GBTB - DFY | State Board Of Education

Education: Dr. Audrey Young On The State Board Of Education, What It Means To Serve At A Local And State Level, And Why We Need Teamwork To Improve Public Education

Attention Mentions:

Dr. Audrey Young: The Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain, NC

Claire: The Ivana Trump Story on Hulu

Nichole: Law and Order SVU on Peacock

Go behind the ballot with us as we learn from Dr. Audrey Young who serves in District 8 on the Texas State Board of Education. She walks us through the challenges and rewards of serving in a small district of around 250 students versus the state board where she has almost 2 million constituents. We discuss the necessity of teamwork and commitment especially when these office holders serve without pay. Dr. Young details how she sees her role and the way she communicates with the people she serves. We also learn about the relationship between the Texas Education Agency and the Texas State Board of Education.

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Education: Dr. Audrey Young On The State Board Of Education, What It Means To Serve At A Local And State Level, And Why We Need Teamwork To Improve Public Education

We have a wonderful conversation with you all. We spoke with Dr. Audrey Young. She is a former school board member. She was a school board member in Apple Springs ISD, which is this small little district with about 200 students, and then she dumped to become a State Board of Education member where she’s representing almost two million constituents for District 8. She talked to us all about her passion and commitment to public education. This was a cool conversation.

She has been in public education for many years, which is incredible. She has a real passion for special education. Also, she helped me understand how the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency work side-by-side. That was something that wasn’t necessarily clear to me before. She was great at breaking down many of these little bits of confusion I had about how the agencies work together. It was helpful.

We are trying to figure out what that structure looks like with public education like, “Where do the State Board of Education members fall, school board trustee, and TEA, state representatives who put into effect these laws that they have to go implement?” There are a lot of moving pieces. We are hoping with this education series to block it out a little bit. It makes sense.

She threw on another one, though, that we might have to explore, the SBEC, State Board for Educator Certification. There’s a lot, everybody, but Dr. Young helped with this portion.

We have a nice amount. Hopefully, we didn’t bite off too much to chew. We hope you enjoy this one. We are going to learn all about the State Board of Education from Dr. Audrey Young.

Dr. Young, could you tell us a little bit about you, where you come from, and the work that you are doing?

Thank you for having me on the show. I completed my 28th year in Public Education. I work as the Director of Student Support Services for Nacogdoches ISD. I oversee all things special education, as well as all of the therapies. I am a speech therapist by trade, taught eighth grade English Language, Arts, and Reading, and then became a middle school Administrator and the District Director. In that time, I also ran for my local school board and was part of my local school board at Apple Springs ISD for six years, and then ran for the State Board of Education District 8, which I now represent. I’m finishing my first term.

How did you know that you wanted to go into education? Did you have an impactful teacher growing up? I’m curious how you found yourself in that profession.

Two things happened. One, my mother is a retired area Superintendent, so I grew up in this life. Secondly, in eighth grade, we had to interview somebody who worked for the school system, do a job interview, and find out what the requirements were for education and training. I interviewed the school-based speech therapist and thought that was the coolest job ever. I decided in eighth grade that that’s what I was going to do. That’s what I did. It was intentional to be in the school system.

That’s interesting. I’ve shared in other episodes, so pardon me for repeating myself but I taught public school for ten years. Similarly, it’s quite the family profession. My grandmother, mom, aunt, and dad were public school teachers. It’s funny how it runs in families.

We are a family full of public servants. My grandmother was a nurse. She graduated from Baylor here in Texas many moons ago. My mother was a nurse first before she went into education. Both of my daughters are in health career fields. My sister and my husband are in law enforcement. We believe in serving the community through education, health, and safety.

Is your family all East Texas-based?

We are. The majority of us live over here in this area. We have some family in San Angelo. We have some family in the Waco area as well.

We will get into the school board and SBOE but was there anyone in your family that had ran for office or were you the first one?

I’m the first person that ran for office. That, too, was something that happened because I had a great teacher, Mr. Mason Wooden. He was my eighth-grade Social Studies teacher. He encouraged me to run for student council president. From that point forward, I was class representative and did all of the things. For anyone who doesn’t know that when you agree to be class representative or student council president, you may end up planning your high school reunions. That is the gift that keeps on giving. If you thought it ended in your senior year in high school, you were wrong. I’m planning the 30-year class reunion several years past the 30-year mark.

My friend got a DM from our class president asking if she wanted to co-host with her and help her plan. My friend, though said, “I will pass. Thank you so much.”

We just believe in serving the community by education, by health, and by safety. Click To Tweet

Leadership was something that I invested in. I had a teacher invest in quite some time ago. I had an excellent example, obviously my own mother. It has followed me ever since.

I always like to think what are the little bread crumbs that lead people to where they are now. It’s interesting. For you, it was watching your mother as a Superintendent and then serving yourself back in high school. Little did you know it was preparing you for greater things down the road. For a school board, what made you decide you wanted to try running for a school board?

