November 2020

Page 1

Growing a Strong Relationship

Board President-Superintendent Collaboration Is Fundamental to a School District’s Success

Also in This Edition: The Roots of Responsibility Service, Involvement Compel Incoming TASB President Rice A Steady Hand Canyon ISD Trustee Retires after 40 Years of Service
A Publication of the Texas Association of School Boards | Volume 38, Number 9 | November 2020 Texas Lone Star

Featured Event

TASB Officers 2020-21

Jim Rice, Fort Bend ISD, President

Ted Beard, Longview ISD, President-Elect

Debbie Gillespie, Frisco ISD, First Vice-President

Bob Covey, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Second Vice-President

Armando Rodriguez, Canutillo ISD, Secretary-Treasurer

Lee Lentz-Edwards, Kermit ISD, Immediate Past President

TASB Board of Directors 2020-21

Moises Alfaro, Mathis ISD, Region 2

Kay Alley, Crosbyton CISD, Region 17

Rose Avalos, Aldine ISD, Region 4H

Kamlesh Bhikha, ESC 2, ESC Representative

Steve Brown, Ector County ISD, Region 18

Kevin A. Carbo, Mesquite ISD, Region 10D

Justin Chapa, Arlington ISD, Region 11C

Yolanda Cuellar, South Texas ISD, Region 1B

Thomas Darden, Cooper ISD, Region 8

Jason Dohnalik, Cameron ISD, Region 6

Karen Freeman, Northside ISD, Region 20B

Corinne French, Valley View ISD, Region 11D

Demetrio D. Garcia, Kenedy ISD, Region 3

Linda Gooch, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10B

Mary Jane Hetrick, Dripping Springs ISD, Region 13B

Tony Hopkins, Friendswood ISD, Region 4C

Sandy Hughey, North East ISD, Region 20E

Bill Lacy, Katy ISD, Region 4E

Mark Lukert, Wichita Falls ISD, Region 9

Jayme Mathias, Austin ISD, Region 13A

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

Dan Micciche, Dallas ISD, Region 10C

Vernagene Mott, Pflugerville ISD, Region 13C

Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Mission CISD, Region 1A

Nicholas Phillips, Nederland ISD, Region 5

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

Page Rander, Clear Creek ISD, Region 4B

Georgan Reitmeier, Klein ISD, Region 4A

Rolinda Schmidt, Kerrville ISD, Region 20A

Cindy Spanel, Highland Park ISD, Region 16

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

Anne Sung, Houston ISD, Region 4D

Mildred Watkins, La Vega ISD, Region 12

Greg Welch, Clyde CISD, Region 14

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

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

2 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 | Calendar
9-10 NOVEMBER 4 • TASB BoardBook® Training Webinar • TASA First-Time Superintendents Academy Virtual Event 5 • TASB BoardBook Training Webinar • TASB HR Services Texas School HR Administrators Academy Virtual Event • Lone Star Investment Pool Board of Trustees Meeting • TASB Benefits Cooperative Board of Trustees Meeting 5-6 • TASB Fall Legal Seminar Virtual Event 9-10 • The XG Summit Virtual Event 10 • TASB BoardBook Training Webinar 12 • TASB HR Services Texas School HR Administrators Academy Virtual Event 17-18 • TASB HR Services “Teacher Incentive Allotment: Strategic Planning” Workshop Virtual Event 17-20 • State Board of Education Meetings, Austin 19 • TASB Student Solutions “Top 10 Issues in Special Education” Webinar • Commissioner’s TASA Cabinet of Superintendents Meeting (virtual) 26-27 • TASB Offices Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday DECEMBER 3 • TASA Assistant Principal Leadership Academy (online) 3-4 • AASA State Association Executive Directors Meeting (virtual) 3-5 • TASB Board of Directors Meeting (virtual) 9 • TASB “Quick Tips for New School Board Member” Webinar • AASA National Women’s Leadership Consortium (virtual) 10 • TASB Student Solutions “Wrapping up 2020 for Special Populations” Webinar 11 • State Board for Educator Certification Meeting, Austin 24-31 • TASB Offices Closed for Winter Holidays


8 Growing a Strong Relationship

In high-achieving districts, there is a dynamic and delicate balance between the roles of the local school board president and the school district superintendent.

14 The Roots of Responsibility

A Fort Bend ISD trustee for more than a decade, incoming TASB President Jim Rice has left a remarkable imprint of involvement and leadership in civic service.


2 Calendar

22 Legal News

26 Capital Watch

28 Technology Today

30 News & Events



From the Top

7 Editor’s Footnote

38 Q & A

18 A Steady Hand

Canyon ISD Trustee Jim Murphy, who retired this year after 40 years of service, helped guide the district through four decades of growing pains, development, and expansion.

Texas Lone Star • Volume 38, Number 9

Texas Association of School Boards

P.O. Box 400 • Austin, Texas • 78767-0400 512.467.0222 or 800.580.8272 (toll-free)

Roger White • Managing Editor

Melissa Locke Roberts • Assistant Editor

Shu-in Powell • Graphic Designer

Patrick Morris, Virginia Hernandez • Photographers

Amy Rames • Advertising Coordinator 360 Press Solutions • Printer

Texas Lone Star (ISSN 0749-9310) is published 10 times a year by the Texas Association of School Boards. Copyright© 2020 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 addressed to the Managing Editor, P.O. Box 400, Austin, Texas 78767-0400.

Web Watch

The Member Center is getting a refreshed look and opening up to more school district staff in November. Visit to learn more.

For more information about and our related sites, contact TASB Online Communications at 512.467.0222 or 800.580.8272 toll-free or visit

Texas Lone Star does not guarantee publication of unsolicited manuscripts.

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

Follow | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 3
Contents | November 2020
We know Texas. We offer investment services that fit the unique needs of Texas public schools. Distributed by First Public is a subsidiary of 800.558.8875

Why Do We Serve?

The Role of Public Education in America

“What was I thinking when I decided to run for this office? Why would I serve as a school board trustee?” Every trustee, if they are honest, has asked themselves this question at least once during their service on the school board. After all, it can be a tough job at times.

Trustees are tasked with making difficult decisions, self-sacrifice, and exposure to public scrutiny and criticism. The role requires vast time spent researching and understanding the many facets of public education and casting public votes on issues that can enrage our constituency— rezoning, taxes, etc. Yet in the eyes of many, school board trustees are still overlooked as publicly elected officials, even though they preside over school districts that are often the largest employer in their city or county.

So what was our motivation in running for this volunteer position of immense responsibility? Some of us ran because our kids were rezoned, others because they believed a new bond program unfairly left out their school or was too large, and some because they were recruited by people they knew and respected. None of us really understood what we were getting into at the time, just that we strongly believed in public education.

Throughout our nation’s history, we have been challenged with many social issues. It is my belief that providing a public education for every child in our country is America’s best hope for correcting and solving these issues now and in the years to come. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “A nation that expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, expects that which never was and never will be.” From the beginning, Americans have always believed in the importance of education. Today, our public schools are needed

more than ever—as is an engaged local school board.

Strength in Diversity

At present, the state of Texas educates approximately 5.4 million students in our public schools. To put this in perspective, our student population is larger than the total populaces of our neighboring states, with Louisiana at 4.6 million, Oklahoma at 3.9 million, and New Mexico at 2.09 million. This education is provided by more than 1,000 independent school districts, locally governed and ranging in size from more than 200,000 students (Houston ISD) to fewer than a hundred students.

The demographic breakdown of the student population in Texas is changing rapidly as our state becomes much more diverse; students statewide currently speak more than 100 languages and dialects.

This diversity is the foundation of my belief that our public schools are the best hope for America’s future. While attending classes in math, science, language arts, and history, to name but a few, our children also learn how to be friends—out of which comes mutual respect and understanding. They learn this each morning they are in class as they rise in unison to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, by eating lunch side by side, by participating in school projects, fine arts, sports, and other extracurricular activities together.

In short, they learn that although we may speak different languages, enjoy different foods, or have different customs and religions, we are all part of humanity and we have much more in common with one another than not.

Finding Common Ground

Ours has always been a nation of

immigrants who have come in waves throughout history, bringing with them new ideas and enthusiasm and instilling fresh vigor and strength into our society. Though we have many challenges that face us, our best hope in solving these challenges resides in finding common ground—which starts in our public schools.

Americans have long had faith in our democracy and have supported public education out of our conviction that full participation in government requires one to be educated and capable of critical thinking. Our nation's commitment to public education has transformed a nation of mostly poor immigrants into the world's largest economy and greatest superpower.

Our continued support of public education will help to ensure that all Americans continue to prosper so that, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Thanks for Your Service

This desire to uphold public education is the answer to why, despite the challenges, I and others continue to run for school board positions. Still, attending our first high school graduation seemed to bring it all into perspective: our kids, receiving their diplomas as beaming parents and extended families clapped and perhaps shed a tear or two out of joy and happiness.

Though this may not be what motivated us to run, it is likely the reason why most of us continue to serve. For this and many reasons more, I say thank you to each one of you who serves on your local school board.H | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 5 From the Top
Jim Rice, a Fort Bend ISD trustee, is 2020-21 president of TASB.



Curated sessions support your learning journey as a leader and trustee.


Ocean views in an easy-to-navigate setting make for a stress-free learning experience.



The smaller, more intimate crowd is perfect for making friends with board members from across the state.



