Randle traces career success to teachers – The Banner-Press
Originally published in The Banner-Press. Written by Arthur Hahn.
Dr. Thomas Randle has come a long way from a two-room school house in Independence.
Randle, a Washington County native who says he proudly tells people he’s from Brenham, now leads a 32,000-student district that has consistently racked up an impressive list of prestigious honors.
He has served as Lamar Consolidated ISD’s school superintendent since 2001, accumulating a number of personal accolades himself. Eighteen years with the same school district is almost unheard of in an age where the normal “tenure” for a public school superintendent is three or four years.
“I tell ‘em I’m from Brenham with a lot of pride,” said Randle. “In fact, even when I do my convocation presentations, I have shared things about Brenham as well as teachers from Brenham.”
Under Randle’s leadership, Lamar CISD has become known around the state for academic and extracurricular excellence.
The district has twice been recognized by Texas School Business magazine for its best practices. It has earned an H-E-B “Excellence in Education Award” for best large district. Three of its campuses have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools.
Randle traces it back to a solid foundation of education he received here. He still recites the names of all his teachers, including the schoolhouse in Independence.
“It was interesting,” Randle said of his first classrooms. “Grades one through four were on one side of the partition and grades five through eight were on the other side.”
The teachers — Mabel Heard and M.L. Woods — taught Randle early that they expected his best.
“They held us accountable,” he said, a lesson which Randle still hammers home to his teachers.
He credits two things with pushing him toward academic success.
“One is my mother. Even though she was a single parent, she stressed the importance of education and then supported us in any way that she could when we were growing up,” said Randle.
“The other is the teachers I had there — whether they were the teachers I had in grade school in Independence or all the way up to when I was in high school.”
After consolidation, Randle began attending Alton Elementary School. After integration, he attended Brenham High School, where another teacher had a profound impact on him.
“I attribute so much to the teachers that I had,” he said. “I always mention Robert Little, my ag teacher and Sunday school teacher, as having a huge impact on my success.”
Randle thrived in school, especially his involvement with Brenham’s FFA chapter that included election as an area officer.
“That was challenging, but I think it was one of the best things that could have happened to me,” he said.
Randle knew early on that he wanted to be involved in education.
“There was no doubt in my mind what I wanted to do,” he said. “When I came into ninth grade, not only did I know I wanted to be an educator, I knew I wanted to be an ag teacher. I wanted to be just like Mr. Little.”
Randle went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University and a doctorate from Oklahoma State University. At A&M, he was a distinguished student and was named an Outstanding Graduate and a Notable Graduate nominee.
True to his admiration of Little, Randle began his career as an agriculture teacher in Sweeny. He worked his way up the administrative ladder in Conroe ISD, as an assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent for secondary education.
He also served as superintendent in La Marque ISD for six years before joining the Lamar district.
Randle said he continually tells teachers how important they are in their students’ lives.
Speaking at a meeting recently, Randle drove that point home.
“I asked everybody to raise their hand if a teacher had had an impact on their lives and their successes,” he said. “Nearly everybody in the audience of about 400-plus people raised their hand.
“And so I tell all staff that number one, serve as a role model because those kids are paying attention to you — everything you do. And those kids also know when you truly love them unconditionally. They respond to that.
“I never was upset with the teachers who expected me to do well and who had high expectations for me.
“At the end of the day when I left school, I could reflect back and say, ‘Now I see why they had those high expectations.
“You’ve got to have high expectations for kids. You’ve got to believe they’re able to do the work. It’s only when you decide that a kid, because he comes from a single-parent home or whatever reason, that you make the determination that they can’t do something, then you are doing the kids a disservice.
“You have to always believe that if you have high expectations for them and give them the tools they need, those kids will be successful. They’ll rise to that challenge.”
Randle could point to his own career as evidence that hard work is rewarded.
He has served with the Texas Association of School Boards Risk Management Fund, the UIL Legislative Committee, the Texas FFA Association, the Texas Association of School Administrators, the Texas Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, Texas Academic Decathlon, the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators and the Texas Business and Education Coalition.
Randle is a past president of the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
He served on the Texas Education Commissioner’s Cabinet of Superintendents, the Policy Committee on Public Education Information and as an advisor for the Texas Education Agency’s Recommended High School Plan. In 2008, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus appointed Randle to the Select Committee on Public School Accountability.
He’s twice been named the Region Four Superintendent of the Year and was also a finalist for Texas Superintendent of the Year.
Randle in 2004 received Texas Educational Support Staff Administrator of the Year and Texas A&M’s 2012 John R. Hoyle Award for Educational Leadership.
In 2017, the Texas Alliance of Black School Educators recognized Randle by naming a statewide award in his honor.
He received an Oklahoma Regent of Higher Education Fellowship and served on a focus group for the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C.
Randle said he has seen a lifetime of changes in his field, but the goal remains the same — educating students.
“When I look at my 41 years in the business, we dealt with some of the very same things early on in my career that we deal with now,” he said.
One of the major changes that challenges educators the most, said Randle, is social media.
“That’s the one major thing that I think challenges us most often,” he said.
“Things are immediate. Parents often know something before we know it because the kids tweet it out or text it.”
Randle said his district has embraced social media, ranging from notifying parents when classes have been canceled to reminding them of an upcoming teacher meeting.
Parental involvement is still critical, he added.
“We let them know that they’re always welcome in school. Sometimes we make the assumption that they don’t want to be involved, when really and truly they do want to be involved,” said Randle.
“We survey parents and kids to let them give us feedback about how we’re doing. We’ve made efforts to reconnect with parents, because we know that it really and truly takes the school system and the parents in order for our kids to be successful.”
Students are being expected to learn more — and faster.
“The expectations of what kids need to know has changed tremendously over the years,” he said. “Gosh, what our kids are learning in elementary and junior high, some of that stuff we weren’t being introduced to until high school.”
For now, Randle isn’t thinking about retirement. The district, he said, just completed the first year as a Holdsworth Center participant, one of only seven in the state selected for the program that began in 2017.
The Holdsworth Center, founded by H-E-B chairman and CEO Charles Butt, offers world class training and leadership development to school district administrators.
“That has kind of extended my time, because it is a five-year commitment on the part of the school district,” said Randle.
“We’ve completed year one. I did indicate that I would make sure that we were well established before I elect to retire.”