January/February 2022

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Texas Lone Star

Ballot Box Shifts

A Publication of the Texas Association of School Boards | Volume 40, Number 1 | January/February 2022
As school bond support wavers, districts must focus on how to win over voters


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, Fort Bend ISD, 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

Dawn Champagne, Katy ISD, Region 4E

Justin Chapa, Arlington ISD, Region 11C

Thomas Darden, Cooper ISD, Region 8

Jason Dohnalik, Cameron ISD, Region 6A

Karen Freeman, Northside ISD, Region 20B

Corinne French, Valley View ISD, Region 11D

Sylvia Sanchez Garza, South Texas ISD, Region 1B

Linda Gooch, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10B

Mary Jane Hetrick, Dripping Springs ISD, Region 13B

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

Jacinto Ramos Jr., Fort Worth ISD, Region 11B

Tony Raymond, Sabine ISD, Region 7

Georgan Reitmeier, Klein ISD, Region 4A

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

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

2 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org Calendar
10-11, AUSTIN FEBRUARY 1 • Asbestos Designated Person Training, Victoria 2 • Integrated Pest Management, Victoria 2 • What do I do when…? A Special Education Legal Update, Part 2, Virtual Event 3 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 4, Houston 8 • Preparing to Serve: A Webinar for School Board Candidates, Virtual Event 8 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 9, Wichita Falls 8 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 6, Huntsville 10 • Discipline of Students Disabilities, Part II, Virtual Event 15 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 8, Pittsburg 16 • SHARS Meeting: SHARS Updates (TEA-led Session), Virtual Event 16 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 20, San Antonio 16 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 7, Kilgore 16 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 10, Richardson 17 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 11, Fort Worth 17 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 15, San Angelo 17 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 17, Lubbock 22 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 3, Victoria 22 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 5, Beaumont 23 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 2, Corpus Christi 24 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 12, Waco 24 • Grassroots Meeting — ESC Region 19, El Paso MARCH
• What do I do when…? A Special Education Legal Update, Part 3, Virtual Event 2-5 • Governance Camp, Powered by Student Voice, Galveston

8 Ballot Box Shifts

Texas voters rejected more school bond proposals than they passed last November. What can local districts do to reverse the tide?

14 Five Ways Your School Facilities Impact Student Achievement

Investments can help improve student health, attendance, behavior, and learning.

18 The Servant Leadership of Phil Bancale

He helped students at La Vega ISD for 43 years and became the namesake of the district's primary school campus.

20 How XG Board Development Helped Aledo ISD

The fast-growth district's latest triumphs include winning a number of Texas public education awards in 2021.


2 Calendar

24 Legal News

26 Capitol Watch

28 HR Files

32 News & Events


5 From the


7 Editor's Note

41 District Voices

42 A Final Note

Texas Lone Star • Volume 40, Number 1

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, Dax Gonzalez, Stephanie Butler, Sarah Orman, Leslie Trahan, Theresa Gage-Dieringer, April Mabry, Joan Randall, Melissa Locke Roberts

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 communications@tasb.org 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.

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Contents | January/February 2022


Discuss ideas, hear keynote speakers, and network with your peers in Galveston.


• Deep-dive sessions on governance best practices

• Lively and enlightening Student Voice sessions and panels

• Engaging general session speakers with inspiring messages

• And so much more!

REGISTRATION OPENS JANUARY 24 Visit tasb.org/gov-camp for the most up-to-date information.

Standing Up Together for Public Education

Public education is under attack. This isn’t news for anyone working to serve students, whether as a bus driver, teacher, or school board trustee.

Much needs to be done. That’s obvious. And from my perspective, this work needs to start at the source of the problem. My maternal grandmother taught me this important life lesson years ago on an elementary playground in a Detroit neighborhood not too far from Motown Records.

Here is what I learned and how it applies to the attacks we are seeing on public education today:

The life lesson started with a bully at my school who took every opportunity to tease and provoke me when the teacher wasn’t looking. Each day, relief only came in the afternoon when my grandmother picked me up from school.

Then one day, I had enough and told the bully that if he didn’t stop bothering me, he was going to be sorry after school. That pushback only escalated the teasing, and there was talk among my classmates of an after-school fight.

‘Help me, Grandma’

Of course, I was nervous. So, when the school day ended, I ran to my grandmother to avoid a confrontation. Unfortunately, several kids with the bully in front ran up to us. It didn’t matter that my grandmother was there. The bully pushed me, hoping to start a fight.

As I struggled to keep my balance, I kept thinking, “Help me, Grandma.” Instead of intervening, though, she said three words that changed the course of the encounter and are the basis of this

life lesson. She simply said: “Get him, Theodore.”

What followed next was more defense than offense. I started swinging my bookbag, which was like a small briefcase, to protect myself, connecting multiple times with the bully, who eventually backed off — both that afternoon and for the rest of my time in grade school.

That’s precisely how this story connects to challenges we are seeing today.

Transformational work

As we work to defend public education, sometimes we need to stand up for ourselves and push back — not physically, of course, but with facts and real-time stories about the transformational work being done in our schools. Those efforts are nothing short of heroic right now as teachers and students show flexibility, resilience, and optimism. Those seeking to discredit and tear down public schools are loud but don’t reflect the majority, who support an education system that builds stronger communities.

I was encouraged recently when I saw the results of the Learning Heroes sixth-annual nationwide survey, conducted by Edge Research. That survey points to a lot of agreement among parents and educators on some key priorities, including safety and security, academic progress, mental health, and emotional well-being.

“With parents and educators reporting deeper involvement with one another, shared priorities, and common goals, the time is now to break down barriers that lead to inequities and support districts as they ground their family engagement strategies in what parents, teachers, and principals prioritize — trust and mean-

ingful two-way communication between schools and families,” said Bibb Hubbard, founder and president of Learning Heroes.

Prioritize parents and educators

To all school board members, I say let’s prioritize our parents and educators as we work together to solve the challenges facing public education in the Lone Star State. Let’s defend against those who may try to provoke and divide us. Working together for the sake of our kids in our schools is why we’re here.

As Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. was fond of saying, “The truth is always a hit.” And the truth is that we’re always stronger together, and that’s essentially why TASB exists, with its mission to promote “educational excellence for Texas schoolchildren through advocacy, visionary leadership, and high-quality services to school districts.”

Through my work with TASB, I’ve had the incredible privilege to get to know trustees from every corner of Texas. We have brought forward the unique challenges facing our different districts and collaborated to find common ground on key priorities to support our students and educators.

Growing up, not only did I have my parents in my corner, I had my grandmother in my corner as well. Here at TASB, I’m grateful we have a network of school board trustees in each other’s corner. Together, we have so many opportunities to learn, connect and stay focused on student achievement and outcomes. That unity is our best defense.H

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From the Top
Ted Beard, a Longview ISD trustee, is 2021-22 president of TASB.


Through specialized schools; Head Start early childhood education; afterschool programs; school-based therapy services; and a scholastic art and writing awards program, HCDE makes a BIG impact on Harris County communities.


New Year Brings Changes at Texas Lone Star

Former Texas Journalist Takes Helm of Magazine

Iate black-eyed peas, watched some college football, and took a very quick plunge into the icy waters of Barton Springs pool to start 2022 off right. I also started an exciting new job as managing editor of Texas Lone Star magazine.

I’m just days into the new gig, but I’m already inspired by the people at the Texas Association of School Boards and their dedication to helping school board members across the Lone Star State provide the best education possible for Texas schoolchildren.

school stories remind me of my childhood; I’m the daughter of an Albuquerque, N.M., public schoolteacher. Their stories also remind me that if Marathon lost its school (K-12 enrollment, 72), we would be losing the heart of our community.

In Austin as in Marathon, education is top of mind with parents, teachers, and the community at large as we work our way out of this pandemic. I’ve watched our next-door neighbors grapple with pandemic challenges as they have worked for

and I became very familiar with public school funding issues, curriculum concerns, state mandates, and more.

I spent many years covering the Texas Legislature, the governor’s office, and state politics. At the Houston Chronicle, I supervised a team of reporters that included the six-person Austin bureau, which focused on state government and politics. After my journalism career, I continued to seek work in the government and education worlds, including jobs at the University of Houston and Harris County.

I am passionate about storytelling, community, Texas. I also believe in public service and admire the commitment and dedication of those who choose to serve their communities. I also have great respect for TASB and its many efforts to promote educational excellence for Texas schoolchildren through advocacy, visionary leadership, and high-quality services to school districts. It is an honor to be a newly minted TASBean.

I live in Austin, a city growing so fast and changing so rapidly it takes your breath away. But my husband and I retreat every few weeks to a humble casita we own in far West Texas, where wide open spaces reign. Despite the huge differences between these two places, the residents of both communities place an immense importance on education and their local school districts. They believe, as I do, that no other public endeavor is more important.

In tiny Marathon, Texas, population 400 or so, one neighbor across the street is a retired schoolteacher; her son served on the school board. The school superintendent lives down the street, and children walk past our house on the way to class. Their

more than a year to keep Josephine, their very bright and inquisitive seventh-grader, engaged with learning. My sister-in-law in nearby Georgetown is a retired public school superintendent who now teaches in the School of Education at Texas A&M University; my brother-in-law is a retired coach and principal now teaching wellness classes at Concordia University. Their son is a high school principal. When we all get together, we talk education.

Longtime Texas journalist

During my journalism career, I was an Associated Press reporter, a Capitol bureau chief for the San Antonio Express-News, and state editor of the Houston Chronicle. Public education was a core coverage area,

My goal is to share interesting, informative stories about school boards and their districts, legislative actions, and educational efforts from around Texas. I also hope to meet many of you in the coming year and hear about your district’s triumphs as well as your challenges.

I’m looking forward to the new year and spending some time with you on the pages of Texas Lone Star.H

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Editor’s Note
Laura Tolley is managing editor of Texas Lone Star
I am passionate about storytelling, community, Texas. I also believe in public service and admire the commitment and dedication of those who choose to serve their communities.
Laura Tolley

Ballot Box Shifts

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As school bond support wavers, districts must focus on how to win over voters
by Melissa Locke Roberts

When election time rolls around in Texas, voters have historically given a thumbs-up to bonds requested by their local school districts — usually more than half the time. But November 2021 was different.

Of the 110 school bond proposals presented, only 51 passed, or 46%. It was the first time in more than 10 years that more school bonds failed than passed.

Was this just an anomaly? Or an indicator of a trend? School districts should be asking those questions now and finding ways to make sure voters have the details they need about bond proposals long before they step into the booth.

When reviewing the November results, it’s interesting to note that most bonds for other local governments (cities, counties, utility districts) did pass, leaving a question mark about why the outcome for schools was different. After all, in last May’s election, 93 of 113 school bonds passed. And even more perplexing: a good number of the November proposals that failed would not have increased taxes.

Why was November different?

It’s no news that the past couple of years have been tense and unpredictable, not only for Texans but for people across the United States. Challenges have included:

• A powerful pandemic that has held its grip for almost two years

• Inflation caused by supply and labor shortages and increasing demand

• Political polarization and ideological divisiveness

All these factors, plus recent changes enacted by the Texas Legislature, have likely caused a buildup of hesitancy and confusion on the part of voters when asked to support school bond proposals.

A lingering pandemic

When COVID-19 forced the closure of businesses and schools in March 2020, many parents were suddenly working from home and had the added task of helping their children adapt to virtual learning. This severe disruption to their daily lives caused extreme frustration.

A report by the U.S. Department of Education (Education in a Pandemic) in June 2021 summarized the turmoil: “For the past year many students have had to learn in front of screens at home and in other settings, affected by illness, loss, and economic hardship stemming from the pandemic. Even with heroic efforts by teachers, staff, and school leaders... challenges were profound.”

