September/October 2022

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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration. Shaping public education together September 23-25 Henry B. González Convention Center San Antonio Texas Lone Star A Publication of the Texas Association of School Boards | Volume 40, Number 8 | September/October 2022

Featured Event

txEDCON22

SAN ANTONIO SEPTEMBER 23-25

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

24 • TASB Delegate Assembly — San Antonio

OCTOBER

4-5 • TASB HR Services: HR for Campus Leaders — Virtual Event

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

12-13 • TASB HR Services: Navigating Educator Certification — Virtual Event

13 • TASB Student Solutions: Section 504 Operating Procedures — Virtual Event

20-21 • TASB Conference for Administrative Professionals — Austin

NOVEMBER

7-8 • TASB HR Services: HR Academy — Georgetown

7-8 • TASB HR Services: Advanced HR Seminar — Georgetown

10 • TASB Student Solutions: Discipline of Students with Disabilities Part III — Virtual Event

16-17 • TASB HR Services: Service Record Management — Virtual Event

TASB Officers 2021-22

Ted Beard, Longview ISD, President

Debbie Gillespie, Frisco ISD, President-Elect

Armando Rodriguez, Canutillo ISD, Second Vice-President

Rolinda Schmidt, Kerrville ISD, Secretary-Treasurer

Jim Rice, Immediate Past President

TASB Board of Directors 2021-22

Moises Alfaro, Mathis ISD, Region 2

Jesus Amaya, Los Fresnos CISD, Region 1A

Rose Avalos, Aldine ISD, Region 4H

Carlos Bentancourt, Slaton ISD, Region 17

Kamlesh Bhikha, ESC 2, ESC Representative

Darlene Breaux, Alief ISD, Region 4B

Steve Brown, Ector County ISD, Region 18

Kevin A. Carbo, Mesquite ISD, Region 10D

Justin Chapa, Arlington ISD, Region 11C

Thomas Darden, Cooper ISD, Region 8

Karen Freeman, Northside ISD, Region 20B

Sylvia Sanchez Garza, South Texas ISD, Region 1B

Myrna Guidry, Houston ISD, Region 4D

Linda Gooch, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10B

Mary Jane Hetrick, Dripping Springs ISD, Region 13B

Julie Hinaman, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Region 4F

Tony Hopkins, Friendswood ISD, Region 4C

Tricia Ikard, Maypearl ISD, Region 10A

Tami Keeling, Victoria ISD, Region 3

Mark Lukert, Wichita Falls ISD, Region 9

Kathy Major, Liberty Hill ISD, Region 13C

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

Dan Micciche, Dallas ISD, Region 10C

Scott Moore, Conroe ISD, Region 6B

Nicholas Phillips, Nederland ISD, Region 5

Tony Raymond, Sabine ISD, Region 7

Georgan Reitmeier, Klein ISD, Region 4A

Greg Schulte, Katy ISD, Region 4E

Cindy Spanel, Highland Park ISD, Region 16

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

Yasmin Wagner, Austin ISD, Region 13A

Mildred Watkins, La Vega ISD, Region 12

Greg Welch, Clyde CISD, Region 14

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

Terri Williams, North East ISD, Region 20E

30-December 1 • TASB HR Services: Spending Wisely: The Intersection of Staffing and Pay — Virtual Event

JANUARY 2023

10 • 88th Texas Legislature begins — Austin

12 • TASB Student Solutions: Collaboration 101 — Virtual Event

26-27 • Texas Association of Community College Attorneys (TACCA) Conference — Austin

Correction: The Legal News column in the August issue of Texas Lone Star has been updated online to delete an incorrect citation used in the original version. You can find the revised version by going to texaslonestaronline.org and clicking on the August 2022 issue.

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

2 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org Calendar
SEPTEMBER
TASA | TASB CONVENTION

2 Calendar

24 Capitol Watch

26 Legal News

28 Facilitating Student Success

30 News & Events

41 District Voices

Columns

5 From the Top

7 Editor’s Note

Texas Lone Star • Volume 40, Number 8

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, Karlyn Keller, Lindsey McPheeters, Orin Moore, John Pyle, and Beth Griesmer

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

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

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

Texas Lone Star does not guarantee publication of unsolicited manuscripts.

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

texaslonestaronline.org | September/October 2022 | Texas Lone Star 3 Follow us: Features
Contents | September/October 2022 8 Ideas. Insights. Inspiration. Shaping public education together at txEDCON22 14 Focusing on Mental Health School districts search for new ways to help students 18 Prized School District McAllen ISD uses customer service approach with students 22 Powerful Connections How to build relationships across your community
Departments

GALVESTON, TX MARCH 1–4, 2023

THERE ARE MANY WAYS YOU, YOUR DISTRICT, AND YOUR STUDENTS CAN PARTICIPATE IN CAMP!

• SUBMIT A SESSION FOCUSED ON LEADERSHIP OR GOVERNANCE

Share the great things your district or board are doing.

• STUDENT SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION

High school seniors in Texas school districts can apply for a scholarship. Winners are recognized and serve on a panel at Gov Camp.*

• STUDENT VOICE ACTIVITIES

Encourage your students to lead sessions and/or hands-on demonstrations.*

Submissions for sessions, demonstrations, and scholarships will open November 1 and close at 5 p.m. on January 20.

Don’t miss out on all the learning, sharing, and fun times!

*TASB welcomes all students from diverse communities to participate in these Student Voice activities.

Reflections on Public Ed

There is still more work to do for students

In a few short weeks, I will be turning over the gavel to a new board president at the TASB Delegate Assembly.

It’s hard to believe that a year has nearly passed, and I’m grateful for everyone’s support during this pivotal time for public education in Texas.

There is much work to do, especially as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session, but I’m confident that we, as members of the TASB family, will continue to have a united front in our common goal of serving all public school students across the state.

A time for resilience

I’ve been reminded recently about the importance of perseverance and resilience in the face of challenges. I came across a manuscript of a book my mother was writing that chronicled her life as a little girl growing up in Grenada, Mississippi. This was the 1930s — the era of the Great Depression and a turbulent time for race relations.

My mother detailed her experience with stories of how my grandfather picked cotton as a sharecropper but then made the life-changing decision in 1941 to move his family north to Detroit for better opportunities. Her accounts include details on how my grandparents eloped, the medicinal remedies that were handed down over the generations, firsthand observations of the 1943 Detroit race riot, and meticulous recollections of the deaths of her brother and mother. When talking about challenging times, she returned to one central theme — the importance and resilience of family.

A time for unity

I found another interesting piece of

family history in a letter dated June 14, 1967, addressed to my father from one of his five brothers, who was a career military man, serving in Vietnam.

My father, the eldest, had served in the Korean War.

The letter included context for the time, including the exchange rate of Vietnamese currency, the cease fire in the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, and a mention of the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, or Expo 67, which was being held in Montreal. At the end of all that news, he signed off with a simple valediction: “Your Brother.”

When I read the letter, I called my cousin to let her know what I had found. I took a picture of the letter and texted it to her (obviously a far contrast in communication from the time that the letter was written), and she responded, “Wow! What a find! It seems they were all pretty close!”

As I re-read the short page-and-a-half letter, it was evident what was important and valued: the bond of family.

As elected school board trustees and members of TASB, we too enjoy a special bond that unites us in our work to support our students and advocate on behalf of public education. We may not realize it yet, but history was being written this past year as our school districts continued to recover from the pandemic and as we grieved the tragic loss of students and staff in Uvalde. Resilience and perseverance are an essential part of that story, too.

The future, of course, remains to be seen. But I do know that our TASB family will step up and support each other, no matter the challenges. Let’s make sure the next chapter in our story includes our unwavering commitment to advocating for public education and doing what’s best for all students.

Thank you for your service to public education!H

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From the Top
Ted Beard, a Longview ISD trustee, is 2021-22 president of TASB.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

MAKING AN EVERYDAY IMPACT

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.

See the Impact at HCDE-TEXAS.ORG/IMPACT

Getting Inspired

Annual convention returns to beloved Texas city

When I worked at the San Antonio Express-News, I liked to slip out of the office sometimes before the afternoon editorial meeting to get caffeinated. I had two paths to take to nearby coffee shops — one across the tree-shrouded grounds of the Alamo and the other on the picturesque River Walk.

For me, it never gets old walking along that iconic urban waterway that was once the backdrop to my professional life. Tourists flock to popular restaurants and other attractions, but I preferred the quiet spots where I could sit and sip coffee, and the semi-secrets, like the optical illusion at the Nix Professional Building. (Just as you pass under the Navarro Street pedestrian bridge, you immediately look

The event promises plenty of motivation and encouragement for attendees to soak up and take back to their districts. It’s also a chance for educational leaders to come together during a very turbulent time to discuss and reinforce their common bond — ensuring student success.

Many interesting sessions and events are scheduled at the convention center. But I’m guessing a lot of attendees also will take a few moments to slip out and spend a few moments on the River Walk, as I plan to do.

The San Antonio River and the River Walk are central to the city’s history, character, and economy. Here are a few facts you may not know about this important waterway, one of Texas’ most popular tourist destinations:

• The five missions located along the river’s original path have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Besides the Alamo, they are Mission Espada, Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, and Mission San Juan Capistrano.

• The downtown section of the River Walk doesn’t flood because of a series of locks and dams.

• The river’s headwaters are four miles north of downtown.

• The river overall is about 240 miles long and crosses five counties before it feeds into the Guadalupe River about 10 miles from San Antonio Bay.

• Remember, it’s River Walk, not Riverwalk!

Whether it’s the restaurants, the entertainment, or the beauty that draws you to the River Walk, I hope you will enjoy a few moments in this special place and draw inspiration from it — as well as all the opportunities offered inside the convention center!

See you there. H

up and to the right, and the tall, triangular building briefly looks completely flat!)

I’m looking forward to heading back to San Antonio later this month to attend the annual TASA | TASB Convention, which will be held at the Henry B. González Convention Center, located on the banks of the San Antonio River.

This will be my first Convention—and it’s the first time in more than 30 years that the event is being held in San Antonio! This issue of Texas Lone Star includes a story about the Convention’s highlights (page 8), and you’ll also find a fun, informative map of the River Walk on page 42.

• The River Walk is a public park. It’s 15 miles long and flows through about five miles of downtown San Antonio.

• There are two other sections besides the main walk downtown — the Museum Reach north of downtown and the Mission Reach to the south. (I highly recommend visiting both.)

