ESSA parent notification requirements

Q: Are districts still required to send parents notices regarding teacher qualifications?

A: Yes, parent notification regarding the professional qualifications of a student’s teacher and paraprofessional are required by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Texas Education Code § 21.057. The ESSA requirements are similar to those of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

In the past, the state notification was waived if the district was required to send the NCLB notice. This waiver no longer applies and districts should consider sending both the ESSA and state notice until Texas statute is updated.

ESSA Requirements 

In schools receiving Title I funds, the district is required by the ESSA to notify parents at the beginning of each school year that they may request information regarding the professional qualifications of their child’s teacher. The ESSA also requires that parents be notified if their child has been assigned or taught for four or more consecutive weeks by a teacher who does not meet applicable state certification or licensure requirements. 

Texas requirements 

Texas law requires that parents be notified if their child is assigned for more than 30 consecutive instructional days to an uncertified substitute, inappropriately certified teacher, or an uncertified teacher. Inappropriately certified or uncertified teachers include individuals on an emergency permit (including individuals waiting to take a certification exam) and individuals, including substitutes, who do not hold any certificate or permit.
Inappropriately certified or uncertified status does not apply if the individual:
  • Has a temporary classroom assignment permit (TCAP)
  • Is in an alternative certification program
  • Is serving with a school district permit
  • Holds an out-of-state/country one-year permit
  • Has hearing impairment certificate
  • Serves under a waiver granted by the commissioner of education
Districts must make a good-faith effort to ensure that the notice is provided in a bilingual form to any parent or guardian whose primary language is not English. Sample letters in English and Spanish that meet the state requirement are available in the Contracts and Assignment section of the HR Library.

Family roles, lack of mentorship among reasons behind female superintendent imbalance

In the summer edition of the HR Exchange, TASB HR Services published a report identifying trends among male and female superintendents. The study outlined some illuminating figures that revealed a highly imbalanced distribution of superintendent jobs between males (81 percent) and females (19 percent).
It also listed a variety of possibilities for the reasoning behind the inequity, such as gender bias, unconscious preferences, self-removal of the pursuit for a superintendency, and family considerations.
But there was still more to learn as to why the gap exists, so TASB HR Services talked with some female superintendents for their perspective in hopes of gaining some detailed insight on the matter.  

The best person for the job

Dr. Karen Rue has served as superintendent of Northwest ISD for 11 years with great success. She was named Region XI Superintendent of the Year and served as president of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA). Before she accomplished these career goals, she encountered some unique challenges. During an interview for a superintendent vacancy, Rue fielded a rather inapt question.
“I remember interviewing in a small district when I was first vying for a superintendency and really, experience was my biggest hurdle,” Rue said. “However, in one district, I got a question from one of the board members, who asked, ‘We’ve never hired a female superintendent, what will we tell people if we hire a female superintendent?”
A couple of people in the room gasped.
“I just looked at him and said, ‘Well, you tell them you hired the best person for the job.’”
This was the only overt occasion, Rue said, where she bumped into any discriminatory comments. While she does believe there may be others who have been subject to negative bias based on their gender, Rue had some additional thoughts on why women are scarcely found in the position.
“I think that some women don’t see the potential that they have,” she said. “They limit themselves, for a variety of reasons. They think about their role in a traditional family, they put off a career. They make decisions and choices that are right for them and their families. So for a lot of women, they move more slowly into administrative roles, or into a superintendency, if that’s what they’re seeking. Or they just don’t go there at all, and stop at a principalship or move into a central office role.”

