Superintendent Message (Jan. 14, 2016)
The state of SAISD
Jan. 14, 2016
Dear SAISD Staff,
This morning, I delivered a State of the District address to the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, laying out for local business leaders where we are as a District and where we want to be in five years.
As you know, last fall, we established 10 bold and measurable academic goals to be achieved by 2020 and shared them with the community in a series of public meetings. We received much positive feedback about the direction we are headed.
My address today explained how we are planning to get there. Formally, the plan is called the SAISD Blueprint for Excellence: Target 2020, and it outlines strategies that we will launch beginning in 2016-17, and will phase in through the 2019-2020 school year, to achieve our goals. I encourage you to read the blueprint.
The plan is built on five pillars of support: Academic Excellence, Talent Management, Culture Shift, Stakeholder Engagement and Fiscal Management.
We are drawing upon best practices to raise academic expectations for all students. Our plan includes achievement points that will hoist students to the next phase of their learning. Those critical points are: strong literacy in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grades, with students reading at grade level by the end of the 3rd grade and a special focus on our Special Education students and English Language Learners, who we will support in exiting bilingual education in third grade; advanced math in 5th grade; algebra in 8th grade and advanced and college credit-bearing courses in the 11th and 12th grades.
This spring and into the fall, you will see more clearly how Academic Excellence is beginning to take a new shape, as we roll out significant enhancements to our Gifted & Talented services; expand the college-preparatory International Baccalaureate program; build more pre-Advanced Placement courses into the middle school years and raise the bar at the high school level so students take more advanced courses, including more dual-credit courses, for which they can earn both high school and college credit. As I mentioned in my last message, students will be able to earn up to 45 hours of college credit by graduation through our newly redesigned magnets, or Career Institutes, or by completing a career pathway at their neighborhood school.
Growing our employees and ensuring that we have top talent in place is a critical factor to our success. We are excited about growing our existing talent and are implementing a three-year professional development plan that involves identifying areas of need for all of our educators and providing targeted training, some of which already has begun. We are emphasizing existing and creating new leadership pathways for employees, encouraging strong educators to step up and serve as department chairs or pursue an advanced degree in their content area.
We have received funding from a generous donor to launch a residency program for aspiring principals next year, with a small cohort of talented assistant principals looking to move up, and are exploring, with potential funders, the development of a teaching residency program.
In the area of recruitment, we are ratcheting up efforts to hire teachers earlier so we have a larger pool of candidates from which to choose. Our goal is to hire, by end of April 2016, half of the teachers we anticipate we will need for the 2016-17 school year.
Also next year, we will use a new employee performance evaluation system, T-TESS, which includes critical measures of teacher effectiveness – observations, goal-setting and professional development and student growth – and promotes continued growth through on-going self-assessment, goal-setting and professional development.
Our blueprint is the result of six months of intense focus and represents the feedback and contributions of District staff, teachers, students, parents, community members, business leaders and elected officials. We will be taking the blueprint to the community through a series of public meetings beginning in February and will update you about developments around the plan. You also can keep up with information related to the 5-Year Plan by visiting this designated page.
This is the moment of change for SAISD – for our approximately 53,000 students. It cannot happen without you, so I thank you for your continued support and commitment to our District and our vision.