Superintendent Message (October 30, 2017)

Part of engagement is listening and giving back

October 30, 2017

Dear SAISD Staff,

Last week, almost 60 community and business leaders walked a mile in the shoes of our principals – and some of them wished they had worn more comfortable footwear! Our Principal for a Day program was the first in what will become an annual SAISD initiative, and each year we will build upon the feedback to grow into a stronger school district.

It is an effort to open our doors to the community so we can learn from the perspectives of our stakeholders. It also gives us the opportunity share with them how difficult the job is and how active principals are as they manage many different tasks throughout the day – and not from behind a desk, but rather by engaging teachers and students in the classrooms.

In a debriefing session that followed the event, our guest principals shared with us how impressed they were with our master teacher initiative and the amount of technology being implemented in the teaching process. However, they also expressed the importance of employing even more technology in the classroom so students’ skills are current. And, of course, the guest principals acknowledged the first-hand evidence they saw of how poverty poses challenges to learning.

The key takeaway we all learned from the experience was how impactful it was to become involved at the day-to-day school level. Local leaders were able to see for themselves where resources were needed and how this related to what they could bring to the table. I appreciate the willingness these leaders expressed to stay connected – some even as mentors and volunteers – to support our students. I especially value their time and candor.

In addition to external advice, the District also is listening to internal comment – most recently about our cafeteria offerings. Parents and students have been invited to taste test new recipes developed with input from culinary chefs, using fresher ingredients and healthier options. The result has been a Pilot Lunch Program that includes chef-inspired, student-approved recipes and a build-your-own line for taco bowls, baked potatoes, hamburgers and hotdogs. The pilot launched last week for high school students at the Fox Tech campus, which serves not only Fox Tech but also CAST Tech and the Advanced Learning Academy.

In the spring, Highlands will become part of the build-your-own pilot, with the end goal of scaling up to include all high schools. In addition, the recipes approved during taste testings will soon be offered Districtwide.

In other news, I am proud of our Texas A&M-San Antonio Master Degree teacher cohort. These teachers are turning knowledge gained through the program into actionable projects that share their learning with others. They are implementing student book clubs, parent workshops, book swap and other family nights, and professional development for other teachers. Twelve of the 17 cohort participants also will present at a state literacy conference in February.

I am also encouraged by the progress we’re making toward school improvement in SAISD. In our efforts to meet and exceed the state’s Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System, which is a comprehensive district-level accountability system designed to improve student performance and program effectiveness, recent data indicates the interventions we have put in place have helped us improve in three areas: Bilingual/English as a Second Language, Career and Technology Education, and Special Education. 

Hard work and team effort are moving the needle, and we are beginning to see an uptick in outcomes. More work is ahead, but we are clearly making strides to ensure all students reach their academic goals. 

And finally, please consider following me through another communication platform – podcasts. Several times a year, I will share more about the initiatives we as a school district are pursuing. My first episode is about innovation, and it is live now.