Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
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In Memoriam: Paul Tapp, 1959-2022

Paul Tapp was an educator.

For more than 25 years as a staff attorney at ATPE, Paul counseled Texas educators on the worst days of their careers, explaining the realities of the law to them and making their situations seem bearable. He spent countless hours doing after-hours callbacks and traveling to grievance hearings across the state.

As managing attorney, Paul passionately and creatively sought ways to educate ATPE members about the law through member communications and in-person and virtual clinics. Undeterred by the pandemic, he moved his education efforts to Zoom and pioneered ATPE podcasts.

Within the school law community, he was a frequent speaker and contributor to the annual School Law Conference—most recently speaking at the February 2022 conference on the complicated case of Davis v. Morath & Dallas ISD, covering the topic of commissioner jurisdiction. He worked with ATPE Governmental Relations to analyze proposed legislation and frequently worked behind the scenes during the rule-making process once said legislation was passed. Paul always explained to his clients—and, most of all, his colleagues—that the lobbyist’s role was to influence the legislation as it could be and the attorney’s role to deal with it as it was. Following each legislative session, he painstakingly reviewed new statutes and summarized them for the membership. Reporters enjoyed speaking to him as he graciously explained the nuances of the Texas Education Code.

But it is among Paul’s colleagues, current and former, that his mind and example will be most missed. While his title was managing attorney of the ATPE Member Legal Services Department, he contributed officially and unofficially to the outcome of many initiatives at ATPE, whether through his legal analysis or his mentorship. The guest chair in his office was frequently occupied with someone seeking advice. We can only hope Paul gained even a small bit of knowledge and joy from those of us who sat in that seat.

The infinitely patient Paul Tapp was born Jan. 6, 1959, in Florida. Paul’s family moved to El Paso, Texas, where he became a product of the Texas public schools he would spend his career supporting (specifically, Eastwood Knolls and Eastwood High School in Ysleta ISD). He earned his undergraduate degree from The University of Texas, where he also met his wife, Joan. His undergraduate studies bounced around a bit, as those of many gifted individuals do, but he graduated with a degree in radio, television, and film, with dreams of becoming a screenwriter. He was working at Breed and Co., an Austin hardware store, when he decided to pursue a career in law—but as he frequently recounted, he didn’t enter law school to pursue employment law and had no idea a job like the one he had at ATPE even existed. In fact, he initially only took an employment law class because timing-wise its final exam would allow him to take a trip to New York City.

Soon upon earning his J.D. at The University of Texas School of Law, Paul answered the job posting for ATPE, and the results can be found in the pages of ATPE News, in thousands of legal records protected by attorney-client privilege, and in the hearts of his colleagues and clients.

Paul passed away July 23, 2022, following a private battle with cancer. The joy of working with educators kept him going during the final months. Every time he spoke to ATPE members, he thanked them for their service in a difficult field. It is now time, Paul, for us to thank you for the same.

Author: ATPE Staff