Traditional family roles

The family element is a major factor in determining career paths and geographic location of where one lives and works. Superintendents have immense time commitments to their jobs and those constraints can have a tremendous impact on individuals who want to spend just as much time raising a family as they do enjoying their career.
Dee Carter, the superintendent at Navarro ISD, said the job forces women to do one of three things regarding family circumstances.
“It’s an extraordinarily time-demanding job,” Carter said. “As a woman, you probably do one of three things: You either don’t have a family, or you neglect your family, or you are richly blessed in figuring out ways to balance career and family.”
In Carter’s case, she was able to find a healthy balance between her work and her loved ones. Her husband is a commercial real estate appraiser who works from home, so he has been available to take their kids to school activities and look after them if they fall ill. 
Carter said the day-to-day work of supporting a family can be enough to prevent other women from pursuing a job that is exceedingly time-consuming.
“If you have a family, and you’re trying to balance all of those responsibilities with a 60–70 to sometimes 80-hour-a-week job, it’s tough,” she said. “I think most women recognize that pretty early on, and I think you probably find a much higher percentage of women principals and women in curriculum fields than you do in the superintendency. I think it’s at least partly because many women see the time requirement and just choose not to pursue that avenue.” 

Lack of mentorship

In addition to the time constraints and family factors, there is a notion that young female educators and administrators are lacking encouragement and guidance from leaders in the field. It can be difficult to try and accomplish something that few others do without the support of a mentor providing reassurance and advice along the way.
This was exactly the case for Lufkin ISD Superintendent Dr. LaTonya Goffney, who was not aware of the uneven ratio of males and females in the job until her first Region VI superintendents meeting.
“I walked in, and it was all men,” Goffney said. “And that’s when I realized it was not the norm.”
Goffney said becoming a superintendent was not a goal of hers until she received encouragement from her mentor during her postgrad work.
“I think mentors, sponsors, and people in the field are very important,” she said. “It was my superintendent mentor who had taught me at Sam Houston who came to me and told me I was ready. And at the same time, there were community members who pushed me out there.”

Perhaps there is a deficit of mentors pushing young women to create ambitious goals for their careers. A study from Columbia University points to some reasons as to why that’s a real possibility. The report revealed that younger women tend not to choose female mentors. Additionally, women at the senior level tend not to take on female mentees because there is a feeling of competition, knowing that there are only so many positions of leadership available for women.

Men aren’t doing much better in identifying young women to mentor and raise to positions of leadership. The study found that a majority’s reaction to a small entry by a minority into its territory (such as an-all male school board hiring a female superintendent) might be neutral or even positive. However, once a minority reaches a certain threshold, the majority often feels threatened. Studies suggest this threshold is about 20 percent, which would almost  match the percentage of female superintendents in the state (19 percent).

In short, the study found that in some cases, women see other women as competition and therefore are less likely to counsel them, and men are comfortable mentoring women so long as men remain the vast majority in positions of power.
As a result, many young female educators may be without an appropriate support system. But the need for mentorship still remains large. For Goffney, she said she wouldn’t be a superintendent without that assistance.

“I think there are more male role models who are mentoring other males but I think there are not as many who are mentoring females,” she said. “I was blessed in that regard, to have good male mentors who pushed me to try, put my name out there, and encouraged me.”

One of the primary common denominators in talking with female superintendents was the importance they placed on simply encouraging young women to try. If the superintendency is the goal, women should not be discouraged to apply for positions despite the imbalanced ratio they face.

The responsibility falls on the board

Butch Felkner, the director of TASB Executive Search Services, assists districts in their search for a new superintendent. His role is to consult with the school board throughout the process from the planning meeting to the vote-to-hire meeting. In his experience, he said, he has noticed an increase in women applying for superintendent vacancies.

“I have observed over the last several years that there are more females applying for the position so I have to assume there is a growing interest on their part,” he said. “Saying that, there are many very successful female superintendents in the state.”

The important thing in selecting the right person for a superintendency, Felkner said, is emphasizing the importance of candidates’ work experience. Bringing in a diverse applicant pool is a responsibility that falls on the district.

“We leave the diversity issue strictly up to the school board,” he said. “We have many diverse applicants who demonstrate interest in all our searches, but our purpose is to focus the board on the job requirements and how the candidates' work experience best matches their expectations as they see the role of the superintendent for their district.”

As applications from women continue to rise, the ratio of male to female superintendents should slowly start to balance out. Until then, board members should recognize their responsibility to consider applicants from all backgrounds.

