June 2022

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Texas Lone Star


New cybersecurity program helps connect San Antonio students to high-paying jobs

A Publication of the Texas Association of School Boards | Volume 40, Number 5 | June 2022




JUNE 15-18



• Leadership TASB Application Deadline

12 • TASB Facility Services: Asbestos Designated Person Training — Austin

13 • TASB Facility Services: Integrated Pest Management — Austin

TASB Officers 2021-22

Ted Beard, Longview ISD, President

Debbie Gillespie, Frisco ISD, President-Elect

Armando Rodriguez, Canutillo ISD, Second Vice-President

Rolinda Schmidt, Kerrville ISD, Secretary-Treasurer

Jim Rice, Immediate Past President

TASB Board of Directors 2021-22

Moises Alfaro, Mathis ISD, Region 2

Jesus Amaya, Los Fresnos CISD, Region 1A

Rose Avalos, Aldine ISD, Region 4H

Carlos Bentancourt, Slaton ISD, Region 17

Kamlesh Bhikha, ESC 2, ESC Representative

Darlene Breaux, Alief ISD, Region 4B

Steve Brown, Ector County ISD, Region 18

Kevin A. Carbo, Mesquite ISD, Region 10D

Justin Chapa, Arlington ISD, Region 11C

Thomas Darden, Cooper ISD, Region 8

Karen Freeman, Northside ISD, Region 20B

Sylvia Sanchez Garza, South Texas ISD, Region 1B

Myrna Guidry, Houston ISD, Region 4D

Linda Gooch, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10B

Mary Jane Hetrick, Dripping Springs ISD, Region 13B

Julie Hinaman, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Region 4F

Tony Hopkins, Friendswood ISD, Region 4C

Tricia Ikard, Maypearl ISD, Region 10A

Tami Keeling, Victoria ISD, Region 3

Mark Lukert, Wichita Falls ISD, Region 9

Kathy Major, Liberty Hill ISD, Region 13C

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

Dan Micciche, Dallas ISD, Region 10C

Scott Moore, Conroe ISD, Region 6B

Nicholas Phillips, Nederland ISD, Region 5

Tony Raymond, Sabine ISD, Region 7

Georgan Reitmeier, Klein ISD, Region 4A

Greg Schulte, Katy ISD, Region 4E

Cindy Spanel, Highland Park ISD, Region 16

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

Yasmin Wagner, Austin ISD, Region 13A

Mildred Watkins, La Vega ISD, Region 12

Greg Welch, Clyde CISD, Region 14

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

Terri Williams, North East ISD, Region 20E

26-27 • TASB HR Services: HR for Campus Leaders — Virtual Event


23-25 • txEDCON22 — TASA | TASB Convention — San Antonio


6-8 • Mexican American School Boards Conference — San Antonio

20-21 • TASB Conference for Administrative Professionals — Austin

Call for submissions to District Voices!

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

We look forward to hearing from you and your district!

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 | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org Calendar
• TASB HR Services: Managing State and Federal Leave — Virtual Event 8 • Getting Started as a Board Officer — Virtual Event 8-9 • TASB HR Services: Get a Grip on the FMLA — Virtual Event 13-15 • TASBO Summer Solutions Conference — Irving 15 • TASB and ESC Region 11: Are Your School Nurse Operations Safe and Compliant? — Virtual Event 15-18 • TASB Summer Leadership Institute — San Antonio 21-23 • TASA txedFest Summer Conference — Round Rock 29-July 2 • TASB Summer Leadership Institute — Fort Worth JULY 1
JUNE 1-2

8 A Commitment to Innovation

New cybersecurity program helps connect San Antonio students to high-paying jobs


2 Calendar

20 Legal News

22 Capitol Watch

24 HR Files

26 News & Events



From the Top

7 Editor's Note

38 A Final Note


Going Electric

Districts weigh options regarding electric school buses

Texas Lone Star • Volume 40, Number 5

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 González, Stephanie Butler, Leslie Trahan, Joan Randall, Melissa Locke Roberts, Dianne Anderson, Jen Cox, Jasmine Wightman, Jennifer Barton, David Wylie and Theresa Gage-Dieringer

14 Vegging Out East Texas school district garden helps fill student lunch plates

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.

18 Promoting a Passion Retiring TSPRA executive director says public ed is more important than ever

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Postmaster: Send address changes to TASB, P.O. Box 400, Austin, Texas 78767-0400.

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 3 Follow us: Features
Contents | June 2022
8 Texas Lone Star May 2022 texaslonestaronline.org
Solution Membership with the TASB Risk Management Fund includes services and coverage that help you manage your organization’s risk so you can focus on what matters most—your students. training and education | comprehensive coverage | knowledge of Texas schools tasbrmf.org

The Teacher Shortage

We need help tackling this problem

During the first Gulf War (Desert Shield/Storm), I was serving as a platoon sergeant and had 27 soldiers under my supervision. While we were deployed in the Theater of Operations, I often had to send soldiers to different locations based on mission needs, such as filling a vacancy at a prisoner of war camp or augmenting the perimeter defense of our camps. This often felt like a game of whack-a-mole, where I was constantly trying to address urgent needs with limited personnel.

There are a lot of similarities with what’s happening in schools today with staffing shortages. Administrators are constantly juggling to find qualified educators to fill essential teaching positions.

There are consequences to this constant shuffling and juggling, which I learned firsthand when dealing with a staffing shortage that left only one soldier and me for a job that normally took several people.

Two against a blazing fire

On this day, the soldier and I were tasked with loading a flatbed truck with important cargo, including mail. (From the perspective of a soldier in battle, mail is invaluable.)

The job typically would involve several soldiers, but on this day, they had already been sent out to support other missions. So, it was just me and the other soldier, who was assigned to drive the forklift to hoist both the cargo and me as I ensured everything was secured and properly labeled.

After being lowered down on one occasion, so I could check the other side of the truck, I noticed a soldier passing by in

a vehicle. He was yelling, while pointing at the cargo area. It was hard for me to hear because of the sand and wind, but I quickly got the urgent message: “The truck is on fire!”

Sure enough, I turned around and saw a blaze that was rapidly spreading in the high winds. I ran to the location on the truck where the fire extinguisher should have been but found it missing. All the while, I was yelling at the forklift driver to push the burning cargo (yes, precious letters and packages from home) off the truck.

The soldier worked hard to maneuver the forklift to get the cargo off the truck. But now under pressure, he suddenly seemed as if he had never operated a forklift before. I could operate one but did not want to risk catching it on fire, so I ended up pushing and pulling cargo to save what I could from the blaze, severely injuring my back in the process.

The result was that the truck and 95% of the cargo burned to the ground.

Finding “fire extinguishers”

Of course, when we look at the staffing shortages in school districts across the state, there’s no literal fire. But I would argue that the situation is just as dire for the well-being and longterm success of our students. Since the start of the pandemic, districts have been struggling to keep qualified educators and support personnel amid all the challenges brought by COVID-19.

After the truck fire, I remember having to explain to the company commander what happened, and it was not a comfortable conversation. But like anyone in a similar situation, you try to do your best with the resources available

at the time.

School districts are trying to do just that — provide a quality education to every student, despite all the staffing issues. Understandably, there’s been stress, frustration, and a growing demand for solutions. It’s not a stretch to say some districts need a lot of help — perhaps a figurative fire extinguisher.

During TASB’s Grassroots Meetings earlier this year, the issue of teacher recruitment and retention was a common theme among attendees from across the state, which speaks to the urgency we all feel. And just recently, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a nationwide call to action for states and schools to tap federal resources and work together to address the teacher shortage and aid student recovery from the pandemic.

I’ve been encouraged to see that some districts, including Spring ISD, are using innovative strategies. This north Houston-area district is hiring virtual teachers through a staffing agency to help fill an unprecedented number of vacancies. We must consider solutions like this — and how to elevate the pay and prestige of teachers — because they are teaching our most precious resource, our children.

It’s going to take all of us, working collaboratively and creatively, to get ahead of the staffing shortage. Our students deserve nothing less than permanent and equitable solutions, not this game of whack-a-mole.H

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 5
From the Top
Ted Beard, a Longview ISD trustee, is 2021-22 president of TASB.
Ideas. Insights. Inspiration. Shaping Public Education Together September 23 – 25 • San Antonio Henry B. González Convention Center • #tasatasb Why You Should Attend txEDCON22 in San Antonio Registration opens July 19. Visit tasa.tasb.org for more information. Advocacy updates for 2023 Small School District Seminar 100s of exhibitors Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) and Outstanding School Board announced NEW FOR 2022 Roundtable discussions And so much more! Amazing student performances from Longview ISD and Los Fresnos CISD TASB Delegate Assembly is Saturday, Sept. 24. Remember to select your board’s delegate! delegate.tasb.org

Garden Lessons

Learning comes in many ways

One of Martha Hood’s favorite educational tools is something she calls “the pickle plant.” Hood is the master gardener at Longview ISD, home to a nearly five-acre garden that produces fruits and vegetables served to students across the district. She also gives demonstrations to teach children about food production. “Kids don’t know where food comes from,” she told me recently.

“The most fun I had was taking a cucumber plant out to a school and asking everybody, ‘Who likes pickles?’ And they would all just go crazy, saying, ‘We love pickles!’” Hood held up the plant and

and how it helps feed healthy meals to students and teaches them about food’s origins. (Read the story on page 14.)

Dozier keeps Snoddy informed about what will be coming from the garden so that she can work on weekly lunch menus. But they also do simple things like put whole peppers out in small individual cups for students to try at lunch.

I got a tour of the garden to see the beginnings of this year’s crops, wishing I could return to sample some of the produce. Yes, I drove the nearly 300 miles from Austin to Longview because some things you just have to see for yourself — sort of like the pickle plant.

cucumbers grew, they were long, slender vegetables with thinner skins.