Concerned about their children’s learning losses, some parents felt the school system let them down. And as

students slowly returned to the classroom, some parents disagreed with school leaders about back-to-school decisions. As a result, enrollment in Texas public schools has declined. A Texas Education Agency (TEA) report in June 2021 (Enrollment in Texas Public Schools 2020-21) revealed that during the COVID-19 pandemic, statewide enrollment decreased from the previous year for the first time since TEA began collecting enrollment data in the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS). Between 2019-20 and 2020-21, student enrollment decreased by 122,354 students (2.2%). These numbers may indicate that criticism has lingered and may have shown up at the polls in November.

Spiraling inflation

Perhaps an even greater reason for the recent dip in support of school bonds is the inflated economy. The Pew Research Center reported that the annual rate of inflation in the U.S. was 6.2% in October 2021, the highest in more than 30 years.

“It’s really a time where a lot of people’s economic futures are uncertain. Any thought of increasing your tax burden is unappealing right now,” said Dax Gonzalez, TASB Governmental Relations division director.

Jeff Clemmons, TASB Facility Services division director, believes the high cost of living could be the prime reason voters will hold back on bond support. “We’re seeing today the cost to build schools is $300-400 per square foot. And people know they can build a home for about $150 a square foot. They think asking for twice that is a waste. They don’t understand that things like sprinkler systems, ADA compliance, alarm systems, and HVAC equipment must be factored in.

“Schools focus on projects the community will support, but they don’t explain why the cost is so high. That is a huge driver. In the past five years, we’ve seen the cost of school construction go up 50%,” he explained. “It’s difficult to present those numbers to voters when they’re having to hold on to their wallets more tightly.”

Political polarization

Unfortunately, the political divisiveness that has developed across the country cannot be ignored as a major hurdle.

According to a recent Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) Battleground Poll, a significant number of voters consider “division in the country” as the most important issue facing them personally. The poll revealed that “32% of voters rank political polarization as one of their top two issues, seven points higher

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than their next most important issue. The issue of division ranked high across partisan, ideological, gender, racial, and generational lines, even as voters remained polarized over some of the greatest challenges caused by the division.”

In Texas, voters have always tended to be supportive of building their communities and passing school bonds.

“We have seen in a lot of polls that people generally like their neighborhood schools but may not have as favorable an opinion of all public education,” Gonzalez said. Recently, however, some local elections are seeing more influence by political groups that aren’t locally based. “There’s a lot of movement right now with involvement of outside groups in local public school races and issues,” he explained, “and a lot of money being put into the vote-no campaign.” The power

of social media has also made it easier for opposing groups to increase their coverage.

Legislative changes

In the past couple of years, the Texas Legislature has passed requirements for bond elections that have changed the process and caused confusion.

One new requirement is that requests for funds to construct or improve large stadiums, performing arts and recreation facilities, natatoriums, and technology updates must be in a separate ballot proposition and not included as part of a larger bond package for school improvements. Recent elections have shown less support for bonds to build facilities not directly tied to academic institutions.

% School Bonds Passed

% School Bond Dollars Passed

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2021 46% 2020 58% 2019 74% 2018 68% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 41/60 45/61 40/69 51/110
2021 60% 2020 84% 2019 79% 2018 86% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% $5 Billion $7 Billion $8.2 Billion $5 Billion
Source: TASB Governmental Relations

Another recent legislative change is the requirement that all school bond requests include the statement “THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE” in all caps. “Even if it’s not a tax increase, even if it lowers the tax rate, it has to say that,” Gonzalez explained. “There’s a lot of anxiety about a lot of things right now, and I think that anxiety transfers over to something like a bond election where voters see the statement THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE. That’s very scary for some people and may cause them to vote no.”

Case in point: Fort Worth ISD

All of the challenges cited above were felt by districts large and small throughout the state in November — even Fort Worth ISD as it tried to pass what Bloomberg news service reported as the largest issue on the ballot anywhere in the country. The district’s package of bond proposals, totaling $1.49 billion, included a request (Proposition A) for $1.2 billion to remodel/update all middle schools. The balance of the bond package was split into three other propositions (B, C, and D) for construction and upgrades on stadium, fine arts, and athletic facilities. Although the latter three propositions were not approved, Proposition A passed — but by fewer than 100 votes.

Tobi Jackson, president of the Fort Worth ISD Board of Education, credits voters for knowing what the issues were and focusing support on Prop A. “In 2017, we passed a $750 million bond to reconstruct high schools in the district. When the community saw the changes in those schools, which included many new safety features, they

said we need to do this for our middle schools, too,” she said. “I think the voters realized this infrastructure is expensive to maintain and these crumbling buildings (most built in the 1950s) are especially tough for us to maintain. Even though we passed by a small margin, we got 80% of the money we asked for.”

But what was the reason for the small margin? “The obstacles that we faced were political headwinds, at the national and state level, and trust due to some confusion,” said Jackson. “The new ballot language was required for the first time, stating that this was a tax increase. And that was only forced upon ISDs.”

Another hurdle was the fact that construction costs and interest rates are going up and the supply chain is disrupted. “The sooner we could get those shovels in the ground, the better off we would be,” she explained. “That was one thing we pointed out to voters: it’s a better value now than it will be a year or two from now.”

As for opposition, Jackson said there will inevitably be a segment of voters who don’t want to support the bonds. “But it’s my belief that the greater good overcomes opposition. In this case, we had so many people who cared and asked others to go out and vote.”

How can schools win support?

Knowing the challenges, how do school districts prepare for their next bond requests?

“I think they really need to be reaching out to their communities more than they ever have,” said Gonzalez. “Not just parents but also taxpayers with no kids in school

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“There’s a lot of anxiety about a lot of things right now, and I think that anxiety transfers over to something like a bond election where voters see the statement THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE. That’s very scary for some people and may cause them to vote no.”

— and business owners. They need to find champions within the community who aren’t school district leaders to come out and say this is a good idea for our community because it would lead to a lot of growth and a lot of improvement for our kids.

“By law, districts cannot advocate one way or the other on a bond,” he continued, “but they can give as much information as possible to their community about the value of improvements and show how sometimes building a new campus is better than fixing an old one over and over again.”

Clemmons agrees that community engagement is critical.

“Community meetings typically won’t draw a large number of people because people just don’t have time to attend. What works is a very active non-school-district support group,” he said. “You need people in the community actively explaining the bond in layman’s terms.”

It’s important when engaging with the community to clear up any misunderstandings. One thing voters may not realize is that schools do not receive state or federal funding for facilities construction or improvement. Bond requests are the only means of support for those projects.

There is also some confusion about the rules that schools have to follow. “In a school bond election, the opposition doesn’t have to play by the same rules that the school district has to, so the opposition can say vote no over and over again. The school district can’t say vote yes at all. They are allowed to communicate factual data only,” Clemmons said. “Schools are hit by this unless they have a very active, privately supported group that gets out there and encourages a yes vote on their own dime.”

One way to clarify misunderstandings about bond requests is to offer visuals of the conditions. It’s difficult for voters to know what the building issues are unless they see them.

“Even school board members are often shocked by photos of the condition of a facility because they aren’t often visitors to every area of a school,” said Clemmons. “Parents, too, often see only the front office or cafeteria of a school and never realize how rundown other parts of the school are. Or they may visit a new school and think all schools in the district must be in the same pristine condition.”

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One way to clarify misunderstandings about bond requests is to offer visuals of the conditions. It’s difficult for voters to know what the building issues are unless they see them.

“We live in a very visual world, but we don’t share photos of what we’re trying to repair or expand or replace. Photos are fact. This is what the building looks like.”

Clemmons noted that TASB’s new Facility Services Dashboard, created so districts can access assessment data in one central location, can help in preparing for bond elections. The dashboard features a public link so the community can view certain aspects and schools can choose to make those images visible. “It’s an excellent way for a third-party entity to assess the facility and see what the needs are,” he said.

Extra work leads to rewards

In the wake of Fort Worth ISD’s success, Jackson credits citywide townhall meetings conducted by Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner. “The message was given with reliability, validity, and objectivity. Experts were there to answer questions. All questions were answered,” she said.

For districts considering a retry in May, Jackson emphasized how important it is to engage with the community. “Make sure that you acknowledge them. Ask them specifically what they want to see in their schools and ask for their help. Also, talk to students, teachers, and staff. They will tell you what the biggest deficits are on campus,” she recommended. “And be sure to get all the elected officials and foundations on board. If they aren’t on board, you’re going to have a tough run.”

Knowing that environment affects how students learn, Jackson is proud the Fort Worth ISD board has passed $2 billion worth of bonds in four years. “While it’s a lot of work, the reward is that for decades forward you’ll be able to see the bounty and the benefits of that work on behalf of kids,” she said.

Find out more about how to approach bond elections in the TASB Member Center. Visit tasb.org/members and search for bond elections.H

School Bond Elections: Clarifying Misconceptions and Gaining Trust

Two hurdles to a successful school bond election are a lack of understanding and a lack of trust on the part of the community. Suzanne Marchman, director of Educational Partnerships at Huckabee, helps inform school boards on how to communicate bond issues to communities. She offers these suggestions.

What are common misconceptions voters may have when asked to consider school bonds?

Misconception #1: All bonds are a tax rate increase. That’s not true. Many districts are able to issue bonds without increasing the school district tax rate. This misunderstanding is further complicated by the new legislative requirement to include the statement “This is a property tax increase” on every ballot proposition.

Misconception #2: If the district has had a recent bond election, they shouldn’t need another one. In many fast-growth districts, a bond election may be needed every few years just to keep up with the growth. For example, 800 new students would fill a typical elementary school. Those students not only generate the need for additional facilities, but also buses, devices, desks and chairs, and other equipment.

Misconception #3: It isn’t true that property taxes are frozen for citizens 65 and older. As long as an over-65 homestead exemption is on file, the amount of school taxes paid should not increase (unless significant improvements are made to a home). There may not be a tax ceiling for other taxing entities, so as home values increase, their tax bills increase. The additional money is going to the other entities, not the school district. The school taxes should not increase after the year the homeowner turned 65.

Misconception #4: School districts shouldn’t carry debt. Most school districts in Texas carry debt from bond elections because that’s how they fund construction of new schools, construction to renovate older campuses, replacement of expensive life-cycle systems, and additional capital projects.

When presenting a bond proposal, what can school districts do so that community members trust them to appropriately and effectively execute the bond projects and spend their bond dollars wisely?

• Involve community members in the process.

• Select projects that are appropriate for your school district.

• Be transparent about the process.

• Educate the community on your bond proposal.

• Follow through by completing projects as promised to voters.

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A contributor to Texas Lone Star, Melissa Locke Roberts retired from TASB Communications in 2021.

Five Ways Your School Facilities Impact Student Achievement

A growing body of research confirms that school facilities can have a profound impact on both teacher performance and student outcomes.

Photo courtesy of Fields & Associates Architects

Agreat school facility is more than just a building kept in the best possible shape through routine maintenance, regular inspections, and other preventative work. Done well, it can create an ideal environment for academic achievement with research showing a direct impact on student learning.

“If we want to continue to increase student scores across the board, we have to first be honest and recognize that we need to reduce disparities across schools from the standpoint of the quality of the learning environment,” said Jeff Clemmons, director of Facility Services at TASB.

Finding ways to focus on the needs of students is always top of mind for high-performing boards and school districts. Investing in facilities can add up to better student health, attendance, behavior, and achievement. For teachers, the benefits include improved morale and instruction.

For Karen Shwind, president of the Texas School Nurse Organization and Health Services coordinator at New Braunfels ISD, there’s no doubt that facilities can have an impact on student learning, especially when trying to minimize chronic absences related to conditions like asthma.

