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As we enter Thanksgiving week - Nov. 18, 2019
Dear SAISD Staff:

One of the initiatives that sets SAISD apart from other districts is that we employ college alumni advisors who ensure our high school graduates are successful once they enroll in a college or university. These advisors in our Postsecondary Initiatives Department visit students at college, counsel them about any struggles they may be having, partner with Student Success and Advocacy Centers at institutions our alumni attend, and send care packages to alumni attending college out of town.

You may remember that this department was one of the resources created as a result of Valero Energy Foundation’s $8.4 million multi-year grant in 2017 through the SAISD Foundation, which funded our Pipeline for College Success program. College acceptance is only one small part in future success. First-generation students, especially, need guidance and support once they begin their journeys toward a college degree.

To that end, Valero employees and now others, most recently Freeman Coliseum staff members, have begun helping the care package effort with the gift of their time. In partnership with the Postsecondary Initiatives Department and the SAISD Foundation, volunteers so far this fall have purchased items, assembled them, and mailed about 70 packages for our most recent alumni who attend college out of state. This February, additional organizations and volunteers will send packages to our students across Texas. 

I truly appreciate their kindness and generosity in giving to our graduates at a time when emotional and moral support is critical to them thriving in a new environment.

This is the time of year – as the holidays approach and another calendar year concludes – that organizations thank their generous benefactors once again for giving to their causes. We within SAISD are doing the same.

Last week Tuesday, students at CAST Tech High School honored the contributions made by local business leaders, nonprofit partners, and philanthropists who have helped their school become successful. They hosted an appreciation ceremony to thank their many donors and to share with them how their school continues to grow. 

The celebration included a ribbon-cutting to a new two-story building, which opened this year to accommodate juniors in the program. It’s hard to believe, but in just one more year, we will be anticipating CAST Tech’s first student cohort to walk the stage at graduation!

The students at M. L. King Academy for Arts Integration were also the recent beneficiaries of two incredible gifts. On Nov. 9, hundreds of volunteers from City Year and the Rotary Club of San Antonio participated in building the 20th Kingdom for Kids playground on their campus. A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for the service and beautification project is being planned for a later date.

And then this past Thursday, some M. L. King Academy students received another surprise. They were gifted with a special lesson – a virtual field trip to the Arctic tundra, the site of the annual Canadian polar bear migration. A fifth-grade science class connected via video conference directly to the polar bear research team onsite in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.

Their live question and answer session with representatives of Discovery Education and Polar Bears International was made possible by Trustee Alicia Perry, who won the package during a Council of Greater City Schools conference she attended on behalf of the District. As a result, students in her area received a VIP experience that allowed them to learn firsthand the answers to their questions on polar bears, the Arctic ecosystem, sea ice habitat and climate change. 

Trustees at last week’s Board meeting approved the 2019-2020 Targeted Improvement Plans for campuses that received the two lowest ratings in either their overall rating or in a domain rating from the Texas Education Agency. The plans were put together with input from teachers and staff at each campus in an extensive and collaborative effort that examined effective campus and classroom systems that are research-based and have been proven highly effective.

With the approval of these plans, the affected campuses will continue their focus on progress throughout this school year, to include milestones and monitoring. The District will work diligently alongside these schools as we strive for improvement.

At tonight’s meeting, we are taking several more items to the Board for their consideration. One of these is our 2019-2020 Student Code of Conduct and Student Bill of Rights. Many external and internal entities contributed to the development of these documents. For instance, results from student focus groups and a larger student survey were used to give students more voice in their educational journey, and this resulted in a Student Bill of Rights – a document that complements and sets the tone for the Student Code of Conduct.

Once the Student Code of Conduct and Student Bill of Rights are approved, our next step will be to inform staff across the District how to put these new guidelines into practice. You will hear more from us soon on resources and training.

Also going to the Board are two proposed partnerships with Bexar County for our Fox Tech campus area. If approved, one initiative would redesign and renovate the school’s library to create the first-ever BiblioTech EDU, a new iteration of BiblioTech that would serve as a model for future public and school library collaboration. 

The second project would construct a parking garage across the street from Fox Tech, at the site of the future SAISD administration building, providing 600 spaces for employees during work hours and, at other times, for the public wishing to access San Pedro Creek Cultural Park and other downtown amenities.

On a fun note, also at tonight’s meeting, our Holiday Card contest winners will be recognized and their artwork unveiled. This is the 16th year of the contest, and the theme is “Dancing Through the Holidays.” I look forward to seeing their creations, and then purchasing sets of the cards to send to family and friends this holiday season. 

In closing, I wish each of you a happy Thanksgiving. My wish is for you to have a restful week, and to enjoy this time with your families.


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