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by LaTonya Goffney

This article originally appeared in the spring 2024 issue of TASA INSIGHT. Dr. LaTonya Goffney is serving as TASA president for the 2023-24 year. Superintendent of Aldine ISD, Goffney has held the top office in the district since 2018. Prior to that, she served as superintendent of Lufkin ISD. In 2017, Goffney was named Texas Superintendent of the Year. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Sam Houston State University. Through her work in Aldine, Goffney has helped kick-start several new initiatives in the district, such as a pre-K pilot program, an Accelerating Campus Excellence model, and new P-TECH and Leadership Academy campuses, designed to offer opportunities for students to earn college degrees and industry certifications after graduation.

What a great privilege it has been to serve you as TASA president! When I first became a superintendent more than 15 years ago, serving in this role was a goal I set for myself. I aspired to be like the leaders I saw at those TASA meetings, those who were asking the hard questions, pushing the boundaries and making change. This experience has exceeded all my expectations and is something I will treasure as I continue my journey. It also confirmed something I felt to be true at the time and that I wholeheartedly believe today: Leadership matters.

Public education has historically faced and overcome a myriad of challenges — funding, school closures, teacher shortages, safety issues, weather — and we will continue to have tremendous work ahead of us. Regardless of what obstacles are in our way, strong leadership is what gets us through every time.

In Aldine, we believe that Leadership Matters, and we even have our own leadership definition, which is the standard for what it means to be a true leader. This past year, I have witnessed TASA leaders exhibit this kind of leadership, and I urge you all to continue to keep inspiring and encouraging one another so that future generations of leaders continue to lead the charge.

Connect with each other. All our districts — large, small, rural, urban — are served by TASA and have the opportunity to engage in our collective work in meaningful ways. The work we do cannot be done in a bubble. To make a true impact, we must collaborate to expand our knowledge and understanding, and to share our ideas and points of view. This year, we did that in a big way, and it started by luring seasoned vet Dr. Brian Woods out of retirement and welcoming him into the newly created leadership position of deputy executive director of advocacy. In just a few months, he traveled more than 10,000 miles within Texas to connect with our stakeholders and partners in order to share our mission and our advocacy initiatives. Back in Austin, under the leadership of Amy Beneski and Dr. Casey McCreary, our Governmental Relations team tracked more than 1,400 education bills and distributed more than 100 Capitol Watch Alerts. TASA is getting things done. The TASA footprint, frequent-flyer miles and impact continue to expand and continue to get stronger.

Inspire yourself and others. It is the responsibility of each member to hold our organization accountable to our pursuits. We must also support each other and embrace our role as leaders who inspire our fellow educators to serve our students amid a challenging and changing world so that they are future-ready. I am so proud to say that this year, we’ve enhanced our learning opportunities to foster meaningful engagement and connections, and to help equip TASA leaders with the right tools and inspire them to forge ahead. While we’ve done a lot in this arena, such as launching a newly designed School Transformation Network and elevating signature TASA events, there are a few new initiatives that I am especially proud of and that I hope and truly believe will have a long-lasting impact on members moving forward.

The TASA Executive Coaching Network continues to expand, growing to 23 coaches this year from 10 coaches last year. Thanks to $300,000 in grants from the Meadows Foundation and Pioneer Foundation, our coaches are credentialed through the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and have received extensive training in order to help our leaders navigate through challenges and amplify their capabilities. More than 70 superintendents, including first-time superintendents, received executive coaching this year, and we look forward to adding new leaders to the network.

Another powerful leadership and continued professional learning opportunity are our Virtual Book Studies, where we have an opportunity to dig into a leadership book to gain valuable insights, practical strategies, and real-life examples that can be applied to our own daily work lives. Over 400 members signed up for our book study on the number one New York Times bestseller, “Atomic Habits,” by author and 2024 TASA keynote speaker James Clear. Kudos to our own Jill Siler, deputy executive director of professional learning, for facilitating these sessions in an engaging and meaningful way. These sessions certainly fill my cup!

This next initiative won’t surprise you because you know that, at my core, I am just a simple country girl who earned her stripes in a small, rural district. The launch of the Small Schools Network has been a dream come true. For quite some time, we’ve tried to crack the code for our rural schools to help them innovate and fulfill their dreams locally. Now, we finally have the right pieces in place: a task force that includes a design team, a strong professional learning team and high engagement from our members. The first Small Schools Network event was a hit, and my hope is that the 47 districts now involved will continue to grow over the years.

Impact student success. Each of you play an integral role in amplifying hope for our students. I know the days are long, the work is hard, and it’s frustrating when it seems like you take one step forward and then two steps back. For example, we celebrated the defeat of vouchers after numerous regular and special sessions, countless phone calls, testifying, press conferences — all of the above! But the defeat set us back because we didn’t get the much-needed funding for teacher pay raises, safety and security, and a list of other needs. Like I said, one step forward, two steps back. But the fight is never over, and the success of our students is worth the fight! So we dust ourselves off and we live to fight another day.

Thank you for your continued collaboration and support this year. I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished and attribute so much of our success to your leadership and the strength of our membership. We are headed in the right direction, but we still have much work to do and obstacles to overcome. On your toughest day, always remember: Your leadership matters. The work we do matters.

I leave you with a final quote, courtesy of author James Clear:

“Being specific about what you want and how you will achieve it helps you say no to things that derail progress, distract your attention, and pull you off course.”

Let’s stay focused and on course together. The future is bright and I am confident the best is yet to come. I wish each of you a relaxing summer and a successful 2024-25 school year.

Wanted: Your Leadership Perspective
If you’re an experienced school leader and TASA member with some leadership perspective to share, email Dacia Rivers with a short description of your proposed article, and we may publish it in a future issue of INSIGHT and/or on the TASA website.