Welcome back to love, sweat and tears ingredients for a transformative campus leadership. Today I'm talking with Robert twotone. He's been a superintendent at multiple districts in Texas. And he's also been a board member of Dallas, the Texas Association for Latino administrators and superintendents. There we go. And he's also been on the board of Tasbeeh, on the school board association in Texas, and he was the superintendent at that my school district when I was in high school. My father, he was a school psychologist and his office was there with Roberts at the central office at the time. And when we found out that he had been in Sokoto, and we were kind of, you know, I was excited and doing my research about him and stuff, caught up my dad and said, hey, you know, what was he like, tell me about him? What do you remember about him, and this was a long time ago. But, you know, my dad had said that, the things he really remembered about him was that he would listen to you that he would stop and take time and, and really, you know, meet your eyes and listen to you. And I just felt like that was something remarkable. You don't hear a lot of people say that about their superintendent. And so I was really excited to get to talk with him and hear his story and his heart and his vision. And we talk a lot about Dallas, and just their mentorship program that they have created there and how important that is how important it is to have people that can speak truth to you that can tell you when you're, you know, doing stuff, maybe you shouldn't be doing or speak to your areas of weaknesses and help you to grow those and encourage you along the way. And, um, it was just such a wonderful conversation. And I hope you guys really enjoy it. Robert deuteron right now are kind of our target audience for this podcast is campus leaders, especially campus leaders that are feeling under resourced, or that are new to the job and trying to learn everything that they can and finding that they have more questions and answers and maybe don't even know where to go to get the answers to their questions. And so, you know, Tommy Tina harrow is so well connected and knows that you are to and really just want to hear a lot about what you're doing right now and why it's exciting and why it's important for campus leaders. Before we get there, I want to hear a little bit about your background and your history and where you come from and how you got to where you are.
Well, I'm originally from Waco, Texas, born and raised there from a family of seven. And obviously education was very important to us. Proud to say that of the seven, four of us graduated with degrees and three of us with our doctorate degrees. So and I think point there is, you know, they talk a lot about college ready in schools. Well, our parents had us really college ready. So I was blessed, really, quite frankly, to have that. I'll use this word a lot probably during this conversation, that my parents really provided me that agency, you know, in other words, if there were low expectations from anybody around me at school of teachers or anything, they said, ignore that you're gonna go to college alone with my sister. So I was blessed there, went to East Texas state of my undergrad and then was a teacher and a coach for about eight to 10 years. Okay. And yeah, so was in the classroom and then got my mid Management Administration, been in Waco and back to Waco as an administrator, Clear Creek Independent School District as an assistant superintendent, fast forwarding from their superintendent in subcortical ISD, outside of El Paso and then ended my career, my public education career as superintendent of San Antonio ISD for seven years. From their Deputy Commissioner for a little bit, it was just a landing spot for me for 18 months there. TDA. And for the last 10 years, I've been an executive director for Texas Association of School Boards.
Okay, how did you get there? Well,
what actually I was I went to lunch one day with with a guy named Jim Crow, who was the CEO, I didn't really know Jim and I thought I knew just about everybody in education. And I thought maybe through my work with the agency, he wanted to just kind of tap to EA resources or something. I have no idea. But he actually recruited me wanted me to come over and take over the Member Services Division that primarily is outward facing to school board members is a school board member Association, doing event planning, like this conference that we're at here, board training, legal services, policy services, Superintendent searches, I did that for 10 years and learn quite a bit. I'm very blessed to be there. Just recently stepped down took a lesser role. My wife, Jody, superintendent in Elgin ISD. She just been there 10 years and recently retired himself. So it's kind of a career shift for both of us and we're doing now we're doing you know, part time consulting and I'm still a consultant with Taz. To me, and I'm the Executive Director for the Texas Association of Latino administrators and Superintendent Dallas. started that in April. So that's my new sort of challenge and what keeps me busy and much busier than I wanted to be. But it's good work.
What drew you to Dallas?