I was having a discussion. I had been in Public Education for twenty years at that point and was having a discussion with a family member and said, “Maybe one day I would like to run for school board when I retire.” That conversation was overheard. Someone showed up at my house with an application for the school board and said, “They have open positions now.” I was like, “Maybe you missed the, ‘When I’ve retired part.’”

I went ahead and applied. This is an example of when every vote counts. It’s a little tiny community. There were four seats open. Nine people ran, which is like everybody in the community. The 2 seats were tied, for seats 3 and 4 were with me and another young man named Daniel. We tied for 3rd and 4th seats. We only beat the person in 5th place by three votes. We went unopposed from that point forward but that was a tight race. That was an example of getting out, shaking people’s hands, attending the candidate forums, making sure that people knew who I am and what I stand for, and ensuring that I had the opportunity to serve the community of Apple Springs ISD in Trinity County.

Was there a particular issue or matter that made you want to run for this position? Was there something you were wanting to change within the school system and Apple Springs ISD at that time?

Interestingly, you asked that question because most people do run on what I call their soap box. Most people run with the idea in mind that they are going to hire the next superintendent or the athletic director, or get rid of some teacher they don’t like. I ran because there had never been an educator on the board at Apple Springs ISD ever in the history of Apple Springs ISD. Being a District Director, I had the administrative point of view. I had been a classroom teacher, itinerant with my speech therapy.

I had a pretty good idea of the inner workings of the school system from the inside. I was curious as to what the workings are from the outside, from the school board down, because they have one employee, and that’s the superintendent. You adopt the policy. You work with the superintendent on processes and procedures, budget, and those elements. Those are things that I had not experienced in my time in education.

I want to pull back a little bit because I feel like this is something that is news to me. I’m the less experienced in this world, one of the duo of us. I still find it surprising when I hear that people who serve on committees like that don’t necessarily have an education background, that that’s not a requirement. Who does serve then? Is it who steps forward? Can it be any person? Who are those people?

What are those barriers, if any?

I wrote my dissertation on school boards and the superintendent and pulled that data as part of my dissertation. People run for all different reasons, as it entertains your question previously clear. Nichole, all types of people run. Oftentimes, as we’ve already discussed, there are people who run who have their reasons for running. It could be somebody’s grandpa because they want to give their grandson their high school diploma when they cross that stage. We were fortunate in Apple Springs ISD. We had such a well-rounded board because it takes all kinds of people from all different walks and areas of expertise to manage a school district or at least manage the superintendent who manages the school district to make sure that it’s running efficiently.

If you have too many of one kind, you have too many teachers or educators on the board. You’ve got people who are looking at curriculum and teacher-classroom management and all those things closely but then who’s looking at maintenance and facility? Who’s looking at transportation? Who’s looking at the budget? Who’s looking at all of those things? Who on your board represents those things? We were fortunate in Apple Springs. We had a banker, an engineer, a stay-at-home mom, a local pastor, and an electrician. We had quite the gamut that helped cover all of the areas that were of interest. People of all ages run.

GBTB - DFY  | State Board Of Education
State Board Of Education: It takes all kinds of people from all different walks and areas of expertise to really manage a school district, to make sure that it’s running efficiently.

 

Essentially, the basic minimal requirement in the State of Texas is that you have to be eighteen and eligible to vote in the district in which you are running or for the seat that you are running for. That means that you had to have your voter’s registration at least six months, maybe a year, before applying to run for that position. To be a registered voter, you have to meet those criteria. You can’t be a convicted felon. You don’t have to have a high school diploma, a college degree or any other additional educational requirements.

What’s interesting about this to me is I realized how limited my point of view is, which is why these conversations are so great because I always come at it from that teacher’s point of view because that’s what I used to do and who I’m related to. I always think, “What can other people have to offer?” It’s because I’m taking such a narrow view, and I forget the things that you pointed out, facilities, maintenance, transportation, and the things that are important to the efficient and effective running of a school district. I forget.

There’s so much more to it. We were always thankful to the banker on our board at Apple Springs ISD, she was phenomenal in knowing, decoding, and understanding State Funds and Federal Funds and where those funds can be spent and they can’t be spent. It was good to have someone who we could lean on, who understood that element of it.

Let’s say you run for the school board. You don’t have a strong background in education. You are on a dais. How do you catch up to speed and know what a better decision is?

It does require a lot of background knowledge and reading your board documents prior to the meeting, taking that time. Most school districts provide those to their board members a week in advance. It gives the board member that opportunity to reach out to some of those people who they feel are experts in that area, some of their own little personal team of folks that they rely on to help bring them up to speed. It is a lot to learn. If you are not in education and you are not familiar with the jargon, the language, the acronyms, and all of the different elements, I call them baby board members. It doesn’t matter what age you are. If you are a baby board member, you are taking in a whole lot of information.

Remember, most boards have an official one major board meeting a month. Some meet weekly for finance and meet another week for whatever reason but they have one major board meeting a month. That’s only twelve meetings in a year. That’s a lot of information to learn in a short time. It’s like taking multiple college courses and all of these different areas and trying to be successful at the end of that year. Knowing that you are making budgets or decisions that not only impact the children of the school district but the staff and the overall financial health of the district as well.