Thinking he may have gotten radioactive seeds or something — I mean, it was New Mexico — he took a cucumber back to the feed store before any of us could try one. The clerk explained they were something called English cucumbers and perfectly fine to eat.

We did. What marvels! You didn’t have to peel them, they had a smoother taste, and they didn’t make my dad burp. We were complete converts, and Bopo replanted them every summer. I also realized how cucumbers became bread-and-butter pickles by helping my grandmother can them. The best ever.

Back then, all I wanted to do was go swimming at the high school pool. But it’s the lessons I learned in the garden, deep in the dirt, that I have carried with me. I know fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, I shop at farmers’ markets, I tend to my own small plot each summer.

asked the children if they knew what it was. No, they said. “Well,” she said, “it’s a pickle plant,” further explaining that pickles are made from cucumbers. “They were so excited to learn that.”

Hood knows learning takes many forms, and she likes “presenting things to the students in a fun way that helps them get excited and hopefully remember what I am teaching them. I try my best to connect happiness with gardening. There is not enough happiness in our world.”

I recently visited with Hood, Phyllis Dozier, LISD’s director for Child Nutrition, and Roshundalyn Chardee' Snoddy, LISD’s chef and culinary trainer, for a story about the district garden project

My early years in the garden

On the long drive back home through the rolling green countryside, I remembered how I learned about food production by working my grandfather’s garden in Albuquerque’s rural North Valley. My mother’s parents lived next door, and Bopo, as we called my grandfather, planted tomatoes, green beans, squash, beets, peppers, cucumbers, and more. It was our family’s collective duty to work the garden in the summer mornings before we did anything else. Or as I thought back then, before I got to do anything fun.

When Bopo first started the garden, he got seeds from the local feed store, including cucumber. But when the

It seems the students of LISD are getting the same learning opportunities, thanks to Dozier, Snoddy, Hood, and others who are committed to making the garden a project that will benefit generations of LISD children.H

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 7
Editor’s Note
Laura Tolley is managing editor of Texas Lone Star
Yes, I drove the nearly 300 miles from Austin to Longview because some things you just have to see for yourself — sort of like the pickle plant.
Laura Tolley


New cybersecurity program helps connect San Antonio students to high-paying jobs

8 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org

North East ISD sophomore Seyma Kilic already has her career path planned out. Kilic, who attends the district’s new Institute for Cybersecurity and Innovation (iCSI), is on track to become a penetration tester, a growing field within the cybersecurity industry.

iCSI, which opened its doors in the fall of 2021, uses real-world problem-solving scenarios to train students in cybersecurity and networking. The program offers up to six industry certifications that help prepare students to enter the workforce straight out of high school. Classrooms resemble state-of-the-art security operations centers, and the campus contains two networking labs, along with a 10,000-squarefoot multipurpose arena. The facility, which makes use of modular walls, is designed to adapt to the needs of the industry.

“[iCSI] opens up a lot of doors,” said Kilic. “It’s the industry certifications — which colleges offer and take pride in — as well as the hands-on experience I get from my instructors and the specific tools I learn about that are actually used in the workforce.”

Designed with industry guidance

The new school is a collaboration among the administration of the San Antonio school district, its board of trustees, and the local business community. San Antonio currently boasts the second-largest cybersecurity hub in the United States, outside of Washington, D.C., with plenty of career opportunities available for well-qualified students.

Finding a way to connect students with those high-paying jobs made sense, according to NEISD Superintendent Sean Maika.

“Looking across the U.S., there really isn’t a facility like this at a high school level,” Maika said. “We didn’t just design this from an educational perspective. We used the industry to tell us what it should look like.”

The result is a unique magnet school that is poised to capitalize on the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals while strengthening NEISD’s portfolio of specialty programs in a greater metropolitan area that offers families plenty of educational choices, including 19 public school districts and dozens of other private and charter options.

“We kept it very quiet, and that was by design,” said Maika. “In today’s world, everybody’s competing, even in education.”

According to NEISD Board President Shannon Grona, one of the biggest hurdles in getting the school off the ground was making sure parents and students were ready to take advantage of the program. Early surveys showed a lack of interest in a cybersecurity and networking magnet school, prompting the district to launch an information campaign for parents and students.

“We thought we were going to have 150 seats for our first year,” recalled Grona. “We went from basically zero interest when we were first talking about the program, but once we started implementing and talking about it, we had {an} overflow.”

The iCSI lobby displays information about the school and plans for expansion. NEISD sophomore Seyma Kilic outside iCSI’s networking labs. The iCSI campus is housed in a former Walmart building.
texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 9
Photos courtesy of Jason Gatell, NEISD Media Production

Providing opportunities

Grona hopes iCSI will not only feed the pipeline of careers in the cybersecurity industry but also prepare students for a variety of pathways after high school.

“We as board members know that not all kids want to go to college,” said Grona. “That’s one of our goals — to ensure that whatever our students want to do after high school, we’re preparing them, whether that is going to college or going straight into the workforce or going into the military.”

In the cybersecurity field, industry certifications are a vital part of that preparation. To make sure all students can obtain these certifications, the district partnered with Pearson to develop a testing site on the campus.

“NEISD is 59% low SES, so rather than a child having to find a ride to a facility, they can come right here, and we can help them,” said Maika. “We pay for them to take it, so we truly tried to eliminate that barrier of economics.”

The district also prioritizes transportation to the iCSI campus. Students are bussed between their home campuses and iCSI for a two-period block of classes each day. This ensures students have easy access to the facility and allows them to stay connected with friends and teachers on their home campus.

“With some of our other magnet programs, students have to leave their home campus and their community,” explained Grona. “What’s great about this is it’s two periods during the day, so they can do sports, they can have other classes with their friends that they grew up with and still go to this magnet school.”

According to Kilic, this work has paid off in engagement levels for students. “Kids are willing to go to summer school to take this class and be a part of the cohort of kids,” she said. “It’s the highlight of our days to come here and be learning cybersecurity and getting hands-on experiences at a facility like this.”

Attracting staff

With an inaugural class of roughly 150 students, iCSI currently employs only two teachers. But as enrollment grows and the facility expands in the coming years, the district is eyeing ways to create a pipeline of teaching staff. Maika said the district will consider both industry professionals and trained educators for these positions.

“You don’t have to be a tech person to do cyber. You have to have curiosity. You have to be willing to persevere,” said Maika. “That’s the thing that industry focuses on, not just the hard skills of cyber.”

iCSI instructor Josh Beck has been teaching cybersecurity and networking

iCSI instructor Josh Beck works with a cybersecurity and networking student.
10 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Photos courtesy of Jason Gatell, NEISD Media Production

courses at NEISD for nine years. Beck, who started his career as an English teacher 21 years ago, said staying up to date with industry trends is the biggest barrier for educators who have never worked in the cybersecurity field. “You have to be an autodidact, you have to be able to educate yourself,” he said. “As a teacher I already have classroom management, but someone coming from industry has the exact inverse.”

Attracting candidates from the cybersecurity industry, which has a median annual salary of roughly $100,000, can be a challenge. As a district of innovation, NEISD makes use of a provision that allows them to suspend certifications for career and technical education teachers. The district also offers a 12-month contract, rather than a standard 9-month one. According to Justin Missildine, senior director of Career and Technical Education at NEISD, this decision not only helps draw new talent to the school but also supports community engagement.

“When the summer hits, [the iCSI teachers] don’t leave. They’re still on contract and they’re still working,” said Missildine. “If you’re going to have community involvement, you have to have staff on site. It allows us to be financially competitive and to continue to utilize the facility.”

Room for growth

Elias Bou-Harb, director of the Cyber Center for Security and Analytics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, believes schools like iCSI are essential to keeping the cybersecurity industry at the top of its game.

“In Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and even smaller cities, there is a huge demand on cyber training in general, and the demand keeps on growing across state and country,” said Bou-Harb. “As cyber attacks continue to increase, the bad guys are always ahead of us. Any training we can do even at

the early stages will help us in the big picture of addressing this problem.”

Maika hopes iCSI will be able to help address these concerns for years to come. The campus, which was built in an old Walmart, has plenty of room for expansion. The district would ultimately like to take on 600 students, which would include building more classrooms and eventually developing a competition arena.

“Our challenge will be, as this facility goes to scale and we have freshmen through seniors here, do we need to expand, or can this facility handle the demand?” said Maika. “It will all be based on supply and demand. If the demand is there, we will have to figure out the supply.”H

Leslie Trahan is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star. NEISD sophomore Seyma Kilic attends cybersecurity and networking classes at iCSI.
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iCSI classrooms are built to resemble state-of-the-art security operations centers.

Going Electric

Districts weigh options regarding electric school buses

With rising fuel costs topping the headlines, some school districts are considering whether a switch to electric buses could benefit their students, staff, and communities.

Although personal electric vehicles have been on the road for decades, government vehicles have been slower to adopt the new technology. In Texas, the first electric school bus was deployed in December 2020, when Everman ISD in Tarrant County took advantage of the Texas Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Program to replace three diesel school buses with electric buses.

According to the World Resources Institute, as of January 2022, no other school districts in Texas have yet purchased electric buses. But increasing conversations about the air quality and health benefits of reduced emissions — along with a slate of new funding opportunities — means more districts across the state are poised to make the switch.

Why electric buses?

In Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Director of Transportation Services Kayne Smith said his district in Harris County is considering switching to electric buses for both environmental and cost-efficiency reasons.

“Your electric school bus has a quarter or less of the moving parts of a traditional internal combustion engine school bus, so when we talk about the long-term cost benefits of it, it’s not just the cost savings of fuel but the cost savings of maintenance,” said Smith.

Though electric buses are expected to save districts money in the long term, the initial investment might raise eyebrows. Electric buses cost about three times more than their old-school counterparts. School leaders are expected to spend public funds responsibly, so districts should be prepared to quantify the return on investment.

