Two years ago, Jerrilyn Woodard-Entrekin grew concerned about the amount of time her daughter and other children spent preparing for the state-mandated standardized tests, so she took her concerns to Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district officials.
Woodard-Entrekin, who describes herself as “one of the district’s biggest cheerleaders,” soon learned that the school district has little control over such things as the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR.
Because of her “squeaky wheel” approach, Woodard-Entrekin, whose daughter is a sixth-grader at Meadow Creek Elementary, was asked to participate in the district’s leadership academy. She completed the program last year.
The leadership academy this year is the recipient of the National School Boards Association’s Magna Award grand prize for a school district with over 20,000 students. It is also drawing attention from other districts, such as last month when the superintendent and trustees from the Abilene school district met with their H-E-B counterparts to learn more about the academy and how the school board conducts its meetings.
“I am delighted that I got into the program,” Woodard-Entrekin said. “Nothing replaces that kind of communication. I think that I”m a more effective leader and advocate for the school district than I was before.” Woodard-Entriken, who volunteers at Meadow Creek, has served on the the school’s Parent Teacher Association board.
H-E-B school board President Ellen Jones said four of the trustees elected in in the past several years have graduated from the academy.
“Some ask, ‘Why are you doing this? Aren’t you preparing someone to run against you?’ ” Jones said.
The answer is no. The program wasn’t created to influence the outcome of a school board election, she said, but instead because the school board wanted to prepare for the future.
“The program teaches our community what our school board does,” Jones said. “Although our community was very happy with the district, they didn’t understand the nuances and concerns about education.”
Participants in the academy look at issues that trustees face such as school finance and how property tax rates are set.
They also take a comprehensive tour of the district and look at facilities like the bus barn and learn about problems and challenges of maintaining older school buildings.
By the time they graduate, they have a good knowledge of H-E-B schools and can talk about them to the community.
When the district had its most recent bond election, in 2011, members of the leadership academy formed a political action committee to support the $136.5 million package.
Trustee Fred Campos is a graduate of the academy. Before he ran for the school board and won a seat two years ago, he said, he wanted to learn as much as he could about how the school district operated.
“I think the leadership academy is a brilliant idea,” he said. “We have our kids at stake, we have our future.”
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.