcome visits to establish a personal, positive first impression with the families and help them feel immediately at home in their new school district.

District Board President Billie Logiudice often is part of the teams that visit new families, and she attends other community events where the Hippos host an information booth.

“Participating in home visits also allows us to see parts of our district and the needs students might have that we normally wouldn’t be aware of,” Logiudice said. “Another way our board connects with families and citizens in our district is by serving with our civic engagement groups. We are all active participants in our community and again, I think it allows people to see that we are committed to this work both on the dais and in our personal lives.”

Getting out in the community helps build trust and connections with residents. “It keeps us approachable to our community. Seeing us out, they can connect with us,” she said. “We realize we can’t just sit behind our desks [at board meetings] and expect people to come to us. We have to go out where they’re at and engage with them.”

Making contact early with students and their families also helps district officials identify problems down the road.

10 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |
Joe DeLeon (on left), a specialist with the district’s Parent and Family Engagement Department, poses with a family new to town at the district’s book giveaway project at a local pool. A student makes a selection at the book giveaway. Photos courtesy of Hutto ISD

“We’re here to help parents bridge the gap between home and schools,” DeLeon said. “Once we make that introduction, if we ever have to make a home visit, we already have that good relationship from the very beginning.”

“It’s been working out great. Let’s say a child hasn’t attended school for several days. The teacher lets us know, and we schedule a home visit,” he said, adding that staff has also helped families who are struggling with bills, food supplies, and even Wi-Fi access.

Building trust, visiting homes

But DeLeon emphasizes that building relationships and establishing trust with families takes time and may involve several visits if there is a problem.

For example, one student was struggling in school, and his teachers expressed concern to department staff that he wasn’t doing the work. DeLeon discovered, after a couple of visits, that the child had trouble reading.

“He just kind of broke down and said, ‘You know, Mr. DeLeon, I really don’t know how to read that well and I’m embarrassed. I’m worried I’ll sound stupid, and people will laugh,’” DeLeon said.

Turns out, the student, who was a new arrival from another school district, had never been tested for reading problems, so that was the first step to getting him back on track in class.

DeLeon has encountered other challenges, including high school students who arrived during the pandemic from other countries where all the schools had been shut down. They assumed that was also the case in the United States, so rather than enroll in school, they got jobs.

“I had to go to the HR department of a local employer around here and just let them know that they were hiring

students who should have been in school,” he said. “These students had said they had graduated because they wanted to help their parents.”

After talking with the HR department, he was able to get the students back in school during the day, with the employer offering work schedules that didn’t conflict with their classes. And then there were the bees. Two teens couldn’t log into their virtual classes during the day because a hive of bees had infested the room where the girls had their laptops. Their grandmother had closed off that area of the house to keep the bees away.

Bee removal would have normally cost about $800, but DeLeon was able to negotiate with a company to do it for $200 on behalf of the family. “We have relationships with different organizations, and this company came out and said there were probably 70,000 bees in the walls that had to come out,” he said.

Once the bees were gone, the two girls were able to access their laptops and log into their classes.

With classes back in person, DeLeon said he’s focused on creating a welcoming culture for students, so they feel connected to the adults in their buildings and know they are missed if they don’t come to class or show up late.

“It’s important to know every student’s name and encourage teachers to be at the door greeting them when they come in each day,” he said. “If they’re tardy, it’s not about why are you late, but I’m so glad you’re here, and try to make it here earlier tomorrow. It’s the same message but more positive.”H | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 11
Laura Tolley is managing editor of Texas Lone Star. Sylvia Wood is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star. Hutto ISD students and parents gather at the district’s book giveaway this summer at a neighborhood pool.


Districts can change health care coverage

As school districts prepare for the new school year this month, hundreds of thousands of Texas teachers and staff will be making their annual benefit elections during what is typically an open enrollment period.

This time, however, employees in 115 public school and charter districts will have choices that don’t include TRSActiveCare because of a change last year that allowed school districts across Texas to opt out of the state’s health care plan. The law also stipulates that districts that choose to remain within TRS-ActiveCare cannot offer any alternative group health coverage beginning Sept. 1, 2022.

“I believe a major goal of the law was to provide districts with some flexibility, while also trying to ensure the long-term stability of TRS-ActiveCare,” said Trent Toon, director of operations for First Public, which administers the TASB Benefits Cooperative that provides benefit services to participating Texas school districts. “So, districts must either be all-in with TRS-ActiveCare with no competing plans — or completely out. There’s no in between.”

Toon said the decision to stay or go is not always straightforward and is dependent on the unique circumstances of each district.

“What makes financial sense for one district may not make sense for another one,” he explained. “It’s important for districts to look at their claims and contribution data and do their homework.”

One district’s decision to change

After last year’s law change, Spring ISD in north Houston did just that, analyzing five years of claims data before bringing a recommendation to its board of trustees in December to leave TRS-ActiveCare in favor of a self-funded medical plan.

Spring ISD’s Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks said the decision wasn’t easy, especially since Senate Bill 1444 doesn’t allow districts that opt out of TRS-ActiveCare to rejoin


for a total of five plan years. Districts that do choose to leave must make the decision by Dec. 31 of the year “preceding the first day of the plan year in which the election will be effective.” For most school districts, that’s Sept. 1.

“When we compared our contributions to claims, what we saw was a surplus,” Westbrooks said. She said that information, combined with TRS moving to regional rates for its health care plans, helped inform the recommendation to leave. The Spring ISD Board of Trustees approved the change last December, as did dozens of other districts across the state.

This fall, more districts are expected to start analyzing their claims and contribution data to determine their future with TRS-ActiveCare.

In April, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the allocation of $435 million in CARES Act funding to help keep TRS-ActiveCare rates flat for the 2022-23 school year. That money was in addition to the $286 million in American Rescue Plan funds already committed by state lawmakers to TRS to help defray COVID-19-related health care costs.

12 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |

Future pricing uncertain

But what pricing for TRS-ActiveCare will look like in future years remains to be seen. The TRS Board votes each April to set the rates for the coming plan year — four months after the December deadline for districts to notify the state of their intent to leave.

“I still think it was the right decision to leave,” said Alison Sims, Abilene ISD’s associate superintendent for Human Resources. Sims noted that the district already had experience providing an alternative health care option and a three-year cap on premium increases with their newly selected plan. That added to their confidence when recommending the district leave TRS-ActiveCare — a decision unanimously supported by the board of trustees.

“We started by really looking at what our stakeholders want,” she said. “For everyone, it’s good coverage and low rates.”

As districts consider whether to leave TRS-ActiveCare, here are some best practices to consider in making that important decision:

• Do your homework.

TRS is required to provide districts with their contribution/claims information, so districts should take a deep dive into that data. If a district doesn’t have the expertise to do this analysis in-house, there are third-party vendors and consultants, including some available through the TASB Benefits Coop, that will provide that evaluation.

• Understand the risks of being self-funded. As Westbrooks notes, there are no guarantees that future years will provide savings, so be prepared to weather the possible consequences, including unbudgeted expenses. “Insurance is insurance,” Westbrooks said. “Every year something could come up that could make you go in the red.”