2 5

Texas students share their educational experiences, opinions, and ideas to help guide your work as a trustee.



Opportunities are plenty to mix and mingle with session presenters and TASB staff.

Does your board or district have a unique presentation to share with Texas trustees? We want to hear about it! Email to share your idea.

3–6, 2021

Looking Ahead

Dedicated Leaders Ready to Move Association into 2021 and Beyond

It’s been a heck of a year, to say the least. The challenges, the difficulties, logistics problems, economic and social unrest, the ongoing pandemic, to name just a few, have laid many spirits low. But it’s true what they say—often the worst of times brings out the best in people.

And the local leaders—the dedicated individuals who serve on the boards of the more than 1,200 school districts in Texas— have shown inspirational courage, innovation, selfless devotion to community, and a sincere willingness to partner with local entities and resources to ensure that our schoolchildren are still receiving the quality education and care they so deserve.

Board of Directors member Will Streit and TASB Deputy Executive Director Dan Troxell. Streit and Troxell collaborated on an insightful article about the crucial role a healthy board president-superintendent relationship plays in meaningful student achievement and district success. You may be familiar with Streit and Troxell. They’re men of vision who back up their convictions with meticulous research and reliance on proven, effective practices.

Thanks, Boss

But this edition of Texas Lone Star is a bittersweet one for me, as it is for TASB staff and Association members who’ve come to know, rely on, and greatly respect

TASB Associate Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations

Karen Strong. After 32+ years at the helm of Association communications initiatives, Karen is hanging up her professional hat for retirement.

Anyone who met Karen throughout her TASB tenure was inevitably struck by her passion for public education, her warm humor, and her willingness to help out in whatever way was needed. Texas Lone Star readers came to know Karen’s humor and style through her regular Q&A columns, which have appeared in this magazine month in and month out since the May 1992 edition. You’ll find Karen’s final Q&A column on page 38.

On a personal level, I’d simply like to say “thanks, boss” for all the support, guidance, assistance—and blessedly long-suffering patience—you showed to me over the years. I’m a better employee, a better magazine editor, a better person for knowing you. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and most well-deserved retirement, Karen.H

Leadership Aimed at Results

We’ve had new leadership come on board at TASB to continue this gutty determination to see things through—to move ahead into the weeks and months before us with more resolve and readiness to succeed than ever before.

In this edition, you’ll be introduced to TASB 2020-21 President Jim Rice of Fort Bend ISD, who follows in the footsteps of outgoing President Lee Lentz-Edwards of Kermit ISD. Two individuals more dedicated to achieving excellence you will not find.

This edition’s cover story, beginning on page 8, is cowritten by former TASB | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 7
Editor’s Footnote
Roger White is managing editor of Texas Lone Star
It’s true what they say— often the worst of times brings out the best in people.

Growing a Strong Relationship

Board President-Superintendent Collaboration Is Fundamental to a School District’s Success

8 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |

For any school district to succeed, the relationship between the district’s board president and superintendent is crucial. The relationship matters because it forms the basis for operational norms that the board and superintendent will follow while leading a school district to high achievement.

The dynamic balance between the roles of locally elected school boards and school superintendents is delicate. In high-achieving districts, board members are knowledgeable about topics such as improvement goals, curriculum, instruction, assessment, and staff development. They are able to clearly describe the purposes and processes of school improvement initiatives and identify the board's role in supporting those initiatives. Board members in high-achieving districts can give specific examples of how goals are being carried out by administrators and teachers.

While studies demonstrate that the board-superintendent relationship directly impacts district achievement, the importance of the relationship between the board president and the superintendent is less understood. Positive collaboration between the president and superintendent is fundamental to district success. The type and nature of the collaboration will guide the board, administration, teachers, staff, and the community. Teams composed of board members and the superintendent function well when operational norms are centered on well-established and clearly delineated roles and responsibilities.

School boards generally have five distinct roles: adoption of goals and priorities, adoption of policies, hiring and evaluation of the superintendent, adoption of the budget and tax rate, and communication with the community.

The board president assumes a unique role in the oversight of a public school district. Many of the president’s duties are legally mandated, including important tasks such as preparing meeting agendas, ensuring major board business is scheduled in a timely manner, and appointing members to special board committees. Yet one of the most impactful roles of the board president is not legal but rather interpersonal. Highly effective presidents continuously develop a healthy working relationship with the superintendent.

In order for a school board president and superintendent to have a cohesive working relationship, it is important to establish operational norms. Operational norms are the rules that frame how people interact and guide daily decisions. Unlike formal policies or procedures, operational norms can be established through informal agreements, relationships, and actions.

Leading through operational norms promotes a solid and effective relationship between the president and superintendent—and by extension, the board and administration. Well-defined operational norms enable the board to fully focus on its distinct role to develop and promote well-defined district goals while the superintendent is fully vested in the implementation of the goals and supplementing the board’s communication with the community.

A District Example

During the 2017 academic year, the authors were the board president and the superintendent for a Central Texas suburban public school district with approximately 40,000 students and 5,000 employees. The president had been a board member since 2008; the superintendent joined the district in 2016. A review of the 2017 academic year’s board agendas clearly demonstrates the board fulfilled its essential roles by adopting policy, approving a balanced budget, and conducting an annual evaluation of the school superintendent.

The board also completed numerous other key activities, such as reviewing student academic performance, holding a joint meeting with the city council, and voting to call a successful $454 million bond referendum. While many of the meeting tasks were central to the board fulfilling its basic roles, the board also focused on a yearlong strategic assessment to facilitate high achievement. The effort culminated in a unanimous vote in a meeting to adopt a new vision statement and goals.

At the beginning of the collaboration, the board president and superintendent employed five operational norms that served as a foundation for the unanimous vision statement vote: preparation, representation, transparency, reviews, and interpersonal communication. While this example is specific to one district, it highlights that a positive board presidentsuperintendent relationship, coupled with well-established operational norms, can unite a district and community to set a vision and goals for high achievement.

Preparation: Water for Growing the Relationship

Individual preparation through monthly pre-board meetings is the first operational norm established by the board president and superintendent. Much like a seed needs water to grow, the seed of an effective board presidentsuperintendent relationship needs alignment to flourish. Strong communication and regular advance planning between the superintendent and board leadership is essential for high achievement. | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 9

Scheduled preparation between the president and superintendent ensured that board meetings were held in a time-efficient and well-structured manner. The pre-board meetings also guaranteed that communication was continuous, focused, and topical. Finally, the individual meetings allowed critical issues to be thoroughly vetted in a safe and trusting atmosphere.

Board president’s view: Occurring a week before the board meeting, the pre-board meetings were critical because they provided a consistent, semi-structured opportunity to communicate. Beyond the agenda itself, we could talk about expectations, concerns, and perspectives. One of my personal operating goals was to never surprise the superintendent in a board meeting, particularly for any items where I planned to disagree. The goal was not to change anyone’s mind, but rather to build awareness and trust so that the board meeting could be productive.

The pre-board meetings also provided a chance to chat about other items. Interactions between the board president and superintendent are frequently driven by a current fire drill or specific question—having regular time set aside becomes critical to maintaining a space for open discussion.

Superintendent’s view: The monthly pre-board meetings provided the superintendent the opportunity to discuss upcoming board meeting agendas, gave a forum for honest and open dialogue regarding the board, organization, and community politics surrounding each agenda item, provided an avenue to discuss additional operational norms, and deepened the relationship with the president.

The pre-board meetings also provided structured conversations where various district challenges to bringing about positive changes for students could be openly and safely discussed. The president provided a wealth of information regarding community perceptions of the recommended agenda items and allowed the administrative team

to make corrections and necessary adjustments prior to the formal board presentation.

Representation: Space around the Relationship

The second operational norm, representation, recognizes that the board president-superintendent relationship occurs in a broader context. Similar to how a seed’s location impacts its growth, the space around the president-superintendent relationship, or context, creates opportunities and constraints. Importantly, each individual is an advocate and proxy for a broader group or organization.

In a successful relationship, each provides insight on what they are seeing in those spaces. A board president should help the superintendent understand and incorporate the interests of every board member. Similarly, the superintendent can help bridge the relationship with key members of the administration, all of whom are critical to the district’s—and therefore the board’s—success.

One tactic this president and superintendent established involved small-group sessions, where the president invited a second board member to pre-board meetings. The president was careful to rotate invitations among all board members so that each elected official was included and had a focused opportunity to provide direction and feedback.

It is important to conduct the small-group sessions with less than a quorum of the board to comply with state open meetings laws. To create a relaxed and inviting atmosphere, the meetings occurred at various locations, such as coffee houses, yogurt shops, restaurants, and parks.

Board president’s view: The foundational role of the board president should be to ensure that each board member is heard. The president needs to give the superintendent insight into all perspectives, including the ones with which he or she disagrees. The superintendent must be able to trust that the president is fairly representing the space around their relationship. Only then can they both be effective in their leadership roles.

The small-group sessions exemplified making the space around the president-superintendent relationship a priority. By inviting another board member to what would otherwise have been a one-on-one discussion, it demonstrated that both the president and superintendent prioritized input from other board members. It also gave the two leaders a chance to reflect on that input with the other board member to make sure they were both hearing the same thing. This enhanced communication and trust among the entire board and with the superintendent.

