One of the many TASA member benefits is access to member service representatives. These former school leaders serve as an extension of the TASA staff, dedicating their time to support individual TASA members in their respective regions. The roles of a TASA member service representative are many, from welcoming new administrators to supporting those who’ve been in their positions for an extended period of time and find themselves in need of a mentor. TASA’s member service representative for Regions 9, 16, 17, and 18 is Larry Coffman. This is his story.
Many people who work in public education cite a “call to serve” as the driving factor that lead them to their chosen careers. For Larry Coffman, that call led him not only into the superintendent’s office, but also to serve beyond his retirement, working as a member services representative for TASA.
Coffman’s father was a preacher, so public service runs in his blood. He didn’t originally set out to become an administrator, but first started working as a teacher/coach in a few Texas public school districts. Eventually he wound up in Borger ISD, a 4A district nestled way up yonder in the Panhandle. It was there that Coffman served as a principal for three years, then deputy superintendent for one year, followed by an 18-year stint as the superintendent before retiring in 2003.
During his time as Borger ISD superintendent, the district received the Outstanding Board Award from TASA, something that makes him proud to this day.
“My longevity at the district was because of that good school board,” Coffman says. “I was so pleased they received that honor.”
While Coffman was a teacher/coach in Tulia ISD, before making the move to Borger, he was influenced by the district’s superintendent, who mentored Coffman and gave him the encouragement he needed to go into administration himself.
When Coffman became superintendent in Borger, he was mentored by Roy Pennington, who had retired as superintendent in Dumas ISD was serving as a TASA member services representative.
“I enjoyed watching his interaction with superintendents and his mentorship of individuals like me and others,”Coffman says.
As luck would have it, when Coffman was ready to retire from Borger, his TASA member service representative was also set to retire. Wanting to continue his service work, Coffman stepped up to fill the representative’s role with the association, providing mentorship and support to superintendents in regions 9, 16, 17 and 18.
“I feel like it’s been a great opportunity to stay involved with public education and administrators,” Coffman says. “It’s probably done more for me than I’ve done for others, but it’s been a great experience.”
Coffman is modest, and his work has touched many of the administrators he’s mentored, as witnessed firsthand by Ray Cogburn, executive director of ESC Region 16.
“Larry is not only knowledgeable about school districts, he has a servant’s heart and a lot of wisdom in how to manage people,” Cogburn says.“From fiscal management to community public relations, Larry always has great advice and insight into helping our superintendents in Region 16. We are very fortunate to work alongside him.”
As a member service representative, Coffman’s main goal is to get the TASA story out to new superintendents, to assist them in any way he can and provide information on how the association can make their jobs easier. He visits with superintendents in each region to build relationships and provide invaluable wisdom.
One of Coffman’s qualities that Cogburn most admires is the way he treats all superintendents equally, no matter what size or how rural their districts might be.
“I remember being a new small school superintendent when he was serving as superintendent in Borger ISD — I always admired him for allowing us to be just as important as anyone else,”Cogburn says.“He is truly a great man and a strong supporter of schools, TASA and ESCs. We are fortunate that he is one of us.”
Coffman also serves a special role as a member services representative, culling the news clips that are sent to members Monday through Friday in the TASA Daily newsletter. Using his expertise, he pores through clips from newspapers across the state and beyond, determining which stories will be the most interesting and beneficial to TASA members.
With all of his understanding of the many benefits TASA offers its members, Coffman feels that the most important role the association plays is helping develop competent leaders.
“TASA leadership is really focusing on this message, providing superintendents opportunities for growth and ideas on how they can meet new requirements, and I think that’s outstanding,” Coffman says. “TASA’s leadership development across the state is transforming education.”
Through his continued dedication to Texas public education, Coffman enjoys making connections with superintendents, providing them the support he knows they need.
“Hopefully in some way we can be an encouragement and help them during difficult times,” Coffman says.“We’re available for them when they need a lift, or a shoulder, and I hope they know that.”
Find contact information for all five TASA member service representatives on the TASA staff webpage, and look for features on the other reps to come soon in TASA’s INSIGHT journal!