If you spend more than five minutes with Dr. Shannon Holmes (“just call me Shannon,” he says), you’ll know without a doubt that teachers are at the heart of every decision he makes. Before joining ATPE in July 2018, he served for 13 years as superintendent at Hardin-Jefferson ISD, a 4A school district based in Sour Lake, Texas. He feels protective of his teachers. “Teachers’ jobs are becoming more and more difficult,” he explains. “Parenting has changed. School funding has changed. Education is under political attack. We feel all of that at the schoolhouse. It’s incumbent upon ATPE, local representatives, and superintendents to lift our educators up. We can’t keep asking them to do more with fewer resources.”
Shannon points to financial challenges as the number one issue facing teachers today. “There’s not enough money in the system to provide supplies or pay increases,” he says. “And health insurance is a big bear. So even when school districts are able to give pay increases, the insurance costs eat that up. Your net pay doesn’t keep up with inflation.”
Add social media and school safety to the list of concerns, and it’s clear that every issue in the community, whether social or economic, has an impact on public schools. All of this motivates Shannon in his new role at ATPE.
“The top two things I’d like to see change in education in the state of Texas are funding and respect,” says Shannon. “You can’t have high expectations and low funding. And I’d like to see public educators receiving the same amount of respect and credit that other professionals receive. Educators provide a valuable service to the community. It’s the backbone of what Texas is built on. The powers that be flaunt the fact that Texas is a great place for employment. And you know what? These educators are developing future employees.”
If you take a peek a Shannon’s resume, you’ll find a strong background in both business finance and education. As superintendent of Hardin-Jefferson ISD, he facilitated the education of 2,400 students and the management of 334 staff members. He provided educational leadership, and oversaw curriculum and instruction, campus administration, financial management, grants, special services, athletics, personnel, and noninstructional operations.
In addition to his district duties, Shannon testified before the Texas State Senate and House of Representatives on a variety of topics relating to public education. He recently served as chair of the 2018-19 Legislative Council for the University Interscholastic League and was previously involved in several committees with the Texas Association of School Administrators, a professional association for education administrators.
His financial background gives him an edge in managing ATPE’s $12 million annual budget. Early in his career, he worked for several years as an auditor and accountant of local school districts and nonprofit organizations, and then later served as the director of business services for West Orange-Cove CISD in Orange, Texas.
“Dr. Holmes—with his many years of public education experience—displays a heart for students, teachers, and parents to ensure Texas school children receive the highest quality instruction and opportunities that our schools can offer,” says Carl Garner, 2017-18 ATPE state president, who served on the selection committee. “His wide range of knowledge, skills, and experience made him the perfect fit for the ATPE executive director position. He believes in leading by building relationships and empowering others, and we are sincerely looking forward to working with him to advance ATPE and its mission.”
Under Shannon’s leadership, ATPE will continue to fight to ensure that teachers have what they need and are supported. Plans include lobbying for better health benefits, creating effective learning environments for students, and promoting positive relationships between teachers and administrators. “ATPE is inclusive,” says Shannon. “We’re all on the same team. There’s no division between a teacher and a bus driver, or a teacher and a custodian, or a teacher and an administrator. We all work to educate our students, and we work to get them home safely. It takes a team, and I don’t think we should be separating ourselves. We all work in the school, and there’s no reason not to work together.”
Shannon credits the strong influences of his dad and his high school basketball coach with his sense of personal values. “They instilled the importance of God, family, integrity, and education,” he says. “And now, I have two boys, and I hope their teachers or mentors and I can do the same for them.”
When he’s not testifying at legislative hearings, collaborating with the board of directors, or brainstorming with staff, Shannon and his wife and boys are making the transition to the Hill Country lifestyle. “My wife and I love taking the boys camping,” he says. “We enjoy our time together hiking, backpacking, or boating, without the distractions of electronics and social media.”
When asked what else he wanted members to know about him, Shannon’s response again reflected his commitment to education—and to ATPE’s members. “I’m going to fight for our educators,” he says. “I like solving problems, and I will work to build positive relationships with educators and partners around the state. I want educators to be proud to be part of ATPE, because whatever we do to strengthen this organization will also improve our students’ classroom experiences, and that’s what matters most.”