Superintendent’s view: The space around the relationship is often filled with complex community and district issues and concerns. The pre-board small-group sessions provided an opportunity to discuss issues and concerns in a safe environment that built trust between the superintendent and board members.

10 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |

Often, the topic for the meeting is an upcoming board agenda item. Each agenda item can have multiple layers of community and staff interest. It is therefore critical to have a forum for honest and open dialogue that allows for consideration of varied viewpoints and conflicting voices. Small-group sessions provided a structured opportunity for the president and board member to provide the superintendent a wealth of information regarding the context for agenda items. A discussion of context helped guide the administration through the myriad community perceptions and beliefs regarding various district issues.

The regularly scheduled pre-board sessions were particularly important in the development of a new vision statement and goals. Due to the complexity of creating a new district direction, it became evident to the president, fellow board members, and the superintendent that an outside facilitator was needed. The selection of the facilitator was discussed by the president and superintendent in pre-board meetings.

The board president and superintendent reached out to various facilitators to initiate the vetting process. Finally, multiple well-vetted facilitator options were presented to the whole board in a duly called open meeting for a selection decision. The pre-board meetings laid the foundation for a strong president-superintendent relationship and successful board meetings that ultimately resulted in the establishment of a district vision statement and goals.

Transparency: Sunlight in the Relationship

The third operational norm that was established was to conduct all board meetings in a public and transparent manner. Just as a plant needs sunlight to continue to grow from a seedling, the board president-superintendent relationship can flourish only in the sunlight of a board meeting. The

public meetings provide a forum to demonstrate and progress the relationship’s shared vision, which reinforces trust. Board meetings should be embraced as occasions to continuously re-center the relationship on student success instead of strictly administrative or individual issues.

During the first five months of the 2017 year, the board held six meetings either in preparation of or solely focused on the creation of a new vision statement and aligned district goals. The six meetings allowed the public an opportunity to observe and listen to the board conversation regarding the new direction for the district. The third operational norm fostered trust among the entire board, superintendent, and the greater community.

For the new vision statement and district goals to be successful, they needed to be embraced by the entire board, district staff, and community. Therefore, it was critical that all constituents had the opportunity to provide input, hear from others, and be part of the discussion. The president and superintendent needed to be partners in generating, incorporating, and reflecting input. Transparency was critically important to build trust in the process and outcome.

The first meeting of the year focused solely on a team-building exercise where the topic was the board and superintendent roles and responsibilities. The openness of the public meeting ensured that our community was aware of our collective desire for our board-superintendent team to work collaboratively in the full sunlight of an audience. The evening deepened the relationship between the president and superintendent, who mutually led much of the discussion during the exercise.

After the January exercise, the board held a second facilitator-led meeting the following month with a single emphasis on the creation of a unified district vision statement. Previously, the district developed and layered multiple vision statements that created confusion for the community. Each vision statement had its advocates and detractors, and the district was guided by these varied statements in multiple directions.

The goal of the February meeting was to initiate discussion that would lead to a board-adopted single vision statement. The February meeting was followed by an early April board meeting where the vision statement was refined and discussion began on district goals. The board then held a May meeting to finalize the vision statement and district goals for later adoption at its second regularly scheduled board meeting of the month.

Transparent board meetings, in which critical district topics were openly discussed, served to enhance the president-superintendent bond.

Board president’s view: The president and superintendent are servants for the board, district staff, and community. While the two leaders have a lot of direct one-on-one discussions, public meetings gave them an opportunity to demonstrate their collaboration and mutual focus on high achieve- | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 11

ment. The board and district leadership are more effective when the community has faith in it.

The most visible aspect of that leadership is the boardsuperintendent relationship, and that relationship is most prominently displayed in public meetings. Transparency and openness are not only important for the community, but also vital to ensuring that the board and staff have visibility into and can participate in discussions, recommendations, and decisions.

Superintendent’s view: The third operational norm of open and transparent communication with our community through public board meetings provided an avenue for the president, board, and superintendent to build trust with a larger community audience—which made the unanimous May 18 vote possible. While individual citizens may not have always agreed with specific board and superintendent decisions, the third norm ensured community awareness, input, and the opportunity for comment. This frequent and direct communication created transparency and openness.

The third norm also allowed the president and superintendent to hone their communication skills by listening and learning prior to setting topics for future board meeting agendas. This led to many post-board-meeting reviews where the president and superintendent held in-depth discussions on critical issues impacting district achievement.

Reviews: Nutrients to Feed Continued Growth

The fourth operational norm, reviews, occurred through the establishment of a debriefing session with the president and superintendent following each regularly scheduled meeting. As a plant continues to grow, it requires the continued feeding of nutrients to live. Post-board debriefings provided the essential nutrient of purposeful time that allowed for a review of the prior meeting. The reviews led to collaborative action and continued growth of the president and the superintendent relationship.

During the post-board review, the president and superintendent analyzed the prior board meeting, determined steps to be taken on any outstanding agenda items, and began to plan for the next board meeting. Frequently, the president followed up with fellow board members on concerns or issues that they raised during the meeting, while remaining mindful to avoid walking quorums. The follow-up conversations with individual board members occurred both virtually and in person. The type of meeting, virtual or in person, was determined based on scheduling conflicts and the seriousness of the topics to be addressed.

The superintendent was often invited by the president to these meetings. The superintendent also held post-board

meetings with the administrative team. The administration reviewed topics raised by the board president in the debrief, addressed the individual concerns of board members on the various topics presented at the prior board meeting, and began planning for the next meeting. The review cycle of planning, executing, and debriefing continued throughout the year.

The fourth operational norm—reviews—was significant in the growth of the board president-superintendent relationship and fostered collaboration between the entire board and administration.

Board president’s view: Meeting reviews were important to help synthesize and ensure alignment. More often than we admit, a superintendent or president will leave a meeting with questions on what was said, or why something was said, and how to progress effectively. Board meetings may also have moments that were key to one person but less consequential for the other. Any disconnect or misalignment can get compounded in the future, such as if the superintendent does not recognize the importance of one board member’s question and brings back a response that fails to address that aspect.

Timeliness is important in reviews. Therefore, whereas pre-board meetings were scheduled events, post-board reviews were often informal and impromptu, ranging from a quick call later that night to lunch the next week. The key is to focus on insight and perspective—not just the what, but also the why.

Superintendent’s view: The reviews were invaluable to a superintendent relatively new to the district. The shared post-board tasks of talking to individual board members and

12 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |

administrative team created clear lines of communication, defined individual president and superintendent responsibilities, and enhanced the trust between the entire board and administration. Trust, the belief in the reliability of fellow leaders, made difficult decisions easier by ensuring accountable actions for all involved. The act of debriefing fellow board members and the administration created protocols for coordinating action and developing mutual understanding that ultimately led to high achievement.

Interpersonal Communication: The Breath of Life in a Relationship

The fifth and final operational norm is centered on interpersonal communication that occurred in the period between board meetings. Much as a plant needs oxygen to sustain life, interpersonal communication is the breath of life in a relationship. Interpersonal communication consisted of the president and superintendent frequently communicating via telephone and face-to-face gatherings.

Effective interpersonal communication grows a strong board president-superintendent relationship and requires continuous feedback. Communication often occurred at events such as athletic competitions or fine arts performances. The communications were social and meant to be a simple connection verifying the well-being of a fellow leader; however, some check-ins led to a discussion of the status of unresolved board meeting items.

The check-ins were highly informal yet significant. One of the most important ways to demonstrate how much you care about another individual is to give that person your time. A strong and positive relationship will continue through frequent contact and open communication.

Board president’s view: The relationship between the president and superintendent is a partnership—one where each person needs to help the other be successful. In service of effective leadership—and by extension, district growth and student achievement—interpersonal communication serves as the foundation by providing a trusted channel for information, insight, and feedback. Communication should occur in three situations: pre-set meetings, ad-hoc item-driven meetings, and non-specific informal meetings. Flexibility is critical since each type of communication serves a different purpose and may require a different channel.

Too often we neglect informal meetings or we immediately turn them into item-driven meetings. But successful interpersonal communication and relationships are broader than a specific issue, or even just about work—they involve the whole person. Therefore, communication requires situations and settings where the president and superintendent can talk about more than just school board meetings and work items.

Superintendent’s view: The informal check-ins were a definitive way for the president and superintendent to

demonstrate genuine caring and understanding for their fellow leader. The check-ins also promoted a shared sense of purpose, allowed time for the leadership team to analyze opportunities and challenges, and built positive rapport. Leading a district is a stressful and lonely role. Working with a fellow leader who offered time and support ensured that the relationship flourished in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. The simple act of checking in on a fellow leader reduced stress and built a solid foundation for high achievement.

The Strength of Operational Norms

These five operational norms proved to be the best practice for this Central Texas school district’s leadership team. The norms are typically conducted sequentially and repeat throughout the leadership tenure of the board president and superintendent. As each new board president is elected or as a new superintendent is hired, the operational norms must be reaffirmed. Allowing all board members to be a part of the operational norms ensures continuity of practice.

