Fort Worth

Tarrant County educators recall long-time teacher advocate

Larry Shaw chats with Carla Kaufman, a Fort Worth school district administrator, before a school board meeting in April 8, 2008. Shaw, a longtime educator advocate, died June 17.
Larry Shaw chats with Carla Kaufman, a Fort Worth school district administrator, before a school board meeting in April 8, 2008. Shaw, a longtime educator advocate, died June 17. Star-Telegram archives

Larry Shaw was an educator who left classroom teaching to embark on another mission: to advocate for “the educational family.”

A longtime organizer, he pushed for fair pay, raises, duty-free lunch breaks and planning times for teachers. His work also included bus drivers and custodians — anyone who worked with children.

As a co-creator of the Tarrant County-based United Educators Association, he always made time to help an educator or school professional in need. In fact, the association’s emergency line was his cellphone.

On June, 17, Mr. Shaw died after a sudden illness.

Friends and colleagues said they will remember the retired UEA executive director as “a tireless advocate for teachers.”

“Larry’s passion to help all people in the educational family, from custodial staff, bus drivers, aides, teachers, superintendents, etc., was overwhelming and inspirationally contagious,” said Judy Luttrell, UEA’s co-founder. “He was planning new ways to help them up to the last day of his life. He defines the term luminary – a beacon to all of us in the world of education. I shall miss him greatly.”

A memorial service was Thursday. State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, obtained a state resolution in Mr. Shaw’s honor that was read at his memorial service.

“Larry Shaw’s contributions to the teaching profession impacted the lives of countless Texans, and he leaves behind a remarkable legacy of service that will forever be treasured by all who were privileged to know him,” the resolution states.

The UEA was incorporated in May 1992. It has grown to include more than 23,000 members working in education.

For many years, Mr. Shaw was a familiar presence at Fort Worth school board meetings. He often took the microphone to voice approval or disapproval of district budgets, plans and policies in his role as executive director of UEA — an association of more 23,000 members in about 40 school districts in North Texas, including Fort Worth, Keller, Arlington and Mansfield.

The UEA represents public school employees who pay dues to support the association. It has three offices in the Metroplex and a legal staff that assist members with issues, including grievances, sexual harassment and evaluations. The association, which is not a union, has relied largely on activism to make change because Texas doesn’t allow public school employees to strike.

In a July 2000 Star-Telegram profile, he described how he advocated for teacher raises in Fort Worth schools by threatened to sink the district’s $398 million bond program if district leaders didn’t increase starting teachers salaries to at least $30,000.

“Larry had a fiery passion for education and for those that educate children in the classroom. He was a supporter of our bus drivers, dietary teachers and administrators, but most importantly he was a champion for our children,” said Tobi Jackson, District 2 school trustee.

Mr. Shaw was born Aug. 17, 1947, in Opelika, Ala. He was the oldest of three children in a military family, according to a biography compiled by family and friends. His family moved throughout the United States with various military assignments. When he was in his senior year in high school, the family moved to Texas.

He was never afraid to tell on himself or laugh at himself.

Judy Luttrell, co-founder of the United Educators Association

Mr. Shaw graduated in 1971 from what was then North Texas State University in Denton with a bachelor’s degree in education/history. After graduation, he taught history and government in Beaumont from 1971 until 1980.

Steven Poole, executive director of UEA, said Mr. Shaw’s teaching career started under a desegregation order so he was a white teacher at an all-black campus.

“He loved those kids,” Poole said. “He loved that school.”

While teaching, Mr. Shaw became active in the local teacher’s association, Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA/NEA), and was eventually hired as a full-time organizer. In 1982, he came to Tarrant County to oversee local TSTA groups. He met Luttrell, who was president of the local Mansfield TSTA. In 1992, the two created the UEA.

“He was an institution in and of himself,” Poole said. “I am really going to miss the man.”

Survivors include his wife, Shari Shaw; a daughter, Amanda Munroe; and two grandchildren.

This contains material from Star-Telegram archives.

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1

Memorial contributions

A scholarship fund has been created to provide educators with continuing education. Send contributions to Larry Shaw Memorial Scholarship Fund, United Educators Association, 4900 SE Loop 820, Suite 200, Fort Worth, TX 76140