• The downtown River Walk and the Museum Reach never close, though businesses do, of course. The Mission Reach is open during daylight hours only.

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Editor’s Note
Laura Tolley is managing editor of Texas Lone Star.
The event promises plenty of motivation and encouragement for attendees to soak up and take back to their districts.
Laura Tolley

Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Shaping public education together at txEDCON22

With Texas public education leaders and teachers facing intense pressure on a range of complicated challenges in and outside the classroom, the TASA | TASB Convention will provide a comprehensive learning experience and new ideas on how to best serve students.

The Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards collaborate annually to produce the largest assembly of state public education decision-makers, including school board members, superintendents, and other leaders. The in-depth, transformative Convention experience helps school leaders improve governance and leadership in Texas public schools and enhance statewide support for public education.

From recruiting and retaining teachers to the mental health struggles of students and educators to the threat of public education dollars going to private institutions with no accountability, there are many issues school leaders must cope with as a new school year begins.

“This has been a very challenging year for those dedicated to educating students in Texas, from the ongoing pandemic to the Uvalde tragedy to the continued attacks on public education,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “The Convention offers a special opportunity for all public school leaders and advocates to come together, as a family, to reconnect, recharge, and refocus on the future — our students.”

San Antonio

The TASA | TASB Convention, to be held at the Henry B. González Convention Center in downtown San Antonio, will have a wide range of opportunities for creative problem-solving, ways to innovate for the benefit of students, and methods for building stronger leadership teams.

An impressive lineup of general session speakers as well as special sessions and exhibits will offer valuable guidance, insight, and information to every member of a district’s leadership team.

“It’s been more than three decades since we gathered together in San Antonio, and we’re excited to be back in the Alamo City,” Troxell said.

Up your advocacy game

The Convention will feature a strong focus on getting prepared for the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January 2023.

“This session is shaping up to be one of the most difficult for public education that I have witnessed in my time in and around the Texas Capitol,” said Dax González, division director of TASB Governmental Relations. “It is absolutely critical that our members and, frankly, any and

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Dax González, division director of TASB Governmental Relations, moderates a panel discussion at the 2021 TASA | TASB Convention Photo by TASB Media Services

all supporters of public schools, and our students, learn about the issues and reach out to their representatives and senators in Austin to stop the harmful legislation that is already being concocted for the upcoming session.”

The Convention schedule offers several ways to up your advocacy game. Look for advocacy-focused sessions under the Advocacy and Community Engagement track in the Convention program. From community engagement to legal do’s and don’ts, attendees can gather important information they can take back to their districts.

At the Convention, look for mobile pop-up stops where attendees can sign up for Texans for Strong Public Schools, TASB’s public advocacy campaign, and get some exclusive swag to take back home. Any Texan can join the group, but TASB especially encourages school board members and administrators to participate. Subscribers receive a monthly newsletter as well as advocacy action alerts leading up to and during the legislative session on issues related to public education.

The general session on Saturday will feature a special opportunity to be part of a group call to action. TASA | TASB leaders will be asking school trustees and administrators to make a statement with lawmakers by sending them a message voicing support for public schools.

Featured speakers

This year’s special speakers are author Jon Gordon, former Texas Longhorn and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, and Merlyna Valentine, an award-winning educator.

Gordon, an author and speaker on issues of leadership and teamwork, has written 24 books, including 12 bestsellers and five children’s books. He and his training/consulting company staff work to develop positive leaders, organizations, and teams.

Johnson, a Waco native, is founder and president of Defend the Dream Foundation, which provides low-income and inner-city youth the opportunities and resources to reach their full potential in school and life.

10 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Fort Bend ISD students perform at the 2021 TASA | TASB Convention in Dallas. Photo by TASB Media Services Jon Gordon Derrick Johnson

Valentine has been a well-respected educator for more than 30 years and has earned numerous awards as a teacher, principal, and executive director in a highly successful school district.

Community service projects

Another important element of the TASA | TASB Convention is the “Community Service Project Zone,” which is a community give-back component that allows the event to leave a positive footprint in the community where the meeting is held.

“The project has become a tradition for the annual event. It focuses on helping teachers and students by providing much-needed items to help them have a more positive and productive school year,” said Jackie Clark Spencer, director of Event Operations and Convention Communications, Marketing, and Events at TASB. “It gives attendees the chance to really make a statement about the culture and commitment of our organization.”

This year, the Convention is partnering with United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County to gather and assemble a variety of items that will be donated to Texas public school students.

Working with United Way, Convention organizers have identified nonperishable snack items to provide to children who are at risk of not having access to food when they are

Register now for

There’s still time to register to attend the TASA | TASB Convention on Sept. 23-25 in San Antonio!

Find details about event fees and register to attend at tasa.tasb.org/registration.

Who should attend the TASA | TASB Convention?

• Leadership team members

• Board members

• Superintendents

• Key administrators and staff

• New and experienced education leaders

Attendees are encouraged to attend with leadership team members to learn more about the issues facing districts and discover solutions for those issues.

What can attendees expect?

• Relevant, practical programming

• Networking with peers from across the state

• Expo to help you find the best products and services to fit your district’s needs

Learn more about preconference events, the event, related events, housing, field trips, the small school district seminar, and more at tasa.tasb.org.

TASB is managing attendee registration. If you have questions, please get in touch with us at 800.580.8272, ext. 3611, or registrar@tasb.org

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Merlyna Valentine

not at school. Donations also will include hygiene items and school supplies, Spencer said. Find community project activities in Booth #1404 on the tradeshow floor. There, attendees can help assemble a variety of kits focused on food, health and hygiene, and supplies. All items will immediately be provided to United Way for distribution to local school districts.

A full schedule of breakout sessions

At the heart of the annual Convention is the range of individual sessions, which are clustered in tracks: Advocacy and Community Engagement; Accountability Systems, Strategic Planning, and Future-Ready Pathways; School Finance, Operations, and Facility Design; Leadership, District Culture, and Governance Team Development; Policy and Legal; and Safety, Wellness, and Sense of Well-Being.

Be sure to spend some time in advance of the Convention’s start going through the online schedule at tasa.tasb.org and preparing a list of prospects to make the most of your experience.

See you in San Antonio!

TASB Proudly Endorses

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Attendees at the 2021 TASA | TASB Convention in Dallas enjoyed a number of informative and inspirational sessions. Photos by TASB Media Services

THANK YOU TO THE tx EDCON22 SPONSORS

TITANIUM PLATINUM

DIAMOND

SILVER BRONZE

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Focusing on Mental Health

School districts search for new ways to help students

United ISD Superintendent David Gonzalez knows what it’s like to lose a student to suicide. In 2005, during his first year as a middle school principal, a sixth-grade student at Gonzalez’s school took his life.

“This little boy was really reserved, and unfortunately, he hung himself,” Gonzalez recalled. “As principal, I was the one who had to meet with the parents, and I felt so inept.”

The experience stuck with Gonzalez. When he became superintendent of UISD in Laredo in July 2021, he knew addressing mental health and suicide prevention needed to be a top priority for the district. During the 2021-22 school year, UISD increased parent and staff training on mental health, developed a new mental health website to share relevant resources, and instituted Signs of Suicide, an evidence-based suicide prevention program for schools.

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“I’ve always preached as an administrator that it’s not just about the three Rs. Our job is to teach not just the academic side. We need to teach the whole child,” said Gonzalez.

Studies conducted over the past decade have confirmed that adolescent mental health is a growing concern across the country. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the percentage of high school students who reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by more than 10% from 2009 to 2019, while the percentage of those who reported seriously considering suicide increased by 5%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issue into even sharper focus. Lockdowns, virtual schooling, decreased social interactions, and the high death tolls suffered by some communities have left students struggling. In the midst of all

this, students, staff, parents, and district leaders are asking the question — what role do schools play in addressing student mental health?

Mental health and academic success

According to Linda Garza, a licensed specialist in school psychology at UISD, addressing student mental health is “part of the new leadership challenge” for school districts. It makes sense for schools to be invested in mental health, said Garza, because of the deep connection between mental health and academic success.

“If a child does not have the skills to pay attention, to sit down, to ask the questions, and if they don’t have good peer relationships or good relationships with teachers, they can’t advance in academics,” Garza said. “All the research shows us that the moment we start providing those children with counseling services, with social emotional learning, you have an increase in standardized assessments.”

In a July 2022 Education Week webinar, panelist Clayton Barksdale, assistant principal at Cleveland Central High School in Cleveland, Mississippi, echoed those concerns.

“If a child doesn’t feel safe, he or she may not be able to learn because he doesn’t feel like this is a safe learning environment — safe from any kind of violence, but also safe to be themselves,” said Barksdale. “These are children that are still growing, and they are very sensitive to everything around them, any kind of criticism.”

At Alice ISD in South Texas, a program called Capturing Kids’ Hearts provides district staff with the training and resources they need to help develop a positive classroom environment.

“Our kids sometimes may not have that socialization, especially coming back from a COVID year, so building those relationships and those social contracts, that was a big initiative for us,” said Gracie Garcia, AISD’s executive director of teaching and learning.

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Photo courtesy of United ISD UISD licensed specialists in school psychology Linda Garza, Ileana Moreno, and Marilyn Brice present at United ISD’s 2019 Parent Learning Summit.
“These are amazing intervention methods for attendance and dropout. It eventually ends up paying for itself when you hire a mental health specialist,” said Nadia Moreno, Alice ISD’s director of school climate transformation grant.

Capturing Kids’ Hearts consultants provide classroom observations to monitor implementation and support teachers as needed. The program, already in its third year of operation, has been a critical part of the district’s mental health strategy, said Erika Vasquez, AISD’s executive director of leadership and school improvement.

“We spend a lot of time with these kids,” said Vasquez. “They’re with us for over eight hours sometimes, and for some families and students, we’re the only thing that they have, so it’s important that we address that.”

Staffing and resource challenges

One of the biggest obstacles to providing mental health resources in schools is inadequate staffing. The Texas Education Agency recommends a ratio of one counselor for every 250 students. But a Houston Chronicle investigation conducted in March 2022 found that 98% of Texas schools fall short of that standard.

For school psychologists, the figures are even more grim. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, districts should employ one psychologist for every 500

students. Only 25 districts in Texas met that standard for the 2020-21 school year.

Ileana Moreno, a licensed specialist in school psychology at UISD, said much of the concern stems from a lack of awareness about staffing needs and confusion surrounding the differences between school counselors, who provide general counseling and education services, and school psychologists, who focus on comprehensive mental health care for students.

