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Joyful news before winter break - Dec. 17, 2018
Dear SAISD Staff,
I have wonderful news to share! The Greehey Family Foundation has awarded the District a $1.5 million, three-year grant to increase the dual credit opportunities at our comprehensive high schools – starting this spring. Dual credit programs are crucial for high school students who want to get a head start on their college education, enabling them to earn high school and college credits at the same time. Students benefit by earning college credit at no financial cost to them, which is a huge savings once they enroll in an institution of higher learning. 
Most of our students earning dual credit are either our advanced students or those in early college high schools. This grant will allow us to provide access to more students, including those in Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways, and in the future, in fine arts pathways. The Greehey grant is significant because it allows the District to expand dual credit enrollment to an even greater number of students! 
With this funding, the District will target students in the academic middle who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. Once students realize they can handle the academic rigor of college courses, they will be more confident in their college-bound trajectory and more likely to complete their college dreams. And that is our ultimate goal.
For some of our students nearing graduation, that goal is coming closer to reality after recent announcements.
Three of our seniors have been named QuestBridge Scholars, which puts them among only 3 percent of high school seniors nationwide being considered for the esteemed scholarships. Through the QuestBridge National College Match program, Angie Gallegos Reyes of Young Women’s Leadership Academy has been matched with Washington and Lee University, Nikol Garcia of Travis Early College High School has been matched with the University of Notre Dame, and Jose Luis Martinez of Edison High School has been matched with Brown University.
The QuestBridge National College Match program is a college and scholarship application process that helps outstanding low-income high school seniors gain admission and full, four-year scholarships to the nation’s most selective colleges. Eight of our seniors recently were named QuestBridge finalists, which puts them in the running for potential matches. I hope we hear more announcements in the coming days.
As scholarship announcements begin, we will hear a lot about our older students. However, across the grade spectrum, the talents and tenacity of our students – of all ages – never fail to amaze me. 
Last week, a third grader in the International Baccalaureate program at Woodlawn Academy spoke in front of City Council. Through his school assignments, Myzael Musquiz learned about voting as a means to use one’s voice. Although he is too young to vote, he realized he is not too young to use his voice – especially about matters that are important to him. For instance, he is passionate about wolves, for without them, we would not have our dogs to love.
Myzael is taking it upon himself to encourage the U.S. Senate to vote “No” on the Manage the Wolves Act, which would remove the “shy, kind and playful creatures” from the endangered species list. As part of his effort, he collected signatures from fellow students at Woodlawn to send along with a persuasive letter to his senators. He approached City Council with a request for their signatures on his petition too. I love Myzael’s spirit and wish him the best of luck! I also want to thank his teacher, Angela Davila-Canales, for encouraging him in his efforts.
Students across our District demonstrate their talents and knowledge in many ways. Some, like Myzael, express themselves verbally in public forums, and others take what they know and feel express it through their art.
I am proud to announce that the artwork of seven of our students was selected to appear within the set of SAISD’s 2018 holiday cards. For the past 15 years, the Fine Arts Department has showcased student art through this contest, and this year’s theme is “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” The grand prize winner was Burbank High School senior Michael Alavarez, submitted by his art teacher Ron Muniz. His work is a heartwarming scene of a family gathered around a holiday meal, which includes tamales next to the turkey and mashed potatoes.
Today is the final day to order the cards, bundled into a dozen, from Printing Services. Michael’s artwork will grace the cover of six holiday cards, while six additional cards will feature a selection of other winning designs submitted by students and their teachers from Hillcrest and Collins Garden elementary schools, Woodlawn and Ogden academies, and Brackenridge and Jefferson high schools.
If you are looking for another festive way to support our students before the winter break, please also take a look at the Fine Arts Department online calendar. There are some evening concerts and theater performances still this week.
In Board news, our Trustees approved the 2019-20 District Instructional Calendar at the Dec. 10 meeting. While the calendar aligns closely with neighboring school districts to better accommodate SAISD teachers with children in those districts, our calendar continues to allow our students to finish the fall semester prior to winter break and start new content in January 2020. We believe this is advantageous to our students and their learning.
We want to begin sharing next year’s calendar now so that families have the information they need to align their summer and back-to-school plans with our start date of Aug. 12, 2019.
Also at that Board meeting, the Trustees approved the schematic design for the new SAISD Administration Building, to be constructed on existing District property on the field across from the Fox Tech High School campus, which also is home to the Advanced Learning Academy and CAST Tech High School. The District received input on the site planning for the project from the campus administrations and families, the surrounding community, the city and other stakeholders. Construction begins in Spring 2019 with an estimated completion date of August 2020.
The construction of the new facility is being funded through the previous sales of District real estate, a process that has been ongoing for a number of years. The Central Administration Building will be a one-stop resource for District employees and parents. Its construction will consolidate staff members who currently are housed in multiple locations, in facilities averaging 50 years of age. The District will generate approximately $1 million in annual operational savings as a result of the efficiencies of a new, consolidated facility.
As I close, I want to express my appreciation to you for your commitment to helping our students succeed, regardless of the obstacles these children and their families may face. Know that the improvement this District is experiencing is being noticed – locally in our communities, and even statewide. Our work is transformational, and the difference we make today has long-lasting benefits. 
But I admit, the work – while fulfilling – also can be exhausting. Therefore, I wish you and your families a joyful and relaxing winter break. I know it’s been an incredibly busy year so far, and I value the effort you put in every day. Thank you, and happy holidays.

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