September 19, 2017
“I’VE NEVER BEEN LOST, BUT I WILL ADMIT TO BEING CONFUSED FOR SEVERAL WEEKS” Daniel Boone
I must admit, I am one lucky man! I have just finished an exciting week. On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of last week I was inspired by our speakers at the TACS San Antonio Conference sponsored by National IPA. I mean, how can a person not be inspired when hearing Dr. Greg Gibson, David Anderson, Trish Conradt, and Rev. Charles Johnson back-to-back on Monday and then follow it with Laura Yeager, Dr. Kevin Brown, and Rev. Johnson on Tuesday? Honestly, if you missed it, you missed a real treat and a wonderful opportunity to learn and to be inspired!
Then on Wednesday I traveled to Longview for the Legislative Summit sponsored by Reps. Jay Dean and Gary VanDeaver and hosted by Longview ISD. While the speakers at the summit were outstanding, the honest interaction between the east Texas superintendents and board members with their legislators was something everyone needs to experience. These school leaders came to the meeting prepared to hold some of their legislators’ “feet to the fire”, and at times it was easy to feel the heat. Always respectful but prepared, the “school people” were looking for straight answers for the votes taken by their legislators during the regular and special legislative sessions this year.
In San Antonio I was impressed with something that Dr. Kevin Brown, superintendent of the Alamo Heights ISD, said in his presentation. It went something like this: “Data drives much of what educators do, but when you use only data to build support for your programs or to explain a challenge, people’s eyes glaze over. The only way to reach understanding and support for your schools is with your schools’ stories.” He then told two awesome stories, one about his experience as a student and one from his role as a superintendent to drive home his point.
I left San Antonio Tuesday afternoon fired up!! As I traveled to Longview on Wednesday I could just barely contain myself…until about ten miles out of Franklin, Texas. I was flying down highway US 79 still high from the conference when I noticed that the traffic in my lane was not moving. We soon came to a complete stop on both sides of the two-lane road. After several minutes of just sitting and not moving, some cars began to make a U-turn and head back the way they had just come. Now my family can tell you that I am a person of little patience, so I was not too far behind the first car when the parade back to Franklin began.
Now, I am not always the brightest when under pressure I guess because I just turned on the first Farm-to-Market road I saw, thinking I would go around the problem and get back to highway 79. After just a few minutes I did realize that I was on a journey that was, more than likely, going to result in me becoming lost. I turned around again, and just as I approached the highway, a sheriff’s car with lights flashing came to a stop and the officer began diverting cars to the Farm-to-Market that I had just left. I asked him how to get to Longview, and he said, “Just follow that road until it dies.” Sounded like good advice.
Maybe it wasn’t that good, however. After about twenty-five miles, which incidentally took me through some of the prettiest scenery in Texas, I reached a dead-end. A quick decision told me Longview was to the left, so a left turn sent me further on my way. Like Daniel Boone, I was not lost, but I was a bit confused! When my trip took me through Normangee, I was feeling a bit better, and a sign telling me that IH 45 was just ahead brought real relief, because I knew that IH 45 passed through Buffalo. Getting to Buffalo would put me back on US 79 and more familiar territory. Eventually, I arrived in Longview, but it was much later than I planned!
I was feeling a bit like Daniel Boone, a little “confused”, but sensing that I might soon find my way, it hit me. There are always multiple ways to reach any destination! When I use Google Maps, it always offers more than one route for the trip. During my days as a superintendent, whenever we wanted to begin a new initiative or introduce a new curriculum, there was always a discussion among our leaders about the best of several ways to proceed. As we now work to create a culture of voting in each of the over 1,000 ISDs in Texas, each school district will take a unique approach to engage its staff and community in our effort.
The journey may be quick or long depending upon the route we select for a trip. Successful implementation of a new program may “take off like wildfire” or it may take a bit longer to see success depending upon which of the available options district leaders choose. What works in one district to create a culture of voting may need to be tweaked in another to make it work. The bottom line, however, is that regardless of the route, we eventually arrive at our intended destination when we ask enough questions, make enough turns, and pray hard enough!
That’s my story. What is yours? As Dr. Brown will tell us, the right stories will help each of us to reach our goals!
ARE YOU GOING TO TASA/TASB?
Every fall, the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards provide school administrators and school board members with an opportunity to meet together for a weekend of growing and teambuilding. This year the TASA/TASB Convention is in Dallas on October 6-9.
This conference has evolved and grown over the years and now most superintendents who attend find that their time is very limited. However, I do want to make you aware of some opportunities that you will have that may impact your schools’ chances for success.
Dr. Charles Luke, the Coordinator of the Coalition for Public Schools, is inviting each of you to a “Public Education Future Policy Initiative Breakfast” on Saturday morning, October 7th at 7:30 a.m. at the Dallas Convention Center in rooms C 147-148-154. The breakfast is being sponsored by the Coalition for Public Schools, the Fast Growth Schools Coalition, and the School Alliance. You may register for the breakfast at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/public-education-future-policy-initiative-tickets-37256429985.