“We always say that a healthy child is going to be your best learner,” she said. “Environmental factors can lead to — and think of those with respiratory issues, particularly our asthma population and then those with anaphylaxis — increased absences. If they’re not in school, they’re not learning.”

Creating a healthy learning environment not only helps minimize absenteeism but also impacts a school district’s budget.

“Looking at this from a performance standpoint for the school district, if you have high-functioning facilities, kids are in their seats in class, they’re there and they’re learning,” said Gary Hutton, general manager of the Spring ISD Operations Division. “That also means the district is getting attendance funding. So, there’s student attendance, learning, and increased performance — they achieve more and get better scores — plus the schools are properly funded and that creates a sort of offset to the costs of any necessary upgrades. It’s a win-win.”

How building conditions affect education

Across Texas, there are more than 9,000 campuses, with an average age of more than 40 years old. As the state adds roughly 80,000 students each year (about the seating capacity of the Darrell K. Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium at the University of Texas at Austin) and new facilities come online, that average age is dropping, but repairs, renovations, and modernizations are still needed for many buildings to meet the needs of a 21st-century education.

The idea that school building conditions can affect student achievement isn’t new. A 2007 study, The Relationship Between School Building Conditions and Student Achievement at the Middle School Level in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is one of many that has found that student achievement is connected to a building’s condition. Students perform better in newer or recently renovated buildings than they do in older buildings.

“What’s fascinating about this study is that when you divide the facilities up between standard and substandard, you’re looking at a 6.1% difference in students passing English alone,” said Clemmons. “That’s noteworthy because English affects all other academic areas.”

The U.S. Department of Education acknowledged the impact of well-maintained facilities on learning and teaching in a 2014 letter. “When classrooms are too hot, too cold, overcrowded, dust-filled or poorly ventilated, students and teachers suffer,” it wrote.

How school facilities affect learning outcomes

The environmental conditions that play a role in student success can be roughly broken down into five broad categories:

1. Acoustics and noise

2. Air quality

3. Lighting

4. Temperature control

5. Classroom size and space

Acoustics and noise

Loud noises are distracting and even stressful. Noise impairs the ability of teachers to teach and students to learn. Common sources for these distractions are heating and ventilation units, neighboring classrooms, nearby facilities, airplane flight paths, and road traffic. Research shows that classrooms that reduce external noise have more engaged and higher achieving students compared to those in noisier school environments.

“There’s one study out there that looked at reading test scores from two schools with matching demographic factors,” said Clemmons. “The difference was that one school was in the flight path of an airport, while the other was in a quiet neighborhood. Students from the school in the flight path had significantly lower reading scores than those at the quieter school.”

Classroom noise is of particular concern for students with hearing loss or attention deficits. School buildings that can buffer classrooms from external noise sources can improve student outcomes.

Air quality

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is another key factor. Poor air quality contributes to absenteeism, particularly for students with asthma. Increased absences and difficulty concentrating while in school may mean student achievement measures are less about ascertaining learning and more of a gauge of a student’s health and ability to focus.

Research also indicates that some schools suffer from what has been dubbed as “sick building syndrome,” a collection of symptoms that includes lethargy, dry skin, and headaches. It affects the absenteeism and performance of both students and teachers.

Additionally, poor IAQ means these buildings have more bacteria, viruses, allergens, and indoor pollutants from office equipment, cleaning products and pesticides, flooring materials, paints, and adhesives — all of which can contribute to childhood illness and more missed days of school.

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“The problems with air quality can be very unique. You could have a student with a reaction to an air freshener in a classroom, a plug-in. We remove that plug-in and the problem goes away,” said Schwind. “But if you’re talking about a major moisture issue underneath the entire building creating mold issues, well that’s a totally different circumstance that involves a lot of mechanics in eliminating.”

One area Hutton sees as an underappreciated IAQ vector is carpeting. “Whether it’s flu or COVID, or just allergens, kids are bringing these things in from outside, and they’re settling in the carpet and then getting stirred up throughout the day,” said Hutton. “So, I think school districts can do a better job of effectively cleaning carpets regularly and replacing them regularly, too.”


Research shows that natural lighting boosts the morale of teachers and students. It also reduces off-task behavior and improves test scores. Environments with little natural light have been shown to produce less than desirable results.

Many schools, particularly those built in the 1980s and 1990s, were built like bunkers, according to Hutton, with little natural light getting in. “At the time, that’s what you built. You wanted to avoid heat build-up and see energy savings, so windows were limited. It was a reaction to the environmental challenges of the time,” Hutton said. “But then kids were boxedin under fluorescent lights and didn’t really see natural light all day and people wondered why attendance was dropping.”

“We see students who have migraines triggered by fluorescents or by a bulb that flickers or, depending on the athletic season, we might see students with concussions, and sometimes the lighting can be an issue for them as well,” said Schwind. “All of these things can increase absences and decrease student performance even if they’re still in the classroom.”

Now technology exists to bring natural light to the learning environment, even in older facilities that may not have had many options for external light. It’s possible to replicate natural light using LEDs. With lighting accounting for about 23% of

a district’s energy cost, according to Clemmons, switching to LEDs that replicate natural light when external light isn’t practical not only improves student outcomes, it also saves money.

“There’s a study out there that shows that students with the most exposure to natural daylight progressed 20% faster in math and 26% faster in reading,” said Clemmons. “That is a huge differential. It’s not one or a 1.2% faster, it is a huge growth in the results.”

Temperature control

Anyone who has worked in an office that is too hot or too cold knows how difficult it can be to concentrate when you’re uncomfortable. The temperature affects your engagement levels and overall productivity no matter what age you are. Teacher performance and student achievement are both affected.

“When you go into a classroom — my daughter, for instance, takes a coat to school every day because she knows she’s going to be cold when she gets to class — and it’s not comfortable, that takes the mind off learning,” said Clemmons. “It’s a distraction. That’s a function of the facility.” According to the best analyses, the ideal temperature range for effective learning in reading and math is between 68 and 74 degrees.

Classroom teachers know how to keep their room comfortable and primed for learning. For them to have the fine-tuned

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“From a district standpoint, the goal is always to create an environment where teachers can teach to the best of their ability and students can learn to the best of their ability. Your buildings shouldn’t hinder those things,” said Hutton.
Photos courtesy of Fields & Associates Architects The well-lit library at Bee Caves Middle School in Lake Travis ISD features high ceilings, LED lighting, and large windows to increase natural light. The campus was constructed as part of the district's 2018 bond program.

control necessary, they need to be able to adjust the temperature in their own classroom. If room-level control isn’t possible, schools should try to allow for temperature control of small blocks of classrooms that receive similar amounts of sunlight and exposure to outside temperatures.

Classroom size and space

Classrooms with adequate space to spread out allow teachers to reconfigure seating arrangements and enable varied teaching methods. They also make it possible to create private study areas and smaller learning centers that reduce visual and auditory interruptions.

Overcrowding has consistently been linked to increased aggression in students, decreased engagement, and lower levels of learning. Classrooms that offer flexibility and reconfiguration are associated with increased student engagement and learning.

The classic layout of an 800 square foot room with rows of desks isn’t always the correct setup. As pedagogy changes, so have classroom layouts. Flexible space is important to ensuring that students can work together, collaborating and communicating effectively to solve problems.

“As teaching methods change, so must our approach to improving our school facilities,” said Clemmons. “Flexibility is key.”

Making sure facilities meet new challenges

School districts must make careful assessments to determine when aging facilities need major renovation or replacement. But if the goal is to stretch limited budgets or postpone the need for a costly bond program, regular and proactive maintenance is essential. An older facility that’s been updated and maintained well can still meet the needs of today’s students, Clemmons said.

“A dirty building or a building that has not been properly maintained could negatively impact student performance — regardless of the age of the facility,” he said. “As long as [the building] is maintained, it’s clean, and it has been renovated to create a comfortable 21st-century learning environment, that’s going to provide us with the environment most conducive to educational advancement.”

Again, the data shows a clear connection between maintenance and student attendance and achievement. Schools without major maintenance backlogs have a higher average daily attendance of 4-to-5 students per 1,000 on average, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They also have an annual dropout rate that’s lower by 10-to-13 students per 1,000. And test scores improve as building conditions improve, says the EPA. Studies show test scores can go up by 3-to-17%.H

Find tailored support for your facilities’ needs

TASB Facility Services knows schools inside and out. Your district can benefit from in-house environmental compliance consulting, facility assessments, long-range planning, energy efficiency services, bond planning and election assistance, and much more.

Learn More:

TASB Facility Services


Do School Facilities Affect Academic Outcomes?, National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, Washington, DC.


Designing Classrooms to Maximize Student Achievement

http://ilabs.washington.edu/sites/default/ files/14Cheryan_etal_Meltzoff_Designing%20 Classrooms.pdf

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Floor-to-ceiling windows at Bee Caves Middle School in Lake Travis ISD bring in Hill Country views and natural light. Efficient LED lighting that replicates natural light brightens the common spaces at Bee Caves Middle School in Lake Travis ISD.




Phil Bancale finished the hurry of life on Dec. 8, 2021, closing out 82 years on this Earth. But before he left, he spent more than half his life serving the students in La Vega ISD, regularly reading to them, talking about his travels around the world, and serving on the school board.

Mildred Watkins, La Vega ISD board president and member of the TASB Board of Directors, said if there was only one word to describe Bancale, it would be “servant,” but that one word was too limiting for the person she knew.

“He was very giving of himself, and he was very kind,” said Watkins. “He was well-traveled, and he loved sharing. He was not a selfish person. I loved that about him.”

As he aged, the well-worn creases and crinkles around Bancale’s eyes betrayed this straight shooter. The man known for ‘saying what he meant and meaning what he said’ was also a man who loved his work, loved a good joke (or a groaner), and loved smiling.

Service starts with the kids

Bancale started volunteering to read for students in the district in the early 1970s. By 1978 he’d won his first election to the board. He served — and kept reading to the kids — for four more decades. According to TASB records, his 43 years of service make him the longest-serving trustee in La Vega ISD, and the eighth-longest serving trustee in the whole state since records started being kept.

“He believed in reading,” said Watkins. “He believed that he had to read and that the kids had to read every day. And, for decades, he modeled that for the kids. He never stopped reading for them.”

“He loved sharing with the kids,” his son Michael Bancale recalled during his father’s memorial service. In addition to regularly reading to the kids, he’d share stories of his travels across the world. After a trip to Rome, the kids asked if he’d been to Circus Maximus where the gladiators fought. “That was the big thing,” said Bancale’s son. “’Were you ever at Circus Maximus? ‘Yes, we walked the grounds of Circus Maximus,’ my dad said. The kids were just astonished,” he said.

“He would share and show them the money from those countries, he would transport these kids from Bellmead, Texas, to Italy, to Germany, to France, to Austria, to all over the place and he truly loved doing that.”

Bancale’s roots in the district ran deep. His children attended La Vega ISD, as did some of his grandchildren, and now even a few of his great-grandchildren are students there, too. But Bancale served every student.

“He was always out there in the community, always pushing for the kids at La Vega,” said Watkins. “He didn't miss a football game. He didn't miss a state championship, he missed nothing. When it came down to those kids, he went to the choir concerts, he went to the band concerts — he was everywhere.”

Bancale brought a servant’s heart to his work at La Vega ISD for 43 years, becoming the namesake of the district’s primary school campus.
Photo courtesy of the Waco Tribune-Heraldd
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Phil Bancale, school board member of La Vega ISD.

Bancale, unlike some of his fellow board members who started out as teachers and administrators, was not an educator by trade. He was a layman who spent his days working in meat markets before his retirement. Despite a busy career, raising kids, and church commitments — first as a deacon and later an elder at La Vega/Northside Church of Christ — Bancale found time to serve on the school board, running and being re-elected every three years for 43 years.

