“People – whether they be Soldiers, whether they be students, whether they be teachers – are like seeds,” keynote speaker Dr. Lamar Collins told a room full of educators and school administrators Friday during the 2020 Fort Hood Education Summit at Club Hood. “If you put a seed on a windowsill and leave it for 10 years, nothing will happen to that seed. On the same token, if you take that seed and you plant it in the proper environment and give it the proper nutrition, that seed will grow and produce for you.”

Drawing from real-life experiences, Collins, a former Fort Hood Soldier who began teaching after transitioning from the Army, spoke to more than 100 administrators about transformational leadership. The Army veteran previously taught in both Killeen and Temple Independent School Districts. He now serves as the principal of Windsor High School in Windsor, California.

“Every person that we come in contact with are seeds and as leaders, it is our job to put them in the proper environment that is conducive to their growth, development and productivity,” Collins said.

The sixth annual summit is part of Fort Hood’s ongoing Partners in Education Process, which the installation’s leaders created to enhance the relationship between the installation and local school districts. Military-connected students make up 30% of the students in the greater-Fort Hood area, which consists of nine school districts and 116 schools. The collaborative process is aimed at being better informed in order to make important decisions impacting youth in the community.

Collins said leadership is not about the position or being perfect, but about striving for perfection and helping others become the best versions of themselves.

“Leadership is not about the rank on your collar or the position on your badge,” he said. “Leadership is about mentality. I’m going to do what I can to help the people in this organization and to help further the mission of this organization.”

Dr. John Craft, superintendent of KISD, said the summit is a collaborative effort to ensure the students are provided the best educational services, which all comes down to the school’s leaders.

“His points were spot on,” Craft said about Collins. “Not only very inspirational, but very intuitive about leadership attributes that need to be instilled across all organizations in order to be successful.”

The summit also consisted of six breakout sessions. Breakout sessions allowed for smaller group discussions about specific topics. The three breakout sessions in the morning included Special Needs Strategic Plans, Texas Purple Star School Designation and Higher Education. The three afternoon breakout sessions included Mental and Behavioral Health in Schools, Human Trafficking of School-aged Children and Higher Education.

The afternoon’s keynote speaker was Mike Morath, who has served as the Texas Education Agency commissioner for four years, who discussed where Texas public education is currently at, as well as where it is projected to be in the future. He walked the room through kindergarten through high school.

“Teaching is the most complicated profession I’ve ever been exposed to, far and away more difficult than what a brain surgeon has to do. The surgeon walks into the OR and there’s that one brain that they’re responsible to mold and it’s asleep on a table,” Morath said. “There are teachers walking to OR’s every day and there are 20 brains they’re responsible to mold and they are very much awake during that surgical operation … and giving feedback.”

The education commissioner said he spent the first six months on the job traveling across the state, talking to parents, students, teachers, superintendents and community leaders about what needs to be done to drive progress for the students.

“There’s actually a remarkable degree of consensus in our highly divided populations about what we want in our public education,” he said. “We want every child prepared for success in what comes next. We want every single child equipped to pursue the American dream.”

Morath said the single most important in-school factor that affects student outcome is the teacher in the classroom. He said many people believe a child’s socio-economic status plays a factor, but the state of Texas has proven otherwise. In a Student Achievement and Attainment Summary from 2018 by the Texas Education Agency, 90% of students in the state graduate on time.

He said the graduation rate is as high as it’s ever been and places Texas among the top five of all states in the nation. He added that those numbers are particularly extraordinary considering 60% of the students in the state are eligible for free or reduced lunch, while the other states in the top five have less than 30% of their students eligible for free or reduced lunch. Morath believes Texas owes the high achievement rates to their teachers.

“I don’t care how poor you were. I don’t care how rich you were. I just want to know what you can do, cause basically, that’s what life demands,” he said. “Poverty is not destiny and Texas educators are proving that all over the place.”

At the end of the summit, superintendents and other area leaders answered questions on a panel.

A few questions had to do with the Military Interstate Children’s Compact and some problems facing students transferring state-to-state, especially in regards to college credit.

The MICC is an agreement signed by all 50 states, which helps federally-connected students transferring from one state to another. The compact accommodates students who transfer schools, allowing them to enter classes and participate in extra-curricular activities in which they were previously enrolled at their former school. Problems have arisen, however, with advanced placement and dual-enrollment courses.

Craft said about 20% of the students within KISD are dual-enrollment students taking courses at Central Texas College.

While the high school portion of the dual-enrollment transfers seamlessly, colleges may not accept another college’s credits.

“High school to high school, pretty easy,” Craft said. “A community college to community college depends on the course and the degree plan. There may be the risk of it not transferring.”

Pre-AP and AP courses are also at risk of not receiving credit. It was recommended by Abby Rodriguez, state coordinator for military-connected students from the Texas Education Agency, to keep a copy of the course catalog, which explains in detail about the specific course taken.

She said that will sometimes alleviate problems or confusion about the course when transferring.

“This was absolutely fabulous,” Staff Sgt. Gisela Schilling, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, said about the summit. “As an Adopt-a-School point of contact, I am glad we have this information to pass onto the Soldiers and families.”

For more information about the Partners in Education Process, contact Fort Hood’s School Liaison Office at 254-288-7946.