What does that time commitment look like? What did it look like for you when you were a school board member?

As a school board member in Apple Springs was in the wee tiny babies’ school, tiny school district. We are a 1A school district with essentially 1 campus, 215 students, pre-K-12. That is a little tiny baby school district. The time management for that was reasonable. You could spend as much time digging in as you wanted to or the information for a school district of that size. The budget is so much smaller. We know all the staff members by name. My husband, on the other hand, is a school board member at Conroe ISD. He lives in Montgomery County. They have 69,000 students, 67 campuses, and 10,000 employees. There’s no way to know the name of every staff member. Their buses drive 3 million miles a year.

That comparison alone, when we have those conversations, what does it look like for a board member or a board member at a 1A school district? I have time not only to read my board documents but to attend every single event and to go to the six-man football game on Friday night, to be there the next morning and watch the track and cross country run or whatever. In a large school district, which Conroe is, I believe, the ninth largest school district in the State of Texas, you’ve got eight other school districts that are even bigger than that; it’s a full-time volunteer job.

Is this a paid position?

It is not. It is an unpaid position. Local school boards are unpaid positions. It’s a volunteer. People do it out of the goodness of their hearts. You have to have some level of altruism to want to do something good for someone, whether it’s a lot of someones or a few someones to invest that time of mental energy and emotional energy, and a lot of times, financial energy. Nobody pays for your gas to show up at the board meetings or at any of those games.

Local school boards are unpaid positions. It's volunteer work. People do it out of the goodness of their heart. Click To Tweet

You don’t get reimbursement for any of those things. You buy T-shirts and fundraisers from the students and that thing. There’s no budget for that. That comes out of pocket. If you are lucky, you might get a UIL card and get into games or somebody might give you a T-shirt you get to wear once a year or something. Not a big benefit package there.

It’s shocking because it’s different state by state, in my understanding. Some states do pay. I don’t think a lot but something to their school board members. Do you know why Texas decided not to?

I can speak to that. The State of Florida pays its school board members. There are 67 counties in the State of Florida. Each county in the State of Florida is represented only by 1 school board and 1 superintendent. Forty-two of those counties have elected superintendents. It’s an elected position. The others have appointed positions but the school board members are all paid. They are all paid the base salary rate, as well as insurance and retirement benefits and any other additional benefits that their local school district provides to them.

You are earning teacher retirement for every year that you are a school board member. The State of Louisiana also provides some levels of stipends and reimbursements as well like the State of Mississippi. Let’s say you are on the board of trustees there. You are not necessarily paid for being a trustee member but if you oversee the health committee, the budget, and finance committee, or some committees, there are some stipends of $500 to $1,500 to $2,500 that are tied to that. There’s reimbursement of sorts.

Can you talk about some of maybe the advantages and disadvantages of these systems? I’ve got some things that are full airing off in my head.

In Florida, obviously, the school board races are highly competitive. It’s a paid position. It’s not a bad part-time gig if you are going to get paid a base teacher salary. However, in the State of Texas, we are volunteers. You get what you vote for and sometimes what you pay for. You have the gamut. You have some phenomenal trustees who understand their role and position for the board and who worked well with their superintendent or for the staff and students of their community. We have other board members who are not as well-trained, who are there for their personal reasons, and probably have a narrow focus as to what their own purpose for being on the board is. You’re going to have a wide range.

Those obstacles or challenges are going to be present whether people are paid or not. It almost sounds like it has a huge effect on how competitive some of these places are.

In the State of Texas, some of these local school board races have heated up. They have people who’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigning for a free position, for an unpaid volunteer position that you cannot make any decision individually. You have to be then able to have influence with your board members for any of the topics or subjects of interest that you have to have something passed because you have to have a minimum of four votes.

That’s an important point that I don’t think I was aware of. You can’t be a one-person operation.

I can come in full bore, all excited. I’m going to advocate for all the special ed kids and make sure everybody has whatever it is. Pick something. Everybody gets a pink umbrella if you are in special ed. I’m just one person. Unless I convinced three other people that that’s as important to them as it is to me, then that’s not going to happen. That’s the biggest part of learning how to work as a team when you are on a school board.

If you want to run, try to have a team player mentality, it sounds like.

GBTB - DFY  | State Board Of Education
State Board Of Education: You’re making decisions that not only impact the children of the school district, but the staff and the overall financial health of the district as well.

 

If you don’t have a team player mentality, at least ensure that you have some like-mindedness with other people who are either currently on the board or who are also running at the same time as you but maybe for a different seat, obviously, not your same seat that you are running, so that you know that there’s going to be the ability to influence and make a change.

I’m thinking about the potential conflict that could arise if people are not on the same page. I’m sure some of these meetings can last for hours.

They do, and you are there for free. If you are lucky, your school district provides you with dinner. In Apple Springs, we are family-oriented, and we signed up month to month and brought our dinner for everybody else like a potluck. At Christmas time, it was a potluck. In Apple Springs, we don’t even have stoplights. It’s not like you can run to a restaurant or order something in. We don’t have DoorDash or Uber Eats. That’s how we functioned at Apple Springs but that’s a small school district, whereas, in the large school districts, they get a pretty decent meal.