He believed every kid could succeed. “He was an advocate for them because he understood what we have gone through — the history of the community, the district, the schools, and the board,” said TASB Benefits Cooperative trustee and La Vega ISD Superintendent Dr. Sharon Shields.

“It didn’t matter what you said or how you said it, the kids had to come first with Phil,” said Watkins. “He believed that every child had a learning style and that we had to work toward teaching that child the way that kid learned.”

During his more than 40 years serving La Vega ISD, Bancale held titles like board president and vice president, and he saw a lot of change in his district and public education across the state. He saw every building in the district replaced during his decades of tenure. In 2019, the district even named the La Vega Primary School campus after him — the Phil Bancale Campus.

“He had pretty much devoted half of his life — all given to our students and our staff and this community in the capacity of a trustee,” said Shields. “So, for us to be able to recognize him in that manner was so important.”

Bancale’s son said his dad wasn't an attention seeker. He didn't brag about his work or accomplishments, but he was proud when La Vega ISD renamed the primary school campus after him. “He talked about that a lot,” his son said. It was an honor he hadn’t expected.

“He was very humble about it. He cried — the pride that he had that someone thought enough of him,” said Watkins. “He really did deserve getting a school named after him, too.”

A champion for La Vega ISD and public education

Bancale was involved in passing numerous bonds for the construction of new facilities. Watkins credits the district’s success with the bonds to the board’s close relationship with the community, a relationship Bancale played a big role in.

“He would be sitting in the front row when we’d have community meetings. He was on it. He was always ready to answer questions,” said Watkins.

Ever the advocate, Bancale even attended Bellmead City Council meetings, sometimes accompanied by Superintendent Shields.

Bancale believed in bringing the partners in, she said. He would make sure that every board member had the answers to the questions that were important to the community. Bancale was not a fan of raising taxes, and he avoided it if he could.

“He always had to ask how this was going to affect our community, and how did this help us commit to the needs of all of our children — not just one group of children, not just the athletes, but all of our children,” said Watkins. “I think that's why we were able to convince voters.”

The bigger picture of public education across Texas was important to Bancale, too. And his decades of service meant he’d been there to watch things change.

“About 45 percent of [public education] funding came from the state, and now I think it’s about less than 10 percent and the rest of that has to be picked up by the local school district through school taxes,” he told the Waco Tribune-Herald back in 2018. “I mean it’s a negative thing, but it’s one of the things that happened since I’ve been on the board.”

Since then, funding formulas have changed some, though things have not returned to the days Bancale remembered.

Education was always the top priority for Bancale. When Watkins was a new board member, back in the late 1990s, Bancale already had more than 20 years of service on the board, but he knew there was always something new he could learn. Bancale’s advice to her then was to follow his lead at education conferences.

“You attend your classes. Your free time is your free time, but as long as there are classes going on, you must go to all the classes you can. That’s what he told me,” Watkins said. “His goal was to always bring back at least one idea we could implement.”

Bancale researched his board agenda, too, writing down questions and talking with the superintendent ahead of time to make sure he understood everything, said Watkins. “When I was new on the board, I picked up on that from him and now I’ve made it my habit, as well.”

“He’d come by, get a cup of coffee, we would sit down and talk about whatever it was he had questions about or concerns about,” said Shields. “And he was always listening and trying to learn more.”

An irreplaceable part of the community

Dr. Shields said it seemed like Bancale had always been around. He’d been there for her whole career. She started as a teacher in the district more than 30 years ago, and except for a brief period when she left the district, she’s always worked in La Vega ISD. “There’s just always been a Mr. Bancale. I’m really going to miss him,” she said.

Bancale’s son once told someone about his dad’s four decades of service to the school district, and their response was, ‘why would anyone want to do that?’ “The answer is that's where he felt his calling was,” his son said. “That was important to him.”

Many say the district is missing something now. Bancale, with his warm smile, generous attitude, and giving nature, loomed large in La Vega.

“Who’s going to come to the schools like he did and be with the kids?” asked Watkins. “The children loved it, and now even a lot of adults remember him coming into the schools when they were kids. Who’s going to pick that up now and let kids see a board member just being a regular person caring about them? Those are big shoes to fill.”

In 2018, the Bellmead City Council declared June 12 Phil Bancale Day. At the event, he made sure to share the spotlight. “It’s been a real pleasure to serve on the board these years. It takes seven of us working together to get things done, eight with the superintendent. We’re a team of eight. I appreciate you recognizing me like this.”

“It’s been a pleasure, 98 percent of the time,” he added.H

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How XG Board Development Helped Aledo ISD Rise Above

Aledo ISD wanted to take student achievement to the next level. Engaging in TASB’s XG Board Development program helped grow greatness on the board and in students.

It’s fitting that the theme of School Board Recognition Month this January is “Rising Above” because that’s exactly what Aledo ISD has been doing.

Aledo made a sort of sweep of Texas public education awards in 2021. First, superintendent Dr. Susan Bohn was named Region 11 Superintendent of the Year and was a finalist for the statewide Superintendent of the Year award. Then, the Aledo ISD Board of Trustees took the top award, 2021 Texas Outstanding School Board, at the TASA | TASB Convention.

These accolades were only the latest in a long run of triumphs for Aledo ISD, where the motto is “Growing Greatness.” But the district’s path to success is more of a marathon than a sprint.

Aledo ISD is a fast-growth district that sits west of Fort Worth, straddling Parker and Tarrant counties, where the suburbs meet the country. The district has more than 6,400 students, 700 employees, and now, arguably, the best leadership team in the state.

“As a ‘Team of 8,’ they’ve exemplified in action their district motto ‘growing greatness’ whether it’s fiscal responsibility, improving student outcomes, or building trust in the community,” the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) school board awards committee wrote. “They’ve been able to bring people together around what’s best for students.”

With a global pandemic to contend with and the increasing partisan strife percolating in the public comments at school board meetings across the state, the Aledo ISD board, like boards everywhere, has had its work cut out for it lately.

“The last 17 months have been some of the most challenging times in the school business,” Bohn said in a statement on the Aledo ISD website, “and yet the Aledo ISD Board of Trustees continuously operates with an incredibly high level of engagement, thoughtfulness, and effective and consistent communication.”

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How eXceptional Governance matters

Aledo ISD Board President Hoyt Harris and Board Vice President Jessica Brown joined senior TASB Board Development Consultant, TASB Talks host, and resident “board whisperer” Kay Douglas, to talk about the honors their district received over the past year.

Both Harris and Brown credited the stability of the board, the decision to hire Bohn as superintendent, and going through TASB’s eXceptional Governance (XG) Board Development program to their success in improving student outcomes and winning TASA’s 2021 Outstanding School Board.

“Obviously, the XG training that we did early on to come together as a board was really important,” Brown said. “That was definitely something critical that we did early on to try to bring everyone in alignment, and I think that really kind of started us off in the right direction.”

The Aledo ISD leadership team decided to embark on their XG Board Development training a few years ago. Students in the district generally performed well, but everyone knew they could still do better. The only question was, what changes could be made to support these high expectations?

“I think really seeing the importance that [TASB’s XG Board Development] plays in student outcomes and how directly relatable that is to that — that point got hammered home with us a lot. And I think that we’ve seen the benefit now of that and really see that bear out over the past four years,” said Brown. “It’s definitely something that I encourage — you know, anytime I meet other board members from other districts — don’t underestimate the impact that you can have on student outcomes.”

The XG Board Development program helps trustees build a sustainable, results-oriented, goal-monitoring structure that keeps the focus on student learning and accountability. Once Aledo ISD began implementing their changes, it was only a matter of time.

“I would tell new members that you can have an impact on student outcomes. You may not think so or see it at first, but we’ll do [TASB’s XG Board Development] and it’s going to become evident, and we’ll just start to see it more as you go through it,” said Harris.

They measured what matters. The district began relying less on STAAR test data and more on the student achievement and progress seen in their local accountability system. The data there pointed them to several specific areas the district could focus on, including critical writing. Putting their focus on this area could create gains in student performance across multiple areas.

Using data to focus on student success

“We were at a point four years ago where we thought our students were doing well, but we really thought that they could take it to the next level. With Dr. Bohn coming in and looking at a lot of our data, working with our staff, we looked at if we’re really growing all of our students in the way they should — is everyone showing a year’s growth?” said Brown. “And the answer was no. I mean, we have a lot of great students but maybe all of them were not getting to their full potential with what we have in place.”

Harris and Brown agreed that one of the most powerful XG sessions the district participated in was the session with administrators. In all, about 70 members of the district’s

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Photo by TASB Media Services The Aledo ISD board was recognized in their district as the 2021 Honor Board by Kevin Brown of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA). (Left to right) Dr. Susan K. Bohn, superintendent; Jennifer Taylor, trustee; Jennifer Loftin, trustee; Hoyt Harris, president; Forrest Collins, secretary; Jessica Brown, vice president; David Lear, trustee; Julie Turner, trustee; and Kevin Brown, executive director at TASA.

administrative staff participated in the session with the board.

“To be able to hear first-hand — to be in the same room and talk about all of the challenges and hopes and dreams together — you know, you just don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that,” said Brown.

The session put board members and administrators on equal footing to share their perspectives and expertise with each other — an opportunity to communicate that doesn’t happen often for two groups that are really on the same team.

“There were a lot of great ideas there. I felt better after going through that process,” said Harris. “Some of the thoughts that I had, the administration had that on their list too. So, I started feeling more comfortable with myself and my thinking as well.”

Growing greatness in Aledo

After a TASA School Board Awards Committee interview, the Aledo ISD Board of Trustees was chosen from five finalists around the state. The committee was impressed by the board’s answers about student learning and academic achievement, and their ability to manage change, as well as their work to earn trust in the community.

The committee also acknowledged the role that their superintendent played on the leadership team. Bohn nominated the Aledo ISD school board. The application process through TASA involved documenting a variety of board activities.

“One of the best things about [the members of the Aledo ISD Board of Trustees] is that they model for all of the rest of us in our district and community that they are never great enough for kids and how to work every day to be better than

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Photos by TASB Media Services Aledo ISD Board Secretary Forrest Collins and Superintendent Dr. Susan K. Bohn pose for a photo. TASA's Kevin Brown introduces the Aledo ISD board.

you were the day before,” Bohn wrote in her nomination of the board. “In Aledo, we call this ‘growing greatness.’”

The board’s focused policymaking process, their level of community engagement, and well-established instructional focus and assessment framework stood out to the committee, but one factor put them over the top: the board’s growth mindset.

“To me, [growing greatness] means, beginning from kindergarten through 12th grade, everything you do within our school district, you’re doing it to the extreme. You’re going to be as good as you can be as a student and in everything that you do… Sometimes they may not hit that goal the very first time, but they get up and they learn to get it,” said Harris. “So, to me, that’s what growing greatness is about.”

The idea of growing greatness appears across the work that the Aledo ISD board does, from high expectations to changes in budget priorities, to ensure that they’re growing greatness in all students. The district budgeted for additional special education staff to help keep kids in the classroom getting tier one instruction. They also recently hired an advanced academics coordinator to help with advanced placement testing and more.

“It is such a well-deserved honor for our school board to be recognized as the Region 11 school board of the year,” Bohn told The Community News in an interview. “They are guided by a clear focus on our Bearcat students in their decision making and lead the ongoing success of the Aledo ISD. They are well-respected among school boards throughout the state and by the community they serve, and I am proud to work alongside these amazing public servants.”

“They are able to speak with tremendous specificity as to what excellent teaching and learning looks like in their

classrooms,” allowing them to better support it, the awards committee said.

The committee also noted the board members’ obvious commitment to and belief in each other, as evidenced by their focus on coming to meetings prepared and their ability to work together despite disagreements.

“One of the things [the Aledo ISD board members] stressed was that to be able to work well, a school board should be apolitical. When school boards become political, children are ultimately the losers,” the committee noted. “Boards and districts should be focused on what’s best for students and not trying to support the agenda of a particular constituency.”