• Be careful about the administrative burden related to a self-funded medical plan. Expect additional work with regards to approving related expenses with claims, prescription drugs, and the cost of a clinic, if your district is running one. In Abilene ISD, the district has contracted with a company to help manage that work.

• Get employee feedback before making any decision. Survey employees about what they like or don’t like about the current health plans, including available prescription coverage. Some districts that had been providing alternate plans during the 2021-22 school year or earlier may find their employees are more receptive to possibly leaving TRS-ActiveCare. It’s essential, however, that employees are given an opportunity to provide authentic feedback as part of the decision-making process.

• Keep employees informed and engaged. Don’t wait for the traditional open enrollment period to start letting employees know about possible changes to benefits. It’s no secret that many employees simply let their benefit elections roll over each year without much thought. But if a district is moving out of TRSActiveCare, regular communication is essential to helping employees make informed choices. Some districts have been experimenting with a May open enrollment period before teachers go off contract to engage them before the summer break, when many don’t check emails.

• Be transparent about the costs of health insurance. Regardless of whether a district stays in TRS-ActiveCare or decides to leave, employees should be aware of the rising costs of health insurance and how those expenses are shared among the state, the district, and the employee. At a minimum, employers must contribute $225 per month per employee to premiums, which includes a $75 contribution from the state and $150 from the district. Some districts choose to go above and beyond that amount, including Abilene ISD, which contributes $410 monthly per employee. Regardless of the amount, it’s important to let employees know how districts are sharing the burden.

To find out more about medical options outside of TRS-ActiveCare, visit

Sylvia Wood is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star. | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 13


Changing Times

Some districts reduce instructional days to attract staff

After a wave of teacher resignations across Texas, a number of school districts are trying something new to attract staff this year — a four-day school week.

According to a recent report from Education Finance & Policy, more than 1,600 school districts across the country have adopted a four-day school week, though specifics of these new schedules vary by district. Some use the fifth day to provide teachers with time for professional development or collaboration with other teachers. Students get a three-day weekend in many districts, while others provide supplementary educational programming for children.

Hull-Daisetta ISD in Southeast Texas joined the growing national trend in March, though only a handful of rural districts in Texas have made the switch so far. Superintendent Tim Bartram said the decision to shift to a four-day schedule was largely driven by the need to address staff shortages, which escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Teacher recruitment and retention is the number one thing right now because of the lack of teachers in the state,” said Bartram. “This past year, I couldn’t fill all the positions, so we had to do an online class with [virtual learning company] Proximity for high school math and English.”

Incentives for staff

A recent report from the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers indicated that HDISD isn’t alone in this struggle. In a November 2021 poll of 3,800 Texas teachers, the organization found that 66% were considering leaving the profession. And on the national stage, the situation isn’t much better. The National Education Association’s February 2022 survey showed that 55% of the country’s teachers were preparing to leave the field.

DeKalb ISD in Northeast Texas made the decision to switch to a four-day school week in April, with the new schedule starting this fall. Superintendent Chris Galloway said the district was looking for incentives that would attract teachers to the area.

“We are always going to be competing,” said Galloway. In addition to the numbers of teachers who left the profession due to the pandemic, Galloway noted that recent legislation, including House Bill 4545, which calls for accelerated instruction for students who do not pass the STAAR test, has caused additional strain on educators.

“HB 4545, 30 hours of remediation, Reading Academies, all those things — teacher retention and recruitment is a huge concern for us in East Texas,” he said.

DISD’s new schedule provides teachers with a half-day of additional planning time every other Friday, with freedom to choose how they use the rest of their time. Galloway hopes this time will both improve teachers’ work-life balance and encourage collaboration with neighboring districts that have adopted the four-day schedule.

“Teachers spend three hours every day above the normal school time doing those types of activities, so we’re trying to reduce that for our teachers,” Galloway explained. | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 15
“Teacher recruitment and retention is the number one thing right now because of the lack of teachers in the state. This past year, I couldn’t fill all the positions, so we had to do an online class with Proximity for high school math and English.”

Holly Eaton, director of professional development and advocacy at the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, said providing teachers with more time during the workday to plan and collaborate could prove to be a great recruitment incentive for districts that can swing the four-day school week.

“Teachers are being asked to take on more and more and cover other teachers’ classes and take on additional duties,” said Eaton. “For teachers, this notion of protected time — to be able to do their work during the school day, not at home at night or on the weekend — is something that could go a long way to increasing their satisfaction with their jobs.”

Attendance and enrollment

Many districts hope that switching to a less traditional schedule will bolster enrollment and attendance rates. “We’d already lost some [students] from COVID, like a lot of districts have,” said Bartram. “That was a major factor for looking into the four days as well.”

Having Fridays off also gives parents built-in time for doctor and dentist appointments, said Galloway.

“We also looked at attendance trends at our own district on Fridays compared to the rest of the week and it’s about 1.5% lower on Fridays, so we do think we’ll see increases on that,” he explained.

Though childcare issues could impact attendance and enrollment rates in districts that switch to a four-day school week, Galloway said DISD surveys conducted before the new schedule was approved indicated that only 15% of the district’s

parents were concerned about childcare. The district plans to provide childcare options for those who need it.

“One of the churches was able to get a grant to do childcare in the mornings on Fridays, and our district offers ACE [an afterschool program] in the afternoon,” said Galloway. “We’re going to bus kids to the school from those childcare centers or from their homes to eat lunch on Fridays or to participate in ACE.”

HDISD surveys conducted before the new schedule was announced also showed high interest from parents, with almost 64% in favor of the four-day school week. With many

16 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |
“For teachers, this notion of protected time — to be able to do their work during the school day, not at home at night or on the weekend — is something that could go a long way to increasing their satisfaction with their jobs.”

neighboring districts, including Liberty, Hardin, and Devers, having already taken the four-day plunge, Bartram believes HDISD is in a good position to increase enrollment in the fall.

“Some of the parents we have talked to were going to bring their kids back because they were taking their kids to other schools who were on a four-day [schedule] and it gave them that three-day weekend,” said Bartram. “We expect to get a few kids back from that.”

Student achievement

Although the four-day schedule is still gaining in popularity, results are mixed when it comes to student achievement. According to a recent report from the RAND Corporation, adoption of a four-day schedule eventually leads to slower student progress.

Rebecca Kilburn, a professor in the School of Medicine at the University of New Mexico and former senior economist at RAND, was lead author of the RAND report. She says the study’s findings are subtle but important.

“It’s not that right away scores [of students on four-day schedules] tend to go down, but over time, you see a widening,” explained Kilburn. “Everyone’s scores went up in the last decade, so it’s not that the four-day school week achievement tests went down, but they didn’t grow as much as the other kids.”

Though it’s unclear what causes this achievement slide, Kilburn said one factor could be that families with a strong emphasis on student achievement select schools with fiveday school weeks. Andrea Phillips, co-author of the four-day school week report and a senior research analyst at RAND, noted that the effects of adding minutes to individual classes while reducing the overall number of days in the classroom is still unknown.