If anything, that’s the least you can get. I would like to transition into SBOE or the State Board of Education. You are serving as a school board trustee. When did you decide, “I would like to try to make the leap and be an SBOE representative?”

I had the opportunity during my Doctoral program at Stephen F Austin State University to complete a political educational internship with Representative Trent Ashby. He is my representative in this area. I was able to work with him in that internship. At that time, he asked the question like you ask any kid in school, “Ultimately, what do you want to do?” I said, “I understand that the highest level of volunteerism in the State of Texas for education is the state board. Maybe one day I would like to run for the state board.” He said, “There’s a state board race that’s going on you should pay pretty close attention to.” at that time, it was Dr. Keven Ellis, who is our Chair of the State Board.

He was running for the first time for the state board as well. I did pay close attention. I knew my State Board member representative at the time. It was Barbara Cargill. I reached out and told her, “I would never run against you ever. If at any time you think you might not run, I sure would like to be your girl.” That process in itself was interesting. It’s quite arduous to convince people that you are the person for that seat and that you have the mindset, attitude, ability, energy, and intelligence to make these decisions and to move Texas education forward.

Anyway, she let me know that she was going to be retiring from the state board. Her husband had retired from his job, and she had promised him that she would join him. We went from there. I went from representing 215 kids to 1.9 million constituents across 11 different counties. It has been quite an adventure.

Dr. Young, when you were saying you were needing to convince people that you were the one, it was for you to run, who is that, that you are convincing at that point? Were those constituents, or was that the party?

That was partially the party. The other thing is that the state board is a partisan position. Unlike local school boards, those are not partisan positions. Part of that was convincing the party. The other part was convincing players in the field, large influencers, for lack of a better term, those who had influence over large bodies of collective individuals.

Those who would endorse you.

Essentially, yes, or at least spread the word, whether they made a large and public endorsement or whether it was something like, “She has been in education a long time. She does a good job. We think that she would be great at understanding the plight of the teachers.” Different factions of folks, that’s who it was that I was having conversations with so that I could reach a lot of people in a short time.

It can amplify, it sounds like. Why are school board races non-partisan and SBOE partisan?

There's a lot of differences between the states as far as local boards, as well as their boards of education. Click To Tweet

That’s the law. That’s legislation. I don’t know why. It’s separate like that. I know that other boards of education in other states are appointed by the governor. I know here in the State of Texas, at one time, it was as well.

Many quirky things.

There are a lot of differences between the states as far as local boards, as well as their boards of education. In the State of Texas, it’s a partisan election. In local races, it is not.

We spoke to another woman who’s running for Austin ISD. We were talking about TEA. She was telling us that the education commissioner had been appointed. In other states, are they elected? Do you know if that’s pretty consistently an appointed position?

Pretty consistently, that is a place positioned one way or another, whether advertised and people apply for it. It still is a highly selective position and normally works closely with the governor of the state.

I didn’t even realize some physicians could flip back and forth, so I’m like, “How’s it in this state?” Could you take a step back and tell us what TEA is and what its role is in regard to public education?

The Texas Education Agency. They oversee everything education in the State of Texas. They have many different areas that they cover. In particular, the one that I deal with is special education mostly, but they cover everything for the State of Texas. There are departments for every single element of education. It’s a huge agency. The State Board of Education works closely with TEA. The state board, as well as TEA, both have to put into place what legislation decides.

It’s our job, both SBOE and TEA, to place rules and procedures and adopt policy related to any legislative changes, updates or requirements. In addition to that, it’s also maintaining the withitness of education. We are not still using desktop computers since 1995. There’s the constancy of keeping up with education. TEA oversees all of those areas as well.

The state board also has the responsibility of updating the Texas essential knowledge and skills, which are leading the elements that we use for curriculum and educating the children in the State of Texas, updating those on a cyclical basis. They’re on a calendar. This is when we look at it unless legislation tells us, “You are not going to wait until 2026 to look at this. We need you to look at this now.”

Can they pass a bill to push it so that you have to take it up sooner? How does that work?

They can pass legislation that says, “We need to take a closer look at something.” I don’t have any doubt predictively. I will say it’s going to be safety in the 88th legislation. I’m just throwing this out there. That might be something that’s not on our cycle to look at until, again, I will use 2026. Legislation is going to say, “We need to look at this now.” Health and wellness came out of the 86th legislation. It happened that was on the cycle at that time anyway. They had reviewed it, so we went back and updated a few things based on that legislation.

GBTB - DFY  | State Board Of Education
State Board Of Education: The process was quite arduous to convince people that you’re the person for that seat and that you have the mindset, the attitude, the ability, the energy, the intelligence to make these decisions and to move Texas education forward.

 

The way I’m understanding it is that TEA, the Texas Education Agency, and the State Board of Education works side by side. There is not necessarily that one is above.