The Outstanding School Board award was created by TASA in 1971. It’s designed to recognize school boards that demonstrate outstanding dedication and have rendered ethical service to the children of Texas.

School Board Recognition Month happens each January. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge school boards across Texas — a special class of volunteers. They ran for the school board to give of their time and talents and receive no compensation in return, instead committing themselves to the task for the benefit of their community and the kids in their district’s schools.

“In communities across the state, board members just like those in Aledo have been working tirelessly to address the needs of their district’s students. They shoulder critical responsibilities, and often make difficult decisions for the good of the district,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “These are truly incredible individuals, and I’d urge communities to join us in celebrating their service.”H

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Aledo ISD school trustees prepare to distribute awards to students.
“One of the best things about the members of the Aledo ISD Board of Trustees is that they model for all of the rest of us in our district and community that they are never great enough for kids and how to work every day to be better than you were the day before.”

Roles and Responsibilities of Individual School Trustees

Here are Six Important Issues to Consider

School boards in today’s world are under intense public scrutiny, which means it’s even more important for individual trustees to understand how their role and responsibilities intersect with the board as an entity.

Here are six important issues to consider:

1. The limits of free speech Trustees do not lose their free speech rights when they enter public office, but when they are acting in their official capacity those rights may be limited to serve the legitimate needs of the public.

For example, a trustee may not use the advantages of public office to promote personal views.

State law also limits how trustees can communicate about school business. For example, the Texas Open Meetings Act (OMA) prohibits a quorum of the board from discussing school business outside of an official meeting. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that this restriction is constitutional because government officials such as trustees do not have a First Amendment right to discuss public policy or business among a quorum of their governing body in private.1

2. Voting and conflicts of interest

Unless there is a conflict of interest, trustees are entitled to attend board meetings and participate in deliberation and voting.

When a trustee has a substantial interest in a business or piece of real estate involved in a matter before the board, the trustee may be prohibited by law from deliberating or voting on the matter.2

On the other hand, a trustee does not have to deliberate or cast a vote just because state law does not prohibit participation. A trustee who feels too involved with an issue to make an unbiased decision may choose to abstain even when not legally required. Trustees may also choose to abstain to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Absent a conflict of interest, all trustees may vote on all matters, including the board president.3

3. Attendance at meetings

The circumstances under which a trustee can be excluded from a board meeting are exceptionally rare. A board should always consult its attorney before excluding a trustee from any portion of a meeting.

Open meetings: Even trustees who are not deliberating or voting on a particular item due to a conflict of interest may attend the portion of an open meeting related to that item.

Closed meetings: A trustee who is prohibited from deliberating or voting due to a legal conflict of interest may still be able to attend (sitting silently) a closed meeting regarding the matter. In order

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to avoid the appearance of impropriety, the attorney general has strongly recommended that a public official not attend the portion of a closed meeting that addresses such a matter.4

A school board may exclude from a closed meeting a trustee who has taken an adverse legal position when disclosure of the deliberation would compromise the district’s position as to that matter. In one case, the attorney general ruled it was proper for a school board to exclude from closed session a trustee who had sued the district; the board could prevent the trustee from hearing the board’s consultation with its attorney regarding legal strategy or settlement of the claim.5

4. Placing items on the agenda

Many districts have adopted TASB Policy BE(LOCAL), permitting one trustee to request an agenda item for an upcoming meeting. The superintendent and board president must ensure that all trustee requests appear on the present agenda or are scheduled for a future agenda and may not remove a requested item from an agenda without the trustee’s permission. While some districts can

adopt local procedures for requesting agenda items, the attorney general has noted that a board cannot adopt a procedure that has the net effect of precluding individual trustees from placing an item on the agenda.6

5. Speaking at a board meeting about an item not on the agenda

A trustee who has not been successful in getting an item on a meeting agenda may wonder if it is possible to speak during the public comment portion of a meeting. Because of the person’s role as a trustee, speaking during public comment on an item that is not on the agenda may violate the OMA.

For example, after the Brazos Valley Groundwater Conservation District refused a trustee’s request to add an item to an agenda, the trustee attempted to make a public comment at the board meeting. When he was not allowed to address the board, he alleged a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. The court ruled in favor of the board, and the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the trustee did not have the same rights as a member of the public

when attending a meeting of the board on which he served.7

6. Talking to the public or the press

Like all citizens, trustees may voice their opinions to the media or the public, including on social media. Nevertheless, trustees need to be cautious when speaking publicly about school business. The Texas Education Code states that a school district board of trustees operates as “a body corporate.” 8 This means no single trustee may act alone. School boards typically appoint the board president as a spokesperson; other trustees are free to speak out but should clarify that their statements reflect their own views.

Public statements may also lead to claims of bias. When a school board hears a grievance or an employee’s contract appeal, due process requires the board to serve as an impartial decision maker. Public statements expressing an opinion on pending matters may be used to challenge the validity of board action.9

For more information, including guidance on issues such as how a trustee

(See Roles, page 34.)

texaslonestaronline.org | January/February 2022 | Texas Lone Star 25

Legislative Agenda Needs Member Input

In a year marked by strong debate on a host of critical issues, it is more important than ever to make your voice heard during TASB’s grassroots process. TASB has always made it a point to ensure that the development of our advocacy agenda — our marching orders for the legislative session — represents the will of our member school boards.

“When I served as a superintendent, I always encouraged trustees to attend TASB’s grassroots meetings,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “The grassroots meetings are a great opportunity for trustees to come together in fellowship and discuss the issues that directly impact their students and schools — all while directing TASB’s legislative efforts.”

Between January and March, TASB staff will hold meetings in each education service center region to learn about what local school leaders consider to be the most important issues and which should be priorities for their association. Every school board member and superintendent is invited to attend and participate in their regional grassroots meeting — either in person or virtually — or even the meeting closest to them if their regional meeting is farther away or is not scheduled on a convenient day.

“This is one event all school board members should make every attempt to attend. For me, the grassroots meetings have always been a highlight in board service,” said Longview ISD Trustee and TASB Board President Ted Beard. “I’ve always believed that this is where the ‘rubber meets the road’ as it relates to advocacy.”

During the meetings, school leaders will identify a list of local legislative prior-

ities and elect trustees to the Legislative Advisory Council (LAC). The LAC will then take the list of 20 regional priorities and distill them down to one statewide list that will eventually become TASB’s Advocacy Agenda Priorities after consideration and adoption by the TASB Delegate Assembly in September. The LAC also elects four of its members to serve as representatives to the Legislative Committee of the TASB Board.

In a first for the grassroots meetings, the TASB Risk Management Fund (RMF) will be awarding one $500 student scholarship in each region. Attendees must be at the meeting to win and their district must be an RMF member.

“Our members constantly strive to prepare kids to get to and through college,” said TASB Associate Executive Director for Risk Management Services Dubravka Romano. “One part of the Fund’s mission is to support educational excellence for Texas public schoolchildren. We are pleased to be able to assist a few of our members in making that goal a little easier.”

TASB Governmental Relations staff will also present a legislative update to help inform trustees about where important policy issues stand with regard to the Legislature. Attendees will earn two hours of continuing education credit and dinner will also be provided.

“Even though the Texas Legislature only meets every other year, trustees need to know that advocacy is always in season,” said TASB Associate Executive Director for Governmental Relations Grover Campbell. “In fact, the interim — such as it is after so many special sessions and the possibility of more — is the perfect time to reach out to legislators and candidates to develop or strengthen relationships that will boost your advocacy efforts during the legislative session.”

Find your local grassroots meeting and register at https://www.tasb.org/ legislative/events/grassroots-meetings/ grassroots-meetings-schedule.aspx

26 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org Capitol Watch
Photo by TASB Media Services GR Grassroots at Region 13, January 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Grassroots Meetings

What are resolutions and how do they fit in with priorities developed at the grassroots meetings?

The grassroots and LAC process to develop priorities is supplemented by a system that lets individual school boards submit advocacy resolutions that call for more specific legislative changes. In March 2022, TASB staff will call for boards to submit their advocacy resolutions and will review any submitted resolutions by July 2022 when the TASB Resolutions Committee and TASB Board consider resolutions before making recommendations to the TASB Delegate Assembly for final approval.

When the process is complete, TASB will have an up-to-date and comprehensive Advocacy Agenda of priorities and resolutions that will guide the association as it works with the Legislature and state leaders in 2023.

Why is grassroots participation so important?

TASB speaks for thousands of school board members when it shares its Advocacy Agenda with legislators and state leaders.

But does that agenda really represent the members? The answer to that question rests in attendance at grassroots meetings and participation in the process. If attendance is strong and thousands of school board members participate in developing the agenda, it will strongly reflect the beliefs and opinions of the majority of the membership. If attendance at grassroots meetings is sparse or uneven, so will be the Advocacy Agenda. All school board members will not agree on every issue or policy choice, but strong participation in developing the association’s priorities will ensure that the advocacy priorities that TASB will present to the Legislature are ones around which the greatest consensus was formed. And adoption by hundreds of school board members at Delegate Assembly in 2022 further ensures strong support for the advocacy priorities.

What about strongly held positions that fail to make it to the advocacy priority list?

Strongly held positions are important, so the other way to ensure they are heard is through the resolutions process. You will be in a good position to know what


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• Make data-informed decisions with confidence using detailed condition findings, estimated repair costs, building capacity and educational adequacy, and more.

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topics should be addressed in resolutions after you attend your region’s grassroots meeting. You will have heard the discussion and you will also have a chance to talk with TASB staff and other school leaders about your ideas. After the grassroots meetings are concluded, trustees who attended the meetings can go back to their boards and share what they have learned and discuss those issues important to their districts that may not have been selected as a priority during the grassroots process. Boards may bring those issues forward and submit them to TASB in the form of proposed advocacy resolutions that can be adopted by the TASB Delegate Assembly and included in the Advocacy Agenda.

It cannot be overemphasized: attendance and participation in your regional grassroots meeting is critical to developing a robust Advocacy Agenda and to assuring legislators that strong support exists for each advocacy priority. Being involved in the grassroots process is the best way to ensure that your voice is represented.H

800.580.8272 facilities@tasb.org
Dax Gonzalez is division director of TASB Governmental Relations.

Best Practices for Effective Recruiting

Districts often struggle to fill vacancies and find the best candidates for positions. This year, the challenges are even greater with districts reporting a record number of employees — including teachers and other instructional support roles — leaving mid-year due to pandemic-related issues. Identifying strategies for filling these vacancies primarily falls to district administrators. However, it is important for board members to understand the issues and support and promote strategic initiatives, especially when it comes to budget planning.

Contributing factors

The first step in developing strategies to address recruiting challenges and finding qualified applicants is to identify and understand contributing factors. Top contributing factors include:

• Compensation

• Teacher preparation

• Hiring processes

Compensation Challenges. The first factor many people cite as contributing to an organization’s ability to recruit top talent is compensation, although it is not necessarily the most important factor. Compared to other professions, education has low

entry-level wages, which makes it challenging to attract new talent. Beginning teachers earn about 20 percent less than individuals with college degrees in other fields. Even with experience, the wage gap can widen to 30 percent for mid-career educators. Salary growth for the teaching profession is flat, unlike in other professions where workers have opportunities to earn more for performance, promote quickly, and move on to other opportunities with larger companies or different industries.

Teacher salaries statewide vary widely, resulting in districts across the state competing with each other for job candidates. Small and rural districts often are not able to pay as much as larger districts, and districts with lower wages may have a more difficult time attracting new teachers and are more likely to lose staff to districts offering higher pay. Strategies. The first step in addressing this challenge is to ensure the district provides competitive salaries. This may require increasing salaries in districts that are not competitive or don’t allow teachers to support a middle-class lifestyle. Administrators in TASB HR Services member districts can access HRDataSource™ and run comparison reports to determine where they fall in the local market and adjust salaries for the next year.