“If you distribute those minutes over the same number of instructional blocks in a day but keep it the same schedule, if it’s 30 minutes a day it might be four minutes per period that you’re getting,” explained Phillips. “One unanswered question that I had is, are those extra four minutes in a class period really adding that much instructional value?”

Bartram hopes to counteract any potential negative academic impact of the four-day schedule by adding enrichment days to HDISD’s calendar. Students will come in for half a day of school on one Friday per month.

“Research has shown that special ed students and economically disadvantaged students sometimes suffer in a fourday school calendar, so one thing I talked to the calendar committee about is trying to put something in place to counteract that,” he explained.

“We will do extracurricular field trips that have something to do with jobs and careers for high-school kids and take GT kids out for higher level enrichment. We will take the kids who are failing STAAR and do team teaching with hands-on enrichment activities that tie into regular classroom curriculum,” said Bartram. “We will do something totally different that gets kids engaged.”

The future of the four-day school week

Even though a relatively small number of Texas school districts have enacted a four-day schedule so far, Phillips notes that the trend is spreading rapidly across the country, particularly in rural areas, where districts may be competing for staff.

“If everyone else is moving to a four-day school week and it is attracting teachers — and if I can’t up salary or if the salary difference is not significant — to compete for the same teachers, I need to adjust to a four-day school week schedule,” she explained. “I might not want to do it, but I need to do it to feel like I have a competitive edge.”

But the decision to switch to a four-day schedule should not be taken lightly, even if superintendents feel external pressure. Phillips said it can be hard to reverse the changes.

“We heard reports from parents and students, superintendents, and principals alike that it would be anarchy if they even suggested the idea of going back,” she explained. “There would be a large pushback in the community if there was even discussion about reverting to five days after having the fourday school week and adjusting their lives to fit it really well.”

For his part, Bartram is determined to find the schedule that works best for the HDISD community, staff, and students — even if that means making changes to the calendar next year.

“It’s not a flash in the pan. It may be something here to stay — it may not be — but we’re going to try our best to continue to watch our student outcomes,” said Bartram. “That’s what we’ve been looking at from the beginning and what we’ll be looking at through the end.”H | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 17
Leslie Trahan is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star

Get to Know Your Lawmakers

Lay the groundwork for the next legislative session by building relationships now

The legislative process can be intimidating. But remember, lawmakers are elected by voters like you to represent your interests at the state level. And don’t forget that you’re an elected official yourself. School board members’ voices should be of even more interest to lawmakers, so don’t be shy.

Find out who represents you and reach out

The first step in establishing a relationship with legislators is reaching out by phone or email. It’s easy to look up and contact your state legislators online. Call or email their offices to make an initial contact and introduce yourself. Tell them you’re a school board member at a local district and would like to introduce yourself and discuss some of the challenges facing your schools. Whether you call or write, make sure you:

• Know your legislator

• Know the issues

• Stay focused

Get to know your legislators

Before you contact your state representative and senator, gather some basic information about them to help you plan your advocacy strategy:

• Personal information: Knowing some basic background information can help you establish ties to your legislators. Where did they go to school? What do they do for a living? What about their families?

• Committee assignments: Find out which committees your legislators serve on. This is especially important if they’re on a committee that regularly deals with education issues.

• Staff members: Get to know legislative staffers who deal with education issues, and make sure they get to know you by name. Staff members are paid to pass

along information to their boss, your lawmaker. Establishing a good relationship with them is your foot in the door.

• Voting history: Find out how your legislators voted on earlier education issues. This can help you anticipate where they are likely to stand on upcoming issues and will help you prepare for conversations.

Texas state Rep. Trent Ashby said the best way to develop a relationship with your lawmakers is to set up a meeting to introduce yourself and get the discussion started. “In doing so, you’ve put a face with a name and have the opportunity to follow up with the member again to remind or update them on the issue,” he said.

Timing is key. Between legislative sessions is the perfect time to meet with your elected officials — before they get too busy. “The interim is an excellent time to discuss unfinished business or lay the groundwork for the next session. It never hurts to get the conversation started early so that you have ample time to get your message across and work with lawmakers in a more relaxed setting outside of the Capitol,” Ashby said.

Get to know the issues

Effective advocates use the facts, their personal stories, and their networks to amplify their messages on issues that affect their local schools and children.

Make sure you’re an informed public education advocate:

• Keep up with the headlines from the Texas Legislature by following state and local news sources.

• Follow TASB and other education organizations on social media. Share good news related to

18 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |

education and advocacy messages on your own social media profiles.

• Listen to the TASB Talks podcast at Hear from experts in education, members of the Capitol crowd, TASB staff, and more on the big issues that impact public schools.

• Sign up to receive TASB Governmental Relations’ Legislative Report emails at These insider emails are sent regularly with need-to-know information.

• Become a Texan for Strong Public Schools. Go to to read about important issues and subscribe to receive action alerts. Help your family, friends, and colleagues stay informed and become advocates.

Stay focused on your message

You may want to set up an initial meeting with no agenda — simply introduce yourself and start to build a relationship. If you’re meeting on a specific issue, here are the most important things to remember:

• Identify yourself by name and let them know you’re a constituent.

• Identify your role (school board member, administrator, teacher, concerned citizen).

• Tell them which issue you are contacting them about.

• Explain the local impact.

• Keep your message focused.

• Be clear about how your legislator can help.

• Follow up with a short thank-you note.

After meeting with the legislator, encourage others to echo your message.

“It’s true that there is strength in numbers, and as your coalition grows, the louder your message becomes. The more times a member or an office hears about an issue, the more pressure there will be to respond,” Ashby said.

When communicating about a controversial issue, Ashby encourages folks to keep it civil. “As elected officials, each of you understand the importance of engaging in thoughtful, productive civil discourse. It’s always important to maintain a respectful and professional demeanor and remember to adhere to the Golden Rule.”H | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 19
Texas state Rep. Trent Ashby said the best way to develop a relationship with your lawmakers is to set up a meeting to introduce yourself and get the discussion started. “In doing so, you’ve put a face with a name and have the opportunity to follow up with the member again to remind or update them on the issue,” he said.

Speaking Freely

Student speech after Mahanoy

In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for the first time on student discipline for online, off-campus speech. Many people expected Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. to be the most important legal development in student free speech since the court’s 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent County School District.

In Tinker, students were suspended for wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. Not only did the court affirm that students have free speech rights at school, Tinker created a framework for analyzing when a district may take disciplinary action based on a student’s expression. Under Tinker, schools may regulate speech that is “materially and substantially disruptive” or “infringes on the rights of others.” Later cases would clarify that schools may restrict speech involving threats (Ponce, Bell); speech advocating drug use (Morse); lewd, offensive, or obscene speech (Bethel); or school-sponsored speech (Hazelwood).1

What happened in Mahanoy?

Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania junior varsity cheerleader, signed an extracurricular code of conduct in which she promised to refrain from vulgar expression and to be respectful of teammates and coaches. After she failed to make the varsity cheer team and a local softball

club, she took to Snapchat, off campus and after school, sending a message to her followers stating, “F* softball. F* cheer. F* everything” with an image of Levy raising her middle finger. As a result, she was suspended from the cheerleading team, and her parents sued the district.

Some observers were disappointed that the court in Mahanoy did not set out a general rule for analyzing off-campus student speech. Instead, the court analyzed Levy’s interest in free speech against the school district’s interests. The court acknowledged that school officials do have an interest in regulating off-campus student speech in certain instances, including bullying or harassment, threats aimed at teachers or other students, and breaches of school security devices. However, the court found that the district’s interest in regulating Levy’s Snapchat message was not sufficient to overcome her free speech rights.

Levy’s message did not include fighting words, nor was it obscene. She used her own device and aimed her speech only at her followers. Importantly, there was no evidence of a substantial disruption to school or classroom operations. At most, one class was diverted for a few minutes while students discussed the situation. This was not enough to meet the Tinker threshold of “material and substantial disruption.”2

Extracurricular activities

Courts have historically viewed participation in extracurricular activities as a privilege not a right, which can mean that districts have greater leeway in regulating student conduct. The court in Mahanoy did not distinguish Levy’s extracurricular suspension from regular suspension under the student code of conduct. However, Mahanoy suggests that the distinction between extracurricular discipline and regular school discipline may not be as meaningful when a student’s constitutional right is at issue.

Cases before and after Mahanoy

Prior to Mahanoy, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals applied Tinker to the case of a student in Mississippi who was suspended for creating and posting online a rap recording that threatened

20 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 | Legal News
Courts have historically viewed participation in extracurricular activities as a privilege not a right, which can mean that districts have greater leeway in regulating student conduct.

two teachers.3 In Bell v. Itawamba County School Board, the Fifth Circuit upheld the student’s discipline, holding that the rap recording threatened, harassed, and intimidated the targeted teachers and that school officials had reasonably forecast a substantial disruption.4 Mahanoy did not overturn Bell. In fact, the court in Mahanoy listed “threats aimed at teachers or other students” as an instance in which a district might have an interest in disciplining a student for off-campus expression.5

Courts around the country have looked at off-campus speech raising concerns about potential school violence. In 2007, the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of a district’s ability to discipline a student for his description of a hypothetical school shooting in a notebook.6 After Mahanoy, some federal courts have been hesitant to

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uphold student discipline for off-campus threats.7 However, districts should always consider the importance of student and staff safety and consult with an attorney when necessary.

Takeaways from the ruling:

• Set clear expectations. Unclear guidelines for student conduct may be unconstitutionally vague or overbroad.

• Review extracurricular codes of conduct. Extracurricular participation is a privilege, but this does not mean that students sign away their constitutional rights when they agree to an extracurricular code of conduct.

be a clear connection to school for the district to take disciplinary action.

• Document evidence of substantial disruption. If the district’s decision is challenged, documentation will be key.

• Consider alternative responses. Creative educators may find ways to address problematic student speech without involving school discipline.

Just as no two students are the same, every issue involving student expression is unique. TASB Legal Services recommends consulting an attorney when in doubt. School officials can contact the TASB

apply these legal principles to specific fact situations.

1Ponce v. Socorro, 508 F.3d 765 (5th Cir. 2007); Bell v. Itawamba Cnty. Sch. Bd., 799 F.3d 379 (5th Cir. 2015); Morse v. Frederick, 551 U.S. 393 (2007); Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986); Hazelwood Sch. Dist. v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

2Mahanoy Area Sch. Dist. B.L., 141 S. Ct. 2038 (2021).

3Bell v. Itawamba Cnty. Sch. Bd., 799 F.3d 379 (5th Cir. 2015).

4Bell v. Itawamba Cnty. Sch. Bd., 799 F.3d 378, 391 (5th Cir. 2015).

5Mahanoy Area Sch. Dist. v. B. L., 141 S. Ct. 2038, 2045 (2021).

6Ponce v. Socorro, 508 F.3d 765 (5th Cir. 2007).

7See Casler v. W. Irondequoit Sch. Dist., No. 6:20CV-07050 EAW, 2021 WL 4431649 (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 27, 2021) (holding a student’s violent but vague statements on Snapchat did not cause a reasonably foreseeable material and substantial disruption) and Debendetto v. Lacey Township Bd. of Educ., No. CV218050MASDEA, 2022 WL 939388 (D.N.J. Mar. 29, 2022) (holding that triable questions of fact existed as to whether a student’s discipline was constitutional after the student tweeted pictures of ammunition and reposted a school shooting found states “Round 2 of Florida Tomorrow.”)

Jasmine Wightman is a TASB Legal Services senior attorney. c

• Distinguish actions from expression. Not all student conduct constitutes expression, even when the conduct is shared via technology. The conduct must convey a message.

• Look for links to school. For speech that occurs off campus and not at a school activity or via district-owned technology, there must

Legal Line at 800.580.5345 or email

This article is provided for educational purposes only and contains information to facilitate a general understanding of the law. It is not an exhaustive treatment of the law on this subject nor is it intendent to substitute for the advice of an attorney. Consult with your own attorneys to

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of the article that was originally posted online on July 27, 2022. This updated version deletes an incorrect case citation.

22 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |
For speech that occurs off campus and not at a school activity or via district-owned technology, there must be a clear connection to school for the district to take disciplinary action.

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Strength in Sharing Risk

Tap into the power of pooling when your organization joins the TASB Risk Management Fund. More than 1,000 educational entities in Texas collaborate to share risk, protect resources, and succeed together. | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 23
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Advocacy Efforts

School trustees help craft TASB’s statewide priorities

About 75 school trustees who were elected to the TASB Legislative Advisory Council during their regional Grassroots Meetings joined TASB Governmental Relations staff on June 16 in San Antonio to continue developing TASB’s Advocacy Agenda Priorities.

LAC members spent two hours finalizing priority statements on issues facing Texas public schools, including student and staff mental health, teacher recruitment and retention, and school funding. They also included statements on charter school expansion/transparency, accountability, vouchers, school

facilities, ballot language for bonds and tax ratification elections, partnerships with parents, local control, and community censorship.

The LAC had previously met on April 9 to develop a draft list of priority statements, which was tweaked by TASB GR staff. LAC members in attendance on June 16 reviewed those draft statements and offered several suggestions to improve and clarify them. The draft statements now go to the TASB Board of Directors for review. After the priorities are reviewed and approved by the TASB Board during its August meeting, the TASB Delegate Assembly will have an

opportunity to review, amend, and adopt the statements that will become TASB’s priorities for the 2022-24 Advocacy Agenda.

