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Leadership TASB - Celebrating the Class of 2024 Master Trustees 

photo of the Leadership TASB graduating class of 2024

After a year of hard work and deep dives into education advocacy and board governance, the 33 members of the Leadership TASB Class of 2024 celebrated at a special graduation ceremony held June 21 during Summer Leadership Institute in Fort Worth.  

The board members, who hail from districts large and small across Texas, successfully completed the rigorous program, earning the title of Master Trustee. They now join the ranks of the more than 1,000 Texas board members who have participated in the leadership training program in its more than 30-year history. 

The event was hosted by the LTASB Alumni Association to honor the trustees for demonstrating leadership in promoting educational excellence while enhancing student outcomes through exceptional governance and policy development. 

Shelli Conway, an Anna ISD trustee, member of LTASB Class of 2020, and the 2024 board president of the LTASB Alumni Association was the emcee for the evening.  

“For these trustees, tonight actually celebrates a beginning and not an end,” Conway said. “Tonight is a commencement, the beginning or start of something new. Your journey as local guardians of the education of Texas schoolchildren takes a turn tonight, and there are more than 5.5 million children counting on you.” 

The graduates were joined by family, friends, and fellow board members, who were dressed to impress at the festive event, which included a graduation ceremony, dinner, and dancing. TASB President Armando Rodriguez, Canutillo ISD’s board president and a member of the LTASB Class of 2012; Debbie Gillespie, TASB’s Immediate Past President, a former Frisco ISD trustee, and a member of the LTASB Class of 2014; and Mary Jane Hetrick, a Dripping Springs ISD trustee, TASB Board Secretary, and a member of the LTASB Class of 2017, were among the many special guests in attendance. 

During the ceremony, Robert Long, III, LTASB program director and director of Board Development Services, recounted the journey the trustees went on over the year.  

“They have pushed boundaries, transcended challenges, and exceeded expectations in fulfilling the requirements set forth by our program,” Long said. “With remarkable dedication they have embraced our vision to cultivate leaders who champion public education and who seek innovative solutions to the complexities facing our schools today.” 

The LTASB Class of 2024 met for the first time in September 2023 at txEDCON23 in Dallas. Participants in LTASB are chosen through a competitive application process with a maximum of 36 trustees selected each year based on criteria including dedication to board service and participation within their school districts and communities. Over the year-long program, which included four visits to locations across the state, trustees learned about innovative education programs, gained deeper knowledge of board governance, and learned how to advocate on behalf of their districts.  
“I came in knowing it would be an incredible learning experience, not only about board roles and responsibilities but also connecting with the other trustees,” said Georgetown ISD Trustee Stephanie Blanck, adding that through the LTASB field trips the trustees bonded and became closer while exploring how districts were supporting all of their students. She would return to her district ready to share what she learned with her superintendent and CTE director. “I’d say, look what they did. ... We are responsible for every child in the state, so advocacy and being a strong advocate for every child, I knew that was important.” 

In the second field trip, trustees made visits to El Paso and Canutillo ISDs. During the third gathering, they traveled to the Coastal Bend, making a visit to the King Ranch and its on-site campus at Santa Getrudis ISD, along with stops at Gregory-Portland and Kingsville ISDs. The Houston region was the final stop for the Class of 2024, where they visited Katy and Fort Bend ISDs. 

Paul Zoch, a Bridge City ISD board member, said he knew the program would revolve around leadership, but when he was accepted, he didn’t know what to expect.  

“Once I got involved, it was such a learning experience going to these different places and meeting other board members from across the state. It was just an amazing experience,” he said. 

Over time, he began to make deeper connections to his board work and the importance of advocating on his district’s behalf. “Realizing that what we do on the local level was greatly influenced by the state, and many times, they dictate what we do,” he said. “So, if I want to make a change in the local area, I also have to advocate at the state level.” 

Zoch said that even though the leadership training program has ended, he wants to continue learning more. “It feels like I was being filled up and now I’m going to be a little empty because I don’t have this place to go to.” 

One thing all the LTASB graduates agreed upon is the importance of taking what they learned and using it to advocate on behalf of Texas public school students. 

Tammy Hawkins, vice president of the Ector County ISD school board, said she sits on several boards and that participating in LTASB was “one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life.” 

Traveling across the state and visiting different districts and talking with other trustees helped her see how districts share the same problems and challenges. 

“I would recommend LTASB for any trustee,” she said. “It empowered me to continue to fight for our school children and all schoolchildren in the state of Texas.” 

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Mary Ann Lopez
Senior Communications Specialist

Mary Ann Lopez is a senior communications specialist for TASB.