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LTASB Class of 2024 Explores History and School Culture

During the tour of Fort Bend ISD’s Reese Career & Technical Center, members of the LTASB Class of 2024 learn more about the school’s HVAC-RT (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technology) program while observing some tools that are used during training.

The Leadership TASB Class of 2024 held its fourth session in the Houston area and observed leadership in motion at Katy and Fort Bend ISDs, visiting with superintendents and experienced board members and learning how they have navigated challenging situations to achieve success in the districts they serve.

Day one began with a warm welcome from Katy ISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski and included a tour of Miller Career & Technology Center and Martha Raines Academy. According to Gregorski, Katy ISD provides more than a basic education; it offers a vast array of innovative programs for students and opportunities for unparalleled learning.

The Miller Career & Technology Center offers 21 programs, including a dental assisting classroom and a highly sought-after cybersecurity program to meet demanding needs in the field of technology.

The Katy ISD tour wrapped up at the Raines Academy, an alternative high school campus designed to assist at-risk students with meeting graduation requirements in a flexible setting that rivals a junior-college atmosphere. The campus is not run on a specific set of rules but on a culture centered around providing a variety of options to address students’ unique needs, according to the district. The school supports students who have struggled in a regular school setting but are successfully achieving their educational goals through the positive reinforcement provided at this campus.

The Raines Academy also provides lockers for homeless students to store their belongings. The school has a gym equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, providing a safe space for students to exercise. In partnership with RGV CDL Services LLC, the academy also offers a pioneering program providing comprehensive training and hands-on learning for students to obtain commercial driver’s licenses.

After returning from Katy ISD, Darlene Breaux, an Alief ISD trustee who also serves on the TASB Board of Directors, shared the importance of civil discourse among board members and discussed the need for respectful conversation aimed at fostering understanding and constructive communication, allowing each member to share their own perspectives.

Roosevelt Nivens, superintendent at Lamar CISD, and Rick Kershner, superintendent at Royal ISD, spoke to the class about the challenges of a hypergrowth district and education funding.

The evening ended with the ABCs of communication strategies presented by Sheleah Reed, chief of staff at Aldine ISD and the author of Do You: The Audacity to Live a Bold and Authentic Life. She explained that board members are brand ambassadors and need to earn and maintain the community’s trust, so that when, not if, a crisis occurs the board is ready to take on the challenge.

Day two of the April trip began with a tour of the James Reese Career and Technical Center at Fort Bend ISD. Tours of each district’s CTE facilities served as a reminder that school choice is alive and well in public schools. Students and their families have options for college or career pathways to provide the best opportunities for students’ learning styles or educational preferences.

Tour of Historic Cemetery

The day also included a tour of the Sugar Land 95 site at Fort Bend ISD. In 2018, at the start of a construction project in the district, workers uncovered a historic cemetery where 95 African Americans were buried. They were thought to be a part of a convict-leasing program that started in the late 1800s.

Jason Burdine, former Fort Bend ISD board president, discussed challenges the district faced with the discovery of the unmarked cemetery and the unprecedented journey the district undertook to honor those individuals while also shedding light on the hidden history behind convict leasing. He explained that convict leasing was like a new form of slavery following the addition of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.

The Fort Bend ISD board adopted a local policy to incorporate the Sugar Land 95 discovery into the district’s social studies curriculum to honor the lives and legacies of the Sugar Land 95 by providing educational opportunities and memorialization to make certain they were “found and not forgotten.”

Although the tour was an emotional journey for LTASB members, it offered a reminder that there are consequences of policy, including those approved by school boards.

The class rounded out the day with a presentation on personality traits and leadership communication from Klip Weaver and Jared McCurley of E3 Entegral Solutions and a presentation by Tony Hopkins, Friendswood ISD board president and TASB first vice president, about the Four-Ps of board leadership: purpose, prepared and engaged, passion to reignite the fire, and the importance of the president’s position as a facilitator of superintendent and board relations.

Photo: During the tour of Fort Bend ISD’s Reese Career & Technical Center, members of the LTASB Class of 2024 learn more about the school’s HVAC-RT (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technology) program while observing some tools that are used during training.

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Yvonne Johnson

Yvonne Johnson is the president of the Shepherd ISD board of managers and a member of the LTASB class of 2024.