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Breakaway Leadership

Breakaway Leadership is a six-month leadership development program designed for school leaders who want to learn skills and habits to set themselves apart from others. By focusing on developing and improving all aspects of your well-being – mental, social-emotional, physical – you will learn new habits and skills that will enable you to perform at the highest levels of leadership 24/7 and come to the leadership table with a level of fitness that enables you to lead from a position of strength and clarity – all day every day.

Sessions are mostly virtual, with a special in-person breakout session at the TASA Midwinter Conference.

The 2024 cohort will begin next January. Registration will open in mid-October. 

Sessions & Events

2024 Breakaway Leadership Program

All School Leaders Welcome

The 2024 program is open to all campus and district leaders! If you are an assistant principal, principal, central office administrator, assistant / associate / deputy superintendent, or superintendent, Breakaway Leadership is for you!

Wondr Health

Participants will have the option to subscribe — at a discounted rate — to Wondr Health, a 100% digital weight loss program that teaches clinically proven skills through weekly video classes delivered via mobile app. Learn how to eat your favorite foods and still lose weight, increase your energy, stress less, and so much more. Wondr is not a diet — it’s a program that works for everyone without points, plans, or calories to count.

Physical Exam Recommended

Participants will be asked to schedule and complete a full physical check-up with their personal physician before Session 1 of the program in January 2024. Participants will use this information to set personal, confidential wellness goals.


Speakers & Topics

Each session will feature nationally recognized speakers (one addressing health/wellness and the other focused on leadership issues) and focus on a theme/topic intended to inspire participants to reflect and change behaviors, as well as accountability group conversations designed to support individual success. Topics include mental health, social-emotional health, stress management, sleep, time management, weight management, exercise, and how each area affects participants’ leadership capacity. Details to come soon!


All sessions will be conducted via Zoom from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.:

Session 1: January 18, 2024
Session 2: February 15, 2024
Session 3: March 21, 2024
Session 4: April 18, 2024
Session 5: May 16, 2024
Session 6: June 6, 2024

Registration Fees

TASA Member $175
Non-member $225

The registration includes participation in these six virtual sessions as well as in an in-person session at the 2024 Midwinter Conference, January 29-31. TASA Midwinter Conference registration must be purchased separately, as must participation in the Wondr Health program (see left).

Registration will open in mid-October 2023. Stay tuned for details on the 2024 speakers and more!


2024 Speaker Lineup (Not Yet Complete!)

Dana Labat, Ph.D.


Dr. Dana B. Labat is a practicing clinical psychologist in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is also licensed to practice psychology in Texas.

Her areas of specialty include: supporting adolescents and adults with everyday life stressors, such as anxiety and depression; women’s emotional health across the lifespan including reproductive health; and pregnancy loss. She also partners with women and adolescents who are coping with disordered eating patterns and clinically diagnosed eating disorders, and she assists couples in their search for improved communication and connection.

Additionally, in Labat’s private practice, she conducts psychological and psychoeducational assessment to determine learning differences, attention-related difficulties, and to clarify diagnoses. She also collaborates with Wondr Health as a team member to support content development and deliver participant content to its participants across the country via its digital media platform.

Tedd Mitchell, M.D.


Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell was named the fifth chancellor of the Texas Tech University System in October 2018.

As chancellor, Mitchell is the CEO of a $2.5 billion, five-university higher education enterprise consisting of Texas Tech University (TTU), Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), Angelo State University (ASU), Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), and Midwestern State University (MSU Texas).

Collectively, the TTU System enrolls more than 63,000 students, has an endowment valued at more than $1.7 billion and operates at 24 academic locations in 21 cities (19 in Texas, 2 internationally).

Mitchell works collaboratively with the TTU System Board of Regents, TTU System Administration and university presidents to enhance the TTU System’s profile and support shared missions of advancing higher education, health care, research and community outreach. Additionally, Mitchell guides the TTU System’s engagement with elected officials in Austin and federal leaders in Washington, D.C., to further increase funding and support.

Mitchell first joined the TTU System when he was named the eighth president of TTUHSC in May 2010. He held a dual appointment as chancellor and president for approximately one year until deciding to close his presidential tenure in 2019 after nearly a decade at the helm of TTUHSC. He is the longest-tenured president in the 52-year history of the university and led the institution to monumental milestones, record growth in enrollment, academic excellence and physical campus expansion.

Prior to arriving at TTUHSC, Mitchell served as president and CEO of the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, an internationally recognized center of excellence in preventive and sports medicine. Mitchell earned a Bachelor of Science at Stephen F. Austin State University in 1983. He is an Ashbel Smith Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he received his Doctor of Medicine in 1987, and, in 2012, he was honored as a distinguished alumnus of the Department of Internal Medicine. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Sports Medicine. From 1988 to 1996, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves (Medical Corps).

David Yebra


Lt. Col. (retired) David Yebra leads the Training and Leader Development Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and has done so since January 2019. 

Prior to that, he served as the director of emergency management at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, where his responsibilities included emergency preparedness for the university and facilitating the High Potential Leadership Academy and other law enforcement leadership development programs.