“We project to save about $7,000 annually on each of our three electric buses, for a total of $21,000 every year,” said EISD Superintendent Felicia Donaldson. “About 70% of the savings is in fuel, and the rest is in reduced maintenance costs.”

But it’s not just the cost savings that make electric buses a compelling alternative. Lennis Barlow, clean energy associate at Environment Texas, said that some districts that invest in

electric buses may also uncover a new source of revenue. “Not only would you be charging the school buses, but they could be plugged in and serve as battery storage for the grid or for other buildings,” said Barlow. “This could be a revenue stream for school bus operators or districts, if they are able to sell the power back to the grid.”

Barlow notes that this technology, known as vehicle to grid, or V2G, will not have an immediate impact on a district’s bottom line.

“Those sort of benefits only come at scale,” she said. “You would have to have a large fleet of e-buses in order for that revenue to be substantial.”

What else do districts need to know?

Although the benefits of electric buses have been well documented, the decision to switch is not always simple, according to TASB Risk Prevention Services Manager Joanie Arrott.

“E-buses require charging stations, so you need to make sure you have room for that infrastructure,” said Arrott. “There are costs associated with that, and it may require working with local utilities to get power for a fleet of e-buses. Those conversations need to start before you build and should include any district staff involved in the construction and maintenance.”

12 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
In December 2020, Everman ISD replaced three diesel school buses with electric buses. Photo courtesy of Everman ISD

Smith, though optimistic about the future of electric buses, is concerned about the practical implications as well.

“We have to take into account that there may not be charging stations at every football stadium on a Friday night in the fall, and there may not be charging stations at the zoo or when we’re taking a trip far out of town,” he said. “We will still need a diesel, gas, or propane bus to get us there.”

Donaldson adds that electric buses operate similarly to diesel buses, but there’s still a learning curve for drivers.

“The buses are a little bigger than what our drivers are used to,” explained Donaldson. “They also accelerate and decelerate faster. Drivers trained with me and the transportation director for about 20 hours between morning and afternoon routes. We wanted to make sure they were comfortable before putting them behind the wheel.”

What about the money?

Though electric school buses are more expensive upfront, Smith said CFISD hopes to take advantage of federal funds to support their initiative.

“There are a lot of benefits, and I think for us and a lot of districts, we have to find a way to make that upfront investment,” Smith said. “With the infrastructure grants that are coming out, I would not be surprised to start seeing a lot more people procuring e-buses.”

Five things to know about electric buses

1. It takes between three and eight hours to charge the battery.

2. Buses can travel more than 150 miles on a single charge. Air conditioning use, hilly terrain, number of stops, and driver behavior such as abrupt acceleration impact how long charges last.

3. Some programs allow you to sell unused energy back to the grid.

4. Electric buses run quieter, making it easier for drivers to hear students, surrounding traffic, and emergency vehicles.

5. Be sure to check on the delivery schedule with the manufacturer if you purchase an e-bus. (It took about eight months from the time Everman ISD completed its grant application to the time the manufacturer delivered three electric buses.)

Legislators recognize the benefits of cleaning up diesel emissions, and they’re committing funds to make it happen. There are a few federal and state grants districts should consider:

• EPA Diesel Emissions Reduction Act

• Texas Emissions Reduction Program

• Texas Clean School Bus Program

• North Texas Clean Diesel Project

Districts can also explore funding opportunities from utility providers, as well as manufacturer purchasing incentives. Despite the many funding options, the country’s halfmillion-strong school bus fleet currently includes a mere 1,200 electric buses. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in November 2021, aims to increase that number tenfold. The plan earmarks $5 billion for zero- and low-emission school buses.

You don’t have to go all in

The education sector might be on an inevitable (albeit long) journey toward fully electric fleets, but for now, diesel is king. It powers 95% of America’s buses, just as it has since the 1980s.

You can take steps now to clean up your fleet while you explore whether electric buses are a good fit for your district:

1. Retrofit diesel engines with diesel particulate filters, oxidation catalysts, crankcase filters, and emission control technology.

2. Cut unnecessary idling.

• Work with your legal counsel to ensure you comply with idling regulations.

• Enforce an idling reduction policy.

• Explore idling reduction technology.

3. Replace engines with modern versions that run on cleaner fuels such as biodiesel or compressed natural gas.

If you decide you’re ready to introduce electric into your fleet, lean on guidance from organizations such as the EPA, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and School Transportation News.

“Electric buses haven’t even been on the market 10 years, so this is new to all of us,” said Donaldson. “I can’t overstate the importance of choosing a reputable vendor that will guide you through the process and train your team.”★

David Wylie is a content developer for TASB Risk Management Services.

Leslie Trahan is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star.

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Vegging Out

East Texas school district garden helps fill student lunch plates

Fresh salsa, seasoned purple hull peas, spaghetti sauce made from tomatoes straight out of the garden, cobbler filled with blueberries picked off the vine.

These may seem like featured items on a trendy farm-to-table restaurant menu, but they are actually lunch offerings served to thousands of students at Longview ISD, thanks to the district’s vibrant garden.

Established in 2018, the nearly fiveacre garden behind LISD’s Education Center had some lean seasons as the soil built up, but last year proved to be one of abundance, with some 4,366 pounds of fruits and vegetables harvested. That impressive yield included 346 pounds of yellow squash, 600 pounds of potatoes, 390 pounds of corn, and more than 1,300 pounds of several varieties of tomatoes, including tomatillos.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done here,” said Phyllis Dozier, LISD’s director for Child Nutrition. “I don’t think there’s anybody else in the state who is doing what we do. But

14 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
From left: James Hockenberry, LISD assistant superintendent of district services, TASB President Ted Beard, an LISD trustee, Martha Hood, LISD master gardener, and Roshundalyn Chardee’ Snoddy, LISD’s chef and culinary trainer, gather in the district’s garden. Photo by Laura Tolley

it isn’t about that. It’s about what we can offer the kids. The more we can produce, the more we can provide for the students, who may not have the opportunity to have fresh fruits and vegetables at home, for whatever the reason.”

Why it matters

About 87% of LISD’s estimated 8,900 students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and about 62% qualify for Medicaid or food stamps, Dozier said. Fresh produce and homemade meals may not be the norm at home, but it’s a different story at school, thanks to the garden.

Cafeteria menus at LISD’s 13 school campuses include fruits and vegetables from the garden, with some produce harvested in the morning and served on lunch trays the very same day. The district also freezes fresh produce for later — sweet summer tomatoes become spaghetti sauce, instead of using canned ones, for example.

Jalapeños, onions, and bell peppers help season and flavor vegetables, beans, and protein served at the district, which, like others, is governed by strict federal salt and calorie limits, said Roshundalyn

Longview Houston Austin Dallas texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 15
Students from Foster Middle School’s FFA class at the LISD garden to honor Earth Day. Photo courtesy of Longview ISD

Chardee' Snoddy, LISD’s chef and culinary trainer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s transitional nutritional standards for sodium limits drops 10% in the 2023-24 school year.

“Fresh food provides more flavor to the food, making it more appealing to the kids. And if they like it, they will eat it,” Snoddy said. Fresh produce also is more colorful, she said, adding: “Everybody eats with their eyes.”

The garden not only nourishes their bodies; it also feeds students’ minds, she said.

“They have no idea where food comes from,” Snoddy said. “I think [the garden] teaches them a greater appreciation of food. Introducing them to fresh vegetables allows them to appreciate foods and taste a lot more.”

Snoddy graduated from Longview High School in 2006 and received her associate degree in Culinary Arts from Le Cordon Bleu-Dallas. She returned home in 2011, first working at an upscale event and restaurant venue for several years before joining LISD. It’s rewarding for her to be back home helping students eat healthier and learn about food production.

How it started

Dozier was just looking for a little patch to plant a few tomato plants when a community garden opened on the land behind the support center.

“Nobody wanted to take another sec-

tion, so I wound up with all of it,” she said.

Now Dozier simply looks out her office window to see how things are growing in the garden, which sits on district-owned land. “We just happened to have the property. We’ve been fortunate.”

LISD Master Gardener Martha Hood first came to the district in 2017 to teach second-grade students about building gardens (the district also has smaller gardens at four elementary schools). She has overseen the garden project since early 2020 and has several full-time employees. Some students work as seasonal gardeners, mostly in the summer, earning $15 an hour.

“We view our garden as an educational and teaching tool. The bonus from this is that we provide fresh food to the students through the cafeterias,” Hood said. She noted that the food also helps save the district some money, since they don’t have to order as much from suppliers. “We do have plans to expand the garden and produce more to save the district more money.”

Most of the garden harvest is served to the children — but a few others get to reap its benefits. Before their meetings, LISD trustees sit down for dinner prepared by Snoddy and team. A recent menu included chicken pot pie with garden veggies and mixed-berry cobbler.

“The gardens provide students with an educational insight as to where their food comes from, and they benefit from having organically grown, healthy fruits and vegetables. This can positively impact students’ lives, and that has the potential to flow into families and permeate into communities,” said Ted Beard, a longtime LISD trustee and current TASB president. “This is part of lifelong learning and Longview ISD’s responsibility in providing students with nuggets of knowledge on their educational pathway.”

Beard likes to visit the garden and marvel at its growth. And he always enjoys board dinners, especially a recent one. “I ate too much cobbler,” he admitted. He also took a to-go plate home.

16 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Carrot harvest from the LISD garden. LISD Master Gardener Martha Hood in the district’s garden. Photo courtesy of Longview ISD Photo by Laura Tolley

What’s ahead for the garden

LISD officials believe the garden effort could be a model for other districts. Before the pandemic, representatives from several education service centers brought a group of visitors to the garden to learn about the project.

“Then COVID happened, and everybody is just trying to survive still, I think,” Dozier said.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller praised the district for growing “nutritious, healthy food” and said he hopes every Texas school district emulates its success.