Legislative Committee members

The LAC also elected four members who will sit on the Legislative Committee to ensure that the LAC’s voice is conveyed throughout the process. The four LAC representatives to the TASB Board are:

Trish Bode, Leander ISD

Tracy Fisher, Coppell ISD

Alex Kotara, Karnes City ISD

Heather Sheffield, Eanes ISD

The LAC consists of 110 trustees, with each region allotted a certain number of members based on student population. See the list of LAC representatives at Under TASB Advocacy Agenda, choose TASB Legislative Advisory Council.

TASB would like to thank these school trustees for volunteering their time to serve on the TASB LAC. Trustees already give so much of themselves — to their families, communities, schools, jobs, and other volunteer duties — and TASB recognizes the additional sacrifice these LAC members and alternates make to help improve public education for all students.

24 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 | Capitol Watch
TASB Board Secretary-Treasurer Rolinda Schmidt, Kerrville ISD board president, talks to LAC members in San Antonio. Photo by TASB Media Services

Sharing concerns, solutions

More than 30 school districts submitted 186 resolutions during TASB’s annual call for resolutions this year. The resolutions address issues ranging from specific needs like funding schools based on student enrollment instead of average daily attendance to issues surrounding school staff, such as certification and compensation. The resolutions will be presented to the TASB Board during its August meeting, and the Board will make recommendations to the TASB Delegate Assembly for consideration in October.

All resolutions will be presented in the TASB Delegate Assembly Handbook for review by delegates and alternates. Once adopted, the resolutions will form part of

the TASB Advocacy Agenda along with the Priorities and Cornerstone Principles.

TASB would like to thank the following districts for submitting proposed resolutions:

Allen ISD

Aransas Pass ISD

Austin ISD

Brazosport ISD

Coppell ISD

Cotulla ISD

Crowley ISD

Del Valle ISD

Denton ISD

Dripping Springs ISD

Fredericksburg ISD

Friendswood ISD

Grape Creek ISD

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Hemphill ISD

Highland Park ISD – Potter County

Katy ISD

Lewisville ISD

Lockhart ISD

Mansfield ISD

McAllen ISD

McKinney ISD

Mesquite ISD

Northside ISD

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD

Point Isabel ISD

Royal ISD

Saint Jo ISD

Socorro ISD

Splendora ISD

Sunnyvale ISD

Tornillo ISD

United ISD

For more information, visit or contact Dax González at 800.580.4885 or ★ | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 25
The resolutions address issues ranging from specific needs like funding schools based on student enrollment instead of average daily attendance to issues surrounding school staff, such as certification and compensation.
Dax González is division director of TASB Governmental Relations.

Next Steps

Working with unexpected agenda items

Editor’s note: The District Voices column features articles written by local school district board members from around Texas. We want to hear more about what is going on in local districts and invite you to send us submissions. For submissions or questions, contact managing editor Laura Tolley at

I’d like you to imagine the following scenario: It’s early in the morning, so you grab a cup of coffee and begin checking the local news on your phone. After a moment of scrolling, you see something shocking from a neighboring school district: “School Board to Consider Policy Requiring Green Hair for All Students.” After spitting out your coffee, you’d probably ask yourself, “Why in the world are they considering this policy?”

Now, I know you might think my scenario is ridiculous, and that no school board would ever consider such a policy. However, I would counter that the last few years have shown us that the once impossible can become a possibility right before our eyes. While a potential policy discussion in your district might not involve students’ hair color, it may be centered around a topic that could divide your community. As national- and state-level conversations filter down to local school districts, school boards across the state may find themselves discussing controversial topics.

So, what do you need to know to help prepare yourself for these potential discussions? First, superintendents and board members should become intimately aware of Board Policies BE(LEGAL and LOCAL). Your district’s Policy BE(LOCAL) provides direction on the prepa-

ration of the meeting agenda, including who can add items to the agenda. This process may seem simple enough, but some districts allow as few as one trustee to include new discussion items on the meeting agenda.

As the board president, what do you do now? It is the obligation of the board president to ensure topics brought forward in accordance with the policy are scheduled for deliberation at an appropriate time in the near future. In most local policies, the board president does not have the authority to remove agenda items without specific authorization from the requesting board member(s).

Deciding how to review topics

If the agenda topic does not qualify as an exception to the Texas Open Meetings Act, then the board must consider the item in open session at a board meeting.

In Allen ISD, we have two board meetings per month: regular meetings for discussion action and workshops for reviewing information. For the AISD Board, the workshop offers trustees the opportunity to engage in dialogue and ask in-depth questions on agenda topics in a less formal setting. This environment may provide a better setting to discuss some agenda topics because the trustee(s) who submitted the agenda item would be able to define and clarify why it was brought forward.

When it comes to being a school board trustee, it’s all about the details. Be sure to review your legal and local policies on a regular basis. Knowing the ins-andouts of your district’s policies will ensure your meetings run smoothly, and it might even allow you to enjoy your morning coffee in peace.H

26 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |
For the AISD Board, the workshop offers trustees the opportunity to engage in dialogue and ask in-depth questions for agenda topics in a less formal setting. This environment may provide a better setting to discuss some agenda topics because the trustee(s) who submitted the agenda item would be able to define and clarify why it was brought forward.
Amy Gnadt is board president of the Allen ISD Board of Trustees and a 2016 Leadership TASB graduate. AISD is located in Allen, north of Dallas, and serves more than 21,000 students. In May, the Allen ISD Board of Trustees was named School Board of the Year as part of the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards.


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New LTASB Class Is Born

Amid challenges, 2022 class thrives

Editor’s note: Leadership TASB is a unique board development program designed to take experienced board members to a new level of service and leadership by exposing them to a variety of issues, people, activities, and locations during a yearlong program. Leadership TASB columns track the progress and share the experience of each year’s class throughout the year.

It has been said that the moment a child is born, the mother is also born. Never was this truer than in the birthing of the newest class of Leadership TASB. The 2022 class completed the journey at their graduation ceremony in June at Summer Leadership Institute in Fort Worth. At the same time, I completed my journey as the new program manager.

I did not set out to be the program manager but was encouraged to do so when my colleague, Bill Rutherford, retired from that role after 16 years at TASB. I knew there was no way I could begin to fill his shoes, but with promises of assistance from him, Nicole Green, senior meeting planner, and Kathy Dundee, director of conferences and events, I reluctantly agreed. My last involvement with LTASB had been when I graduated in the class of 1998. I felt like Butterfly McQueen in Gone With the Wind.

The class of 2022 included 24 members of the class of 2021, whose journey was abruptly ended by COVID-19. As Aldine ISD Trustee Kimberley N. Booker described it, “Just as we started and began to get to know each other under the leadership and guidance of Dr. Bill Rutherford, the cohort was shut down.

Stopped. Cases of COVID-19 were running rampant. We even attempted to do the program virtually, but it wasn’t the same experience.

“Emotions immediately set in because the class had formed a bond, a friendship that we could feel would be long-lasting,” she said. “Although the class had been stopped, postponed until further notice, we kept in touch. We reached out to one another regarding issues and solutions to keep districts up and running during the pandemic. We shared ideas and problems that each district faced. Some members even volunteered to go and visit one another’s districts to offer support during this devastating time. We were determined to figure it out together. What a supportive class!”