Oh, well, I've been a member, I've been on their board before. I like their mission. I've, there's, there's two things that I'm very of all my life. And I'm very passionate about education, and leadership, which is kind of the theme for this. So it was a good fit for me as Tasbeeh was, and it allows me to stay connected with those that are still in the profession. So there are a lot, there's a lot of upside to it being around leaders around people that are passionate educators, and of course, with Latino students, but all students, so it allows me that opportunity to do that, you know, at my age in my career, I think what I was excited about is I bring my experience to the executive directors role. And just as a bonus, my experience with Tasbeeh in being in a nonprofit, a huge nonprofit like that. So I thought maybe I could contribute to Dallas in that way, again, from my field experience, but also from working at Tasbeeh. I think some of those connections, some of those lessons learned insights. And yeah, I think it's going to be hopefully it's gonna benefit Dallas, as well,
for people that don't know what that is, is, can you tell us a little bit about what their mission is what they do?
Yeah, well, so I mean, obviously, Latinos, it's primarily geared at providing opportunity for Latino leaders, teachers that want to become leaders in their own schools, and their own district, we tried to promote that we'll probably talk a little bit more about that. But its mission is to provide those that agency for these individuals in guidance and mentoring, resources for them, connections more than anything. So that's kind of what we're focusing on now is, is enhancing our viability, and being able to do that are, you know, connecting out with other resources, we're getting really good work from our sponsors, you included, which we appreciate, yeah, that buy into that mission, you know, and then ultimately, obviously, with the majority of the students now in Texas, being Latinos, it's it's important that it's cliche, but that the students see people that look like them that have walked their path that can resonate with them. And then ultimately, you know, making this a better place to live. And I like we used to say, when I was in San Antonio, that we, we want to ensure that these young students are coming up, and they're not tax burdens, but they their tax payers, in whatever capacity they do when they graduate, so are filled when they graduate. So that's, that keeps us on fire that keeps us really motivated.
So what are the things that the US does to accomplish that mission?
Yeah, well, we have a mentoring program. And really, the, our vision for our mentoring program is, I was just sharing this with the board this morning, is that when I reflect back on my career, in what, especially when I was a school teacher, invariably what happens for most individuals that go into leadership, is they are recognized by their fellow teachers, as someone who has the capacity or the potential to become a leader. And they begin to say, you know, you'd be a good assistant principal, or you'd be a good principal, one day or something. And I was fortunate to be around people who sometimes correct me what I need to improve to get there, but that they would enjoy, you know, working with me and informed me one day, so that encouraged me to go on and get my master's degree, etcetera, fill in the blank, because I just mentioned my resume earlier. But the agency for doing that for going from like, for example, from a teacher to Assistant Principal happens at the local level. And so I didn't want to become a an assistant principal, just anywhere in Texas, I had my family in that district, I wanted to move up to be an assistant principal in that district, and then a principal, and then maybe its central office locally. But the higher you go up in your career, the less opportunity, obviously, because there are fewer jobs up at the top, a teacher's all the way to superintendent. And so your agency then has to be really fulfilled from a statewide level. Right, other districts, other regions. And so our thought it follows is that we provide agency for those that are from the from the classroom to the again, that school leadership and maybe even district assistant superintendent level, once they reach there, we want to develop our Statewide Mentor Program to prepare them become superintendents, and then making those connections statewide as a principal, finding out those other you know, folks that can really help them out. And those career it's very important. I mean, I shared with our mentor group last Saturday that don't underestimate talking to someone. You should give them a call and you should give me a one minute commercial about who you are, and what your goals are because it's a small world out there and people will connect and say I know somebody in Waco I know somebody in brown Phil has a lot of potential and they're ready to make this next move. And that's what what's what helped me in my career. So all that to say that's what we're trying to recreate in the Dallas mentoring program and it's going well,
how does that work?
