November 2022

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Districts chart a new path to limit cell phone use

Also in this issue: Ready to Lead New TASB president focuses on value of every student

A Publication of the Texas Association of School Boards | Volume 40, Number 9 | November 2022

Featured Event


TASB Officers 2022-23

Debbie Gillespie, President, Frisco ISD

Armando Rodriguez, President-Elect, Canutillo ISD

Rolinda Schmidt, First Vice-President, Kerrville ISD, Region 20A

Tony Hopkins, Second Vice-President, Friendswood ISD, Region 4C

Mary Jane Hetrick, Secretary-Treasurer, Dripping Springs ISD, Region 13B

Ted Beard, Immediate Past President, Longview ISD

TASB Board of Directors 2022-23

Moises Alfaro, Mathis ISD, Region 2

Jesus Amaya, Los Fresnos CISD, Region 1A

Rose Avalos, Aldine ISD, Region 4H

Carlos Bentancourt, Slaton ISD, Region 17

Kamlesh Bhikha, ESC 2, ESC Representative

Lynn Boswell, Austin ISD, Region 13A

Darlene Breaux, Alief ISD, Region 4B

Steve Brown, Ector County ISD, Region 18

Kevin A. Carbó, Mesquite ISD, Region 10D

Justin Chapa, Arlington ISD, Region 11C

Julie Cole, Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD, Region 11A

Thomas Darden, Cooper ISD, Region 8

Rebecca Fox, Katy ISD, Region 4E

Karen Freeman, Northside ISD, Region 20B

Linda Gooch, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10B

Myrna Guidry, Houston ISD, Region 4D

Julie Hinaman, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Region 4F

Tricia Ikard, Maypearl ISD, Region 10A

Tami Keeling, Victoria ISD, Region 3

Mark Lukert, Wichita Falls ISD, Region 9

Kathy Major, Liberty Hill ISD, Region 13C

Kristen Davison Malone, Fort Bend ISD, Region 4G

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

Dan Micciche, Dallas ISD, Region 10C

Scott Moore, Conroe ISD, Region 6B

Steven Newcom, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, Region 11D

Nicholas Phillips, Nederland ISD, Region 5

Quinton Phillips, Fort Worth ISD, Region 11B

Beth Prykryl, New Caney ISD, Region 6A

Tony Raymond, Sabine ISD, Region 7

Georgan Reitmeier, Klein ISD, Region 4A

Sylvia Sánchez Garza, South Texas ISD, Region 1B

Cindy Spanel, Highland Park ISD-Potter County, Region 16

Mildred Watkins, La Vega ISD, Region 12

Greg Welch, Clyde CISD, Region 14

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

Terri Williams, North East ISD, Region 20E

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

2 | November 2022 | Calendar
NOVEMBER 4 • TASB Legal Services: Fall Legal Seminar — Austin 7-8 • TASB HR Services: HR Academy — Georgetown 7-8 • TASB HR Services: Advanced HR Seminar — Georgetown 9 • TASB Facility Services: Best Practices: Maintenance & Operations — Austin 10 • TASB Student Solutions: Discipline of Students with Disabilities Part III — Virtual Event 15 • TASB Facility Services: Asbestos Designated Person Training — Victoria 16 • TASB Facility Services: Integrated Pest Management — Victoria 16 • TASB SHARS Matters Webinar Series: Parental Consent — Virtual Event 16-17 • TASB HR Services: Service Record Management — Virtual Event 19 • TASB Legal Services: Fall Legal Seminar — South Padre Island 21 • TASB Legal Services: Fall Legal Seminar — Virtual Event 29 • TASB Facility Services: Asbestos Designated Person Training — Edinburg 30 • TASB Facility Services: Integrated Pest Management — Edinburg
1 • TASB HR Services: Spending Wisely: The Intersection of Staffing and Pay — Virtual Event DECEMBER 14 • TASB SHARS Matters Webinar Series: SHARS Billing — Virtual Event JANUARY 2023 10 • 88th Texas Legislative Session Opens — Austin 12 • TASB Student Solutions: Collaboration 101 — Virtual Event 17 • TASB Facility Services: Asbestos Designated Person Training — Austin 18 • TASB Facility Services: Integrated Pest Management — Austin 26-27 • 2023 Texas Association of Community College Attorneys Conference — Austin FEBRUARY 2-3 • TASB Conference for Administrative Professionals — Austin

Texas Lone Star • Volume 40, Number 9

Texas Association of School Boards

P.O. Box 400 • Austin, Texas • 78767-0400 512.467.0222 • 800.580.8272

Laura Tolley • Managing Editor

Shu-in Powell • Graphic Designer

Virginia Hernandez • Photographer

360 Press Solutions • Printer

Contributors: Sylvia Wood, Leslie Trahan, Joan Randall, Melissa Locke Roberts, Stephanie Butler, Dax González, Beth Griesmer, Sarah Orman, Esperanza Orosco, Lucas Anderson, and Stephany Wagner-Thornhill

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

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

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

Texas Lone Star does not guarantee publication of unsolicited manuscripts.

Postmaster: Send address changes to TASB, P.O. Box 400, Austin, Texas 78767-0400. | November 2022 | 3 Follow us: Features
5 From the Top 7 Editor’s Note 42 A Final Note Columns 2 Calendar 22 Legal News 24 Capitol Watch 26 Good Governance 28 News & Events Departments Contents | November 2022 8 Turning Off Distractions Districts chart a new path to limit cell phone use 14 Ready to Lead New TASB president focuses on value of every student 18 Expanding Horizons From the sea to the sky, innovative courses enrich student learning

We’re Always Learning

Improving public education comes in many forms

If you know me, you know I am a big fan of country music, classic and new. I recently heard, again, “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ole Days)” by The Judds. I know every word and note in that song, and listening to it always makes me feel a bit nostalgic about my own childhood.

As I write my debut president’s column and look forward to the year ahead, I can’t help but think about my “old days” and the importance of my family and their lasting influence on my lifetime love of learning.

Although I was mostly raised in Austin, my two sisters and I spent many summers with Granny and Papa back in Kerrville, where I was born. Their 900-square-foot house had no air-conditioning, one bathroom, and a TV that was only allowed on a couple hours a day. The three of us slept on a pullout sofa, and we had to put cold, wet washcloths on our faces and have fans blow on us at night so we could sleep. Then, in the cool Hill Country mornings, we would snuggle together under blankets to keep warm.

talking to his honeybees, taking care of the peach, fig, and pomegranate trees, and feeding his shed full of rabbits.

My grandparents’ lives seemed pretty simple, yet it was hard work, and I know they wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Each task was an opportunity to learn — and that has been an important lesson for me.

A new kind of learning

As I grew up, I appreciated all that I learned in class as well as the knowledge I gained while helping my own two children navigate school each year. I’m still learning, but oh how things have changed. I’m guessing Granny and Papa didn’t think about the innovations and technology we live with today, but these advancements often benefit Texas public schoolchildren.

As school trustees, we are often asked to discuss, review, or approve new technology, programs, and software. To be honest, I was not in favor of the 1-1 initiative when it was brought to us several years ago. I asked questions, researched,

continually be aware of how technology is being used in the classroom while sharing the positives and teaching the responsibility that comes with access to some technology outside the classroom, such as social media platforms.

Keeping up with trends helps us connect to our students, as well. I’ll admit, I don’t love most of the social media platforms, but just learning about them helps me better understand the social pressures our students face. If nothing else, I can at least be part of their conversations.

Embracing the advantages

Even though my grandparents have been gone for a while, I still long at times for those simple, summer days when Granny and Papa would “tell me ‘bout the good ole days.” But I also have truly embraced the advantages of most technology.

I hope that all trustees can find ways to support, promote, and explore the fascinating aspects of technology in and out of the classroom. Find a social media platform that you at least can fall in “like” with and use it as a powerful tool to promote and advocate for all the great things that are happening in your districts, while setting a good example for cyber citizenship.

Granny taught us how to cook, sew, collect coupons, and so many other things. Papa would have coffee and a cookie after he got home from working at the Kerrville VA Medical Center, then spend his afternoons grafting plants,

and now, especially after COVID, I see how technology makes a world of difference in the lives of our students.

But, with change comes a great deal of responsibility.

It’s a balance, and we all need to

I’m excited and encouraged about how advancements in technology and other improvements can help us all fulfill our mission to give Texas public school students the best education possible. I look forward to furthering this goal this year and discussing important education issues with you in this column.H | November 2022 | 5
From the Top
Debbie Gillespie, a Frisco ISD trustee, is the 2022-23 president of TASB.
We all need to continually be aware of how technology is being used in the classroom while sharing the positives and teaching the responsibility that comes with access to some technology outside the classroom.


• Enjoy learning in a beautiful setting with fellow attendees.

• Mix and mingle with the experts, TASB staff, fellow trustees, and administrators.

• Hear directly from students about their educational experience.


1 – 4, 2023
Visit for details.
Nov. 1 –
Jan. 16 –
Session submissions open.
Registration and housing open.

Convention Scenes

Annual gathering focuses on commitment to children

Ihave to admit, you all really impressed me. The recent TASA | TASB Convention in San Antonio was an extraordinary gathering, even for this former political reporter who has spent many a weekend pacing through sprawling convention halls, listening to speakers and looking for a quiet spot to write a news story.

Quite frankly, there was too much to do at the Sept. 23-25 event. I pored through the program several times before the Convention trying to figure out which sessions I absolutely couldn’t miss, which ones I would try to attend for a few minutes, and which ones I would later follow up with the speakers.

And the enthusiasm! Although I heard many attendees express concern about the increasing attacks on public education, they quickly pivoted to an inspiring story about a student or teacher — or both — who was making a difference in the district. In addition, the standout student performances at the Convention reminded us of all the talent thriving in our public schools.

While the magazine deadlines don’t provide enough time to recount all the important ideas, programs, and lessons discussed at the Convention in this issue, I’ve already been discussing story ideas with other TASBeans for future ones. Look for them in 2023, since this is our final regular edition of 2022. (The December issue is our annual report.)

