Superintendent Message (Nov. 16, 2015)

Strengthening pathways to college

Nov. 16, 2015

Dear SAISD Staf

Earlier this month, I participated in the Alamo Area Regional College Access and Completion Summit, where I joined other local superintendents and college presidents in committing to work together to increase college completion rates. We discussed strategies to accomplish this, such as ensuring students are well-prepared for college so they don’t get discouraged once they get there by having to take remedial courses that do not count toward their degrees. We also discussed promoting dual-credit courses that allow students to earn high school and college credit at the same time, giving them a jumpstart on their college education.

The conversation fell in line with the work we are doing with local community college and university leaders to find ways to strengthen our students’ pathways to college, building, in particular, on our dual-credit offerings.

College preparation and completion are critical topics for SAISD as we focus on getting 80% of our graduates to college by 2020. Currently, 52% of SAISD students enroll in community college or a 4-year university. Another of our 5-year goals is that 74% of our graduates complete the first year of college without remediation; currently 40% of our graduates achieve this.

On Nov. 7, I joined hundreds of SAISD parents who turned out on a Saturday for our own summit – the biannual Parent Summit, at Trinity University. For the first time, it was held on a college campus, with the focus being college and career readiness at all ages. Panels and sessions centered on admissions, financial aid and preparing for college, among other topics. This type of event is critical to our efforts, and representative of our all-in approach, because it allows us to engage with parents, who are our most valuable partners.

Last week, a team from the Texas Education Agency came in for the extensive weeklong review I mentioned in my last message to you. I want to commend all schools and staff who took part in the significant preparation required for the visit and who participated in the review while TEA staff was here. I want to compliment our staff members for their professionalism, preparedness and tough conversations about how much improvement we need to make with Special Education and English Language Learners. We were able to share with the state our plans for working with principals and teachers to improve learning outcomes for students in both of those groups.

It’s important to note that every Monday I continue to go to campuses and continue to be encouraged by the level of instruction. During a recent visit, every classroom that I walked into, every child knew his or her reading level – and the progress he or she was making toward reaching his or her advanced reading goal. That’s just one example of the good things schools are doing and how hard teachers are working.

I am continuing to get the word out about our efforts. Last week, I shared our plan and steps we’re taking with members of the Rotary Club of San Antonio and will continue to share the work we are doing to transform SAISD with these types of community groups.

In closing, I want to recognize a specific teacher for her actions during a recent incident at Burbank High School, which was all over the news due to a bullet going through a school window and into a classroom. (The shot came from the perimeter of the property.) I want to commend that classroom teacher, Sharon Pressnell, who because of her actions helped ensure the safety of our children. Lockdown procedures and related training are taken very seriously because we want to make sure all staff are comfortable in knowing how to respond in these types of situations. I commend Ms. Pressnell for reminding us that our staff will always prioritize the safety of our children.