Monday, October 3, 2016

Have you ever heard the name Ann Whitney? Until recently, I hadn’t either. On a visit to the Hamilton County courthouse to help my mom with a house deed issue, I noticed a monument on the courthouse lawn that paid homage to Miss Whitney. It read, ” In memory of Ann Whitney. Born in Massachusetts about 1835. Massacred by Comanche Indians July 9, 1867, while protecting her pupils.”
It also gave the interesting information that the “school was located 7 miles northeast of Hamilton on the Juan de la Garza Survey.”
I found this monument fascinating. Teachers and principals have been standing up for students since there have been schools. Educators were willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of their students then, just as they are now. Teachers, principals, and school personnel do so without weapons, without body armor, and without self-defense training. If called upon, teachers and principals will place themselves between their students and harm.
Recently, my daughter’s school went into a lock-down. As a first grade teacher, she followed the district protocol and quietly read to her students, making sure that they stayed calm, all the while planning her move if danger appeared at her door. Thankfully, it was a false alarm, but it demonstrates that teachers in classrooms across our state are ready to defend the children of their communities.
And, who can forget the heroic efforts of Principal Dawn Hochsprung, of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut? She confronted a shooter as he entered the school and alerted school personnel before losing her life in the line of duty. I was fortunate to pay my respects to her on behalf of NAESP and TEPSA. The outpouring of respect from this small community towards principal Hochsprung was touching. She’s another example of the selfless love for children that educators across the nation demonstrate on a daily basis.
Though teachers and principals don’t face down killers every day, they do visit homes in sometimes dangerous areas, they meet with parents who are dealing with broken marriages and students who are hurting, and they are ‘on duty’ in defense of children while at school or even when in public.
So, before we get too deep in the weeds of state-required testing, budget cuts, and the mundane issues that fill your day, and in memory of Miss Ann Whitney and in honor of teachers, principals, and all those who work in our schools, thank you for your service and sacrifice.
Let me know what you think.

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!

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

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

Still need information? Call me at the TEPSA office or email me:

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 To view their endorsements of candidates who support public education. You can also visit for information on encouraging voting. and, don't miss 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 ( ), 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 to find out more. Our next few blogs will begin to zero in on specific races and issues. Check back often!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

TEPSA Voting Series.2: What can a principal do?

This is an election cycle that could see real damage to public education! The power to build up our public schools for generations to come or to increase the chances that children will not have a 'free and public education' is in your hands as voters.
That’s my editorial as we discuss the importance of primary elections, tips for principals, and the ‘dos and don’ts’ encouraging those with whom you come in contact to vote. And, by vote, I mean vote in favor of public education.
If you missed my first article in the TEPSA Voting Series, you can find it at Scroll down and click on the blog button (it looks like this ). You can also go to
The Primaries
In most cases, electing candidates who support our children will be completed in the Primary Election. Because so few people vote in the primaries, every vote counts. Your vote will make a difference! Just look at this quote from SBOE, District 9 Member, Thomas Ratliff:
In my first race in 2010, there were over 116,000 votes cast. I won by a margin of 402 votes over 31 counties (just under 13 votes per county). Needless to say, every vote counts. Texas public education is too big and too smart to let their power and their voice go unheard. Find out about who supports public education and get out there and vote for them.
Be sure to put early voting for the primaries on your schedule: February 16-26, 2016!
Please review the candidates running for office in your area. A complete list of elections is available through Ballotpedia:
If you are not sure which Texas Senate and House district you reside within, please use this link to learn more.
Be sure and review the statewide offices that will make a difference for public education. It can be confusing in the primary election! For example, in the race for the Texas Supreme Court, Place 5, there are two Republicans running who have the same last name. Their stances regarding public education cannot be more different. Paul Green has been a moderating force on the court who has voted ‘friendly’ to public schools and to educators (think funding and TRS). Rick Green has run for the court before and hasn’t shown a propensity to support public education. While TEPSA does not endorse candidates, a bit of research will show you who to vote for when considering children and public education.
How do I know who to vote for?
Find out who your candidates are for the Texas House and Senate and the Texas Supreme Court then consider finding out how they answer some of these questions:
  • How do you support public education? (Not, “Do you support education?” Or even, “Do you support public 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 money from tax credits) to private schools? They should say, “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?
  • What will you do as my legislator to ensure that the 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 allegiance will lie.
If you have contacted your candidates already, and determined who your candidate of choice is, your work as a voter may not be done. Now is the time to begin educating your teachers. But, how do you do that without getting yourself in trouble? While you cannot use school time or resources to endorse a candidate of issue, you can help develop a climate of civic and patriotic voter participation. The next in our TEPSA Voting Series will deal with just that question and will give you some ‘dos and don’ts’ to keep yourself within legal and policy bounds.
If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call or email me: or 512.650.6286.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

