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Superintendent Message (Sept. 18, 2017)

A community of inclusion and support

September 18, 2017

Dear SAISD Staff,

Lamar teacher Andrea Lucas, our 2018 Elementary Teacher of the Year for Education Service Center, Region 20, who was also one of three state finalists in her category, wrote in one of her application essays: “If we want schools to be great places for students to learn, they must first become places in which teachers can learn.” And I agree.

SAISD is fortunate to have many high-achieving teachers in our classrooms throughout the District, and I am proud that we are able to host professional development for our educators through EPIC Saturdays and our Master Teacher initiative. I hope as many teachers as possible take advantage of these opportunities.

Because of great teachers, our students rise to the challenges education and life puts before them. At our Board meeting last week, we were pleased to recognize 27 members of the Class of 2018 for being nominated, and in some cases the recipient of, the Prize Books from Harvard, Princeton or Yale universities. Each of these talented seniors were identified for their intellectual achievements and personal character, which are qualities sought by these Ivy League institutions.

Our students are capable of many great accomplishments! And high expectations should continue to drive our every action.

If we want SAISD schools to continue to be great places for teachers to work and students to learn, we also need to ensure our culture is one that supports that. Individuals prosper and grow as a community when everyone is respected and appreciated as a valuable member. To that end, our District has addressed several issues recently that some may consider controversial, but we see as integral to our goal of inclusion and our mission of transforming SAISD into a national model urban school district.

On Sept. 11, the Board approved a resolution that seeks the protection of students who are children of immigrants by urging Congress to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As a District, we believe it is imperative that this vulnerable population is allowed a path to citizenship. This week our school counselors, parent family liaisons and social workers are receiving training on how to support undocumented students so that the children feel empowered to do well in school and life.

In addition, the SAISD Police Department is in the process of drafting a handbook that will help our communities feel comfortable communicating with officers, especially as it relates to SB4 – a state law that recently went into effect that permits law enforcement to ask about immigration status. Although the law does not apply to school districts, our police chief wants to make sure our staff, families and community understand our processes and know that District police will continue to provide equal protection to all the people they serve in a respectful and professional manner, regardless of immigration status. If you haven’t already, you can become acquainted with the chief and his staff during an event series titled “Meet the Chief,” which is being held at our high schools.

Another issue that has brought attention to our District surrounds our newly revised non-discrimination statement that has added the words sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. This more inclusive policy is to ensure that all students and employees know they are valued and have a right to a learning and work environment free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Our bottom line is simple: We respect all of our students and employees. All of them.

It’s just that simple.