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Superintendent Message (April 11, 2016)

Officer decision made, Students on the Rise and staff recruitment

April 11, 2016

Dear SAISD Staff,

While our investigation continues into the recent incident at Rhodes Middle School, the District has made the decision to terminate the employment of Officer Joshua Kehm, effective immediately.

We will continue our administrative investigation to determine any other necessary actions in response to a March 29 incident at the school, and the District has made the decision to refer the law enforcement portion of the investigation to a third party law enforcement agency. 

For today, I want to focus on some of the other efforts underway in our District. Last Tuesday, we hosted our first event for Students on the Rise, a new initiative to help increase the number of students who attend our nation’s top colleges. More than 1,200 sophomores, juniors and their families attended this event at Fox Tech High School to hear from alumni from some of the most prominent institutions in the country that offer full financial assistance.

In all 30 colleges were represented by local alumni, including SAISD graduates, from those institutions, among them Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Notre Dame and Stanford. Tenth and 11th-graders in the top 15 percent of their class were invited to attend with their parents. The tremendous turnout confirmed for me that our goals are in the right place.

This initiative is tied directly to our 5-year goal to increase the percentage of students who attend the best colleges and universities in the country, or Tier 1 institutions. Currently, 2 percent of our students go on to attend Tier 1 colleges. We want to increase that to 10 percent by 2020, and ensuring that our families have good information about the resources available to them is a critical part of that effort.

It’s an effort that wouldn’t be possible without our partnerships with state Sen. José Menéndez, the Intercultural Development Research Association, Ivy Plus San Antonio, Teach For America and City Year, as well as current and retired educators and community members.

We have a number of students who have been accepted to Tier 1 universities both inside and outside of Texas for next year, and I’d like to recognize one from each high school here:

Brackenridge: Andrew Moczygemba, University of Notre Dame in Indiana
Jonathan Lewis, Drexel University in Philadelphia
Astrid Alvarado, University of Texas at Austin
Fox Tech:
Alexis Lightbourne, Rice University in Houston
Victoria Martin, Texas A&M University, College Station
Sam Houston:
Yahterie-Anne Sykes Ortiz, University of Notre Dame
Matheu Taylor, University of Texas at Austin
Jennifer Alexis Martinez, University of Denver in Colorado
Travis: Hannah Prieto, Ohio State University in Columbus
Young Women’s Leadership Academy:
Madison Perez, Stanford University in California

We look forward to having many more students accepted and going off to colleges outside of the state to gain experiences that will broaden their world view and make them valuable assets in San Antonio, should they decide to return to our city – and we hope they will. Their experiences, coupled with those of our students who attend college locally, will contribute to the diverse thoughts and ideas we need to shape our city’s future.

There is a lot of momentum in San Antonio right now, making it attractive to those who are not from here. I know this personally because I moved here from out of state, but I also know this because we, as a District, have expanded our staff recruiting efforts to universities in Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wisconsin with the aim of attracting top talent coming out of traditional teacher training programs. We also are continuing to recruit heavily at all local and nearby universities, as well as at many across the state.

We are interested in the best teachers for our classrooms, and we’re starting earlier than in previous years to ensure we have first chance at the most-qualified candidates. Our goal is to pre-hire 240 people by the end of this month, and we are well on track to meet that goal, with almost 200 hired as of last week.

Last month, I testified before the Texas Senate Committee on Education about the creative talent management approaches we are taking to attract and develop top-quality educators. I shared with the committee about our new PK-12 advanced learning academy, which will be like no other in the state when it opens in August. With Trinity University as our partner, the academy will be a learning laboratory for aspiring teachers and principals where the latest research methods can be tested.

Resident teachers will work side-by-side with master teachers to earn a graduate degree through Trinity’s esteemed Master of Arts in Teaching program. All residents and faculty at the school will be provided with professional learning to enable them to earn the state certification in serving gifted and talented learners.

The master teachers will move on to support advanced learning in other SAISD schools. The goal is to create a pipeline of highly trained teachers for SAISD campuses to support all students eager for advanced learning.

These are just some of the highlights of the areas we can be proud of right now. There is no question that the Rhodes Middle School investigation is serious, and we are actively working to see its completion. Rhodes has been a well-performing middle school, and this incident should not define or tarnish all the great work of the staff there.