Bret A. Champion, Ed.D.
Dr. Bret A. Champion became Leander ISD’s Superintendent of Schools on February 1, 2008. He is a former Leander ISD teacher, assistant principal and principal, and most recently served as Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services. Dr. Champion is in his 21st year with Leander ISD.

Champion was a member of the second corps of the "Teach For America" program – which recruits and trains teachers to serve in low-income communities. Dr. Champion’s first teaching positions were in inner-city schools in Houston, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He received his Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) from the University of Texas, his Masters in Education (M.Ed.) from Texas State University, and his BA in English Literature from the University of Houston.

Dr. Champion’s wife, Marcee, is an adjunct professor at Austin Community College. Their sons are Alan, who is a college student and Nicholas, who attends school in Leander ISD.
If you have specific area questions, a good first place to start is our web page listing phone numbers and email addresses of those people who might best address your question or concern. Follow Bret Champion on Twitter!

Current Superintendent Column
Week of: February 2 , 2015

Encouraging Every Senior to Fill Out the FAFSA

What has been a low simmer of concern for many LISD parents, and parents of high school seniors across the country, will reach its boiling point over the next few months: “My child has taken the classes, taken the entrance exams, submitted the college applications and has been accepted! Now how are we supposed to pay for it?” While many families know what to do to get their children academically ready for college, there is a lot of confusion and misconception when it comes to financing it. This is why we encourage all seniors in our district to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible and to attend one of our free workshops with their families if they need help with the application process.

The FAFSA is used to qualify students for Federal aid, as well as funds at the state and college level. However, funding is limited for each of those programs, and the deadline varies between states and universities, which is why we urge students to fill out their application as soon as possible. The FAFSA is also used to qualify students for grants, scholarships, work-study jobs and loans with the best rates, like the Federal Stafford Loan. So even in a situation unrelated to Federal aid, like a student applying for a merit-based scholarship offered by his university, the school may still require his family financial data (via the FAFSA) to be eligible for the scholarship.

One of the mistakes we’ve seen too many of our families make is to skip the FAFSA because they think they earn too much income, have too much home equity or have been previously turned down for aid. None of these variables will automatically exclude a family for eligibility. In most cases, a house is considered an exclusion when considering financial assets. And a family with two or more students in college may qualify for aid when they didn’t qualify previously with only one child in college. The bottom line is that you won’t know what you’re eligible for unless you apply!

Because many of the fields in the FAFSA application are tied to tax information, we recommend that families start their application in January or early February during tax filing season when they already have all of the necessary information on-hand. The application typically takes less than an hour and can be done online. We’d also like to stress that the application should be submitted each year a child is enrolled in college since household income and circumstance can fluctuate year to year, as can federal, state and local funding sources.

One of our students named Dane, who graduated from Leander High School in 2011, shares his testimonial of the FAFSA through a video on our website. An undergraduate of Texas A&M and current student of the Columbia Law School, Dane said that monies he’s received through submitting his FAFSA application every year has saved his family some $150,000!

While the FAFSA is open to U.S. citizens or documented permanent residents, undocumented students living in Texas and applying to attend a public or private college in Texas should fill out the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA). Families should note, however, that the TASFA is only available by paper form.

LISD has partnered with its faith-based community to once again offer Sunday workshops to help families with their FAFSA and TASFA applications. Workshops will take place on February 8 at HighPoint Fellowship from 2-4:30 p.m. and February 15 at Hill Country Bible Church Austin from 2-4:30 p.m. District staff and volunteers will host additional workshops on weekday afternoons and evenings from February through early April at each high school campus. You can download a complete list of dates and information on all of our financial aid workshops on the LISD homepage. You can also access a host of other college funding resources by visiting our website and clicking on College and Career Readiness.

The last thing we want is for students with all the potential in the world to have options closed to them after graduation because they didn’t know how to apply for funding, didn’t think they qualified or didn’t submit their application early enough. If your child is a senior this year, regardless of their post-graduation plans, be sure to fill out a FAFSA application just in case!

For families who need help filing their taxes prior to their FAFSA application, and who earn $53,000 or less annually, our partners at United Way of Williamson County offer free tax preparation services by IRS-certified volunteers. Visit for more information.

Have a great week!