Placing the five operational norms in the board’s standard operating procedures manual or in board-written practices ensures minimum disruption during leadership changes. Preparation, representation, transparency, reviews, and interpersonal communication will enhance the board president-superintendent relationship. The use of the five operational norms by the leadership team creates strong focus—which results in high achievement.H

Will Streit is a former TASB Board of Directors member and Leander ISD trustee. Dan Troxell, PhD, is TASB deputy executive director and former Leander ISD superintendent. | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 13

The Roots of Responsibility Service, Involvement Compel

14 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |
Incoming TASB President Rice
Jim Rice, a 2014 graduate of the Leadership TASB program and 2005 graduate of the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Forum, urges public education leaders to “lead by example.”

Growing up, Jim Rice never stayed in one place too long. Before he graduated high school, Rice had attended 10 different schools and lived in several states, including Iowa, South Dakota, Arizona, California, and Texas.

Once he got to the Lone Star State, however, Rice put down roots. A Sugar Land resident since 1981, he has left a remarkable imprint of involvement and leadership in civic service. The TASB 2020-21 president has served on the Fort Bend ISD Board for more than a decade.

In addition to his school board service, Rice has been the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce Education Division chair since 2009, served on the Fort Bend Literacy Council, Regional P-16 Council, and Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council, and helped create Fort Bend Cares, a not-for-profit organization that supports disadvantaged youth.

Rice, who celebrated 40 years of marriage to wife Mary this summer, also served as a Cub Scout den leader and Boy Scout troop committee chair and district chair. All three of Rice’s sons earned the rank of Eagle Scout—and all graduated from college.

What motivates such dedication to community? “I think I have done all this because I moved around so much growing up,” Rice said simply. “I wanted to put down roots, and I wanted to be an involved member of my neighborhood.”

School Board Calling

First elected to the Fort Bend ISD Board in May 2010, Rice had actually considered running for the board five years earlier.

“There had been excessive board turmoil the preceding couple of years, and I thought I should run,” Rice recalled. “I met Sonal Bhuchar and Bob Broxson, who were also considering a run. Both Bob and I decided Sonal had a better chance of winning, so we dropped out. Sonal did win and went on to do good things for our school district.”

Bhuchar, who served six years on the Fort Bend ISD Board and served as a TASB Board of Directors member,

advised and encouraged Rice in his early years of board service. Bhuchar passed away in April 2019.

“My friend Sonal was Fort Bend ISD’s TASB representative. She made a run for state representative in 2012 and decided to step down from the TASB role,” Rice said. “She ‘voluntold’ me to take her place. I really had no idea what TASB did, but I followed Sonal’s advice. In 2013, I participated in Leadership TASB, graduating in 2014. 2020 marks my eighth year serving on the TASB Board.”

Rice has served in several officer roles on the Fort Bend ISD Board, including president and secretary. Elected to the TASB Board of Directors in 2012, he chaired the Legislative Committee during the 84th and 86th legislative sessions and served on the Nominations and Planning and Development committees.

Training, Advocacy, Diversity

Rice’s goals for TASB in the upcoming year are focused primarily on creating new training and advocacy opportunities for Association members.

“My goals as TASB president are to ensure that TASB remains a viable advocate for public education, encourage school boards to engage in Phil Gore’s XG Governance training, encourage TASB to develop a new training course on public school finance so trustees can advise the Texas Legislature on needed reform, and encourage TASB to continue its diversity training and develop training modules for school boards and school districts.”

In this time of unprecedented concern over such issues as the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social unrest, Rice urges local education leaders to offer and take advantage of diversity and understanding opportunities and share the lessons learned.

“Lead by example,” Rice said. “Attend training opportunities at MASBA (Mexican American School Boards Association) and TCBSBM (Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members)— and listen and learn. Share what you have learned with your local school board and community.” | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 15
In this time of unprecedented concern over such issues as the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social unrest, Rice urges local education leaders to offer and take advantage of diversity and understanding opportunities and share the lessons learned.

An eight-year member of the TASB Board of Directors, 2020-21 President Jim Rice has chaired the Legislative Committee and served on the Nominations and Planning and Development committees.

Ongoing Public Ed Issues

Rice cites issues familiar to veteran public education advocates as topics of concern for public schools in the months ahead, including the Legislature’s limiting of local control, inadequate school funding, high-stakes testing and accountability, and the state’s “A-F” rating system of schools.

“We need a full day of high-quality Pre-K for all young children,” Rice added. “Studies have shown if they are not reading on grade level by the third grade, there is a direct correlation between this and dropping out of high school.”

He also cited the need to reduce overreliance on standardized testing “that is used to judge and then label students, teachers, schools, principals, superintendents, school boards, and communities.”

Rice also noted that House Bill 3—the comprehensive school finance legislation passed by the 86th Legislature in 2019—and the cap on local property tax revenue “will come back to haunt us during the 87th session. HB 3 is built on a house of cards. It requires the state to make up the difference between the cap on property tax and the growth rate of property tax (among other things). Sixty percent of the state’s revenue comes from sales taxes. Sales taxes are in the tank. Unlike Congress, the Texas Legislature is required to pass a balanced budget, just as local school boards are. If the state does not have the money to pay for public education at the level promised, they will be unable to make good on their promise and they will be unwilling to spend all of the ‘Rainy Day Fund.’”

In order to reach equilibrium, Rice explained, “the state will have to back off on many unfunded mandates or allow us to raise taxes—or both. Heretofore, the Legislature has proven themselves unwilling to entertain these and other similar suggestions, which underscores the absolute need for TASB and school board members to continue to advocate.”

16 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |
Despite the challenges, obstacles, and frustrations of school board service, Rice explained that the successes—the affirmation that one has made a difference—make involvement more than worthwhile.

The Intrinsic Rewards

Despite the challenges, obstacles, and frustrations of school board service, Rice explained that the successes—the affirmation that one has made a difference—make involvement more than worthwhile.

“Getting our curriculum aligned with the school board’s profile of a graduate is the thing I am most proud of during my tenure on our school board. This was accomplished only through the successful collaboration of our team of eight and the board’s support of the superintendent,” he said. “There were several false starts as the superintendent worked to get the right people in the right seats on the bus, but the fact that we got it done is what I am proud of.”

And as Rice pointed out in his inaugural “From the Top” column as TASB president in this edition of Texas Lone Star, the intrinsic rewards of public education involvement are, for many, the very reasons for school board service.

bring it all into perspective: our kids, receiving their diplomas as beaming parents and extended families clapped and perhaps shed a tear or two out of joy and happiness,” Rice wrote. “Though this may not be what motivated us to run, it is likely the reason why most of us continue to serve.”

Roger White is managing editor of

A public education advocate for years, Jim Rice began serving on the Fort Bend ISD Board in May 2010. He has served in several officer roles locally, including president and secretary.



18 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |
TrusteeJimMurphyHelpedLead CanyonISDforFourDecades

From the Panhandle hub of Amarillo down to Canyon, just west of the famed Palo Duro Canyon, the unique district of Canyon ISD sprawls over 730 square miles of rich High Plains land. The district, which serves approximately 10,000 students in the Amarillo and Canyon areas, has enjoyed steady growth through the decades. It has also enjoyed the steady leadership and wisdom of Trustee Jim Murphy.

Murphy, who retired this year after 40 years of service on the Canyon ISD Board, helped guide the district through four decades of growing pains, technological development, and dynamic community expansion.

First elected in May 1980, Murphy originally became interested in board service because residents in the northern part of the district felt underserved.

“Back in those days, the CISD was primarily located in [what is now] the southern part of the school district in and around Canyon,” recalled Murphy, noting that the Amarillo area of the district had just one facility—an elementary school.

“The students in high school and junior high had to be bused every day down to Canyon for school, as well as for extracurricular activities. Some of the residents in the north end were growing restless and wanted more facilities and services. There were even some rumblings to de-annex to Amarillo ISD. My family was pleased with CISD and didn’t want that to happen. I thought if we could get someone from Amarillo on the school board, maybe things would become less restless at our north end.”

Murphy searched for someone from the Amarillo area to run for the board—with no luck. “So I decided to go ahead and run myself. I became the first Canyon ISD Board member ever elected from Amarillo. In order to pull that off, I had three good opponents and ended up knocking on almost every door all over the school district.”

As the northern part of the district grew through the years, new facilities and services followed suit. “We now have 10 schools within Amarillo and a couple of others on the way,” Murphy said. “There is still a ‘north end’ and a ‘south end’ in the district, but the spirit of the board and the administration is that we represent the whole district—north and south and in between.”

All in the Family

Murphy, who graduated from Oklahoma University in 1965 with a master’s degree in social work, dedicated his professional life to social work. He served the Veterans Administration for 40 years, following stints with Catholic Charities and teaching positions at Missouri Western College and the University of Kentucky. He moved to Amarillo in 1977, where he finished his career at the VA Health Care Center in 2011.

An active member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Murphy was named Social Worker of the Year for the state of Texas in 1990. He served on the board of directors of the Texas Chapter of NASW for six years.

Serving families and communities must be in the Murphy genes, as Murphy’s daughters Dawn and Colleen both earned degrees in social work. Dawn, a Canyon High School graduate, now lives with her family in Cypress, while Colleen, a graduate of Canyon ISD’s Randall High School, lives with her family just four blocks from dad.

“I have six grandchildren,” Murphy proudly added. “Four of them attended CISD schools, and two graduated from Randall High. My granddaughter in Amarillo, Brenna, teaches at Palo Duro High.” Another granddaughter, Kathryn, just received her master’s in education from Texas State University and works with autistic children in Cypress.

