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Building a stronger SAISD

Dr. Sylvester Perez1

December 3, 2012

Dear SAISD Staff,

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break. The holidays can be a mixed bag of celebrations, as well as emotions. I hope yours was one of celebration and thanks.

First, congratulations to all of our schools that had fall events, including parades, assemblies, ceremonies and, of course, UIL competitions.

As a proud San Antonian, I have seen the evolution of SAISD, albeit as an outsider. Now, as an employee, I am proud of the many accomplishments and awards that we continue to garner. This is evident in the increased graduation rate, decreased dropout rate and the stable enrollment. Many innovative and effective programs have contributed to these results. But, we CAN and MUST do better if we are to transform SAISD into the model urban school district as set out in our District’s mission.

In reviewing our current course offerings for internal district charter schools and magnet programs, it has become increasingly clear that some of these schools do not offer a significantly different or more rigorous strand that meets the original language of their charters or magnets. That is, they have morphed over time into something different. Simply stated, we must revisit the current designations and programs to ensure that we are who we say we are.

Additionally, we have more than 10,000 students, or about 1 in 5 students, who are not attending their respective SAISD neighborhood schools. In my opinion, we should not become what is referred to in professional sports as a "free agency" school district. We should increase the numbers of participants in band, pep squad, ROTC, fine arts, career and technology education courses and athletics in an attempt to return to a system that more closely resembles a true feeder pattern. Yes, choice is good, but let's build a school system where we do not lose our identity and school pride.

Along with that, the question must be asked: Do you know who your school is named after and why? For example, if you don't know the birthplace, history, career or landmark with your school’s name, then research it and pass this information on to your students. Make this a writing or research assignment. This city has a rich history, and many of our schools bear the names of several heroes. We should know as much about José Antonio Navarro or Lorenzo de Zavala, as we know about David Crockett. Students at Wilson Elementary School should know that Woodrow Wilson's birthplace was Staunton, Virginia. Brackenridge High School and JT Brackenridge Elementary School students should know about the role the Brackenridge family played in San Antonio, and students at the Carroll Early Childhood Education Center should learn about what my old friend Henry Carroll meant to the East Side of San Antonio.

I've also noticed a healthy competition among our schools, whether it's on the athletic field, in band or in academics. But let's not get too consumed with this. Let's pull for our SAISD schools when they're competing against our friends from outside of the District. Let's open up our world and start focusing on competing and comparing ourselves to other districts, cities, and, indeed, other states. Let's not limit our expectations. Let’s move our comparisons beyond how we performed against our own SAISD family. We should dream big and have lofty goals. We can do it.

When I'm asked by staff members what we can do to improve our school and/or our District, I simply say improve yourself. It begins with each and every one of you. Please know that you are an important part of SAISD history, and we truly appreciate all you do each minute of the school day for our students. We are all on the same path to build pride, become more competitive and be recognized as a model urban school district.

Best regards,
Dr. Sylvester Perez
Interim Superintendent

"We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." – Aristotle

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