When it seems that “school choice” in the forms of vouchers, ESA, and tax credits, and grading schools with A-F grades dominate more and more time of our state legislative sessions and adequately funding our schools takes less and less of the time, now is the perfect opportunity for school leaders to become proactive and to work to change the political landscape.
Dr. Luke is inviting you to bring a board member or two and at least one of your district’s vendor to this breakfast to help ensure that the right kind of change occurs. Would you like to have a legislator who seeks your input for improving schools? This breakfast is the best place to begin the work. You may contact Dr. Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Then Saturday afternoon, you might want to attend a session titled, “You Can’t Stop Stupid, But You Can Vote It Out!” Please join Reverend Charles Johnson (Executive Director of Pastors for Texas Children), Jason Marshall (superintendent of the Palestine ISD), Karen Strong (TASB Associate Executive Director of Communications), and me at 1:00 p.m., Dallas Convention Center in room D 162 as we discuss strategies that you can use to inform your community of the importance of civic engagement and for ensuring a high voter turn-out as you work to build a culture of voting in your school district.
We will see you at 1:00 Saturday, October 7th!
LET’S TALK BONDS
Are you needing a new school or do you need to “spruce up” your existing school plant, but you are struggling to pass a bond? TACS might be able to help you. Many times school districts must work to pass a bond because the superintendent and all board members are not on the same page about (1.) if any work needs to be done or (2.) what the needs are.
Dr. Paul Trautman with Genesis Partnership has over thirty years of experience evaluating educational facilities and making recommendations for their renovation, remodeling, or replacement. Dr. Trautman has consulted successfully with school districts all across our state as they seek the best decisions about their facility needs.
Genesis Partnership through Dr. Trautman conducts a thorough study of the buildings you want to be evaluated, they present a report to the superintendent of the findings and recommendations for maximizing the educational functions for your facilities and then present an honest and thorough report of Dr. Trautman’s findings to your board in an open meeting.
I used Genesis Partnership’s services in a school district I was serving. You can call me a satisfied customer! Dr. Trautman’s work and report helped our board crystalize their splintered ideas around a common plan that all agreed on. With all seven board members pulling in the same direction, selling our need to the community and passing a bond became the easy part.
If you want more information about the services available to you through Genesis Partnership, you may contact Dr. Trautman at email@example.com or simply reply to this newsletter to contact me.
READY FOR THE TAMS LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE?
Each December the Texas Association of Mid-Size Schools hosts a legislative conference that brings some of the most important decision makers and decision influencers in our state together to build awareness of the legislative thinking that is driving educational policy in Texas.
This year’s conference will be held at Hyatt Lost Pines on Thursday, December 7th, and Friday, December 8th. Located between Austin and Bastrop on Highway 71, the Hyatt Lost Pines is a beautiful and secluded place, just perfect for getting away from the day-to-day of school and focusing some time on legislative actions.
Presenters will be some of the movers-and-shakers in the legislative process; people like Chairman Dan Huberty, Representative Gary VanDeaver, Senator Kel Seliger, Representative Ken King, Reverend Charles Johnson, former Representative Marsha Farney, and many others.
For more information about the conference or to register, simply click here http://www.midsizeschools.org/llc-2017.html. Non-TAMS members can simply scroll down to the tab provided for you to register or just click http://www.midsizeschools.org/account/tars_login?.
ODDS AND ENDS
Texas Tribune Festival 2017 - TRIBFEST ’17 is this weekend! The 2017 Texas Tribune Festival will be held in Austin on September 22nd-24th. Each year, the Texas Tribune gathers leaders from Texas and around the country to discuss policy issues affecting our state. One of the most popular tracks is Public Education and this year is sure to have a lively discussion about what did and didn't happen during the 2017 legislative session and what comes next. The Tribune is offering a greatly discounted rate of $50 for educators and students. Go to https://www.texastribune.org/festival/ to register.
Texas Education Agency – The Texas Education Agency needs to refresh its stock photos of students and teachers that are used in various agency publications. Rather than staged photos from a service, they would like real pictures of Texas students and teachers. If you want to help TEA with this need, you may send your pictures to Mark Baxter (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Andres Ramos (email@example.com). I know that they will appreciate your help!!
Harvey – What an incredible group Texas public schools have been! When one of us suffers, we can depend upon our friends coming to offer assistance. You all have overwhelmed us all with the stories of your generosity to our friends in southeast Texas who have been crippled with Harvey’s destruction!
From collection centers at schools for gathering supplies to raising money at football and volleyball games to be donated for relief efforts to adopting affected schools to opening your doors to displaced students, the generosity and support your students and teachers have shown to their counterparts who have needs has been heart-warming! Texas is truly a special place!
Things are not “back to normal” yet, however. Some schools have yet to reopen, some districts are running split-schedules because of damaged facilities, some are running split-schedules because of the numbers of displaced students they have accepted, and many are struggling with students and staff members who are coping with the loss of life of family members and property loss.
NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO FORGET. PLEASE KEEP OUR FRIENDS IN YOUR THOUGHTS, PRAYERS, AND GIVING!!