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Superintendent Message (Feb. 16, 2016)
Community meetings and innovative projects
Feb. 16, 2016
Dear SAISD Staff
We have kicked off a series of community meetings to have the second part of the conversation about transforming SAISD into a national model urban school district so that many more of our 53,000 students are performing at higher levels.
We had our first two meetings this week, at Sam Houston and Jefferson high schools, to lay out the SAISD Blueprint for Excellence: Target 2020, which outlines the strategies we plan to use over the next five years to achieve the 10 academic goals we have set. Just as with the first round of meetings, the feedback we have received so far is that people support our strategies – and our efforts are gaining momentum, as well as close examination.
As you may have seen, SAISD is a focus of the San Antonio Express-News’ editorial board this year and the subject of a lengthy Feb. 7 editorial that lays out some of the challenges to transformation that we face, including outside factors such as affordable housing and the education level of the adults in our community.
Change continues to be in motion on many fronts. In my last message, I shared about our plan to restructure some central office departments, including Curriculum & Instruction and departments under its umbrella. Our focus is on increasing resources for the schools and that requires ensuring we have the right structure to best provide academic support to the campuses. Last week, we posted the first set of positions associated with the restructuring and will be posting more in the future, with the aim of filling all the positions by the end of April.
We have received a five-year $2 million grant from the H.E. Butt Foundation to fund innovative projects within the District, including an academy for highly capable students that would also serve as a training center to produce a pipeline of highly qualified Gifted & Talented teachers for other SAISD schools. We also will be launching a principals’ residency program. We are still working on the details of these initiatives, but I hope to have more to share later this month.
Also in process is the addition of the 6th grade to some of our elementary campuses, providing parents with more options and drawing on research by top institutions such as Harvard University, Columbia University, Duke University and the University of California that shows that students benefit both socially and academically by staying longer in the elementary school environment. And we are planning to add more PreK-8 schools in our District, as we look to balance best practices with more options for parents.
We have six more community meetings planned in February and March. I hope you will take the time to attend one to learn more and ask questions about the plan.