“Longview ISD is leading the way when it comes to school gardens. As agriculture commissioner, I have two principal objectives when it comes to Texas schools and Texas kids: have our kids eat healthier and teach Texas kids about agriculture; specifically, I want Texas kids to know where their food comes from,” Miller said in a statement.

“It’s my hope that Texas builds the model program for growing food on campus while also working to acquire local produce from local farmers, thereby contributing to the local economy,” he said. “When it comes to growing school meals at school, the Texas model will be the model for the nation — thanks in part to the efforts that Longview ISD is helping pioneer.”

This summer, Dozier said elementary school students in enrichment classes will visit the garden weekly to learn about food production and see its progress. Garden produce will continue to be served at summer feeding programs, and some produce will be frozen for later. The garden has a number of picnic tables that Hood hopes students can use when they visit.

Longview High School graduate Grant Hockenberry plans to be one of the youths working in the garden this summer once he gets home from Texas A&M University, where he has been studying animal science in hopes of becoming a veterinarian. It will be his third summer working the soil.

“It is very challenging work, especially in the summer because of the heat,” said Hockenberry, whose father is James Hockenberry, LISD assistant superintendent of district services. “However, when I began harvesting for the first time, packaging the harvest for delivery to one of our cafeterias, I had an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the process and child nutrition programs here and elsewhere.”

Hockenberry said he thinks about his health more “because vegetables surrounded me for two summers.” However, he admits that as a first-year college student, he didn’t always make the best food choices.

“I learned many things over the course of two summers, but my lasting impression is that gardening is hard but meaningful and purposeful work and essential to the well-being of all of us,” he said.

As work continues on this year’s LISD garden, there are expansion plans that include preparing about a half acre more for additional plantings. “Eventually, we will get a garden shed and a greenhouse with a teaching room in it,” Hood said.

Hood is aiming to double the 2021 yield this year. She has been working on weeding out some varieties to focus on more reliable, plentiful staples such as potatoes, purple hull peas, turnip greens, onions, tomatoes, and peppers. There are also tubs filled with herbs.

A new project involves several bee houses on the property that pollinate the garden. Honey will be harvested as well.

“This gardening project means the world to me,” Hood said. “Students do not know where their food comes from, and I want to teach them. I also delight in knowing that my efforts help them to learn to eat healthier and enjoy being outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. This job is a gift from heaven for me.”★

Laura Tolley is managing editor of Texas Lone Star. Students from Foster Middle School’s FFA class plant two pecan trees in the LISD garden in honor of Earth Day this year. A red onion grows in the LISD garden. Photo courtesy of Longview ISD
texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 17
Photo by Laura Tolley

Promoting a Passion

Retiring TSPRA executive director says public ed is more important than ever

fter 42 years in public education and 12 years as executive director of the Texas School Public Relations Association, Linsae Snider is passing the baton.

Founded in 1962, TSPRA is dedicated to promoting public schools through effective communications, and its almost 1,100 members are primarily public information and communication professionals.

“Public education is the most important asset our state can offer its citizens, and promoting it is a passion,” Snider said as she readies to retire in June. "I have enjoyed carrying out our mission and exploring new ways to improve communications between Texans and our public schools. That mission has never been more important than it is today. We must promote a positive climate for the continued academic success of Texas students.”

Snider recently talked to TASB about her long career. Her comments have been condensed and lightly edited.

Q: Give us a window into the daily life of someone serving in school district communications.

A: Communication experts operate at “30,000 feet,” focusing on how all the district’s systems affect one another. They have to know a little about all aspects of the district — from school law to food service and funding. Key to the job is the ability to convey complex information in a way that’s easy to understand, distribute it through the right avenues, and effectively communicate with people from diverse backgrounds.

TSPRA Executive Director Linsae Snider.
18 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Photo courtesy of Jim Antich

But the “people” aspect of communications is the most fascinating. We are expected to be the eyes and ears of the district — listening, researching, and relationship-building consume most of our time. And it is so important to be continually assessing community sentiment toward the district.

Q: How has the district communicator’s role evolved since you were in that position?

A: Society expects communication to be fast, frequent, and delivered immediately. It is a 24/7 job. Even an experienced, well-trained professional needs time to strategically dispense information — both the good and the bad — and time is not always available.

District communicators are constantly researching to confirm if information is accurate and to dispel it when it’s not. We live in a world where just because someone thinks something, hears it, or wants to believe it, it is portrayed as factual. There is little regard for whether the information is coming from a reputable source, and it is a huge challenge to set school officials up as the primary and most accurate source of information regarding the district.

The work of an effective communicator requires a very complex skill set, and hours of preparation go into the end result. Technology makes it easier these days, but at the same time, the multitude of platforms can make things harder. One type of delivery does not cut it anymore. The quick letter home in the Tuesday folders is only one way we communicate. Information must be crafted for the website, mass communication systems, mobile devices, all social media platforms, and oftentimes, the media. Market research reveals that Americans will watch a poorly constructed video before they read a well-composed written paragraph, so much of our messaging requires a videographer. That means our teams also now need additional expertise.

Communication delivery must fit the audience, and we are communicating across so many generations, cultures, languages, experiences, and very polarized beliefs about public education.

Q: During your tenure, TSPRA membership has increased 50%. As you hand over the leadership to someone new, what are your hopes for the future of TSPRA and the future of public education?

A: I am happy that school boards and superintendents realize the need for effective communication and highly qualified communications practitioners. I believe TSPRA will continue to be the premier source of professional development for those communicators. TSPRA membership is already very diverse because of the many ways communication is necessary, but I see it expanding further to include additional communication roles, such as designers, videographers, translators, and marketing specialists. And I hope that one day soon things slow down enough that our members can celebrate the work they do and the impact they have on their communities.

As for Texas public education, my hopes are big. I hope young people want to become teachers. I hope existing teachers

realize their value and are appreciated for their hard work. I hope Texas continues to graduate contributing members of society who are proud of the education they received. I hope those serving public education are doing it in the best interest of all children. I hope those working in the field have a voice in the decisions being made about public education. And I hope joy returns to teaching and learning.

Q: What’s on your bucket list for retirement?

A: I am not finished working! I have no immediate plans, and that is intentional. After about six months of completing some home projects, planning a 50-year class reunion, and sleeping in, I will be ready to continue supporting Texas public education … on a part-time basis.★

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 19
Theresa Gage-Dieringer is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star. From left: Lorette Williams, a former TSPRA president, Ian Halperin, a former TSPRA president, and Linsae Snider, TSPRA executive director, at a recent Friends of Texas Public Schools Friend of the Year Gala. Photo courtesy of Linsae Snider From left: Verone Travis, Linsae Snider, executive director of TSPRA, Christy Willman, a former TSPRA president, Shirley Brothers, and Candace Ahlfinger, a former TSPRA president, at the 2022 TSPRA Star Awards Banquet.
Photo by Moses Leo of Hays

Teen Dating Violence

What do schools need to know to keep students safe?

The Texas Legislature has created requirements for public schools to prevent and address dating violence among students. This article discusses legal requirements and resources for districts to keep Texas students safe.

What is dating violence?

Generally speaking, dating violence can be understood as violence, threats, abuse, or coercive behavior committed against a victim with whom the aggressor was or is in a dating relationship. Any student can commit or be a victim of dating violence, regardless of the student’s gender or sexual orientation.

Dating violence can take many forms, including:

• Threats of harm or suicide

• Assault

• Insults

• Name calling

• Isolation from family and friends

• Threats to harm the victim’s past or current dating partner

• Controlling behavior

• Forced sexual acts

• Unwanted touching

For more information on recognizing the signs of dating violence, search for teen dating violence on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov.

Dating violence policy requirements

State law requires school districts to adopt a dating violence policy as part of the district improvement plan. The policy must clearly state that dating violence is not tolerated at school.

The dating violence policy must also:

• Define dating violence as including the intentional use of physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse by a person to harm, threaten, intimidate, or control another person in a dating relationship;

• Provide reporting procedures and guidelines, including a procedure for immediately notifying the parent or guardian of a student about a report received by the district identifying the student as an alleged victim or perpetrator of dating violence; and

• Address safety planning, enforcement of protective orders, school-based alternatives to protective orders, training for teachers and administrators, counseling for affected students, and awareness education.1

In addition, a district’s policy or student handbook may provide reporting procedures and information regarding

investigations and collaboration with law enforcement. Dating violence is addressed in TASB Policies FFH(LEGAL) and (LOCAL).

Responding to dating violence

An employee who receives a report of potential dating violence among students should involve the appropriate administrator to determine if the allegations may also constitute bullying, discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. In accordance with the required policy, the parent or guardian of both the alleged victim and perpetrator must be immediately notified of the allegations.2 The district should then respond in accordance with the procedures in the district improvement plan.

In many cases, it may be necessary to involve the district’s Title IX coordinator to discuss supportive measures to ensure the safety of the alleged victim. Once the relevant policies are identified, the district may investigate and discipline for prohibited behavior in accordance with the law and district policy. Districts may also be required to conduct threat assessments or report illegal behavior to law enforcement.

Other legal requirements

To the extent possible, districts must make educational materials on dating violence available to students and provide resources to students seeking help.3 The district’s resources may include safety planning and access to a counselor.

20 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org Legal News

In certain grades, the State Board of Education has determined that students must receive instruction related to abuse, including dating violence. For example, beginning with the 2022-23 school year, students in seventh and eighth grade are expected to “define dating violence and the characteristics of unhealthy or harmful relationships, including anger, controlling behavior, jealousy, manipulation, and isolation.”4

A student who takes Health I in high school is expected to “analyze the characteristics of harmful relationships that can lead to dating violence,” to explain the importance of reporting dating violence, and to learn about safe boundaries and healthy dating and romantic relationships.5

Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, school boards must adopt a policy on the adoption of curriculum materials on the prevention of child abuse, family violence, dating violence, and sex trafficking. The School Health Advisory Council is responsible for making recommendations regarding curriculum materials, in accordance with the legal requirements.

