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Superintendent Message (October 2, 2017)

Fellowships, cohorts and mentoring lead to student achievement

October 2, 2017

Dear SAISD Staff,

Over the last two years, we have launched significant efforts to increase student achievement. A key focus this school year is to provide the training, tools and systems so that teachers have what they need to ensure classroom content aligns with new grade level-standards, which have taken a significant shift upward. Schools across the nation are ensuring that curriculum is lined up with grade-level standards that not only have changed, but also already are being used in standardized assessments. Great things are happening in SAISD, and I am confident this is a challenge we will conquer together.

Just last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced Travis Early College High School as a National Blue Ribbon School, an honor that is reserved for the country’s exemplary high performing schools. We are very proud of our staff and students at Travis and the rigor they have put toward educational excellence. Their success is a great example of what we hope to achieve throughout the District.

I also am pleased to report that several SAISD teachers have been named to an inaugural cohort that will lead to greater student success. Teach Plus, a national non-profit that puts teacher leaders at the center of improvement at all levels of the education system, named its first set of Texas Teaching Policy Fellows with 30 outstanding public school teachers. Our District has seven teachers participating – more than any other school district in the state!

In addition, SAISD was recently named to be one of the first school districts in Texas to become part of the Texas Education Agency’s new System of Great Schools Technical Assistance Network. This two-year program provides us with the opportunity to be a part of a statewide professional learning community that will help us further enhance and scale the efforts of our Office of Innovation.

As a formally designated District of Innovation, SAISD's Office of Innovation is entrusted with developing the District's new Innovation Zone (I-Zone), which will serve as a formal learning lab and bridge for incubating new school models and scaling next generation teaching and learning practices across the District.

Two I-Zone schools – the Advanced Learning Academy and CAST Tech – were recently recognized by Centro San Antonio for the type of innovation that is helping to shape the landscape of downtown San Antonio. Our end goal is to raise the profile of the entire city by building educational environments that maximize outcomes for all of our students.

We each play a role in cultivating high performance in our students, and one of our many rewards is when these students graduate and continue their education at the university level. But our work doesn’t stop there. We can continue to mentor.

This month, college-readiness coaches are working with the parents and family members of our recent graduates to support these now first-year college students as they experience being away from home. Staff and family volunteers are hand delivering surprise care packages to in-state students and mailing them to out-of-state students in an effort to encourage their college-completion goals.

Alumni also participate in mentoring students. Three SAISD alumni who have excelled in life and career are being honored tomorrow during the SAISD Foundation’s INSPIRE Awards ceremony. These distinguished professionals – national news veteran Jim Lehrer, former Texas A&M-San Antonio president Dr. Maria Hernandez and prominent local attorney Roy Barrera Sr. – are visiting current students at their former high schools, giving back and sharing their experiences.

This leads me to believe that SAISD is more than just a District – we are a family. We encourage each other and help all of us grow as leaders.

I am especially proud that we believe in the capabilities and potential of all of our students, no matter their life circumstances. In recent weeks, staff members from each of our campuses received the first in a series of trainings that will help them better assist students and their parents, who may have immigration concerns, understand their children’s educational rights. Future training opportunities will deepen staff knowledge on how to assist DACA students apply for college and scholarships. The District also will provide for campuses additional information in English and Spanish for students, parent and families regarding the rights of immigrants and their children. We know that having a resource readily available will help us continue to support all members of the SAISD family.

With your continued leadership, the District will continue its unwavering focus on improvement and innovation for the education of all. Our children deserve it.