“If you’re not aware that you need the person, if you don’t know who they are and what they do, why would you allocate funds?” said Moreno. “[Some districts] spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on academic interventions, but when you think about it, had you spent that money and got a person or that emotional behavioral piece, research shows when you have that you increase your standardized assessment as opposed to an intervention.”

But it’s not just academic success that is affected when schools take an interest in student mental health, said Nadia Moreno, AISD’s director of school climate transformation grant. According to Moreno, hiring mental health professionals can also impact a school’s attendance and enrollment rates.

“If we have a student who is not attending because they have undiagnosed anxiety, we’re able to recognize that and make the proper referrals, and we see where they start coming to school,” explained Moreno. “These are amazing intervention methods for attendance and dropout. It eventually ends up paying for itself when you hire a mental health specialist.”

Connecting with parents

Kareeme Hawkins, director of social emotional learning and guidance at DeSoto ISD near Dallas, believes communicating with parents is a particularly important part of any student-focused mental health strategy.

“When parents are taught and understand the importance of what we’re teaching at school, the impact and reach

16 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
UISD Board Member Aliza Flores Oliveros presented alongside Linda Garza and Ileana Moreno at TASB’s June 2022 Summer Learning Institute in San Antonio. UISD Superintendent David Gonzalez shares key messages from the Signs of Suicide program alongside middle school counselors. Photos courtesy of United ISD

of what we are teaching can be amplified at home,” she said. According to Hawkins, communicating with parents is about more than just sharing updates and providing resources. It involves building relationships with families and developing a collaborative atmosphere.

“The parent is the expert,” she said. “Before you go into having any type of conversation, you remind the parent, ‘These are your babies. You are allowing them to come and meet with me and be in my presence, and we want to have a collaboration.’”

DISD hosts mental health forums in partnership with the city to help address stigmas and educate the community. Hawkins said events like these are a critical part of serving students.

“When we think about addressing social emotional learning and mental health, there are layers to support student growth. The outer ring is the community. From the community, it’s their home life, and from the home life it’s the campus. From the campus, it’s the classroom,” she said. “If each ring understands the importance of this topic, students should hear it continuously, creating multiple direct and indirect touchpoints. The hope is something will stick.”

Building awareness with the larger community is a key part of UISD’s strategy as well. Gonzalez said the district is committed to sharing resources and educating surrounding districts.

“We did a virtual meeting this past spring where we included all the Region 1 districts. We had people from Lubbock and people all over South Texas,” said Gonzalez. “Somebody asked me the other day, ‘[Why do] you invest all this and you open up for other districts when you’re paying for it?’”

But for Gonzalez, it’s not about the money. It’s about the mission.

“We are never going to shy away from helping others,” he said. “In the end, if we can make an impact on someone’s life, it’s worth it. You can’t put a price on it.”H

School Mental Health Legislation

Here is a summary of some of Texas’ most recent legislation that impacts mental health initiatives in public schools. All of these bills were passed in 2019 during the 86th Texas Legislature.

Senate Bill 11: An overarching school safety and mental health bill that provides statewide mental health resources and establishes a plan for access to those resources. This bill set forth a number of state requirements regarding mental health in schools, including:

• Creating the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, which provides greater access to telehealth programs in schools

• Adding mental health and suicide prevention to the state’s health curriculum standards

• Developing an annual school safety allotment for securing facilities, providing training, and conducting suicide prevention programs

House Bill 18: Requires district improvement plans to include evidencebased strategies for addressing student mental health needs. The bill also mandates training for educators who provide support for students with mental health concerns.

House Bill 19: States that a local mental health authority employee must be present at each education service center region to provide training and resources to individual school districts.

House Bill 906: Establishes the school mental health task force, which was developed with the goal of studying school mental health services. The task force is charged with making recommendations to the Legislature.

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Leslie Trahan is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star. UISD's team of licensed specialists in school psychology, from left to right: Brandy Medina, Claudia Villarreal, Thelma Cavazos, Marilyn Brice, Linda Garza, and Ileana Moreno.

PRIZED SCHOOL DISTRICT

McAllen ISD uses customer service approach with students

McAllen

McAllen ISD has a long list of awards and accomplishments to its credit. It has maintained an A rating by state accountability standards since 2018, earned postsecondary readiness distinctions for three consecutive years, and received the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award for Best Large District in Texas this year, to name a few.

While impressive, awards are not what drives MISD’s leadership team.

“We’re not chasing awards. The awards are just a byproduct of our system,” said MISD Superintendent J. A. Gonzalez, referring to the beliefs, expectations, and practices that push students and staff to become the best version of themselves, academically and personally.

At the heart of MISD’s success-generating system is a customer service approach to educating students that raises the bar in terms of equity and meeting all students’ needs.

“We don’t think only in terms of subpopulations. Instead, we recognize that we have nearly 22,000 customers. Customer service is meeting each student’s needs the best we can, and no two students are the same,” said MISD Board President Tony Forina. “Our teachers and leaders are continuously helping students learn what obstacles hold them back from meeting the high expectations in our system and emboldening the students to address those obstacles.”

This non-negotiable commitment to the success of every student allows MISD to celebrate major victories year after year.

A robust “customer service” model

The belief that each student is immeasurably precious inspires ingenuity in service at MISD schools.

“When you take a moment to realize that parents and guardians are sending the fabric of their soul to our schools, you understand the importance of having systems and processes in place that keep those kids safe and send them back home nurtured and educated. That’s what drives us to set

18 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org

up the best systems possible. We’re relentless,” said Gonzalez.

When deciding how to improve the district’s approach to serving each kid and family, Gonzalez and his team looked to companies with strong reputations for excellence in customer service. The district studied customer service methods at companies like Chick-fil-A, Southwest Airlines, and Harley-Davidson, and trained staff in those methods.

“When we train, we think big and continuous. Everyone on the team internalizes it,” said Gonzalez. “From the way we answer the phones, to how we write emails, everything is by design.”

The outcome of the district’s intentional approach to customer service can be observed in an email written by a parent to an MISD principal and her staff: “They were helpful, kind, and understanding every time I called. Thank you again for your amazing staff.”

At MISD, culture and climate are ongoing discussion topics in the pursuit of excellent customer service. The result is more parents having experiences like the parent who wrote an email simply to compliment her child’s school.

The school board’s perspective

The school board helps establish and maintain the cultural expectations of the school system — in part by modeling what is expected of district employees.

“We hold the superintendent accountable for creating a system that recognizes each student through exceptional customer service, and then we work to fully walk out our role as district liaisons in the community,” said Forina. “When we engage with parents as board members, we pass along the sincere belief that our district is grooming the future of South Texas and even the nation.”

Forina wants the community to know the entire system thinks highly of students and their potential, and that the board takes a servant-leader approach to guiding the district. The MISD board continuously gauges its performance through the pulse of the community and takes action to inform, support, correct, or repair as needed.

To create a seamless culture of exceptional customer service, the board also engages in deep learning with the superintendent’s executive leadership team, Gonzalez said. Board subcommittees meet weekly with the executive team to

texaslonestaronline.org | September/October 2022 | Texas Lone Star 19
McAllen ISD school board and superintendent. From left: Trustee Daniel Vela, Vice President Debbie Crane Aliseda, Secretary Marco Suarez, Trustee Sam Saldivar Jr., Trustee Conrado Alvarado, Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez, Trustee Sofia Pena, and President Tony Forina. A father and daughter at the McAllen ISD Father-Daughter Dance held in February. McAllen ISD has many events each year that bring families together. Photos courtesy of McAllen ISD

create a more efficient agenda and to deepen understanding of discussion items.

“The board reads and learns what the executive leadership team reads and learns. If we’re doing a book study, the board receives copies of the same book,” said Gonzalez.

Both Forina and Gonzalez emphasize the importance of the board and superintendent engaging in “Team of 8” training and whole-team learning opportunities. As a governance team, the board and superintendent have participated in activities ranging from book studies to drum circles, and even ropes courses.

“Team building and learning together helps everyone develop the same sense of urgency,” said Gonzalez.

Both leaders believe the district’s continued success in providing an individualized learning experience for all its “customers” depends on alignment among the board, the superintendent, and the executive leadership team.

Leveraging emotional intelligence

The most powerful outcome of MISD’s commitment to exceptional customer service is a system-wide approach to improving the emotional intelligence of students and staff, which is the result of a professional development effort through Harvard University.

In a display of bold, yet vulnerable, leadership, Gonzalez recounts how his personal challenges oriented him to the importance of being self-smart and self-aware.

“If we are to be successful, we need to recognize the cyclical nature of adversity,” said the 2020 Superintendent of the Year

recipient. “At any given moment, we’re either experiencing a crisis, coming out of a crisis, or heading towards one. It’s the nature of life. If we can learn to self-regulate and self-motivate, we’ll manage these crises more successfully.”

Through his personal experiences — and after reading Emotional Intelligence, the bestselling book by Daniel Goleman — Gonzalez became convinced that incorporating those skills into the MISD system would improve the district’s ability to serve each student as an individual.

“As an adult — a superintendent — even I must be able to self-regulate and be self-smart. This is especially the case for our students, and we teach them that,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez and Forina believe that improving students’ understanding in the five domains of emotional intelligence

McAllen Memorial High School sophomore Adrienne Garcia is a member of the school’s mariachi program. The program is one of many activities available to students in the district.
THE DISTRICT’S CONTINUED SUCCESS IN PROVIDING AN INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR ALL ITS “CUSTOMERS” DEPENDS ON ALIGNMENT AMONG THE BOARD, THE SUPERINTENDENT, AND THE EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP TEAM.
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Photos courtesy of McAllen ISD

is foundational to equity — meeting kids where they are and equipping them to go further.

“These are skills they will carry for life,” said Gonzalez.

The five domains of emotional intelligence — selfawareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills — are incorporated across the board at every grade level and every campus.

“Whether we’re teaching science or math, we’re teaching kids to self-regulate,” noted Gonzalez. “When a lab result doesn’t turn out as intended, or something else goes wrong, students are learning responsible ways to deal with it.”

Forina recognizes the importance of board support in the district’s effort to raise the emotional intelligence of students and staff.

“When a superintendent talks about emotional intelligence, some might question it. When we sit down and look at how the emotional intelligence of staff and students grows through intentional efforts, and how it creates a more well-rounded person, it’s hard to deny. It has expanded the board’s horizons,” said Forina.

