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Superintendent Message (August 7, 2017)

Launching a new school year

August 7, 2017

Dear SAISD Staff,

We are just one week away from the launch of a new school year. August is a time of anticipation, and I can feel the momentum build as we near the first day of school and the welcoming of our students back to campuses.

We all share the same commitment to education and our students. The Convocation ceremony on Aug. 9 will be our time to express and celebrate this dedication as one team, with one vision. Every role in SAISD is here ultimately to serve the students.

We know it takes teamwork to ensure the school year is off to a great start. I want you to know you can expect the same level of support provided last year during the initial days of school. Central Office staff will be on campuses lending a hand and being available to help resolve issues on the first day. This support will continue throughout the first week and month of school. The purpose is to support campuses so that they can focus on student and staff needs.

You can also expect this coordination to be ongoing. A few exciting changes have occurred in the District to make certain our leadership structure is best aligned to support our campuses.

Dr. Pauline Dow joined SAISD as our new Deputy Superintendent of Schools. Her strength is in streamlining support to campuses and promoting a culture of collaboration at all levels. And Dr. Matt Weber has assumed the new role of Deputy Superintendent of Talent Management, created to oversee our Master Teacher initiative, leadership development, and recruitment and retention efforts. Toni Thompson will continue to serve as the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources with a primary focus on compliance, compensation, employee relations, policies and procedures, benefits and safety.

The District also made steps to increase stakeholder engagement through the creation of two new departments. Tiffany Grant will oversee the Department of Family and Community Engagement, which unifies several related services to more effectively serve the members of our SAISD community. And Mohammed Choudhury is our first Chief Innovation Officer. He oversees the Office of Innovation, which will identify innovative academic models to develop in new and neighborhood schools. This includes setting up processes for traditional schools to learn about other models, and when a “fit” is found, strategically tailoring it to a campus to benefit its students. The Rivard Report published an excellent article summarizing the purpose of these two new departments.

Another area that falls under Mohammed is the Office of Access and Enrollment Services. His staff and the staff at campuses are instrumental in implementing an ongoing registration process — beyond the few days we set aside each summer for on-campus registration. Our goal is for parents to experience a smooth and efficient process whenever they enroll their children. This is especially timely. Let’s do what we can to get as many students registered between now and the start of school to avoid long lines on opening day.

We also are opening the new school year with a number of program expansions. Lab schools, which create a pipeline of high-quality teachers, will be in place at four additional campuses this year. Joining the Advanced Learning Academy, which opened as a lab school last year with Trinity University, are Ogden ES (with Relay Graduate School of Education), Stewart ES (with Texas A&M-San Antonio), Rodriguez ES (with Our Lady of the Lake) and CAST Tech HS (with UTSA). Dual-language options are expanding from two campuses to 13 campuses, and 20 schools have added a 6th or 7th grade, which ultimately will increase our number of PK-8 academies.

In addition, more students at each grade level will benefit from an International Baccalaureate education. We have grown to two IB World Schools and four Candidate Schools within the Burbank and Jefferson feeder patterns, with opportunities spanning Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma programmes.   

As the school year gets underway, expect to see increased extracurricular enrichment activities for middle school students. I would like to see more of our 7th- and 8th-graders benefiting from Fine Arts, ROTC/LOTC and Athletics.

The last two years have been a great learning experience. And, as we embark on Year 3 of our transformation efforts, I cannot say strongly enough — I feel we’re getting closer to having the structure we need to give our schools and students amazing support. We have the strongest team yet of new and continuing staff who will lead us in accomplishing our goals. Thank you for your contributions. Our school year is off to a great start!