The school board is ultimately responsible for voting to select the

curriculum materials. More information regarding the curriculum adoption process and SHAC responsibilities can be found at TASB Policies EHAA(LEGAL) and (LOCAL).

Similar to instruction on human sexuality, the law requires a district to notify parents of their ability to opt students into instruction on preventing and reporting dating violence.6 TASB Policy Service provides a sample form in the TASB Regulations Resource Manual.

Raising awareness

Many districts have gone beyond the legal requirements of adopting a policy, making resources available, and following the curriculum requirements. The Texas School Safety Center publishes “A Guide to Addressing Dating

Violence in Texas Schools on its website at https://txssc.txstate.edu, which provides additional recommendations to help schools increase awareness and respond appropriately. The guide addresses issues involving dating violence prevention, including training for teachers and administrators and information to increase awareness for parents and guardians in the district.

Districts can find a more thorough discussion of this topic at TASB Legal Services’ eSource website at tasb.org H

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

1Tex. Educ. Code § 37.083.

2Tex. Educ. Code § 37.0831(b).

3Tex. Educ. Code § 37.0831(c).

419 Tex. Admin. Code § 115.27(b)(20).

519 Tex. Admin. Code § 115.38(b)(18).

6Tex. Educ. Code § 28.004(q-5)-(q-6).

Hello, Possibilities

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 21
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Jasmine Wightman is a TASB Legal Services senior attorney.
State law requires school districts to adopt a dating violence policy as part of the district improvement plan.

Advocacy Agenda Update

Trustees begin work on TASB’s legislative priorities

Eighty-eight trustees began the important work of taking regional priorities gathered during local Grassroots Meetings and turning them into a list of statewide priorities that will eventually become TASB’s legislative priorities.

These 88 members of the Legislative Advisory Council, elected during their local Grassroots Meetings, discussed the results from all 20 regional meetings and decided to include seven issues in their draft: teacher recruitment and retention; mental health of students and staff; school finance; school facilities and bonds; local control of public education; state accountability and assessments; and protection from privatization of public education.

“It was refreshing to hear this group of LAC members and their keen understanding of the issues facing our public schools and students,” said Dax González, division director of TASB Governmental Relations. “Their discussion was a sobering examination of the challenges our teachers and administrators are actually facing on a daily basis and the real impact they’re having on our children.”

After identifying their top priorities, trustees broke into smaller groups to develop statements that explain how they would want TASB to specifically advocate on each issue. The larger group considered all draft statements and agreed to allow TASB staff to refine the language around the main concepts they included.

“If the Grassroots Meetings are the brainstorming session for TASB’s Advocacy Agenda Priorities, then these LAC meetings are the clarifying process, where multiple ideas are distilled down into key issues and clarified through thoughtful

conversation,” added González. “As someone who communicates TASB priorities to legislators and other stakeholders, witnessing this process helps provide necessary context for their concerns and a clearer picture of what our members really want and need.”

Leander ISD Board President Trish Bode said serving on the LAC is yet another way to support students, teachers, and public education.

“The grassroot process provides trustees all across Texas the opportunity to say this is what our students need in the classroom to help them achieve the goals, to help them graduate and become the future of Texas,” she said.

Bode noted that her board continues to be focused on the issues of unfinished learning related to the pandemic, staffing,

and public school funding.

“I love the various opportunities TASB gives trustees to advocate on behalf of their students,” she added.

TASB will invite all LAC members, which includes about 110 trustees, to meet on June 16 in San Antonio to review the edited priorities, suggest additional changes, and adopt a final draft of priorities to recommend to the TASB Board and Delegate Assembly. Once they have agreed upon their final draft, LAC members present at the meeting will choose four of their own to sit on the TASB Board’s Legislative Committee. The committee will help ensure that the voice of the LAC is carried through the process of consideration by the TASB Board and final adoption by the Delegate Assembly.

The Board will meet in July to review the LAC’s draft priorities and make its recommendation to the Delegate Assembly based on the LAC’s work. The Delegate Assembly will discuss the proposed priorities, suggest changes, and finally adopt them this September.

“I’ve participated in the grassroots process and the LAC since I started serving [as a trustee] in 2012,” said Florence ISD Board President Ed Navarette “It’s been a great opportunity for networking, not only for me but for our district, to find other districts that have the same issues that we can partner with and help form resolutions and find solutions to problems that we may have.”

22 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org Capitol Watch
Dan Muirhead, a Splendora ISD trustee, discusses legislative priorities with Legislative Advisory Council members at their April meeting in Austin. Photo by TASB Media Services

Submit advocacy resolutions

While the LAC is working on the priorities that will be included in TASB’s Advocacy Agenda, individual member boards may submit new resolutions to be included in the 2022-24 Agenda.

While Advocacy Priorities are the legislative goals arising from TASB’s grassroots process, Advocacy Resolutions are board-submitted positions guiding TASB’s response to other issues that might come before the Texas Legislature, the State Board of Education, and regulatory entities.

“This is a board’s opportunity to place items important to them on the Advocacy Agenda, even if those issues are more specific to their district or type of district,” said González. “Whereas priorities need to work their way through the grassroots process and be adopted by two-thirds of the Delegate Assembly, resolutions can be submitted by individual boards and only require a majority of delegate votes to win approval.”

Resolution proposals will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on June 15, 2022. Each resolution must be adopted by the board and must be submitted using the form provided at gr.tasb.org. González rec-

ommends that board members plan now to put any proposed resolutions on the board’s agenda before the deadline for submissions if they have not already done so.

The TASB Board will review all submitted resolutions in July and make recommendations on their adoption to the Delegate Assembly in September. All adopted priorities and resolutions will form the 2022-24 Advocacy Agenda, which will remain in effect until the end of the 2024 TASB Delegate Assembly.

González also noted that all current resolutions will expire along with the 2020-22 Agenda in September after the Delegate Assembly adjourns and that any resolutions a board wishes to see on the new agenda must be submitted again.

He strongly encouraged all member school boards to send a trustee to the TASB Delegate Assembly in San Antonio on Sept. 24, 2022.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is for our members to send a trustee to serve on the TASB Delegate Assembly to represent their local interests and support their advocacy positions,” González concluded. “LAC members are usually ideally positioned to serve as a board’s

delegate, but not every board has a LAC member. So, they should send any trustee who’s willing to read up on the proposed agenda items and participate in what can be a robust discussion during the assembly. It’s always a valuable learning experience.”

An electronic version of the resolution submission form, the current Advocacy Agenda, and more information may be found at gr.tasb.org Contact Dax González at 800.580.4885 or dax.gonzalez@tasb.org if you have questions.★

Student Solutions continually updates special education operating procedures to address legislative changes and meet TEA requirements. This year’s updates include:

• New TEA naming conventions

• Legislative updates for behavior, discipline, and dyslexia

• Section 504 Operating Procedures now available to Student Solutions members!

Ask us about a Student Solutions membership and our comprehensive customization services.


Learn more
We’re up to date so you’ll be, too.
“This is a board’s opportunity to place items important to them on the Advocacy Agenda, even if those issues are more specific to their district or type of district.”

Mind Connection

Teacher mental health matters

Schools are experiencing all-time highs for teacher turnover and staffing shortages. The “Great Resignation” ignited a trend of employees across sectors seeking new career paths, and teachers were no exception. The level of burnout, stress, and anxiety experienced during the pandemic exacerbated issues already affecting the retention of teachers in the profession. Now, after two years of uncertainty due to the pandemic, coupled with the ongoing challenges in the current educational environment, teachers are at a breaking point.

The impact of mental health

Mental health and job performance are not two separate pursuits but rather two parts of the same equation. When both are positive, employees flourish. When there is an imbalance, one or both suffer. The impact of mental health is a driver for job satisfaction. It is the responsibility of employers to recognize how employee mental health affects the workplace and to create systems and supports that help all employees perform their best.

A 2021 survey by the RAND Corporation found stress is one of the most common factors for teachers exiting the profession, and nearly all teachers who participated in the survey agreed teaching is more stressful now than before the pandemic. Teachers who voluntarily left the profession since March 2020 stated stress as a top reason. Other reasons included work-life balance issues, the challenges of remote instruction, and the lack of support from administrators.

In an interview with NPR in April 2021, Boston University professor

Jennifer Greif Green explained that the mental health and well-being of teachers has a direct impact on students. Chronically stressed teachers are less effective in the classroom, and there is a direct connection between teachers feeling safe and supported in schools and student success.

Strategies to support mental health

While there is no magic potion to address all mental health concerns for teachers and support staff, there are strat-

egies to prioritize the mental health of all school employees:

• Keep mental health in the conversation: In the past couple of years, mental health has been normalized, which gives space to teachers and staff to discuss personal struggles. Mental health should be part of open conversation among leaders and staff. Districts also should provide awareness training for school leaders to recognize signs of mental health issues and to engage in caring conversations with employees.

• Use employee engagement surveys: School districts can use employee engagement surveys to collect data on employee well-being and job satisfaction. Surveys can often help determine the level of employee stress, anxiety, and burnout, as well as identify common stressors leading to workplace dissatisfaction. Surveys also communicate to employees that top leaders value their input and voice.

• Offer employee assistance: More and more school districts are con-

24 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
HR Files

tracting with employee assistance programs to provide mental health support for employees. EAPs connect employees to mental health providers for a variety of issues, and most often these services come at no charge to the employee. School districts that provide EAPs for employees can see benefits such as reduced stress of employees, decreased absenteeism, and a direct connection to retention.

• Provide wellness initiatives: Many school districts prioritize employee health by providing gyms, health and wellness classes, weight-loss programs, mindfulness sessions, and other wellness-specific events

to support employees physically and mentally. Many schools offer friendly competitions and other incentives to teachers and staff to help them engage in healthy habits in and out of the workplace.