Well, the mentoring program, yeah, they meet, they meet they coincide their meetings coincide really with our, our meetings that we have. We have like, for example, we have a summer conference coming up, we need to have a meet at TAS it has. So it's almost quarterly just coincides with the events. And then they do stuff online. They do online learning. They have assignments, they all have mentors, they connect with their mentors, the mentees do. I have one and she's a high school principal, a lot of potential. But yeah, we just meet with them. And then we, you know, we get together at these conferences and you know, reconnect. And
it's very, it's pretty based. It's really is mentor and mentee. But they all kind of have, like cohort groups that they work. Yeah.
So we have a cohort every year. Yeah, they kind of go through it together. Yeah. Two years each. And so yeah, it's
kind of set to your program to join the program. Wow. Yeah. If you're interested in becoming a mentor, what does that what does that process like? How do you as a leader of leaders, identify people that would be a good leader? Yeah,
actually, with two ways we either recruit, and we have like a two that just volunteered to become they want to give back. And that's kind of what happens again, when you get later on in your career, you have more time, especially after you retire. And so we get in both ways. We the recruit them, I'll see some here, and I'm leaving there. Hey, you want to be a mentor for our program? Yeah, I can do that. Or we, you know, sometimes they just volunteer. So it's a two way thing? Yeah. How
big is that program?
Oh, we probably have about 20 to 25. And every cohort. Yeah, with with mentor, sometimes you get two mentees. But yeah, we have a really good director, Lucy okasada. I have to give him a plug. He's done a great job, our board. And we're pleased. Now with that said we're looking for ways by the way to ramp up and improve the program. I mean, continuous improvement. We want to be able to find maybe more mentors and mentees and build the program. Yeah,
yeah. Who, whose idea was that? How did this this mentor program kind of come about?
I think it predates me, obviously. But I think it just it's, it's just a part of our mission. You know, it's that we if we don't develop leaders, beginning with our school children, and teach them what, you know, the core values, the tenets of being a really strong leader presenting yourself as a leader. It just, it's just baked into who we are really, it's too important not to I shouldn't say
that makes sense. I guess you so often kind of different associations, having events or having trainings online, or, but that communal aspect of having a group of people that you can reach out to, and then a specific person that you can ask your deeper questions to that knows you a little bit better. Yeah, that's just such I don't see that as often. Yeah, that's really intriguing, too.
Yeah. And it's encouraging for our mentees who come from across the state to connect with folks that are walking their path, right, even though they're different locations, they have common problems, common challenges. So they connect, they make those connections, and we have several, don't ask me to name them. We have several superintendents, that that are now mentors that have been through our program. And they credit making those connections early, both their mentors and their fellow, you know, cohort members. And it's great to see them all become superintendents. And yeah, that's the that's the end game.
For a campus leader that is finding themselves enjoying the leadership position and wants to develop their own leadership skills more, what are some first steps that they can take towards doing that?
So my, yeah, that's a good question. I think if you are a campus assistant principal or principal, and you're religious, or you're looking to make that next move, I think and this may be difficult for some of them to hear, but you do not make that this my advice, connecting backwards, right? Is don't even think about making that next move. And or trying to leverage yourself with those opportunities until you've really mastered what you're doing. At the current level, you have to as an assistant principal, your principal needs to, depending on the relationship, but I think you need your endorsement of your immediate supervisor as someone that's, you know, you're ready to take over a campus right? And you'll hear that from some of the folks that you suit supervise like teachers and you should have a campus one day, I think you need to begin hearing that before you go out on your own and assuming that you are ready. Just for example, when I was thought I was ready to become a superintendent. My mentor John Wilson and Clear Creek he was he looked at me after three years wasn't being an assistant. So he said, No, you're not ready. And that's the kind of candid feedback you need to hear. There still some things he wanted to work. And by the way, I thought I was at the time. But looking back and certainly when it's once I became a superintendent was in the seat for six months, I realized I wasn't ready at the time. So back to the question, I think, master your current level of assignment and roll. Yeah. Make