Convention activities included the official passing-of-the-gavel event between now TASB Immediate Past President Ted Beard, a Longview ISD trustee, and new TASB President Debbie Gillespie, a Frisco ISD trustee. Gillespie pens her inaugural “From the Top”

column on page 5, an engaging piece that includes some poignant childhood memories as well as important thoughts about public education in Texas. There’s also a profile about Gillespie on page 14 that further details her work, life, and plans as TASB president.

Communicating effectively

One topic discussed at a number of sessions and one we will be writing more about in 2023 is how communicating effectively is important to school board members, school district officials, and educators. At the Convention, this former reporter couldn’t pass up a session titled THAT is the Question: Developing Effective Questioning Techniques for Board Members.

Not to get too philosophical here, but life is a series of questions. (I’m not really a follower of Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates theory.) And I find that how you choose to ask questions can often determine whether you get a helpful answer. For example, asking yes-or-no questions generally gets a reporter nowhere.

I wasn’t the only one seeking answers on how to ask good questions that Friday afternoon at the Henry B. González Convention Center. The meeting room quickly filled up with attendees who seemed to be mostly school board members searching for clues on how to better communicate with each other and their school district leaders.

Diana Baker, a Hamilton ISD trustee, asked her audience about the reactions they think they are going to get when they pose questions at a board meeting, either of a fellow trustee or a school official. Unfortunately, too many attendees

thrust their hands above their heads when she asked if they expected a negative response. One guy standing in the back even shouted, “This guy!” (He quickly became a crowd favorite.)

“This guy” was Pete “Pedro” A. Bernal III, a first-term trustee at Southwest ISD in the San Antonio area. During the session and after, Bernal talked about how he sometimes gets the eyeroll look or other expressions of exasperation when he asks lots of questions as the new guy. But he perseveres.

After the session, Belinda Evans and Amy Thomas, both first-term trustees at Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, rushed up to Bernal to introduce themselves and offer words of encouragement. They talked about the struggles, but how they were all in this for the kids.

I saw similar scenes throughout the Convention. There was an inescapable feeling of camaraderie among the attendees who clearly shared a deep understanding and commitment to the mission of ensuring student success for all Texas public schoolchildren.

I hope you enjoy the November issue of Texas Lone Star.H | November 2022 | 7
Editor’s Note
Laura Tolley is managing editor of Texas Lone Star Laura Tolley


Distractions Off

Districts chart a new path to limit cell phone use

If there is one thing that everyone in education — administrators, teachers, security personnel, and parents — can agree on, it’s that cell phones can get in the way of learning. The problem, made worse by the pandemic, has prompted some Texas districts to enact new cell phone limits to boost student engagement and reduce discipline issues.

For years, many schools encouraged students to bring their devices to class as an educational tool. Then, as the COVID pandemic closed schools, districts across Texas relied on technology to deliver instruction and keep families virtually connected to classrooms. As a result, students’ dependence on cell phones soared. A 2021 report by Common Sense Media shows that the time tweens and teens spent interacting with media grew faster in the last two years than it did in the four years prior to the pandemic.

Although most districts already have rules regarding cell phone use, some realized they needed to do more. Thorndale ISD in Central Texas now requires secondary students to lock their cell phones in special pouches during the school day. In North Texas, Richardson ISD is piloting a similar system this year at one junior high campus before

considering a wider rollout. Other districts are taking a closer look at cell phone use as well.

“Going through the hallways of a secondary school, cell phones are everywhere. You can’t even start to say ‘put your cell phone away’ in a high school hallway. They would just laugh at you and keep walking because everybody had them out,” said Matthew Gibbins, assistant superintendent of administrative services for Richardson ISD. “So, we knew we needed a change.”

Districts take different approaches

Richardson started exploring ways to limit cell phone use during the last school year, settling on piloting the pouch technology at one campus. But Thorndale ISD, a small district north of Austin, took a broader approach in an attempt to minimize digital interruptions throughout the school day.

Thorndale’s rules had allowed middle and high school students to use their phones at lunch. These policies allowed for teacher discretion, but that put the onus on educators to manage phones in their classrooms. Increasingly, teachers were spending instructional time on phone issues while administrators dealt with disciplinary consequences.

Forest Meadow student Vanessa Hernandez unlocks her Yondr pouch. All campuses in Richardson ISD are cell phone-free zones. | November 2022 | 9
Photo courtesy of Forest Meadow Junior High

“We saw more and more principal time being taken up, sometimes days at a time, with investigating cyberbullying and students taking pictures of each other during the school day. We decided we needed to do something different,” said Thorndale ISD Superintendent Adam Ivy.

In response, Thorndale ISD purchased technology developed by California-based Yondr that’s designed to keep phones in the possession of students but inaccessible during the school day.

Essentially, middle and high school students in Thorndale put their phones in individual Yondr pouches when they arrive at campus each day. All personal technology, including smart watches and earbuds, is locked away until the end of the day when the magnetically sealed pouch is opened at unlocking stations located near school exits.

“We know that phones are a huge distraction,” said Ivy. “They are so much more worried about what is going on in social media than what is going on in the classroom.”

He said the decision to use the pouches became the best way to enforce existing cell phone rules. “The thing

with the pouches is it gives our teachers a tool to make things black and white. There is no gray area.”

Using technology to address the problem

Yondr has been placing its technology in schools around the country since 2015. “There has been a real paradigm shift,” said Julia Gustafson, the company’s director of education partnerships. “I think the pandemic has accelerated the conversation and the greater understanding that phones do not really hold a place in education or in the classroom.”

Corrigan-Camden ISD in East Texas began using the Yondr pouches toward the end of the 2020-21 school year after teachers brought their concerns about student cell phone use to the administration.

“Of course, we had some kickbacks from parents initially, but that phase has passed,” said Corrigan-Camden ISD Board President Thomas Roberts. “The sight of students engaging in conversation with each other and not zoned out with their head in their phones in between class and during lunch is a beautiful sight.”

Forest Meadow Principal Susan Burt looks on as Christopher Thibodeaux Jr. and Ellis Everett unlock Yondr pouches at the end of the day. Burt enthusiastically supported using her school for the pilot program.
10 | November 2022 |
Photo courtesy of Forest Meadow Junior High

Safety issues a key concern

Concerns from parents about safety and costs prompted Richardson ISD to scale back plans to implement the pouch system districtwide for the 2022-23 school year, instead deciding to pilot the technology at Forest Meadow Junior High. In general, families support having stronger rules around the use of cell phones, but some worry about not being able to reach their children in an emergency.

“As a parent I completely understand that I want to talk to my kid. I just want to have a text or communication that says ‘I’m okay,’” Gibbins acknowledged.

But some school safety experts warn there also are dangers in using cell phones during a campus emergency. Phones can distract students from listening to instructions, cause noise disruptions when silence is needed, or even alert an active shooter to the location of students through social media, according to National School Safety and Security Services.

The Texas School Safety Center in San Marcos cautions parents about cell phones in its Standard Response Protocol handout: “The school recognizes the importance of communication between parents and students during a lockdown event. Parents should be aware though, during the initial period of a lockdown, it may not be safe for students to text their parents.”

New limits help discipline issues

Hays CISD, south of Austin, has taken a strict stance on cell phone and earbud use at all secondary campuses this year, requiring students and teachers to keep phones off and out of sight during the school day.

“We heard from teachers and students that cell phones and earbuds are an issue, and we wanted to send a strong message that we have their back,” said Vanessa Petrea, Hays CISD board president. “Our chief of safety and security also made it clear that students are using cell phones for nefarious purposes.”

Jeri Skrocki, Hays CISD’s chief safety and security officer, said at an August board meeting that cell phones “cause problems for us all the time,” referencing bullying and other discipline problems. | November 2022 | 11
“The sight of students engaging in conversation with each other and not zoned out with their head in their phones in between class and during lunch is a beautiful sight,” said Corrigan-Camden ISD Board President Thomas Roberts.

Research Confirms Districts’ Concerns

Bulent Dogan, a clinical assistant professor in the University of Houston’s College of Education, cites a 2022 study by in explaining the far-reaching consequences of increased cell phone use:

• 47% of Americans consider themselves “addicted” to their cell phones.

• 45% say their phone is their most valuable possession.

• 74% feel uneasy leaving their cell phone at home.

• We check our phones 344 times per day on average — once every four minutes.

“This is a societal issue, and one of the best things we can do is to teach young people how to use technology responsibly while they are still in school,” said Dogan, who is in the college’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Dogan recommends the following steps for school districts:

• Develop nuanced and consistent rules concerning cell phone use.

• Work with all stakeholders to develop those rules and regulations.

• Directly include teachers and students in discussions.

• Revisit policies annually to see what’s working.

• Teach students how to be responsible digital citizens.

Yondr unlocking stations release the magnetic seal on the pouches. Photos courtesy of Forest Meadow Junior High
12 | November 2022 |
“We are here to teach kids,” said Matthew Gibbins, an assistant superintendent at Richardson ISD. “Whatever we can do to develop an environment where that is as easy to do as possible for our teachers because it is such a hard job to begin with, that’s what we want to do.”

“I invite any one of you to go to a campus and talk to an SRO [school resource officer] about cell phones and you’ll hear the same thing,” Skrocki said.

Alfonso Mendoza, a teacher at Wallace Middle School, said parents were told about the procedures for enforcing the new cell phone rules the week before school started, and students heard the same message on the first day. Since then, cell phone usage in class has been almost a non-issue because the expectations and consequences were communicated clearly, said Mendoza.

“We made students aware of the consequences that begin with the cell phone being taken by the teacher on first offense. What caught students’ attention is that from the third time on they are caught with their phone out, it has to be picked up by a parent/guardian from the front office,” he said. “Most kids, when asked, didn’t think they would get a favorable response from their caring adults at home if students had to ask them to come to school to get their phone.”

