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Expanding, improving academic offerings and more - April 29, 2019

Dear SAISD Staff:

I hope you enjoyed Fiesta. The citywide celebration is an active time for our teachers and students who participate and compete in the parades and band festivals. It makes me proud to see their talent showcased during these festivities.
Another rewarding moment came last week when Highlands High School celebrated its 60th anniversary with a reception and open house. In May, Tafolla Middle School also will celebrate an anniversary – it’s 50th. Since SAISD is San Antonio’s founding school district, these anniversary events honor not only our longevity, but our roots in this city. Please join me in congratulating Highlands and Tafolla on reaching these milestones.
True to our origin, SAISD continues to pave the way – most recently with our expansion of dual language programs and our implementation of Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools, or P-TECH programs.
This year SAISD has 45 dual language programs, up from the previous year’s 13 programs. Starting next school year, another three programs will launch, and each of those programs will be at the secondary level – incoming 6th graders at Whittier Middle School and incoming 9th graders at Edison and Lanier high schools. By this fall, more than 6,000 students Districtwide will be enrolled in dual language programs, which research shows can improve academic outcomes.
This progression of providing a dual language education to upper grades is significant. Students who begin in a dual language program at the elementary level may now be able to continue their dual language education when they enter middle and high school. At the high school level, students will work toward earning a Bi-Literacy Seal on their diplomas.
Meanwhile, at Sam Houston and Fox Tech high schools, plans are in place to launch the District’s and the city’s first two P-TECH programs. Along with Sam Houston’s upcoming program focusing on cybersecurity this fall, we already are planning the next P-TECH program. The second program will begin at Fox Tech in the fall of 2020 with a registered nurse (RN) pathway.
The District’s investments in these programs and more underscores our commitment to being student-centered. It also demonstrates our determination to improve students’ lives by preparing them for college and beyond. 
When we hear our students’ success stories, it makes it all worthwhile.
Recently, I shared with you that three of our seniors were named QuestBridge Scholars. Last week, we learned that one of them – Jose Luis Martinez from Edison High School – also has been named a Gates Scholar. In addition, we are beginning to hear of our high school juniors being recognized with Prize Books from Ivy League institutions. Since March, a student from each of four SAISD high schools have been awarded the Yale Prize Book.
Spring is when announcements such as these become more frequent. We look forward to hearing about more SAISD students receiving scholarships and awards between now and the end of the school year.
I would like to highlight a couple of ways, we as a District – and individually – can support our students’ dreams beyond high school.
On this Friday, May 3, please wear your favorite college or university shirt. This small act will have a big impact on our students’ aspirations. It also will show District support for the city’s Destination College – College Week, which culminates with College T-Shirt Day.
Another way to encourage college-bound students is to help spread the word among high school juniors (our Class of 2020) of the College Board Opportunity Scholarships challenge. For completing the steps all college goers must do, such as building a college list, practicing for the SAT and filling out financial aid forms, students become eligible for scholarship funds. 
It’s a fun, financial incentive for college-bound students to accomplish the steps they currently have on their to-do list. A Fox Tech student already has been awarded $500. 
In our quest to give students more voice in their educational journey, the District – at the request of the Board – has created a task force to develop a Student Bill of Rights. The document will complement and set the tone for the Student Code of Conduct. 
This spring, student focus groups were held at 14 schools to determine trends in student thinking and beliefs. During one of the sessions, a fifth-grader made this comment: “The teachers are always motivating us to push ourselves to a higher limit. Nobody looks at your background; they look at you now. They give you a chance to make yourself better.”
The focus group data, including insightful comments such as the one made by the fifth-grader, was analyzed to develop common themes. A larger survey will soon go out to all students in grades 3 and above, allowing them to rank the themes based on what resonates with them. Survey results will be used to develop the bill of rights, which the group will take to the Board this summer.
In preparation for the next school year, the Athletic Department will launch its online, mobile-friendly Athletic Online Forms Parent Portal on May 1. The portal will benefit parents by allowing them to upload and electronically sign UIL and SAISD paperwork, view the schedules of student athletes, receive notifications of schedule changes, and click for directions to athletic venues. Additionally, electronic submission of sports physicals will save the department $3,000 annually in printing costs, while also alleviating lost paperwork. 
In addition to the athletic parent portal initiative, Athletics is expanding its free sports physicals and, through the August Heart Foundation, free heart screenings. This year 8th-grade student athletes also will benefit – providing a smooth transition from middle school to high school. Overall, the Athletic Department expects to provide 2,000 free sports physicals and heart screenings this year. I commend our Athletic Department for researching best practices to continuously improve the experience for students and families.
Before I close, I would like to remind everyone that Election Day is May 4 in San Antonio for the Mayor’s race, City Council and some school boards, including SAISD Districts 2, 5 and 6. Early voting is through tomorrow, April 30. For more information, you can view online the early-voting locations, SAISD polling sites on election day, and your sample ballot based on address.
We have just one more month until the end of the school year. It has been an incredible year so far, and I appreciate all of your hard work.

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