Adopting teacher pay plans early is important to allow promotion of competitive pay during the spring recruiting push. Allowing some level of transparency in pay practices also may have a positive impact on recruitment. And giving candidates a sense of pay expectations earlier in the recruitment process helps ensure a pool of applicants that is more aligned with the compensation possibilities for a particular job. This can be done by including starting pay or pay ranges with job postings, making pay plans and structures available on the district’s website, and discussing compensation at the first stage of interviews.

Providing meaningful stipends for hard-to-fill and critical needs positions is a common practice used to attract qualified applicants and help prevent losing teachers to other professions. The most common stipends offered by districts are math, science, special education, and bilingual.

Another component of total compensation is the cost of health insurance premiums. Historically, lower salaries in education were a trade-off for better benefits. This advantage no longer applies because of the rising cost of premiums,

28 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
HR Files
Giving candidates a sense of pay expectations earlier in the recruitment process helps ensure a pool of applicants that is more aligned with the compensation possibilities for a particular job.

especially for family coverage. Districts providing more than the minimum contribution should include this information in recruiting materials and highlight the value of total compensation.

Student loan assistance programs are an emerging benefit in the private sector. While districts are not in a position to make direct payments, they can help teachers take advantage of loan forgiveness programs. If employment in the district or specific schools qualifies for accelerated cancellation of student loan debt, this information should be highlighted in recruiting materials and interviews. Other strategies include:

• Developing career-advancement opportunities

• Providing differentiated pay

• Providing incentives to recruit and retain teachers in high-needs academic subjects and low-income schools

• Addressing resource inequities within the district among schools, grade levels, and teacher experience

• Providing housing incentives for rent, relocation, and down payment assistance, as well as

discounted homes and subsidized teacher housing

Teacher preparation

Challenges. A growing share of teachers are seeking certification through alternative certification programs that allow individuals to enter the profession before completing, or sometimes even beginning, their classroom training. Given the rising cost of higher education, the lack of access to financial aid, and schedule limitations hindering outside employment during a semester of student teaching, many prospective teachers are choosing pathways where they can earn a salary while undergoing training. Strategies. Local support for teacher preparation helps ensure teachers are better prepared by promoting loan forgiveness programs, offering teacher internships, and implementing local preparation pathways.

An increasing number of districts are partnering with universities to develop paid internships. TechTeach, an internship program offered by the Texas Tech University College of Education, partners with districts across the state to provide prospective teachers a full year of paid,

For more than 40 years, LAF has played an important role in securing favorable outcomes of cases impacting public education across Texas.

texaslonestaronline.org | January/February 2022 | Texas Lone Star 29
your district involved in litigation with potential statewide impact? TASB’s Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) may be able to
Legal Services legal.tasb.org 800.580.5345 laf@tasb.org Find out more about LAF and what we do to assist districts involved in litigation.

supervised teaching experience while earning a bachelor’s degree. This allows districts to recruit individuals with ties to the local community, which will increase retention.

Districts have found success with other “grow-your-own” programs, including the Texas Education Agency (TEA) grant program designed to increase the quality and diversity of educators and support development of paraprofessionals, teachers’ aides, and educators in rural districts. High school programs targeting students with potential and interest in education can serve to elevate the perception of the profession and provide opportunities to show students how respectable and fulfilling teaching can be.

Hiring processes

Challenges. District and school practices related to hiring and supporting teachers influence the quality of teachers hired, as well as teachers’ decisions to enter, stay in, or leave the profession. Factors negatively influencing hiring include:

• Timing of hire

• Failure to proactively recruit

• Inadequate information obtained in the hiring

• Lack of training for principals and department supervisors

Strategies. Spring is the optimal hiring season in districts, which means districts need to identify staffing projections early based on student population growth, voluntary transfers, and anticipated resignations and retirements. It’s also important to review staffing levels and fill positions through attrition and reassignment of current staff.

Procedures for resignations should encourage early notification to increase the timeliness of recruitment and hiring. A common method is to offer a cash incentive to employees in return for early notice

Meet Special Education Operating Procedures Requirements the Easy Way

of resignation. The TASB Legal Services article Early Notice and Exit Incentives — Points to Consider, available in TASB School Law eSource on tasb.org, provides further details on early notice incentives. Ongoing competition from surrounding districts for a finite pool of candidates is ample reason to implement a strategic recruiting program. It’s important to actively seek candidates, rather than posting jobs online and hoping for the best. Active recruitment includes:

• Identifying recruitment goals

• Determining strategies

• Ensuring adequate resources are available

Efforts should focus on high needs and hard-to-fill areas and be designed to

30 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Join the TASB Student Solutions Membership to gain access to:
Customizable model special education operating procedures
Resources for running efficient and compliant programs
Online and local training opportunities
more at tasb.org/student-solutions-membership studentsolutions@tasb.org 888.247.4829
Efforts should focus on high needs and hard-to-fill areas and be designed to reach both candidates actively seeking employment and passive job seekers.

reach both candidates actively seeking employment and passive job seekers — those who are currently employed and not actively looking for a new job but who may be open to a new opportunity.

One strategy for reaching both types of candidates is to develop relationships with university career placement staff and professors. These individuals can help identify top talent and refer candidates to the district. With the same goal in mind, human resources should build relationships with alternative certification programs to strengthen the district’s ability to identify and attract talent. District administrators also should encourage students completing their observation hours to return for student teaching and substituting to help solidify a relationship with the district.

Districts benefit from including principals and teaching staff in recruiting efforts. Many districts will engage teachers who teach in the district’s critical shortage areas as attendees at job fairs. The district should consider taking one- to three-year teachers back to their graduating university on a recruiting trip. These alumni often have information to offer that is more relevant to the applicant than what other district representatives can share.

Strategic recruiting for hard-to-fill vacancies also is accomplished by posting positions externally on professional organization and regional education service center websites. Other strategies to strengthen the connection with the district include following up on recruiting activities to encourage viable candidates to apply online and calling candidates immediately following job fairs or recruitment activities.

Recruiting and marketing materials should focus on selling the positive aspects of the district and highlighting the district’s niche. Information, including photos used on the website and on recruiting materials, should showcase why the district is a good place to work and what the community has to offer. Focus on induction and support and sell this to applicants.

Human resources (HR) should ensure the selection process includes a multi-step hiring process that allows the school staff and candidates to assess their fit based on extensive information, including teaching demonstration lessons and school visits in which the

candidate meets other teachers and staff. HR should also provide guidance and training on the use of hiring tools or screeners, sample interview questions and desired responses, and effective interview techniques and eliminate any barriers that slow the hiring process.

Highlight the positives

Finally, districts sometimes fail to effectively communicate what sets them apart from the competition. Recruiting materials, the district website, and informal communications should support the strategies described above. Providing detailed information about total compensation, the district and community, and new-teacher support can tip the scales when a person is deciding whether to accept an offer of employment.

Working together, boards and administration can make strides to implement effective recruiting practices. Designing strategic improvements and ensuring funds are available to implement and support programs is the key.H

April Mabry is assistant director of TASB HR Services.

texaslonestaronline.org | January/February 2022 | Texas Lone Star 31 Need help evaluating compensation? TASB HR Services provides assistance by: • Evaluating market pay • Recommending pay strategies • Building pay structures • Improving salary schedules 800.580.7782 hrservices@tasb.org @tasbhrs

Leadership TASB First Session 2021-22

like a corporation and the impact on our administrators, teachers, and students.

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 year-long program. Leadership TASB columns, written by class members, track the progress and share the experience of each year’s class throughout the year.

Leadership TASB (LTASB) has cultivated the minds of board members for decades. This year’s program kicked off during the TASA | TASB Convention in Dallas with 36 members — both trustees returning from last year’s class, which was cut short due to the pandemic, and new LTASB members, coming together to form the dynamic LTASB Class of 2022.

To begin, the class attended a thought-provoking session led by TASB Division Director Cecilia Chavez. Emotional intelligence was an integral part of the session, which provided board members from all over the state with important tools to guide district efforts to be inclusive of all community members.

The next day, the LTASB Class was greeted by the TASB Board of Directors with a warm welcome and encouragement before beginning part two of the three-part session. Pete DeLisle, Ph.D., presented a session that left a fire burning in board members about the way schools operate and the expectations of school administrators. The group discussed the results of running a school

Human development of students and teachers begins with administration, and DeLisle discussed the board member’s responsibility for advocacy in education. LTASB members closed out the session with a personality activity that revealed the different characteristics of each participant.

The final day was a time for reflection on the jam-packed session and

would bring the most exhilarating, passionate, and eye-opening discussion when members were shown the documentary Stolen Education by Enrique Aleman Jr.

The film told the story of Aleman’s mother and several other students who, in the 1950s, testified in court against their school district about unfair treatment. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room as the documentary ended. Board members engaged in a raw conversation about their personal experiences and their families. The opportunity to connect with others and, in some instances, heal from past hurts, presented itself in this closing session. The class dismissed with heavy hearts, but energized spirits, to do all they can to see meaningful change set in motion.H

Tricia Ann Stroud, a West Orange-Cove CISD trustee, is a member of the Leadership TASB Class of 2022, whose members will meet a total of five times before their graduation in July. Applications for the next Leadership TASB Class will open in May.

32 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org News & Events
LEADERSHIP TASB Photo by TASB Media Services Leadership TASB Class of 2022 outside the Evans Industrial Building at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin

Leadership TASB cohort members


Texas Cooperative members received yet another record-breaking rebate for 2020-21. Purchase through BuyBoard and earn potential rebates. Shop for everything your organization may need all in one place.

Name District ESC Brian Allen Pflugerville ISD 13 Rick Beall Springtown ISD 11 Kimberley N. Booker Aldine ISD 4 Darlene Breaux Alief ISD 4 Amanda Brown River Road ISD 16 Fred Campos Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD 11 Crystal Carbone Pearland ISD 4 Tiffany Clark DeSoto ISD 10 Shameria Ann Davis Copperas Cove ISD 12 Nancy Diaz Hamilton ISD 12 Sheridan Ely Hearne ISD 6 Pam Evans Caldwell ISD 6 Tim Flinn Gregory-Portland ISD 2 Les Healton Burkburnett ISD 9 David Kaminski Waller ISD 4 James Kersh Lumberton ISD 5 Kim Kriegel Waxahachie ISD 10 Billie Logiudice Hutto ISD 13 Name District ESC Fabian Marroquin Palacios ISD 3 Julie McGehee Idalou ISD 17 Ami Mizell-Flint San Angelo ISD 15 Scott Moore Conroe ISD 6 Jenny Proznik Lewisville ISD 11 Vatsa Ramanathan Allen ISD 10 Chance Roberts Bonham ISD 10 Jennifer Rodríguez Judson ISD 20 Jorge Rodriguez Grapevine-Colleyville ISD 11 Manish Sethi Coppell ISD 10 Letticia Sever Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City 20 Heather Sheffield Eanes ISD 13 Tricia Ann Stroud West Orange-Cove CISD 5 Desiree Thomas Mansfield ISD 11 Marilyn Tolbert Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD 11 Sandy Villarreal Runge ISD 3 Amy Weir Round Rock ISD 13 Lauren White Lake Travis ISD 13

BuyBoard® rebates more than $10.7 million to members

(Austin, TX)—The Local Government Purchasing Cooperative (Cooperative), also known as BuyBoard, announced its largest rebate to date, returning more than $10.7 million to 987 Cooperative members across Texas, including public schools, colleges and universities, and local governmental entities.

BuyBoard rebate amounts vary, with some as large as $400,000. The more a member organization procures through BuyBoard, the more rebate dollars it’s eligible for at the end of each year.