Keeping students safe from some of their worst impulses is a theme also stressed by Richardson High School Principal Chris Choat. “Almost 90% of the discipline issues that we dealt with last year started with a cell phone,” he said.

Students use social media and texting to start fights or finish conflicts that may have even started off campus, Choat said. “You see students meeting up for activities that they shouldn’t be doing within the school,” he said.

Richardson ISD plans to collect data on discipline referrals, cyberbullying incidents, and stakeholder feedback as part of its pilot program at Forest Meadow as it evaluates whether to expand use of the Yondr pouch system.

“What the data shows will really, really help us to move forward,” Gibbins said.

In addition, he noted that the district is more broadly communicating cell phone rules and regulations at board meetings, in campus communications, and through signage and classroom conversations. Cell phone related incidents will be tracked for comparison with the pilot program, along with attendance, student engagement surveys, and academic progress.

“We are here to teach kids,” said Gibbins. “Whatever we can do to develop an environment where that is as easy to do as possible for our teachers because it is such a hard job to begin with, that’s what we want to do.”H

Beth Griesmer is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star | November 2022 | 13
Christopher Thibodeaux Jr. keeps his phone nearby but inaccessible. The Yondr pouches keep cell phones from being a distraction during the school day.


New TASB president focuses on value of every student

You can certainly say this about Debbie Gillespie: She’s ready for a good challenge.

In 2011, when a member of the Frisco ISD Board of Trustees told her there would soon be an open seat, she said, “I’ll try it!” A few years later, when someone suggested she run for the TASB Board, she said, “I’ll try it!” Of course, a sincere passion for student success has had a lot to do with her triumph in both roles.

Now, after becoming 2022-23 president of TASB at the TASA | TASB Convention in September, Gillespie stands ready for more challenges and rewards ahead.

Although self-described as shy, Gillespie says she has never been afraid to listen or be a voice for those who need to be heard.

“Being a trustee and TASB director has given me such great opportunities to advocate for students in my district and region, along with their parents, community members, teachers, staff, and all those who support them,” she said. “As

14 | November 2022 |
Debbie Gillespie, TASB president for 2022-23. Photos by TASB Media Services

TASB president, I look forward to continuing to be an advocate for all Texas students and being a voice for the more than 7,000 trustees who give their time and talents to their districts and communities while sharing all of the great things that happen in our public schools every single day.”

Outgoing TASB President Ted Beard said he was honored to “pass along this responsibility to another who definitely has the mission in mind.”

Frisco ISD Superintendent Mike Waldrip said he can’t think of a better person to serve as TASB’s next president. “From the beginning, Debbie has been a leader and inspiration to everyone,” he said. “She has served alongside three superintendents, dealing with unprecedented growth and numerous challenges. Through it all, Debbie has been steadfast in her commitment to the students in our district, always making decisions that are in their best interest.”

Focus on Frisco

During Gillespie’s time on the Frisco board, the district has opened 24 campuses and welcomed 25,970 new students, according to FISD Board President René Archambault.

“Debbie has been laser focused on expanding opportunities for our students, creating a supportive culture for

our teachers and staff, and being a balanced and thoughtful advocate for families,” she said. “She knows that it takes a collaborative approach to enact positive change for our public schoolchildren and families.”

Frisco is a city of approximately 200,000 in the DallasFort Worth metroplex, with a school district that serves more than 65,000 students. After Gillespie and her husband, Dane, moved there in 1995, she devoted herself to her community, beginning with a focus on her kids’ schools.

Alternating service as a room mom for daughter Caitlin and son Connor’s elementary classes, she later held leadership positions with the Frisco Council of PTAs and school PTA/ PTOs and served on the Frisco High School Band Booster board. At the same time, she participated in the National Charity League, the Young Men’s Service League, and Frisco Women’s League and served on the boards of Frisco Family Services and the Frisco Education Foundation.

It was when Gillespie was asked to serve on the FISD Bond Committee in 2003 and then again in 2006 that her interest in the district flourished. “The bond committees helped me learn what it takes to run a district,” she said. So, when the opening popped up on the FISD board in 2011, she went for it.

More than a decade after joining the school board, she said she sees education through a different lens now. “I see how we can make a difference in the lives of all children,” she shared. “It’s not just about grades, but developing productive, compassionate humans who will then give back to their own communities.”

When she considers student success, she is very proud of the numbers. For example, FISD graduated more National Merit Scholars (73) than any other school district in Texas last spring. “But what motivates me the most is seeing the CTE Center and how many kids are benefiting from that. And seeing the special ed students who are succeeding,” she said. “It’s about seeing the value of everyone. Public education is the foundation for every child to fulfill their hopes and dreams.”

TASB involvement

Gillespie realized TASB’s importance to public education when she attended her first Summer Leadership Institute in 2011. “I knew then that I wanted to learn more about how TASB helps local school boards,” she said.

A couple of years later she participated in Leadership

TASB and graduated as a Master Trustee in 2014. She also became involved in the North Texas Consortium, which evolved into the North Texas Area Association of School Boards. When the seat representing Region 10 on the TASB Board of Directors opened, she was ready.

As TASB president for the coming year, she wants to find ways to reach out and connect so that all districts understand the services that TASB provides and make sure that trustees have ways to connect with other trustees to talk best practices | November 2022 | 15
Gillespie giving opening remarks at a general session during TASB’s Summer Leadership Institute in Fort Worth last summer.

and share ideas. Within her region, she has done a lot of research to understand the needs of rural and smaller schools. She started a Facebook page for Region 10 to share reminders and resources, and she meets regularly with women who are leading education efforts in her region.

With another legislative session coming up, Gillespie hopes to take a more proactive approach. “We need to try to see forward,” she said. “What is the next thing? And we of course need to continue the positive advocacy for public education.”

The early years

When comparing her early education to what school is like for kids today, Gillespie said she doesn’t remember quite as much parental involvement. And she believes teachers were valued a bit more then. But as for the student experience, she sees a huge difference.

“Today the opportunities are endless,” she said. “I never thought I was missing anything, but now I see what is offered and what our kids are learning, and I want to start all over again!”

Gillespie’s public school experience began in Dallas and continued in Austin, where her family moved when she was in second grade. The next year, tragedy struck when her father died. Besides suffering that loss, she was being bullied.

“I was a very quiet kid, and I had big buck teeth and got bullied for that,” she explained. When the bullying continued,

her mother found a private school that offered care before and after school for Gillespie and her sister.

Gillespie returned to public school her freshman year. At Anderson High School, she joined the drill team, Future Homemakers of America, Future Business Leaders of America, and Young Life. “But I had a job, so there wasn’t a ton of time for other things,” she remembers. English was her favorite subject — she loved to write and read.

At Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University), she earned a degree in general home economics (today labeled consumer science). During college, she met her future husband, Dane.

The young couple first lived in Austin, where both ended up working at Dell. When he was offered an opportunity to work with Dell outside of Austin, they aimed for the Dallas area and landed in Frisco, where they planted their future.

Leading through challenges

In her 12th year, Gillespie is proud of the work her board has done to see that students are getting the best education possible — especially in the last couple of years. The pandemic, school safety concerns, and a stressful political environment have made that a challenge.

Gillespie said safety is always a top priority with the FISD board. “We’ve done things in our district that should give parents great comfort,” she said, citing the work of the district’s Emergency Management Department.

16 | November 2022 |
Gillespie at a Frisco ISD school event. At TASB’s Delegate Assembly in San Antonio on Sept. 24, then-TASB President Ted Beard, a Longview ISD trustee, officially passes the gavel to incoming president Debbie Gillespie. Photos by TASB Media Services Photo courtesy of Frisco ISD

The health and wellness of students are major concerns for Gillespie, as many students face learning barriers like food insecurities and unmet basic needs. She is a big believer in the concept of the whole child and hopes the board’s work can help ensure that students are not only healthy but also connected in some way, through a club or activity or mentor.

Wellness support is important for teachers and staff, too, Gillespie pointed out. “The outside noise and the multitude of assumptions being made have had a negative impact on education,” she said. “The majority of teachers have a heart for teaching, and these pressures are driving them away.”

Despite her concerns, Gillespie focuses on the achievements. “I’m proud of the way FISD teachers step up and our communities recognize the needs of so many students,” she said. “Administrative staff and board trustees have worked so hard to bring mental illness to the forefront and determine how best to provide a safe learning environment.”

Motivation and inspiration

Gillespie is constantly motivated by her community service and by the great things happening in area schools. “I follow most of our schools’ Twitter feeds, so all I need to do to get back to reality is look at Twitter and see all the magic happening!” she said.

She also has a strong faith. “I rely on it daily to remind me that I am a reflection of that faith and that I am here to set an example,” she shared. “Finding peace and learning to pray for all, even those that are not kind, helps me release the stress and remember that inner peace is better for me and all those around me.”

Her secret to de-stressing is realizing she doesn’t have to be everything to everyone all the time. “You have to find the peace to say you can’t do it all,” she advised. And when she needs to turn up the relaxation? “If I can get on my treadmill

and watch some good Netflix, I’m fine!”

Gillespie is excited about her new role as TASB president, and others are looking forward to her service, too.

“As our most tenured colleague currently serving on the Frisco ISD board, Debbie continues to have the tenacity, passion, and pure heart for serving all school-age children of Texas,” said John Classe, a fellow FISD board member and past president. “She is the first-ever trustee from Frisco to serve as a board member for TASB, and we are thrilled she will be leading us all this year.”H

Melissa Locke Roberts is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star.

The New President's Tips on Board Service

What advice do you give new trustees?

• Listen and learn the why.

• Find commonalities.

• Learn who does what when it comes to public education, including the school board, the State Board of Education, and legislators.

• Understand what board service really is. Your role is not everyday operations — it’s where you are in the governing body.

• Know that you do not always have the answers.

• Ask questions.

What advice do you give board members who are facing internal tension?

• You control your own attitude and your own actions/reactions.

• Be kind and patient. Set an example of respect and civility.

• When others are not showing you the same courtesy, remember that your actions are a reflection on you, not on them.

