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Superintendent Message (October 16, 2017)

The importance of community building

October 16, 2017

Dear SAISD Staff,

Last week I participated in a panel discussion hosted by San Antonio Youth Literacy (SAYL) on how Bexar County schools are improving. The other panelists and I discussed the immense need for partnerships with organizations like SAYL in school districts whose families experience poverty. SAISD, in particular, encompasses two of the poorest ZIP codes in the nation.

One thing we know is this: challenges in our District brought about by poverty have existed for decades, and the issues will still be here after us – unless we focus on high-quality education and access to college. And the time is now. We are in a position to stop the cycle for our students.

I admit that it is overwhelming to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems … when we do it alone. But if we work together, as a collective effort, we have the opportunity to help children out of their current economic situation.

Our District currently is conducting research into how the enrollment process can better support and empower families to ensure all children have access to “best fit” schools. We are developing a system not only as a way to help parents identify options for their children, but also one in which the student population at specialized schools will be balanced between socioeconomic groups – thereby increasing opportunities for students who live in areas of concentrated poverty. I urge you to read a recent article that analyzes how this approach will work.

As we strive to transform our District, we must also promote a ripple effect that encourages other leaders, groups and citizens to work in tandem with us.

One way to create greater understanding of the opportunities and obstacles our students face is through a Principal for a Day program. I’ve done this at other school districts, and on Oct. 23, SAISD is inviting community leaders into our schools, too. The goal is to offer our guest principals a first-hand familiarity with the hurdles our principals and their teams overcome on a typical day. We hope this will be a positive discovery experience for them and for us as we plan to learn from their insight and feedback as well.

This is one example of the many programs we are implementing to engage the community. An appreciation for our work among community leaders can lead to greater involvement in our students’ lives through mentoring, volunteering and other advocacy efforts, further improving student achievement.

Likewise improving student outcomes will be the renovation of 13 aging schools into more functional school environments. The Board recently approved the architectural design companies to be hired through Bond 2016 proceeds. The District is getting ready to begin the design phase and soon will be planning community meetings for each of these schools. Staff and community members may stay informed by signing up for email updates on the bond website.

I also am excited to share more educator accolades. Edison High School teacher Luz Adriana Perez will be recognized by the Education Service Center, Region 20 as its LOTE – Languages Other Than English, Teacher of the Year at the 2017 ESC-20 WORLD Language Conference in early November. She heads Edison’s Department of Spanish, and for five consecutive years, she has led her students to a 100-percent passing rate in both AP Spanish literature and culture and Spanish language and culture.

On the recruitment front, an information session for talented educators interested in learning more about becoming master teachers or implementation specialists within our District will be held Oct. 25 at Highlands High School. Please help us get the word out to both internal and external candidates.

Our District continues its upward trajectory, and that has to do with the commitment and determination I see in our faculty, staff and students. By inviting the community into our schools, we will continue to have their support for the direction SAISD is headed. Encouraging collective impact is how we will make progress sustainable.