Although I had given most, if not all, of the class of 2021 their first training as

baby board members, they did not know me as the LTASB program manager. I knew that the abrupt end to their LTASB year had been frustrating, and now they had to deal with their leader’s retirement. I met with them early in July 2021 to introduce myself and answer questions about how the year would progress.

Twelve new members were selected to round out the class of 2022, so my first task was to somehow get them integrated into the close-knit bond shared by the existing 24 members. I decided that none of the experiences from the previous year would be repeated so everyone would start fresh. Kathy, Nicole, and I carefully chose the speakers for the first session with those goals in mind.

Nicole devised a system for anonymous electronic evaluation of each experience, which would prove invaluable. We decided that adding Zoom meetings to in-person meetings would be helpful. It gave us the chance to keep up with and address what each class member was experiencing personally and in their district. One member suggested that we draw names out of a hat to constitute the project teams that would work together throughout the year and present at their final meeting in Fort Worth. We also encouraged them to sit with and get to know different people at each session.

By the third session, the two groups had bonded. They continued to be supportive through many trials that included illnesses and deaths. They celebrated

28 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 | News & Events
LTASB graduates received these diplomas at their graduation in Fort Worth. Photos by TASB Media Services

births and marriages and shared solutions for pressing public education issues in their final project presentations.

I think Booker summed up the entire experience perfectly: “Being a part of LTASB 2022 was huge for me. I always desired to be a school board member to be a part of the solution and not just sit back and watch issues grow larger and larger. Students are a priority and deserve to receive an exemplary public education that includes not only rigor and high expectations, but choice. Board members are the ones responsible for making this happen. They are the voice of the community and the ones that will stand up for all students and staff members. When the community speaks, we listen because we are on the same team. We are from the same community. The students and schools belong to all of us, and it’s our duty.

“That’s what the LTASB Class of 2022 stands for, public education,” she continued. “We understood the assignment and we know our charge. We all had a fire in us, and LTASB just made that fire a lot brighter and much hotter. Students in our district will receive what they deserve, and staff members will be heard and represented. Our work is not done. In fact, it just got started.”

I am sincerely grateful to this class along with Bill, Nicole, and Kathy for guiding me through this year. I could not be prouder of this baby we birthed.H

Kay Douglas is a TASB Board Development Services consultant and Leadership TASB program manager. | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 29
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Members of the LTASB Class of 2022 gather for their graduation celebration at The Ashton Depot in Fort Worth.

Thousands Gather at Summer Leadership Institute

With the Summer Leadership Institute back to in-person conferences, thousands of school board members and other district leaders gathered in San Antonio and Fort Worth to get informed and reconnect with fellow district leaders.

As TASB’s flagship training conference, SLI offered more than 100 breakout sessions at each location and covered six different learning tracks: student achievement, visionary team, district culture, engagement and advocacy, policy and legal, and fiscal responsibility. Sessions were designed for new school trustees as well as experienced ones.

The conference also provided attendees a unique opportunity to connect with other school district leaders and discuss their shared quest to improve Texas school districts and provide the best public education possible to students. More than 2,200 attended the San Antonio event, held June 15-18, and over 1,000 were at the Fort Worth conference, held June 29-July 2.

“The most important and effective thing board members can do is learn together,” said Orin Moore, board consultant for TASB Board Development Services. “Research suggests that boards perform better when they attend learning experiences as a team.”

Many attendees wore school district team jerseys at both conferences.

Among the attendees at SLI Fort Worth was Brittany Bennett of S&S Consolidated ISD, a school district in Sadler

30 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |
General Session speaker Adolph Brown connects with the audience in Fort Worth. Francisco Castillo, United ISD, and Eloy Vera, La Pryor ISD, participate in an activity during the San Antonio pre-conference session Reboot 2022: Working with the Whole Community to Redefine and Restore Our Schools. Photos by TASB Media Services

in North Texas. Currently the board’s vice president, Bennett said SLI is an opportunity to focus on continuous improvement for trustees, whether new or experienced.

“I just want to learn more and help improve student achievement in my district as well as benefit my community,” Bennett said. “I’ve been taking so many notes and thinking what I can tweak to fit my district.”

David Koempel, trustee engagement senior consultant for

TASB Board Development Services, urged board members to continue to seek training.

“SLI will ignite your passion and interest, but your learning shouldn’t end when you leave the event,” he said.

Find out about upcoming training opportunities by going to as well as the Online Learning Center (

The Fort Worth panel on Public Education Is NOT Supposed to Be Political included (from left) Marlene Bullard, Tornillo ISD, Fred Campos, Hurst-Euless- Bedford ISD, Mary Jane Hetrick, Dripping Springs ISD and TASB Director Region 13B, Rochelle Ross, Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD, and Robert Westbrook, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD and TASB Director Region 20D. | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 31
Two trustees interact during the Fort Worth session Optics Matter: Ensuring Your District’s Public Perception Is Reflective of Its Good Work. Carlos Espinosa, San Diego ISD, during General Session in San Antonio.

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The work-site posters offered by HR Services are designed to meet the needs of Texas public schools.

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TASB Leader Dubravka Romano Announces Retirement

After nearly 35 years of visionary leadership and commitment to public education, Dubravka Romano, associate executive director for Risk Management Services at the Texas Association of School Boards, has announced her retirement, effective Sept. 1.

Romano has served in her role with the TASB Risk Management Fund — one of the largest and oldest risk pools in the U.S. — since January 1988. Under her direction, the Fund has transformed into one of the most successful public entity risk pools in the nation.

“We are going to miss Dubravka and her relentless commitment to ensuring our Fund members receive the absolute best service and value across all coverage lines,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “Her leadership over the years has ensured Texas public school districts and other education entities have been able to prevent and manage risk to not only create safe learning and work environments for students and staff, but also to protect taxpayer resources. Dubravka is both a servant and a steward, and her contributions have created a remarkable culture of excellence and innovation.”

Under Romano’s leadership, the Fund has evolved to include more than 1,000 Texas educational organizations coming together to protect their resources and properties through seven coverage programs, including auto, liability, property, violent acts, privacy and information security, unemployment compensation, and workers’ compensation.

To ensure a smooth transition for staff and Fund members, TASB announced the promotion of Mary Barrett to succeed Romano as the new associate executive director for Risk Management Services.

Barrett joined TASB HR Services in 1998, working directly with school districts across the state. She began her work in Risk Management Services in

2012, serving in various key leadership roles, most recently as strategy and risk officer. She brings with her a strong background in data analytics, having received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a concentration in actuarial studies from The University of Texas in Austin. She earned her Master of Business Administration from St. Edward’s University.

“The decision to retire from TASB was extremely difficult,” Romano said. “There are simply no words that adequately describe my gratitude for the opportunity to have spent most of my career at this wonderful organization working with thousands of school board trustees and administrators who give so selflessly of their time and talent to improve public education. They have been inspirational.”

She added that she has full confidence in Barrett, who will assume her new role on Sept. 1.

