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Superintendent Message

Wrapping up the 2018-19 school year

May 28, 2019

Dear SAISD Staff,

The results are in for the first administration of STAAR for 5th and 8th grades and the May End of Course (EOC) exams, and I’m pleased to share we are experiencing gains across subjects and across our campuses – in some cases, double-digit gains.

SAISD was able to maintain performance or show greater overall growth among all performance levels for 5th graders taking the Reading and Math assessments in English. At the 8th grade level, SAISD narrowed the achievement gap with gains exceeding the state in both Reading and Math.

We also are seeing significant growth and improvement in almost all performance levels on EOC exams at the high school level. English I, Algebra I and U.S. History performance showed the greatest improvements at all levels. And significantly more SAISD students either met or exceeded the state’s annual growth expectations in both Algebra I and English II.

The results we are seeing demonstrate the great work teachers are doing to help our students reach their potential, and I thank you for that. We will learn the results for the remaining assessments over the next few weeks, and I will continue to keep you informed.

Good news, too, on the legislative front: The final House Bill 3 was approved over the weekend and it transforms school finance in Texas. The legislation includes a greater state investment in public education – up from 38% to 45% – and funding for English language learners, full-day pre-K for economically disadvantaged children, professional development and pay increases for educators. The bill also includes a significant reduction in property taxes.

Our advocacy in Austin helped ensure the bill includes additional funding for a spectrum of weights for economically disadvantaged students based on our socio-economic block system to recognize that not all poverty is the same, as well as for all students in a dual language program, special education and dyslexia. 

The passing of House Bill 3 comes at an important time as we are in the midst of our budget process. We will receive about $36.5 million from the state. However, because of Senate Bill 12, which increases teacher pensions, our pension costs will rise by an additional $5 million, netting us about $31.5 million.

As we shared in a recent Board work session, we have a projected shortfall of $16 million, but with this additional investment from the state, we will have sufficient resources to cover our shortfall as well as provide raises and invest in program needs. The budget goes to the Board on June 17.

Last week, the District recognized our Rising Star Teachers. Districtwide, 49 first-year teachers were honored for being outstanding, with four of them selected as Rising Star Teachers of the Year in their grade-level categories: Analaura Paez, kindergarten teacher at Advanced Learning Academy; Hannah Smith, special education teacher at Japhet Academy; Lloyd Pegues, LOTC teacher at Rhodes Middle School; and Caleb Loomis, computer science teacher at CAST Tech High School.

I hope this is only their first of many years with our District. Please join me in congratulating all of these excellent teachers!

In other exciting news, the District recently announced that Jefferson High School has earned its second designation from the International Baccalaureate organization. Jefferson is now authorized to offer both the Middle Years Program (MYP) for grades 9 and 10 and the Diploma Programme for grades 11 and 12, a designation they earned last year. Jefferson is the first MYP high school in Bexar County. They now are also the only local school to offer IB programmes for all four years of high school. These designations are the culmination of more than three years of hard work, and we are proud of their accomplishment.

Even as the school year wraps up, our students still are hard at work achieving accolades and receiving great opportunities that will benefit their future goals.

Highlands High School junior Yiovanna Plascencia’s artwork, A New Beginning, was selected by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett as the winner for his district in the annual Congressional High School Art Competition. Yiovanna’s three-dimensional piece will hang in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for a year. After high school, she hopes to study to become a kindergarten teacher.

Additionally, Brackenridge High School senior Maya Diaz has been selected to participate in the 2019 Young Ambassadors Program of the Smithsonian Latino Center. Maya will spend one week in Washington, D.C., and participate in a college preparatory and leadership program. After her trip, she will intern at a San Antonio museum before heading to St. Edward’s University in Austin to major in studio art.

Graduation ceremonies will begin later this week, and many of our seniors are headed to a mix of in-state and out-of-state colleges and universities, including top-tier institutions. Students have accepted offers from Ivy Leagues such Brown and Princeton universities, as well as other top out-of-state options such as Claremont McKenna College, Smith College, and University of Notre Dame. Closer to home, they will be attending Austin College, Rice University, Trinity University, Texas A & M University, and the University of Texas – among many great institutions.

We are proud of all of our students as they begin the next phase in their educational and life journeys. But before we send them off with their diplomas, we have a special event planned for them.

This evening, our Class of 2019 students will benefit from the insight of their peers who graduated from SAISD and already have been in college for one or two years. Alumni from the Classes of 2017 and 2018 will share their advice with this year’s seniors during our inaugural “Get the College Scoop” event – from guidance on getting along with college roommates to the value of knowing and accessing campus resources, among other success strategies that will benefit them this fall.

We are expecting college-bound seniors and their families from 12 high schools to attend this networking event that includes parent sessions to foster support within each college cohort.

As we look toward the summer, exciting renovations will continue or begin at some of our schools.

Construction will begin this summer at Rhodes Middle School on converting its library into a virtual reality, artificial intelligence library lab. Rhodes, which is a Verizon Innovative Learning School, has been awarded a Verizon Innovative Learning Lab grant. Construction for reframing the space is expected to take one year. Beginning in the fall of 2020, students and teachers will have access to emerging technology such as augmented and virtual reality, coding and circuits, 3D printing and artificial intelligence. One of the components of the grant is to give middle school students the option to take a computer science elective for high school credit.

The Verizon Learning Lab program is a three-year initiative that combines the latest technologies with innovative curriculum and real-world problem solving in custom-designed school labs. The program is in partnership with Heart of America, who works with the school to construct the space, and Arizona State University who provides an immersive curriculum and training for the teachers. This grant also gives the District and Rhodes the chance to begin looking at other innovative course supports for the campus.

In addition, our Bond 2016 construction projects will be in full swing at 13 schools. One of the major projects we are launching is a new main building at Burbank High School. The main classroom buildings at Brackenridge and Lanier high schools are undergoing major interior renovations and exterior facelifts, while Jefferson High School will be continuing its major foundation repairs and renovations. Additional projects are underway at Edison, Fox Tech and Sam Houston high schools; Davis, Rogers and Tafolla middle schools; Bowden and Irving academies; and J. T. Brackenridge Elementary School.

Also beginning with our summer break and into the fall, various offices and departments will relocate as we prepare to vacate some of our properties that sold in early 2018.

The Transportation Department will consolidate into one location at IH-10 and Roland Ave, and this site will also receive some Facilities staff. Our Operations Service Center at IH-10 West at Summit will house employees from Child Nutrition, Facilities, Construction Services, and Purchasing. Other employees at our North Alamo location will temporarily move either to the Bowie Center or Cooper Center until our new Central Office is completed – this includes employees in Special Education, Technology, Police Dispatch and the Chief of Police. Additional SAISD police officers will relocate permanently to the Cooper Center.

Between the grant-funded and Bond construction, office moves and summer camps we have planned, our summer may be just as busy as our school year! Regardless, I encourage all of you to find the time to take a much needed break this summer. You deserve it!

Sincerely,
Pedro