Friday, August 5, 2016

Looks like summer is winding down for students and teachers. I know you are already at your desk, in your schools, and are attending those pesky administrative retreats and meetings. Many of you are trying to complete last minute hires, changes in schedules, and all the other miscellaneous items that come from being a principal.
Now, you also need to prepare your teachers for the fallout of SB 507. You know, that requirement to place video cameras in classrooms that serve 50% or more special education students when requested
by a parent. Well, the final rules have just now been released. Here are the changes to rule that you might be particularly be interested in:

  • Modifications were made to the definitions of “parent” and “staff member” to clarify that a request for video surveillance must be made by the parent of a child in the classroom or a staff member who is assigned to the classroom that is the subject of the request.
  • Incident now means an “event or circumstance that involved alleged ‘abuse’ or ‘neglect’ ... of a student by an employee of the school district or charter school or alleged ‘physical abuse’ or ‘sexual abuse’ ... of a student by another student; and allegedly occurred in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting in which video surveillance ... is conducted.”
  • An amendment was made to clarify that video surveillance applies during the regular school year and during extended school year services.
  • A person who views a video recording and has cause to believe that the recording documents possible abuse or neglect of a child must submit a report to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services or other authority.
  • A school district employee who is the subject of a disciplinary action has the right to request the recording believed to document a possible violation. A school district must provide the recording for viewing.
  • The final rules are effective August 15, 2016. A request for an opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton regarding SB 507 remains pending and could lead to rule changes in the future. - wording by Texas Association of School Administrators
For the complete rules, visit:  See the final rules.
As always, check with TEPSA if you have questions that arise over SB 507.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Students in A World Gone Mad

As I watch news I cannot help but be saddened for our country. We are in a time when the moral fabric of our nation is, and will continue to be, tested.

Our children are not immune from hearing about the worst our country has to offer. They are in the room when we are watching the news. They are listening to what we say in our homes and with our friends. Many of our students live in situations of violence or neglect. Those students may have experienced abuse at the hands of those they look to for protection and comfort.

Children of all stripes will show up at your school in August. Kids in stable homes, dysfunctional homes, those who live in houses, or apartments, or who are homeless will all cross the threshold of your school. Your students will come into contact with bus drivers, cafeteria personnel, teacher aides, and many more school employees each day. The students in the schools in which you lead are depending on you to place each of them in just the right classroom with just the right teacher. Every student will be looking to you for love and direction.

I am comforted you, your teachers, and your entire school staff are up to the task. For many, many years society has asked our schools to cure society's ills and to provide a place of safety for all kids. I agree with them! You are doing exactly that! How many struggling neighborhoods do we see where schools serve as a refuge for children? I have served in communities where the local school was the only place of peace for kids, where families looked to for social services, and where parents knew their children would be provided a way to the American dream. And, you serve there now! I'm proud to say you and your schools can provide the solution for our country that so many seek.

Thank you for sacrificing so much to impact so many for so little in return. Thank you!

mark@tepsa.org



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Another School Year, Another Group of Children You’ve Helped Grow

As another school year ends, let’s ponder our past year:
  • We’re mired in the outcome of a flawed testing system that was wrought with problems that negatively impact students, teachers, principals, and schools.
  • We’ve seen the appointment of a pro-voucher TEA Commissioner of Education who proceeded to clean house and hire 3 pro-voucher lieutenants.
  • Several pro-public education legislators retired. Voters elected a mixed bag of replacements who may, or may not, support public schools. The Texas Senate is firmly in the ‘destroy public education’ crowd, while the Texas House has turned into the rational chamber.
  • Floods have ravaged many parts of the state and there are school districts that will need to rush to repair and rebuild before the next school year.
  • Schools continue to best the expectations of the public and the legislature!
  • The members of TEPSA were very active in the last legislative session and helped bring about literacy and math academies, pre-K legislation, help for TRSCare, requirements for a valid and reliable test (that’s not working for us, is it). You also helped defeat bills that dealt with vouchers, parent triggers, and denial of payroll deductions for associations.
Most of all though, you’ve had opportunities to work with over 3.4 million children across Texas! You have been, and continue to be, their lifeline for a happy, productive life!
When I retired after 33 years of education, 30 of those as a principal or assistant principal, in schools from 1,200 students to 600 students, I figure I have been blessed to work with over 24,000 students. How many have you touched in a positive manner?  I hope you realize as you go through the coming years that you make a wonderful, positive impression on kids.
Thank you for your service.
Hey, let’s start a conversation on students (no names of course) who have made an impact on you. Reply to this blog and tell us your story.
Mark Terry, Deputy Executive Director                                                                           

Monday, May 23, 2016


May 24, 2016 is one of the most crucial run-off election dates in many years. This primary election finale will surely set the course for the next legislative session. The key will be, do we have a legislature that will be supportive of public education and the children we serve, or will we have politicians bent on bringing down public education so that schools become profit centers for investors? While TEPSA does not endorse candidates, we do encourage you, our members, to become active in voting, active in encouraging your staff and parents to vote, and conscientious in researching to find which candidates are committed to public schools, the system dedicated to providing schooling for over 90% of the children of Texas.