The commissioner is not like a superintendent on the school board. It’s not like the school board is over the superintendent. The superintendent does all the things. We are here because we are an elected body overseeing Texas’s essential knowledge and skills and all the other legislation that the state says that we need to oversee. The commissioner is an appointed position equivalent to us. When he is given legislation that he has drafted and adopted and the right rule and put into place, we cross-reference that information to ensure that we are working together and not against each other in ensuring that both bodies are providing what the State of Texas needs and education as a whole.

I also want to clarify this the side-by-side SBOE, State Board of Education, and Texas Education Agency, and then within the Texas Education Agency, because it has so much that it covers and regulates, there’s a whole bureaucracy within the TEA that oversees and supervises all of those different things that it covers. The state board of education doesn’t have a bureaucratic part. It’s the board.

What was the learning curve like jumping from school board to SBOE?

This would have been my board book papers for Apple Springs, my little baby school district.

For the readers, this is maybe a ten-page packet of papers.

This is what a board packet looks like for the state board.

It’s a giant binder.

It’s hundreds and hundreds of pages. Time consumption was probably the largest one. Had I come from a big school district, that probably would have seemed normal. I’m fortunate I’m in education. I know what TEKS are. I know the language, the lingo, the acronyms. I know all the things related to education. I know how to open up a teacher’s guide. I know what I’m looking at.

I don’t have to learn any of those things. Learning to get along with others so that we come to a shared understanding so that we can make positive change in Texas is what my learning curve has been. Who is it that I’m working with? I’m no longer working on a 7-member board or 8, including your superintendent. I’m on a fifteen-member board along with the commissioner of education as an additional element. You have to have the majority vote.

Does the education commissioner vote on items, too?

There are some other fun things that we get to do as part of providing service to our community. Click To Tweet

No, but you often want to know what direction or what idea the commissioner has, especially in relation to any legislation that has come through. You want to make sure that you are jiving with what’s going on or not. We went through the State Board of Educators Certification, SBEC, which is an appointed body. They were looking at teacher certification, a new level of teacher certification.

It had to go through SBOE. We voted for it. We sent it back and said, “I don’t think that that’s conducive to what needs to be done to ensure that we have quality teachers in the State of Texas.” That has been pushed back, and it’s being looked at. That’s an example of the way that the state board has to work with other entities within TEA as well.

We are going from a ten-page catch-you-up-to-speed to thousands of pages. Surely, this position is paid.

Surely not, which is why I work my other job. I work so I can volunteer.

That’s not the first time we’ve heard that. Maybe that’s going to be our theme for this series.

I love public education. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t love it. I have my whole heart in what happens with the children of the State of Texas. Being on the state board has been rewarding on so many levels and also highly challenging, no longer hearing from a dozen people about a topic. I’m hearing from thousands of people about a topic. The learning curve, check my email regularly. If not, I will have 3,000 emails in my inbox in 3 days, and I didn’t even realize it.

That is completely up to you to respond to.Don’t you have a staff or anyone?

There is TEA staff. That part of their assignment is the state board. That is not their full assignment. They prepare our meetings for us. They prepare our agendas. They help answer questions. They lead the work committees that help update the TEKS. They lead the work committees that review curriculum and instructional materials. Babysitting us is not their full-time job.

They are not sifting through your emails for you and telling you what to do and whatnot.

I get to do that all on my own. There are times when it’s entertaining. I will receive a bunch of emails related to something specific for SBOE. It’s right on target. It’s something that I need to prepare an answer for. It makes me think. Other times, I get these chain emails about the salmon in the rivers of some polluted water stuff. I’m like, “I’m sorry but that’s out of the purview of the State Board of Education. Let me refer you to someone who can help you with that.”

You are nice to even take the time for that. It sounds like a deleted one for me.

GBTB - DFY  | State Board Of Education
State Board Of Education: You want to know what direction or what idea the commissioner has especially in relation to any legislation that has come through. You want to make sure that you’re jiving with what’s going on.

 

I do try to take the time to respond to as many of the emails as I possibly can. I looked at my box, and I probably got 200 emails. They essentially all say the same thing. It’s all about a particular topic and their position on that topic. I will prepare an answer that I will then share along so that they know that I have read what they’ve asked and know my position on it. We will go from there. I’ve learned to speed that up.

I hear what you are saying. You’ve recognized that. You don’t need to recreate an individual answer every time.

If a constituent is asking something specific, I do try to take the time to make sure that in addition to maybe my generic response that I’m providing, I also respond specifically about that. There are a lot of fun things about the State Board of Education that we also get to do. This is the other thing that I’ve learned. I get letters from children and young men who become Eagle Scouts. We also awarded what’s called the Student Hero Award. Those are students that are recognized in their districts. One from every SBOE district is chosen.

We announced fifteen student heroes. We have the same thing with volunteers. There’s a Volunteer of the Year Award as well. We get to present those plaques, metals, and different elements. We get invited to graduations to give out some diplomas. That’s a nice thing to get to do. There are some other fun things that we get to do as part of providing service to our community.