• Be very pointed in conversations. Find one thing to talk about instead of addressing many things at once.

What about board members who are facing tension with community members?

• Remember, community members just want to be heard.

• If their concern is not a board matter, point them to the right person in the district.

• You may not have the fix they want, but you can listen to them and patiently explain the board’s position. | November 2022 | 17
Rolinda Schmidt, Kerrville ISD board member and current TASB second vice president, and Gillespie at the 2022 TASB Governance Camp opening reception.

Expanding Horizons

From the sea to the sky, innovative courses enrich student learning

Texas City Kerrville

As high school students in Texas public schools tackle core subjects and pursue electives, many are stepping beyond the traditional path. These students are digging deeper into a core subject, exploring a trade, or receiving training and certifications that will allow them to secure good jobs immediately after high school, thanks to innovative courses that their school districts have chosen to provide. Some are literally aiming for the sky — or the deep blue sea. Take Ayden Altman, a senior at Texas City High School. As a student participating in Texas City ISD’s maritime program, he’s learning what it’s like to work on the high seas through intensive instruction and the help of a simulator. “It gives us the feeling of either being a deckhand or a captain or being in the wheelhouse,” he said in a district YouTube video

about the program. “This is what it’s like in first-person view, whether you’re on a ship or an oil tanker.”

At Kerrville ISD, students in the aviation pathway program are getting the same kind of hands-on experience. Isaiah Olea, a sophomore at Tivy High School, is in his first year of the aviation program. “I’ve thought about being an aeronautical engineer since the fifth grade,” he said.

Olea hopes to get a pilot’s license by the end of his senior year. While learning the foundations of aviation with the help of simulators, he’s enjoying learning about other career possibilities within the aviation industry and participating in field trips to area airports and aviation museums.

Both the Texas City and Kerrville programs are offered as state-approved innovative courses.

18 | November 2022 |

What are innovative courses?

The Texas Education Agency describes innovative courses as high school courses that enable students to master knowledge, skills, and competencies that are not included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. More than 150 stateapproved courses were offered in 2021-22, covering a wide array of subject areas — from advanced floral design to aerospace engineering. School districts can add any of the approved innovative courses to their curriculum for state elective credit, with approval of their board of trustees. Last year, 799 school systems offered at least one innovative course.

According to TEA, a school district might be motivated to add innovative courses for any of these reasons:

• To provide elective credits that fill an instructional gap

• To expand foundation or enrichment courses and endorsement options with additional electives

• To offer options for skill development in areas targeting student success

“Student interest in programs drives the additions made to our department,” said Texas City ISD Career and Technology Education Director Alexis Kopp. “Our students are surveyed to determine what their interests are and what careers they are interested in pursuing upon graduation. The curriculum staff then evaluates the startup costs for the program and a budget that is required to sustain it. Once it is approved to move forward in hiring someone to teach the courses, we recruit for someone that has a teaching certificate in that area and/or experience in that field.”

Having access to innovative courses gives public schools the competitive edge needed in a challenging market. As Kopp explained, “These courses are aligned with the regional labor market data to offer students real-world experiences to prepare them for postsecondary success.”

Indeed, the local economy is often the driving force behind a focus on a particular subject. In both Texas City and Kerrville, local businesses have not only provided support for this specialized kind of study but also consider it essential in building the workforce of the future.

Maritime focus in Texas City

In the coastal community of Texas City, there is great demand for workers in the maritime industry, as well as the pipefitting industry, which centers on the planning, installation, and maintenance of piping systems on commercial and private boats.

“With baby boomers exiting the profession, our industry partners have taken an interest in developing the [employment] pipeline,” said Kopp. The pool of future maritime workers is certainly looking brighter, as the district program’s growth indicates. Initially, the maritime program was a three-year curriculum, but increased enrollment necessitated a fourth year to be added, starting in the 2022-23 school year.

Capt. Nathan Swerdlin, the district’s maritime instructor, said there are numerous opportunities for students wishing to enter the profession. “The maritime industry has really supported us in offering grants and scholarships and sponsorships to students in maritime programs in the high schools,” he told the Texas City ISD Insider earlier this year.

Texas City ISD maritime students Kaiden Helmers, Sean Enriquez, Colin Wise, and Candyce Senulis in their floating classroom on Galveston Bay. Photos courtesy of Texas City ISD | November 2022 | 19
Kaiden Helmers prepares to throw an anchor overboard during his maritime class in Galveston Bay.

According to Kopp, the maritime program has been the most unusual elective offered in the district. (Other 2021-22 innovative courses besides those focusing on maritime science included sports medicine, engineering design, and general employability skills.)

“Our maritime program was donated a 22-foot Boston Whaler, and our students are so fortunate to have the opportunity to go out on the water to get sea time,” she said. “Not a lot of students can say they’ve had class on the water!”

As instructor of the course, Swerdlin is very proud of the class simulator — and of course, the district’s boat. “I’m able to get my kids out there on the water, in the harbor, doing navigation and emergency drills and exercises, and that’s stuff you just can’t teach them from a book,” he said.

Kerrville’s aviation pathway

The most popular innovative courses at Kerrville ISD also reflect opportunities in the community: culinary arts, health science, and aviation. “Kerrville has a strong presence in those three areas, between our airport, tourism, and three hospitals in the immediate area,” said Heather Engstrom, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

“The interest for the aviation pathway actually came from our community,” she explained. “We have a city/county regional airport here in Kerrville, along with a small airplane manufacturing business and a community of retired military pilots who wanted to give students an opportunity to learn about aviation. They actually approached us about developing a curriculum for students.”

Thanks to community support, more students are being drawn to this field. John-Louis Barton, a senior at Tivy, received a commercial drone pilot’s license last year and is now studying for his private pilot’s license. “A lot of what I learned for the drone license test transfers to the pilot’s license,” Barton said. “From weather to traffic patterns to radio communications, it’s all important baseline knowledge.” He originally had an interest in becoming a commercial pilot, but after learning more about aviation, he thinks he might be more interested in aircraft design.

Before the aviation program was offered, Engstrom said, students didn’t know about the career possibilities in aviation. “It’s like the saying, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ We created this aviation pathway, and now more students are finding an interest,” she said.

Although other districts across the state offer aviation courses, the program at Kerrville is unique as the district has enhanced the curriculum. “We proposed and received approval from TEA for three courses related to our aviation pathway: Introduction to Aerospace and Aviation, Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Flight, and Aviation Ground School,” said Engstrom. She added that the courses were tailored to align to local and regional needs.

School districts may offer any state-approved innovative course for state elective credit, with approval of the board of trustees (following local processes); they do not need to apply to TEA to offer an innovative course that is already on the approved list. However, as in the case of Kerrville, districts that are looking for something specific that isn’t on the approved list can propose that a course be included through an application process, with approval by the superintendent.

20 | November 2022 |
Maritime teacher Capt. Nathan Swerdlin teaches Sean Enriquez how to operate the Texas City ISD boat. Photo courtesy of Texas City ISD Student Isaiah Casanova learning how to fly via Kerrville ISD’s flight simulation equipment. Photo courtesy of Kerrville ISD

Innovative course applications, submission guidelines, deadlines, and supporting materials are posted on the TEA Innovative Courses webpage in October each school year. Examples of the kind of information required on the application include the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of the course pilot conducted in the district, the proposed course description, knowledge and skill statements, student expectations, and teacher certification requirements.

End results and future focuses

How does a school district assess the success of innovative courses? Two things: feedback and stats.

“We receive a lot of positive feedback from all stakeholders regarding how we are preparing students for postsecondary success,” Kopp said about the Texas City district. “Each year, our advisory council meets to discuss program initiatives, curriculum, and certifications to meet the demands of industry. Student success is measured by our students learning the desired skills and earning a certification to prepare them for the workforce.”

Swerdlin said the maritime curriculum is successful because the program has done what it set out to do — provide students with

the ability to obtain well-paid jobs immediately upon graduation. In 2022, seven of his 12 seniors have accepted job offers from industry companies like G&H Towing, Blessey Marine, and Florida Marine Transportation.

Feedback in Kerrville also has been positive. “We are seeing growth in the number of students signing up for the aviation courses,” said Engstrom. “In the first year of us being able to offer students the opportunity to earn the Federal Aviation Part 107 Remote Drone Pilot Certification, we had two students successfully complete the certification. This past school year, that number jumped up to 16. Our teacher for these courses [Aaron Cook] truly enjoys his classes, and the community is amazed that we are able to offer this pathway and these opportunities for our students.”

The thing about innovation is that it tends to breed more innovation. The Texas City district, for example, recently received a $1 million donation from Marathon Petroleum Galveston Bay refinery to build a facility to enhance educational experiences in robotics for students in grades K-12, so STEM/robotics course electives will most likely grow in popularity.

What other elective subjects will catapult students toward success in the future? Check out TEA’s list of innovative courses and you will see: the sky’s not even the limit.H

The Texas Education Code §74.27 and the TEA Innovative Courses webpage are valuable references for school systems looking for more information about innovative courses. Find the list of current courses available at tea. innovative-courses.

Examples from TEA’s 2021-22 innovative courses list

• Advanced Floral Design

• Dimensions of Diplomacy

• Pipefitting Technology

• Advanced Cloud Computing

• Video Game Programming

• Entrepreneurship

• Science of Nursing

• Dental Anatomy and Physiology

• Geographic Information Systems for Agriculture

• Barbering

• Piano Technician

Melissa Locke Roberts is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star. Kerrville aviation students Cade Jones, Carson Jones, Aiden Irvin, and River Risinger. | November 2022 | 21
KISD students Ryland Farhoudi, Isabel Sanchez, and Justin Khansiry study the principles of aviation. Photos courtesy of Kerrville ISD

Holidays at School

A time to celebrate — with caution

As the temperatures finally start to drop across the state, many Texans turn their thoughts to the upcoming winter holidays. At TASB Legal Services, it’s also a time when the calls start rolling in about how to handle a host of issues related to religious holidays at school districts.

