& Free Trip to Margaritaville
Would you say that education is important in your family?
Yes, we’ve been very blessed. I have always had a passion for education. Both my mother and grandmother were educators. My wife Lori is a retired teacher. She retired three years ago to take care of our grandson. Both of our daughters work in education; Paige, our youngest daughter is 27. She served as a missionary in Africa and is currently a 6th and 7th-grade math teacher at a private school. Caitlyn was serving as associate principal at Magnolia but is now the director of secondary English Language Arts (ELA) at Tomball ISD. Her husband Derrick is the head basketball coach at Magnolia High School.
Education is the one thing everyone in the state of Texas has an opportunity to obtain. I love working with kids, and it’s so important to me that we give all of them the opportunity to get an education.
How was it transitioning from coaching to administration?
I didn’t know very much about superintendency, but I was blessed and had a great staff, and a great school board. They took me under their wing and guided me. I’ve always had a love for children, staff, and community. I stayed there for three years before accepting a position in China Spring, just outside of Waco. I served as superintendent there for three years, and from there I went to Magnolia, where I was superintendent for 10 years. In 2011, I took a superintendent job at Forney ISD and stayed there for three years. When I got there, they were going through a financial crisis and were at risk of losing funding for the following year. Fortunately, we had very good CFOs, and we were able to turn their financial situation around. Forney has a great group of people that truly have a love for service, and for their kids.
How did you arrive at your current position as Executive Director with Region VI?
I always loved the Region 6 area, and when Mr. Poe, the former executive director, decided to retire, it occurred to me this would be a job I would love. I had promised the board at Forney ISD that I would stay there until we either got them into the black or until the state shut them down. Fortunately, we were able to turn things around, and today, they are thriving. From there, I transitioned into this job. I am in my sixth year at Region VI. I liked the idea of finishing up my career helping less-experienced superintendents gain knowledge and experience. At Region VI, we are about providing service and guidance to our districts, especially in times like these, when we are dealing with situations beyond our control, as is the case with the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to be the helping hand through these difficult times, and whichever situation that our districts are dealing with on a daily basis.
What do you love most about your job?
Just being around people that have such a love for serving our schools. When I speak about serving schools, I’m talking about serving children, our future–serving the employees, the staff members that work in our schools, and helping superintendents in our districts. It’s such an honor to be able to do this. I’ve been in this profession for almost 40 years. I feel blessed to be a part of Region VI and to be working with such a great team.
What would you say makes a great leader?
A great leader brings wisdom, a calmness to people, and in this field, has the foresight to predict how different decisions can affect the districts or the students. Everyone has different leadership styles, but I think a good leader is very collaborative. They want to hear other people’s ideas. They know that no one is as smart as all of us. I don’t consider myself a great leader, or even a good one. I do the best I can. If others saw me as a leader, I would hope they know that I genuinely care about them. I don’t think anyone cares about what you know unless they know you care first.
How is Region VI handling “social distancing” during this COVID-19 pandemic?
Our facility is closed, but we are continuing to work remotely from home. Our leadership team starts the day at 7:30, via Zoom conferencing. We discuss everything we are doing right now to help our districts, what more we need to do, and how we can continue to support them, as time goes on. While some districts are reviewing curriculum and instruction, other districts may be covering new material. We also meet with our superintendents and discuss concerns such as the future financial impact the districts will be facing,how we will handle employee issues, policies, grading surveys to school improvement, and instruction. I am very proud of our superintendents who are meeting the needs of their community, of their staff, and students, by providing not only instruction, but in many cases, meals for their students. Some are providing instruction using high-tech, such as Chromebook. Others are simply handing out packets, trying to keep students on task.
Parents are doing a phenomenal job, despite the fact some are experiencing the loss of jobs, having to take care of their children, and everything else they might have going on. These are very different times than any of us have ever faced, and I pray we never have to face again. I was watching the news yesterday and they said that major crime is way down, but the sad thing is that domestic violence is up. I hate that because families are spending more time together, but they’re not getting along. I hope everyone uses this time wisely, to reflect on who they are, and what kind of person they want to be.
What message do you want to share with the community about Region VI?
I want people to know, that although our building is closed to protect our staff, we are still working, taking care of business. We are answering calls. It is easier for some groups at our service center to do this than it is for others, but as a whole, we want to relay that education has not stopped. It has just changed, and we all have to change along with it. School buildings may be closed, but education is still happening across the state of Texas and throughout this nation. We are doing everything we can to keep our children on the same academic level and continue to move forward as the semester progresses. I want our districts to know that we at Region VI are behind them. It makes me so proud to be a part of this region and a part of education across the state of Texas.
Is there anything you would like to relay to your districts?