You are busy. It’s not even your paid position. It sounds like. Going back to the paid work that you do, you have been in education a long time. I’m sure that knowledge has helped guide the decisions that you are making. How has education changed 10 or 20 years back? Is it significantly different now? I have a child that’s going to start school soon. It’s fresh on my mind. I’m curious what it has been like leading up to this point.

I would have to say that many years ago, we focused on the core areas of reading, writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies. We were focused on the academics of education. They tossed in some fun like PE, choir, band, and those activities. Home Economics is what it used to be called. I learned to iron and sew and make macaroni and cheese. It was awesome. We took Typing class. We learned to type. There are a lot of things that we have moved away from or piled on top of.

Education has come to educating what we now call the whole child. We have wrapped in counseling efforts, family mitigation efforts, social work, nursing, and all of the additional things. I remember my mother picking me up from school and taking me to the health department to get my vaccinations for school. We now have school districts we offer them. We have picked up so many of the additional responsibilities that parents used to manage on their own. I believe that at times because we expect so much of school districts, we are unable to accomplish the task completely.

It does seem like one of those things where a lot rolls downhill to education.

I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m just answering your question, “What is the difference between 30 years ago to now?” I had a mom who stopped by my office earlier and picked up some paperwork for her students in relation to their necessity for a private nurse that attends school. That’s something that has happened in the last few years. There are many additional things that public school has taken on. We have lost some of the focus on the core curriculums. We are now figuring out that it’s time to start steering us back in that direction.

We have students now that are learning Phonics when we had cut out Phonics several years ago when the State of Texas inherited their take on the whole language. We have students that are going to take their tests now on the computer. We haven’t taught them Typing. We are going to have a bunch of hunters and peckers. Now we are going to have to go back to teaching Typing. We had students graduating from high school who didn’t know what a signature was because we cut out cursive writing in third grade.

It sounds like education now is expected to provide so much more beyond ABCs and 1, 2, and 3. It’s feeding kids, vaccinating kids, more of the social safety net that I don’t know if it was there before and it went away or maybe it was never there. Do schools have more funding for these things or have to figure it out with what they have?

We have lost some of the focus on the core curriculums and we are now figuring out that it's time to start steering us back in that direction. Click To Tweet

Some of the legislation comes as unfunded mandates. In the 86th legislation, it was changed that school counselors. If your job description is school counselor, you were to be providing 80% counseling to students and 20% other work. Many school districts, because of state testing and the 504 and Response to Intervention programs, had also utilized their counselors in those manners as well.

There is auxiliary staff, there is the staff that’s not in the classroom with a bunch of students but we have all of these other student needs that must be met. Who do you give that work to? To the counselor. The legislation changed and said, “You can’t do that anymore. We have students that need some counseling. We need you to focus on getting that done.”

You are saying that it was unfunded.

Who’s going to pick up all the other duties? Who’s going to be your test administrator? Who’s going to take care of some of those other things that the counselors have been doing? Again, I’m not saying whether that was right or wrong. That’s an example of an unfunded mandate. They didn’t say, “Your counselors are now going to council 80% of the time, and 20% of the time, you can have them do whatever it else that you need them to do lunch duty, bus duty, whatever. We are also going to give you $100,000, so you can hire two more people to help pick up all other things that the counselor won’t be able to do it anymore.” That didn’t happen.

I’m shocked that unfunded mandates are allowed. That’s crazy to me that they can make the rules but you have to figure out how you are going to implement the rules. I’m sure many times means sacrificing certain things to implement that.

An example of that was maybe the 83rd or 84th legislation. It was quite some time ago. They legislated that school buses had to have safety belts or seat belts. Did you all ride the school bus when you were a kid? We didn’t have seatbelts. We just bounced around everywhere. That came through but that was an unfunded mandate. What happened was then they tweaked it and said, “All new school buses ordered from this particular year when this went into effect forward must be built with or purchased with seatbelts.”

Schools like Apple Springs, which have school buses that are twenty years old, were going to have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to retrofit our school buses with seatbelts if that was the mandate for all school buses right here and now. It was tweaked a little bit so that it allowed school buses. That’s large school districts that buy buses 30, 40 or 50 buses a year and rotate those out but then there’s a little tiny school district like Apple Springs, whose buses are from the late 1990s. Changing the amount of time that the guidance counselor has available to the campus for other reasons that’s an unfunded mandate. That’s 2 examples, 1 in transportation, 1 in education.

It makes me think when the state is making these decisions are you in communication with those representatives saying, “By the way, this is going to have this fallout?” Who’s talking to them providing that guidance on education?

Oftentimes, our superintendents are trying to pay close attention to proposing legislation. In that particular case, I wrote a long letter to Senator Nichols explaining to him the impact that it would have on Apple Springs ISD and other school districts. However, nobody wants to stand up there and say, “My kids don’t need seat belts.” You don’t want to be that person either. What’s the fastest way to get unelected from a school board?

It makes me think of the pilot shortage that we are having and how bad travel is. Part of it’s the pilot shortage and the fact that you need 1,500 hours of flying hours. It’s a huge number but who wants to say, “Maybe we don’t need that much. Other countries have less.” The minute the accident happens, it’s game over.

