Surprisingly the number of women in leadership positions in the 1980s was a record low of 24 percent from a high of 52 percent in the 1930s. In 1984 only seven women superintendents out of over 1,000 school districts in Texas. Today the number has slowly increased with 213 women superintendents of both public and charter schools.
The slow movement of women in administration was our concern in the early 1980s. The idea for this organization originated with when I received an invitation from the American Association of School Administrators to attend a “Women’s Caucus” that included women school administrators from across the nation. The model for the structure of that organization became to model for the Texas version.
In 1984 when TCWSE was organized, changes were occurring at the state level. The Essential Elements were being prepared as the first effort to require a common curriculum statewide, Ross Perot challenged educators and testing of seasoned teachers was implemented as well as testing of college graduates before they could become certified.
With standards for learning being established and instruction scrutinized more, women began to enroll in administrative courses and seeking administrative certification.
The main purpose of organizing the Texas Council of Women Executives was to provide a support system for competent women educators and encourage them to move into leadership positions. Competent male administrators were mentors and provided critical information for advancement of women. Professors and chairs of the Department of Education Administration at universities across the state were especially supportive.
The achievements included establishing and shaping an organization to provide active and public support for competent women in leadership positions.
The organization agreed on the following objectives:
- Establish a support system to assist women entering administrative positions
- Encourage competent women to accept responsible positions
- Provide women in administration the opportunity to share experiences and develop a network for professional development.
The founders planned to hold a series of conferences on university campuses across the state. The purpose was to recruit women in the area and encourage them to come on campus for the conference. The program included a session by the Chair of the Department of Education concerning the advantages of attending that university and the support they could obtain from their programs.
The group met at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and the University of Texas in Austin. The group was invited to come to Austin for a conference by Dr. Nolan Estes, Chair of the Department of Education at the university. Dr. Estes supported the organization from the beginning and provided direction and advice.
The cohort group with UT actually planned and conducted the entire conference. The major players were Dr. Virginia Collier and Dr. Susan Sclafani, who were students in the cohort at the time.
In the meantime, Dr. Johnny Veselka became Executive Director of the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and provided assistance with the conference and remained a partner. From this time, both the university and TASA accepted major responsibilities for the organization. With the vision of Virginia Collier, Dr. Veselka, and others, TASA actually adopted TCWSE and with the leadership of Dr. Veselka and Ann Halstead, is the driving force today.
A Founder’s Message and Challenge for the Future
As the organization implemented the original purposes, it remained focused and persistent in locating and supporting competent leaders. With learning as the product of public education, having intelligent, knowledgeable, and caring individuals, both male and female, is critical to high achievement and success in the life of each boy and girl we touch.
As for the future, more and more men are also seeking support and direction for success in administration. As long as competent men and women are overlooked, neglected, work under an environment of prejudice, or lack encouragement from other sources, this organization will always be necessary. TASA is filling that role and someday TCWSE will not be necessary. The number of women joining TASA increased exponentially since 1984. I would recommend the leadership of TCWSE consider completing the model provided by AASA and create a “Women’s Caucus” as a service of TASA.
The people of the state of Texas deserve the highest of expectations and delivery from both male and female administrators. It is our responsibility to see that our students have the best leadership possible. Remember, “It is all about the kids.”
Love and Appreciation
The continued advancement and commitment of each president during the specific time is amazing. Over the years additional structure was added, additional services made available to members, outreach through the regional efforts cover the state, research provides direction for future planning, and students from administrative classes develop into strong leaders with the assistance of this organization are all evidence that something we created is moving in the right direction. Only a strong, committed group of women could create such a dynamic forceful, yet caring environment for one another. It is written to “Love one another.” This group actively works at it.
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