Christopher Casarez, purchasing coordinator at Gregory-Portland ISD, said that one reason his school district is a BuyBoard member is because of the rebates offered. “The rebates give us a return on investment that we can use and redirect those additional funds on educating students,” he said.

BuyBoard helps members pool their collective purchasing power on products, equipment, and services they use every day. Members might also be able to save time and resources that may have otherwise been spent preparing and conducting individual, formal requests for proposal.

“BuyBoard has been an awesome resource for the City of Bellmead. BuyBoard has visited our city multiple times to provide onsite training to our staff,” City of Bellmead CFO Karen Evans said. “Due to their support, we have increased our productivity, streamlined purchasing, and seen increased saving.”

Membership in the Local Government Purchasing Cooperative continues to grow and now numbers more than 3,099 governmental entities across the state, according to Brian Bolinger, associate executive director of Business Services for TASB, which serves as administrator for the Cooperative.

“The continued growth in the Cooperative is a testament to the value and benefit that members receive by using BuyBoard,” Bolinger said. “We’re extremely proud the Cooperative gives back to its members like this. We’re proud to support and serve local government and public schools.”

The Cooperative has rebated more than $80 million to eligible members since 2006. Each member’s annual purchasing activity is used to calculate the amount of its rebate.

Visit BuyBoard’s rebate page for more information on the rebate program.

About the Cooperative

The Local Government Purchasing Cooperative was created to increase the purchasing power of Texas public schools, municipalities, counties, colleges, universities, and all types of local government entities and to simplify their purchasing by using a customized online purchasing system called the BuyBoard. BuyBoard has delivered economies of scale in purchas-

ing products and services to members since 1998.

The Cooperative is endorsed by the Texas Association of Counties, Texas Municipal League, Texas Association of School Administrators, and TASB. The Cooperative is also a strategic partner of the Texas Association of School Business Officials.

For more information, visit buyboard.com.H

Roles (from page 25)

can request records from the district and potential liability of trustees, see TASB Legal Services’ Roles and Responsibilities of Individual School Board Members H

Published online in TASB School Law eSource. This article is continually updated, and references to online resources are hyperlinked, at tasb.org/services/legalservices/tasb-school-law-esource/governance/documents/roles-responsibilities-of-individual- school-board-members.pdf. For more information on this and other school law topics, visit TASB School Law eSource at schoollawesource. tasb.org

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 intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney. Consult with your own attorneys to apply these legal principles to specific fact situations.

1Asgeirsson v. Abbott, 773 F.Supp. 2d 684 (W.D. Tex. 2011).

2See Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code § 171.004 (requiring abstention of trustee with substantial interest if the board’s action will have a special economic effect on the interest).

3See TASB Legal Services’ FAQ on Voting.

4Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. GA-0334 (2005).

5Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. JM-1004 (1984).

6Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. DM-0228 (1993).

7Stratta v. Roe, 961 F.3d 340 (5th Cir. May 29, 2020).

8Tex. Educ. Code § 11.051.

9See, e.g., Valley v. Rapides Par. Sch. Bd., 118 F.3d 1047 (5th Cir. 1997) (overturning a superintendent’s termination when four members made public statements against the superintendent).

Sarah Orman is a TASB Legal Services senior attorney.

34 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Expert help with SHARS Cost Reports TASB Special Education Solutions™ can make SHARS — and cost reporting — simpler. Our professionals will help you prepare a cost report, stay in compliance, and maximize reimbursements to your district. Services available to all districts. Contact us today to learn how we can help with your cost report. 888.630.6606 shars@tasb.org Ready for tax season? As tax time draws near, you will be challenged with the task of collecting and investing state funding and local property tax dollars. The Lone Star Investment Pool’s State and Local Direct Deposit Program allows you to: • Streamline the tax collection process • Invest funds immediately • Eliminate collateral requirements imposed by banks • Set up easily with your county appraisal district • Avoid unnecessary faxing through use of online platform We can give you the support you need. 800.558.8875 customer.service@firstpublic.com firstpublic.com/lonestar

TASB Looking for Outstanding Superintendents

Nominations for the 2022 Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) will open by February, and school boards across the state can put forward their superintendent for the top award.

The SOTY Award has been presented annually since 1984 to spotlight outstanding district leaders. The SOTY winner, announced on stage each fall at the TASA | TASB Convention, is chosen for exemplifying strong leadership skills, dedication to strengthening public education, and commitment to community engagement. The SOTY winner also exhibits a strong and effective relationship with their board.


August. The five finalists go through another round of interviews at the TASA | TASB Convention, when the winner is selected and announced. “Superintendents really feel like they have already won when their board nominates them, because they understand what an incredible show of confidence this is of their work for the district,” said Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield, TASB associate executive director.

“During last year’s announcement of the finalists, we heard over and over again superintendents express their appreciation for their boards and the people they work with.”

“I am looking forward to meeting this year’s nominees and hearing them speak with such passion about their work and the innovative things happening in their districts,” said Mary Jane Hetrick, Dripping Springs Board president and chair of the TASB Members Services Committee, which also serves as the State Selection Committee. “This is such an inspiring award program. It’s a reminder of what exciting things are happening in public schools around Texas.”

To be eligible, superintendents must have served in their district for three years at the time the award is presented. The deadline for 2022 applications to be submitted to the regional education service center (ESC) is April 22, but boards are encouraged to start early so that they have ample time to showcase their superintendent’s successes and pass the required board resolution in support of the nomination.

The nomination packet includes district demographic and performance data to provide the committee insight into the district’s progress on student performance, efforts to close achievement gaps, and the context for that work. Application materials have been updated this year to include a few newly added student outcomes measures at subject and grade level to reflect the lack of district-level letter grades for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

“In Texas, we have so many great superintendents doing incredible work for our students, and this is just one of the ways to recognize their achievements,” said Dan Troxell, TASB executive director. “I always tell people one of the greatest honors of my 34 years in education is to have been named the 2008 Superintendent of the Year.”

The selection process begins with regional interviews, conducted by each ESC in late spring. A regional winner is named in all 20 ESC regions where a superintendent is nominated.

Among the regional winners, five finalists are selected by the State Selection Committee after a round of interviews in

The SOTY winner is presented with $5,000 for use by their district, and finalists receive $1,000. The award program is underwritten by Balfour, and winners receive a custom Balfour ring.

The 2021 SOTY winner was Dr. HT Sanchez, Plainview ISD. See past winners and find more details on eligibility, nominations, and the process on the TASB website, soty.tasb.org.H

TASB’s Executive Search Services is currently accepting applications for the positions listed below:

Tuloso-Midway ISD. Superintendent. Application deadline: February 16, 2022

For more information about vacancies or services provided by TASB’s Executive Search Services, call 800.580.8272, email executive.search@tasb.org, or visit ess.tasb.org

36 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Honoring leadership, dedication, and commitment to public education
● 2022

Save the Date: Governance Camp 2022

Governance Camp is TASB’s annual conference launched by a powerful idea — student voice matters. Join us in Galveston

March 2-5

Student voice

Research shows that dropout rates, student achievement, and workforce readiness improve the more student voice is integrated into the classroom.

Student Voice Panel and Scholarship

Always the highlight of the conference, meet and listen to the recipients of the statewide Student Voice scholarship as they share their experiences. You’ll no doubt leave inspired and encouraged by these young minds.

Student Voice Sessions

Spend the Friday of Governance Camp learning directly from Texas public school students with all education sessions led or co-presented by students.

Student-Inspired Booths and Spotlight Sessions

Students lead hands-on and interactive experiences for attendees. From demos of student-designed video games to welding practice, kids show how these activities have helped them learn and grow.

General session speakers

Victor Rios, Ph.D.

March 3

Using his personal experience of living on the streets, dropping out of school, and being incarcerated as a juvenile — along with his research findings — Victor Rios has developed programs and curricula aimed at improving interactions between authority figures and youth. His programs have been implemented in schools across the nation. Rios is the author of six books and his TED Talk, Help the Kids the Education

System Ignores, has more than 1.4 million views.

Elizabeth Anne (Lizzie) Velásquez

March 4

Velásquez was born in Austin in 1989 with an extremely rare congenital disease that, among other symptoms, prevents her from accumulating body fat and gaining weight. Her conditions resulted in her being bullied throughout her childhood. When she was just 17, she was dubbed the “World’s Ugliest Woman” in a video posted on YouTube. This experience ultimately inspired her and she’s now a global motivational speaker, anti-bullying activist, and author.

Get a preview of the inspiring keynote speakers on the TASB Talks podcast at tasbtalks.org

(See Governance Camp, page 38.)

is getting an upgrade to make policy work easier.

Policy On Line





texaslonestaronline.org | January/February 2022 | Texas Lone Star 37
This year, Policy On Line will roll out new features, including:
Ability to add links to district resources
tools for tracking policies pending board action
Manual Updates
Better management of Local
dates to your
On Line manual Policy Service
Ability to publish adoption
More information coming soon! Watch tasb.org/new-pol for details.

Make Voting a Priority in 2022

Voting is a cornerstone of democracy, whether it’s for a school board race or presidential election. That’s why it’s so important to spread the word about voting and to vote in every election.

This year, commit to not only voting, but to encouraging everyone around you to vote as well. Here are three ways you can spread the word to get out the vote.

1. Model the behavior. Make sure you’re registered and vote in every election. Get out the vote efforts are at an all-time high leading up to big, national elections. However, turnout tends to be low in primary, runoff, and lesser-talked-about elections.

After casting your ballot, wear your “I voted” sticker proudly, and post on social media about why you vote in every election.

2. Share with your personal network. Everyone has influence, whether it’s with thousands of social media followers or just a small group of friends. Use your network to encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to register and vote. If someone you know moves or changes their name, remind them to update their voter registration. During early voting and on Election Day, ask your contacts if they’ve voted or have made a plan to vote.

3. Promote voting in your school district. Board members can commit to supporting a culture of voting in schools. A sample board resolution is available at texaseducatorsvote.com

Administrators should encourage staff to register and vote. Share important voting deadlines and information with employees regularly. Spread the enthusiasm to students by educating them on civics, citizenship, and the importance of voting. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) actually require students to be taught about voting at every grade level. And citizens who vote when they are young are more likely to become lifelong voters. The Texas Election Code requires high school principals to serve as high school deputy registrars.H

TASB does not support or oppose any candidate for office.

Governance Camp (from page 37)

The schedule

Come early, stay late! Get your continuing education credit hours while learning with fellow school leaders.

Wednesday, March 2

Arrive in Galveston in time to get settled, check in, and attend the welcome reception. Following that, the preconference session is Movie, Dinner, and Dialogue. Watch The Pushouts, filmed over a period of more than 25 years, which centers around a youth center that serves 16to 24-year-olds who are out of school and work. Featuring Thursday’s keynote speaker, Victor Rios, the movie

Important 2022 Election-Related Dates

Primary Election Dates

Jan. 31 Last day to register to vote

Feb. 18 Vote by mail application due

Feb. 14-25 Early voting

March 1 Primary Election

May Election Dates

Feb. 18 Last day to file for a place on the ballot

April 7 Last day to register to vote

April 25-May 3 Early voting

April 26 Vote by mail application due

May 7 Election Day

May 24 Primary Runoff Election Day

November Election Dates

July 23-Aug. 22 Candidate filing period

Oct. 11 Last day to register to vote

Oct. 24-Nov. 4 Early voting

Oct. 28 Vote by mail application due

Nov. 8 Election Day

showcases the grit and resilience of young people when given access to meaningful opportunities and connections to adults who care.

Thursday, March 3

Thursday’s sessions focus on governance: district culture, advocacy, fiscal responsibility, policy, legal, teamwork, and student achievement. Don’t miss keynote speaker Victor Rios.