You don’t want to be that person who’s like, “Why do kids need seatbelts?” You have to pay attention to the budget within our district that you are going to require something that we don’t have the funds set aside to pay for.

GBTB - DFY  | State Board Of Education
State Board Of Education: Education has come to educating what we now call the ‘whole child’. We have wrapped in counseling efforts, family mitigation efforts, social work, nursing and all of the additional things.

 

The inner workings.

I’m curious about testimony. When you were a school board member, I’m sure parents and community members testified before you, and same as an SBOE member, how impactful is testimony in your decision-making process?

Testimony, as well as the written word to me, the emails that I receive and that thing, which I feel is another form of testimony, it’s impactful in the sense that it gives you the opportunity to hear it from someone who either has a passion about it or who has some expert knowledge in the field. Sometimes, that carries away to persuasion.

It’s important if you know about this topic, if that is something that you do or if that’s something that your child did or something that how to have a change of some kind be it negative or positive, share that, be vocal about it because it might also help aid in the decision, not only the decision that’s being made but sometimes when I talked about that previous legislation about the seatbelts, what we did is we shared some concerns.

They tweaked it to make it accessible to all in that sense. It didn’t add any money to it but they fixed it so that school districts weren’t out of compliance that their buses were older than a certain age. Testimony also provides that help as well because you are hearing it from another lens or a different perspective. If someone has that, then you are able to sometimes add something else in addition to that rule or into that policy, or maybe adopt an additional piece that helps it become complete and helpful to everyone.

That’s good to know because Nichole and I talk about how it’s easy to feel powerless and like, “My opinion doesn’t matter. I’m not even going to vote.” To know that there are these tools available to you to be heard and that they could make an impact on the person making the decision is a good reminder. Maybe you can’t be there in person, write an email. Do what you can to speak out.

I get emails that will say, “I’m a teacher in such and such district. I teach such and such. The State Board of Education is looking at updating this particular TEKS. I happened to teach that one. This is what I do in my classroom. Here’s how it could be better. If you change it to this, it’s going to make this impact happen.” Those were examples that are good at providing us with a perspective that we may not have. I’m fortunate. I can walk right outside my building to the elementary school across the street and take a look at how something that we’ve decided impacts the state but not everyone has that opportunity.

We’ve had such a good run of public servants who are pragmatically showing how they listen to people. I want to keep highlighting that as much as we can because it’s easy to tip into cynicism and feel like people aren’t listening but it’s so not true. For the people that are reading, don’t assume. Try.

Try and ask questions. That’s the biggest thing. Probably some of the hardest things that I’ve come across are the misinformation and having to get people to backpedal when misinformation has been shared and then being able to publicly correct that information. It can have a connotation to it that could be positive or it could be negative but it might be hurtful in a situation where it needs to be helpful instead.

That’s such a great reminder. We will wrap up with 1 or 2 more questions. This is a question I asked one of our last guests but I thought it was helpful to hear her answer. You do a lot obviously with public education and making sure that students have the experience they can. Parents are busy. They have a lot going on. They are working and raising their kids. What’s the one thing you think parents could do that would help their child’s education? Where should our focus be?

My biggest piece of advice for parents is to find something at the school that you can volunteer for, whether it’s part of the PTA or PTO, whether it’s to be part of the student health advisory council or committee, whether it pops patrol in the morning where you are a volunteer parent that helps kids get in and out of cars. It helps not only your own child but all the other children. You could be the classroom mom or dad. See if there are volunteer opportunities. You can read a book to the kids, whether it’s in the library or on Read Across America Day.

Try and ask questions. Some of the hardest things is misinformation and having to get people to backpedal when misinformation has been shared and then being able to publicly correct that information. Click To Tweet

Pay attention to what’s going on. On the website, make sure that you do your part and read your child’s folder when it comes home and signs the papers, and be engaged as regularly as you possibly can so that the teacher is familiar with you. Your child is comfortable with you being in that educational atmosphere and understands you are there to support them. Making those connections and building those relationships.

That’s important, especially now going back to asking questions and being curious, some parents are deciding where they’re going to send their child to school. I’m a part of a lot of mom groups that will say, “Should I send my child to this overcrowded, highly rated school or this less well-rated school that has a better student-to-teacher ratio?” I’m like, “You should go tour the school. You should go talk to the people working there.” That’s not a great snapshot until you experience it yourself and know if that’s going to be a good fit for your family or not. That’s always my advice.

I also say, don’t judge a book by its cover. We have some elementary schools that are pretty sad-looking on the outside or even on the inside. They have some of the greatest teachers in those classrooms and some of the most phenomenal administrators. I say tour the school. Again, because the paint on the wall is ugly or the carpet is a little dirty, that’s not what impacts your child’s education. It’s the teachers in those classrooms. You want to ensure that they are receiving the best education.

Do you have any final questions, Nichole? I have one.

I don’t. I’m just soaking it in.

I wanted to wrap up by asking, what’s maybe 1 or 2 things that you wish people knew about your work as an SBOE member that they probably have no clue about?