“I feel good that one of my daughters graduated from Canyon High in the south and my younger daughter graduated from Randall High in the north, after we constructed it,”

Jim Murphy, who began his tenure as a member of the Canyon ISD Board in May 1980, retired from the board this year following four decades of service. | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 19
Photo courtesy of Canyon ISD

Murphy said. “And now we have under construction a third high school in the northwest area of CISD.”

Four Decades of Change

Aside from an ever-burgeoning population, major changes Murphy has witnessed in his four decades with the district involve training and technology.

“For school board members, training has changed. When I was first on the board, I don’t think any training was required,” Murphy said. “That has changed quite a bit, and it is good. It creates more uniformity as to the role of board members and reduces a lot of freelancing with some board members assuming all sorts of inappropriate roles.

“And certainly technology has truly changed the delivery of the education product,” he added. “Textbooks being traded for Chromebooks. Google has replaced encyclopedias. When is the last time an encyclopedia salesman knocked on your door? Diversity is more visible and accepted—racial, religious, gender issues, cultural.”

Murphy noted that as society has changed, schools have had to take on more responsibility. “It has been challenging for schools to expand their roles beyond just classroom teaching. We are now dealing with various special needs and behavior issues and after-school needs. And it is always a little bit of a challenge understanding some rivalry between the north and south sides of the district while maintaining our service to the whole district, irrespective of where we may reside as a board member. I think our board has consistently accomplished that.”

Insight and Perspective

Through the years, one thing that hasn’t changed has been the steady hand of veteran trustee Jim Murphy. Ask any colleague.

“I have seen his stable and calm approach to challenges and opportunities,” said Canyon ISD Superintendent Darryl Flusche. “Mr. Murphy sincerely valued the function of the school board as a team. Due to his many years of experiences on the board, he was able to share the history to help me understand why and how previous decisions were made in a variety of situations.”

Canyon ISD Board President Bruce Cobb agreed. “Jim’s value to education, particularly CISD, is remarkable. Through many years of service, he gained insights and perspectives which were timeless no matter the issue or challenge. As a teammate, Jim was always eager to share wisdom that can only be gained through years of experience and commitment to young people.”

And Murphy’s advice to those seeking to fill his shoes? Watch, listen, and learn.

“I would suggest to them that being on a school board is different than any other board you have been on,” Murphy said. “Feel free to participate but sit back for the first year and watch and listen. Get to know and understand your role, including the limitations. Get to know your fellow board members and administrative staff. You may be an individual, but you are always a member of a seven-person team—always.”H

Surrounded by colleagues, staff, and friends, Murphy (center) enjoys a celebration of his remarkable 40-year career as a Canyon ISD trustee.

Photo courtesy of Canyon ISD Roger White is managing editor of Texas Lone Star.

Reporting Employee Misconduct

Administrators Have Obligations under SBEC, TEA

School district administrators are responsible for reporting certain misconduct by employees to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA). This article addresses these reporting obligations.

Criminal History

A superintendent must report to SBEC if an educator has a reported criminal history other than information contained in the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Fingerprint-based Applicant Clearinghouse of Texas (FACT) database.1 Educator, as used in this article, means an applicant for or holder of a certificate issued by SBEC. Reported criminal history means any formal criminal justice system charges or dispositions, including arrests, detentions, indictments, convictions, deferred adjudications, and probations in any state or federal jurisdiction.2

As a precaution, SBEC encourages superintendents to report information obtained from the FACT clearinghouse if regarding an arrest for a felony or an offense against a child.

A superintendent’s duty begins during the hiring process and continues after the educator leaves the district’s employment.3

Certified Educators

A superintendent must report to SBEC if an educator is terminated or resigns and the superintendent is aware of evidence that the educator:

• Abused or otherwise committed an unlawful act with a student or minor;

• Was involved in a romantic relationship with or solicited or engaged in sexual contact with a student or minor;

• Possessed, transferred, sold, or distributed a controlled substance;

• Illegally transferred, appropriated, or expended funds or other property of the school district;

• Attempted by fraudulent or unauthorized means to obtain or alter a professional certificate or permit for the purpose of promotion or additional compensation; or

• Committed a criminal offense or any part of a criminal offense on school property or at a schoolsponsored event.4

The superintendent must also report to SBEC if an educator violated legally required security procedures for standardized testing, regardless of whether the

educator is terminated or resigned.5

The law requires reporting if “there is evidence” that the educator engaged in one of the listed acts of misconduct.6 The evidence necessary to trigger a report to SBEC may be circumstantial, such as when an educator resigns upon being confronted with allegations of inappropriate conduct with students. Making a report does not mean the person is guilty.

A superintendent must complete an investigation into allegations that an educator sexually abused a child even if the educator resigns or is terminated for another reason, such as excessive absences.7 If an investigation finds the educator engaged in inappropriate conduct with a student or minor, the superintendent may have a duty to report child abuse.8 If the educator is subsequently arrested or charged, the superintendent will have an additional reason to report to SBEC.

A superintendent is not required to notify SBEC if an investigation into an educator’s alleged incident of misconduct completed before the educator’s termination or resignation determines that the educator did not engage in the alleged incident of misconduct.9

Settlement Agreements

Reporting is mandatory and may not be bargained away in a settlement agreement. State law restricts a certified employee from assisting a person who engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor or student in obtaining employment at a school district.10 SBEC has not indicated whether providing a neutral reference is a violation of these restrictions.

Federal law requires a district to prohibit its employees, contractors, or

22 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 | Legal News

agents from assisting a school employee, contractor, or agent in obtaining a new job, of any kind, if the individual knows or has probable cause to believe that the employee engaged in unlawful sexual misconduct regarding a minor or student.11 See TASB Model Policies CJ(LOCAL) and DC(LOCAL). This requirement does not prohibit the routine transmission of administrative files.

Early Reporting

A superintendent may notify SBEC of any misconduct that the superintendent believes, in good faith, may be subject to sanctions.12 For example, a superintendent may report that an educator has been placed on administrative leave for suspected misconduct with a student. An optional report does not relieve the superintendent of the obligation to make a mandatory report if circumstances change.

Non-certified Employees

A superintendent must report to the commissioner of TEA if a non-certified employee is terminated or resigns and the superintendent is aware of evidence that the employee:

• Abused or otherwise committed an unlawful act with a student or minor; or

• Was involved in a romantic relationship with or solicited or engaged in sexual contact with a student or minor.13

Again, making a report does not mean the person is guilty; it just means that evidence exists. A superintendent must also complete an investigation of allegations of non-certified employee misconduct listed above, despite the employee’s resignation.14

How to Report

A superintendent is required to submit a report to SBEC or the commissioner within seven business days of learning about the conduct.15 TEA recommends sending all reports to the TEA Division of Educator Investigations. Reports may be submitted electronically through TEA’s Misconduct Reporting Portal.16 A form for reporting is available to subscribers in the TASB HR Library.

The superintendent must notify the board before filing a report.17 Also, before

accepting the educator’s resignation, the superintendent must provide written notice that a report will be filed and may result in sanctions.18


Principals must notify the superintendent about an educator’s criminal record other than information learned from the FACT database.19 A principal must also notify the superintendent if an employee’s termination or resignation followed an alleged incident of misconduct, as described above.20

The principal’s report is not required to be on any particular form, but TASB Legal Services recommends that the report be dated, in writing, and contain the same essential details as the superintendent’s report to TEA.21

Liability and Penalties

Administrators are immune from civil or criminal liability for good-faith reporting.22 Conversely, a superintendent or principal who fails to make a timely report will be subject to sanctions, including loss of certification.23 A superintendent or principal who fails to report a certified | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 23 HRDATASOURCE will help you: Create comparison reports using market data from our surveys. l Compare districts or community colleges by size, region, or individual selection. l Access reliable and current benchmark data instantly online. l Download reports in PDF or Excel format • 800.580.7782

educator’s misconduct or criminal history may have to pay an administrative penalty ranging from $500 to $10,000. The administrator’s certificate may not be renewed until the penalty is paid.24

A failure to make a timely report with the intent to conceal an educator’s criminal record or alleged misconduct could be a state jail felony, punishable by jail time from six months to two years.25

The Board

Trustees are not required to report suspected misconduct. Nonetheless, the board has an important oversight role in adopting policies and supervising the superintendent. Trustees should remember that the superintendent risks sanctions for failure to report. A report does not necessarily mean the superintendent believes the educator is guilty of the misconduct.

Do Not Hire Registry

TEA maintains a registry of individuals ineligible to work for public schools based on misconduct or criminal history. Districts may access the registry through the Texas Education Agency Login (TEAL) application process.26 There is also a

public-facing portion of the Do Not Hire Registry on TEA’s website, the Public Registry Search.

Final Thoughts

The purpose of the mandatory reporting law is to ensure that students are taught in a safe environment. If the district is faced with a difficult situation regarding educator misconduct, the district should seek assistance from its school attorney.H

Published online in TASB School Law eSource. This document is continually updated, and references to online resources are hyperlinked, at documents/reporting-employee-misconduct.pdf. For more information on this and other school law topics, visit TASB School Law eSource at

This document 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. Updated October 2020.

1Tex. Educ. Code §§ 5.001(5); 21.006(b)(1).

219 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.3(44).

3Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(b)(1).

4Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(b).

5Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(b).

6Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(c)-(c-2).

7Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(b-1).

8Tex. Fam. Code § 261.101.

9Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(c-2).

10Tex. Educ. Code § 21.0581; 19 Tex. Admin. Code § 247.2(1), (3).

1120 U.S.C. § 7926.

1219 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.14(d).

13Tex. Educ. Code § 22.093(c)(1).

14Tex. Educ. Code § 22.093(d).

15Tex. Educ. Code §§ 21.006(c); 22.093(b).

16See TEA, Superintendent Reporting Requirements (2020).

1719 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.14(d)(3)(B).

1819 Tex. Admin. Code § 249.14(d)(3)(A).

19Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(b-2)(2).

20Tex. Educ. Code §§ 21.006(b-2)(1), 22.093(e).

21See TEA, Superintendent Reporting Requirements (2020).

22Tex. Educ. Code §§ 21.006(e), 22.093(h).

23Tex. Educ. Code §§ 21.006(b), (j); 22.093(i).

24Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(i).

25Tex. Educ. Code § 21.006(j); Tex. Penal Code § 12.35(a).

26Tex. Educ. Code § 22.095.

Leslie Story is a TASB Legal Services lead attorney.

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Capitol Concerns

TASB Delegates Adopt 2020-22 Advocacy Agenda

School board members from around the state adopted TASB’s new 2020-22 Advocacy Agenda on October 3. For the first time ever, delegates participated in the TASB Delegate Assembly through virtual means. While the structure for submitting motions to consider or amend agenda items was different, discussion and participation was as lively and passionate as has come to be expected.

This new agenda will guide TASB’s advocacy efforts during the 87th legislative session that begins in January amid its own questions as to how business will be conducted on the Capitol grounds.

TASB delegates made their voices and those of their students and districts heard on issues ranging from school finance to diversity to charter schools. Delegates also earned continuing education credit and learned about political advocacy from House Public Education Committee Chair Dan Huberty.

Delegates amended the TASB Cornerstone Principles—adding a new principle on promoting equity and eradicating systemic racism—adopted 10 new priorities, and approved 54 new resolutions. The new priorities, which primarily drive the Association’s advocacy efforts, address issues such as funding and flexibility to address COVID-19 concerns, charter school expansion, accountability, and more. The new resolutions, which guide TASB on issues that may come before the Legislature or regulatory agencies, address many more issues, including items specific to certain districts or regions.

The 2021 Delegate Assembly will have the opportunity to amend the Advocacy Agenda next year. The full Advocacy Agenda may be found at

ADA Hold Harmless

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced in October that it will extend the current minimum funding guarantee established for the pandemic an additional six weeks, but only for districts that offer in-person instruction for families who opt for it. Districts must also demonstrate a good-faith effort to allow for on-campus attendance.

TEA estimates that this will mean most districts will receive this funding guarantee for the first half of the school year. TEA said it will address whether

further funding adjustments for the second semester are needed based on information and data gathered between now and January 2021.

TEA notes that this extension ensures that schools will receive their anticipated funding through the first 18 weeks of the first semester regardless of changes to enrollment or attendance rates due to COVID-19. TEA will address whether further funding adjustments for the second semester are needed based on information and data gathered between now and January 2021.

Charter Expansion

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath approved eight Generation TwentyFive charter applications in September, but only five will be authorized to begin operations after review by the State Board of Education. During its September meeting, the State Board considered the eight applications—hearing from the charter applicants and the public, including TASB Legislative Committee Chair Rolinda Schmidt, who asked the Board to halt any new charters ahead of a legislative session that will feature a severe budget shortfall.

The eight charter applicants represented 18 new charter school campuses and could have cost Texas school districts an estimated $750 million in revenue over the next decade. The approval of the charters could have also sent up to $61 million in Texas tax dollars to California, Florida, and New York corporations over 10 years.

TASB joined 19 other education stakeholder organizations in September to write the State Board to ask that no additional charters be approved while the state is grappling with a pandemic and a potentially debilitating budget shortfall that may lead to significant funding cuts for public education.

The letter highlighted the additional cost to the state each charter student incurs. In fact, each student who leaves a school district to enroll in a charter school costs the state, on average, $1,150 more because charter schools have a higher funding entitlement than the school districts in which they operate. The eight new charters could have resulted in an additional $12 million annual cost to the state if they reach capacity. In their first 10 years, the eight applicants could have cost the state an estimated $88 million more than if students enrolled in school

26 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 | Capital Watch

districts. Read the letter at https://t.e2ma. net/click/93v0qc/xeszfb/58onij

The five charters that will be allowed to move forward are Brillante Academy (McAllen), Doral Academy of Texas (Buda), Learn4Life-Austin (Austin), Prelude Preparatory Charter School (San Antonio), and Royal Public Schools (San Antonio). The three applicants vetoed by the State Board were CLEAR Public Charter School (San Marcos), Heritage Classical Academy (Houston), and Rocketship Public Schools (Fort Worth).

Shortly afterward, Morath approved 12 of the 27 charter expansion amendments filed by IDEA charter schools. The increase in allowable campuses will allow IDEA to increase its enrollment from 63,200 students to 78,200.

The approved expansions include Odessa (2), La Joya (2), San Antonio (2), El Paso (2), Fort Worth (2), and Lake Houston (2). The denied amendments include South Houston (1), Odessa (2), Edinburg (2), Mid-Rio Grande Valley (2), San Antonio (2), Austin area (4), and El Paso (2).H | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 27
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TEA Launches Texas Home Learning K-12 Math Innovative Instruction

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced September 4 the first set of instructional materials covering K-12 math that will be made available to school systems through the Texas Home Learning 3.0 (THL 3.0) initiative.

Like other THL 3.0 offerings, these instructional materials are digitized, customized, and aligned to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)—the state standards for what students should know and be able to do. These resources are optional and free to all Texas school systems.

TEA has partnered with Carnegie Learning for 6-12 Math and Great Minds for K-5 Math to develop and deliver this first set of TEKS-aligned unit and lesson plans. The first sets of materials are ready for school systems to adopt and adapt;

additional materials will be released on a continuous basis. Before release, all THL 3.0 instructional materials undergo a rigorous review process that includes Texas teacher feedback to confirm alignment with TEKS and quality standards.

What Is THL 3.0?

THL 3.0 is a comprehensive initiative to support school systems, teachers, parents, and students during the public health crisis and beyond with high-quality

instructional materials, technology solutions, and professional development resources.

Additional THL 3.0 instructional materials for other subjects and grade levels will be announced over the coming weeks.

“Texas Home Learning 3.0 is a milestone achievement in Texas public education. The significant ways in which these high-quality, free instructional offerings across core subjects will shape learning throughout the Lone Star State in the months and years to come is hard to gauge at this moment, though we are confident the outcomes will be positive,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “Our state’s hard-working students and teachers will benefit immensely from this digital TEKS-aligned offering. School systems are having to adjust to these extraordinary times—and we at TEA are doing the same. We will continue to provide our schools with support in all realms so that the learning can continue uninterrupted.”

28 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |
Technology Today
Before release, all THL 3.0 instructional materials undergo a rigorous review process that includes Texas teacher feedback to confirm alignment with TEKS and quality standards.

Hybrid Learning Needs

Educators who choose to participate will receive access to TEKS-aligned curriculum materials and adaptive math learning software customized to access content that works seamlessly between remote and in-classroom environments. The Texas Math Solution includes daily teacher lesson plans with accessible student materials, guidance for remote learning for teachers, and family guides to support learning regardless of setting.

“We are proud to partner with the Texas Education Agency to make our materials available to all who need them during this challenging time,” says Barry Malkin, CEO of Carnegie Learning. “Texas educators don’t have to compromise on high-quality instructional materials in

order to have the flexibility they need to transition between in-person and remote learning. We’re here to support them with both.”

Materials are designed to meet the needs of hybrid and virtual learning environments, allowing students and teachers to access materials wherever and whenever needed. Features include short, digestible videos for each lesson along with downloadable and fillable PDFs so students can show their work and communicate with teachers via annotations and comments.

“As a native Texan, I’m proud to see the state’s commitment to high-quality instructional materials, especially at this unique time in the history of education,” said Jill Diniz, Great Minds Chief Aca-

demic Officer for math. “We’ve learned so much about math instruction since my own time in the classroom. It’s wonderful to be able to bring that to Texas—to teach math as a body of knowledge, not just a set of skills.”

TEA previously announced that it will offer all Texas school systems a learning management system from PowerSchool’s Schoology for two years at no cost. More than 300 Texas school systems have already signed up, with another 200 more currently engaging with the Schoology team.

For more information on Texas Home Learning 3.0, visit https://tea.

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• Satisfaction guaranteed | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 29
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A Strong Legacy

TASB Communications AED Retires after 30+ Years of Strengthening Association’s Identity

When Karen Strong began working at TASB in 1988, there were no less than a dozen Association letterheads and multiple versions of the TASB logo in use. In fact, there was TASB; there was a co-entity known as the Texas School Services Foundation; and, for a while, there was TASB, Inc.—quite separate and apart from TASB “its own self.”

In other words, the Association’s identity was all over the map.

Strong, then serving as chief communications officer, immediately went to work. Steadily, she began to coalesce the various mini-brands of the Association and introduced the concept of uniform identity guidelines. She then oversaw the creation of a new TASB logo now in use in all Association communications, among many other improvements and innovations.