Following are answers to those queries and other frequently asked legal questions:

Q: Can a school district award holiday bonuses to employees?

A: For contract employees, a holiday bonus is not permissible unless planned in advance or in exchange for more work. The Texas Constitution prohibits the grant of “extra compensation” after a contract has been entered into and performed in whole or in part. (Tex. Const. art. III, § 53.)

If the school board adopts a specific bonus plan in advance, a district may award a bonus to both contract and at-will employees. Any increase in pay for at-will employees should be established before the pay period in which the work begins. For contract employees, authorization for a bonus payment should be established in advance, either in the employee’s contract or the compensation plan. (Tex. Att’y Gen. LO-94-067 (1994)).

Q: Can a school district give appreciation gifts to employees?

A. Maybe. The Texas Constitution prohibits gifts of public funds. (Tex. Const. art. III, § 51). A district must not only ensure that an expenditure accomplishes a public purpose but must also retain control over the funds and ensure that the district receives a return benefit.

(Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. GA-0204 (2004)). Plaques, flowers, frozen turkeys, and similar gifts may be allowable expenditures if the board first determines that these items serve a legitimate public purpose, such as increasing employee morale. It is important to remember that there is “no de minimis exception in the constitutional language.” (Tex. Att’y Gen. LO-96-136 (1996)). In other words, even the smallest expenditure could be considered a gift of public funds.

Gift cards are not appropriate employee gifts from the district. Because gift cards are readily convertible to cash,

they must be reported as taxable income if received from an employer. Other gifts, even if permissible otherwise, may also be reportable taxable income if not covered by a de minimis fringe benefit exception.

(Internal Revenue Serv., De Minimis Fringe Benefits (July 6, 2022)).

Q: Can parents give employees appreciation gifts?

A: Yes! Gifts from parents or students are not covered by the rules related to gifts of public funds or taxes. As long as the gift is not a bribe, employees may accept gifts from parents and students — even valuable ones. (See Tex. Penal Code § 36.02). Be aware, however, that UIL coaches and sponsors can be suspended if they accept gifts valued at more than $500 per year. (Univ. Interscholastic League, 2022-2023 UIL Constitution & Contest Rules § 481).

Q: Can schools permit holiday celebrations like classroom parties?

A: Yes, as long as they serve an appropriate instructional purpose. Ideally, a teacher’s lesson plan will clearly connect the holiday event to instructional goals. Be sure to share guidelines for holiday celebrations with parents in advance.

22 | November 2022 | Legal News

Being transparent about the issues raised by religion in public schools is the first step to setting a tone of mutual support and respect.

Remember, parents have the right to remove their child temporarily from an activity that conflicts with their religious or moral belief. (Tex. Educ. Code § 26.010). However, parents whose children must annually choose between school activities and their family’s beliefs are not likely to feel that they are being treated as partners in education.

Q: Can students exchange holiday greetings or gifts with religious messages?

A: Yes. State law allows students and staff to exchange traditional greetings such as “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,” and “happy holidays.” (Tex. Educ. Code § 29.920(a)). Arguably, such greetings were allowed prior to the passage of the law, as long as employees offering such greetings did not coerce a student’s participation in a specific religious holiday. Around the holidays, neutrality is key. To the extent students are allowed to exchange secular items like cards or gifts, they may exchange such items with religious themes as well. See TASB Policies FNAA(LEGAL) and (LOCAL) for more information on distribution of non-school materials.

Q: Can campuses display holiday decorations?

A: State law permits display of symbols associated with winter celebrations if the display includes a scene or symbol

of more than one religion or one religion and a secular symbol. (Tex. Educ. Code § 29.920(b)). This must be interpreted in accordance with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits schools from advancing, coercing, or endorsing a particular religion or religion over nonreligion. As such, schools should not display information or images that promote or inhibit religion.

Q: Can students perform religious music as part of a seasonal performance?

A: Yes, as long as the music is selected on the basis of its cultural or artistic value and not for a devotional purpose. Federal courts have upheld performances that combine religious and secular elements of holiday celebrations, as long as the performances are not performed as a religious exercise and do not coerce students. (See e.g. Doe ex rel. Doe v. Duncanville Indep. Sch. Dist., 70 F.3d 402 (5th Cir. 1995) (religious music in choir class did not violate Establishment Clause when not performed as religious exercise)).

If you have more questions about the holidays at school, call TASB Legal Services at 800-580-5345. You can also find more information at — go to the site’s Legal tab, click on the TASB School Law eSource tab, then the Community page, and then the Religion in Public Schools entry.H

This article is provided for educational purposes and contains information to facilitate a general understanding of the

Cybersecurity Grant

Protect your district from cyberthreats!

The TASB Risk Management Fund Cybersecurity Grant program gives districts resources to help reduce cyberattacks.

law. References to judicial or other official proceedings are intended to be a fair and impartial account of public records, which may contain allegations that are not true. This publication is not an exhaustive treatment of the law, nor is it intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney. Consult your own attorney to apply these legal principles to specific fact situations.

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

Southwest ISD. Superintendent. Deadline: November 29, 2022

For information about vacancies or services provided by TASB’s Executive Search Services, call 800.580.8272, email, or visit

Grants up to $5,000 are available to eligible districts. Applications will be accepted  from September 19 to November 21. Applicants will be notified about the status of their grant application within 30 days of the application window closing.

Find out more and apply at

Sarah Orman is the legal editor for TASB Legal Services. TASB RISK MANAGEMENT FUND

Advocacy Agenda Set

Priorities for 2022-24 adopted by delegates

Nearly 300 delegates from districts around the state weighed in on issues ranging from teacher vacancies to mental health in schools as they adopted TASB’s 2022-24 Advocacy Agenda at the TASA | TASB Convention in San Antonio.

Members of the Delegate Assembly adopted a new TASB Cornerstone Principle, 11 priorities, and 75 resolutions at the Sept. 24 meeting. The Cornerstone Principle asserts TASB’s commitment to

safe and secure schools that foster the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of students and staff. The 11 priorities address teacher recruitment and retention, student and staff mental health, opposition to school vouchers, school accountability, school finance, support for school facilities, ballot language honesty, restoring local community governance, parental partnerships, charter schools, and preventing the censoring of school boards through laws restricting their ability to advocate.

Delegates, who were appointed by fellow school board members, also adopted a slew of resolutions on various issues, including teacher certification requirements, inflation indexes for the school finance system, special education funding, and universal pre-K.

Delegates also elected TASB’s directors and officers for the upcoming year, as Longview ISD Trustee Ted Beard completed his term as TASB president and Debbie Gillespie of Frisco ISD assumed the role for the next year.

The new Advocacy Agenda will remain effective until the 2024 Delegate Assembly adopts the next one, and the 2023 Assembly will have the opportunity to amend the agenda after the 2023 legislative session.

The full Advocacy Agenda may be found at

Allison addresses SBAN crowd

State Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) spoke to School Board Advocacy Network members during the annual SBAN lunch in San Antonio on Sept. 23. The record crowd of about 170 attendees heard Allison’s thoughts on vouchers,

24 | November 2022 | Capitol Watch
Delegates cast their votes at the TASB Delegate Assembly on Sept. 24 in San Antonio. Photo by TASB Media Services

school finance, and other issues facing public schools as we prepare to enter another legislative session in January.

As a member of the House Public Education Committee, Allison shared important insights on how many of the current committee’s members will likely return to the Legislature and how there is still widespread opposition to vouchers in the Texas House.

TASB’s Advocate of the Year

At the SBAN meeting, TASB also recognized its Advocate of the Year, Stephanie Luper of Bullard ISD, for her outstanding advocacy efforts during the legislative interim.

Luper, a former educator, is board secretary at Bullard, an East Texas district that serves more than 2,700 students. Look for more information on Luper and her advocacy efforts in the December issue of Texas Lone Star.

SBAN is a free TASB service that empowers school trustees to influence key policymakers by quickly mobilizing hundreds of school leaders to communicate positions and information on critical bills and issues. SBAN alerts include detailed background information, suggested steps for taking action, and resources for contacting legislators and other policymakers.

“My advocacy journey started with a call to action from SBAN,” Luper said. “I went to the Capitol and met all these incredible people, and I became inspired by them. It became part of my mission to delve into advocacy and be that voice for our children, because they are the most important resource we have.”

If you are not currently a member, join the hundreds of other school board leaders who already take advantage of SBAN to advocate on behalf of Texas’ schoolchildren and public schools. Sign up at aspx. Remember, one of your primary functions as a school board member is to advocate on behalf of your school district and its students, so sign up today!

For more information, contact Dax González at 800-580-4885 or dax.gonzalez@ ★

Dax González is division director of TASB Governmental Relations. | November 2022 | 25 GET ADVOCACY ACTION ALERTS IN YOUR INBOX.
Follow us on Twitter @tasbnews @tasbrmf • TASB Risk Management Fund @tasbhrs • TASB HR Services @tasblegal • TASB Legal Services Follow us on Instagram @tasbphotos Find us on Facebook Texas Association of School Boards TASB Risk Management Fund TASB HR Services

Keeping Track

Calendars provide intentional planning

Being a part of a highly effective school board requires intentional, strategic planning and looking ahead. One of the best ways to ensure you are being effective and efficient is by using a board activity calendar.

An annual board activity calendar provides a year-at-a-glance view of which items are scheduled to come before the board monthly — from the budget, personnel matters, policies, and public hearings to student achievement reports and other required items. This ensures that all board responsibilities are accomplished in a well-organized manner throughout the year.

Some additional benefits of having an annual board calendar include:

• Keeping all board members abreast of upcoming items that will be discussed

• Ensuring all legally required actions are addressed at the appropriate time

• Guaranteeing time is allotted for planning, policy implementation, and evaluation

• Having a plan for handling routine, unexpected, or emergency items

In cases of emergency, it is also much easier to problem solve and schedule an item for action that leads to its resolution when a board has a clear view of its schedule and responsibilities and can identify

where it can adjust or shift resources to meet immediate needs.

