From Texas Association of School Administrators
AUSTIN, TX (News Release) - Mary Ann Whiteker, superintendent of Hudson Independent School District, has been selected by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) as Texas' nominee for the 2016 American Association of School Administrators (AASA) National Superintendent of the Year award.
Whiteker has served as superintendent of Hudson ISD, a school district of 2,800 students west of the East Texas city of Lufkin, for 21 years. Although the district is property-poor and lacks new industry or businesses, it has been classified as a "fast growth" district due to enrollment gains made as a result of the district's reputation. Hudson ISD's vision focuses on student preparedness for post-secondary programs and employment.
Five years ago, Whiteker, a member of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium Steering Committee and TASA School Transformation Design Team, recognized the imperative need to educate students to compete in a global economy and employed her collaborative leadership style to garner her community's support for a transition in the district.
"One of my greatest accomplishments as superintendent of Hudson ISD is changing the culture of our schools," Whiteker said. "For too long we played the state testing and accountability game, and we did it well. However, five years ago, we took down the banners. We took down the plaques. And I issued a directive that teachers could not mention the state assessment to any student throughout the year. We would begin focusing on key state standards, assess students in multiple ways, embrace digital learning in our classrooms, and transform our teaching.
"We developed a strategic plan that, if successfully implemented, would not focus on state assessment, but would benefit that area as well. And it did," she said. "Just this year, our high school and middle school received the highest state ratings obtainable, with seven of seven Distinction Designations. We didn't focus on the test. We focused on high-quality instruction, higher standards than the state's, and 21st century methodology. We focused on the whole child, teaching soft skills, and providing opportunities that never existed."
Among those opportunities are student participation in the district's new culinary arts program and on-campus Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN) program, which produces high school graduates who are licensed nurses.
Whiteker's dedication to school improvement is not limited to her school district. She is working to open the first early college high school in Texas that will be a cooperative among six county school districts and the local community college. She also initiated the creation of the East Texas Consortium for the New Vision for Public Education and serves as facilitator for 50 districts in Region 7.
Whiteker has served multiple terms on the Region 7 Education Service Center Executive Board and is the past president of both the Texas Association of Midsize Schools and the Texas Association of Community Schools. She has served for two years on TASA's Executive Board, a term as TASA's Legislative Committee chair, and several terms as a member-at-large in the Commissioner's TASA Cabinet of Superintendents. She is currently serving on the Texas Association of Suburban/Mid-Urban Schools Board of Directors and is a member of the Urban Superintendents Association of America and of AASA.
In October, the Texas Association of School Boards named Whiteker the 2015 Texas Superintendent of the Year. While the TASB Superintendent of the Year program is not affiliated with the AASA program, honorees of the TASB program were encouraged to apply for the AASA award, for which Whiteker was also nominated.
"Mary Ann Whiteker is not just a superintendent, she is an encourager, a motivator, and a community leader for the Hudson community and a model superintendent for the state of Texas," wrote Hudson ISD Assistant Superintendent Donny Webb in his nomination.
As a state nominee for AASA National Superintendent of the Year, Whiteker will now be considered by a national blue-ribbon panel of judges that will select four finalists to be interviewed in Washington, D.C. in January. The 2016 National Superintendent of the Year will be announced and the state nominees honored at AASA's National Conference on Education in Phoenix on Feb. 11, 2016.