Seamless and exceptional customer service means staff members are also oriented to the five domains of emotional intelligence. Gonzalez firmly believes their system is better when the expectation for growth and development is equally stressed for staff and students.

“Real magic starts to happen when we raise the emotional intelligence of the student body and staff,” said Gonzalez. “It’s painful, but we persist.”H

Orin Moore is a board consultant for TASB Board Development Services. Student athletes from McAllen Memorial High pose together after a state wrestling meet this year. From left: Eternity de la Garza, Maya Marroquin, and Serenity de la Garza.
texaslonestaronline.org | September/October 2022 | Texas Lone Star 21
Husband and wife Ernest and Leila Pruneda were each recognized for working 30 years for McAllen ISD in spring 2022. Their dedication to the students is part of the district's success.

POWERFUL CONNECTIONS How to build relationships across your community

More than ever, the voices and perspectives of school board trustees are invaluable in partnering with state lawmakers during an upcoming legislative session. Getting started can feel daunting and lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you and your colleagues are considering the adoption of legislative priorities or plan to speak up at the Texas Capitol, don’t do it alone — bring your community with you. By adopting a three-step relationship-building approach to your legislative advocacy, you can develop strong priorities that give voice to your district’s families, create opportunities to build stronger connections to policymakers, and lead to positive outcomes for public schools in your district.

Step #1: Identify who to engage. Your district most likely has its usual community partners, but who else should be on your list? What neighborhood or parent groups, faith-based organizations, or business owners haven’t been contacted before but could be great potential partners? What local industry partners intersect with your legislative delegation’s policy priorities? Bringing them into a discussion can be a fantastic bridge in legislative outreach efforts and in finding common policy concerns. Among critical groups to reach out to include those who may not currently have a great relationship with or faith in the district right now. Engaging them in this process can help build trust.

Step #2: Understand how best to engage those stakeholders. It can be tempting to set up a traditional town hall and share information about the district and public education priorities you feel are important — but remember, the goal isn’t the top-down distribution of information. The goal is trust building and relationship development. Instead, consider arranging smaller, listening-themed meetings with communities you need to build partnerships with, focusing on giving them the opportunity to constructively give voice to their needs. You probably will find that many concerns overlap with critical state legislative public education topics. This is where you can build alignment and share advocacy opportunities.

Step #3: Find ways to use this feedback. It is very important that your community partners hear their voice in any actions you choose to take as a school board and school district. One easy step is to ensure that public education needs that surfaced in your listening sessions are included in the adoption of your board’s formal legislative priorities, whether those issues were initially on your radar. Be sure to thank your listening partners through a communication medium that details how their feedback has impacted the final adopted measures. This will help build trust and confidence in the civic process with your partners, as they will see how they can make a difference.

22 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org

You should also help elevate perspectives your community provides by inviting those parents, business leaders, and community partners with you on your legislative visits. This can be an incredibly positive experience for everyone involved. Community members will be actively engaged in the legislative process, possibly for the first time, while lawmakers and their staff will be grateful for the ability to work with local constituents in a positive way on important topics. Having additional local voices to lean on for thoughts and ideas will be a welcome support during the legislative session.

Remember that not all stakeholders will agree on everything all the time. That is OK. But on those issues where you can find alignment and the opportunity to include families and partners who haven’t been able to be a part of the legislative process before, you will see more civic participation, trust in the district to listen to all community members, and more voices lifted to support local public schools.

Now that you have the tools to build powerful and meaningful advocacy for public education — engage, advocate, and activate!H

Raise Your Hand Texas supports public policy solutions that invest in our students, encourage innovation and autonomy, and improve college and workforce readiness. Matthew Hall is a senior regional advocacy director for Raise Your Hand Texas in the Tarrant County area. Kaylan Dixon Smith is a regional advocacy director for Raise Your Hand Texas in the Dallas County area.

texaslonestaronline.org | September/October 2022 | Texas Lone Star 23
It is very important that your community partners hear their voice in any actions you choose to take as a school board and school district. One easy step is to ensure that public education needs that surfaced in your listening sessions are included in the adoption of your board’s formal legislative priorities, whether those issues were initially on your radar.

Advancing Advocacy

Legislative outreach more important than ever

As the next legislative session approaches, the need for trustees to reach out to their elected representatives in Austin becomes even more important. TASB is assisting trustees in their advocacy efforts by revamping our advocacy tools and processes. While this consists of ongoing projects — some of which are scheduled to be completed over the next year or two — there are a few important updates members should be aware of for this session.

The linchpin of TASB advocacy tools will still be the School Board Advocacy Network. This free service provides members with information on activities at the Texas Capitol as well as national education news. School board members and superintendents also have access to timely action alerts that provide information and recommended contacts on important issues being addressed by the Texas Legislature, the Texas Education Agency, and the U.S. Congress. TASB is enhancing

SBAN by updating the way members can learn more and reach out about these critical issues.

We have also finished developing a new advocacy training course. The course is intended to be the first in a series of three courses designed to provide facts, insights, and tips to help school board members become skilled advocates for their districts, students, and communities. Called Advocacy 101, the course is available through the TASB Online Learning Center and includes a basic overview of general advocacy, the educational ecosystem in

Texas, and our state’s legislative process. There are also interactive scenarios that walk trustees through potential interactions with elected state officials.

Future advocacy courses will focus on advanced techniques for gathering and structuring information to support local efforts, knowing the right times during the legislative cycle to plan activities, determining the most effective methods for delivering messages, and knowing the right individuals to contact.

TASB is also developing materials for trustees who are already seasoned advocates and need more specific information and training for their advocacy efforts. These tools will be available a little further down the road, but TASB Governmental Relations is always available to work with trustees in the meantime to provide information and guidance. Contact the GR division at 800.580.4885 with any questions you may have regarding advocacy and the Texas Legislature. If you feel you are a trustee who already has some experience advocating at the state level and you’re ready to take your efforts to the next level, please contact us to determine if you’d be a good fit for our advanced advocacy group.

24 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org Capitol Watch
The linchpin of TASB advocacy tools will still be the School Board Advocacy Network. This free service provides members with information on activities at the Texas Capitol as well as national education news.
Heather Sheffield, a board trustee with Eanes ISD, speaks at a Legislative Advisory Council meeting earlier this year in Austin. Photo by TASB Media Services

We haven’t forgotten about other public education advocates out there, as some of the most ardent supporters of our public schools are parents and other community members. Texans for Strong Public Schools, or Texans, is a group designed to be our public advocacy channel for trustees, parents, school staff, key stakeholders, and anyone else who wants to champion their local public schools or public education in general. Similar to SBAN, Texans is a free service designed to provide useful updates and action alerts on important public education issues. While Texans has been around for a few years, we have upgraded it to provide better functionality for advocates, including enhanced tools for contacting elected officials.

With so much negative and inaccurate information about Texas public schools, students, and trustees circulating on social media, it is more important than ever for school board members and other supporters of public education to learn how to make their voices heard in Austin and in their local communities. Follow TASB on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to make sure you’re keeping up to date with the information and services that will help boost your advocacy efforts.

For more information, visit gr.tasb.org or contact Dax González at 800.580.4885 or dax.gonzalez@tasb.org ★

texaslonestaronline.org | September/October 2022 | Texas Lone Star 25 When looking at healthcare options, let our team guide you through the decision-making process to see if the TASB Benefits Health Plan is right for your district. • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas Network: Largest PPO Network in the state with contracting providers in all 254 Texas counties • Rate Stability: TML Health Plan’s average net cost increase was less than 1% over the past four years • Equity Renewal Credits: Access to a program that’s given out $18M in renewal credits to employer participants Empowered by Current healthcare plan have you thinking: “Should I stay, or go?” TASB Benefits Health Plan. We have you covered. 800.558.8875 | bit.ly/stay-or-go-2022
Dax González is division director of TASB Governmental Relations.
“Education is the movement from darkness to light.”
—Allan Bloom

School Enrollment 101

Registering students can be a complex process

Educating students is the reason public schools exist, but getting children enrolled can be a complex process. The new school year is underway, marking an excellent time to review the basics of enrolling students in Texas public schools.

Who can enroll in the district?

Section 25.001 of the Texas Education Code outlines the basis for enrollment for Texas public school students. A student who is at least five years old and under 21 years old on Sept. 1 of each school year is entitled to be enrolled in the district if the student meets certain residency criteria. Generally, in order to meet the residency requirements, an applicant must: reside in the district; have a parent or guardian who resides in the district; have established a residence separate and apart from a parent or guardian, subject to certain exceptions; be homeless, in foster care, or in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services; or have a grandparent who resides in the district and provides substantial after-school care. In addition, the Education Code sets out other unique circumstances in which a student may be eligible to enroll. See TASB Policy FD(LEGAL).

What documents are required to enroll?

The following documentation must be provided when a new student enrolls in the district:

• Documents establishing identification

• The applicant’s records from the school most recently attended, if applicable

• Immunization record

Information about the documents that can be used to establish a student’s identity can be found in the Texas Education Agency’s Student Attendance Accounting Handbook at tea.texas.gov

What if a child’s identity can’t be proven?

A district should not deny a child enrollment solely because documents proving identity or previous school records have not been provided. However, if a parent or legal guardian does not provide this required information within 30 days after enrollment, the district must notify local law enforcement (Tex. Educ. Code § 25.002(c)).

Are

immunization

records required?

A district can deny admission to a student who is not fully immunized and has not begun the required immunizations unless the student meets certain exceptions in law. For more information, see TASB Legal Services’ FAQ, Immunization Requirements and Exceptions, available at tasb.org

Can a district ask for proof of residency?

The school board may require evidence that a person is eligible to attend the public schools of the district at the time the board considers an application for admission. The statute also authorizes the board to establish the minimum proof of residency acceptable to the district and allows the board to make reasonable inquiries to verify a student’s eligibility for admission (Tex. Educ. Code § 25.001(c)).

TEA’s Student Attendance Accounting Handbook provides examples of methods districts may use to verify residence,

including requesting utility bill receipts or lease information, checking tax records, or verifying with district personnel that the applicable residence is within the boundaries of a district. While the district may request proof of residency, TEA cautions against denying a student admission based solely on failure to provide proof of residency.

Is U.S. citizenship required?