Focus on key priorities

The annual board calendar serves as a foundation for building the monthly agenda and is a key tool in making sure your organization’s goals and objectives are being met. It is also useful in keeping staff updated on critical projects and initiatives that the board has prioritized, as well as what is expected of them and the timeline under which they are operating. In addition, the annual board calendar can be a way of communicating the board’s values and mission by reflecting those activities and projects that are priorities and consistently appear on the agenda.

As Hays CISD School Board President Vanessa Petrea shared, “Having a board calendar allows us to stay focused on important priorities and helps agenda setting run smoother. For example, we have a schedule of presentations for our student achievement report that aligns with our board goals.”

Efficient scheduling

Once the board and superintendent have drafted the annual calendar, the board can review it to see if any items can be accomplished more efficiently or effectively if moved to a different month

26 | November 2022 |

based on the sequence of activities and events scheduled. It is also standard practice to confirm that all activities are scheduled at appropriate times and that the calendar is practical.

Refining the calendar will allow for discussion on other issues the board may wish to address during the upcoming year that may not already be listed. Being able to see the upcoming calendar enables board members to focus on other opportunities for innovation and growth.

“An annual board calendar is equivalent to a teacher’s year-at-a-glance operational resource,” said Hays CISD Superintendent Eric Wright. “It serves as a guide for standing agenda items that typically recur during the same month each year and acts as a tool or guide so the board does not have to constantly reinvent the wheel — I can’t imagine doing business without one.”

Transparency of district business

The annual board calendar assists trustees and the community in understanding the cycle of district business and the board’s role. With a focus on not only effectiveness and efficiency but also openness and transparency, a board and its district leadership can make great strides in moving their district forward by using an annual calendar.

If you need help in developing your own board activity calendar, contact TASB Board Development Services at or call 800-5808272, extension 2453 H

Esperanza Orosco is a consultant for TASB Board Development Services. Work SMARTer, not harder. Documenting student services, creating reports, and staying in compliance — all to maximize your Medicaideligible reimbursements — can be a real challenge. TASB’s SMART Solutions software makes managing your district’s SHARS progam easier for you and your team. TASB SMART Solutions™ ▶ Compliant with state/federal guidelines and policies
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With a focus on not only effectiveness and efficiency but also openness and transparency, a board and its district leadership can make great strides in moving their district forward by using an annual calendar.

Cybersecurity Grant Program to Help Schools

The TASB Risk Management Fund has launched a $500,000 cybersecurity grant program to aid cybersecurity efforts in Texas school districts.

Texas school districts can be a major target for cyber-attacks because of the high-value data they store. Cyber-related losses are 40 times greater now than they were in 2014, the year the Fund created its cyber coverage program. But implementing cyber-related security controls to prevent attacks and other

cyber risks can be a challenge for many districts with limited resources for cybersecurity.

“Public schools continue to be a target for cyber criminals and other bad actors who want to steal data, disrupt operations, or extort money. The Fund’s Cybersecurity Grant is designed to support its members’ efforts at building stronger defenses to stop cyber-attacks before they happen,” said Mary Barrett, associate executive director of TASB Risk Management Services.

To assist districts with improving their cybersecurity resilience, the Cybersecurity Grant will help Fund members invest in proven cybersecurity tools and services they might not otherwise be able to afford. Districts can apply for a grant of up to $5,000 through the online application process that opened Sept. 19 and continues until Nov. 21.

School districts and other educational entities that participate in both the Fund’s Data Privacy and Information Security and School Liability programs, plus one additional Fund program, are eligible to apply. After the application window closes, members will be notified of their application status within 30 days.

During the grant application process, members will choose from a pre-selected list of services and products and explain how the solution will be implemented. The Fund is encouraging grant applicants to focus their efforts in the following areas:

• Compliance with state cybersecurity regulations

• Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

• Software security patches

• System and data backup processes

28 | November 2022 | News & Events

All Texas schools are targets

Prime targets for malicious actors are highly populated, high-profile districts as well as rural ones with fewer information technology and cybersecurity resources. The Fund’s statistics show that of the cybersecurity claims submitted in 2021, 55% targeted larger districts with 5,000 or more students; 45% involved districts with fewer than 5,000 students.

The top cause of cyber loss for Fund members, and probably most Texas school districts, is ransomware, a type of malicious software that steals sensitive data

and locks it. Criminals generally demand payment, or ransom, before they release the stolen data.

“The cyber threat landscape is continuously evolving, with new software platforms and approaches to managing enterprise cybersecurity constantly being developed and released. But without funds to purchase these improvements, districts may be left vulnerable to attacks,” Barrett said.

In addition to the Fund’s grant program, there are other state and federal resources available to help meet

the unique cybersecurity challenges for school districts:

• The Texas Department of Information Resources has a discounted purchasing program that curates known and vetted service providers who are ready to assist school districts at a discounted price.

• The Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center has a range of pre-breach and post-incident services available to districts at low-to-no cost. Additionally, Fund members have access to specialized cybersecurity support and individualized training.

Additional information on grant eligibility and how the new program works can be found at School districts that need support can also reach out to the Fund for assistance on cybersecurity issues. Contact TASB’s Privacy and Cyber Risk Consultant Lucas Anderson at for assistance.H

Lucas Anderson is a privacy and cyber risk consultant with TASB Risk Solutions. | November 2022 | 29
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“Public schools continue to be a target for cyber criminals and other bad actors who want to steal data, disrupt operations, or extort money. The Fund’s Cybersecurity Grant is designed to support its members’ efforts at building stronger defenses to stop cyber-attacks before they happen,” said Mary Barrett, associate executive director of TASB Risk Management Services.

TASA | TASB Convention Puts Spotlight on Excellence in Public Education

Thousands of school trustees, administrators, superintendents, educators, and staff members gathered in San Antonio Sept. 23-25 for the annual TASA | TASB Convention. Held at the Henry B. González Convention Center, the Convention offered attendees a range of informative sessions and other events designed to help improve governance and leadership and enhance statewide support for public education.

The Texas Association of School Administrators and TASB co-host the annual Convention, considered the largest assembly of state public education decision-makers.

With the theme of “Ideas, Insight, Inspiration” to guide them, school board members, superintendents, and other education leaders from across Texas met in downtown San Antonio to reconnect, network, and learn new ways to improve student success.

“It’s a fantastic experience. These are turbulent times, and it’s good to come together,” said David Wilbanks, a board member at Arlington ISD in North Texas. His board presented their initiatives to build community trust at one of the sessions.

Alice Hawkins, a trustee at Corpus Christi ISD, said the event offered participants a great opportunity to stay updated on important issues in public education and board governance. Hawkins attended sessions, perused the exhibit hall, and met new people.

“This Convention is a place for sharing and learning. And I love to come to San Antonio,” said Hawkins, a retired educator who teaches part-time at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi.

Attendees were enthusiastic and excited about the new school year, but postpandemic challenges, continued attacks on public education, and the upcoming 2023 legislative session loomed large in some sessions and casual conversations.

“Sometimes you think you are the only one who went through hard times and then you come here and understand you weathered things pretty well. It’s great to hear all the stories,” said Will Sudweeks, school board vice president at West Rusk County CISD in New London in East Texas. Sudweeks volunteered his time at the Delegate Assembly registration table.

Attendees at the TASA | TASB Convention in San Antonio. Photos by TASB Media Services

Convention highlights included presentations by several key speakers, including former Texas Longhorn and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, inspiring student performances, and several awards ceremonies, including the announcement of Bobby Ott of Temple ISD as the Superintendent of the Year (read more about SOTY on page 36).

“The speakers have been excellent this year, and the session topics are diverse. There’s something for everyone,” said Jennifer Ramirez, a trustee at Navasota ISD, which was a regional semifinalist in the TASA School Board Awards program. The Lyford CISD Board of Trustees took the top honor in that competition (see page 34).H | November 2022 | 31
Attendees head to breakout sessions at the Convention. John Massengale, president of the East Central ISD school board, offers his perspective at a session. From left: Gonzalo Salazar, TASA president and Los Fresnos CISD superintendent, Derrick Johnson, retired NFL football player and founder of Defend the Dream Foundation, and Ted Beard, TASB immediate past president and a Longview ISD trustee, at the Convention’s second general session. Student mariachi players from Los Fresnos CISD perform at the Convention’s first general session. Two Longview ISD students perform at the Convention’s second general session. From left: Superintendent of the Year finalists Jenny McGown, Klein ISD; Thurston Lamb, Henderson ISD; Bobby Ott, Temple ISD (winner); Doug Killian, Pflugerville ISD; and Scott Muri, Ector County ISD.

Mark Your Calendars, Craft Session Proposals for Governance Camp

Whether you are a board member, district leader, or student, now is the time to start working on session proposals for the 2023 Governance Camp, which will be held March 1-4 at the Galveston Island Convention Center.

Governance Camp offers Texas public school board members top-notch training that is focused on governance and leadership as well as a unique segment that involves student participation events.

Last year’s attendees were inspired by the speakers and students, engaged by the many learning activities, and energized by the beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico.

“The conference is smaller, so attendees have time to visit with people from other parts of the state. While we are there to learn, the atmosphere is like a camp: small, engaging, and lots of fun,” said Barbara Burns, a trustee at Denton ISD. “We discuss common concerns and learn about issues impacting others. The student voices are powerful testimonials about what works and about what concerns still need to be addressed.”

There are several ways for a district to participate:

Submit a proposal to present a session, obtain a student scholarship, or be involved in a student voice activity.

Proposals for sessions, demonstrations, and scholarships open Nov. 1 and close on Jan. 20, 2023.

Those wanting to participate have three options:

• Submit a proposal for a session focused on leadership or governance: Share the great things your district or board are doing.

• Submit a student scholarship application: High school seniors in Texas public school districts can apply for a $1,500 scholarship. Winners are recognized and serve on a panel at Camp.

