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Thanksgiving message of appreciation and congratulations - Nov. 16, 2020

Dear SAISD Staff:  

Thanksgiving is a time to gather and to show our appreciation, and I want to take this moment to tell you how grateful I am you are part of the SAISD family. Because of your roles in our District and the dedication you give to our students, we are building positive futures for the children in our communities. I am grateful for each and every one of you. 
I am also grateful for the many moments your achievements give us cause to celebrate. I want to highlight a few of these as we enter our Thanksgiving season. 
We learned recently that 17 of our seniors have earned recognition in two prestigious scholarship award programs, with six students named Phase 1 Scholars for The Gates Scholarship and 12 named finalists for the QuestBridge Scholarship program. One senior was recognized in both programs. 
Among the QuestBridge finalists, it is important to note that this is the most diversified group we’ve seen so far in the District. We had 12 finalists from eight high schools this year, whereas last year, for example, our finalists were concentrated at only three schools. It is important to us that all students Districtwide receive the rigorous instruction that opens these opportunities to them. And this year’s cohort of senior scholars tells us we are on our way to achieving this goal. 
Outside of the classroom, we see every day how our students not only engage in, but also achieve in their extracurricular activities. Earlier this month we learned that Fox Tech High School student Gabriela Villasana was selected for this year’s National Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza Vocal Competition. And Young Women’s Leadership senior Caroline Evangelista was one of 33 students nationwide – and the only one in San Antonio – selected to perform in a virtual choir performance of Beethoven’s “The Prisoners Chorus” for the Metropolitan Opera as part of its HD Live in Schools program. 
Additionally, two students placed in the annual literary competition hosted by the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) San Antonio in celebration of the Day of the Dead. St. Philip’s Early College High School student José Villalba Gutiérrez placed first and Fox Tech High School student Cithaly Cerna placed third. They each read their work this month during a UNAM live broadcast. Students enrolled in our intermediate-advanced Spanish courses have participated in this event for the last four years, and our District has consistently placed in the top five during these events. 
Embracing the culture of our community and our students gives our children confidence, which only encourages their academic success. Not only do our educators know this, they are being recognized among their peers for teaching through a culturally responsive lens. 
Please join me in congratulating Neal Elementary School dual language teacher Alba Avila who has been named the 2020 Bilingual Teacher of the Year by Education Service Center, Region 20. Like so many of our educators, Ms. Avila is purposeful in her teaching and ensures her classes are helpful experiences where students feel comfortable speaking up. She intentionally connects students with their community, furthering their sense of belonging with their language, culture and customs. I am so excited that she has been recognized for her passion and commitment. 
I also want to recognize the many departments throughout the District that have recreated themselves during this pandemic to provide services to our children and their families. There are countless ways that our employees thought outside of the box to overcome the challenges at hand, and in the process, they kept our students fed, our buildings operating smoothly, and all of our academic initiatives on track. Everyone is to be commended.  
Our close companion in this educational journey is the SAISD Foundation, and I am truly grateful for them. Last week, the SAISD Foundation hosted its first virtual Get Inspired! event. The SAISD Foundation makes so much possible for us – from teacher grants to community fundraising, and from alumni engagement to initiatives like Book Buddies. All of this was highlighted during the entertaining event, which you can still watch here
On a fun note, at tonight’s Board meeting, our 2020 Holiday Card contest winners will be recognized. This is the 17th year of the contest, and the theme is “Holidays Around the World.” I look forward to purchasing sets of cards showcasing our students’ creations to send to family and friends this holiday season.  
And finally, I want to thank you again. It takes a community to gain the support for a bold initiative like our Bond 2020 campaign. With your help, that community came together to overwhelmingly approve a greater future for our students. People see the academic progress we’ve made – that you helped our students achieve – and they want to see more of that. I know we will deliver. 
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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