Tomorrow, please encourage your teachers to vote in your run-off elections. Cover lunch or recess, allow them carpool opportunities, and allow your staff to leave early to vote.

Here are some helpful links:

For information on pro-education Texas Parent PAC-vetted candidates go to http://www.txparentpac.com/.

For ideas on how to encourage a culture of voting in your school and responses to questions regarding public education try www.teachthevote.org/.


Still need information? Call me at the TEPSA office or email me: mark@tepsa.org.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

TEPSA Voting Series: Stand Up for Children!

From the Tribute to Texas Children monument
on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol
TEPSA has always been dedicated to assisting principals, assistant principals, and supervisors in providing the children of Texas with a superior education. Education provides our children, your children, with the skills to further their education through college or to find a worthwhile job after high school. Maybe even more important, it provides them with the skills to be a good citizen and to appreciate the beliefs, ethnicity, and race of all people.

I am afraid that our elected officials and extremists groups are actively working to undermine the basic tenet of the Texas Constitution, Article 7, Sec 1, "...being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools."  How can this happen when groups help elect legislators whose goal it is to destroy public education and replace them with a system of disjointed, for-profit schools that cater to the few. And which we the people have little control.

I hate to admit it, but educators have allowed this to happen! We have not loudly and proudly supported those politicians who support education. We have allowed radicals to take over our system of legislating education that fits their own ideals, not what is best for children, but what is best for profiteers.

How can we save our schools? How can we save our children? We can vote! We can encourage our teachers, employees, and parents to vote! We can establish cultures of voting within our school communities!

We must vote in the primary elections! We should vote in the Early Voting period which ends February 26. Primary election voting day is March 1.

Don't know who to vote for, go to txparentpac.com. To view their endorsements of candidates who support public education. You can also visit teachthevote.org for information on encouraging voting. and, don't miss www.texaseducatorsvote.com for ideas on creating that culture of voting.

Here are a few ideas I have used or have heard from TEPSA members:

  • Go vote in the early voting period, get your "I Voted" sticker and place it by your name in the faculty mailbox area.
  • Cover lunches or recess so that your teachers can vote.
  • One district is providing bus services for their employees so they can vote.
  • Don't forget you secretaries, custodians, and all other employees in encouaging them to vote.
  • One principal is giving 'jeans' passes to all who vote.

Comment on your own ways to foster voting by educators. I'll add them to our comments section.

For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, let's make a positive impact on this election!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

TEPSA Voting Series: A Principal Makes an Impact

The most frequent question I receive during election season is, "Who should I vote for?" TEPSA, as an organization, is prohibited from officially endorsing candidates. We can, however, provide information on how the candidates have voted in the past. where they stand on the issues, who their donations come from, and what they are quoted. Often, one only needs to look at who is endorsing a candidate to understand how to vote or which candidates need to answer a few questions. For example, the group Empower Texans supports vouchers, school choice, and tax credits to send money to private schools. If a candidate is endorsed by, or receives funds from Empower Texans, you know where they stand regarding public schools. As you will see, one candidate states that he was unaware that this group supports vouchers.

Another way to discover where candidates stand on their support (or non-support) of public education is to ask them. in a previous blog of mine, I gave you some questions to ask any candidate where he/she stands. Principal Stacy Davis recently did just that. She emailed several candidates in her area.

Two candidates answered Stacy's email. One was candidate for the U.S. House, Glen Robertson, who emailed that he is emphatic in his support of public schools, of TRS, and that he is against vouchers and/or tax credits that could drain money from funds available to our public schools.

A candidate for the Texas House, Jim Landtroop, who is listed on the endorsement page of an organization dedicated to bringing about a voucher system in Texas, visited Stacy's school! He emphatically expressed his support of public education. He stated that he didn't realize this organization was in favor of vouchers, but he was not in favor of them. Both of these gentlemen have kids attending public schools...that's an answer I like!