No. Districts must provide a free education to all eligible students, regardless of immigration status (Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 [1982]). Stated another way, a district may not exclude a student based solely on the student’s undocumented status (Tex. Educ. Code § 25.001(b)). In a letter issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education, public schools are advised to refrain from inquiring into students’ citizenship or immigration status or that of their parents or guardians (U.S. Dept of Educ., Office for Civil Rights, Dear Colleague

26 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org Legal News

Letter: School Enrollment Procedures, May 8, 2014). All students, including foreign nationals, must meet state eligibility requirements. Accordingly, a district may require a foreign student to demonstrate age and residency on the same basis as other students.

Must parents provide contact information?

Yes, parents are required to provide in writing their address, phone number, and email address upon enrollment of a student and within the first two weeks of each school year. If the parent’s contact information changes during the school year, the parent must update their contact information within two weeks of the change (Tex. Educ. Code § 26.0125).

What about children of divorced parents?

The district must admit the student

(See Enrollment, page 35.)

texaslonestaronline.org Work
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Making Progress

Special education efforts serve more students

Anew school year signals increased interest and excitement about what the year ahead has in store for those we serve, especially students in special populations.

Texas is beginning year five under the Special Education Corrective Action Plan that the Texas Education Agency created under the guidance of the federal Office of Special Education Programs. A lot of progress has been reported on meeting our various goals, but school districts and state officials continue to address lingering areas of concern.

During the last five years, we have seen the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Legislature take the lead on seven major initiatives:

1. The removal of the 8.5% indicator for identification in special education

2. The launch of additional service supports and resources for districts across the state

3. An increase in mainstream funding for serving students in special education

4. Funding to support students identified with dyslexia

5. Creation of a committee targeting an overhaul of the funding mechanism associated with special populations

6. Revision and publication of the state’s Dyslexia Handbook

7. Provision of added funds directly to families to support students with special needs

Along with these major changes, we have seen an increase in special education identification from its lowest point of 8.8% in 2011-12 to 11.7% in 2021-22. This is an increase of 44.5% in the number of students served in special education since 2012, from 439,677 to 635,340 students. Nearly one-third of students identified in special education are identified with a specific learning disability — 32.8%, or 204,483 students. In addition, the number of students identified with dyslexia continues to increase.

In the last six years, the number of students served has more than doubled, from 108,951 in 2014 to 270,977 in 2022. The increase means more students are receiving the services and support they need to make progress in their educational goals.

Source: Texas Education Agency, tea.texas.gov

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Facilitating Student Success

On the whole, we are doing better in identifying and supporting students with disabilities.

Together, with the increase in students served, we have seen a subsequent increase in state dollars allocated to special education. In fact, we have seen a $1 billion increase between 2015-16 and 2020-21, from $3.02 billion to $4.05 billion.

This increase represents both an increase in the number of students identified as well as slight increases in weights per student. Federal funding has remained static at about $1 billion. Funds flowing from the state and local tax dollars have resulted in the additional allotted money. While these dollars assist in helping provide services to students with special needs, it is clear that our current funding mechanisms are antiquated and need to be addressed.

Various commissions and committees have met to study and make recommendations to the Legislature, which convenes in January 2023. In addition, we see a focus on increasing funding at the federal level to support the growing federal requirements.

It is clearer than ever that our students need highly qualified and trained staff to work with them to increase student performance. Students in special education continue to perform well below their peers. In fact, we see overall performance between 2017 to 2022 continue to fall for students in special education — 41% passing all subjects in 2017 compared to 38% passing all subjects in 2022. More attention is needed to better support and help students strive for their best.

As we move into year three of cyclical reviews, approximately half (597 local education agencies) of the school districts (independent school districts and charters) have received reviews by TEA. The state expects to complete 100% of school districts by 2024-25 (619 remaining LEAs).

Of the districts reviewed so far, 224 required more intense targeted monitoring: 86 in 2020, 76 in 2021, and 64 in 2022. It is encouraging to see that number decrease, signaling successful support through the various programs from TEA, regional educational service centers, and school districts across our state. Staff members have overcome a multitude of hurdles over the last few

years. The work is Herculean, but Texas educators are up to the task. With welltrained and qualified staff, public schools can continue to meet and exceed the expectations of the law and the families that we serve.

We at TASB can help you on this journey. Districts choosing to join TASB Student Solutions have access to well-constructed operating procedures, resources, and ongoing training for their staff. Additionally, districts can contract with us to assist with program and folder reviews to help better identify their strengths and needs. They also can request assistance with staffing determinations through a Special Education Workload Analysis. You can find more information by going to tasb.org and clicking on Student Solutions under the Services tab.

We are honored to be part of your journey. Like you, we look forward to a challenging but successful year.H

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

Somerville ISD. Superintendent. Deadline: September 28, 2022

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

texaslonestaronline.org | September/October 2022 | Texas Lone Star 29 Make your HR operations more effective and efficient with an HR Operations Review. HR Services experienced consultants will provide:
Benchmarking information
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Practical suggestions hrservices.tasb.org 800.580.7782 Improve your HR practices.
Karlyn Keller is division director of TASB’s Special Education and Student Solutions.

Safety Summit Features Secret Service

As school districts across Texas consider what more they can do to create a safe learning environment for students and staff, experts say it’s important to remember a key finding from decades of research on school violence: There is no profile of a student attacker, nor is there a profile for the type of school that is targeted.

“There’s no profile, so it’s important to focus on behavior,” Kristy Domingues told 600 public school educators, administrators, and law enforcement officers at a daylong “Safety Summit” presented in July by the United States Secret Service in collaboration with Lamar Consolidated and Stafford Municipal School Districts. “It really involves everybody using a multidisciplinary approach.”

But figuring out what to look for isn’t straightforward. According to Education Week, there have been 27 school shootings so far this year, resulting in 27 people killed and 56 injured. Three of those shootings took place in Texas, including in Uvalde where a former student entered Robb Elementary School on May 24, fatally shooting 21 students and staff and injuring another 16.

In the weeks since, districts have been taking a closer look at their emergency operations plans and complying with state-mandated security initiatives, including exterior door safety audits, mandatory drills, and the required training of staff and substitutes.

“With the tragic events of not just Uvalde but all those before them, we are in a time where schools have become a target for threat. This is unacceptable,” said Lamar CISD Superintendent Roosevelt Nivens.

Nivens and Stafford MISD Super-

intendent Robert Bostick invited the Secret Service because of its expertise in threat assessment and the prevention of targeted violence. The agency oversees the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), which was created in 1998 to provide guidance and training on threat assessment to not only the Secret Service but also others with public safety responsibilities, including schools.

Key findings

Domingues and Natalie Vineyard, both research specialists with the NTAC, offered participants at the summit 10 key findings about school violence based on an in-depth analysis of 41 incidents at K-12 schools from 2008 to 2017. These research results were first published in Protecting America’s Schools: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence:

1. There is no profile of a student attacker, nor is there a profile for the type of school. (Attackers varied in age, gender, race, grade level, academic performance, and social characteristics.)

2. Attackers usually had multiple motives, the most common involving a grievance with classmates.

3. Most attackers used firearms, and firearms were most often acquired from the home.

4. Most attackers had experienced psychological, behavioral, or developmental symptoms.

5. Half of the attackers had an interest in violent topics.

6. All attackers experienced social stressors involving their relationships with peers and/or romantic partners.

7. Nearly every attacker experienced negative home life factors.

8. Most attackers were victims of bullying, which was often observed by others.

9. Most attackers had a history of school disciplinary actions, and many had prior contact with law enforcement.

10. All attackers exhibited concerning behaviors. Most elicited concern from others, and most communicated their intent to attack.

Although each of the key findings has implications for school violence preven-

30 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org News & Events

Stafford MISD Board President Manuel

enforcement intervention.

5. Establish assessment procedures that explore important themes such as motive, weapon access, stressors, and inappropriate interests.

6. Develop risk management options.

7. Create and promote safe school climates.

8. Conduct training for all stakeholders.

Stafford MISD Board President Manuel Hinojosa said the summit’s goal was to encourage more conversations about how to identify early warning signs. Physical security measures won’t solve the problem alone, he said.

tion efforts, Domingues and Vineyard emphasized the importance of using them as part of a multidisciplinary approach to threat assessment.

Other highlights from the NTAC research include the finding that April tends to be the most popular month for attacks, though attacks were documented in all months except July. The researchers also noted that attacks most typically occurred after a break in attendance, such as a disciplinary suspension.

“Removing students from campus is not always the most effective means to prevent targeted attacks or violence,” Vineyard said.

Building a threat assessment program

Behavioral threat assessment is nothing new for Texas school districts. Since 2019, the state has required districts to have access to Safe and Supportive School Teams to conduct behavioral threat assessments.

The Texas School Safety Center in San Marcos provides model policies and procedures to help districts in establishing and training those teams. If districts follow the eight recommended steps to building a threat assessment program outlined by the center, they are essentially following the NTAC recommendations. Those steps are:

1. Establish a multidisciplinary threat assessment team.

2. Define concerning and prohibited behaviors.

3. Create a central reporting mechanism.

4. Determine the threshold for law

“It’s not one-size-fits-all,” Hinojosa said. “It has to be a more holistic, comprehensive approach.”

To learn more about school safety, contact TASB Risk Management Services for information about training and resources to be better prepared for the unexpected.H

texaslonestaronline.org | September/October 2022 | Texas Lone Star 31 Advertise in Texas Lone Star! Let us help you reach more than 12,000 education leaders and decision makers across Texas. tasb.org/TexasLoneStar ads@tasb.org
Hinojosa said the summit’s goal was to encourage more conversations about how to identify early warning signs. Physical security measures won’t solve the problem alone, he said.
Call 888.587.2665 to join or upgrade. TEXAS TRUST BOARDBOOK 788 DISTRICTS Make your 2022-23 school board meetings easier. DON’T WAIT ALREADY USING BOARDBOOK? Upgrade to Tier 2 to unlock even more customizable features.
Sylvia Wood is a staff writer for Texas Lone Star.

SBOE Announces “Student Heroes” Recipients

The State Board of Education has announced the 15 recipients of the 2022 Student Heroes Award, which honors Texas public school students who voluntarily perform acts of kindness.

“While these students don’t perform any of these acts for recognition, it is only appropriate that we shed a light on their selflessness and desire to do good in the world,” SBOE Chair Keven Ellis said in a news release. “Through their acts of kindness, they are making their schools and communities a better place. On behalf of the entire SBOE, it is my honor to recognize them with this award.”

