Temple ISD Leader Selected as Texas’ Nominee for National Superintendent of the Year

 In Central Texas, Temple

Bobby Ott of Temple ISD was selected by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) as Texas’ nominee for 2023 National Superintendent of the Year, an award given by AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

In September, Dr. Ott was named Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) in a special presentation at the annual convention hosted by TASB and the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA).

Ott was one of five finalists, selected by a TASB committee, composed of school board members. The candidates from 20 regions were evaluated on their work in improving student outcomes, developing a strong team, advocacy, and ongoing commitment to innovation and leadership. Ott was named Region 12 Superintendent of the Year last month where the region comprises 77 school districts in 12 area counties.

The Central Texas native has served as superintendent of Temple ISD since 2018 and as an educator for 24 years, demonstrating leadership in military, rural, urban, suburban and fast-growth districts. His previous positions include assistant and deputy superintendent in Temple, Copperas Cove and Killeen ISDs. He also served as an executive leader for both the Texas Education Agency and The University of Texas.

“Dr. Ott is an excellent representation of the leadership it takes to sustain a positive impact on students through focused and creative systems that align with student needs and staff support,” Executive Director of Education Service Center Region 12 Dr. Jerry Maze said. “He and his team are to be praised for their unwavering commitment to their students, staff, and the education profession!”

Upon joining TISD, Ott’s vision was to challenge and inspire staff and students to think bigger, imagine brighter and reach higher. The Central Texas native invites all staff and students to adopt the mindset that leadership is not a position but an opportunity and responsibility that everyone shares within the district and the community. The district’s shared vision is to instill the value of learning in each student and prepare them to be future leaders of society. This shared vision is a top reason the district of 8,472 students has not experienced the teacher shortage that has plagued the profession.

The Temple Wildcat is known for his competitive nature and contagious perpetual energy, which was widely seen in action as he led the district to keep moving forward and gain momentum through the pandemic. He knew this would not happen without his team being intentional about connecting with and caring for students, especially during isolation. His team quickly mobilized meals to feed families seven days a week and made sure learning packets and online lessons were readily available. Throughout the pandemic, he took the lead to connect with staff, students and families, offering real-time updates to provide a sense of normalcy during a chaotic time. He continuously reminded staff that they were the reason the district could successfully navigate the unprecedented challenges and keep moving forward.

Under Ott’s leadership and support, the district has seen gains in closing student achievement gaps. The performance gap for kindergarten to 1st-grade Hispanic and 1st- to 2nd-grade African American students has decreased by 50% due to a continued focus on screening and intervention. The latest data also shows academic growth in reading in several student groups, including those receiving special education services and English-learning students.

Ott is well known for being intentional about connecting with all groups and being collaborative. He works closely with the school’s board of directors, named the 2019-2020 Region 12 and Honor Board of the Year (a top five state finalist). Board members say the energetic leader is candid and timely with communications and committed to working cohesively as a team. In addition to regular board work and relations, Ott often provides an in-depth analysis of district functions, such as school finance, enrollment growth and state accountability. The board credits his leadership style and interactive communications with helping them to work as a high-functioning team making decisions in the best interest of those they serve.

Two-way communications is a crucial element to Ott’s leadership style and was likely a significant factor in the district recently passing a $164.8 million bond last May. The bond’s passing did not come without some adversity. While the leader provided more than 35 community meetings and information presentations, a bond in November 2021 failed by two votes. The TISD leader quickly assured staff, students and the community that everything would be okay and that he and the team would keep working. Soon after, his team held focus groups to gather voters’ input across every precinct. These meetings provided information and a way for participants to give feedback, helping TISD form next steps to prioritize and organize potential bond packages. Efforts around the bonds is just one example of how the superintendent works to move obstacles into opportunities.

Ott prioritizes building relationships and steady communications, both internally and externally. When he began the role, he was charged with engaging the community to make connections and build relationships. One strategy to meet this goal was visiting civic and community groups to share the TISD story, which has led to repeat invitations to the point where he now holds a yearly “road show tour.” The superintendent also sends a monthly digital newsletter, “Ott’s Outlook,” to families, staff and high school students, equating to more than 5,000 recipients. His transparent and timely communications have allowed the Temple ISD story to be shared accurately and fairly across many channels and formats. To continue telling the story and making connections, Ott personally communicates on Twitter, featuring students and staff doing positive and impactful work.

“Anyone who has ever received this award should know that it has very little to do with the superintendent and a lot to do with the place you serve, and for me, that’s Temple, Texas,” said Ott. This place is just special, and I love everything about it. As I stated during the interview process, all I try to do every day when I arrive to work is show people locally and across the state all the reasons why I love our children, staff, families, and this community. In my mind, this award belongs to the place God has put me and the people I serve.”

Ott, a trusted and influential leader, leads by example. The superintendent serves on the boards of the Temple Economic Development Corporation, Temple Education Foundation, Central Texas Workforce, McLane Children’s Hospital, and as a Wildcat Mentor. His service does not stop locally as he works to support school leaders and students across the state. He is a Texas Association of School Administrators’ executive committee (TASA) member and was appointed to the Holdsworth Leadership Academy and the 2025 TASA Task Force. He also serves on the ESC Region 12 Technology Foundation Board, which supports schools in 12 area counties, and was selected as a U.S. Education Ambassador to China in 2019.

While his list of awards and service to organizations is long, it is quickly evident that the Copperas Cove native is honored to serve as the school’s leader and to continue making Temple ISD a leader among leaders in the community and across the state.

Ott is married to Nicole, also a lifelong educator, and they have two daughters. He holds a doctorate in school administration from the University of Texas, both a master’s in school administration and a bachelor’s in kinesiology and English from Angelo State University, and a teaching certificate in English and physical education.

About SOTY (opens external link in new window)

 Since 1984, the Superintendent of the Year (SOTY) award program has honored outstanding administrators for achievement and excellence in public school administration. These school leaders exhibit exemplary and visionary leadership toward improving student performance. They are chosen for their strong leadership skills, dedication to improving the quality of education in their districts, and commitment to public support and involvement in education.

View the Texas Association of School Boards news release (opens external link in new window) announcing Dr. Ott as the Texas Superintendent of the Year.

View the Texas Association of School Administrators news release (opens external link in new window) announcing Dr. Ott as Texas’ nominee for 2023 National Superintendent of the Year.