Now, whether these statements are accurate or not, Stacy has developed a working relationship with two potential members of legislative bodies. One could be in the Texas Legislature and one could end up in the U.S. House. This is true grassroots advocacy in action. Great job, Stacy!

Another group, Texas Parent PAC ( http://bit.ly/1Q9sbtl ), has been vetting candidates for years to see if they support public education. You don't receive their endorsement if you are anti-public schools. Texas Parent PAC has been instrumental in electing pro-public school candidates. As they are still interviewing candidates, their endorsements will be available February 14, 2016...two days before Early Voting commences.

So, what can you do now to check out candidates? Remember the questions I mentioned in a previous blog:

  • How do you support public education? (Not, "Do you support education?")
  • Do you support vouchers?
  • Do you support a tax credit plan? (That would decrease the amount of funds available to public schools.)
  • Do you support giving private schools access to public funds? Or, "Do you support giving money from tax credits to private schools? They should answer, "No."
  • Do you support a defined benefit plan for all current and future TRS retirees?
  • Do you support providing reasonable, affordable, quality healthcare for TRS retirees and future retirees?
  • What will you do as my legislator to ensure that eh TRS pension fund and TRS-CARE health insurance program are preserved and improved?
  • And, if you are feeling frisky, ask them where their own children attend school. Do they attend a public, private, or home school? This question will tell you where their allegiances lie.

For example, J.D. Sheffield, (candidate in TX HD-59) says on his website, "Worked to reverse devastating funding cuts to schools, reduce standardized testing, improve accountability, and honor the promise made to our retired teachers."

On the other hand, Brent Graves, (candidate in TX HD-59), website regarding education states, "If money follows the child and not the zip code then institutions, public or private, are forced to compete for the students and quality will rise." Hum, as a public school proponent, that sounds like vouchers and sending money to private schools via tax credits.

It is easy to see the candidate in TX HD-59 who supports public school education and the one that doesn't.

Check back to our blog and we'll provide you with additional resources to encourage teachers to vote and to help you find out where candidates stand on issues important to you.

Monday, February 1, 2016

TEPSA Voting Series: Tips for Campus Administrators


TEPSA President, Eddie Damian advocates for our kids and for public education


TEPSA President, Eddie Damian, understands the importance of standing up for our public schools. He studies the issues, touches base with the TEPSA Legislative Network, makes relationships with his legislators and their aides...and, he votes. Eddie knows that "if we are to safeguard the integrity of our public schools, to ensure that all children receive a great education, we must get involved in the legislative process." And, that begins with voting!
Harley Eckhart, the executive director of TEPSA and a longtime advocate to public education knows the crucial role we all can play in the 'politics of education.' Harley said recently, "As educators and leaders in out communities, we can influence the future of public education, but only if we vote. We can't just complain. We have to act. We have to vote."
As a school principal, what can you do? TEPSA wants to keep you in the bounds of the law and of your school district policies. Principals can legitimately give information regarding issues and how elections might impact education. Principals can create a culture of voting. Principals can have a huge impact on voting. Maybe this can help:
Lead your campus to 100% voter turnout, because voting is an important part of the community's culture.
Remind your staff and patrons the the results of Texas elections for state government have an impact on the funding, staffing, and academic excellence of their neighborhood school.
Post reminders for staff and patrons to VOTE on marquees, including dates and voting locations, especially during Early Voting.
Host before school "Muffins with Moms" and "Donuts with Dads," encouraging them to vote during Early Voting or on Voting Day.
Place printed voter reminder notes in staff mailboxes (according to your school district's policies).
Promote voting among all district employees. Challenge each campus to have a 100% voter turnout to win the district percentage of voters. Model for staff by wearing an "I Voted" badge or sticker during Early Voting and on November 8.
Hold mock elections with students to teach them the importance of exercising their right to vote.
Allow employees to leave campus during planning periods, at lunch, or when students leave immediately after school to vote early. Be ready to cover classes, lunch, or planning periods so that the teachers can vote.
Organize an art contest where students design voting posters. Display the artwork throughout the school and in local store windows and restaurants. Create a unique emblem or design and display it as artwork each time voting is mentioned...your school's own get out the vote emblem.
Inspire the twenty-something staff members to get involved and vote as that age group typically votes in low numbers. Social networks offer a great tool.
Teach parents about the impact of legislative action on their child's school and why elections matter.
TEPSA is teaming with like-minded organizations to develop 'a culture of voting' among educators. Do your part to support public education. Visit http://www.texaseducatorsvote.com to find out more. Our next few blogs will begin to zero in on specific races and issues. Check back often!