Women have to do their part, too, and not self-select their way out of a job. Rue said women can bring a variety of talents and ideas to the position and should be encouraged to strive for more in their careers.

“I believe that the collaborative touch, the nuanced understanding of working with people that I believe women bring to the role is valuable,” Rue said, “and that women do tend to sell themselves short and not recognize the very real talent they can bring to what is a very delicate balance in a community.”

Be aware of recent EEOC compliance regulations for employer wellness plans

As employer wellness programs have grown in numbers and sophistication, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has developed guidance on how these programs should comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rule. Here are highlights of the requirements that your wellness program needs to follow:

  • Many programs have a health risk assessment component to them. If your wellness program asks employees about their medical condition, or offers medical exams (think biometric screening), then it must be voluntary and sensibly designed to promote health in the workplace. Penalties if certain health goals are not reached are not allowed.  
  • Employers cannot require employees to participate. You may not deny or limit health coverage for non-participation, or retaliate against an employee who does not want to take part.
  • Limited financial incentives to increase participation are permitted for voluntary wellness programs under the regulations. Incentives must be calculated based on percentage of the cost of self-only health insurance coverage. Tangible incentives, such as t-shirts, must be included in the calculation. For more information on how to calculate the amount of an incentive, visit the EEOC’s Q&A on the topic. If incentives are tied to your health insurance program, contact your attorney for direction.
  • Be sure to clearly notify employees what medical information will be collected and how it will be used as part of the wellness program, as well as its confidentiality. In June 2016, the EEOC posted a sample notice on its website in order to help employers comply. Notice must be provided on the first day of the plan year that begins on or after Jan. 1, 2017. The effective date of the rule is July 18, 2016.
  • Not all wellness programs are subject to the ADA final rule. It is not applicable to wellness programs that do not require medical exams or do not ask about an employee’s disabilities.
To see what Texas school districts are doing to promote wellness among their staff, read this article from the HR Exchange August Vol. 1 issue.

HR Extras

Teacher shortage areas released

Teacher shortage areas are submitted annually by the Texas Education Agency and approved by the United States Department of Education.
The approved shortage areas give administrators the ability to recruit and retain qualified teachers and to help reward teachers for their hard work using the loan forgiveness opportunities. District staff can certify that a teacher has met the minimum qualifications required for certain loan forgiveness programs.
Shortage Area 2016–17 2015–16 2014–15 2013–14 2012–13
Bilingual/English as a Second Language X X X X X
Career and Technical Education X X X    
Computer Science X X X X  
Languages Other Than English (Foreign Language)       X X
English as a Second Language   X X    
Technology Applications X        
Mathematics X X X X X
Science X X X X X
Special Education X X X X X

Poll results for issuing teaching permits for noncore CTE courses

HR Services conducted a short survey in May 2016 to find out if school districts plan to use the local teaching permits option (Texas Education Code §21.055) to hire teachers for “noncore academic career and technical education (CTE) courses.” As background, the Texas Legislature passed H.B. 2205 in its most recent session, amending the law to allow school boards to issue a teaching permit without approval by the commissioner of education.
Among 256 responding public Texas school districts, 64 percent (165 districts) do not plan to use the permit option for 2016‒17. For districts that do plan to hire noncore teachers, health science, welding, and cosmetology were the most commonly reported noncore CTE areas. Most districts plan to accept any combination of subject-matter expertise such as work experience, formal training and education, or relevant industry credential.
More than half of districts (54 percent) will not require additional continuing education for the individuals outside of state-required classroom management training. Other districts indicated that local staff professional development or teacher training will be required.

“Take 5” to motivate your team

Human motivation is quite possibly one of the most intriguing, and puzzling, areas of the social sciences. Wikipedia’s contributors aptly describe motivation as being a cycle in which thoughts influence behaviors, behaviors drive performance, performance affects thoughts, and the cycle begins again. Each stage of the cycle is composed of many dimensions including attitudes, beliefs, intentions, effort, and withdrawal, which can all affect the motivation that an individual experiences. That being said, despite the explosion of research over the last two decades focusing on the presumptive generational differences that would lead us to believe that people born just a few years apart are really completely different animals, several common motivational factors seem to be at play for most, if not all, of the generations currently in the workforce.

