A Profile in Success

In this issue, we would like to recognize Orlando Reyna, the principal of S.F. Austin High School in Houston ISD and a 2014 graduate of HCDE Educator Certification and Advancement (ECA) Principal Academy. Principal Reyna is an innovative, transformational leader always laser-focused on his students and community. We caught up with Orlando to get his insights on leadership.

Tell us about your campus leadership experience and the impact HCDE’ s Principal Academy had on your development as a campus leader.

I began my leadership career in 2009 as an instructional coordinator at Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology responsible for parent engagement and the Biology curriculum. I transitioned to an Assistant Principal in 2011 and joined the team at Albert Thomas Middle School where I supported Math and Science for all grade levels. Working in these roles afforded me the opportunity to apply the skills that I learned from working with exemplar leaders in our district who instilled the confidence I needed to pursue my Principal Certification. HCDE’s Principal Academy provided me with a wealth of knowledge and skills that I prepared me for what was to come. I did not know at the time, that the opportunity would come so soon to lead a school. The Principal Academy connected me with seasoned leaders that shared their experiences and provided mentorship for aspiring leaders like myself at the time.   I was chosen as the Principal of James S. Deady MS, where I served for two years before transitioning to lead James Madison HS for four years. The relationships I made while attending the academy helped me through the transitions of my leadership career. Many times, I called upon those peers to be thought partners and asked them to share ideas that I could use to implement programs successfully at the campuses I served. I have now entered my 9th year as a principal at Stephen F. Austin HS and I can honestly say that choosing HCDE’s Principal Academy played a major role in this journey.

Leading has pivoted due to COVID-19. How did you change or rethink your leadership style?

The COVID-19 pandemic provided me with a blank slate of what education would have to look like in these unprecedented times. We were all caught by surprise in late March of last year when our schools shut down, however, I knew that we would not be closed forever.  I began to read as much as I could about the virus and how it was transmitted.  I think we all became better versed in virology due to this crisis. My main concern became the health and wellness of staff and students, which are paramount in all schools but now a threat unbeknownst to all of us could be present every single day if safety measures were not executed effectively. I collaborated with colleagues daily to discuss the possibilities of how we would eventually return to our campuses. I felt challenged by the abrupt thrust into change but never discouraged. This crisis caused me to shift my thinking about how to continue to provide a quality education in an uncertain environment that was still not defined by anyone, all while keeping the entire faculty and staff safe from exposure to a deadly virus. It really made me revisit the competencies and apply the COVID-19 lens to them. I discovered that every idea or vision of how education should continue depending on flexibility and constant communication.  

As an HCDE alum regarding leading during a crisis, what one piece of advice would you offer aspiring leaders?

Become the expert of the community you serve.  Consume information and relevant data that is specific to your school community. Manage your time- we tend to let our everyday duties prevent us from taking time to work and learn from others, but the key is to seek opportunities to collaborate more with and learn from others about scenarios that could impact your community positively and prevent any pitfalls that others have already experienced. The last thing I would recommend is to make time to take care of your physical and mental health. Your leadership is important to the community you serve, so it is important that you are present, engaged, and functioning at your optimal level.   

Austin HS, Houston ISD https://www.houstonisd.org/austinhs

HCDE ECA https://www.hcde-texas.org/educator-certification

Levers That Help Us Move Closer to Building a Positive School Culture

Our schools and classrooms are fluid microcosms of a multitude of factors that constantly impact its culture and climate. The complexity of school culture makes it challenging to always be responsive to do the right thing. According to Justin Raudys at Prodigy, here are some practical, actionable levers that can help move us closer to building a positive school culture: 

  1. Create meaningful parent involvement  
  2. Celebrate personal achievement and good behavior
  3. Establish school norms that build values
  4. Set consistent discipline
  5. Model the behaviors you want to see in your school
  6. Engage students in ways that benefit them 
  7. Create rituals and traditions that are fun for students and teachers
  8. Encourage innovation in the classroom
  9. Professional development for teachers
  10. Maintain the physical environment of your school
  11. Keep tabs on your school’s culture, make adjustments when necessary 

Source: https://www.prodigygame.com/main-en/blog/school-culture/

Additional resources and examples of implementation:


A Day of Educational Innovation featuring Ron Clark

On Saturday, April 10, 2021, TLC hosted the A Day of Educational Innovation featuring Ron Clark Virtual Conference. Attendees were wowed by Ron’s energy, excitement and creative ideas to best reach students during this difficult time. The 778 participants enjoyed the breakout sessions that followed, which included new learning on engaging students through social media, technology integration and creative reading/writing strategies. All sessions are still available for viewing on the Sibme platform for the next 365 days. For more information on how to access and view the conference, please contact Errica Dotson-Hooper at (713)696-1884. 

Link: America’s Teacher Ron Clark Energizes Educators at ‘Move Your Bus’ Conference!

What Makes A Good School Culture?

Most principals have an instinctive awareness that organizational culture is a key element of school success. They might say their school has a “good culture” when teachers are expressing a shared vision and students are succeeding — or that they need to “work on school culture” when several teachers resign or student discipline rates rise. 

But like many organizational leaders, principals may get stymied when they actually try to describe the elements that create a positive culture. It’s tricky to define, and parsing its components can be challenging. Amid the push for tangible outcomes like higher test scores and graduation rates, it can be tempting to think that school culture is just too vague or “soft” to prioritize.