• Protect time: Time is a precious resource, and many teachers and staff need more to perform effectively. Many districts are carving out more time for teacher planning and collaboration, as well as ways for teachers and staff to have mental health days and more time for personal growth.

Supporting employee mental health School board members can advocate for the mental health of teachers and

staff by initiating conversations with district administrators about the supports and programs provided in the district. When considering how to support the mental health of employees, school board members can ask these questions:

• What are the current programs and resources provided in the district to support the mental health of teachers and staff?

• Do we have any data to identify turnover issues? Does the district conduct stay interviews with teachers and staff?

• Have we conducted an employee survey recently or anytime in the past? Was it helpful? What type of (See Connection, page 29.)

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Facility Standards

What TEA changes mean for districts

As school districts face escalating costs and inflationary pressures within their bond programs, they are also navigating new standards enacted last year by the state that likely will add scrutiny to every square foot of construction.

The Texas Education Agency’s School Facilities Standards for Construction, effective for buildings designed or constructed after Nov. 1, 2021, offer flexibility in design plans but include new requirements that pose additional considerations for districts already on tight budgets. The updated standards include:

• Increasing the minimum size for new middle school science laboratories.

• Determining the per-pupil square footage for special education classrooms.

• Requiring safety and security updates.

“Construction has never been as expensive as it is now,” said Gary Marek, facility consultant for TASB Facility Services. “It’s a scary time.”

In some cases, the cost to build a new school building is topping out at around $500 per square foot, more than double the amount from a decade ago and an increase of about 60% from just a year ago. With that type of increase, many districts are looking at ways to save money with-

out cutting back on quality or limiting future flexibility.

Some districts have even had to scale back construction plans or are considering allocating more funding to their construction programs to account for increased costs.

Room sizes

Amid these challenges, the new TEA standards give districts some additional flexibility on educational area room sizes, Marek said. Space requirements for gyms and libraries remain unchanged. Special education classrooms must provide a minimum of 45 square feet per student.

Specifically, districts must elect one of two methods of compliance established for adequacy of instructional spaces. The default is quantitative unless the district’s board of trustees has approved a policy that allows for innovative or non-traditional uses of instructional spaces. One example of a non-traditional use would be a school that opts for smaller classrooms in favor of breakout or collaborative spaces elsewhere.

“After studying the new space requirements and putting together some example designs, it appears that the new standards will not require districts to build larger schools,” Marek said. “And if districts are thoughtful and careful with their flexible designs, some small reductions in campus size could be attained.”

26 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org News & Events

He cited the example of a high school with 1,000 students, designed for a capacity of 25 students per classroom. Under the old standards, a typical school design would total about 106,248 square feet.

Using the new standards, however, districts may choose one of four flexibility levels in their design: L1, L2, L3, L4. The lowest level (L1) is the simplest, with the highest (L4) representing the most complex.

“If a district designs a new school using traditional room sizes, the new standards would result in a size of about 105,710 square feet. With a L1 or L2 design, the overall size of the school could be reduced to as small as 95,710 square feet,” Marek said, “and the L3/L4 design could be reduced to be as small as 99,810 square feet.”

He noted, however, that to attain these smaller sizes, “districts would need to sacrifice significant square footage from spaces used by vocational and fine arts programs among others, which may not be a desirable solution.”

Regardless of the compliance method used, the standards require districts to implement an increase in the space

minimum of middle school science laboratories.

Safety and security

Other key updates include new safety and security updates stemming from the passage of Senate Bill 11 in 2019, including the development of a multi-hazard plan to ensure adequate communications technology and infrastructure during an emergency as well as access control standards.

Marek noted that most districts are already complying with those updated security and safety standards.

“While on the surface, the new safety and security standards appear to create significant new requirements, they actually reflect practices that most school districts have already put in place over the last 10 years or so,” he said. “Thus, they don’t create an overwhelming new burden for the districts.”

Although the new standards provide some flexibility on educational area room sizes, Marek said a district “should proceed cautiously before using room sizes that are smaller than traditional designs. There’s a temptation to make

classrooms smaller, but you don’t design for right now. You think long-range.”

Other considerations

Bond programs usually challenge districts to think about how they are building for the future and projected student enrollment. As part of the new standards, school districts are required to develop and maintain a long-range facility plan, as well as educational specifications for instructional facilities. That plan must be presented to the board of trustees and made available to the architect or design professional for the project. It’s also required to be updated every five years.

In addition, the new standards require school districts to use inclusive design, which allows for even more accessibility for students and staff.

TASB Facility Services provides a variety of services, including long-range planning and environmental compliance consulting. For more information, visit tasb.org and click on Facility Services in the Services tab.H

Sylvia Wood is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star

We can’t wait to see you at SLI!

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 27
Questions about SLI? Visit tasb.org/SLI . San Antonio June 15–18 Fort Worth June 29–July 2

SHARS Conference

Current state of Texas program and policy changes discussed

More than 300 Texas education professionals from across the state attended the April 2022 conference on School Health and Related Services. This marked the 29th year for the SHARS conference and the third year for it to be entirely virtual.

On the first day of the conference, TASB experts highlighted common Individualized Education Program errors, gave an outline on how to enroll in Medicaid, and challenged attendees to think about their district’s process for developing operating procedures. During small group discussions throughout the day, attendees connected with professionals and talked about topics such as IEP compliance. A special virtual networking mixer rounded out the day with a game show and door prizes.

Day two brought presentations from SHARS experts Angela L.B. Foote from the Texas Education Agency and Mary Barkman, Medicaid coordinator for Pinellas County Schools in Florida.

Foote reviewed the past year in the world of SHARS. Her presentation about general and new SHARS policies, service documentation, and other areas of concern prompted many questions from participants.

Barkman talked about how to be a vital voice for children and develop relationships with stakeholders — from students and parents to administration, human resources, and finance officials — to make programs successful. She encouraged professionals to advocate for Medicaid for special education students, not only to assist in closing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act financial gap, but to establish programs and obtain the services and support those students need to succeed.

Karlyn Keller, Ph.D., division director of TASB Special Education and Student Services, concluded the conference with a presentation on the paradigm shift in SHARS programs over the past few years. SHARS is moving from an educational to a medical model of support, and changes may be experienced in the way the program is run and monitored, she said.

Keller noted that about a fourth of total SHARS dollars currently issued in the United States come to Texas. Audits now play a pivotal role in the program, and reports are scrutinized. Documentation and meeting standards are more important than ever to get Medicaid reimbursements. She ended her presentation by saying communication, collaboration, and knowledge are key to making a successful SHARS program.

The 30th SHARS Conference will be held May 4-5, 2023. If you are interested in learning more about a SHARS membership, call the SHARS team at 888.630.6606 or visit tasb.org/services/special-education-solutions.H

Jen Cox is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star.

28 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Tricia Gray, SHARS account executive, and Ehrikka Hodge Messer, SHARS and Special Education Support account executive. From left: Janice Rivera, TASB senior meeting planner, Tricia Gray, SHARS account executive, and Ehrikka Hodge Messer, SHARS and Special Education Support account executive. Karlyn Keller, Ph.D., division director for TASB Special Education and Student Solutions, gives a virtual presentation. She wore a safari-style hat in honor of the conference theme, Discovering the Possibilities. Photos by TASB Media Services

Connection (from page 25)

data was collected from the survey, and how did district administration use the data?

• Do our current health benefits provide enough support to address employee mental health? Do we provide an EAP for employees? What other health and wellness initiatives or incentives do we provide?

• How can the school board support district administration in efforts to ensure that all employees have adequate support and resources to be productive in the workplace?

The end goal

If teachers and staff have access to mental health support, many of the heavy burdens of working in a school can be lifted. It’s only with a collective effort that school districts can address stressors and thereby address turnover and the retention of employees in our schools. H

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 29 TASB’s Executive Search Services is currently accepting applications for the positions listed below: For 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 Bracket ISD. Superintendent. Deadline: June 15, 2022 Let TASB Executive Search Services do the heavy lifting! Many districts across the state are seeking strong, stable, forward-thinking, community-focused district leaders, and we are equipped to help you find the perfect match. Here’s a bird’s eye view of all we provide in our startto-finish, fully customizable search process:  Planning  Community Involvement  Advertising and Recruitment  Application Process  Interviewing and References  Background Checks  Transition  Timeline Overview Overwhelmed by the process of finding a new superintendent? executive.search@tasb.org • 800.580.8272
Jennifer Barton is a TASB HR Services consultant.

Leadership TASB Visits East Texas

Class members learn about a school tragedy and a unique district partnership


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.

The Leadership TASB Class of 2022 learned about West Rusk County Consolidated ISD’s tragic history and Longview ISD’s unconventional partnership with several charter schools on its East Texas trip.

On the first day, LTASB Class of 2019 alumnus Will Sudweeks led us on a visit to WRCCISD schools located in New London. Last year’s enrollment of WRCCISD was a little more than 1,000 students, with an annual budget of about $12 million. This district is unique in that all four schools — elementary, intermediate, junior high, and high school are all on the same campus.

We toured the London Museum, which is dedicated to the New London, Texas, school explosion disaster in 1937 that killed nearly 300 students and teachers. We were surprised to learn that in the 1930s, WRCCISD was one of the richest rural school districts in the nation.

Fortune hit this small town on Oct. 5, 1930, when Daisy Bradford #3 gushed over the derrick to mark the discovery of oil in this part of Texas. The strike led to overnight growth in Rusk County, and the oil drilling business flourished in three neighboring counties as well. As a result, the school district constructed a new high school in 1933.

But four years later, on March 18, 1937, the high school was destroyed by a natural gas explosion. The tragedy took away an entire generation, with an official loss of 294 lives. It was heart-wrenching to see the photographs and memorabilia from the disaster and learn that even generations later, the tragedy still affects the town.

