Select Page

by LaTonya Goffney

This article originally appeared in the winter 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.

I hope you all had a safe, restful holiday season with your loved ones and returned rejuvenated and ready to continue our work. With the buzz of the holidays behind us and a semester to go before the end of the school year, this is when we must emerge from our winter slumber and reignite our energy, passion, and purpose to continue driving our work forward. That can be easier said than done — even for the best of us.

If you started 2024 with a list of brand-new resolutions, and you’ve managed to stay on track … congratulations, you are an overachiever! It takes more than good intentions to get me back on track to where I need to be. It takes a daily, conscious effort to refocus and reconnect after purposefully disconnecting during the long break. However, when I began as your president, I promised to always lead with conviction, boundless energy, and tireless dedication to our mission of promoting, providing, and developing leaders who create and sustain student-centered schools and develop future-ready students. And I intend to keep that promise. 

January may bring a new calendar year, but there’s something about the upcoming spring season — the warmer weather, a little more daylight at the end of your day, and everything in bloom — that gives us inspiration for renewal and demands us to dig deeper and push harder. Join me in using the change of season as a time to refocus, up your game, and recommit to being the leader you’ve always aspired to be. Listed below are a few small shifts that I’ve made to my behavior and actions that are helping to keep me accountable in refocusing my commitment to leadership. I hope they help you in your own leadership journey.

Recommit to your “why” and remind yourself of your original purpose. We can get so wrapped up in the day-to-day activities that it’s easy to lose focus on the bigger picture. That’s when you must take a step back and think about why you started down this path in the first place and why it remains important. Keep your “why” front and center to stay focused. Write it down, put it in your wallet, and save it as your screensaver. Wherever you choose to keep it, keep it close at hand. My “why” is a photo of my baby girl, Joslyn, a sophomore at Sam Houston State University, which serves as a personal reminder that my family’s cycle of poverty was broken with me, and the gift of education has started a new narrative … one of choices, opportunities, and hope.

Reevaluate your habits and make adjustments. Do your daily habits align with and support your personal and professional goals? For example, I recently checked out my average weekly phone usage. I was dismayed by how much time my attention and energy were being whipped away into directions I didn’t purposefully want to go. I couldn’t figure out if I was in control of my phone or if my phone was in control of me! With that in mind, I’ve since turned off my push notifications, put my phone away during dinner with family, and now charge my phone away from the bed, so I’m not tempted to scroll through emails and social media when I should be getting quality sleep. 

Fill your cup. You’ve all heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” which references taking care of yourself before you can take care of others. The metaphorical cup isn’t just about how much time you selflessly give to others doing good deeds and favors. The cup is about replenishing yourself with what brings you fulfillment and contentment. This will ensure you show up as the best version of yourself. Prioritize your sleep, catch up with your loved ones, take up a new hobby, and finish the books piled on your coffee table. Find and do those things that bring you joy. 

Adjust your attitude and be a grateful leader. On my busiest and most challenging days, I respond to anyone who asks how I’m doing: “I’m living the dream.” I don’t say this out of blind optimism. I say it because it constantly reminds me of how blessed I am. Yes, there are challenging days, but the work we get to do makes dreams possible and multiplies hope for our students in the great state of Texas. On your worst day, remind yourself of the accomplishments you and your team have done together. Take time out of your day to remind others of their value. Stop by someone’s office or leave them a note that praises their efforts and contributions, and watch as your positive attitude and actions multiply hope for our teams and organizations. At the beginning of every week, I make it a point to visit several campuses and pop in on my students and teachers. Seeing them connect with each other and learning reminds me of just how grateful I am for doing my work.

“Living the dream” means living with an attitude of gratitude. Everyone has a worst day, and everyone has a best day. Take time to remember and be grateful for what you have to be thankful for today. Now more than ever, we must lead by example. Make today the day you take action. Start now and move towards success — do not wait for tomorrow. Let’s live the dream together.

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.