The 2007-2008 school year officially began Monday, as Stephenville Independent School District’s board members, administrators, faculty, and staff gathered at Bond Auditorium. Also represented were Huckabay, Morgan Mill, and Three Way school districts.

In the second segment of the meeting, SISD Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd recognized those who had received advanced degrees since last May and commended them for their continued dedication to higher education. He then introduced key speaker Dr. Mike Moses, former Texas Commissioner of Education.

Dr. Moses encouraged teachers to continue their outstanding efforts in the day-to-day instruction of children because teachers make a difference.

“Be grateful to be where you are,” he said. “Carry an attitude of gratitude.”

As a former superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, he is aware of the complexities to be overcome in Texas schools.

“Does education really make a difference?” he asked.

Recent statistics cited indicate that the state presently ranks 49th in dollars spent per student. It is 7th in the poverty rate, 4th for low income with 54 percent of students on reduced lunch, and 1st in child growth population with the lowest percentage of uninsured children.

“However,” Moses continued, “there are positives. Over $8 billion have been raised through bond elections for new schools and additional classrooms. There have been tax relief, salary increases, the defeat of school vouchers, and favorable Gallop Poll indicators regarding teachers.”

He encourages districts to continue searching for innovative programs to meet the needs of today’s students such as Raise Your Hand, designed to celebrate and defend public schools. A district’s membership is free to become involved and use its voice for all Texas children. With such programs, improvements would minimize excessive testing and the punitive accountability system now in place.

Dr. Moses explained that one of today’s present dangers for education is that 70 percent of the state’s citizens do not have school-aged children at home. Therefore, lack of interest in the “common good” of all children is the norm.

He encouraged educators to be successful.

“Ensure that students are safe and secure, and improving student achievement is job number one. Champion your school district. Be a team player and take responsibility for creating successes for others,” he said.

Using an analogy, he explained the results if educators give up.

“One out of six Mount Everest climbers die on the way back down the mountain. When the peak is ultimately reached, strive to reach further.”

The educator is a native of Nacogdoches, and after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University and doctorate from Texas A&M University, Dr. Moses served in Texas’ public education system for more than 30 years including Duncanville, Garland, Tatum, LaMarque, and Lubbock school districts.

In 1995, he was appointed twice by then Governor George W. Bush and confirmed by the Texas Senate. In 1999, he joined the Texas Tech University System as deputy chancellor. During his tenure at DISD, Dr. Moses led the successful $1.37 billion capital improvement program bond election, one of the largest in the nation. He has authored and co-authored numerous articles on student performance, accountability, and teacher preparation, and has presented more than 600 speeches to education, business, civic, and community groups. He has appeared before legislative committees and was invited to address the United States Congress freshman class concerning issues in public education. Among awards Moses has received are the Texas Business and Education Coalition’s Distinguished Service Award and the Texas A&M University’s Golden Deeds Award in Education, as well as the 1998 Key Communicator for Public Education award. Presently, Moses is the vice chairman of the board for Higher Ed Holdings, LLC, and the chairman of the board for the American College of Education, Chicago, Illinois, which develops educational programs for teachers and administrators focusing on improving training and leadership as well as distance learning domestically and internationally.