“We will continue to build on the outstanding foundation created under Dubravka,” Barrett said. “She has always set the bar high with her commitment to our members, and we’re going to follow in that tradition as we make this transition.”H

32 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |
Dubravka Romano Photo by TASB Media Services

Important November Election Deadlines

School districts are gearing up for trustee elections in November with a close eye on deadlines. If you have questions from those who are planning to run for the school board, here are some important August dates to share. Please note that July 23 was the first day to file an application for a place on the general ballot or declaration of write-in candidacy for the general election.

• August 19: If a candidate dies on or before this date, the candidate’s name shall be omitted from the ballot.

• August 22: Deadline to file an application for a place on the general election ballot (by 5 p.m.).

• August 25: Deadline to file an application for a place on the ballot or a declaration of write-in candidacy in a special election to fill a vacancy (by 6 p.m.).

• August 26: Deadline to file declaration of write-in candidacy in the general election (by 5 p.m.).

• August 29: Last day a candidate may submit a Certificate of Withdrawal from the general election (by 5 p.m.). If a candidate withdraws or is declared ineligible by this date, the candidate’s name is omitted from the ballot. Texas Election Code section 145.098 allows withdrawal after the deadline under limited circumstances.

• August 29: Recommended deadline to hold drawing to determine order of candidates’ names on the ballot. A district must now provide notice of the drawing to each candidate by mail, phone, or email.

• August 30: Last day a candidate may submit a Certificate of With-

drawal from a special election. If a candidate withdraws or is declared ineligible by this date, the candidate’s name is omitted from the ballot.

TASB Legal Services has posted a document showing all deadlines for the November 8 school district elections, complete with handy links, at TASB School Law eSource (schoollawesource. Under Governance, choose Elections, then under Election Procedures find Deadlines for Nov. 8, 2022, School District Elections in TASB Resources. Additional election resources are available at and on the Secretary of State Elections Division website ( | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 33 Follow us on Instagram @tasbphotos Find us on Facebook Texas Association of School Boards TASB Risk Management Fund TASB HR Services Follow us on Twitter @tasbnews @tasbrmf TASB Risk Management Fund @tasbhrs TASB HR Services @tasblegal TASB Legal Services

Nominees Announced for 2022 Superintendent of the Year Award

TASB is honored to announce that 20 education leaders from across the state have been named regional superintendents of the year, advancing them in the prestigious annual Superintendent of the Year award competition.

Local school boards that are active members of TASB may nominate their superintendents, and nominees must be a current member of the Texas Association of School Administrators. Candidates are evaluated on their leadership skills, dedication to improving educational quality, ability to build effective employer relations, student performance, and commitment to public involvement in education.

School boards pass a resolution endorsing their superintendent for consideration and send an official application to the regional nominating committee. Each region across the state then selects one nominee to advance to the state


A TASB committee will interview regional winners on August 26-27 and select five finalists. The winner of the SOTY award will then be announced at the 2022 TASA | TASB Convention, scheduled for September 23-25 in San Antonio.

This year’s regional superintendents of the year are:

• Tony Lara, South Texas ISD, Region 1

• José Moreno, Robstown ISD, Region 2

• Micah Dyer, Cuero ISD, Region 3

• Jenny McGown, Klein ISD, Region 4

• Lisa Meysembourg, Woodville ISD, Region 5

• Jeff Burke, Splendora ISD, Region 6

• Thurston Lamb, Henderson ISD, Region 7

• Jason McCullough, Mount Vernon ISD, Region 8

• Tony Bushong, City View ISD,

Region 9

• Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10

• Taylor Williams, Slidell ISD, Region 11

• Bobby Ott, Temple ISD, Region 12

• Doug Killian, Pflugerville ISD, Region 13

• David Young, Abilene ISD, Region 14

• O.K. (Buddy) Wolfenbarger III, Comstock ISD, Region 15

• Darryl Flusche, Canyon ISD, Region 16

• Chris Smith, Brownfield ISD, Region 17

• Scott Muri, Ector County ISD, Region 18

• Jeannie Meza-Chavez, San Elizario ISD, Region 19

• Saul Hinojosa, Somerset ISD, Region 20H

34 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 | 888.247.4829 We have a summer special offer for you! Sign up for a new TASB Student Solutions membership this summer and wait to pay until this fall. • Customizable special education and Section 504 model operating procedures • Resources for program best practices • Access to live and recorded webinars • Updated content to reflect changes in laws and regulations • And more! Contact our team of experts today for this special offer.

TASB Names Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield as New Deputy Executive Director

TASB has announced the promotion of Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield to deputy executive director to help lead the organization in serving its members and supporting their work in promoting educational excellence for Texas public schoolchildren. She replaces Rodney E. Watson, who recently became executive director of the Region 4 Education Service Center.

Dunne-Oldfield has been with TASB since January 2021, when she joined the organization as its associate executive director for Communications, Marketing, and Events. She previously worked as the chief innovation and communications officer for Spring ISD, where she oversaw several key departments, including communications, family and community engagement, research and accountability, counseling, and school improvement. Prior to that, she was chief communications officer for Houston ISD and in the public sector served as executive vice president of Communications and Corporate Responsibility for BBVA Compass.

“Tiffany has demonstrated outstanding leadership in her time at TASB, and we’re thrilled she has accepted this promotion, which gives us the opportunity to leverage her talent and expertise across the organization,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “Tiffany has firsthand experience with the challenges facing school districts, as well as a proven track record of strategic communications and management. I’m confident Tiffany will help TASB continue to grow in its support of members and public education in Texas.”

Dunne-Oldfield will oversee several large departments and initiatives at TASB, including Communications, Marketing, and Events; Human Resources; Planning and Research; Business Intelligence; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

“Tiffany’s background in education and corporate communications is exactly the right fit for this key position in TASB,” said TASB President Ted Beard, a Longview ISD trustee. “Our member districts will benefit from Tiffany’s expertise in building stronger school communities that benefit all students. I’m looking forward to working with her in this new role.”

Dunne-Oldfield earned a bachelor’s degree in history from The University of Texas at San Antonio and her master’s in educational human resource development from Texas A&M University.H | August 2022 | Texas Lone Star 35 Call 888.587.2665 to join or upgrade. TEXAS TRUST BOARDBOOK 788 DISTRICTS Make your 2022-23 school board meetings easier. DON’T WAIT ALREADY USING BOARDBOOK? Upgrade to Tier 2 to unlock even more customizable features.
Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield Photo by TASB Media Services

Bulletin Board

Houston Drama Teacher Wins Tony Award

Editor’s: note: This news arrived just after we finalized our Good News July issue, which featured another Texas teacher who won a national award for arts education this year, Grammy winner Stephen Cox of Eastland ISD.

In June, the Tony Awards announced the winner of the 2022 Excellence in Theatre Education Award: Roshunda Jones-Koumba, theater director at G.W. Carver Magnet High School in Houston’s Aldine ISD. She received her award at the 75th Annual Tony Awards June 12 in New York City.

