Agua Dulce ISD trustee Yvette Saenz met with other school board members from across the state April 19 to 21 to hear expert speakers and tour school facilities during the fourth session of Leadership TASB.

Participants gathered in El Paso as part of class activities in the yearlong education leadership study program sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).

This session's theme was "Taking a Different Step: Beyond Diversity and Into Inclusion."

Keynote speakers included Kelly McDonald, who has 20 years of marketing experience with prominent national companies and specializes in the Hispanic market.

McDonald discussed how cultural relevance and an understanding of emotional traits can create meaningful communication messages among all kinds of people. She underscored the importance and reward of "connecting with people who are not like you."

Randy Snow, the first paralympic inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame, spoke to the group about looking for better ways to influence people, manage change, and capitalize on opportunities.

Injured in a high school accident that left him without the use of his legs, Snow has since gone on to be a business owner and a Fortune 500 speaker who has been featured on CNN, ESPN, and in USA Today.

An invaluable part of the El Paso session was site visits to area schools. At Tornillo ISD, board members heard details of its bilingual immersion program and student incentives to encourage mastery of state assessments. The district, with the second lowest property wealth value per pupil in Texas, has consistently rated no lower than recognized on the state accountability measures.

The stops at El Paso ISD included a magnet dual-language middle school and the Center for Career Technology Education, which offers opportunities and training in culinary arts, fashion design, horticultural, and architectural design. Also on the tour was a magnet school at Fort Bliss, where 65 percent of the students are from military families, most having parents currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and a newly-built elementary school that is accommodating rapid growth in the area.

The Leadership TASB class of 2007, composed of 35 school board members, represents Texas school districts of all sizes and property wealth. Participants who complete required elements of the study program earn master trustee status, the highest designation recognized by TASB.

TASB is a nonprofit association established in 1949 to serve local Texas school districts. School board members are the largest group of publicly elected officials in the state. The districts they represent serve more than 4.5 million public school students.

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