Dear Service-Learning Community,

Endings are just new beginnings, or so the saying goes. There's certainly some truth to this statement, but the pain of ending is still real. As I write this, our last newsletter, it's sinking in just how much I will miss this work and the wonderful people who share a passion for service-learning as a way to engage young people in meaningful and even profound experiences.

When my colleague Ande England and I started this enterprise in January 1997, we set out with the knowledge that we might not be around long enough to make service-learning a common experience for all Texas students but that we'd do our best nonetheless. Fifteen years later we've come to the end of the road, but not before involving over 1.2 million students in thoughtful service and meaningful learning.

I am filled with gratitude that this journey lasted so long and including so many wonderful people doing extraordinary work, including co-workers, teachers, program coordinators, principals, superintendents, parents, partners, and, most importantly, students. Thank you for your many contributions to Service Learning Texas, which we always envisioned as something much greater than an office in Austin.

With your help, service-learning will continue to prosper and grow in Texas and elsewhere. As you'll read below, other organizations are stepping up to support this innovative teaching and learning strategy in new and creative ways. Resources still exist to help fund service-learning activities. A national service-learning conference will take place in Houston in October. And, as ever, students of all ages and abilities are eager to make a difference in the world, and teachers are in the perfect position to help them realize their dreams.

I encourage you to look to each other as resources, to ask young people for their input and ideas and allow them to learn from their experience, to seek partners who share your commitment and vision, to celebrate your success, and to know that service-learning is in good hands thanks to all of our efforts.

All the best,

Signature of John Spence

Service Learning Texas

Youth Leading Through Service

Region 14 Education Service Center

Region 14 Education Service Center (ESC), the home office of Service Learning Texas, is one of 20 ESCs that provide an array of services to school districts throughout Texas. The ESCs date from 1967, when the Texas Legislature directed that the State Board of Education provide, by rules and regulations, for their establishment and operation. The Centers are service organizations, not regulatory arms of the Texas Education Agency, and participation by schools in services of the centers is voluntary.

As specified in the Texas Education Code, Regional Education Service Centers are designed to:

  • assist school districts in improving student performance in each region of the system;
  • enable school districts to operate more efficiently and economically; and
  • implement initiatives assigned by the legislature or the commissioner."

ESC services are designed to meet a broad range of school district needs. In support of school administration, they provide services in such areas as computer support for business and student services, administrator training, bus driver training, and cooperative purchasing. Among curriculum improvement and staff development opportunities for teachers, ESCs provide technical assistance and training in instructional technology, programs for special populations, and staff development in instructional improvement are the most common. ESCs also operate cooperatives among school districts for programs such as drug abuse prevention, migrant education, accelerated schools, and adult education, all of which allow districts to leverage limited funds for maximum benefit to students.

ESCs play a leading role in providing training and technical assistance for the implementation of the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) and accountability. Centers assist campuses in the development of school improvement plans, provide training to campus teams, and deliver ongoing support to the teams to improve student learning on individual campuses. Field service agents from each center provide technical assistance and support to the administration of the district. A certification officer in each Center provides immediate answers to related questions from local personnel. Field-based certification approval is available through these operations. Center child nutrition specialists provide technical assistance to local food service and instructional staff.

Region 14 ESC provides services to 43 districts in 13 counties in the mid-West Texas region near Abilene. This region covers 12,155 square miles and includes approximately 161 campuses with approximately 52,804 students, 3,907 professional educators, and 202 administrators.

In addition to meeting district needs in this region, Region 14 ESC operates on a larger scale through its School Board Member Training Program and through Service Learning Texas, a statewide initiative located in Austin that operates in collaboration with the Texas Education Agency to make service-learning—the thoughtful integration of student service and classroom learning—a common experience for all Texas students.