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Positive change and ever-higher possibilities - April 1, 2019
Dear SAISD Staff:

I have never been more optimistic as I am now of the direction the District is headed. Because of the hard work of staff, teachers and students, our community is seeing positive results – and the ever-higher possibilities that our children can achieve. 

One of our success stories is the creation of CAST Tech High School, which is part of the CAST Schools network. Now in its second year, the school has greatly benefited from an advisory council that provides ongoing support and resources for the campus. The support includes industry professionals mentoring students, which enriches their learning on real-world projects, and volunteering their time to work with teachers to inform curriculum development and activities in the classroom. 

A direct outcome of the partnership is the development of the school’s User Experience (UX) pathway, a new career field growing quickly across the nation, and the school’s Red Hat certification program for cybersecurity. The result is a high-performing school that is a strong draw for both students and teachers.

To continue moving the District forward, other principals have developed their own plans to model the success we’re seeing with CAST Tech, which had its Senate Bill 1882 Innovation partnership approved by the TEA Commissioner in the spring of 2018 – resulting in a considerable increase in funding for the school. 

Last week, our Board voted to approve 18 additional plans that have now been submitted to the TEA, and the funding we hope to get from the TEA for these campuses is significant.

These plans provide for partnerships with nonprofits that were selected by the principals for their particular expertise to help further the schools’ missions. 

Principals engaged with partners that share their values and can leverage their skills and past successes to better serve their individual communities, including partners with whom they already were collaborating. For instance, Young Women’s Leadership Academy has long been associated with Young Women’s Preparatory Network, and HighScope Educational Research Foundation already is an early childhood curricular partner with SAISD. Both of these partners have excellent reputations and world-class expertise, as do each of the other partners.

However, misinformation is being circulated to undermine the District’s improvement efforts. Please know that there was no “sale” of the schools. These partners are nonprofit organizations - they are not private management organizations nor charter operators. 

All staff remain District employees, with their same contracts, and the schools continue to operate with the same principals and same teachers. The campuses remain SAISD schools and still are accountable to the SAISD Board.

The partnerships are a mutually agreed upon collaboration. The partners will have the responsibility to ensure the program is fully implemented so that the mission of in-district charter is being fulfilled – the very reason the principals reached out to the nonprofits.

Most importantly, we believe these partnerships will help us create higher-performing schools that best serve our students with a program that can be sustained over the long term.

Our District has a rich history of providing students with unique learning opportunities. SAISD opened its first in-district charter school in 2001 – almost 20 years ago. These 18 schools represent the next generation, where along with greater autonomy and flexibility in implementing their program, they also have a formal agreement for ongoing collaboration and counsel from their expert partners. 

Our ultimate goal, as always, is to enhance student achievement.  

As a result of our collective efforts to transform the District and accelerate learning for our students, our educators and students are being recognized.

Since our return from spring break, four of our educators were recognized as H-E-B Excellence in Education finalists – Kathy Bieser from Advanced Learning Academy, Anna Olguin from Longfellow Middle School, Rebekah Ozuna from Knox Early Childhood Education Center, and Andrea Greimel from Carvajal Early Childhood Education Center. Andrea Greimel also went on to win the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Additionally, six of our students – four from Travis Early College High School and two from Young Women’s Leadership Academy – were named Dell Scholars. Two additional YWLA students have earned the American Psychological Association’s TOPSS Academic Achievement Award.

And the District, for the first time, was named a recipient of the Best Communities for Music Education Award from the NAMM Foundation. The award recognizes school districts for their commitment to and support of music education. SAISD has increased its efforts to ensure students have access to fine arts programming, and this award demonstrates that commitment and investment. It is just one example of the many investments the District is making in its programs. 

Great things are happening, and they will continue to happen. 

We are engaging with our community more and more, both internally and externally. Last week, Rhodes Middle School held a ribbon-cutting for its William E. Davis Technology Building, and on Saturday, many of the SAISD community participated in the 23rd Annual Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice. In April, we recognize the children of military service members as well as all school library workers.

In two weeks, we will hold our first Experience Summer in SAISD event, during which we will showcase more than 100 summer learning opportunities for students of all ages. Families also will receive free health screenings and resources. 

As you may already have noticed online, our Choose Your Course campaign has launched, which tells the District’s story about how it is on course for success for its students, family and community. As part of this campaign, we will be taking our recruitment efforts into our neighborhoods through block walking to distribute bilingual door hangers. You’ll also begin seeing bilingual campus banners, school bus decals and yard signs. 

Social media and digital components of the campaign feature a series of four, 1-minute videos – the first one is an overview setting the tone for the campaign and the second one, which launches today, is about increasing educational options at every SAISD school. Two more will follow about college readiness and our culture of innovation. We encourage you to share these videos from your own social media channels.

It is an exciting time in SAISD. We are noted as one of the fastest improving Districts in Texas, and the data is showing a strong upward trajectory. We are on track for our goal to be a “B” District by 2020.

Positive change is happening. Thank you for being a part of it.


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