Yebra served in the U.S. Army for more than 23 years, including three tours in Iraq, before retiring in 2013. At West Point, he served as a company tactical officer and operations officer for the Corps of Cadets. In 2009 he became the professor of military science for the ROTC program at Sam Houston State University and served as a guest instructor for incoming military science faculty.

Yebra lectures on leadership development topics at universities, conventions, and before professional organizations all over the country and the world.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point and earned a master’s degree in leadership development from Long Island University.

Meridan Zerner


Meridan Zerner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, is an award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist with 28 years of experience in the field of health and wellness.

Nearly two decades of her career has been spent at Cooper Clinic, where she not only works with patients, but shares her passion for nutrition through media segments and lectures across the country.

Zerner is a certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD) and specializes in weight management and exercise and sports nutrition. She is also a Certified Wellness Coach and uses behavioral change skills to help support long-term lifestyle changes in her patients.

A marathoner and a former national aerobic champion, Zerner is currently a group exercise instructor at Cooper Fitness Center, personal trainer and Pilates instructor. She is also a former broadcast journalist with a local NBC television affiliate.

She holds a Master of Science in Nutritional Science with an emphasis in Health Promotion from the University of Oklahoma and a Bachelor of Science from Syracuse University.

What People are Saying About the Program

Breakaway Leadership was featured in the spring 2022 issue of TASA INSIGHT. Read the article.

The program has saved me, and losing the extra 30 pounds has allowed me to move further into a more impressive job. I am still using the skills learned and will try and navigate my life with the skills learned. My biggest take away is to put my health first so I can give to my stakeholders.

This is my second time through the Wondr Health program. I’m still using the program and still find it very valuable. Mostly, I have found that it has been successful in changing my habits for the long term, and it provides just the right amount of accountability and reminders to help keep me connected and on track with my health and wellness goals.

I think this has been a great program, and I hope that more leaders will take advantage of this benefit going forward. I also hope our cohort can continue to follow up in subsequent years.

Why Enroll?

In this video, Breakaway Leadership moderators Charles Dupre and Todd Whitthorne discuss why they’re excited about the program and how it can benefit Texas school leaders.

How Can Breakaway Leadership Benefit Your Team?

In this video, Rory Gesch talks about how his Alvin ISD team has benefited from participating in Cohort 1 of Breakaway Leadership. Gesch is deputy superintendent of operations in Alvin ISD. 

How Can Breakaway Leadership Benefit You Personally?

In this video, Rory Gesch talks about how he has personally benefited from participating in Cohort 1 of Breakaway Leadership. Hint: He’s lost 70-plus pounds! 

In this video, Terrell ISD Superintendent Georgeanne Warnock shares how her participation in Breakaway Leadership has helped her improve her overall well-being so that she can be a better leader.

In this video, former PSJA ISD Superintendent Jorge Arredondo talks about the importance of professional development that supports leader wellness and shares how his participation in Breakaway Leadership has helped him be a better leader.

In this video, Lytle ISD Superintendent Michelle Carroll Smith shares how TASA’s Breakaway Leadership program has helped her as a school leader and as a person. 

Program Moderators

Todd Whitthorne, B.S.
Program Moderator & Speaker



Todd Whitthorne is recognized as one of the country’s leading public speakers regarding health, well-being, and productivity. He’s also the author of Fit Happens! Simple Steps for a Healthier, More Productive Life! 

Whitthorne has a particular interest in those who serve in public education. Since 2009, he has delivered multiple presentations for TASA, Texas ESCs, and individual districts. He serves as the chief inspiration officer for Wondr Health, a Dallas-based company dedicated to improving the health and productivity of organizations nationwide. The company currently serves more than 800 clients and positively impacts over 250,000 lives annually. 

Prior to joining Wondr in 2013, Todd spent 14 years as a senior executive at The Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. The Emmy award-winning broadcaster is an honors graduate of UCLA with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and exercise physiology.

Charles Dupre, CPA, Ed.D.
Program Moderator



Dr. Charles Dupre joined the full-time TASA staff as deputy executive director, Member Engagement and Support, in fall 2021.

Prior to that, Dupre served as superintendent of both Pflugerville and Fort Bend ISDs. Under his leadership from 2013 to 2021, FBISD saw notable growth in student achievement and increased opportunities for all students, including traditionally underrepresented groups. In 2018, the district was awarded the H-E-B Excellence in Education Award as the best school district in the large district category, and Dupre was named the Region 4 Superintendent of the Year and finalist for Texas Superintendent of the Year in 2019. While serving in Pflugerville ISD in 2012, he was named the Region 13 Superintendent of the Year and was chosen as a finalist for Texas Superintendent of the Year.

Dupre received his BBA with a major in Accounting from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, and his master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Houston. He received his doctorate in educational leadership from Lamar University in Beaumont.

Cohort 3 will Begin in January 2024!

Interested in joining Breakaway Leadership Cohort 3?
Registration will open in mid-October 2023. Details on how to sign up will be provided on this webpage and in the TASA Daily e-newsletter.

2024 Breakaway Leadership Program Sponsor

CPE Hours

Breakaway Leadership offers up to 12 hours
of Continuing Professional Education credit.


Jessica Arceneaux

Executive Assistant, Member Engagement & Support