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Trustee recognition and education reform

Dr. Sylvester Perez1

January 21, 2014

Dear SAISD Staff,

First off, this month is National School Board Recognition Month, a time to thank Trustees for their hard work and dedication on behalf of all of our employees, students, parents and community members.

Of course, the work they do is year-round, but it’s nice to have a designated time to focus in on all that they do, such as the salary increases and a longevity stipend they provided employees this year and the addition of Parent and Family Liaisons so that that valuable resource is now available to parents and families at all of our schools.

But their investment in our District goes beyond the time they spend at the dais conducting official business. They regularly are out at campuses, attending and participating in events that give them an opportunity to see first-hand the fruits of their labor.

Tonight, we will honor these seven dedicated servants with a reception from 5-6 p.m. at the Burnet Center Cafeteria, 406 Barrera St. Swing by and say a word of thanks, if you have the time!

On a separate note, you recently may have read or seen stories about Bexar County schools that landed on the state’s Public Education Grant list, which is a list of schools whose students can request (but are not guaranteed) transfers to other area districts because their campuses did not meet state academic standards.

I did a media interview about the 20 schools we have on the list and attempted to explain to the interviewer the complexity of this infamous list. For example, some of those schools initially were on the list in 2011 but subsequently met state standards. However, they remained on the list because of the three-year requisite before a school can be removed. We are taking steps at those schools, implementing measures, to improve performance, and I also mentioned to the interviewer that 74 of our 90 campuses are showing academic gains. Of course, the main story focused on the 20 schools on the list.

That’s not to say we don’t face challenges. We do, though I think our challenges are representations of a much larger issue – education in America. You’ve probably seen news about studies and rankings that compare countries’ educational outcomes. The United States typically does not lead those lists.

What we need is true and meaningful education reform that will transform our system – that is to change the condition of, as well as how schools function. Our Trustees have endorsed and embraced the concept of reform, hence, the mission “to transform SAISD into a national model urban school district where every child graduates and is educated so that he or she is prepared to be a contributing member of the community.”

This past legislative session was, overall, a success. Policymakers, especially our local elected officials, should receive our gratitude and appreciation for taking some bold steps in accountability, as well as restoring some of the funding that was reduced by the 82nd Legislature. Although there still is room for additional improvement in accountability, we are heading in the right direction. We are taking small steps to remove the test-taking overkill and hopefully move toward more local control.

Education is the sum of many parts, and they are all related to each other in our communities. Health services, safety, parental involvement, infrastructure, housing and community schools all play a role in lifting our students and families. Therefore, as educators and citizens we must get involved and exercise our civic duty to elect officials who ultimately understand that support (funding) of education for our young students is an investment in our nation’s future.

Dr. Sylvester Perez

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


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