TCEA as a Leader in Texas; TCEA Needs a Leader in Texas

Photo Credit: Me

In response to Miguel Guhlin’s vision for TCEA, I offer these reflections. As one fellow SOS-SIG member noted of me today, I’m passionate about the direction of this organization. Consider that in your reading of my thoughts, please. TCEA has so many possibilities. It is like the child you have at home who is sooooo smart but has yet to fully apply himself. You are aggravated, but you love him still the same and work to make him better.

1. Carry out the strategic plans and policies of the board.
This is a good directive for the executive director. As a matter of fact, it is the most important since the executive director (ED) works at the will of the board. You kind of melded a few ideas here, but I’m glad you did. With me running for the board seat of Area 7, it is one that I have thought about. Why do our directors not share what is going on? I realize there are items that should be held in executive session and treated as such. What I don’t get is why we do not hear about who they are and what they are doing for us when they meet. If elected, one of my personal mandates will be to blog the position to the Area 7 members. They should have a place to have a conversation with me in the open about what I am doing, how I am doing it, and what they prefer to see done. It will not only happen after the meeting. It will happen before and even during if appropriate.  You will see that from Day One with me, I assure you. Why hide the good work being done and the struggles of growing into the future? The collective is always smarter than the individual. 

2. Encourages change relevant to the organization and the stakeholders
It is obvious that a group needs a strong, visionary leader. One would hope that leader comes in the form of the executive director. Again, this position is to do the will of the BOD, but it should also offer alternatives, trends, and traps to his/her regular report. The report should begin and extend conversations about the direction of the organization. It should not state a firm decision. It is the BOD’s job to do that.

You mentioned that we have all seen blogs, podcasts, and wikis. Well, we have seen them in our schools and at the convention, yet we have not seen them out of the TCEA office or leadership as it relates to the organization. You left out RSS feeds. We have an announcement of immense proportions as to the change in leadership of TCEA, and a large population of the membership never knew it took place. It still is not on the TCEA website. If it were, and there was an RSS feed on the Announcements page, then that is an additional avenue it could have spread with little to no effort or cost. You would think the same could be said about the list serves, but there is apparently an issue with those.

You mentioned that TCEA’s leadership can “completely change the conversation in Texas.” I spend a lot of time in Austin during session. I have not run into a TCEA leader during any of them. I testify at school finance hearings, bill hearings, and interim committee hearings. I meet with senators and representatives and chiefs of staff. I have not seen a TCEA leader in any of them. What I see is teacher organizations protecting their members. Sometimes tech funding and interests benefit from that, sometimes they do not. We are in a time where the need for tech funding is increasing. What is the plan of TCEA leadership? We have no idea because we are not hearing it. I see there is an Advocacy Committee now. Never heard about it before, but I am glad there is one. What is their goal? Their vision? Their mission? No idea. They are not even listed on the website. Leadership has to step up and open up.

3. Visionary that looks at the future for change opportunities.
You challenge the board to “Where do you think this is all going next, what could we do to use
technology to get there in K-16, and how will that meet the needs of
our membership?”

That is a noble goal, but does TCEA know the answer to those questions? Is it prepared to talk to that? Would they know what to answer in an interview with a true leader if the question were reversed? If I were interviewing for the position, I would want to know if the folks I was expected to lead had vision as well.

The TCEA board needs to have a planning session with ALL board members (there are two vacant seats on the board right now). Start from scratch, in a way. What is the goal of TCEA? The mission? The vision? The tenets? How can TCEA best align itself to work toward those items? Does the current structure do that? Does the budget allow for that? Would state-wide committees help? Would more transparency into the needs of TCEA help? Are there crucial partnerships that can be created to accomplish those goals while sharing resources? And the biggest question, is the board willing to step away from the table letting go of sacred cows to look at all of this with a fresh view as we move into changing times?

Right now, TCEA seems to be content as an organization that puts on a good conference. It needs to be more than that. It needs to mature. It is ready to mature.

4. Interfaces between organization and community.
This is a must. The odd thing I find about TCEA is that it is not a place to turn to for answers. While it is the leading technology organization in Texas, it is not leading where it needs to be. For instance, Apple rolled out iTunes U K-12 at NECC in San Antonio. They asked each of the state education organizations to run it so that there was one collaborative spot for schools to turn to. TEA said no. So, those of us podcasting (which is a growing number daily) do not have the state level portal into TEKS-driven content to turn to. Instead, there is an independent group of educators working to help Apple find that solution. TCEA should be spear-heading this. Why not? I am not saying TCEA should be in control of iTunes U K-12, but I believe there are enough contacts within the organization to find a solution and give this great tool to the schools of Texas. What a feather in the cap of TCEA that would be. And I am pretty sure Apple would remember that. But in the end, it may be the stubbornness of a few school employees that pull it off. Then again, it might be that it does not get pulled off, and Texas is without that resource. Sad.

5. Ensures staff and Board have sufficient and up-to-date information.
While I like your main point, I think it should be up to each board member and state officer to get the word out how he/she sees fit. BUT IT NEEDS TO GET OUT. If a board member does not get the information out, one would hope the membership would find a new board member that will. Sure, we can all complain about how we do not have enough time to do our jobs as it is, but if you run for the position, you should understand the expectations. It is not expected to warm a seat. It is an expectation to represent, and representation runs both ways. Share with the board the members’ wishes and share with the members what the board is/was thinking. Can you imagine how many issues would be alleviated if this were done?