• Participate in student voice activities: Encourage your students to lead sessions or hands-on demonstrations. (TASB welcomes all

students from diverse communities to participate in Student Voice activities, sponsored by Walsh Gallegos.)

Participate as an attendee.

• Districts may send up to 10 high school students and two chaperones on Friday, March 3, free of charge. For more information and guidelines for attendance, email

• Registration for board members, superintendents, and administrators opens Jan. 16. (Link to come.)

• Once a registration is complete, the housing link will be sent via email. (Housing will only be available to registered attendees.)

If you have questions about attending or participating in the 2023 Camp, you can email

32 | November 2022 |
Attendees at the 2022 Governance Camp in Galveston. A student panel at the 2022 Governance Camp in Galveston. Photos by TASB Media Services

PDK Poll Shows Higher Local Public School Ratings Despite Teaching Profession Concerns

Americans’ ratings of their local public schools reached a new high dating back 48 years in the 54th Annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, conducted last June. However, there is wide recognition that the challenges teachers face are making their jobs less desirable.

Only 37% of respondents in the national, random-sample survey would want a child of theirs to become a public schoolteacher. That’s fewer than have said so in a similar question asked 13 times in PDK polls since 1969 (compared with 46% in 2018, a high of 75% in 1969, and a long-term average of 60%). Reasons cited include poor compensation, demands and stresses of the job, and a lack of being respected or valued.

Even so, 63% of adults polled express overall trust and confidence in their community’s public schoolteachers, increasing to 72% of public school parents. Trust in teachers’ ability to appropriately handle certain subject areas varied, ranging from 56% for the teaching of U.S. history to 38% for the teaching of issues related to gender and sexuality.

Overall, 54% of all adults give an A or B grade to the public schools in their community, the highest percentage numerically in PDK polls since 1974, up 10 points since the question was last asked in 2019. As is typical, the nation’s schools as a whole were rated far less positively, with A’s and B’s from only 23% of all adults and 30% of public school parents. (People give higher ratings to schools they know

Special Education Workload Staffing Analysis from the experts at TASB Student Solutions

than schools they read about in the news, according to PDK.)

Americans were also polled on security measures taken by schools in the aftermath of tragic school shootings. Respondents showed broad, continued support for various security measures: 80% support placing armed police officers on duty when classes are in session and screening all students for mental health problems, and 78% support placing metal detectors at all school entrances. But on the issue of whether teachers and staff should be allowed to arm themselves, support falls to 45%.

For a more expansive look at this year’s poll, visit H | November 2022 | 33
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Lyford CISD Board Wins Top Honor

The Texas Association of School Administrators has named the Lyford CISD Board of Trustees the 2022 Outstanding School Board — the top honor in the TASA School Board Awards program, which has honored Texas school boards that have demonstrated commitment to their students and to their communities since 1971.

The Lyford CISD school board was chosen from among five finalists that were interviewed by a committee of Texas school administrators. The committee was impressed by the level of services and opportunities the district offers students, especially considering its small size. True to their mission statement of “Work hard, dream big, conquer the future!” the board is focused on college and career readiness and robust career and technical education.

“They regularly say to each other, and we heard it several times [during the interview], ‘Why not us? Why not our kids?’” the selection committee said. “This board is always looking to give their students access to more and better opportunities to learn and grow, especially beyond those

assessed by standardized tests. Their other motto is, ‘More than a test.’”

The committee also noted that the Lyford CISD board has both pride in their traditions and a willingness to embrace change. They also hold the trust of their community, as illustrated by a recent bond passing with 69% of the vote.

“It is clear that they are very cognizant of representing their community in their decisions and they’re consistently asking for feedback and having an understanding of what the community expects,” the committee noted. “They represent their community really well and at a high level. They work to model for their community collaboration, trust, and respect for each other at their school board meetings and in their work.”

In her nomination of the board for this award, Superintendent Kristin N. Brown wrote: “A foundational piece of the LCISD Board of Trustees’ effectiveness is their commitment to maintaining constructive and amicable relationships with each other. This harmony creates a steady, positive baseline tone at board meetings and at the board’s frequent

appearances at student competitions and other district events. In meetings, board members are able to ask direct questions about serious problems. LCISD is fortunate to have a stable board made up of members who have a personal stake in the district. Hometown heroes we call them, and hometown heroes they are.”

Lyford CISD is a small, rural school district located south of Raymondville in Region 1 ESC. The district serves more than 1,400 students who live within a 300-mile radius that includes Lyford, Sebastian, Santa Monica, Willamar, and Zapata Ranch.

The other four finalists for 2022 Outstanding School Board are: East Chambers ISD, Region 5; Goose Creek CISD, Region 4; Lubbock-Cooper ISD, Region 17; and Quinlan ISD, Region 10.

The 2022 Regional Honor Boards (semifinalists) are: Joshua ISD, Region 11; Lockhart ISD, Region 13; Highland Park ISD, Region 16 (Amarillo); Navasota ISD, Region 6; Robstown ISD, Region 2 (large district); Santa Gertrudis ISD, Region 2 (small district); Seguin ISD, Region 20; and Victoria ISD, Region 3.H

34 | November 2022 |
The Lyford CISD board of trustees won the 2022 TASA School Board Honor award. From left: Joey Mendoza, Arnold Cortez, Marina Quilantan-Rivera, board president Vicki Perez, Viola Z. Vela, Alison Busse Savage, Superintendent Kristin N. Brown, and Eulalio Mendez IV. Photo by TASB Media Services

The inspiration I receive from so many at this convention pushes me to continue doing what I do and to continue growing!

My TMEA experience renewed my commitment to remain in music education until retirement.

In many ways this convention saved me from giving in to the exhaustion. It provided me great perspective that allowed me to return home, excited to continue making music with others.

With 350+ hours of professional development scheduled, this is the highest quality, lowest cost convention targeted to the needs of every music educator. Register your teachers today:

For only $70, you can register TMEA members to attend the 2023 convention!

Your teachers can maximize their budget in our exhibit hall where 450+ vendors offer the best prices on music education materials. | November 2022 | 35
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Temple ISD Leader Wins 2022 Superintendent of the Year Award

Bobby Ott of Temple ISD was named Superintendent of the Year by TASB in a special presentation at the TASA | TASB Convention in San Antonio last month.

Ott, whose district is in Region 12, was selected for the prestigious award from a group of five state finalists that included Jenny McGown of Klein ISD in Region 4, Thurston Lamb of Henderson ISD in Region 7, Doug Killian of Pflugerville ISD in Region 13, and Scott Muri of Ector County ISD in Region 18.

In naming Ott as the winner of this year’s award, the eight-member selection committee commended his work in cultivating authentic connections with the children, families, and businesses in his Central Texas district, which serves nearly 8,500 students across 15 campuses.

“As a committee of school board trustees from across the state, we all understand the hard work and commitment needed to be a successful public school superintendent,” said Dripping Springs ISD Trustee Mary Jane Hetrick,

who chaired the TASB selection committee. “What we saw in all of these state finalists was a unique ability to turn challenges into opportunities with a relentless focus on improving the lives of their students through a quality education. We were all inspired by their accomplishments and just so grateful for everything they are doing on behalf of Texas public schoolchildren.”

Hetrick said the committee was particularly impressed with how Ott had partnered with businesses in the community to prepare students for life after graduation. In addition, they noted his work in inspiring a love of learning not just among the children enrolled in Temple ISD, but among parents and grandparents as well.

“He truly sees education as a way to transform lives, so his approach is about lifting up entire families,” Hetrick said. “He prioritizes a personalized learning experience for every student in the district through portfolio-based assessments and

a local accountability system that reflects the needs of his community.”

Sponsored by TASB and underwritten by Balfour, the SOTY program has recognized exemplary superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership since 1984.

Candidates are chosen for their strong leadership skills, dedication to improving educational quality, ability to build effective employee relations, student performance, and commitment to public involvement in education. The district of the SOTY winner receives a $5,000 award and the superintendent receives a special ring, donated by Balfour. The finalists’ districts each receive $1,000, also given by Balfour.

In his remarks before an audience of thousands at the Convention, Ott said he was honored to receive the award and commended all the regional winners and state finalists for their work on behalf of Texas public schoolchildren. He also thanked his family, his board, and his

36 | November 2022 |
SOTY winner Temple ISD Superintendent Bobby Ott (third from left) poses with Temple ISD school board trustees at the TASA | TASB Convention. From left: Shannon Myers, Shannon Gowan, board president Dan Posey, Virginia Suarez, Linnell Davis, and Dawn Cook. Photo by TASB Media Services

Temple ISD community for their support.

“It’s a place where diversity is given, inclusion is a deliberate choice, and our service is defined by compassion, love, and innovation, and I am so proud to be there,” he said. “You’re only as good as your team and in this case, we’re blessed to have the team that serves and governs Temple ISD.”

He noted that the greatest impact a superintendent can have is caring about each and every student.

“The number one service you can provide your community, that everyone in your community should know about their superintendent,” he said, “is that you love their children. It’s that simple. If you love their children, you can bring people to the table.”

Over his 24-year career as an education leader, Ott has worked in military, rural, urban, suburban, and fast-growth districts. His previous positions include assistant and deputy superintendent within the school districts of Temple, Copperas Cove, and Killeen. He also served as an executive leader for both the Texas Education Agency and The University of Texas at Austin.

During Ott’s tenure as Temple ISD superintendent, the district has seen progress in closing student achievement gaps, particularly at the elementary level and among students receiving special education services, as well as English language learners. In May, he was also successful in leading the passage of a $164.8 million bond program in Temple

ISD, the largest ever in the district. Ott holds a doctorate in school administration from UT and completed both his master’s and undergraduate degrees from Angelo State University.

The selection of a Superintendent of the Year is the culmination of a ninemonth process that begins in January, when school boards across the state start to prepare their superintendent nomination, which must be approved by resolution.

Recommended superintendents are then interviewed by regional selection committees, with finalists from each Texas education service center region being announced in June. Each ESC finalist is then brought forward for interviews by the state selection committee, which narrows the pool to five state finalists announced in August.