The students were presented with a plaque and a medallion during ceremonies at their respective schools. The 2022 recipients are:

District 1: Ashley Manquero, a senior at Odessa Career and Technical Early College High School in Ector County ISD. Manquero’s accomplishments range from helping the homeless to advocating for women in abusive relationships.

District 2: Genevieve Vallejo, a sophomore at Mercedes High School in Mercedes ISD. Vallejo has organized canned food drives, coordinated meal deliveries to the homeless, collected toys for needy children, and assisted the local Lions Club with various initiatives.

District 3: Michael Valdez, a senior at Edgewood Fine Arts Academy in Edgewood ISD. Valdez has dedicated countless hours to the preservation and progress of his hometown, San Antonio. He was a member of the Youth Council for Climate Initiatives and participated in the organization’s Cemetery Stewardship Program.

District 4: Anvi Garyali, a junior in the Math and Science Academy at Dulles High School in Fort Bend ISD. Garyali is a youth coalition representative of the Fort Bend Community Prevention Coalition and has helped plan and create resources that spread awareness for substance abuse and mindfulness activities.

District 5: Natalie Veech, a junior at San Marcos High School in San Marcos CISD, Veech is involved in the Pathways

organization and was recently nominated as a lead mentor for the program, where she challenges her classmates to do better and to be better by displaying examples of leadership and advocating for change.

District 6: Nitya Kodali, a junior at Langham Creek High School in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. Kodali founded the nonprofit organization Letters & Love after realizing there was a need in the community for outreach to health care workers. The organization has reached more than 2,000 volunteers in more than 40 countries, sending more than 50,000 letters of gratitude to health care workers.

District 7: Royal Cumby, a senior at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe ISD. Because of a speech disorder, Royal attends the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research. The experience he has gained from the center prompted him to become an advocate and counselor at Camp Dream. Speak. Live., where he teaches individuals nonverbal ways to communicate and challenges them to look at other forms of communication.

District 8: Brady Wilson, a senior at New Waverly High School in New Waverly ISD. Wilson has collected supplies for disaster relief in the hard-hit areas of Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He also recently attended the National 4-H Congress and National FFA Convention, where he participated in other national-level service projects.

District 9: Brandon James, a senior at Ford High School in Quinlan ISD. James created the #BeTheSpark campaign with the goal of inclusivity for students with special needs. James aims to see more inclusiveness with special needs students.

District 10: Karter Linscott, a fifthgrade student at Parkside Elementary School in Leander ISD. Linscott is a childhood cancer survivor who, together with his family, established the Karter Bradley Foundation to provide cancer patients and their families help and a

little comfort while receiving cancer treatment.

District 11: Zane Sheffield, a junior at Birdville High School in Birdville ISD. In middle school, he teamed up with Tarrant to the World, which gave him the opportunity to expand the Back-the-Homeless project he founded. Together, they held their first 5k un-run (Slack-a-Thon) to raise funds for the purchase of more packs and to raise awareness.

District 12: Bryn Taylor, a third-grade student at Wally Watkins Elementary in Wylie ISD. Taylor has served as a support system for a peer who did not have an easy year. While Bryn maintains individual accomplishments, she understands the importance of humility, as she constantly encourages others in their work without a condescending approach.

District 13: Adamari Acosta, a fifthgrade student at Uplift Mighty Primary in Fort Worth Uplift Education Network. Under her leadership, her school’s Beta Club successfully collected and donated over 100 canned food items for the Community Food Bank in Tarrant County. She also led the collection of over 50 pairs of pajamas for the Christ Haven home for children.

District 14: Kayla Elizabeth McFail, a senior at Harmony Science Academy in Carrollton. McFail founded her school’s Dictation for Depression Chapter, which offers students impacted by depression a safe space to discuss their experiences. She is vice president and co-founder of the Help for Humanity Organization, which advocates for people of color dealing with exploitation issues.

District 15: Skyla Ramsay, a senior at Canyon High School in Canyon ISD. Ramsay has volunteered her time as a Student Crime Stopper Ambassador in the Student Crime Stopper organization. She participated in conferences where she learned about a distracted driving program and led a successful promotion of the Safe2Save app at Canyon High.H

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TASB Annual Member Survey Results Reveal Satisfaction

The results of the 2022 TASB Member Survey show top marks for customer service, with respondents giving the Association its highest rating in that category.

The survey is conducted annually to stay in touch with member needs and measure customer satisfaction. This year’s survey was sent via email in April to 7,719 school board trustees, superintendents, and education service center executive directors. It was also promoted in newsletters and in letters sent by TASB Directors to districts in their regions.

“We want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the survey,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “We value the feedback as we’re always committed to providing the best member experience possible. This year’s survey results show we’re doing an excellent job of hitting the mark, but until we get a per-

fect score there’s always room to do even better.”

Of the nearly 8,000 members who got the survey, 939 responded for a response rate of 12.2 percent. Of those, more than half were school board trustees. Survey participants were asked to rate the Association’s performance on a five-star scale, with one star being “poor” and five stars being “excellent.” TASB sets a target of 4.0 in the annual Organization Scorecard for the overall value indicator. This year’s ratings were similar to the 2021 results.

Here are a few highlights:

• Overall value: 4.42

• Customer service: 4.49

• Program quality: 4.38

• Innovation: 4.23

• Legislative advocacy: 4.34

• Training provided: 4.42

• Responsiveness to member needs: 4.39

Of those who responded to the survey, 230 also shared feedback about where TASB should focus future efforts. The top areas identified were advocacy, training, school staffing, and small/rural district concerns.H

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TASA Announces Honor School Boards for 2022

Five Texas school boards have been selected as Honor School Boards by the Texas Association of School Administrators as part of the 2022 TASA School Board Awards. Each year, the program recognizes outstanding Texas school boards for commitment and service that has made a positive impact on Texas public school students.

The five Honor Boards were selected by a committee of Texas school superintendents, chaired by Aledo ISD Superintendent Susan Bohn, whose school board was named the Outstanding School Board for 2021. The committee’s decisions were based on criteria that include support for educational performance, support for educational improvement projects, commitment to a code of ethics, and maintenance of harmonious and supportive relationships among board members.

The 2022 Texas Honor School Boards are:

East Chambers ISD Board of Trustees, Region 5, Scott Campbell, nominating superintendent

The School Board Awards Committee was impressed by the ECISD board’s two-meeting policy process and its commitment to confronting areas of weakness. They also noted that while the district has experienced more challenges than many others (including Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda, in addition to COVID-19), the board has remained focused on student success and student wellness, partnering with the hospital district to ensure students had additional counseling and medical care. They were also impressed by the district’s perfect FIRST rating.

In his nomination, Campbell said of the board: “While every board member who serves on the ECISD Board is heavily involved in the community, each of them have been very adept and skillful about not allowing the EC Board to become politicized. They enjoy such gravitas in this community that they do not find themselves in a position where they must defend their support of the school through

a political lens. In short, they have earned the respect of the community.”

Goose Creek CISD Board of Trustees, Region 4, Randal O’Brien, nominating superintendent

The Goose Creek CISD board was recognized for a number of reasons, including the well-developed long-range plan it created for the district and its policy for gaining community input. The board also seeks and incorporates feedback from the district’s student advisory council on some policy matters. Overall, the selection committee was impressed by the relationships that Goose Creek Board members have cultivated and how well integrated they are into the community.

O’Brien’s nomination said: “While it was a difficult school year for all of us, we continue to receive positive feedback from our families about the stellar efforts of our campus and district teams. Without the dedication of our board and absolute commitment to do whatever it takes to ensure our students’ success, we would not have been able to have completed the school year so smoothly.”

Lubbock-Cooper ISD Board of Trustees, Region 17, Keith Bryant, nominating superintendent

The selection committee was impressed by the Lubbock-Cooper board’s ability to navigate divisive issues within the community and stand by their decisions. The committee also observed that the board is student-focused, having recently begun the development of a community-based accountability system, and noted how the district stands up as a regional leader, sharing what they have learned by hosting events for districts in their area.

Bryant said: “This group of seven leaders is highly focused on maintaining the district’s mission of ‘building the future, one student at a time.’ They each understand their position in the district, and they conduct their roles with professionalism, dignity, and dedication so

that the organization can thrive. Even though they each have different ideas and opinions on issues, they have shown their ability to come together to benefit students and staff.”

The Lubbock-Cooper ISD board was previously chosen as an Honor Board, in 1997.

Lyford CISD Board of Trustees, Region 1, Kristin Brown, nominating superintendent

The selection committee pointed out the Lyford CISD board’s focus on college and career readiness and robust career and technical education program, especially considering the district’s smaller size. Also of note was the board’s solid policy-making process and the fact that board members prioritize professional development for themselves as well as for district staff.

Brown wrote in her nomination of the board: “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.”

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Quinlan ISD Board of Trustees, Region 10, Jeff Irvin, nominating superintendent

Despite Quinlan ISD’s small size, the selection committee noted that the QISD board has worked to ensure students have an array of innovative courses and college and career readiness options. Many students earn an associate degree during high school at no cost to them. The committee also pointed out that the board has worked to take care of staff, increasing teacher salaries by $10,000 during the past few years.

Irvin said this of the board: “This group of individuals has worked together cohesively to achieve enormous impact within the district at all levels and in all aspects. The cooperative efforts of this board have proven to be a benefit to the educational programs of Quinlan ISD in addressing the unique needs facing the district. They have provided support, direction, stability, and a foundation for the future of the district.”

The QISD board was chosen as an Honor Board once before, in 2002.

Final recognition to come

The five boards are now finalists for the program’s highest honor: 2022 Outstanding School Board. They will be interviewed September 23 at the TASA | TASB Convention in San Antonio, where one board will be named Outstanding School Board later that day. The other Honor Boards, as well as the regional winners, will also be recognized at that time.

