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Superintendent Message

Latest updates in the District

April 15, 2019

Dear SAISD Staff,

It is with great sadness that we learned of the death last week of Lt. Stanley Slate, who served with the SAISD Police Department and protected our community for 27 years. It is a grievous loss for his family, his fellow officers and the entire District. We will always be grateful for his service.

It is incredibly difficult to lose an SAISD family member, especially one who has been a part of us for almost 30 years. A service will be held for him later this morning, and please know that the District also will honor Lt. Slate’s life and service on Peace Officers Memorial Day in May. Time and location to follow.

Last week, our campuses began implementing the STAAR test to students, and I want to acknowledge the hard work our teachers have put into preparing students for these critical assessments. I have confidence that we will build on last year’s gains, and I look forward to seeing the results later this spring.

I am proud to announce that two of our educators – Principals Moises Ortiz with Rhodes Middle School and Marco Morales with J.T. Brackenridge Elementary School – have been selected as Cahn Fellows for the 2019-2020 school year. They are the first San Antonio cohort – the first in the city! – accepted into the Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals at Columbia University.

The program provides exemplary school leaders the professional development to become even more effective, while also leveraging their talents to mentor an aspiring principal in their schools. In addition, each will identify a challenge at their school and develop actions steps to address that challenge during a yearlong project.

As educators, we know that one challenge that affects many schools is attendance. Regular school attendance leads to better grades and a better chance to graduate from high school, setting students up for success and a secure future. Unfortunately, many of our students experience long absences from school for issues related to accessing health care. About 30,000 students qualify for Medicaid, which many doctors do not accept because of low reimbursement rates, leading to reduced access and long wait times for medical appointments when they do have access.

Last week, our Trustees addressed this issue by approving an agreement with the University Health System to open onsite health clinics at two of our middle schools, beginning next school year. Our goal is to open the first clinic at Tafolla Middle School in August and the second clinic at Davis Middle School in January. The school-based clinics will be housed in portable buildings for patient privacy and will begin by serving students and campus staff within the Lanier and Sam Houston high school feeders – gradually expanding services to include as many District students and staff as capacity permits.

Our hope is that this collaboration with the University Health System will reduce barriers to obtaining needed health services and decrease health-related absences, thereby improving student achievement.

On Friday, the District announced that Briscoe Elementary School became our fifth International Baccalaureate World School. SAISD hosts the largest number of IB and IB-candidate schools throughout Bexar County – totaling nine campuses. I congratulate Briscoe’s teachers, staff and students on this accomplishment.

Briscoe joins IB World Schools Burbank High School and Harris Middle School to create a K-12 pathway to an IB education in the Burbank feeder. IB World Schools Jefferson High School and Woodlawn Academy create a K-12 pathway in the Jefferson feeder, with four other schools in the Jefferson feeder in their candidacy phases: Huppertz and Woodlawn Hills elementaries, Fenwick Academy and Longfellow Middle School.

As we near the end of the school year, we will begin highlighting our top scholars for the Class of 2019. Two valedictorians will be profiled each week, now through graduation. We will launch the series today with stories and videos of our top students from Advanced Learning Academy and Brackenridge High School, both of which are experiencing “firsts.”

For the first time ever, the Advanced Learning Academy will celebrate a graduating class. Similarly, the Brackenridge High School valedictorian will be graduating as a member of the school’s Early College High School program, which also will be observing its first graduates this year. Congratulations to these valedictorians and their schools. You’ll learn about our other valedictorians over the next few weeks.

We continue to hear of student accomplishments and scholarship announcements, as well as some exciting alumni news.

Advanced Learning Academy senior Curtina Lilly is one of only 50 students nationwide selected for a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship, which includes a two-month, study abroad language-immersion trip. Curtina chose South Korea from a list of options. She is interested in Asian studies and this spring has been interning with the LOTE (Languages Other Than English) Teacher of the Year Jerry Romero, who teaches Japanese and Chinese at Tafolla Middle School.

Several of our JROTC students also have been recognized recently.

Brackenridge High School cadet Tommy Santana was selected to receive the 2019 Horatio Alger Association Scholarship. He traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in the awards ceremony and was formally presented the $25,000 scholarship. Additionally, two Edison seniors received three-year Army ROTC scholarships, and two other cadets received nominations from Congressman Joaquin Castro for a service academy.

In alumni news, one of our 2013 Brackenridge High School graduates, Juan Luna, has been accepted into Yale Law School, the top law school in the nation. Juan participated in a teacher-sponsored trip to visit colleges in the Northeast as an SAISD student. Although he followed his brother to Texas A&M University with a full financial aid package that included a four-year scholarship from the SAISD Foundation, Juan is now fully realizing the promise of his college trip opportunity by returning to the Northeast as a Yale law student.

This demonstrates the significance and lasting effects of these college tours. SAISD has since tripled the number of students attending college trips as the result of a partnership grant from the Valero Energy Foundation through the SAISD Foundation. As our graduates expand their horizons, we look forward to telling their stories in years to come.

Another fun graduate update: 2015 Travis Early College High School valedictorian Victoria Gonzalez, a pre-med student, is this year’s Miss Fiesta. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where she conducted biomedical research on infectious diseases. She will begin medical school in the fall to pursue her dream of becoming a pediatrician. In the meantime, she is conducting a service project in San Antonio of providing personal care and hygiene items to children in need – and, of course, representing the city as the 2019 Miss Fiesta.

Many of our current students will be putting their hard work and preparations on display over the next couple of weeks as part of our city’s Fiesta celebrations, as you can see from our Fine Arts Calendar. If you are attending the parades, band competitions or other festivities, please watch for our marching bands and drumlines, mariachi ensembles, dance and cheer teams, JROTC battalions, and school clubs.

This past weekend, the District held its first Experience Summer in SAISD event, a free family resource fair. I was pleased to see families come out to learn about summer learning opportunities.

SAISD is offering more than 60 full-day summer camps in June and July, and these offerings are free for all SAISD students. Our students will be engaged in a wide range of activities including P/SAT Boot Camp, Reader’s Theater, creative writing, STEM, arts, sports, filmmaking, coding, podcasting, and so much more – at no cost. Please help us spread the word so that students and families continue to hear about these extensive opportunities.

Before I close, I want to share a legislative update. We continue to monitor the bills that affect education, and we remain cautiously optimistic that final legislation surrounding school funding will be positive for students, staff and districts in Texas. If our hopeful expectation is realized, then we know SAISD will have a balanced budget, be able to give staff raises, and maintain – and grow – our investments in key initiatives throughout the District. We will continue to keep you updated on this important topic.

And, finally, as we enter this short work week, I wish each of you a joyous weekend. Happy Easter!

Sincerely,
Pedro