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Superintendent Message (Sept. 13, 2016)

Staying focused on the big picture

Sept. 13, 2016

Dear SAISD Staff,

We are three weeks into the school year and moving full-speed ahead on diverse initiatives. I want to thank teachers for their work in helping to get them off the ground as part of our all-in pursuit of academic excellence throughout SAISD. 

Last night, staff presented our 2016 state accountability results to the Board of Trustees. Even though we’re very proud of the 34 schools that earned one or more Distinction Designations from the state, including the five campuses that exited Improvement Required status, we had 20 campuses that were rated IR. Compared to other schools in the county and state, we have the highest number of schools that need improvement.

I don’t think the results were reflective of the hard work that our teachers are doing. They were reflective of the lack of systems to support our teachers so that they could be most effective when faced with the changes to STAAR and the accountability standards that took effect last year. Last year, we made significant changes at central office to identify the systems and processes needed to support what happens in the classroom.

We have 5-year goals that have been fully embraced by the community and our staff. We will work with our principals, teachers and support staff to be focused on the needs of our students by providing the best strategies and professional development to our staff. It will require all of our staff to look at what we’re doing that is not working, including changing the way we do lesson plans and ensuring that we have professional learning communities in every one of our schools.

We are partnering with national experts such as Dr. Doug Fisher and Dr. Karen Mapp, whose strategies are research-based. I have no doubt that implementation of the initiatives will ensure that our teachers’ hard work is reflected in future state accountability results. Our instructional leadership team has rolled out The Teacher Leader, a newsletter that provides information about our academic initiatives to help answer questions you might have.

I am excited to share that we made the opening of the advanced learning academy official on Wednesday with a celebration that included students from the school’s two campuses. The innovation taking place at this school for highly motivated students, in partnership with Trinity University, provides a template for academic excellence as we look at providing more quality options within SAISD for our parents.

Also, on Friday, we kicked off our first Leadership Academy, which replaces the twice-monthly Principals Meeting. In our District, we believe that we are either teachers or supporting teachers, so the new Leadership Academy includes department leads from both the instructional and the administration divisions. This helps to ensure that District leaders have a firm understanding of and commitment to the important work taking place around instruction.

On Saturday, Dr. Fisher, a national expert on instruction, kicked off our very first EPIC Saturday. If you are not familiar with EPIC Saturdays, which is open to all teachers, I encourage you to learn more about it and sign up for one of the four remaining sessions that will be held this school year. EPIC Saturdays is just one way we’re taking professional development to a new level, by bringing in some of the best education talent in the country.

We know how important resources are to supporting you in your work.

Also, we will be hosting community meetings regarding the two proposals to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot: the $450 million bond and the 13-cent increase to the Maintenance & Operations tax rate.

The dates, times and locations are:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m., Edison High School, 701 Santa Monica
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m., Sam Houston High School, 4635 E. Houston St.
  • Wednesday,  Sept. 28, 6 p.m. Brackenridge High School, 400 Eagleland Drive
  • Monday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m., Highland Hills Elementary School, 734 Glamis Ave.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 11, 6 p.m., Lanier High School, 1514 W. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 12, 6 p.m., Jefferson High School, 723 Donaldson Ave.
  • Thursday, Oct. 13, 6 p.m., Burbank High School, 1002 Edwards St.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 19, 6 p.m., Fox Tech High School, 637 N. Main Ave.

Related materials have been delivered to all schools so principals have the information they need to answer questions or make presentations to their communities. We also have launched a Spanish version of the Bond and the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) website.