sure that you have someone who can give you open honest feedback if you're not, and be very candid with you. That's that's huge. And then I think then it's if if in one day John did tell me Dr. Wilson, yeah, you are ready, you're ready to branch out? That's when I went to Sokoto. So yeah, though, that extra three or four years that he made me sort of marinate a little bit more and develop it, it really paid off. And so, yeah, that's my advice. Yeah, too. I would also say that understand the importance of being there's an expression that I was just doing a session this morning that every leader every organization's problem is a leadership problem. Okay, and so, learn how to own any problems that might be occurring in your organization, if you're one of the leaders, right, don't push that off on the teachers or the kids or anything like that. If there's a problem on that campus, I'll use the campus, the organization and you're the leader, you're a big part of the problem, you need to solve that. So control what you can control, you've heard that and, you know, master the controllables, don't worry about anything else, but develop that way. And then that's really what's helped me in my career, but more than anything, finally, people that can be honest and give you honest feedback. And some of that feedback came from some of my teachers that I supervise, that came in and said, you know, you were not clear with us. And now you're holding us accountable. And you need to be more clear, we like you, but so that feedback for those courageous folks that can give that kind of feedback. And maybe that segues into another thing is or the related is. Yeah, and this is huge is to embrace your vulnerabilities. You know, your weaknesses, because you can't, you can't push them away when people point them out to you. It's very difficult. The ego has a hard time with that. And so yeah, I think it's, it's staying extremely confident in where you're going and what you're doing. But the opposite of that is being humble enough to know that you've got a lot to learn. And I think that's what most people want to work for someone like that. Yeah. And that they can teach you something as their leader, and then learn from you as their leader. I think that's the perfect match. That's what's worked in my career.
Yeah. How did how did you cultivate that? That was something that my dad had remembered working with you 15 years ago was that you listened, and you were humble. And a lot of a lot of leaders, especially at the district level, don't always have that. So how did you cultivate that and develop that as a value in your leadership skills?
Yeah, well, I don't know. That's a good question. I think I think it's probably my background probably had a lot to do with that. You know, my dad certainly kept me humble, I'll put it that way. In my in my mother, just it was just kind of our core values as a probably a family more than anything. But I think, well, and by the way, I'm not sharing with you some of the mistakes that I've made. And I think I think sometimes having to check my ego, I'm an avid reader. So things like Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I won't go down my library. But I'm an avid reader. Thanks to one of my, the greatest teachers I've ever had, that's a different story. But um, but it's important, she changed my life, because she had me fall in love with reading, I had to plug her have just really great. We've all had that teacher with. And so so she, when I was reading, I started seeing the weaknesses, that if I don't check this along with the feedback I was getting from other folks, this is gonna be a real struggle for me, and I'm not gonna be able to advance. So I think reading, learning from thought leaders, listening to folks getting feedback, and then yeah, I mean, and it was a job that I absolutely loved doing. And if I wanted to keep doing I had to get better at watching others, by the way, the others that just were mentors for me and how they operated. How would you do this? How would you do that? Yeah.
How have you kind of baked that ethos into what you're doing with Dallas? Actually, or was it there to begin with? Is that why you were a good fit?
Yeah, I mean, I think I think generally probably, it it really is I was very I didn't even mention our board. I know it's it's politically correct to honor your board. because I worked with him, but I think the class of people that we had on that board was something that attracted me to that a lot of respect for folks on their mutual respect. Yeah. But yeah, I think that's part of who we are that extreme confidence, yet humility, let's all learn and grow as an organization. Yeah, I mean, it starts at the top, I'm not the president. But our board really buys into those those core values they buy into those core values. And I think that our culture is one and our tireless board that if you're, if you're not going to buy into those things, you're probably not going to be a good fit. And that's important, because I think it resonates down to the membership as well. Yeah.
What do you think is, like for campus leaders listening? What would be one thing that they could do differently, tomorrow, to help impact their leadership to make them a better leader?
