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Children’s Cabinet gathers to hear district priorities

Children's Cabinet Looks at DataThe San Antonio ISD Children's Cabinet had its second meeting Aug. 23.


The diverse group of 48 students, parents, educators, community members, and national leaders gathered in person and on Zoom for updates to the Always Learning plan and the district’s priorities for the 2023-2024 year.  


Superintendent Jaime Aquino opened the meeting by reminding the group of the importance of their work. 


“Your role as part of the Children’s Cabinet is instrumental for us to be able to deliver on the promise of high-quality education,” Aquino said. “You are going to help us foster positive change on behalf of our kids. Together as part of this cabinet, we are going to unlock the potential of our students by providing them the resources, the support and the innovative opportunities that they deserve.”


The group has four primary purposes: to advocate for and improve the Always Learning strategic management plan, encourage the efficient use of resources, leverage community resources, and help guard the vision of Always Learning with consistency going forward.


Aquino gave updates on the district’s STAAR scores, and projections for the state accountability ratings which will be released Sept. 28. Changes the state made in the format of STAAR and to cut scores for college and career readiness will make it impossible to compare this year’s scores with past years, he cautioned.


“But I do support the changes because I believe we have increased the rigor,” Aquino said. 


Though the district posted gains in most areas on the STAAR test despite the changes in the format of the test with little notice, Aquino said the first goal of the district is to be relentless in helping more students reach grade level.


“That does not change the fact that this is our reality,” Aquino said. “Our kids are not on grade level and we need to accelerate them.”


Aquino laid out a total of seven key priorities for the district this year, including the relentless focus on teaching and learning, building relationships through parent and community engagement, equity-centered leadership, enhancing special education services, improving customer service to schools, rightsizing a system of thriving schools, and finalizing a school performance framework, that will accurately measure the success of schools in a holistic manner. 


Members of the Cabinet paused to reflect on the data presented and how the cabinet might be able to assist. One suggestion was through shared messaging.


“You’re leading some really strong messaging, which is necessary for children, with both how we look at data, how we hold ourselves to a high, rigorous bar, how we ensure that we are looking at student learning holistically and also that we use that to drive forward our priorities and what we are doing to best serve children,” Dalia Contreras, CEO of City Education Partners, said in the meeting. “You shouldn’t have to do that alone. What does it look like for all of us to carry that message as a collective community, both holding ourselves accountable to a high standard for children, and also making sure that we are looking at things holistically?”


The Cabinet was briefed on the district’s rightsizing study, which is in the middle of 14 community engagement meetings on the framework which will be used to study school capacity and create a draft proposal package of schools to be consolidated, closed, or receive students. 


One of the values listed in the framework is the commitment to the community that if schools were to be closed, the district will not abandon their buildings. 


Using the breadth of knowledge in the room, participants closed the meeting with a brainstorming session on what community partners should be involved, what values and principles they should consider, what skills and experience committee members should have if the need were to arise to repurpose buildings. 


The conversation highlighted both the importance of school buildings and the interconnectedness of the community. 


“A lot of the factors that we are all trying to affect are bigger than any one institution’s sphere of influence,” Lauron Fischer, data science manager for the City of San Antonio Workforce Development Office, said. “I really like initiatives like this that bring a big group people together so we can increase our awareness of what we’re all doing.”


The Cabinet, which convenes four times per year, will next meet Oct. 13.

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