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Five TASA Members Named Finalists for 2015 Superintendent of the Year

08.17.2015 — Five public school administrators from across Texas were selected as state finalists for the annual Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) award sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). Since 1984, the SOTY program has recognized exemplary superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership.

The 2015 finalists and their Education Service Center (ESC) regions are:
  • Mary Ann Whiteker, Hudson ISD, Region 7
  • Paul Norton, Texarkana ISD, Region 8
  • Reggy Spencer, Colorado ISD, Region 14
  • Sylvia Hopp, San Elizario ISD, Region 19
  • Kevin Brown, Alamo Heights ISD, Region 20
The state selection committee, which interviewed regional winners August 14-15 in Austin, targeted such issues as business engagement, teacher retention, diversity of the state's student population, philosophy, educational leadership, challenges facing local school districts, and advocacy on behalf of public education.

Serving about 2,800 students, Whiteker has led Hudson ISD for 21 years and has 30 years of administrative experience. The committee cited her work as a tireless advocate for public schools and focus on developing the whole child. Her beliefs in improving instruction by not educating for a single state assessment and embracing learning for the 21st century also were noted. She is a member of the Commissioner's Superintendents Cabinet, and has served on TASA Executive Committee, Region VII ESC executive board, and as president of Texas Association of Community Schools. Whiteker earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Norton, superintendent of Texarkana ISD for four years, serves approximately 7,100 students. He has 16 years of administrative experience. Noted was the district's emphasis on college and career readiness, resulting in increases in dual-credit enrollment and ACT participation. Steps to strengthen early childhood and pre-K programs also were cited. Norton earned a bachelor's degree at Texas Tech University and master's degree at Texas A&M University. He is on the Region 8 ESC executive regional advisory council, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and is a charter member of the Northeast Texas Alliance of Black School Educators and active in other state and national groups.

With 17 years of experience in education administration, Spencer serves approximately 1,000 students. He has led Colorado ISD for five years. The selection committee noted his out-of-the box approach, such as use of foreign exchange teachers and a cooperative effort with other school districts that brought in additional revenue. Also noted was the accelerated high school with college courses for freshmen. Spencer earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Tarleton State University. He is a member of TASA, Texas Association of Community Schools, and Texas Elementary School Principals and Supervisors Association, and works with other community and area organizations.

At the helm of San Elizario ISD for three years, Hopp has 35 years of experience in education administration and serves approximately 3,800 students. Of note to the committee were English as second language programs to bring parents into the schools, outreach efforts through home visits, and initiatives to build cooperative relationships with city leadership. Hopp earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Texas at El Paso. She serves on the Commissioner's Superintendents Cabinet, and is active in TASA, Texas Association of Mid-Size Schools, Texas Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, and Far West Texas School Boards Association, among others.

Brown serves more than 4,800 students in Alamo Heights ISD and has 20 years of administrative experience. He has led the district for seven years. The committee cited his leadership in the Go Public Campaign, strong business ties with state and national companies, redesign of summer school programs, and focus on reengaging students in school. Brown earned a bachelor's degree at The University of Texas at Austin, master's at Texas State University, and doctorate at Texas A&M University. He is president of the Texas School Coalition, TASA president-elect, chair of Bexar County Superintendents, executive committee member of the Texas Academic Decathlon, and is active in other groups.

Candidates are chosen for their strong leadership skills, dedication to improving educational quality, ability to build effective employee relations, student performance, and commitment to public involvement in education. Superintendents from any of Texas' 1,029 local school districts are eligible for nomination by their school boards. Local nominees are submitted to a regional selection committee, which chooses one nominee to send to the state selection committee.

Regional winners nominated by regional selection committees are Alda Benavides, La Joya ISD, Region 1; Lynn Burton, Orange Grove ISD, Region 2; Patricia Montgomery, Angleton ISD, Region 4; John Valastro, Lumberton ISD, Region 5; Todd Stephens, Magnolia ISD, Region 6; Blake Wesley Cooper, Commerce ISD, Region 10; Frank Molinar, White Settlement ISD, Region 11; Diane Frost, Corsicana ISD, Region 12; Douglas Killian, Hutto ISD, Region 13; David Walker, Christoval ISD, Region 15; Kyle Lynch, Canadian ISD, Region 16; Gilbert Trevino, Floydada ISD, Region 17; and David Carr, Stanton ISD, Region 18.

The 2015 Superintendent of the Year will be announced October 3 at the TASA/TASB Convention in Austin. The winning superintendent will receive an award from Balfour, program underwriter.

TASB is a nonprofit association established in 1949 to serve local public school districts. School board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state. The districts they represent serve approximately 5.2 million students.