The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University cofounded the award in 2014 to recognize extraordinary K-12 arts and theater educators.

A Tony Awards release said that impassioned endorsements from students past and present, along with peers from the arts community in Houston — such as The C. Lee Turner Black Theatre Educators’ Caucus— helped make Jones-Koumba a standout. She also serves as a director at the G.W. Carver Theatre, where troupe members have earned multiple regional and national awards, and is a past recipient of the Stephen Schwartz Musical Theatre Teacher of the Year Award and the International Thespian Society Inspirational Theatre Educator Award. She was recently inducted into the Texas Thespians Hall of Fame.

In accepting the Tony honor, Jones-Koumba said, “Our students are doing amazing things. Many are working actors on stage and on television; some are continuing their education; some are pursuing careers outside of performing. In theater we accept all, so you’re not afraid to be yourself. And that gives you confidence to do anything you want, enables you to work with different people, and to be a better all-around person.”

The Tony winner received a cash grant for the school, a masterclass presentation from Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama (the oldest drama degree-granting program in the U.S.), as well as scholarships for two students to attend the School of Drama Summer Pre-College Program this year.

TEA Releases 2022 STAAR EndOf-Course Assessment Results

Students across Texas showed improvement over last year in three End-of-Course exams with the percentage of high school students meeting grade level moving closer to pre-pandemic levels.

“These results provide encouraging evidence that the academic recovery plans adopted by the Texas Legislature and implemented by our state’s 370,000 dedicated teachers are working for our students,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “We have made some progress to date, but there is still work to be done to fully recover from the academic effects of the COVID slide. We’re confident we’ll get there because Texas educators are all-in on helping their students to make the necessary academic gains.”

Specifically, students performed slightly better this year on the U.S. History, Biology, and Algebra I exams. Performance stayed largely consistent from last school year on the English I and English II exams.

For information about overall student assessment and specific program components, visit

We want to recognize school board members’ extraordinary work in TLS! If you have received any awards or honors, please send your news and photos to

36 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 |
Roshunda Jones-Koumba and her Excellence in Theatre Education Award. Photo courtesy of Roshunda Jones-Koumba

Five Reasons to Attend

October 20-21, 2022

February 2-3, 2023 TASB

Vote on the TASB Advocacy Agenda. Elect TASB’s leadership team for 2022-23.

Get a chance to win one of 10 student scholarships!

Network with fellow trustees from your region.

Earn continuing education credit.

TASB’s Delegate Assembly
2022 Delegate Assembly September 24 | San Antonio Student scholarships sponsored by Check in late August for program details and registration information. SAVE THE DATE
Headquarters Administrative TASB

Students Depend on Us

Air of expectancy prevails as we return to class

Anew school year has always meant new opportunities and new challenges. During my time working in two large urban school districts as a chief communications officer, summer was always a mad sprint to the first day of school with all the preparations to ensure a strong start for students and staff.

I know that’s what’s happening across the state right now, as district administrators and trustees work together to welcome the nearly 5.4 million Texas public schoolchildren who are returning or enrolling in our schools this month.

Many challenges ahead

It’s exciting and overwhelming and probably fueling first-day jitters as you think of your own district’s lengthy to-do list. I’m reminded of what one of my superintendents used to say when the work seemed impossible or at least not feasible in the amount of time available to accomplish it. He reminded us that our students don’t have the time to wait for us to get it done. Every day of every school year is a one-time opportunity in their educational journey — and we have to get it right. In short, there are no do-overs.

That sense of urgency is more im-

The details of this work are spelled out in the Framework for School Board Development, as adopted by the State Board of Education on Nov. 20, 2020. In fact, within this four-page document listing the job duties of school board trustees, it’s worth highlighting one key responsibility: The board advocates on behalf of Texas public schoolchildren.

As we head into the new school year, this advocacy work will be a key challenge and opportunity, and there will be many other priorities competing for attention. But as my former superintendent told us, there’s no time to waste because our students are counting on us today — not tomorrow or next week or next year.

I was encouraged to learn that school boards from across the state submitted a record-breaking nearly 200 advocacy resolutions for consideration as we prepare for the TASB Delegate Assembly, to be held Sept. 24 during the TASA | TASB Convention in San Antonio.

There’s a lot at stake this school year, whether it’s improving facility safety, dealing with staff recruitment and retention, mitigating pandemic learning losses and boosting student achievement, or finding new ways to address mental health challenges so our classrooms can provide the best environments for learning and teaching.

That’s already a full plate, and it doesn’t include the myriad new programs and initiatives that districts will be rolling out in August to address the specific needs of their students, including revised curriculum, CTE programming, enrichment, tutoring options and, in some cases, new facilities funded by bond dollars.

portant than ever, especially as we consider everything that’s happening in public education. There’s an increasingly vocal minority trying to tear down and discount the excellent work happening every day in our districts. As we look ahead to the next legislative session, we know this will translate into renewed battles over funding, vouchers, curriculum, safety, and so much more.

Amid those threats, let’s remember that school board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in Texas. There is no team better equipped to champion public school students and teachers across the state than the one that we already have — all trustees and their superintendents.

I hope every district has a representative and an alternate at Delegate Assembly so that we not only have a quorum to pass an advocacy agenda, but rather a full house of engaged and committed trustees ready to weigh in on matters important to their school districts, students, and staff.

I’m confident that in the 2022-23 school year, we’ll accomplish more than what we thought was possible for our students and educators. Remember, there are no do-overs in the lives of the public schoolchildren who are counting on us to get it done right — right now.H

38 Texas Lone Star | August 2022 | A Final Note
Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield
There is no team better equipped to champion public school students and teachers across the state than the one that we already have — all trustees and their superintendents.

Start with the NEW Texas School Board Self-Assessment

An excellent resource to use for your next team-building session:

• Take the free assessment and get a detailed results report.

• Use your results to design a team improvement plan. Contact a TASB board consultant to guide your team through a discussion about your Texas School Board Self-Assessment results.

Use this QR code to request the free Texas School Board Self-Assessment.

Join Us for A Conversation About Being an Effective Advocate for Public Education

Tuesday, August 30, noon-1 p.m. CDT

A LIVE online webinar covering:

• Effective preparation for the upcoming Texas Legislative Session

• Appropriate timing to contact state senators and representatives

• Successful ways for boards and superintendents to work together on advocacy efforts

• Important methods for ongoing local advocacy

Use this QR code to register and receive training credit for attending.

can your board
For information on any of these offerings: 800.580.8272, ext. 2453 •
• By being a cohesive team and making the right decisions for your schools
better advocate for public education?
NONPROFIT ORG US POSTAGE PAID AUSTIN TEXAS PERMIT NO 1422 Texas Association of School Boards P.O. Box 400 Austin, Texas 78767-0400 Get ready for a new experience that will include: l An updated look for your online board policy manual. l Tools to track policies pending board action. l Options to add links to district resources. l New features to submit and display adoption dates on local policies. Policy Service Have you heard the news from TASB Policy Service? Policy Online™ is getting an upgrade later this summer Visit for more details.
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