Autonomy—Employees enjoy systems that allow them some leeway when it comes to what, how, when, where, and with whom they do things.

Transparency—Very similar to another key motivator, trust, transparency helps employees connect their job to the company’s goals.

Appreciation—Recognition of achievements doesn’t have to be financial to be impactful. Saying “thank you” or “good job” when the situation warrants it goes a long way.

Sympathetic help for personal problems—Being sincere and making time for your team members is crucial to true leadership. Don’t forget to follow up for updates if appropriate.

Feedback—Whether positive or a “teachable moment,” at the individual level, employees generally value any type of feedback over none at all. In the case of the latter, a secondary group benefit is that teams know who isn’t pulling their weight. Working to solve the problem will ultimately benefit all.

Hiring is up, but are graduates prepared?

This year’s college graduates have something to look forward to this year that graduates for the last decade have not—more jobs. 

A recent national survey conducted by CareerBuilder shows that 66% of employers plan to hire from the new graduate pool, with more than half of these employers planning to offer jobs before the graduates even walk across the stage. The improving economy and rising number of retirements are cited as two reasons the outlook may be better for this year’s graduating class. 

However, some employers expressed that new college grads aren’t always prepared to enter the workforce, with 24% of respondents indicating that academic institutions are not adequately preparing college grads for the workplace—a drastic 21% increase from last year’s responses.

Survey respondents indicate that the shortcomings of academic preparation include interpersonal/people skills, problem-solving skills, lack of skills in leadership, teamwork and written and oral communication. The results of a Futurestep survey found that most executives indicated that the top two qualities they desire in new graduates are the ability to learn from experiences and apply those learnings and business acumen followed closely by drive and cultural fit. 

So, who’s getting hired? The CareerBuilder survey identified the most in-demand majors.


Inside HR Services

Calendar and registration for 2016–17 training is available

The schedule for our Austin training sessions and webinars has been posted on the HR Services training web page. Registration for these events is available so you can plan your HR professional development for the upcoming year. 

Beginning September 1, all webinars will be available at no cost to HR Services members. This includes live and recorded sessions.

Registration is required. Our 2016–17 schedule includes three new webinars and more may be added throughout the year. Additional information is available on our webinar page.

2016‒17 Superintendent Salary Survey launched

Attention superintendents! Be sure to submit your TASB/TASA Superintendent Salary Survey by Aug. 26. The survey is the leading source of data for compensation and benefits of Texas’ top school executives. Your participation ensures you can use your data in DataCentral to create custom 2016–17 market comparison reports.

Coming soon: District Personnel Salary Survey 2016-17. Program and salary survey contacts will receive an e-mail invitation on Sept. 1. The annual survey covers teacher pay and teaching field stipends, as well as more than 120 benchmark jobs commonly found in Texas public school districts.

Contact us at 800.580.7782 or if you have any questions about the surveys.

August marks 1-year anniversary on Twitter for TASB HR Services

As technology progresses at an accelerated rate and the dynamic needs of our members continue to evolve, it is important for us to keep pace and provide the highest quality assistance to Texas districts. That’s why we decided to leap into the bustling social media scene and create a Twitter account last year. Now 12 months into our endeavor, we’ve amassed a following of more than 500 educators, superintendents, administrators, HR professionals, and others interested in the news and proceedings of HR in school districts around the state.

If you haven’t checked out our page yet, give us a follow at @tasbhrs. Our content focuses more on the day-to-day news and events affecting school districts as well as best practices and guidance for those seeking information in time-sensitive situations. We’d also like to express our gratitude for those already supporting us—it’s because of you we made it this far!

Karen Dooley joins HR Services

Please join us in welcoming Karen Dooley to the HR Services consulting team. Karen will assist with staffing and HR reviews, training, and other HR projects. Karen is a seasoned administrator with more 17 years of HR experience in central Texas districts. She also worked as an assistant principal, counselor, and teacher. Karen received her master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University.