After more than 32 years at the helm of TASB Communications and Public Relations, Associate Executive Director Strong hangs up her hat—or better, many hats—for retirement.

“Karen did so much more for TASB than the typical communications executive,” said TASB Executive Director James B. Crow. “She took on many tasks and responsibilities that weren’t really in her job description, and she did them all extremely well. Under Karen’s leadership, TASB has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions for our publications, media, and other communication efforts. Her retirement is a huge loss for TASB and for public schools.”

New Times and Technologies

As the 1990s dawned early in Strong’s

tenure, technology was on the verge of creating an entirely new world of communication. Strong guided the Association into today’s era of e-mail, internet, and social media. Early on, she taught numerous sessions for district personnel on the use of TENET—one of the first Texas public school internet platforms—and she led the creation of the first TASB website in 1996.

Strong taught numerous training sessions for board members, explaining the value of technology for classrooms, demonstrating how the internet could benefit teaching and learning. She later helped board members learn about social media.

“Karen was always the voice of quiet reason, pointing out viewpoints we had not considered or an approach we had not thought about,” said Dubravka Romano,

TASB associate executive director of Risk Management Services. “Perhaps Karen’s greatest gift was being able to deliver really difficult news in such a way that you may not even realize that you just got told something you didn’t want to hear. Her caring and that Texas twang just made everything seem better, even when it was not. It is hard for me to envision a TASB without Karen.”

In 2017, Strong worked on the Association’s first social media advocacy project and then oversaw bringing that function in house for the 2019 legislative session, outdoing participation records set the previous session.

In 2019, she oversaw the creation of the TASB Member Center, positioning the organization to deliver custom online content to members and use digital marketing techniques to strengthen member allegiance to the organization.

Legacy of Leadership

Serving as TASB’s spokesperson and representative on a long list of committees, coalitions, and task forces, Strong also served as liaison with various sister organizations and governmental work groups. Along with longtime TASB colleague Mary Ann Briley, she created the outreach to superintendent secretaries that yielded the popular TASB Conference for Administrative Professionals.

During her tenure, Strong was a frequent speaker at various national conferences, mentoring young communications

30 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |
News & Events
TASB Associate Executive Director Karen Strong led Association communications efforts for more than 30 years. Photo by TASB Media Services

professionals. She served as president of the Austin chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.

Strong’s communications staff regularly won top awards from state and national organizations for writing, graphic design, video production, online resources, podcasts, and more. She was honored by her alma mater, Abilene Christian University, with the Gutenberg Award for Outstanding Alumni for her communications achievements.

Improving Public Perception

Much of Strong’s focus at TASB was aimed at highlighting the many successes of Texas public schools and correcting misperceptions about public education.

“Karen has done more than just about anyone in this state to improve the public’s perception of Texas schools,” Crow noted. “She has been the creative force behind numerous campaigns to highlight the strengths and advantages of our public schools.”

Strong created a constant stream of articles and campaigns on the value and successes of Texas public schools and taught trustees how to speak up on behalf of public education in Texas.

Other efforts included initiating an annual spring Good News Luncheon for sister education organizations to help coordinate communications efforts, creation of the Student Video Contest to encourage students to speak up for their schools during legislative sessions, and establishing the Association’s Business Recognition Program and the Business Education Summits to expand support for public schools in the business community.

New Members on Board

When each new TASB president and slate of officers came on board each fall, Strong led the way in welcoming them and assisting them in their Association service.

“Karen Strong was one of those unique individuals who, when you met her for the first time, you were impressed by her genuine smile and positive enthusiasm,” said TASB 2020-21 President Jim Rice. “Karen was always encouraging through her words and kindness, behind which lay an absolute devotion to TASB for the role it played in educating the schoolchildren of Texas. Her long-standing tenure with TASB and the experience behind it will indeed be hard to replace.”

Strong served as liaison to the TASB Member Services Committee, shepherding the Superintendent of the Year program for three decades, and served as liaison for a variety of special committees over the years.

“Karen is a wonderful person and role model who exemplifies true professionalism, leadership, integrity, character, passion, and enthusiasm. My congratulations to her on an outstanding career—and the lasting contributions she has made to public education,” said former TASB President Robert Seward. “She showed by example that excellence is something to aim for every day. She inspired everyone around her—because work was never just about work for her. It was about taking care of everyone around her. Karen was instrumental in my growth as a person and a member and officer of the TASB Board.”

Much of her work was behind the scenes, ghost-writing op/ ed pieces, speeches, and articles for TASB officers and directors. She served as the organization’s voice in many written materials,

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To the Core Insightful Governance Publication Gets to Heart of School Board Work

Why should someone take the time to study school district governance? Why do some boards and superintendents work so well together? In The Governance Core: School Boards, Superintendents, and Schools Working Together, authors Davis Campbell and Michael Fullan explain why—and how.

It’s an engaging, insightful, and motivating book that is highly respectful of the reader’s intent. As school district leaders, our moral imperative—what the authors describe as a “relentless commitment to a shared core belief”—demands and deserves a highly effective governance team.

Published in 2019, before the pandemic upended education, The Governance Core seems even more urgently applicable now. The focus on a moral imperative is critical as we navigate hybrid models of education, which may forever be a part of the educational landscape.

The authors distill our charge as trustees into four key areas:

• Systems thinking

• Strategic focus

• Deep learning

• Public manner

Make Systems Thinking a Habit

To illustrate how governance is a systems job, the authors provide a mental picture of a helicopter looking down on your district as an interconnected system.

Quoting systems scientist Peter

Senge, who said, “By its very nature, systems thinking points out interdependencies and the need for collaboration,” Campbell and Fullan encourage us to hold fast to a systems approach.

Keep a Strategic Focus

A particularly helpful emphasis is for board members to maintain focus on governance, notwithstanding the routine, incremental work we are required to accomplish. The authors assert that the greatest enemy of strategic thinking is the typical agenda that can control trustees.

Superintendents are likewise exhorted to help structure agendas with a focus on governance and not operational issues. We must develop strategic goals and measurable success indicators that signal our intent to achieve our moral imperative.

A conversation about education

Here are three ways to amplify the voices of your students at TASB’s fan-favorite annual Governance Camp* conference: Participate in our student expo featuring a variety of student projects and programs.

Present a student-led session featuring a message or a program you think Texas trustees should hear about.


Share your

Apply for our scholarship and continue the conversation by participating in our annual student panel featuring scholarship winners.

Applications and more information about all three opportunities can be found at

32 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |
your voice.
*Your student(s) would need to be available to travel to Galveston and participate in Governance Camp on Friday, March 5, 2021. 1. 2. 3.
Share your talent.
We must discern issues of equity that include access to technology and support systems at home. The authors’ focus on coherence is timely given these new models, when attempts at alternative delivery can feel disjointed. Through it all, we can achieve excellence through exceptional governance.

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Be a Deep Learner

Effective trustees go outside their personal comfort zones to gain new understanding, according to Campbell and Fullan. Developing a governance mindset requires commitment to do the deep thinking and learning necessary to make quality strategic decisions.

And beyond effective decision-making, deep learning prepares us to lead rather than simply respond to pressures. The pandemic has placed extraordinary pressures on all trustees. Knowing the principles that guide our actions enables us to justify our positions to stakeholders.

Manage your Public Manner

The book makes a key distinction between unity and unanimity, whether among board members or between the board and superintendent. Reminiscent of the famous Abraham Lincoln quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” the authors focus on the positive power of a collaborative mindset. When we speak with a unified voice, we place the best interests of our district above our desire to show the public when we disagreed with a decision.

When we collectively adopt and follow board protocols, we generate professional demeanor and efficient, effective meetings. It’s easier to resist delving into administra-

tive details as we are together focused on our strategic role. The authors emphasize that the board must be able to trust information provided by administration, and superintendents should ensure information is presented without embellishment.

In describing governance as manner, Campbell and Fullan stress that one of the most important and least appreciated traits of highly effective trustees is the management of their public behavior. Much like how Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s

Davis Campbell, coauthor of The Governance Core, will provide more insights on the nature of high-functioning governance teams as a keynote speaker at TASB’s 2020 XG Summit November 9-10. Registrants to this one-of-a-kind virtual conference will get a copy of the book sent to them ahead of his talk.

For more information about the 2020 XG Summit, visit trustees/expand-your-knowledge/events/xg-summit.aspx.

colleagues described her—engaging with patience, understanding, respect, common courtesy, and a sense of humor—this sets the stage for effective governance.

A Systemwide Coherency

In each of these key areas, the authors emphasize coherency. Every district endeavor has a focused direction that can be tied back to their moral imperative. Coherence cultivates collaboration. As we embrace systems thinking, strategic focus, deep learning, and we mind our public manner, we have the “daily fuel” to guide our districts and equip every student for excellence.

Campbell and Fullan seek to help all districts achieve the ideal of a “governance system, school board, and superintendent working together as a cohesive, unified team with a common vision driven by a shared moral imperative.” This reality is within our reach, and The Governance Core is a must-read that provides us with the perspective and tools needed for the challenge.H | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 33
BID: $27.50 BID: $26.75 BID: $26.50 BID: $27.00
Administered by The TASB Energy Cooperative electricity purchasing program is administered by the Texas Association of School Boards, Inc. (TASB), an electricity broker and aggregator registered with the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Mary Jane Hetrick, a TASB Board of Directors member, is Dripping Springs ISD Board vice-president.

