Burkburnett ISD Superintendent Named Finalist for Superintendent of the Year

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 2014 finalists and nominating education service centers (ESCs) are A. Marcus Nelson, Laredo ISD, ESC 1; Jon Wunderlich, Weimar ISD, ESC 3; Danny Taylor, Burkburnett ISD, ESC 9; Michael McFarland, Lancaster ISD, ESC 10; and Mark Eads, San Marcos CISD, ESC 13.

The state selection committee, which interviewed regional winners August 22-23 in Austin, targeted such issues as the long-term success of public education, implementation of House Bill (HB) 5 and recommendations for the next legislative session, staff morale and maintenance of district health, program and student success, and the superintendent’s role as a leader for students, staff, and community.

Serving approximately 25,000 students, Nelson has led Laredo ISD for five years and has 19 years of experience in education administration. The state selection committee cited a 76 percent bond rate approval and that the district moved its bond rating from A to AA in five years. Also noted was the district’s push for a rigorous curriculum, an emphasis on communication with parents, and a relationship with the community college to create a PreK-16 partnership. Nelson earned his bachelor’s degree at Abilene Christian University and master’s and doctorate degrees at Texas A&M University—Commerce.

Wunderlich, superintendent of Weimar ISD for four years, serves more than 600 students and has 15 years of administrative experience. The selection committee noted his collaboration with other school districts to work on HB 5 developments and his commitment to celebrate the positives about public schools and encourage the community to share concerns. Also cited was his emphasis on two-way communication and transparency and belief that ethical behavior and integrity are vital for building trust. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University—College Station and master’s degree at Prairie View A&M University.

With 37 years of experience in education administration, Taylor serves some 3,400 students. He has led Burkburnett ISD for three decades. Noted by the committee was his belief that the superintendent does not always need to be at the front and should cultivate others and use talents of all to maximize success. The district used a diagnostic measure for organizational health and distributed tablets to students in PreK-12, underscoring the district’s desire to meet the needs of children in an ever changing world. Taylor earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Midwestern State University.

At the helm of Lancaster for four years, McFarland has a total of 16 years in education administration and serves more than 6,300 students. McFarland believes that students have changed, and we must be willing to change the education system for these different types of learners. His philosophy of listen, learn, and lead was cited, and the committee also noted that McFarland interviewed every senior to ensure each student had a “flight” plan after graduation. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Baylor University, master’s degree at Stephen F. Austin State University, and doctorate at Baylor University.

Eads has 22 years of administrative experience and has been superintendent of San Marcos CISD for three years. He serves approximately 7,000 students. The committee cited his collaboration with other municipal bodies to help transform the district as well as the community and the district’s strong alliance with church and community groups. Based on HB 5 requirements, the district went from five to more than 20 certificate programs, and the committee also noted his push for full-day PreK with legislators. Eads earned his bachelor’s degree at Corpus Christi State University and master’s degree at Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi.

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’ 1,030 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 ESCs are Chad Kelly, Taft ISD, ESC 2; HD Chambers, Alief ISD, ESC 4; Mary Huckabay, Hull-Daisetta ISD, ESC 5; Thomas Wallis, Bryan ISD, ESC 6; Stan Surratt, Lindale ISD, ESC 7; Judy Pollan, Pittsburg ISD, ESC 8; Karen Rue, Northwest ISD, ESC 11; James “Buck” Gilcrease, Hillsboro ISD, ESC 12; Heath Burns, Abilene ISD, ESC 14; Ron Cline, Paint Rock ISD, ESC 15; Rod Schroder, Amarillo ISD, ESC 16; Elbert Wuthrich, Whiteface CISD, ESC 17; and Jeff Cottrill, Knippa ISD, ESC 20.

The 2014 Superintendent of the Year will be announced September 26 at the TASA/TASB Convention in Dallas. 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 million students.

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