I would like them, as well as parents, to know that they are rock stars! I don’t want to compare educators to first responders such as doctors, nurses, and care workers, but in the academic world, educators are right there with them. Everyone who works at our districts, from teachers, food service, bus drivers, superintendents, etc., they truly are first responders when it comes to education and taking care of our schoolchildren. They have put themselves out there, sacrificing their own health and safety, as well as that of their own families, to take care of everyone else’s children and families. They’re not just hunkered down, waiting for all this to pass, they are working in the front lines taking care of our kids, our communities, and making sure children are getting fed. They are passing out Chromebooks, grading, and making sure their families’ needs are being met. In the midst of this situation, they are doing whatever needs to be done to ensure that our kids don’t slip backward, and everything continues marching forward. I hope this experience helps people realize how awesome educators truly are and to have more appreciation for them.
What direction do you see the service center going for the remainder of the year? How does the future look for Region VI?
Our service centers have been around for over 50 years. I think we will see a change in the way we operate. We will potentially see more online professional development. Everyone is going to be a little leery for a while, but I believe we need to have strong faith that God knows where this is going, and just leave it in His hands. It’s hard to predict what our services will look like, and how we will continue to provide services to our districts. I think they count on us to be there for their successes as well as see them through their failures. I take it very personally if we have a district that is not doing well academically, or if they lose a staff member or a student. I get emotionally involved, probably more than I should sometimes, especially when it comes to areas where I have some responsibility, but I can’t help myself…that’s just who I am.
Region VI will always play a role in public education. As time goes on, I believe we will also take part in private education. Although that’s not one of our charges, ultimately, it’s about kids. It’s about helping schools help kids meet their maximum potential, and teaching children and preparing them for the future, because one day, they will be the
ones taking care of us. For these reasons, we must continue. In my opinion, there is nothing more important than public education, and education as a whole. We’ve got to continue moving forward.Who knows if the next young lady or young man that walks across the stage at graduation will be the person that finds the cure for the next pandemic. I feel confident we will continue to see service centers thrive. How that will look 5, or 10 years from now is unclear, but we will continue to adjust and be flexible, to provide what our districts need. Education today does not look like it did even six years ago.
We are forever changing. This will definitely have an impact on how instruction will look going forward. I believe we are still going to have schools, Friday night football, basketball games, but our instruction may look a little different. I don’t think anyone is ever prepared to be at home for 4 to 6 weeks or more. When we have a hurricane, we know it’s coming, and after a few weeks, we see the end in sight. This is totally different. We don’t know when this will end. So, we’ll just have to continue to adjust and be there to help provide for the needs of our districts.
Outside of your professional career, is there anything you have achieved in your personal life that surprised even you?
During the Christmas holiday, my daughter Paige and I flew to Tanzania, in East Africa, and together, we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the seven summits and highest freestanding mountains in the world. (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/kilimanjaro/) It was a 7-day climb, and we summited at 5:15 on Christmas morning. I don’t think I ever thought I would do something like that. I am 63years old, but I’d like to think I’m in good shape. I’ve run a few marathons and still run pretty much daily to try to stay in good shape. I think that’s important. “Don’t let the old man in,” like the song says.
This was a tremendous and spiritual experience. I truly felt God’s presenceduring our climb. It was also a really unique opportunity to spendquality time with my daughter and to show our love and appreciationto the porters and guides that helped us during the climb.
What was your takeaway from this experience?
It made me realize how blessed we are in America. Arriving at the gates of Kilimanjaro, you see 200-300 people (porters) sitting outside begging to be part of your group. They know that in a 7-day trip, they can make at least $35. Everyone is shouting, “Pick me, pick me!” The porters help climbers carry their equipment: tents, food, etc., for only $5 to $10 a day.Once I learned how much they made per day, I knew how fortunate we are here in America. Many of them have no way out, and no way to get an education. Whenever we got back down from the summit, we all said a prayer and thanked the porters and guides for helping us reach the top.
They carry 30-50 pounds of equipment on their shoulders and on their heads, compared to our 15. So, if they’re not physically and mentally prepared for that, they can easily fall. It’s just a blessing to know the possibilities we all have in America, as opposed to some of our third world countries that live every day, just trying to survive until the next day.
This pandemic has given us all time to reflect on our lives and what purpose we serve on earth. What have you been able to reflect on?
God has blessed me well beyond what I deserve, with family, friends, and a great job. I hope I’ve been a great husband and father, that I’ve been a person who has a strong Christian belief, and that my lifestyle has been a good representation of my belief. I hope I’ve been a good example or role model to others, and that people think of me as someone who always cares about others, and that I’ve put others before myself. This experience has given us all time to reflect on life in general, and what our purpose here really is. I think our purpose is to serve one another.