Superintendent Message (April 10, 2017)

Dell Scholars, the college push and CAST Tech High School

April 10, 2017

Dear SAISD Staff,

I am happy to share with you that six of our seniors have been named Dell Scholars! The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation just announced this year’s winners, and we could not be more proud of this group of students, who represent Travis Early College High School and Fox Tech High School. They will receive a $20,000 scholarship and will become part of a strong support network to ensure college completion. Here is the list of 2017 Dell Scholars. Join us in congratulating our students.

We are continuing to get news of college acceptances, with students considering a mix of in-state and out-of-state options, including Tier 1 institutions. Students have received acceptances from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Rochester, Northeastern University and Loyola University Chicago, as well as in-state Tier 1 colleges, such as the University of Texas at Austin, Baylor University and Texas A&M College Station. Students also have been accepted to top liberal arts colleges, such as Amherst, Wellesley and Middlebury colleges.

Tier 1 acceptance or not, we are proud of all of our students who have been accepted to college. Some may opt to go away to college, others may feel sticking closer to home is the best fit for them. At Lanier, for example, one student is considering an offer from Boston College while another is planning to attend Trinity University, an excellent school here at home. Whatever the college decision, we are excited for the next phase of their education.

And we are really excited for Isaiah Guzman, from Travis Early College High School, who was accepted to the Ivy League’s Columbia University. He was chosen to receive a full, four-year QuestBridge scholarship through a program of the organization that matches top students with the nation’s top colleges. Congratulations, Isaiah!

We will continue to monitor and share college acceptance numbers with you because these acceptances are a cause for celebration for all of us – they are the culmination of the hard work we do.

We are working with our students to ensure they have every opportunity to learn about colleges and the resources out there. Last week, about 85 Burbank and Jefferson high school students traveled to the Dallas area to attend an International Baccalaureate college fair sponsored by Texas IB Schools. The event was exclusively for Texas IB students and IB World Schools and was a great opportunity for our students to visit in depth with representatives from top colleges, including Princeton University, Rice University, Swarthmore College and New York University.

Also, on April 18, we will host a Spring College Fair from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the Fox Tech campus and will provide transportation from other SAISD high schools to the event. That evening, we also will provide buses to the University of Texas at San Antonio for students who want to attend a separate college fair, hosted by the Texas Association of College Admissions Counseling.

On another front, we recently finalized an agreement with UTSA that will make the new CAST Tech High School a lab school for future and current educators. The school is scheduled to open in August, and it will provide teacher development in career and technical education, project-based learning, workplace learning and blended learning while preparing students for careers in technology and business. How students are taught will be different from our other schools. Technology will be used heavily in teaching students through project-based learning and blended learning (online learning). Students also will learn from industry professionals. Tech Bloc will be our lead industry partner, and UTSA’s College of Education and Human Development will work with CAST Tech staff to provide innovative staff development to educators. College professors will be embedded at the school.

Applications now are being taken for Master Teachers interested in teaching at another one of our lab schools – the Ogden Lab School, which also will open in August, as a new personalized learning academy focused on teacher development and student achievement. It will open with Pre-k through 6th grades and will add a grade each subsequent year, through the 8th grade. Learn more about this opportunity and apply here. We are partnering with the Relay Graduate School of Education on this project and are looking forward to seeing the impact this truly innovative model will have on Ogden students, staff and the community.

We’ve also been busy monitoring proposed state legislation. You may have read that the Texas Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 22 establishing P-TECH – Pathways in Technology Early College High School. We are pleased to see this legislation moving in the direction of becoming a law in Texas. The P-TECH model was designed by IBM and already is in place in other parts of the country, including New York. School districts, higher education and industry partners collaborate to provide students with a six-year early college high school experience that leads to a high school diploma, work experience in a high-need, skills-based field and an associate degree in the chosen field. Graduates of the program are first in line for company interviews.

This initiative is very much aligned with what we started doing this year, which is offering incoming freshmen the opportunity to graduate with more college credit. P-TECH would give us more access to funding and would facilitate partnerships with major industries. We are approaching large employers such as Valero and Accenture to partner with our high schools.

Another piece of legislation we are monitoring is Senate Bill 2119, which would eliminate a law that grants top students automatic admission to Texas public universities (commonly referred to as the Top 10 rule). We are opposed to this bill, and this letter to the Senate Committee on Higher Education explains why.

You may have read that the Board of Trustees appointed Christina Martinez to fill the vacant District 6 seat at its March 27 meeting. Ms. Martinez, who is a lifelong resident of SAISD and has two children in the District, will be sworn in at tonight’s board meeting. We welcome her to the position. You can read more about her here.

In closing, I want to thank you for your hard work. As my team and I visit schools, we are seeing a stronger focus on helping our students prepare for state assessments. With this year’s accountability standards being consistent with last year’s standards, our schools will have the opportunity to demonstrate what we know our students are capable of, with the support of our teachers.