I. So I think the most important thing you can do to enhance your leadership is to focus on how well you know, and really reflect on how much you truly care about those that are under your, under your watch. Yeah, you know, they the, if I'm struggling with you, as a teacher, and we're not communicating, then again, if it's a problem in this, this organization, I begin with me and how well do I know her? How well do I understand what she's going through. And if you skip over that, and just use your authority to do those to really try to improve that behavior, or correct that behavior, it's not going to work. So so I have to, I have to really, in order for me to influence you, I have to you have to know that I truly care. So so that that's something if you want to kind of as a principle, kind of reflect on the 3040 teachers that you have assigned to you how well do I know them? Do they know I care about them? Because invariably, we're going to create change on this campus. And I'm going to ask you to change and for me to start pushing you as to why you're not on board with us, for you to look at me. So you know, you don't even know me. Yeah, right. I think I think and you're over here telling me what to do. And you don't even know that I'm struggling with this or that. And so when you think about it, that's sort of the same model as a great teacher. If you really want to be a an influencer of kids, they have to know that you love them and care about them. And then when they know that you can tell them to do anything. That was the case for me. Yeah, they'll work harder for you. Right? They'll they'll, they'll reciprocate with that care and respect for you. And teachers that struggle, I'm gonna go back to the teachers, okay. Teachers that struggle, they just don't understand that they're using their authority, you know, versus their influence over these kids. And the magic happens when you use that influence and influence only comes again, with respect, mutual respect, and love for one another.
I love what you said about using your influence over your authority.
Yeah, yeah, actually did a session. This is fresh on my mind, because I'm doing a session. It's called leading without authority. And I'm not plugging that at all. I'm just saying it's sort of a reflection on my career. And it's, I'll drop I will drop a couple of resources. But there's Kim Scott, who wrote radical candor, she talks about caring deeply for people before you can be really candid with them. Great TED talk, if anybody that's listening wants to tune in on Kim Scott's Yeah, radical candor, and then the book. And I'm not really mentioned being an avid reader, one of my going back all the way to Socorro when I was a superintendent and even as an assistant superintendent. For some reason, I've used book studies with those that are under my watch, because I call that we talk in bullets. And we all know when I was a superintendent San Antonio with 100 campuses, 100 principals, you know, we I could go to them. And if anyone were listening to this, now they'd go, Yeah, we remember that. If I said, you know, they knew what the meaning of we don't want to flinch because we all read this book, or move the salt shaker to the middle of the table now to you, that's great. But to all of us, it's like, ah, that's that pointer. And it's, it's so you know, it's the oh, all he does is read books and tell people what are in books now. We read them together, and we reflect on them. I spent a lot of time with my principles about leadership and just coaching them and teaching them when I had time to do that during their meetings. And that made a big difference. Yeah, they love learning.
I know Brene Brown, who's got tassa talks a lot about the importance of shared language. Yeah. And how much that builds community and trust in communities just having that shared language. That's really cool. Yeah.
And if you mentioned Bernie Vernay, that was he's one of my thought leaders, of course, for a lot of people, obviously incredibly good. It's incredible that she's here at this conference. But she really gave me that insight on that vulnerable ality pays, you know, wow, that's powerful. Because the ego doesn't like that. But it's it's magic. Yeah.
Can you tell me more like about the the makeup of the general members of Dallas like is it you have teachers you have campus level admin, you have district level admins, who are the members of Delos? And how can you? How does each kind of fear develop in the organization? What do you offer each kind of?
Well, our membership, we're about 250 260 members now and last counselor could be up since then, I would say about about 45% of them are superintendents, okay, and assistant superintendents, deputies, etc. Central Office. But we do have some teachers, we have actually two or three or four professors that do you know, that do, obviously are teaching Latino students. So we have some of those that do for them. And we again, we have some teachers, but back to the question about how we work with teachers. I think we were just meeting this morning here from one of our affiliates from the El Paso area where matter of fact, and Mark Paz, he was our great leader there in our vet affiliate, that a lot of the teachers that go back to your question or that are really being encouraged and or are encouraged to themselves to become administrators. There again, they we hope and it's our idea that they use the affiliate to make those connections and then move in segue into those administrative positions. Yeah, we have a by the way, so we have a variance. Some are just fledgling because they've just started. But I think the El Paso affiliate is our strongest they're more organized in. But we have we have one in Central Texas, we have one in Rio Grande Valley that's just launched. We have one El Paso, obviously, we have one in the Houston area, Dallas area Garland has one, we're considering one in the Gulf Coast valley to start when there. But it's really all around the state, the Panhandle not so much not so much in the rural areas, unfortunately. But more populated areas. So it's all over the state and they vary in there. Some of them are just now passing their bylaws, but that's one of our priorities at Thouless is to is to develop those affiliates and strengthen them. Yeah. And, you know, the real sort of balance is strengthening those affiliates while keeping bylaws strong at the same time. So we don't want to you know, we want to we want to do both. And actually, I think we have a plan for that.