The SOTY winner announcement is a highlight of the annual Convention, which is held each year in the fall to promote excellence in Texas public education.

“We’re honored to be able to partner with TASA in hosting this event and being able to present the Superintendent of the Year award because it’s truly an honor to be able to recognize the outstanding leadership we have in our Texas public schools,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “It’s also a reflection of the important relationship between school boards and their superintendents, who must work successfully as a team to advance excellent student outcomes and

strong governance in their districts. Our whole mission at TASB is to support this work so that public schools, and the students they serve, are successful.”

The 15 regional superintendents of the year were also recognized at the event. They are:

• Tony Lara, South Texas ISD, Region 1

• José Moreno, Robstown ISD, Region 2

• Micah Dyer, Cuero ISD, Region 3

• Lisa Meysembourg, Woodville ISD, Region 5

• Jeff Burke, Splendora ISD, Region 6

• Jason McCullough, Mount Vernon ISD, Region 8

• Tony Bushong, City View ISD, Region 9

• Doug Williams, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10

• Taylor Williams, Slidell ISD, Region 11

• David Young, Abilene ISD, Region 14

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

• Darryl Flusche, Canyon ISD, Region 16

• Chris Smith, Brownfield ISD, Region 17

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

• Saul Hinojosa, Somerset ISD, Region 20H

Sylvia Wood is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star.

TEA Announces Purple Star Campuses

The Texas Education Agency announced the designation of 179 Texas public schools as “Purple Star Campuses” for providing substantial support to military-connected students and their families for the 2022-23 school year.

The honor was established in 2019 by the 86th Texas Legislature to recognize the high-quality support that hundreds of schools across the state provide to military families. The criteria established by Senate Bill 1557 directs schools to

designate a campus military liaison to support military-connected students and offer professional development to school staff, create and maintain an informative webpage that is easy for military families to access, develop a program that helps military-connected students to transition to the campus, and institute initiatives that specifically support military families.

“I am extremely proud of the work these schools are doing to meet the needs of students and families that have

sacrificed an incredible amount in service to our country,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said in a news release.

Texas serves the second-highest population of military-connected students in the country. Nearly 200 campuses applied for the two-year designation, the most in the program’s history to apply for the honor. To see a complete list of the 179 Purple Star designated campuses, go to and search for Purple Star Campus Designations.H | November 2022 | 37


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


BuyBoard® Rebates $9.8 Million to More Than 1,200 members

The Local Government Purchasing Cooperative, also known as BuyBoard, announced its most inclusive rebate to date, returning $9.8 million to 1,264 Cooperative members across Texas, including public schools, colleges and universities, and local governmental entities. In addition, 277 more Cooperative members received rebates due to the revised rebate structure that was announced earlier this year.

Individual BuyBoard rebate amounts vary, with some as large as $250,000. The more a member organization procures through BuyBoard, the more rebate dollars it’s eligible for at the end of each year.

Membership in the Local Government Purchasing Cooperative has grown to more than 3,000 governmental entities across the state, said Brian Bolinger, associate executive director of TASB’s Business Services, which serves as administrator for the Cooperative.

The Cooperative has rebated almost $90 million to eligible members since 2006. Each member’s annual purchasing activity is used to calculate the amount of its rebate. The new rebate structure approved by the Cooperative’s Board of Trustees enables more members to earn rebates.

Visit for more information on the rebate program.H

Blue Ribbon Award Selects 25 Texas Public Schools

In September, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized 297 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2022, including 25 Texas public schools. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

The Texas public schools named as National Blue Ribbon Schools are:

• Kerr High School, Alief ISD

• East Elementary School, Brownwood ISD

• Bynum School, Bynum ISD

• Claude School, Claude ISD

• School for the Talented and Gifted, Dallas ISD

• School of Science and Engineering, Dallas ISD

• DeKalb Elementary School, DeKalb ISD

• Terrell Elementary School, Denison ISD

• Devers Elementary School, Devers ISD

• Garden City Elementary School, Glasscock County ISD

• Grand Prairie Collegiate Institute, Grand Prairie ISD

• Gruver Elementary School, Gruver ISD

• Gruver Junior High School, Gruver ISD

• Happy High School, Happy ISD

• Early College High School at Midland College, Midland ISD

• Muleshoe High School, Muleshoe ISD

• Nursery Elementary School, Nursery ISD

• Smyer Schools, Smyer ISD

• Somerset Elementary School, Somerset ISD

• Sonora Secondary School, Sonora ISD

• Springlake-Earth Elementary/Junior High School, Springlake-Earth ISD

• Three Rivers Elementary School, Three Rivers ISD

• Valley Mills High School, Valley Mills ISD

• Vega Elementary School, Vega ISD

• Wink Elementary School, WinkLoving ISD

“I applaud all the honorees for the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award for creating vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school communities where students can learn, grow, reach their potential, and achieve their dreams,” said Cardona.

Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools. Selected schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation.

See the full list of award winners at H | November 2022 | 39

Bulletin Board

Texans Indicate Support of Public Ed in Recent Poll

Results of the third annual Charles Butt Foundation poll reveal that Texas parents’ ratings of public school and teachers are the highest in the history of the poll.

Previously known as the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation poll, the randomsample statewide poll gathers perceptions of public education from all geographic areas, ideologies, and demographics of the state.

Among the key findings:

• The number of public school parents giving their local public schools an A or B is up 12 percentage points in two years, to 68%.

• There was a decline in school ratings among those who do not have a child currently enrolled in K-12 schools, now 48% giving their local public schools an A or B, compared to 56% last year.

• About 75% of public school parents say their children have a very or somewhat strong sense of belonging at school.

• If other options were available, eight in 10 would choose to keep their children in their current school.

• About 76% of public school parents give public schoolteachers in their communities an A or B. They are slightly more likely than all Texans to say they would like a child of theirs to someday be a public schoolteacher.

• A substantial confidence in teachers was indicated, along with concerns about obstacles facing teachers today.

Discover more about perspectives of those polled on subjects like the role of public schools, equity barriers, testing and accountability, belonging and inclusion, and more at

School Board Recognition Month

January 2023 is School Board Recognition Month! TASB’s planning kit offers sample news releases, social media graphics, certificates, and more to help you with your board appreciation efforts. Get details on the 2023 theme and access the planning kit at

40 | November 2022 |
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Get your officers the knowledge and skills necessary to lead successfully. The next cohort A Journey to Excellence: Board Officers’ Academy begins soon.

For more information, visit | November 2022 | 41
For information on any of these offerings: 800.580.8272, ext. 2453 • • Improve your team’s performance with these options.

A Veterans Day Challenge

School districts can ease the transition for new families

It’s no secret that students who change schools often and move many times with their families face unique challenges when it comes to academic achievement. Such high mobility rates were priorities in both Houston-area districts where I served as an administrator, and the problem persists in hundreds of schools across the state, not just in urban areas.

As we prepare to recognize Veterans Day and the contributions of the men and women who have served in our nation’s Armed Forces, it’s also a good time to remember the ongoing sacrifices made by our military families and students, who move on average six to nine times during their K-12 education.

Each move requires finding new friends, figuring out new school rules, adapting to new teachers and curricula, not to mention all the personal life changes that come from changing homes and communities.

Purple Star Campuses

Texas has more than 165,000 military-connected students attending public and open-enrollment charter schools, ranking second across the nation. I was pleased when state lawmakers passed the Purple Star Campus Designation in 2019 with Senate Bill 1557, which encourages school districts across the state to support these students and families and address their needs.

Recently, the Texas Education Agency announced the designation of 179 schools as Purple Star Campuses in the 2022-23 school year for their work in easing the transition of these students with specific resources, including a campus liaison, accessible website information, newcomer

events, campus tours, and other welcoming activities (see page 37).

All the Purple Star designees deserve to be commended for earning the state recognition. The family engagement strategies they are using to help students and families feel welcomed in their schools also deserve to be imitated and emulated by districts facing the challenges of high mobility rates, whether student mobility is connected to the demands of the military or for other reasons.

In both metro districts where I worked, families often moved in search of lower rents, or because a parent changed jobs, or lost a job, or faced eviction. Regardless of the why, it’s clear that frequently changing schools can have an impact on student success. The Houston Education Research Consortium conducted a study on what mobility meant for student academic performance and, not surprisingly, the findings included the following:

• Mobile students had lower STAAR scores overall and scored lowest among mobile peers in the year they moved.

• Students that changed schools during high school were more likely to be retained in 9th grade, drop out, and not graduate on time.

The data underscores the importance of paying attention to mobility rates and working to ensure that your district helps new students and families feel welcomed. Schools that have earned the Purple Star designation are already excelling in this work.

Just look at Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, where you’ll find a wealth of

information for military families on their district website, robust social media highlighting parenting tips and events, and easy-to-find contact information for help with questions and concerns.

TASB Director and SCUC ISD

Trustee Robert Westbrook told me how his board and superintendent prioritize making sure all 3,500 military-connected students in their district get plugged into local and district resources as soon as possible. The aim is to welcome these families, provide support, and get the students focused on learning and reaching their goals.

Any district interested in managing mobility and easing the transition for students can learn from these best practices and implement similar newcomer strategies in their schools.

Easing transitions

In Texas, several districts opt to commemorate Veterans Day with a school holiday. Others have a regular schedule with opportunities to recognize the sacrifices of our military men and women woven into the school day.

As we appreciate our military-connected families for all their sacrifices on Nov. 11, let’s also learn from the 179 Purple Star Campuses how to successfully ease the transition for all our high-mobility students to minimize academic disruptions and improve achievement.H

42 | November 2022 | A Final Note
Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield Tiffany Dunne-Oldfield is deputy executive director of TASB.

More than 1,200 members get money back!

BuyBoard is giving $9.8 million back to Texas Cooperative members for 2021-22. Over 250 more Cooperative members received rebates this year, making this the most inclusive rebate to date.

Texas Association of School Boards
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Texas 78767-0400
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