In July 2021, TASA launched the Executive Superintendent program, which was designed to provide TASA members with access to an extensive and diverse cadre of experienced former superintendents — TASA Executive Superintendents — with an array of combined expertise. The program combines the previous superintendent-in-residence and member services representative programs. Through the program, TASA members have access to 10 executive superintendents, each dedicated to serving administrators in two ESC regions. These executive superintendents serve as an extension of TASA staff and are on hand to support TASA members in a variety of ways, with an emphasis on helping new superintendents navigate the role. As seasoned administrators, these superintendents are able to listen and provide support based on their own experiences. Below we introduce you to the TASA Executive Superintendent for ESC Regions 1 and 20, Dr. Arturo “Art” Cavazos.
Dr. Art Cavazos retired in 2021 as superintendent of Harlingen CISD, with more than 30 years of education experience and numerous accolades under his belt. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, Cavazos began his career as a math teacher before becoming a counselor, principal and finally, administrator. While Cavazos has retired from the superintendency, he remains an active supporter of Texas public education. Besides serving TASA as an executive superintendent, he is also a superintendent-in-residence for the Holdsworth Center and a member of the UIL Executive Committee.
For Cavazos, his work in these roles is crucial to supporting school systems through a three-pronged approach, focusing on culture, human capital and strategy. By serving in a supportive capacity for school leaders and superintendents, it’s his goal to build them up so that they can hone their leadership abilities.
“If you support the leaders to be the best versions of themselves, then, if their purpose is aligned to the core of their values, they’re going to do great things,” Cavazos says. “But, they can’t do it alone.”
The first component, Cavazos says, is identifying leadership talent early — that’s the human capital piece. Once you have your culture in check, the strategy comes into focus, resulting in a roadmap that takes an organization from good to great.
“That’s where the magic really takes place,” Cavazos says. During Cavazos’ time as a superintendent, there was a strong focus on the four Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. He says that for today’s superintendents, those skills, while crucial, just scratch the surface. “Oftentimes people will think, ‘Well, I’m a great communicator,’ but it’s not really about how you deliver the message, but how that message is received,” Cavazos says.
It’s unlikely there’s a school administrator out there who’d tell you that his or her job has gotten easier over the last two years. In Cavazos’ eyes, the role of the superintendent has always been complex, but has become even more so of late. The COVID-19 pandemic may have served as a catalyst, disrupting school systems across the globe, but Cavazos believes it was a convergence of science, philosophy and politics that led to a divisive populace, where everyone believes they have to take sides.
“I know boards that have been solid as a team, and this has thrown a wrench into them,” Cavazos says. “I remind them that when you govern as a one-issue board, then you’ve lost sight of your purpose.”
As an executive superintendent for ESC regions 1 and 20, it’s Cavazos’ aim to serve as a conduit between superintendents and TASA leadership. His goal is to help them through challenging times by not only supporting them, but connecting them to an organization created to offer help.
“One of our main tasks is to connect them to an incredible organization that’s filled with opportunities for learning to lead or be a better version of yourself, with professional development opportunities, but also to have at your fingertips, a landscape of the pulse of education.”
While Cavazos is certain that public education is resilient, he warns that administrators can’t use old tools to fix new problems. He advises leaders to remain lifetime learners and to open themselves up to being vulnerable. In his work with TASA, Cavazos hopes to help superintendents lead with competence and boldness, and to support them so that they may seize the moment to do incredible things for Texas’ schoolchildren.
“We should all come together, all educators, to ensure that one of the main underpinnings of this country, the security of democracy, doesn’t crumble underneath us,” he says. “That’s our calling, and that should be our crusade. But we can’t get there unless we have incredible, strong leaders throughout the organization.”
Find contact information for all 10 TASA Executive Superintendents on the TASA staff webpage.