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Doug Williams is the 2021-22 TASA president and the superintendent of Sunnyvale ISD. This article originally appeared in the spring 2022 issue of TASA INSIGHT.

It was evening at a TASA conference and I was in the lobby of the host hotel visiting with some “experienced” school leaders. The conversation turned to retirements taking place across the state and the consensus of opinions was general concern about who would be ready to take those jobs and lead school districts forward. The pipeline appeared to be running dry. Ironically, this conversation was in 2006, not at this year’s Midwinter Conference. However, some of the same conversations were most certainly taking place across Austin this January.

One of my points of emphasis as TASA president has been to travel across the state to meet with school leaders. My trips have been from Beaumont to San Angelo, from Brownsville to Amarillo and various destinations in between. I can attest that as was the case in 2006, the condition of public education in our state is not in dire straits. The young school leaders I have had the privilege of meeting and working with provide me with confidence that the next generation is prepared for the challenges ahead.

That 2006 evening session provided motivation to me. I was a principal at that time, and I took the question of “who will step up” to heart. It was a call to action. Many of us who became superintendents around that time frame became believers of the guiding principles of Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas — a vision for transforming Texas public education. This declaration of independence for Texas education cast a vision for school leaders. What a journey it has been to move that vision forward into action.

There is no question that challenges are ahead for public education. Assessment and accountability, funding, board unity, teacher shortages and outside political pressure are but a few of the issues. Daunting? Absolutely, but I am witness to school leaders who are ready to take the baton. Public education will continue to prepare children to lead our world because of your commitment.

To accomplish that, I encourage you to incorporate the following precepts into your daily lives:

Be on mission — The foundation of your work must revolve around your core belief that education matters. The great educator has a feeling of being called into this profession because they want to impact students and believe that they can make a difference in the lives of kids. Does your daily work reflect that?

Be driven — I love the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink. His premise, which I completely agree with, is that being a part of a cause that is bigger than yourself creates purpose. In my opinion, there are few causes greater than education.

Be an advocate — Too many false stories are posted about what is wrong in education. We must advocate by sharing the stories of what public education is actually accomplishing. We must advocate for good legislation that will continue to allow local school districts to provide great teaching and learning.

Be persistent — There will be days of crisis, days that you feel discouraged, days that the “other side” wins. The sun will rise the next morning, and we must as well. I have compared some of our work to pushing a boulder up a hill. Your progress may be slow, but if you quit pushing, the boulder will crush you on its way back down the hill. The work is hard, but the reward is great. Will you keep pushing?

My year as TASA president has been rewarding. Highlights include being in McAllen to recognize the Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year and in Dallas for TASA|TASB when the Sunnyvale Fine Arts students challenged us to Rise. But the most important aspect has been the interaction with so many of you across our state. Thank you for the work you do every day in our districts and our state. Keep the faith and press on!