Living the Dream… Dr. LaTonya Goffney

By Jill Siler, Gunter ISD Superintendent and #NCE20 Conference Blogger   

 

The March 2020 edition of AASA’s School Administrator takes a deep look into the women who lead and some of the challenges that women face getting to the top seat and staying in the top seat of school leadership. I had the great fortune to sit down with three women who are doing incredible work as superintendents; so much so that each were nominated for the AASA Women in School Leadership 2020 Superintendent of the Year. This is the first of a three-part blog series on some of the incredible women who lead across our country.

 Goffney

You can’t spend much time with Dr. LaTonya Goffney without hearing three words that sum up her view of her work and life – “Living the Dream!” Yet the reality is that LaTonya had to first survive a nightmare of a childhood. Through a loving grandmother that stepped in and showed her the power of education, LaTonya flourished in school and became a teacher and then campus leader. The superintendency wasn’t something she sought; but rather leaders approached her while she was successfully leading a middle school campus. LaTonya told her mentor that she would pray about the opportunity, and he responded, “while you’re praying, send me your cover letter and resume to me.” She eventually interviewed and not only shared her passion and purpose in this calling, but noted that as an internal candidate she would be “ready on Day 1!” She was named Lone Finalist and her career as a superintendent was launched.

LaTonya noted that a female leader who had significant impact on her was the late Susan Simpson-Hull (former superintendent of Grand Prairie ISD in TX). Dr. Hull poured into LaTonya and opened her eyes to the massive impact that a large-district superintendent could have. She admired Dr. Hull’s fiery spirit and her ability to smash through barriers for the many women leaders that would follow in her footsteps.

Dr. Goffney noted that the greatest aspect about the superintendency is to opportunity to see the manifestation of the work come to life – initiatives like her district’s dual language immersion schools – and even more importantly, the life-changing way that educators can shape the lives of students. She noted that there are challenges as well, and that many of those are societal more than school-related – yet those are the issues that schools take on to help students become better young adults. She shared that we aren’t just giving a “quality education” – we’re helping young people overcome issues that they were born into. That work is hard; the decisions are heavy; but education and educators are the game changers for so many young people.

When asked what advice LaTonya would share with women to encourage them to consider the superintendency, her message was clear: your voice is needed! So often women hesitate if they feel like there is any area they are not fully-qualified for, but LaTonya shared that women are born leaders – in their homes and in our classrooms, and there are children who need their leadership!

One of the articles featured in the March School Administrator magazine is “The Essence of a Support Network” by Dr. Kristen J. Kendrick-Weikle which talks about the relationships built among four first-time superintendents in Illinois. The article shared that:

“We respect the experiences that each of us has had and the challenges we may be facing. Our support for one another is never in question. We look out for each other and know we can count on one another for advice or just to listen when things get rough. We are not afraid to ask hard questions of each other and to ask for help and guidance.”

One of the things Dr. Goffney is known for across Texas is connecting and supporting female leaders. Not only does Texas have a thriving women’s leadership organization that focuses on equipping and mentoring, LaTonya started a private GroupMe forum for female superintendents across our state where we can do exactly what Dr. Kendrick-Weikle describes. Kendrick-Weikle closes her article by stating that the support network works because they have “insight, experience and heart” – and so does Dr. LaTonya Goffney!

 

LaTonya Goffney is the superintendent for the Aldine Independent School District (68,000 students) outside of Houston, TX and was the 2017 Texas Superintendent of the Year.