Okay. Okay, if someone's interested in getting in touch with either the labs or one of your affiliates. Yeah. What's the process? How do they do that? I
would just point them to our website, you know, ta las, just Google that. And there's a lot of information how to become a partner how to become a sponsor, how to, you know, our mission, our vision is there, our leadership is there, some of our BIOS, our bios are up there. And then the affiliate, some of the affiliate information is on our website. Everything's on websites now. Right? So that's the best way Yeah, easiest way, and then contact me. I mean, my information is on there.
Okay. And you mentioned that you have an event coming up in the summer. Tell me more about that. Yeah,
it's gonna be the last week of June. So Dallas, we are a branch there. We call ourselves the little sister of Tessa. So we really piggyback as in this event, on all of most of the tasks at events. So Tessa has a summer conference and IRIS will be a day and a half prior to the start of the NASA conference. And that works because it's efficient, because a lot of our members, obviously our cast members, they're already there. So they just booked the flight there. Stay there. And it works for us. So it'll be the last week of June, scheduled for round rot and the Kalahari resorts there. Yeah. Yeah.
Who comes to those events? Just that that US members? Or
Yeah, well, we have we have mostly Dallas members will come? Yeah, you know, our partners or business partners will will sponsor as we call them will be there as well. And then we'll just have guests that are not members that were hoping to recruit were recruited here for membership. So yeah,
exciting. Is there is there anything else any other information or anything else that you would like to kind of leave our campus leaders with today,
I'm just so appreciative, really, you know, as I look back on my career and gone into other really professions or work for other organizations, one of the things that I am so proud of is the work ethic that is required to be a professional educator. The the why has got to be so clear and so strong, because the work is so difficult. I see folks that are recognized for working after hours that have come in for a Saturday and by the way they should be but my whole career I've been surrounded by people who work for me and with me that that was just, we don't want to be recognized. That's just part of what It has got to be done to make sure we, we do what we have to do. And it's I'm proud of our educators, I'm proud to call them. I call I call it the arena, those that are still in the arena, especially today, especially in the last 48 months. What they are doing it just it really it just I get emotional when I think about it, because I'm so proud of what they're doing. So I would just thank them and encourage them to what what there's a saying, if you ever whenever you feel like you want to quit, remember why you started? And that's kind of what sustained me. And I would just hope that that sustains them and because it's all worth it. They are influencing people. I mean, I met I met someone, just just today who who? Now you know it when when I was superintendent, San Antonio, and she said, You know, I was a first year teacher when you were superintendent there. And so she talked to me about going to one of our one of my meetings and you are behind the podium so far away, but you made some sort of something I said influenced her to stay in the profession and keep going. So just to remind folks that are out there with both our students, you never know the words of encouragement, how you're going to change somebody's life, and keep them in the game. So keep it up.
All right, there you have it, folks, Robert deuteron. It was such a pleasure, Robert, thank you so much for coming to speak with me. Um, you can find links to all of the resources that he talked about some of those books that he mentioned, websites that he mentioned, all of those will be in our show notes so you can find those and links to all those resources there. As always, all of the production is done by Erwin saalbach as well as the music that you can hear right now. Our logo and design work was from a lot of koi and all of this is a labor of love from the folks at responsive learning. They'll have a great rest of your day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai