Roadrunner Rundown – We Are Lee

January 26, 2018

Roadrunner Families,
I want to start by sharing the selection of our Teacher of the Year, Kellie Leifeste! Ms. Leifeste, previously Ms. Eiler, has been our Reading Specialist for the past four years and has had a tremendous effect on her students. Initially funded through the generosity of our PTA, she began as one of our half-time specialists and then transitioned to our full time reading specialist position when it was offered by the district. Ms. Leifeste forms strong connections with her students and is a steadfast advocate for the needs of all students at Lee Elementary. She inspires all of us to be better educators and when her daughter joins us for kindergarten next year, she will be a third generation Roadrunner. Please join us in celebrating Ms Leifeste!

Congratulations to all the participants in this year’s Science Fair! Once again, we were blown away by the creativity and scientific aptitude of our Roadrunners of all ages. I was so impressed by all of the projects this year and I wasn’t the only one! Check out this great tweet from one of our volunteer judges: I don’t think I could say it any better than that! A HUGE roadrunner round of applause for Lloyd Bircher and his team of judges made up of parents, professors, and fellow educators. Our Science Fair would not be such a meaningful experience for our Roadrunners if it weren’t for their dedication.

It is officially survey season! The district is soliciting input about a wide variety of topics this time of year. If you have not already done so, please complete the 2017-2018 Austin Independent School District Parent Survey. If you interested in providing additional feedback about the food services here at Lee, please take a moment to complete the Austin ISD Food Services 2017-18 Survey

Thank you to everyone who lined the streets on Sunday to support our ATX Roadrunners for Parkinson’s who ran the 3M Half Marathon. We appreciated seeing so many familiar faces, and together raised almost $3,000 to support Parkinson’s research. If you are still interested in supporting this team, click here.

Lastly, in the spirit of the Great Kindness Challenge and the strong sense of community within our little school, I am collaborating with friend, writer and longtime Lee parent, Clayton Maxwell on a series called “We Are Lee”. Here is her first installment. I hope you enjoy it.

We Are Lee. Everyday as we hustle through the halls at drop off, we pass staff and other parents we may not know. Regardless if we move by in our solitary spheres, sometimes with a quick smile as we bump into each other, our lives are connected—because we all care about this school community. So in the hopes of shining light on some of the wonderful Lee people you pass in the hall, we’ve started this series of mini-interviews with staff and parents at Lee: what they care about, what they do, what makes them tick. We start with Delano Howard, the head school custodian, who speaks to us about his passion for his side career as a basketball official in schools and leagues throughout central Texas, including Kealing and Lamar, and how it changed his life.

When you talk to Delano about being a basketball referee his eyes light up. Except, I learned, the technical word is “officiating,” not refereeing. Delano has been a basketball official for 21 years. When he walks out the door after a full day at Lee, he is often heading out to a game, often as far away as San Antonio, where he dons the black and white stripes and slides a whistle around his neck, ready for another high-energy game. His career as an official began with a class he took while studying physical education in college. Years later, when he was coaching a game for the Boy and Girls Club, a light bulb went off—officiating was his true calling. And although he’s now in his third decade as an official, he still works on refining his techniques on how to manage the game. Walmart, a company where Delano worked for over 7 years, featured him in their national magazine (photo below), highlighting his passion and experience as an official. In what follows, Delano shares with us some of the unexpected life lessons his avocation has taught him.

What do you enjoy most about officiating a basketball game?

Delano: I love to see the development of the kids. One of my goals is always to be a mentor on the court. It’s really rewarding to see how the younger kids progress as they go through different stages of their lives and their basketball playing. I love to share my passion for the game and good sportsmanship with them.

What are lessons from officiating you use in your day-to-day life?

Delano: One of the greatest is learning how to accept the highs and lows of how things play out because there are always momentum switches, and that’s how life is: with every high you get a low, you have to accept both.

Remember the day the popcorn machine in the Lee teacher lounge started smoking? You seemed very calm. Is that calmness something you’ve developed as a basketball official?

Delano: Well, in officiating, you have to block out the chaos and stay focused on what your goal is. You can’t react impulsively; you have to respond appropriately to the situation right there in front of you the best you can. So, with the popcorn machine, the best thing to do was cut it off at the source, so I turned off the breaker, and once that was done we could figure out what was wrong with the popcorn machine.

Yes, while I was running around yelling, “Smoke! Smoke!” you were literally putting the fire out. What if a parent or coach gets in your face and tells you a call is wrong? What do you do?

Delano: It’s a challenge, cause the natural inclination is to react, put them in their place. Officials often say to people who get in their face, “You want to wear this shirt? YOU put on this shirt!” But over time you learn that is not going to create positive results, which is what we all want. One of the techniques is to not get eye to eyeball with an angry coach, which only escalates the energy, so what we do is just stand to the side in a nonconfrontational position and wait for the coach to vent. We are trained to take a nonconfrontational approach. All of a sudden you will see him calm down, because I have not lowered myself to that level.

Do you ever questions your own decisions?

Delano: Absolutely. We are human; we don’t always make the call. But we are professionals and we know when and how to admit to a mistake. We recognize that if we make a bad call, the best thing to do as far as game management—which is my job– is to let the coach know. Or we ask, “Coach, what did you see?” Or you say, “Coach, I’m going to work hard to get a better angle next time.”

If you would like to be interviewed, or know of someone who would, please email:

Have a wonderful weekend,

John Hewlett
Proud Principal
Russell Lee Elementary School