Boundary changes

Dr. Sylvester Perez1

October 27, 2014

Dear SAISD Staff,

As you all know by now, I will be leaving SAISD to return to retirement, effective April 1 (although I’m not retiring from life). It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with all of you, as well as the Board of Trustees, parents and community members, to serve the students of SAISD.

But, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself because there is much to accomplish before I leave, including laying the groundwork for a smooth transition for the students, parents and staff at 25 campuses who will experience some level of impact from boundary changes that go into effect for the 2015-2016 school year. In a message to you last spring, I provided the background for these proposed boundary changes.

Under the District’s long-range facilities plan, Brewer, Nelson, Steele and W.W. White elementary schools will close at the end of the 2014-15 school year, and Austin Academy will close at the end of 2015-16. Though new boundaries are scheduled to go into effect next school year related to all five campuses, Austin parents have the option of keeping their children at the school for 2015-16.

Students attending campuses that will close will be rezoned to other SAISD schools, depending on where they live. Last week, we kicked off parent meetings to share the proposed boundary changes and answer any questions. These meetings will be held this month and next at each of the five schools to be closed, as well as at Woodlawn Academy, as it transitions to a campus serving pre-kindergarten through 8th grades. Parents from all of the 25 schools impacted will be invited to one of the meetings.

These changes will take place only after extensive renovations are completed at some of the schools that will serve as new home campuses for students who attended the closing schools, and those bond-funded renovations to modernize campuses will be completed later this year. In fact, most of the projects that are part of the $515 million bond program that voters approved in November 2010 will be completed by this spring. With some facilities already being finished, it’s exciting to see the increased learning opportunities for our students with new classrooms, along with first-class technology and science labs.

I attended the first parent meeting last Wednesday, at W.W. White Elementary School, and was glad to be there, along with principals from the receiving schools, to help assure parents that their children are in good hands and will continue to be during this time of change. We know change is difficult, especially when families have deep roots in their neighborhood schools, sometimes with generations of family members having attended that school.

I also understand that there may be parents at schools where boundaries are changing, though the school is not closing, who won’t want their children to move to a different campus, and we will do our best to work with those parents, particularly for those students entering the 5th or 8th grades and wish to complete that last grade at their current school. Transfer and grandfathering procedures will be shared with each campus.

I don’t have to tell you how important it is for our families to know that their children are being well taken care of and will be warmly welcomed into their school next year.  It will be helpful that teachers and staff from closing schools will follow the students as needed to the receiving schools, so students will see some familiar faces when attending a new school. The remaining staff of closing schools will be reassigned to other SAISD positions – no employee will lose his or her job as a result of a consolidation.

Maps of the proposed boundaries are being sent to parents at the schools that will have some change to their boundaries. The impact to schools falls into three categories – those schools closing, those extending their boundaries to receive additional students and those that both receive students from and send students to other schools.

We have launched a webpage with general information, and we’ll also be adding maps of the proposed boundaries here, along with other relevant information. Parents also will be able to access the District’s Address Locator tool from this page. I encourage you to direct parents to this webpage, as it provides valuable boundary information.

The Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the proposed boundaries in January, and following that vote, staff will finalize maps and details and distribute them to the affected campuses for distribution to staff and parents, as appropriate. Meet the Principal events and campus tours also will be held after boundaries are finalized, so that parents and students can familiarize themselves and become comfortable with their future school homes.

In the spring, schools will receive information and guidance about how to handle registration, which will take place in May this year, for the 2015-16 school year.

So there is much change in the works, but it is good change. Like I told the parents at the W.W. White meeting last week, the world around us is changing every day, and we must change, too, if we are to provide our students with the quality of education and the facilities that they need and deserve.SAISD has made great strides in the past few years thanks to all of you and to the great support and work of this District’s Board of Trustees, as well as our partners. Together, we all have built a positive momentum for students, parents, community and staff.

Lastly, please know that I will be just as committed and passionate on my last day on the job as I was on my first day.

Dr. Sylvester Perez

“It doesn’t matter whether you are pursuing success in business, sports, the arts, or life in general: The bridge between wishing and accomplishing is discipline.” – Harvey Mackay