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Superintendent Message (Dec. 18, 2015)

Happy holidays and a look ahead

Dec. 18, 2015

Dear SAISD Staff,

As we close out the first part of the school year, I want to thank you for all your hard work in the past several months. Thank you for working so closely with administration to identify the needs of the District and coming up with ways that we can better support our students and staff. I hope that you will take the next two weeks to rest and enjoy time with your family.

Looking back, it has been an intensive first half of the year. We kicked it off by laying out our 10 academic goals -- bold targets to be achieved by 2020. We held a series of community meetings to gather public feedback on the goals, which received solid support across the community. Simultaneously, we began to zero in on how we plan to achieve the goals. We reached out to staff to take an in-depth look at our systems so we could identify gaps in our schools and come up with a plan to fill those gaps, all to ensure that we are providing our students with the supports they need.

So far this year, I’ve had the opportunity to visit about half of our schools, and during each visit, I have seen staff hard at work. I see that our schools are looking at our long-term goals and supporting the direction we are going as a District. Externally, I continue to see excitement throughout the community about the work we are doing in SAISD.

There is so much to come. When we return from the break in January, we will begin to roll out changes that represent the “how” of our plan. I am excited about the initiatives and what we are doing to empower our staff and our students.

For example, we will be announcing our magnet options for students entering the 9th grade in 2016-17 (current magnet students will not be impacted). You’ll hear these magnets formally referred to as Career Institutes. They will have a greater focus on in-demand careers, will align more tightly with the offerings at Alamo Colleges and, most importantly, will provide students with an opportunity to earn up to 45 hours of college credit – that’s 1 ½ years of college! – by graduation. Each career will have a prescribed four-year course plan with more Advanced Placement and dual-credit opportunities built into it than in the past. (Dual-credit courses allow students to earn both high school and college credit at the same time). Students completing all four years of these Institutes will be well-positioned to enter college without having to take remedial courses, increasing their likelihood of success.

Among the changes that will help to empower our teachers is the move to a new curriculum system that will provide them with a complete package of planning, assessment and support tools, as well as give them greater autonomy to plan more in-depth lessons. Principals were trained in this new system this week, and we will continue to work toward the transition when we return from the break. We also will be furthering our effort to put in place the new teaching framework I mentioned in my last message. We are moving forward with a partnership with Dr. Douglas Fisher to implement the Gradual Release of Responsibility framework. Our campus leaders will train and plan with his team this spring so they are prepared to work with teachers in successfully implementing this model.

There is much work left to be done this year, but for now, I wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season.