It is hugely time-consuming. It does take a deep level of passion for doing the job well, making those connections, reaching out to people, listening to constituents, and taking time to get to know people and their causes and what it is that they stand for. That has been probably the largest part for me and SBOE since I’m already in education. I enjoy it. I truly do love the process of updating the TEKS, choosing the curriculum, and imparting that wisdom to the teachers and staff of Texas.

I did think of a final question. It was earlier when you said how much you love public education. I wanted you to speak to that a little bit. What is it that you love? If you could impart that love and passion to others, what would you say?

It’s incredibly rewarding, no matter how hard it is, to get up every day and come to work early in the morning. When I was a Middle School Administrator, I would shut down the gym on Thursday night at midnight or at 11:00. Anybody who didn’t get picked up by their parent, I drove them home. I was back on bus duty at 6:45 in the morning.

There’s a love in it because you know you are doing right by children and doing the right thing. You are ensuring that they have a safe place to be educated and discover their passion and what they want to be when they grow up and to be able to watch that happen and know that you are a little tiny piece of making the world better. In public education, you can watch that happen.

Dr. Young, we are appreciative of the work you do as an SBOE member. Even though I’m not in your district, you still represent Nichole and I as Texans. We are both moms with kids in school. We are grateful that you do this work. It’s a fun little sendoff. We were going to do our Attention Mentions, which is where we mentioned something that we can’t get out of our minds that we have to mention to the world. It can be an article, a movie, a TV show, a song or an app. Does anything come to mind?

Biggest piece of advice for parents is to find something at the school that you can volunteer for. Click To Tweet

Do you have one yet, Dr. Young?

I do have one. It’s the Land of Oz. On the Discovery Channel, several years ago, they did a news article on abandoned theme parks. One of them was the Land of Oz, which was from 1970. It’s got a yellow brick road and the munchkins and all of it. It was abandoned. They toured this abandoned area. It’s reopened. Someone has purchased it. For three weeks, they will open the Land of Oz, Dorothy, Toto, The Tin Man, and the lion, everyone is going to be there in costume. It’s a garden. They did have different activities and different things to do.

It’s on Beech Mountain, which is in Boone, North Carolina. I have spent the weekend obsessing overflights and where the closest airport is. If anyone wants to know, it’s Charlotte. It’s a two-hour either bus ride or drives to Beech Mountain. Fun fact, I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz many moons ago. I have always had this fascination with The Wizard of Oz because there’s no place like home. That is my area of interest. I want to get there and dance down the yellow brick road.

We are going to try to find an article or something connected to this.

My consistent poster on my wall growing up was a Wizard of Oz movie poster. I can still see it on my wall, growing up. We have a shared connection, Claire, which is that part of what we want our show to be is peeking behind the curtain. We have often thought of The Wizard of Oz as the metaphor for what we are hoping to do with this show.

They even have the Emerald City, the wizard, and everything.

Do they have flying monkeys?

They do. In the article that I read, it says they have flying monkeys.

What about you, Claire?

I was thinking about this earlier. I will mention is I saw this documentary. It was on Hulu for Ivana Trump, who passed away. It was interesting because it was talking about her legacy. I honestly didn’t know much about her. I can think of the images of her growing up with big hair, gaudy, fabulous. Hearing about her story, coming from a communist country, and marrying Donald Trump, building his empire. It was interesting because she seemed like a no-nonsense woman, “I’m going to get it done. It doesn’t matter that I’m an immigrant.”

I liked hearing her story. The only thing I thought that was missing because it makes you think about your legacy is they didn’t talk much about how she gave back and charity work or anyone she helped. I was like, “That’s important.” It makes me think about my legacy and the things we leave behind. I appreciate that she was a strong businesswoman but I wish she would have volunteered more. Speaking of all this volunteer work that we do.

I don’t have an exciting one but I will say I have become re-obsessed with Law & Order. I cannot quit with those reruns. I have started Law & Order SVU from season one because I don’t think I watched it way back then. It’s terrible but I will place the docu and watch Law & Order and notice the way I unwind lately. That’s my attention mentioned. A little old thing. It’s on Peacock. If anybody wants to watch old Law & Order, all the seasons you could ever want. SVU, Criminal Intent, regular Law & Order, it’s all there.

Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Young. We are going to go look into the Land of Oz. That sounds amazing. We encourage folks, if you have any thoughts on education, to follow what’s happening with the State Board of Education. Feel free to reach out to representatives because they are there to represent us, and they are listening. Make your voice heard. That’s all we can do. Maybe we can run for office one day too but this is a good place to start.

Thank you, Dr. Young, so much.

Thank you.  

 

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About Dr. Audrey Young

GBTB - DFY  | State Board Of EducationYoung is the Director of Student Support Services for Nacogdoches ISD. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders, a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership, and a Doctorate of Education from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Her career expands over 27 years in public education, as a speech therapist, reading specialist, middle school administrator and district director. She served on the Board of Trustees for Apple Springs ISD in Trinity County for 6 years. Audrey is completing her first term on the State Board of Education.

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