AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Mike Morath today formally announced the newest members of the agency’s senior leadership team.
The deputy commissioners will be responsible for overseeing key functions of the Texas Education Agency (TEA). In addition, senior leadership team members will focus the agency on Commissioner Morath’s priorities of true customer service to school systems, as well as the delivery of effective programs that lead to successful student outcomes and educator support.
“I am committed to ensuring TEA is in the best position to truly support our students, parents and teachers,” said Commissioner of Education Mike Morath. “These leaders possess proven real-world education experience and a track record of improving student outcomes.”
Members of the TEA senior leadership team, who report directly to Commissioner Morath, include:
Martin Winchester – Deputy Commissioner of Educator Support
Martin Winchester is responsible for overseeing the TEA Educator Leadership and Quality Division. An educator with more than two decades of experience and former National Board Certified Teacher, he holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of Minnesota and the University of Texas-Pan American. He also holds a principal certification from the State of Texas, as well as teacher certifications in English Language Arts, English as a Second Language and Social Studies Composite. He began his education career in 1995 in the Rio Grande Valley and has taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels. He most recently served as an Advanced Placement/Dual Enrollment U.S. History teacher at PSJA High School in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District. Winchester also worked to launch the HEROES Academy, a college-preparation middle school in the district. He served for three years as the Chief Schools Officer of IDEA Public Schools overseeing the recruitment, selection, training and supervision of all the district’s principals and curriculum team. Winchester also has experience as an executive director, curriculum specialist and literacy facilitator. In addition, he has trained more than 1,000 teachers and served as an Expert in Residence at the University of Notre Dame.
Penny Schwinn – Deputy Commissioner of Academics
Penny Schwinn is responsible for overseeing the TEA Assessment and Accountability Division, as well as Standards and Programs. Schwinn began her work in education as a high school economics and history teacher in Baltimore and also served as a new teacher coach in south Los Angeles. Her successful teaching efforts earned her the Peter Kannam Award for Teaching Excellence, an Americorps Service Award, the Street Law Supreme Court Summer Institute placement and the Gilder-Lerhman Fellowship. Prior to joining TEA, Schwinn served as Assistant Secretary for the Delaware Department of Education, and before that as Assistant Superintendent of Performance Management for the Sacramento City Unified School District. As an assistant superintendent in the Sacramento public school system, Schwinn created the first school choice calculator in the country as a tool for parents. Schwinn also helped lead the Sacramento Pathways initiative, a collaborative with higher education institutions to ensure students complete college after high school graduation.
A.J. Crabill – Deputy Commissioner of Governance
A.J. Crabill is responsible for overseeing the TEA Accreditation and School Improvement Division, as well as the Office of Complaints, Investigations and Enforcement. Prior to joining TEA, he served eight years on the board of the Kansas City (MO) Public Schools. He led a broad suite of reforms that radically transformed the district. As a result of these efforts, grade level proficiency in literacy and numeracy rose markedly throughout the district. Graduation rates also climbed. Additionally, the district’s financial situation (which had been in a constant state of disarray and subject to political corruption) was placed on solid fiscally conservative footing. Crabill has also served on the board of the Missouri School Boards Association, the executive committee of the Council of Great City Schools, and provided governance training to school districts nationwide to help refocus school board members on the core mission of improving student outcomes. Raised as a foster child, he was born and has been known as Airick Leonard West until recently when he honored a promise to his foster parents to go through the adult adoption process, taking their name and marking the significance of the journey God put him on to become Airick Journey Crabill (or A.J.).
Megan Aghazadian – Deputy Commissioner of Operations
Megan Aghazadian is responsible for leading the agency’s strategic planning process and coordinating efforts to ensure performance goals and milestones are reached in an effort to improve student outcomes statewide. She also oversees the TEA divisions of Communications, Governmental Relations and Human Resources. Aghazadian previously served as Director of Annual Planning and Strategic Projects at the KIPP Foundation, driving organization-wide planning. In addition, she has served as the Director of College Partnerships on the KIPP Through College Team, where she developed KIPP’s college partnership strategy, established 70 college partnerships nationwide, and led the launch of KIPP's College Match campaign. She has worked on the strategy and policy team at DC Public Schools and was Portfolio Director at the DC Public Education Fund, where she raised more than $5 million to support strategic initiatives in DC Public Schools. While working with The New Teacher Project, she supported the implementation of a new teacher appraisal system in the Houston Independent School District. Aghazadian began her career in education as a middle school Language Arts teacher in the Bronx.
Kara Belew – Deputy Commissioner of Finance
Kara Belew is responsible for overseeing the TEA divisions of School Finance, Grants and Fiscal Compliance, Agency Finance, as well as the Permanent School Fund. She previously served as the Statewide Budget Director for Gov. Greg Abbott. Belew also served as Gov. Rick Perry’s Director of Financial Accountability and Senior Education Advisor. She is on the Board and is the former Chairwoman of A Community for Education (ACE), a non-profit dedicated to ensuring economically disadvantaged children are reading at grade level before third grade. Her leadership position with the agency was previously announced in February.
A complete biography on each deputy commissioner is available on the TEA website at http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/Leadership/Deputy_Commissioner/Deputy_Commissioners_of_Education/.
The Texas Education Agency oversees pre-kindergarten through high school education for more than five million students enrolled in both traditional public schools and charter schools.