TEPSA Voter Series: What can a principal do to promote voting?

The Texas Elementary Principal and Supervisors (TEPSA) is focused on the election season, and you should be too! As we approach the Texas primaries, TEPSA will be presenting a number of articles to help you as you encourage your teachers to vote for candidates that are good for kids and for education. At the same time, we want you to stay within the bounds of your school board policies and state law.

The Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) is publishing a series of articles about developing “Good Voter Health?” “Good Voter Health” is a term used to describe an active and informed member of the voting community. While there are several key factors in exercising your voter muscle, the first is that you always VOTE!  

Make no mistake: educators CAN have voter muscle. Recent surveys of our state’s teacher organizations found that 80% of their members are registered to vote and that 30% of them exercise their right to vote. While that might not seem like a lot, it is miles ahead of any other group.

The question becomes, why aren’t our votes making a difference? Could it be that we are not helping educate our members and their staffs which policies and politicians are good for kids? Do even our members know the same? For example, I recently this question to a group of politically active principals, “Do you know the difference between a defined benefit and a defined contribution?” Few of them knew that one gives you a steady income in retirement that will last your lifetime (defined benefit) and the other is a retirement check that fluctuates and is not guaranteed to last your lifetime. This benefit to educators is under attack and we need to vote for those candidates that will support our retirement.

Most races are decided in the primary elections, but few voters turn out for these spring races. TEPSA is here to tell its members that voting in the primary election is more than just important, it is vital!

Early voting for the primary elections begins on February 16, 2016 and continues through February 26, 2016. Primary election day is Tuesday, March 1. Election Day is a mere six weeks away!

Before you can vote in the primary elections, you must be registered to vote! Today, we encourage ALL TEPSA MEMBERS to answer this question for themselves: Am I registered to vote?

To confirm your voter registration status, please
visit this link provided by the Texas Secretary of State website. Please have your driver’s license handy when using this website. Use the ‘MVP’ area dropdown to enter your login information.

What if I need or want to change my name or address on my voter registration?

You can use the Secretary of State site to update your name or address on your voter registration record. TEPSA has received phone calls from members expressing concern about having a different name on their driver’s licenses than what appears on their voter registration cards. And, we know that many of our staff members experience marriages and/or divorces which cause name and address changes. If this issue concerns you, please address it NOW.
Use this link to make name and address changes.

Please note that this service will only work if you reside in the same county as is indicated on your current voter registration card. If you have moved to a new county and need to register to vote,
please click here.

I’m not registered! What do I do?

If you are not registered to vote,
register today. Please use the link to register as soon as possible. The deadline to register to vote in the upcoming primary election is February 1, 2016.

I have a question about my voter registration that hasn’t been answered by the Secretary of State website. Who can I contact?

If you are still experiencing difficulties with your voter registration, please contact your County Election Administrator.
A complete list of county election administrators and their contact information can be found at this link.

Where do I vote?

If you are already registered to vote, it is time to begin researching voting locations. Remember, if you are voting early, you do not have to vote in your precinct.

Consider the time you have available between February 16 and February 26, and determine if you can vote on one of those days instead of primary election day, March 1. Early registration might be something to consider for you and your teachers.

Registered and eligible voters may vote at ANY early voting location located within the county of residence. Check with your
Early Voting Clerk at the County Election Administrators office to determine locations within your county where early voting will take place. Many early voting sites are open on the weekends. Have a coffee meeting with your teachers and then go vote! Be sure and wear your ‘I voted’ sticker to work and explain the importance of voting to your kids!

Watch for our
“What Principals Can Do” list soon.
For questions email or call Mark Terry, Deputy Executive Director: or 512.650.6286