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TASA’s “Inspiring Leaders” tagline is not just a reminder of TASA’s commitment to leadership development; it describes our members themselves — school leaders who inspire others as they work to prepare future-ready students. Meet Rick Kershner, one of those Inspiring Leaders.

Since August 2020, Rick Kershner has served as superintendent of Royal ISD with a daily goal of improving the lives of students. Previously, Kershner worked in administration in Splendora ISD. As a district leader, he aims to invest in the future through a hands-on, student-focused approach, to provide the best possible opportunities to Royal ISD students.

Phylicia Glover, executive director of teaching and learning in Royal, says that the district has experienced a shift in culture since Kershner took the helm. Rick’s emphasis on transparency, open communication and accountability has fostered an atmosphere of trust and unity,” she says. “Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning journey. Parents are more engaged and involved in their children’s education, feeling confident that their concerns are being heard and addressed.”

While Kershner says that many aspects make him proud of Royal ISD, he points to some of the innovative programs the district offers to its students as one of the best examples.

“Our 2-8 STEM program utilizes Project Lead the Way to help learners leverage their curiosity as a tool for exploration and mastery,” he says. “With 12 CTE pathways and a robust early college program, we meet the strengths of each individual student, ensuring that we are truly investing in our tomorrow.”

Glover says Kershner is genuinely invested in the success of others — and not just students, but the staff and community in Royal ISD as a whole.

“He is not merely a manager but a mentor, always willing to provide guidance, support, and opportunities for growth,” she says. “Rick believes in the potential of every individual and actively seeks ways to nurture that potential.”

In a job that can be challenging, Kershner says focusing on the “why” of his work keeps him driven to ensure that every student, teacher and community stakeholder in the district is better served each day.

“As a teacher I worked each day to improve the life of my students, showing them the opportunities that were available with hard work and grit,” he says. “As I moved into leadership, I was motivated to build capacity in others, ensuring that students had the best teachers who made the biggest impact.”

Kershner’s impact in Royal ISD can be felt throughout the district, according to his colleagues. Since his arrival, the district has experienced improved academics along with a cultural shift, resulting in a close-knit community and an inclusive and welcoming environment.

“One of Rick’s standout qualities is his ability to rally people around a common goal,” Glover says. “He has successfully brought together teachers, parents and students to collaborate and create a harmonious and productive learning environment.”

Mentorship and communication are key skills for a successful leader to hone, and ones in which Kershner sees much importance. As an added benefit, he says maintaining connections with other education leaders helps keep him grounded.

“The impact of mentorship and genuine relationships will outlive us all. The leaders that I mentored are now beginning to mentor others. Seeing people that truly value education and prioritize relationships standing at the center of leadership means the work will outlast my position.”