Our host talked about how the district chose to focus on the positives that came out of the disaster. We learned that as a direct result of the explosion, every country now has standards to add odor to natural gas, which is colorless and odorless. There also are regulated tests for engineers and architects and higher building standards. Overall, the visit left us with heavy hearts and prompted us to think about how we can choose to rebuild a community after a tragedy.

One of the requirements for graduating from LTASB is to work within an assigned group and decide on a topic for extensive research. On the first day of this session, after the visit to WRCCISD, members had time to work on their research proj-

30 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
LTASB members at the monument honoring the children and teachers who died in the 1937 New London school explosion. A school classroom exhibit at the London Museum & Cafe in New London. Photos courtesy of Kay Douglas, Leadership TASB program manager

ects. The next day, each group did a practice presentation and received critiques in preparation for the final presentations to be given during the last LTASB session June 30-July 2.

On the second day, we visited LISD, which has about 8,400 students on 13 campuses and a budget close to $88 million.

We visited East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, the country’s largest public Montessori school, Ned E. Williams Elementary School, and Foster Middle School. The Williams and Foster schools follow the International Baccalaureate program. Both schools are committed to training students, with the latest technology through the technology lab and zSpace program in the elementary school and with robotics and video game development labs in the middle school. The district has also developed various partnerships with technology firms and local colleges to strengthen student outcomes in technology.

The next stop on the tour was Hudson PEP (Planned Enrichment Program) Elementary, a magnet school that is ranked among the top 10 elementary schools in Texas. We also learned how the district is using innovative ways to involve the Latino community by making sure every correspondence is available in Spanish and by setting up a local Spanish radio station that provides district highlights and even broadcasts live commentary of soccer matches.

Before the last stop at the meat lab at Longview High School, we got to visit the district garden that provides fresh fruits and vegetables for students’ meals. (See story about the garden on page 14.) During lunch at the meat lab, LISD Superintendent James Wilcox talked about his recommendation to the LISD Board of Trustees to form a partnership with charter schools to operate their campuses. The board agreed to his recommendation in 2019, and Wilcox carefully selected the three charter schools to serve the district. Wilcox acknowledged that the partnership works for the district, though it may not be the right choice for other school districts in Texas.

Besides visiting different districts to expand our knowledge of public education in Texas, another way we learn in LTASB is when our classmates present district highlights.

On the last day, we had a recap of the past three days. All participants agreed that this fourth session had been a heavy week, where we were challenged to learn and grow beyond our comfort zone. At the end of the trip, there were many hugs and goodbyes as we realized our next session will be the last one for this class.H

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 31
Manish Sethi, a Coppell ISD trustee, is a member of the LTASB Class of 2022, whose members will meet five times before their graduation in July. LTASB member Crystal Carbone, a Pearland ISD trustee, poses at Longview ISD's Foster Middle School. The Longview ISD garden, which produces fruits and vegetables for student meals. Photo by Laura Tolley


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.


32 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org

Technology Grants Awarded by ESC Region 12

The Education Service Center Region 12 Technology Foundation recently awarded eight school districts and one charter school with more than $71,000 in grant funds to support educational technology programs.

Of the 47 proposals submitted, the following schools were selected to receive funding for equipment and technology that will assist learning through augmented reality, automation tech, and video production:

• Academy ISD’s Elementary School

— $10,000 for the BUZZ Network

• China Spring ISD’s Intermediate School — $2,879 for Positive Productions

• Copperas Cove ISD’s High School — $10,000 for Mechatronics for Engineering Science

• Corsicana ISD’s High School — $9,984 for Sora-ing from Analog to Digital in 2022

• Itasca ISD’s Middle and High Schools — $1,729 for Harmony in Music

• Rapoport Academy — $8,809 for Next Gen STEAM Tech Masters Project

• Rosebud-Lott ISD’s Elementary School — $10,000 for Elementary Robotics Lab

• Troy ISD’s High School — $4,725 for Interactive STEM Projects

• Troy ISD’s Raymond Mays Middle School — $5,187 for Math with Oculus Quest

• Waco ISD’s Cedar Ridge PDS Elementary School — $7,816 for MERGing Augmented Reality with Hands-on-Learning

Collectively, these funds will help 4,936 students in eight districts and one charter school across six counties.

“The ESC Region 12 Education Tech-

nology Foundation became part of our vision 10 years ago. To now present grant money that helps Region 12 schools place instructional technology in the hands of students is an exciting victory,” said ESC Region 12 Executive Director Jerry Maze, Ed.D. “We are proud to support our schools in their efforts to give all students first-class technology in the classroom.”

Since its creation in 2012, the ESC Region 12 Technology Foundation has awarded more than $532,300 to area schools and served 23,566 students in Central Texas.H

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 33 Get even more value when you upgrade to Tier 2 with BoardBook® Premier. Customize it to fit your needs • Create up to 11 committees and set 10 distinct permission levels • Brand it with your organization’s logo Facilitate better meetings • Automate your electronic voting • Set and track goals • Store documents online Enhance your Experience with Tier 2 Call 888.587.2665 to upgrade today.
Waco ISD Cedar Ridge PDS Elementary School students and staff. Photo courtesy of Waco ISD

Summer Leadership Institute

How to make the most of the 2022 conferences

We’ve all been there — getting ready to attend a conference and anticipating what to expect. With Summer Leadership Institute back to full in-person attendance this year, attendees can expect to be engaged, informed, and recharged. Knowing how to navigate the event will be key to getting the most out of your experience.

“Whether you are a veteran, a newcomer, or somewhere in between, SLI will prepare you to be the leader and advocate your district and students’ need,” said David Koempel, trustee engagement senior consultant for TASB Board Development Services. “And we offer the same programming in two locations, so you can choose which one best fits your schedule.”

Prepare before you go

With over 100 breakout sessions covering six different learning tracks, it’s essential to prepare for your experience in advance.

“When you get to SLI, you want to have a plan in place and be ready to hit the ground running,” Koempel said. “Don’t lose valuable time at the event sifting through conference materials trying to figure out what you should be doing.”

The conference program will be available online before the event. Review the program to familiarize yourself with how the event will be organized, what sessions are being offered, and the speakers.

Then, talk to your fellow board members about what topics would be most beneficial for your district.

Plan your approach for learning

June 15–18

June 29–July 2

Your position on the board is another indicator of relevant sessions that you should attend. SLI offers new and experienced school trustees a place to learn based on their needs.

Following the May elections, New Board Member Launch at SLI is a great opportunity to transition from a campaign to a governance mindset.

“Trustees will leave this session ready to participate in their board’s work and equipped to navigate the remainder of their experience at SLI,” said Susan Elliott, TASB’s director of curriculum and instructional design.

This extended session provides new trustees with information they need to quickly adjust to board service. Topics include:

• The legal framework of school board service

• Roles and responsiblities

• Building your trustee network

• Legal and ethical concerns using social media, personal devices, and district networks

• Joining a board with work in progress

34 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
General session at SLI San Antonio 2021. Attendees at SLI Fort Worth 2021. Photos by TASB Media Services

Like new trustees, new officers will benefit most from SLI by starting with sessions designed primarily to meet their needs. However, Koempel noted that Board Officers’ Academy sessions are applicable and open to other trustees and not limited to officers. BOA workshops topics include:

• Effective facilitation skills

• Practical parliamentary procedures

• Board officers and superintendents: Working well together

• Effectively engaging your community

If you aren’t a new officer or trustee, there’s still an approach for getting the most out of your experience at SLI. “The most important and effective thing board members can do is learn together,” said Orin Moore, board consultant for TASB Board Development Services. “Research suggests that boards perform better when they attend learning experiences as a team.”

Esperanza Orosco, TASB board consultant and a trustee in Hays CISD, agrees. “As you learn together, it becomes easier for you to use what you learn back in your district,” she said.

In addition to learning together, boards should also network with fellow trustees from other boards. “I know networking at a conference sounds cliché,” said Moore. “But if you aren’t talking to other board members, you won’t know how normal your board is. And it’s important to nurture the relationships that you form with other members at SLI.”

Continue to grow after SLI

You can expect to leave SLI energized and filled with new ideas to implement. If you’ve been learning together as a team, you are already headed in the right direction.

“Get together with your board when you get back to your district and develop a plan for implementing your ideas,” Orosco said.

Moore also suggests that you nurture the relationships you form during SLI. “Follow up with trustees you connected with during the event,” he said. “Develop a plan to reach out to your connections at least quarterly.”

And, as Koempel emphasized, learning should continue after the conference.

“SLI will ignite your passion and interest, but your learning shouldn’t end when you leave the event,” he said. “Look at other opportunities to further your knowledge, such as our webinars,

the Online Learning Center, and other learning options for new trustees and board officers.”

Find out about upcoming training opportunities by going to tasb.org, clicking on the Training tab and visiting Events. You also can visit tasb.org, click on the Training tab and go to the Online Learning Center to continue studying topics from sessions you attended at SLI.H

Anderson is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 35
Dianne Attendees in a breakout session at SLI San Antonio 2021. Attendees in a breakout session at SLI Fort Worth 2021. Attendees at SLI Fort Worth 2021. Attendees at SLI San Antonio 2021.

Bulletin Board

Land Selected as TASBO Board President

Jennifer Land was named president of the Texas Association of School Board Officials 2022-23 Board of Directors at the TASBO Engage Conference in March.

Land, who is the chief financial officer for Pflugerville ISD, succeeds Midland ISD’s Darrell Dodds as president and will serve a one-year term.

“I’m excited to continue the great work of those who served before me and chart a path for those who will succeed me,” Land said shortly after taking office. “I don’t have to explain to anyone the value TASBO brings to the school business community. It is an honor to help guide this organization.”

Active in TASBO leadership roles for two decades, Land was elected to its board in 2013 and subsequently served as vice president and president-elect.

Land began her career in education at Round Rock ISD as an accountant, and progressed to director of Internal Audit. She then became chief financial officer at Manor ISD before joining Pflugerville ISD.