The eight boards to be recognized as 2022 Regional Honor Boards are:

• Robstown ISD Board, Region 2 (large district)

• Santa Gertrudis ISD Board, Region 2 (small district)

• Victoria ISD Board, Region 3

• Navasota ISD Board, Region 6

• Joshua ISD Board, Region 11

• Lockhart ISD Board, Region 13

• Highland Park ISD Board, Region 16

• Seguin ISD Board, Region 20

Since 1971, the TASA School Board Awards program has honored Texas school district boards of trustees that have demonstrated dedication to student achievement and that put students first. The program is sponsored by Google for Education and Raise Your Hand Texas for the 2022-23 school year.H

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if the student resides in the district and either parent resides in the school district. Furthermore, a student is entitled to admission even if the student does not reside in the district, but a parent who is a joint managing conservator, sole managing conservator, or possessory conservator of the student resides in the district (Tex. Educ. Code § 25.001(b)(2)). However, this right to admission might be altered by provisions in the divorce decree, which may specifically state which parent has the right to enroll the child or make educational decisions. District administrators should request that parents provide copies of all relevant orders issued by the court related to custody of the child. These orders can provide information regarding eligibility for enrollment and answer questions that may arise in the future regarding the student’s education. For more information, see TASB’s Legal Services’ FAQ, Family Law Basics for School Personnel, at tasb.org. When questions arise about an applicant’s eligibility, the best course of action is usually to enroll the student and investigate the eligibility issues while the student attends school. District officials should always seek legal advice before denying enrollment.H

This article is provided for educational purposes only and contains information to facilitate a general understanding of the law. It is not an exhaustive treatment of the law on this subject, nor is it intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney. Consult with your own attorneys to apply these legal principles to specific fact situations.

Lindsey McPheeters is a staff attorney for TASB Legal Services.

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TASB Risk Management Fund Announces Excellence Award Winners

The Texas Association of School Boards Risk Management Fund announced that seven member school districts have been named 2022 Excellence Award winners in honor of their commitment to developing innovative and effective solutions to risk management challenges.

The annual award program is designed to showcase members of the Risk Management Fund, which includes more than 1,000 Texas public school districts, community colleges, education service centers, and other education entities collaborating to share risk and protect resources.

This year’s winners included districts that increased transportation safety, established wellness rooms, and improved working conditions for food service employees. Each winning district earns a plaque and a $1,000 risk management honorarium.

“Our Fund members have a vested interest in managing the risks that their organizations face to ensure safe and secure environments for students and staff. Their efforts also benefit every Fund member,” said TASB Associate Executive Director Mary Barrett, who oversees the Fund. “We’re proud of the work that’s being done among our member organizations across the state and want to highlight these innovative success stories.”

The winners were evaluated on the following criteria:

• Effectiveness: Solution directly improves your risk management practices, functions, or processes.

• Efficiency: Solution makes good use of resources, including money and staff time.

• Impact: Solution addresses a critical or pressing need for your organization, demonstrated by specific and documented savings or reduced injuries.

• Innovation: Solution is creative and represents out-of-the-box thinking or a creative adaptation of an established idea.

Fund members are encouraged each year to submit their applications, which are then reviewed by a team of TASB employees who send a list of recommended initiatives to the 19-member Fund Board of Trustees. That group makes the final selection during its summer board meeting, held in early August.

“We are always impressed by the creative solutions and initiatives Fund members develop to address the challenges in their school districts,” said Fund Chair Ted Beard, TASB’s president and a Longview ISD trustee. “By honoring these success stories, we hope to encourage other districts to perhaps use some of these ideas in their own organizations or spark them to come up with other solutions. This year’s winners really reflect that ongoing commitment to risk management, and we’re proud of their work.”

Here are this year’s winners:

2022 Excellence Award Winners

Fort Bend ISD

Vehicle/Accident Collision Training and Incident Review Board

Fort Bend ISD established an Incident Review Board that allows the transportation leadership team to track and evaluate bus incidents/ accidents. The IRB monitors accident trends, identifies and eliminates unsafe conditions, evaluates the district’s response to accidents, and ensures employee training addresses root accident causes. Understanding that safety starts at the top, Fort Bend ISD collaborated with the Fund to deliver vehicle collision investigation training to directors, assistant directors, and other leaders who respond to accidents.

Klein ISD Bus and White Fleet Accident Log

As a large district with over 800 yellow and white fleet vehicles, Klein ISD found it hard to keep track of accidents. An accident log was created, along with folders that keep all documents, estimates, and emails related to each accident. The log improved communication by informing supervisors about accidents and claim status. Collecting all information related to each accident in a central location empowers staff to manage claims more efficiently.

Lovejoy ISD Sale and Removal of Nine Portables

From 2005 to 2021, portable buildings served as classroom and office space for as many as 30 Lovejoy ISD employees. The buildings had been the source of multiple claims, most notably from freezes and subsequent water damage. They also presented safety and security challenges. By selling through a “Buyer Premium” auction, which requires the buyer to pay all associated auction costs in addition to liability for removal, the district made a significant profit. Staff also anticipates a reduction in future claim costs.

Lyford CISD Bus Driver Safety Incentive

As part of its efforts to transport

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students safely, Lyford CISD rolled out a bus driver safety incentive program. Under the program, drivers who are not involved in any accidents receive a $1,000 bonus at the end of each school year. Safety checks and quality training contribute to ongoing positive reinforcement of the program. The district completed the school year with zero driver and route accidents, which significantly reduced transportation claims.

Mission CISD Campus Wellness Rooms

The working environment has taken a toll not only on people’s physical health but also their mental health. To encourage employees to make time for self-care, Mission CISD set up wellness rooms at every campus. The rooms are equipped with fitness equipment, weight scales, and blood

pressure monitors, as well as cookware to encourage healthy eating. As a result, Mission CISD has seen productivity increase and medical claims decrease.

Sabinal ISD Safety-Minded Women

A team of four safety-minded women in the Sabinal ISD food service department started the school year with a plan to reduce muscle aches and fatigue. They overhauled their daily routines to include stretching, hydration, breaks, and task rotation aimed at avoiding burnout and muscle fatigue. Uniforms were purchased to keep the team cool and comfortable during the workday. The initiative created a safer workplace with no injuries, boosted morale, reduced body pains and stress, allowed employees to learn new tasks, and fostered a happier work environment.

Thrall ISD Safety First!

Thrall ISD is a small district where employees assume multiple roles and face many obstacles, including a lack of updated safety measures. The district hired a safety coordinator to help protect employee well-being. Collaborating with key stakeholders, the safety coordinator has conducted the district’s first fire inspections, made changes to comply with safety regulations at each campus and district building, and updated security cameras to guarantee district assets are under surveillance. In addition, workers’ compensation claims have decreased as the district focuses on prevention and ensuring that staff has proper tools and equipment.H

TSPRA Selects James Colbert Jr. as Key Communicator for 2022

The Texas School Public Relations Association has named James Colbert Jr., who serves as superintendent of the Harris County Department of Education, as the recipient of the association’s 2022 Key Communicator Award. Colbert will receive the award on Sept. 23 during the first general session of the 2022 TASA | TASB Convention in San Antonio.

The Key Communicator Award is the highest form of recognition that the association bestows upon an individual who has contributed significantly to the field of public school communications.

TSPRA cited Colbert for having a passion for students and a strong background in collaboration, communication, and child advocacy. He was described as a visionary and systems-oriented thinker who implements comprehensive plans that reflect the current and long-term needs of an organization and the community it serves. The organization also said Colbert is a champion for providing the best education for all children, dedicated to building positive relationships with stakeholders and embracing civic and business community partnerships.

Colbert has 30 years of diverse educational experience spanning multiple states. During his tenure in the education field, he has been a special education teacher, coach, high school assistant principal and principal, operations director, area superintendent, assistant superintendent, superintendent, and county superintendent.

The Virginia native attended the University of Texas at Austin on an athletic scholarship and obtained a bachelor’s degree in education. He also holds a master’s degree in administration from Texas State University.

Find a complete list of past recipients at tspra.org H

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James Colbert Jr. Photo courtesy of TSPRA

State Finalists Named for 2022 Superintendent of the Year Award

Five public school administrators have been selected as state finalists for TASB’s annual Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) award, a program that has been honoring exemplary school leaders since 1984.

“We are thrilled about being able to recognize outstanding school superintendents across Texas,” said TASB Executive Director Dan Troxell. “The job of a superintendent has never been tougher or any more important than it is today. An excellent superintendent working within a district’s Team of Eight is essential to student success and achievement, and we’re so impressed with the talent here in Texas.”

The five finalists were selected by a TASB committee made up of board members who interviewed 20 nominees from every region in the state on Aug. 26-27. The candidates were evaluated on their work in improving student outcomes, developing a strong Team of Eight relationship, advocacy, and their ongoing commitment to innovation and leadership.

The finalists are:

• Doug Killian, Pflugerville ISD, Region 13

• Thurston Lamb, Henderson ISD, Region 7

• Jenny McGown, Klein ISD, Region 4

• Scott Muri, Ector County ISD, Region 18

• Bobby Ott, Temple ISD, Region 12

“The pool of talent this year was exceptional, and the entire committee was impressed by the accomplishments of these school leaders,” said Dripping Springs ISD Trustee Mary Jane Hetrick, who chaired the TASB selection committee. “Of course, it was difficult to select just five state finalists, and we greatly appreciate all of the regional winners for their work on behalf of Texas schoolchildren.”

The finalists advance to the next stage of the Superintendent of the Year competition, which will take place at the TASA | TASB Convention being held Sept. 23-25 in San Antonio. The winner will be announced on Saturday, Sept. 24, and will receive an award underwritten by program sponsor Balfour. More information about each finalist follows.

Doug Killian, Pflugerville ISD Killian has served as superintendent of Pflugerville ISD, located in the north Austin area, since 2017 and brings 27 years of administrative experience to the role. Prior to joining Pflugerville ISD, with its 23,447 students, he served as Hutto ISD superintendent. He was named the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year. In 2015, he was Region 13’s Superintendent of the Year.

SUPERINTENDENT OF THE YEAR

● 2022 ●

In selecting Killian, the committee noted his commitment to open communications among the Team of Eight, as well as among his campus and district administrators. Committee members also applauded his work in advancing equity to ensure all students have access to rigorous instruction.

Thurston Lamb, Henderson ISD Lamb’s career in education spans nearly 25 years, and he has served as superintendent of Henderson ISD in East Texas since 2019. At Henderson ISD, he has helped build capacity among administrators through his Instructional Leadership Academy, a rigorous, one-year program designed for candidates to develop and improve their leadership skills.

In selecting Lamb, the committee applauded his approach to coaching teachers, improving student achievement, and sharing the district vision with his community. Committee members also noted his successful relationship with his school board, which has created a climate of open communication and collaboration.

