Superintendent Message (June 3, 2016)

Thank you and looking forward to Year 2

June 3, 2016

Dear SAISD Staff,

As you prepare to head out for summer break, I want to thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the students of SAISD this year.

There’s no question it was a challenging year that took intense focus and collaboration to chart our course in redefining excellence in SAISD. Our goal is to ensure our students are performing at higher levels and graduate well-prepared for success in college and career.

Our efforts in Year 1 focused primarily on systemic change. Some of the efforts you will see next year, as a result of our work this year, include:

  • A focus on PK-3 literacy through our Target Read by 3rd initiative - all elementary schools received “leveled bookrooms” and classroom libraries to ensure full implementation of the balanced literacy curriculum and teachers will receive strong professional development in delivering instruction.
  • A new framework for teaching called Gradual Release of Responsibility that will elevate teaching in classrooms throughout our District and lead students to a deeper level of thinking.
  • The TEKS Resource System, a new curriculum management system that will support our new instructional framework and give teachers more autonomy in the classroom.
  • A team of 90 implementation specialists who will be highly trained in content areas and new classroom initiatives and actively involved at campuses to support teachers both in implementation and pedagogy.
  • EPIC Saturdays, a series of daylong professional development workshops for teachers, featuring nationally renowned experts and tailored breakout sessions.
  • The Emerging Leaders Program, a yearlong, intensive program that puts talented assistant principals, academic coaches and others on the path to becoming a principal by integrating leadership training into their daily work.
  • A lab school as part of the new PK-12 advanced learning academy in partnership with Trinity University whereby some of the teachers will be master teachers working side-by-side Trinity graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in teaching. Professional development opportunities will be available for all teachers at the school, including training that will prepare them for certification in gifted and talented education.
  • A Family Engagement Workshop Series for school leadership teams. The series will include three interactive, full-day workshops led by expert Dr. Karen Mapp, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and renowned expert in family and community engagement.

Those are just some of the key initiatives we focused on this year. Staff changes also are a necessary part of our transformation. We redesigned and/or consolidated approximately 200 positions in curriculum and instruction so they better address student and campus needs – and were able to reduce spending at central office in the process.

We’ve already made a number of key hires for next school year. You can view them here, in the latest edition of our employee newsletter. We’ll keep you updated on other key hires this summer.

Some of the resulting positions are a departure from what you may have seen in the past, such as administrators being placed over singular content areas. For example, we created the position of director of integrated math and science and have successfully recruited Michael Mary, former assistant director for the Office of STEM Engagement at Rice University.

We also reinvented the instructional coach position. We now are more than halfway through the interview process for the 90 implementation specialists. Every elementary school will have a highly trained full-time specialist next year. The remainder of the specialists will serve the needs of our middle and high schools.

Separately, we have begun the work of reviewing district priorities for facilities and academic programs, having launched a Blue Ribbon Task Force last month. The group, which will consider a bond election and/or a tax ratification election, will continue to meet this summer and should have recommendations in early August.

I look forward to our Year 2 journey together. Next year, you will be able to count on central office staff being very visible on campuses as we work to create a culture of customer service to our schools. For now, I want to wish you a restful summer and look forward to seeing you at the employee Convocation on Aug. 17 at 9 a.m. at the Freeman Coliseum.