Friday, March 4

Hear from Texas public school students about their real-life education experiences and how you impact their achievement and outcomes.

After the general session featuring Lizzie Velásquez, all presentations are led or co-presented by students.

Saturday, March 5

Stick around Saturday morning to check off required training from your to-do list. Participate in Evaluating and Improving Student Outcomes: The Board’s Role in Continuous Improvement.

Register now

Registration and housing for Governance Camp are now open. Visit tasb.org/ gov-camp to learn more.H

38 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org

Thank you, Texas school board members!

We at the Texas Association of School Boards want to offer a sincere thank you to the more than 7,000 Texas trustees. Your work is more challenging than ever, yet you’ve never wavered in your dedication to ensuring students across the state have what they need to learn and succeed.

Follow TASB on social media to see how districts are honoring their trustees this month.


texaslonestaronline.org | January/February 2022 | Texas Lone Star 39

Bulletin Board

Corinne French Takes Part in TEDx Talk

Corinne French, Valley View ISD-Cooke County trustee, was part of a TEDx event hosted by the University of North Texas (UNT). TEDx is a program of TED that provides local organizations an opportunity to share ideas and spark conversations.

UNT’s event, themed “Create the Change,” highlighted the work of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to be changemakers through meaningful research, social advocacy, and innovation.

French’s talk focused on women taking on more leadership roles within their communities.

French, who has more than 10 years of public school board service, is currently in her second term as board president of Valley View ISD. She also serves on the executive board of the North Texas Area Association of School Boards (NTAASB) and as a TASB Director for Region 11.

TASB Field Reps Retire in January

Three familiar faces on the TASB Field Services team retired in January: Kathee Lupton, Bob Smith, and Rolando Peña. The three had long histories in Texas public education.

Kathee Lupton joined TASB in April 1989, serving ESC Region 17. She previously served as a trustee in Shallowater ISD, with the goal of developing a better understanding of how the Texas education system worked. “Also, Shallowater ISD had never had a woman on the board, and that made the opportunity even more appealing,” said Lupton, who served as the only woman on the board for 12 years. During her tenure, she also served on the TASB Board for six years.

Bob Smith became a TASB field representative in January 2008. He had appreciated the service his field rep provided his own district when he was a superintendent and knew he wanted to provide that same support to the education community in ESC Regions 5 and 6 and parts of 4 and 7. He previously had spent 14 years as a teacher, principal, and director of planning. He then served as superintendent of Gilmer and Montgomery ISDs for a total of 22 years and was named a state finalist for TASB’s Superintendent of the Year in 1998. “One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about my job is helping new superintendents get started,” Smith said.

Rolando Peña served 44 years in public schools: as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent, leading Rio Hondo ISD for 10 years and Lasara ISD for seven years. The Rio Hondo ISD School Board nominated him for Superintendent of the Year in 2001. Peña also served as a board member for Sharyland ISD for nine years. Joining TASB in September 2017 to support ESC Region 1 and parts of 2 and 20, Peña said his 17 years working as a superintendent gave him a better understanding of the importance of a good superintendent-board

Carroll ISD Trustee Hannah Smith was appointed in November by Gov. Greg Abbott to the Texas Commission on Virtual Education, which was established by lawmakers during the legislative session to develop and make recommendations regarding the delivery of virtual education in the public school system and state funding for virtual education under the Foundation School Program.

Smith was elected to Carroll ISD School Board in May and is serving her first term on the board, where she holds the secretary position. She is an attorney with the Washington, D.C. law firm of Schaerr Jaffee, where she specializes in appellate and religious freedom matters.

relationship. “I felt I could promote the board training that TASB does so well. Well-trained, active board members benefit themselves and their community by focusing on the things that matter most in educating all children,” he said.

The TASB Field Services representatives are TASB’s ambassadors to all regions of the state. Learn about the Field Services team on tasb.org under Services.

40 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Smith Appointed to State Committee
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 tls@tasb.org.
Photo by TASB Media Services Bob Smith, Kathee Lupton, and Rolando Peña Photo courtesy of Hannah Smith

Veteran School Trustee Offers Advice

Service Must Focus on Schoolchildren

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new, occasional feature, District Voices. 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 laura.tolley@tasb.org

Our inaugural offering is by David Holder, a school board member at Castleberry ISD, a school district near downtown Fort Worth that has more than 3,600 students.

It has been my privilege to serve on the Castleberry ISD Board of Education for 20 years. Some years have been more difficult than others, but every year presented both opportunities and challenges. I recently reflected on my years as a board member and want to share some of the main ideas that come to mind about effective school board service.

Learn how the board does its work

I’ve learned through the years that most stakeholders have almost no idea what a school board does or how the board does its work. What I consider some of the best advice for new board members is to sit quietly and observe what the board does during the first year. Not receiving this advice, I now recognize that in my first year as a board member, I asked too many questions and didn’t listen nearly enough.

Much of the board’s work is repetitive. Allow veteran board members to carry the load during your first year. Listen and learn, read and research, and you’ll be better informed and more capable of dealing effectively with the

board’s items and issues in years to come. Don’t be driven by every comment or demand citizens make. You are elected to be an effective board member, and the more you understand about the board’s composition and work, the more effective you will be.

Focus on governance

A school board is a team of eight, composed of seven members plus the superintendent. To be most effective, all members of the team must understand their respective roles and responsibilities. The motto, “The board governs and the superintendent manages,” is spot on and captures the essence of the division of labor that should characterize the board-superintendent relationship. With some issues that develop, it’s easy for either side of the board-superintendent relationship to overstep its place. Neither side is properly structured to fill the other’s role. Remember the motto, “The board governs and the superintendent manages.” Ask if this is really happening in your district and urge the team to redirect until it does.

Commit to student achievement

In the first couple of years I served as board president, I asked “What is best for kids?” at the beginning of every meeting. After a TASB convention and some serious thinking, I modified the question, making it more precise. During the remainder of my tenure as board president, as each meeting began, I asked, “What can we do to encourage and support the academic achievement of every student in

this district?” A question like this gets our most important work in front of us. Every program, every expenditure, every agenda item should in some way be focused on students’ academic achievement. Yes, problems arise and needs develop, but the board must not allow any of these to sidetrack us from our primary objective and most significant strategy.

The board can support student achievement not only by questions and budgets but also by recognition and appreciation. Set aside time during board meetings to recognize students’ accomplishments. Another means of support is for board members to divide opportunities among themselves to be visible at district events.

Monitor yourself and your board

All effective systems are planned, executed, and monitored, and this is no less the case with the school board. Each board member must monitor himself or herself to be sure we do not come to our work with a personal agenda but are focused on district business. We need to ask ourselves: Am I serving on the board for the benefit of all students in the district? Are my questions relevant and focused? Are my comments helpful? Is my attitude good and my demeanor kind?

Similarly, board members should monitor each other. A board will do its best work when each member remembers we are on the same team to accomplish important objectives for the students of our district. We must monitor ourselves to this end.H

texaslonestaronline.org | January/February 2022 | Texas Lone Star 41
David Holder
District Voices
David Holder is vice president of the Castleberry ISD school board.

It’s 2022 — Let’s Feel Encouraged

Texas will find its way forward through you

Parental rights and parental voices, especially about curriculum, instruction and library books, are hot topics right now in public education.

It’s not possible to provide the answers and solutions to the questions surrounding these weighty matters in a 700-word column. It likely couldn’t even be accomplished in a 50-page white paper written by someone much smarter than me.

What you will find here, though, is an unwavering optimism that our schools will be stronger through tackling these tough conversations.

Trustees lead the way

This optimism stems from the knowledge that you — the 7,000+ school board members in Texas — are at the forefront of these discussions. No, it won’t be easy. There are very few topics and points of discussion in public education today that are straightforward and simple. With our communities divided on so many subjects, and efforts to undermine public education purposely fueling some of these divisions, school governance will likely be on a bumpy ride for a while.

And yet, there is no group better positioned to reach across the divide than publicly elected school trustees. Here's why I say this with such certainty:

First, it’s where you’ve always been — fighting for and protecting parental rights and community voices in public education. In fact, there is no level of government more committed to parental rights than publicly elected school boards.

During my time as a district adminis-

trator, the school board was always pushing for more dialogue and communication channels with parents and community members. The school board also was always advocating for the establishment of formal family and community engagement plans. And the school board was always asking how the district was ensuring that schools welcomed parents and invited them to be partners in their child’s education

Of course, I’m not saying that district administrators and school leaders aren’t deep in this work as well. They are indeed — and quite passionately.

Engagement builds strong schools

However, trustees — especially those who came to board service after being parent leaders at their children’s schools — have been leading the way to incorporate stronger family and community engagement practices across Texas to ensure student success.

For example, at Spring ISD, I oversaw a small team of talented family engagement experts. Each of these amazing professionals was passionate about strong family relationships, especially efforts designed to connect parents and guardians to their child’s educational outcomes. One team member had a strong school counseling background. Another team member had a background in social work and early childhood development. And one team member had been the principal of a highly successful elementary campus. Combined, these professionals were doing outstanding work in support of the district’s 35,000 students.

There was one trustee, though, that

always kept us on our toes. Her name is Justine Durant, and she is one of the strongest family and parent advocates around, having served more than 15 years on the board. My team worked hard, but Trustee Durant made us want to work even harder to meet the needs of our district’s families. She always asked the right questions, she always gave good advice, and she always stood ready to call on her Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sisters when support was needed.

Supporting student achievement

For me, trustees working closely with district staff to meet parent and community needs is the way strong schools are built and maintained. It’s also the path forward to ever-stronger student outcomes.

This grassroots formula only exists in public education, where all children are welcomed and publicly elected officials govern and guide district efforts through open meetings at which community members can share their thoughts, opinions, and concerns.

As such, let’s feel encouraged that the right structures are in place for productive conversations to be had on all the issues confronting public education right now.

Let’s also push back when needed — as Ted Beard noted in his column — when school boards are portrayed as anti-parent. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You know this. I know this. Let’s make sure others know it as well, especially those who seek to undermine public education.

That’s the road ahead in 2022, and TASB stands ready to help you in this important work.H

42 Texas Lone Star | January/February 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org A Final Note
Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield is TASB associate executive director of Marketing and Communications.

Resources for School Board


• 2022 Guide for School Board Candidates

• Links to state election resources

Training for School Board

texaslonestaronline.org | January/February 2022 | Texas Lone Star 43 Learn and earn credit from the comfort of your home For information on any of these offerings: 800.580.8272, ext. 2453 • board.dev@tasb.org tasb.org/board-dev Online resources and training to assist school board members and candidates Check out the possibilities! Additional opportunities for convenient training
how your board can develop and articulate high expectations to make a difference for the students in your district.
Value of Setting and Supporting High Expectations for Student Achievement: A Webinar for School Board Members
for trustees
Tuesday, February 15, noon – 1 p.m. CST. One hour of credit
To register, visit events.tasb.org and search for the title of the webinar.
about service on your local school board?
the difference between board and staff responsibilities, how to campaign constructively, and where to find information about
a candidate.
Candidates Thinking
to Serve: A Webinar for School Board Candidates
Tuesday, February 8, noon – 1 p.m. CST. FREE Visit
for more information, including:
NONPROFIT ORG US POSTAGE PAID AUSTIN TEXAS PERMIT NO 1422 Texas Association of School Boards P.O. Box 400 Austin, Texas 78767-0400 SAVE THE DATE! SAN ANTONIO June 15–18, 2022 FORT WORTH June 29–July 2, 2022 Visit tasb.org/sli for the most up-to-date SLI information. CALL FOR PROGRAMS Do you have a pertinent message, program, or initiative from your home district you would like to share with other trustees and district leaders across Texas? If so, we want to hear about it! Submit your session ideas by emailing kathy.dundee@tasb.org.
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