Jenny McGown, Klein ISD

McGown has served as superintendent of Klein ISD, located in northwest Harris County, for three years. Under McGown’s leadership, Klein ISD has been honored as District Administration’s National District of the Year, received two Innovation Awards from the Houston Business Journal, and twice was a finalist for an H-E-B Excellence in Education Award for

38 Texas Lone Star | September/October 2022 | texaslonestaronline.org
Honoring leadership, dedication, and commitment to public education

Best Large District. In 2021, she was recognized nationally as a “Top Superintendent to Watch” by the National School Public Relations Association.

In selecting McGown as a state finalist, the committee noted her commitment to excellent relations with her school board as well as her focus on student achievement and personalized learning.

Scott Muri, Ector County ISD

Muri joined Ector County ISD, located in Odessa, as superintendent in July 2019. Prior to that role, he served as the superintendent of Spring Branch ISD in Houston for four years. Under Muri’s leadership in Ector County, he reduced teacher vacancies from 356 to 51 in two years, expanded pre-K to include a full-day program for four-year-old students and a half-day program for three-year-old students, and increased kindergarten readiness by 13%.

In selecting Muri, the committee highlighted his work in improving academics across the district, commitment to teacher training, approach to board relations, and focus on meaningful equity work.

Bobby Ott, Temple ISD

Ott has served as superintendent of Temple ISD, located south of Waco, since 2018. As superintendent in Temple ISD, 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 selecting Ott, the committee highlighted his commitment to an excellent relationship with his school board, fostered by retreats and shared learning experiences. They also commended his approach to personalizing learning for Temple ISD students and creating a culture of caring and celebration among the district’s teachers.

TASA Announces Six Finalists for Teacher of the Year

The Texas Association of School Administrators has announced the six finalists for the Teacher of the Year awards, which honor educators who have demonstrated excellence and leadership at their campuses.

The six finalists were selected from a group of 40 teachers who earlier were chosen from the 20 Texas Regional Education Service Centers, one elementary and one secondary teacher from each region. Two winners — the Elementary Teacher of the Year and the Secondary Teacher of the Year — will be selected this fall.

“Texas teachers perform miracles every day as they inspire children even in the most challenging of times,” said Kevin Brown, executive director of TASA. “Public school teachers are critical to the success of individual children and our society as a whole. Those who choose to teach are national heroes, and these six finalists are the best among them. They have distinguished themselves among thousands of outstanding, dedicated teachers across our nation who have answered the call to serve."

The judges met in August to select the six finalists — three elementary and three secondary teachers. Teachers are chosen based on a range of criteria, including being expert leaders in their field, creating innovative learning experiences, and building strong relationships on their campus.

The six finalists will be interviewed Oct. 20 by a panel of judges composed of representatives of educational, community, and business leaders in Texas. The panel will select two state-level winners and designate one to represent Texas in the National Teacher of the Year program. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony Oct. 21 in Round Rock.

The Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year finalists are:

• Lisa Mackey, an art teacher at Fox Elementary School in Klein ISD

• Shelley Jeoffroy, a fifth-grade math teacher at Otis Brown Elementary in Irving ISD

• Kari Johnston, a fifth-grade bilingual teacher at Perez Elementary School in Austin ISD

The Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year finalists are:

• Chris McLeod, who teaches rocket engineering in 10th12th grades at Brazoswood High School in Brazosport ISD

• Andrea Larson, who teaches multilingual learners at McNeil High School in Round Rock ISD

• Tricia Shay, an English teacher at Borger High School in Borger ISD

To read more about each teacher finalist, visit tasanet.org H

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Bulletin Board

ESC Region 12 Executive Director Receives AESA Award

The Association of Educational Service Agencies has selected Jerry Maze, Ph.D., as this year’s Peter C. Young Service Award winner.

Maze, who has served as executive director of ESC Region 12 in Waco since 2011, received the award at the AESA Summer Leadership Conference. The honor recognizes extensive service leadership in advancement of educational service agencies at the regional, state, or national level.

Maze has served on AESA’s Executive Council and on the Board of Directors of AESA’s Foundation and is currently a member of the Perspectives Editorial Board and president of the Foundation Board. He is a graduate of the association’s Executive in Residence program and in 2010 received the E. Robert Stephens Award, which recognizes research and writing that advances the understanding of educational service agencies.

Prior to his service with ESC Region 12, Maze worked as a teacher and then superintendent at Hillsboro and Hubbard ISDs. He began his career teaching in his hometown at Livingston ISD.

Maze said he decided to work with educational service agencies because he could see what a widespread effect they had.

“I realized that here was the big opportunity to impact many schools, many students, and many districts at the same time,” he said. He believes AESA and all educational service agencies have a critical role to play in meeting the continuing challenges faced by education leaders at all levels.

“On any given day, there will be questions to which there aren’t any easy answers,” Maze said. “Collaboration with the experts is the way we solve the issues affecting education today, and AESA is the platform to do that.”

Dallas ISD Teacher Named TIME Innovative Teacher

Akash Patel, a Spanish teacher at Dallas ISD’s Ignite Middle School, was recently selected as one of 10 Innovative Teachers for 2022 by TIME magazine.

In its inaugural year, the program highlights teachers from across the U.S. who are improving their field or making a difference for their students in a unique way.

Patel is the founder of Happy World Foundation, Inc., a global citizenship nonprofit that connects educators worldwide. The organization’s Global Connect database enables teachers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico to connect with volunteers from around the world to engage in educational conversations with their students. The database has been used by more than 40,000 teachers. The Foundation has also dedicated more than $100,000 to communities worldwide and made service learning trips abroad possible for numerous students.

“I am very honored to be included in TIME ’s 2022 Innovative Teachers list,” Patel said in a DISD news release. “It is heartening to see the work I lead connecting my own Spanish classrooms in Dallas ISD with people worldwide via video calling now being replicated in thousands of classrooms across the country.”

Last year Patel was one of 30 literacy leaders named to the International Literacy Association’s 30 Under 30 list. The global list celebrates rising innovators in the literacy field.

TEA Accountability Ratings Improve at Many Districts, Campuses

The Texas Education Agency has released its 2022 accountability ratings for districts and campuses, the first to be issued since 2019 due to two years of COVID-related pauses. Accountability ratings are intended to provide an overall assessment of school performance for parents, staff, and administrators.

Districts and campuses received an A, B, or C rating this year, a departure from previous years’ A-F ratings. This temporary change was issued as part of Senate Bill 1365, passed in 2021. Some districts and campuses received a “Not Rated” status, which provides additional time for districts and campuses to fully implement and revise goals and plans that increase goal attainment.

The ratings showed encouraging results for Texas public schools, with 25% of districts and 33% of campuses improving their grade from 2019.

“These results show our state’s significant investment in the post-pandemic academic recovery of Texas public school students is bearing fruit,” said Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “I’m grateful for the driving force behind this year’s success: our teachers and local school leaders.”

To view the 2022 accountability ratings for districts and campuses, visit TXschools.gov. Users can search for schools using a home address.

Find the full list of TIME’s Innovative Teachers at time.com/innovative-teachers.

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

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Jerry Maze, this year’s Peter C. Young Service Award winner. Photo courtesy of ESC Region 12

Bond Election Lessons

Communicate district needs to your community

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

As a trustee, when your board is trying hard to make room for kids to eat in the lunchroom instead of hallways, provide unstaggered bathroom breaks, and build classrooms where teachers can easily get around desks, these are painful words to hear: “Well, the bond proposal failed.”

Many school boards across Texas face similar dilemmas, especially those near fast-growing metro areas like Fort Worth, which is about 20 minutes east of my district, Springtown ISD, which has more than 3,600 students. Our area once had many acres of raw land farmed by longtime residents, but a lot of it is being consumed by new housing developments, 72 at last count. We don’t want to stymie growth and progress — we just want to keep up with it!

We have attempted to pass two bond elections to address growth with no success. The last one came closer to passing than the first, but it still fell short. We will attempt another one soon, but first, we are evaluating what we need to do better to be successful.

Our discussions cover the various “what ifs” and “what nows” as well as the “good grief, where are we going to put all these kids?”

We have not reached any grand conclusions, but the discussions continue. Before we attempt another bond election, we are considering ways to better inform

and communicate the overcrowding problems to parents, families, and the community, including:

• Conducting “Open House” events on each campus on the same night. Mayhem, you say? Maybe. This idea could cause parking issues, sign-in table lines, hallway traffic, classroom congestion, and increased stress for teachers and staff. But it may also give our constituents a keen understanding of how our teachers and administrators must cope with a serious lack of adequate space for students.

• Requiring middle school and high school students to attend our “forums” with their parents. This may cause some anxiety and boredom for some students, but for others, it offers the opportunity to assure their parents that the limitations and needs being described are indeed a daily reality.

I know that many parents already understand the need for a new campus or add-ons. However, the senior vote has been an issue for us. Currently, we have one man on Facebook proclaiming that “anyone over 75 shouldn’t have to pay school taxes since they don’t have any kids in school!” I’m sure you have your own social media challenges! How do you deal with the vocal opponents? In this particular case, I know that the man has four grandchildren. Grandparents can be gently reminded that their grandchildren deserve a great education. But I would avoid the urge to question seniors about how involved they were with their own children when they were in school, or whether they supported teachers and administrators or even the

board. I empathize with the desire, but I believe it will just cause more frustration for the person who is already aggravated. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that trustees probably shouldn’t talk about how they’ve lowered the tax rate each year for the past several years. Your constituents probably don’t remember what they paid specifically in school taxes, and you really don’t want them going back through their records to figure that out. Your tax rate is probably much higher than the county, the water district, and whatever else is listed on their property tax statement. Why remind them?

Instead, focus on the students and how the board is dedicated to providing the best education possible for them. This will help frame the discussion about current and future needs for your district. You can point out how the appraisal district’s statement doesn’t include the infrastructure needs and other issues school districts face as they try to provide a superior education.

I know we need to expand our communications efforts in our district. While we espouse education, it is our responsibility to fully inform our constituents about what is happening in our district right now. Inform and communicate fully with the voters — and do it frequently! Also, be clear and concise in your request. And if you are fortunate enough to get a bond issue passed, thank your voters profusely and continue to communicate with them on updates and other timeline issues.

I wish you the best of luck with your future bond elections!H

texaslonestaronline.org | September/October 2022 | Texas Lone Star 41
District Voices
Elizabeth “Tootie” Hall was elected to the Springtown ISD Board of Trustees in May 2018. She previously served from 1983 to 1993. Elizabeth “Tootie” Hall

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