That would be a mistake, according to Ebony Bridwell-Mitchell, an expert in education leadership and management. As she explains, researchers who have studied culture have tracked and demonstrated a strong and significant correlation between organizational culture and an organization’s performance. Once principals understand what constitutes culture — once they learn to see it not as a hazy mass of intangibles, but as something that can be pinpointed and designed — they can start to execute a cultural vision.

A culture will be strong or weak depending on the interactions between people in the organization. In a strong culture, there are many, overlapping, and cohesive interactions, so that knowledge about the organization’s distinctive character — and what it takes to thrive in it — is widely spread.


E & E Employee Spotlight

ALOHA OHANA! – From Hawaii to Houston 

Team Member: Linda Feholo

Linda Fehoko is the new Director for the HCDE’s Adult Education Programs. A native of Hawaii, she is married with four sons and has been an educator for the past 30 years with 15 years, extensively in adult education. A graduate of Brigham Young University and the University of Phoenix, Linda brings a plethora of experiences in adult education, that includes the establishment of her academy for at-risk and adult learners in Hawaii and Lubbock, Texas, as well as her in-depth knowledge of several adult education initiatives including the WIOA Act, Career Pathway, ABE and ESL. These experiences and knowledge will provide HCDE’s AEL program an exciting array of opportunities for the adult learner’s higher education preparatory knowledge and placement in the evolving workforce.

Linda’s passion is to serve others, devoting her work fulltime to adult learners that need a second chance in achieving their high school diplomas, securing employment in the workforce, initiating small business start-ups, or merely advancing to higher education. 

Some notable achievements are:

  • Founding member of the EDEE Academy for at-risk learners, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Hosting and presenting at the SXSW on Entrepreneurship for Adult Learners in Austin
  • Authoring the Adult Education Entrepreneurship Curriculum – Texas, California, Hawaii 
  • Organizing food drives, back to school projects, SAT/ACT/TESOL workshops and camps
  • Securing partnership with the NFLPA for the youth initiative leadership program (West Coast)
  • Sending four sons to Division 1 on Football Scholarships

Linda’s mantra of EDEE (Embrace Diversity, Empower Education), sits well as a continuum genius in her soul, that amplifies her personal vision of “Ohana”, which will be applicable to the Harris County Department of Education.  Presently, Linda is a member of the TALAE Board (Texas), CCSA Board and the West Texas Youth Initiative Board WFS. She is a member of the Worldwide Goodwill Ambassador Program and loves to dance the hula!

Stretch Your Dollar with Educator Discounts

Whatever role you play at your school — you deserve the best educator discount from any car company. The GM Educator Discount offers current employees of a public school, private school, college or university a special discount below MSRP on the purchase or lease of eligible, new Chevrolet, Buick or GMC vehicles. Plus, you can combine this discount with most current offers to get even more, with our appreciation.

Have more questions about the program? Click here.


Teacher Preparation & Certification Program – Info Sessions | 4.27.21 | #13109

Teacher Preparation & Certification Program – Info Sessions | 4.29.21 | #13110

Do you or someone you know enjoy working with children and youth and want to become a certified teacher? HCDE Teacher Preparation and Certification program is gearing up to recruit its next group of aspiring teachers. The program is investing in growing the teaching profession by offering scholarships to offset certification program costs by nearly 50% for those admitted to the 2021-2022 cohort.  If you’re ready for a meaningful and rewarding career, join us to learn more about the Texas educator certification process, the requirements for admission into our program, and how you can start teaching while you’re still working on your certification. Join us for a live information webinar to learn more. A link to the webinar will be emailed to you once you register. Don’t miss this opportunity and register today!

Registration Link: https://workshops.hcde-texas.org/prod/emc00/EventSearch.htm?mid=4

Principal Preparation & Certification Academy – Info Session | 4.27.21 | #13111

Principal Preparation & Certification Academy – Info Session | 4.29.21 | #13112

Aspiring to lead a team, a department, or a school? Take the next step to enhance your career opportunities by joining the HCDE Principal Preparation and Certification Academy. HCDE Principal Preparation and Certification Academy wants to invest in the next step in your career by offering scholarships to offset certification program costs by more than 50% for those admitted to the 2021-2022 cohort. The Academy is currently enrolling applicants to be a part of its residential cohort of aspiring administrators. Join us for a live information webinar to learn how you can elevate your leadership skills while earning your Texas principal certificate in less than a year. A link to the webinar will be emailed to you once you register. Don’t miss this opportunity, register today!

Registration Link: https://workshops.hcde-texas.org/prod/emc00/EventSearch.htm?mid=4

Quest for Grants Virtual Training Sessions by Gayla Rawlinson Maynard, Director of Center for Grants Development Team Approach to Proposal Writing! | 5.26.21 | #13038

Covers: 1) creating an effective proposal writing team; 2) steps taken towards the planning, preparation, and submission of grant proposals; 3) proven strategies used in the development of proposals; 4) tools and techniques to organize your grant proposal files; and 5) ways to promote proposal writing team success.

Registration Link: https://workshops.hcde-texas.org/prod/emc00/PublicSignIn.aspx?&SessionID=fh9fekfh7fdpfe8ei1&Lang=*

The Grant Budget: It’s Not Just About the Math! | 6.23.21 | #13037 

Covers: 1) grant budget preparation and process; 2) required budget categories and items of cost; 3) federal guidelines including allowable and disallowable costs; 4) requirements of match/leveraging of resources; and 5) line- item budget with budget justification/narrative.

Cost $25 each in-county; $45 each out-of-county

Registration Link: https://workshops.hcde-texas.org/prod/emc00/PublicSignIn.aspx?&SessionID=fhkfe4fh1fd7fd4fh1&Lang=*