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SAISD kicks off series of ‘Redefining Excellence’ community meetings

By SAISD Communications
Sept. 10, 2015 edition of Insider

Steps to transform SAISD into a National Model Urban School District are accelerating this week with the start of sessions designed to gather public input. The first of seven meetings to provide the community an opportunity to learn about the transformation plans underway and to share their views of an ideal SAISD was held Wednesday nightat Jefferson HS.

The meetings are part of Superintendent Pedro Martinez's aggressive five-year  improvement plan for the District, which includes calling for at least 70 percent of all SAISD schools representing every neighborhood to be rated B or higher in three yearsunder the state's new accountability system.

The meetings will continue through Oct. 14, and community input will be a key component in a finalized plan to redefine excellence in SAISD, expected to be presented to Trustees later this fall.

And while the public portion is just starting, the groundwork at the District level began this summer through employee presentations of the plan, which includes 10 measurable academic goals to be achieved in five years.

It starts with an aggressive year-one plan, to identify and prioritize needs, evaluate programs and create alignment to ensure meeting long-term metrics and goals.

Principals, including those from the Jefferson cluster, formed campus-based teams to develop year-one metrics. Part two was sharing their school's plan with their employees and then helping them to understand their role in achieving the goals.

In addition to introducing it to staff when they returned on Aug. 12, Jefferson and Baskin ES principals Orlando Vera and Karen Rose, respectively, ensure that their plan maintains a constant presence.

At Jefferson, this includes revisiting it at weekly leadership and monthly faculty meetings.

"We have discussed the role of each employee at length as a faculty and by department," Vera said.

"We have paired up employees to match their strength for helping us reach our goals. All employees understand that we are a team and will need to work together to be successful."

In addition to Baskin's plan being posted outside every classroom, it is discussed at staff meetings and during Friday Reflection, a time for focusing on District goals and setting an events agenda.

"Staff have given positive feedback," Rose said. "The goals are realistic and attainable, which makes it easy for buy-in."

She also expressed appreciation to the superintendent for visiting her school, where hespoke about his goals to staff and some students.

To assist in achieving the school's objectives, Rose said boosting attendance to at least 96 percent is a priority this year. This goal is being promoted at the school level through daily announcements and hallway postings, and will be a topic, along with the school's plan, at parent events such as PTA Open House, Principal Coffees, Dancing with Dad, Mom's Event and Movie Night.

Fliers of Jefferson's plan were sent home with students and it will be discussed at the school's Sept. 16 open house.

As a national model AVID demonstration school, Jefferson will use strategies from this college-prep system to help meet its goals, as well as increase the rigor of courses, Vera said, adding:

"At Thomas Jefferson, we expect to win; we expect success. With this plan properly implemented, success is an inevitable outcome.