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Superintendent Message (Dec. 6, 2016)

Message to the community

Dec. 6, 2016

Dear SAISD Supporters,

First, thank you. We at SAISD are grateful for and humbled by the high level of trust you have placed in our District, as shown by the overwhelming passage of the two Nov. 8 ballot propositions. Your support of the bond election and the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) will help make our vision for SAISD students a reality.

We are on a mission to redefine excellence in SAISD so that all students, regardless of which school they attend, receive a quality education and are well-prepared for college and careers. We have established 10 measurable goals to help get us there.

In just a year and a half since our transformation efforts began, we have achieved much in support of our goals, thanks to private and corporate foundation and other grants and community partnerships, including with many of the local universities.

This school year, a combination of grants and partnerships allowed us to launch the innovative advanced learning academy for highly motivated students. Next year, with support from partners, we will open CAST Tech, a technology and entrepreneurship high school. Through a separate partnership, we are getting off the ground a new program that will allow certain middle and high school educators to earn a master’s degree in their content area, allowing us to increase the number of teachers with advanced degrees. This is one strategy for increasing the level of rigor in classrooms across the District.

We also are drawing on existing resources to provide more options to families. Last school year, the Young Men’s Leadership Academy opened to serve elementary and middle school boys. This year, we began the transition of 11 elementary schools to academies by adding the 6th grade to those campuses, giving parents the option of keeping their children in a smaller setting for a longer period. Next year, we plan to open the Twain Dual Language Academy, starting with pre-kindergarten through the 2nd grade. This is just the beginning. There’s more to come.

The resources made available to us through the successful bond and Tax Ratification elections will take us even farther, allowing us to approach our academic programs with the kind of creativity and innovation needed to propel us forward. But even with these resources, it’s going to take time.

We set our 5-Year Goals last year, which will be our baseline year in determining progress. We expect to see improvement for some goals this year, but it will take more time to see similar progress for some of the other goals. We are putting great care into establishing systems and creating conditions conducive to excellence. While this takes time, it’s a crucial step for lasting change. We ask for your patience and want you to know that we are operating with a sense of urgency.

 

Bond 2016 and TRE – First steps

We are committed to accountability, both academically and fiscally. I want to assure you that we will implement our Bond and TRE programs with transparency and will keep the community informed about their progress.

Last night, a Board meeting was held to discuss the implementation process for Bond 2016 and the TRE. 

First-priority actions related to the bond include issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for architects, engineers and other consultants to design and oversee construction of the bond projects. The plan is to assemble that team over the next few months.  This spring, community meetings will be held with the architects at each of the 13 schools getting bond funding.

We also are moving forward to form a Bond 2016 Citizens Advisory Committee. The Blue Ribbon Task Force recommended that the Board appoint this committee, which will monitor and report to Trustees and the public about progress of the bond projects. The Board will finalize details on the process early in the new year.

 

Planning for the TRE-funded programs is focused on the categories of 21st-century classrooms and academic suppor

To help in prioritizing which schools will be first on the list for 21st-century classroom projects, the District will conduct a comprehensive facility assessment of the 40 highest-need campuses – with factors including age and condition of school buildings, technology infrastructure, and new or updated programs requiring facility modifications.

We expect to start with one major project in the summer of 2017, increasing the number of projects to three a year starting summer of 2018 and going forward. Over time, we plan to fund classroom renovations for all schools that did not benefit from Bond 2010 and were not included in Bond 2016. 

Prioritization for technology devices starts with identifying areas with the most-dire needs.  A five-year technology plan is also underway, to be presented in the spring.

Already in the works for increased academic support is the expansion of our new Multi-Age Accelerated Classrooms program, which began as a small pilot this school year to help put back on track students who have been retained, or are well behind academically. We will now take the program to scale across the District with the help of a federal grant and with some revenue from the TRE.  That initiative will include extended days and an extensive summer school program to begin this June.

We are also developing plans for after-school programs to provide students across the District with increased extracurricular offerings in fine arts, athletics and ROTC.

We will be sharing more details as the plans further develop.

Sincerely,
Pedro