“Jennifer’s been a steady influence on TASBO and the board of directors,” said TASBO Executive Director Tracy Ginsburg. “We are excited to have her leading the association this year.”

SBOE Increases Texas History Instruction

The State Board of Education voted in April to increase the Texas History requirement to four additional grade levels.

Currently, Texas History is taught in fourth and seventh grades. The SBOE changes require the subject to be covered in six grade levels: kindergarten through second grade and sixth through eighth grades.

The board’s TEKS review work groups are now developing recommendations for the specific standards to be included at each grade level. The SBOE will discuss proposed revisions to social studies TEKS at its June meeting and is expected to adopt final revisions in November.

To follow the review and revision process and/or to view proposed drafts, search for 2021-2022 Social Studies TEKS Review on the TEA website (tea.texas.gov).

Nominations Open for SBOE Heroes for Children

Every school district has its heroes. Besides the educators and staff who work steadfastly in support of students, there are those in the community who volunteer hundreds — sometimes thousands — of hours to their local public schools or work tirelessly to pass district bond proposals.

The State Board of Education has a program to help recognize these important contributions. Since 1994, the SBOE’s Heroes for Children program has awarded excellence in advocacy for education and highlighted the many outstanding volunteers whose efforts have contributed to public school education in Texas.

Each year, the 15-member board recognizes one “hero” from each of their districts. The award recipients are honored at the September SBOE meeting.

The nomination period for the 2022 Heroes for Children award is now open and will close on July 15. Any Texas resident, other than elected officials and educational employees, who gives time, effort, service, and support to public schools and students can be nominated.

Nomination forms are available at form.jotform.co/TXEd/heroes-for-children-award

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.

36 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
TASBO Board President Jennifer Land. Photo courtesy of TASBO

Grant to Texas Tech Will Help Address Rural Teacher Shortage

After a successful first year, West Texas Rural Education Partnership received a $1.5 million gift from the Prentice Farrar Brown & Alline Ford Brown Foundation to continue addressing a shortage of qualified teachers across rural West Texas.

Since its launch in April 2021, the Texas Tech University-led alliance of West Texas universities, community colleges, and school districts has used collaborative, research-based strategies to recruit and prepare 48 aspiring educators who are committed to teaching in 18 different rural districts.

Over the next three years, the partnership with members including Texas Tech, West Texas A&M University, University of Texas at El Paso, and University of Texas Permian Basin aims to expand until it produces at least 252 teachers each year who will enter classrooms in 84 rural districts.

“We’re seeing that Texas Tech is a leader in serving the needs of rural schools, but much more is needed,” said Doug Hamman, director of the partnership and chair of Texas Tech’s Department of Teacher Education, housed in the College of Education. “It will require the efforts of all the school districts, universities, and community colleges in the partnership to finally solve the teacher shortage in rural schools. That’s what the partnership is aiming to do, and everyone involved is stepping up to make this happen.”

To reach its goal, West Texas Rural Education Partnership will continue developing high-quality pathways for aspiring educators to earn education degrees and begin teaching careers in rural West Texas. One way the partnership does this is through "grow your own" programs, which seek to develop local talent by allowing residents of rural communities to stay where they live while completing a high-quality, university-based educator preparation program. School districts often work in collaboration with universities and community colleges to recruit and prepare the candidates. Other research-backed methods

employed by the partnership include paid residencies in which school districts pay teacher candidates to train for a full year alongside a mentor teacher on a district campus. Such residencies offer stipends of $20,000 or more so students do not have to work during their residencies, and university faculty are typically based on the district campus to provide support and guidance.

Studies and experience at Texas Tech have shown residencies and “grow your own” programs to be reliable for recruiting and preparing teachers who are committed to staying long-term in rural school districts and able to immediately improve student achievement.

Texas Tech’s College of Education and Hamman launched the partnership after witnessing a lack of cooperation among Texas institutions of higher education and school districts.

The need to work together was

underscored by a 2017 report from Texas Education Agency’s Texas Rural Schools Task Force, which emphasized the state's pressing teacher shortage and recommended “grow your own” pathways and closer school-university partnerships as potential solutions for rural areas. The urgency has only increased after the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated school staffing challenges.

The partnership was launched in April 2021 and members gathered in December and June for convenings on Texas Tech’s campus, where they discussed cooperation across post-secondary institutions, degree alignment between community colleges and universities, and strategies for delivering quality teacher preparation at a distance from the university campus. Additional convenings are planned for this year. To learn more about the program, visit: https://today.ttu.edu H

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 37 Measure employee engagement 800.580.7782 • hrservices@tasb.org HR Services offers web-based confidential surveys tailored to your needs: • Employee engagement and opinion surveys • Employee exit surveys • Customer satisfaction surveys for HR and other departments

Optics Matter

Ensuring public perception reflects good work

Gone are the days when good work alone ensured a strong reputation. In today’s environment, trustees and superintendents need to have a longgame strategy for building and managing their district’s reputation and brand.

This concerted work must include strategies and tactics from the fields of public relations and reputation management, respectively. It must also focus on processes, practices, and messaging that ensure your district is viewed as parent and community friendly.

Doing these things — and doing them well — will not only protect your district from public relations storms, but it will also free up time for your “team of eight” to focus on what’s really important — student success.

Learning from challenges

In what seems a lifetime ago, I headed up communications and reputation management for the U.S. operations of the Spanish-owned bank BBVA. In that role, I was given the opportunity to work with amazing leaders in the field of public relations and reputation management.

When we kicked off our intensive brand and reputation work in 2010, the bank ranked 16th in reputation when compared to other U.S. financial institutions on the American Banker/Reputation Institute Annual Survey. By 2012, BBVA ranked third in the nation. No small feat for sure, especially in such a short period.

When I moved to the education sector in 2013, I obviously wanted to bring what I had learned to my new role. Fortunately, lots of skills and strategies easily transitioned to public education. In fact, I dug deep into my PR toolkit on bond projects and in crisis situations. I have also leaned heavily on lessons learned from BBVA in my support of par-

ent and community engagement efforts.

To my frustration, though, many of the strongest strategies that I learned from my years working in the private sector weren’t always understood or embraced.

For instance, folks working in public education often viewed media relations as the practice of avoiding journalists or begrudgingly responding to inquiries. Rarely was the art of media relations deployed as an opportunity to proactively story tell and market the great things going on in a district.

Additionally, communications to parents and community members were often approached with a compliance lens (what you are required to communicate) versus an empowerment lens (what news and information do parents and community members need and want).

Of course, there has been lots of change afoot over the last decade. Just look at the annual award winners from the Texas School Public Relations Association to get a running list of the amazing growth in efforts to effectively story tell and market Texas public schools. (See related story on page 18.)

Urgent need to communicate

Some of this work is a direct outcome of increased pressure on public schools to compete with the large marketing budgets used by charter schools. Some improved efforts, though, have come about as trustees and district leaders smartly understand the need to improve the way their district communicates with parents and community members, including the incorporation of strong channels for twoway communication.

Here’s the deal, though. All public school advocates — urban, suburban, and rural — need to amplify and expand these efforts, and we need to do so with a sense

of urgency. We also need to lean into best practices in communications and public relations if we want to dispel the negative rhetoric being circulated about public schools, school boards, district leaders, and teachers.

My former boss at BBVA had a simple saying, “Without the customer, there is no paycheck.” That was his mantra for the entire organization as he acutely understood that each interaction and each communication were opportunities to strengthen the bank’s brand and reputation, or to destroy it.

So, while I’m sure this may sound harsh to many, imagine if in public education, we started to challenge ourselves by adopting a mantra of: “Without parent and community support, public schools will cease to exist.”

I know that’s an “ouch.”

The attacks on public education, though, are real. So, if we truly want to change the rhetoric, we’re going to need to dig deep and develop longgame strategies for strengthening the perception of public school districts as parent and community friendly.

If you’d like to learn some practical tips and strategies for doing this work in your district, I'll be leading sessions at both Summer Leadership Institutes. The session is rightly titled: Optics Matter: Ensuring your district’s public perception is reflective of its good work.

I hope to see you in San Antonio or Fort Worth!H

38 Texas Lone Star | June 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org A Final Note
Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield

Longing for meaningful board development?

Summer is a great time for a board retreat

Align your board-superintendent team with a successful retreat focused on:

• Discussing your school board’s self-assessment with TASB’s new tool

• Working well with different points of view

• Defining your team’s top priorities

• Building a team roadmap to success

Email board.dev@tasb.org for details on this valuable learning experience.

Additional opportunities for convenient training

It’s time again for board officers’ remote coaching

A Journey to Excellence: Board Officers’ Academy Remote Coaching helps officers:

• Understand the roles of school board officers

• Learn to successfully work with different personality types

• Grow as leaders with one-on-one coaching from a governance expert

Learn more at tasb.org/new-board-officers

Get your new

board members off

to the right start

• New Board Member Launch at Summer Leadership Institute

• On-demand learning in the Online Learning Center

◆ Top 10 Things to Know course package

◆ Texas Open Meetings Act

◆ Child Abuse Prevention for Trustees

For more information, visit tasb.org/welcome

texaslonestaronline.org | June 2022 | Texas Lone Star 39
For information on any of these offerings: 800.580.8272, ext. 2453 • board.dev@tasb.org tasb.org/board-dev • onlinelearning.tasb.org TASB governance experts provide training that is timely and relevant.

Five Reasons to Attend

Vote on the TASB Advocacy Agenda.

Elect TASB’s leadership team for 2022-23.

Get a chance to win one of 10 student scholarships!

Network with fellow trustees from your region.

Earn continuing education credit.

Student scholarships sponsored by

NONPROFIT ORG US POSTAGE PAID AUSTIN TEXAS PERMIT NO 1422 Texas Association of School Boards P.O. Box 400 Austin, Texas 78767-0400
TASB’s Delegate Assembly
2022 Delegate Assembly September 24 | San Antonio delegate.tasb.org
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