Members of the Donna Independent School District Board of Trustees have taken on a new approach that they believe will help them better serve the district.
The DISD Board led by President Efren Ceniceros participated for the first time in the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Lone Star Governance program. According to TEA’s website, Lone Star Governance is an optional first-of-its kind training initiative aimed at providing a continuous improvement model for governing teams – specifically school board members in collaboration with superintendents – that choose to intensively focus on one primary objective: improving student outcomes.
“We had six new board members come in last year and their willingness to change the way things were done to restore trust was evident,” Ceniceros said. “We participated in Region One Education Service Center’s Team of Eight training first but we felt that we could benefit more from training directly from TEA. So, we did round one and it was an eye-opener. We are now much more focused on what is the reason we are here. Priority one is student achievement. Everything else is secondary.”
The program started with an intense two-day workshop intended to help school board members learn how to effectively monitor student outcomes, hold their superintendent accountable for improving student outcomes, understand the concepts of student outcome goals and implement a Lone Star Governance timeline specific to Donna ISD.
Ceniceros said the training was intense but well worth it. “The training was very uncomfortable at times because it made us see things that we sometimes are not aware that we’re doing, but it is important to hear and correct,” Ceniceros said. “We went through round two recently and I see a big difference in the way things are being done. We are held accountable for our actions and inactions.”
DISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Maria F. Leo also took part in the dialogue. “The most exciting element of Lone Star Governance is that it allows the trustees to remain constantly focused on student achievement,” Leo said. “Too often they appear to be bogged down with the details of operating a school district. But, the day-to-day operations of running a school district is truly the work of district administrators. By shifting the roles of trustees away from all decision-making related to operations, their time can be focused on student achievement levels at the schools.”
Leo commended the trustees for participating in the program. “The accountability factor is shared to a greater degree by both the board and district administrators,” Leo said. “This ensures that everyone is more intensely dedicated to the primary reason why schools exist: to educate our young scholars.”
While it will likely take time for the DISD community to adjust to this new method of approach, the board and administration believe it will benefit the district in the long run. “I see a big change already and I know the district will be better served because of this,” Ceniceros said. “It will take some time for the community to get used to the new approach, but it will be better for all parties concerned.”