Online & On Point

For the approximately 2,700 attendees of txEDCON2020 held September 30-October 3, the 2020 TASA | TASB Convention was truly a unique, unprecedented experience. Held virtually for the first time, the annual gathering of local public education leaders received rave reviews for content, originality, and the willingness of those involved to go the extra mile to ensure a positive experience. More than 1,800 trustees participated, including a record 160 districts that boasted 100-percent attendance by the entire leadership team.

Highlights included General Session speakers Shawn Achor and Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall, who inspired attendees with their motivational messages; outstanding performances by students from Kermit ISD and Northside ISD; the virtual Exhibit Hall; and more. Attendees helped create virtual hygiene and hunger kits for those in need through the Community Service Center. Donations will be given to Hope Supply Co., a clearinghouse for donated resources.

Award winners included 2020 Superintendent of the Year Jose Gonzalez of McAllen ISD and the 2020 Outstanding School Board winner Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD. Additionally, Eric Hale, a kindergarten and first-grade teacher from Dallas ISD, was named Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year, and Anthony Lopez-Waste, a history teacher and coach from Canutillo ISD, was named the Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.

“Shawn (Achor) was amazing, and the simple steps he provided have the potential of changing our district.”

“‘Cynt’ Marshall—great speaker with an incredible story. Shared what school board members and education staff need to hear about the importance of educators and their impact on our students. Much to ponder and put to use in our districts.”

34 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |

Leadership Teams across Texas Gather Virtually for

Opposite page, the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD Board of Trustees was named the 2020 Outstanding School Board during Convention; at left, TASB 2019-20 President Lee Lentz-Edwards introduces the student performance segment produced by students of Kermit ISD; above, McAllen ISD Superintendent Jose Gonzalez was the winner of the 2020 Superintendent of the Year Award; below left, panel members participate in the “Navigating Leadership Challenges during Unprecedented Times” session; below right, (from left) TASB Board Member Rose Avalos of Aldine ISD, Carolyn Counce of TASB Policy Service, and TASB Board Member Jayme Mathias of Austin ISD are all masked up to participate in the Association’s Delegate Assembly proceedings hosted at TASB HQ. | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 35
Photos by TASB Media Services

Superb Schools

Texas 2020 Blue Ribbon Winners Announced

The United States Department of Education announced in September that 26 Texas public schools received 2020 national Blue Ribbon Schools honors.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools that have high student achievement and/or highlights where exemplary progress has been made in closing achievement gaps. Nationally, more than 9,000 schools have received this prestigious designation since the program’s founding in 1982.

In Texas, public schools are considered for nomination based on student performance on the first administration of the previous year’s STAAR assessments. Each campus receiving Blue Ribbon honors this year has an economically disadvantaged population of 39 percent or more. All 26 campuses nominated by the Texas Education Agency in February received the designation.

Texas Blue Ribbon Schools winners for 2020 are:

Exemplary High-Performing Schools

• Early College High School, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD

• Windsor Park G/T Elementary, Corpus Christi ISD

• Early Childhood Development Center, Corpus Christi ISD

• Henry W. Longfellow Career Exploration Academy, Dallas ISD

• Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr. Early College High School, Dallas ISD

• Maude Mae Kirchner Elementary, Eagle Pass ISD

• Transmountain Early College High School, El Paso ISD

• Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences, Fort Worth ISD

• High School for Law and Justice, Houston ISD

• Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, Houston ISD

• Heights Elementary, Laredo ISD

• Langham Elementary, Nederland ISD

• Windthorst Elementary, Windthorst ISD

Exemplary Achievement-Gap-Closing Schools

• Alvarado Elementary South, Alvarado ISD

• Reilly Elementary, Austin ISD

• Edward Titche Elementary, Dallas ISD

• Milam Elementary, El Paso ISD

• Hobbs Williams Elementary, Grand Prairie ISD

• Memorial Elementary, Houston ISD

• West Main Elementary, Lancaster ISD

Longtime Normangee ISD Trustee Passes Away

William A. Bilsing, who served as a school board member for Normangee ISD for a remarkable 58 years, passed away September 15. He was 94. Bilsing is survived by his wife, Shirley, nine children, and 29 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Dr. Bilsing’s impact on our school district is truly immeasurable,” said Normangee ISD Superintendent Mark Ruffin. “He was a staple in our community and a cornerstone for the progress of our school district.”

First elected to his local board in 1962, Bilsing served continuously until taking a two-year break in 1988 and 1989. He was then reelected in 1990 and served until his passing. The district’s administration building is named in honor of Bilsing, who served the community as a physician, director of the local bank, and member of the town’s Masonic Lodge, among a long list of civic and service organization roles.H

• John Z. Leyendeker Elementary, Laredo ISD

• Kelly-Pharr Elementary, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

• Redwater Junior High, Redwater ISD

• Dr. Edward Roberson Middle School, Spring ISD

• Vista Academy of Austin-Mueller, Texas College Preparatory Academies

• Desertaire Elementary, Ysleta ISD

“There are amazing things happening on these campuses each and every day, and this National Blue Ribbon designation further validates that,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “I’d like to thank the students on these campuses for making learning a top priority and thank the educators and staff members who work tirelessly to mold young minds into the next generation of successful citizens.”

The 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools Awards Ceremony will be held virtually November 12 and 13.H speeches, digital resources, and videos, including the annual summer video and the video for the TASB Delegate Assembly.

“Karen Strong exemplifies the best of TASB. Each and every project or endeavor that she touched on behalf of TASB was better because of her,” said Lee LentzEdwards, TASB 2020-21 immediate past president. “Her wealth of experience and willingness to share put everyone at ease and helped them perform to the highest standard. She’s as good as it gets.”

“I can’t think of a better way to spend my work life than supporting public schools,” Strong said. “It’s been a wonderful experience, filled with the best people. I’m grateful for my time at TASB and for the many fine trustees, administrators, and TASB staff members who have made these years so much fun.”H

36 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 |
Roger White is managing editor of Texas Lone Star. Legacy (from page 31)

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• Convenient Learning in the Online Learning Center

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For information on any of these offerings: 800.580.8272, ext. 2453 • | November 2020 | Texas Lone Star 37

A Fond Farewell

My 32 Years at TASB Have Been a Joy

Q:Did I hear a rumor that Karen Strong is retiring?

A: It is true.

By the time you read this final Q&A column, I will no longer be serving as the associate executive director of Communications and Public Relations for TASB.

Early Days

When I accepted my position at TASB in 1988, I had no idea that I would work for you for more than three decades. It seems fitting, now that I reflect, that my first workday at TASB was at the TASA/ TASB Convention in San Antonio. It was definitely a case of getting “thrown into the deep end.”

I was confronted with thousands of locally elected trustees and professional educators. I saw firsthand how very much TASB members care about their schools and the students who attend them.

I also learned that the trustees not only cared about the schools in their community but they also were willing to shoulder part of the load when it came to making sure those schools are the best they can be.

I learned that these people must go through an election to win a job that pays no money, requires training on their own time, and causes them to have to be available to community members day and night. I thought: These are dedicated people.

Also, during my years at TASB, one of my responsibilities has been working with the state selection committee for the Superintendent of the Year program. That

means that every year I have met a new, amazing array of dedicated and creative superintendents. Every year I think: These are impressive professionals.

In short, from the first, I was blown away by the TASB members—and I still am today. You are an awesome bunch of folks, and I have loved working with you.


When I joined the staff at TASB, I was a supporter of Texas public schools. After all, I thought, everyone supports public schools, right? The adults provided good schools for us, and we should pass that along, providing good public schools for the next generation.

Public education is for the common good. Who could disagree with that?

But then I discovered that there was an insidious voice casting doubt on the value of public schools. I learned that there were political and financial forces that benefited from denigrating public schools. I learned that the loudest critical voices were not concerned about the common good or educating all children. I was appalled.

just a job; it became work that was meaningful and important, and I encourage each of you to continue the good fight to see that public schools for all children are not only available, but outstanding.

So Many Words

When Roger White, the managing editor of Texas Lone Star magazine, learned that I planned to retire, he did some research. He discovered that I began writing this Q&A column in May 1992.

We had conducted a communications audit in 1991, to identify how the organization could improve its communications to and from members. We wanted to help TASB serve you better. The Q&A column was designed to answer your questions about the Association, providing an additional channel to help you get the best benefit of your membership.

Roger estimates that I have written about 260 of these columns. Even more alarming is his estimate that I have probably written about 182,000 words in these columns. Good grief. At this point, I’m pretty sure that I should apologize for bending your ear in such a relentless manner!

It became obvious that we must speak up for public schools. For those of you who have read this column for any length of time, you know that I believe strongly that excellent public schools are a necessity and properly funding them is hugely important to our future. In that way, my work at TASB became more than

But instead of an apology, I would like to offer my sincere gratitude for your dedication to the task of providing great public schools and your exemplary service on behalf of the children of Texas. It has been an honor to ride on your coattails for the past three decades. You are my heroes!H

Karen Strong, TASB associate executive director of Communications and Public Relations, retired from her post after 32 years of service, effective October 30, 2020. Thank you for your outstanding service, Karen!

38 Texas Lone Star | November 2020 | Q & A
Karen Strong
It became obvious that we must speak up for public schools.
He is counting on you. Speak up for our children. Speak up for Texas public schools.
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