6. Formulates policies and planning recommendations to the Board.
This is a biggie. You have to have a visionary leader to get the job done and stay ahead of the curve. Staying with or just behind the curve is not worth the effort. Can you imagine what would happen if all of our schools strove for mediocrity? We might be attending in droves the Microsoft Office sessions still offered at our ESC. Not happening. We’ve moved on as have our students.

This person should not be afraid to step up, pitch the thoughts, and stand back to answer questions. The executive director of a member-owned, member-governed organization does not force ideas down anyone’s throats. He/she is a facilitator of information and then the leader of following through with the board’s decision. In other words, do not go in with a new idea and a Motion form all filled out ready to go. The motions are the responsibility of the board only.
7. Manages human resources of organization.
You said: “Next Step: Assess staff operations, relationships, and interactions–customer service–and then make adjustments as needed.” Amen. Regardless of the number of staff, we have to maximize their talents. We do the same in our school districts. Other organizations do the same. It is the only way to remain successful and efficient. If I.T. is overwhelmed because of a software/hardware choice made by either a prior employee or poor leadership, then find a fit that is more efficient in time and cost. Open source software offers too many opportunities for us to stay stuck in a commercial choice if there is a better alternative.  Besides, the use of open source software would only serve to support one of our own SIG’s that is loaded with plenty of expertise that would be free to our office staff with a simple email or phone call.

8. Manages financial and physical resources.
You recommended rebuilding the team after leadership change to re-examine current projects and direction. Sure. That is a good direction to go. I would also say that the term fiduciary responsibility be introduced to the board and staff. As a trustee, all decisions must be made with the organization in mind and not the egos and personalities becoming a part of the equation. I’m not saying that is happening now. I’m just saying it needs to be in the equation.

Now, let me introduce a few additional things needed both in the board decision and in a new leader:

9. The current board and officer corp needs to have all positions filled on the board before moving forward with a new executive director hire.
I mentioned this in the list serve email I sent, but two regions from the same portion of the state are without representation. It does not make sense to move ahead without these seats being filled with DIRECTORS. I don’t mean surrogates for the position. I mean directors who have long term committments to the board (well, at least to the end of their elected terms). You know, the board who will be working with the new executive director. Consider immediate appointments of the winners to the board after the election for the vacant positions to move the process along. This is a legislative year upcoming.

10. TCEA must become more politically active.
I touched on this above, but it is worth mentioning again. The new ED must be willing to learn the ropes at the Capitol and stay an integral part of that process. Legislators and their staff need someone to turn to for technology information that they know will be from a trusted and professional source. Being a visible, recognizable voice at the Capitol is imperative.  I was able to be a part of the virtual high school legislation because of my connections with another organization and my work with legislators. I was emailed and faxed pre-release copies of possible bills and suggested amendments to review and offer input. I networked with others more knowledgeable in the area from our consortium of schools, and we successfully passed a nice bill. This bill had failed many times before when it was no good for education. Working in a professional manner with a respected contact allowed that to happen. TCEA needs to emulate that. Soon.

So there is an Advocacy Committee. Make them a spotlight NOW. Let them help circle the wagons for immediate training about what is upcoming in the session and how TCEA plans to work within it. What are TCEA’s beliefs in advocacy? Who decided the initiatives TCEA will be pushing for? What will it be asking from/of legislators? How will it react to the legislative process? What can it offer the legislative process? You prefer that content to be private? Then use one of the Moodles we have in place so the information is available through registered users only. Or post them to a link only available to registered users on our website. Just get the information out there now. Don’t wait until the legislative session starts right after Christmas break and everyone is trying to get back into the swing of things. It is election time. Get the information out! Let the conversations begin now. Unveiling this at the conference in February is TOO late.

11. Neutrality
It is the job of ALL office staff to stay out of TCEA business decision-making. The TCEA office staff facilitates and runs the day to day portions of the organization, but it should NEVER become involved as a player in the process. In other words, come up with ideas, but do not go out and politic to get the idea through. It is the BOD’s decision. Or for another example, do not become a part of the elections except in an assistive manner. They should be handled completely by the board appointees. Nominations should be sent to the nomination chair and remain private until the passing of the deadline where they would be posted to the website immediately upon its closing. It removes any possible look of impropriety that could arise. This is of the utmost importance in expectations of the ED. Considering the board decides the contracts of the ED, why would it be any other way? This should be a mandate in place even if the new Ed happens to be a former TCEA member or former TCEA board member. Past positions should not change the current neutrality of the position. It would be a conflict of interest.

I probably have more, but I have moved beyond the thirty minutes Miguel used.  Sorry.  Mind you, some or all of these things might already be in place and I am just not informed. But that reinforces the point of transparency and communication. If we do not put information out there for the members to easily find, it could only lead to questions. Why not answer those questions with a resource we already have paid for: the website.

Please leave your comments of debate, disgust, and decision with my positions. I’m open to them. I’m hopeful there will be links aplenty to all kinds of leaders’ blogs, information sources that answer my questions above, directions on how best to offer solutions, etc.

5 thoughts on “TCEA as a Leader in Texas; TCEA Needs a Leader in Texas

  1. Scott, I had no idea you were running for the vacant seat in Area 7. Good luck! I am running for the vacancy in Area 19. Let’s hope we both get elected, as I completely agree with your call for more transparency and leadership from the organization.

    -Brian Grenier

  2. It would be nice to have a friend on the board. Some changes are needed, and I have no idea what the temperature of the board is (hence the needed transparency). Good luck with your race. I’d vote for you if I could.

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