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Superintendent Message (July 1, 2016)

Graduation and supporting campuses

July 1, 2016

Dear SAISD Staff,

I participated in graduation ceremonies last month, along with members of the District leadership team, and being able to celebrate this very important milestone with our graduates was the ultimate reminder of what we’re all about.

Graduating every student is at the core of our mission statement and drives everything we do as a District. Some 2,500 students graduated in June, and we know more will walk the stage this summer. We saw good progress for the class of 2015, with 82.4% of students graduating on time, up from 80.8% for the class of 2014. These increases are the result of a lot of hard work by our teachers, counselors and principals. Thank you for your commitment to our students.

I feel confident we will reach our 2020 goal of graduating 90 percent of our students on time, as well as having 80% of them attend college – and it’s going to take every single one of us coming together to accomplish this. It’s important that our campuses know they will not be left alone to figure this out. Some of the supports we will provide include a weeklong Assessment Academy in early August; professional development throughout the school year that features national experts who will share best practices; hands-on implementation specialists who will work with teachers to provide content support, as well as support in putting new initiatives in place and regular visits by members of the District leadership team to keep up with campus needs and how to best meet them.

In mid-August, members of my Cabinet will break into teams and visit all of our schools to personally thank teachers for their hard work and their commitment to our students and the SAISD vision. Transformation requires tremendous work, and we saw how our educators came together this past year around the efforts.

At these meetings with teachers, we also want to share information about initiatives for the upcoming school year and provide an opportunity for feedback about them and the pace at which we are moving. We will factor the information into our decision-making. We also will create committees to gather additional feedback from campuses throughout the school year.

Our commitment to our campuses and ensuring they have what they need is so important that last month I gathered with District leaders and some members of their staff for two whole days to focus on how we plan to support campuses next year.

I also wanted to share that, on June 13, the Board of Trustees approved our Local Innovation Plan, the last step required in making our status as a District of Innovation official. We’re one of only eight school districts in Texas that currently have this designation, which is a new status created by the state legislature in 2015 to give school districts more leeway to be innovative. This Texas Association of School Boards document provides more District of Innovation information.

Also, the Blue Ribbon Task Force will continue meeting throughout the summer. The group has toured 13 high-priority facilities with infrastructure more than 40 years old and will further discuss those and other potential projects this month.

The group is charged with considering a bond election and/or a tax ratification election (TRE) as potential sources of revenue for our District. Passage of a bond election would provide funding for extensive renovations to aging school buildings. A successful TRE would allow us to increase our maintenance and operations tax rate above $1.04 to fund 21st-century classrooms, as well as expanded afterschool, summer school and extracurricular opportunities.

The task force is expected to share its recommendation with the Board of Trustees in August. I will share more information about this in the future.

I want to end with a reminder that it’s going to take time and a sustained commitment by all to turn our District around. Driving us is the belief that every student in SAISD can learn and achieve at high levels, and together we will do everything we can to make sure each and every one of our schools is providing them with that opportunity.