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SAISD and teachers lead by example - April 19, 2021
Dear SAISD Staff:

Thank you to all who have participated in our staff vaccination clinics for COVID-19. Well over 5,000 employees have participated in these clinics, and as of last Tuesday, every staff member who wanted the vaccine is now fully vaccinated. After multiple vaccine clinics – including the start of clinics for our high school seniors – we are now at a proactive, safe point and can transition to Level 3 on our safety matrix

This allows us to transition more children into classrooms for in-person learning, where we know students learn better face-to-face with their teachers and peers. Because STAAR testing continues throughout May, we will evaluate in June whether we open to campuses to volunteers and guests during the school day. However, for the first time in more than a year, we are opening in the evenings to small groups of parents for pre-planned, registration-only community meetings.

We are in the third and final week of hosting a series of community meetings to showcase our updated high schools. Families have been able to see the bond work done so far and to learn what else is coming under Bond 2020. But more than that, our families are enjoying the opportunity to see their children perform again. 

Each high school is rolling out the red carpet for the community with JROTC, band, dance and cheer performances – and it’s easy to see why our programs receive national recognition. We just received the Best Communities for Music Education designation for the third year in a row, and two of our high schools – Highlands and Jefferson – are sending teams of JROTC cadets to compete in Army Nationals and All Service Nationals next week. 

Walking up to these schools to the welcoming sounds of instrumental band music or mariachi song makes me feel joyful, the weight of the pandemic lifted ever so slightly.

Spring is the traditional time for a crescendo of student performances as programs produce the pieces they’ve perfected during the school year. While we sorely missed enjoying this time last year, we are so grateful to be cautiously and safely gathering again. We are social distancing, we are wearing masks, and we are enjoying each other’s company. Families also are welcome to join the celebrations and tours virtually.

Tonight, we meet at Sam Houston High School, followed by Lanier High School tomorrow, and Jefferson High School on Wednesday. Please join us if you can and help us spread the word to our families.

The community meetings have also been a wonderful time to touch base with parents to help them complete the annual registration process. Between these, other in-person opportunities, and the online process, more than 50% of currently enrolled students already have registered for next school – a healthy start to our 2021-22 year!

Another positive outlook as we begin the process of closing this school year and preparing for the next one is the outcome of a teacher survey. This is the fifth year that we administered the survey, and we earned our highest participation rate ever with 84% of teachers responding. This survey feedback is valuable, and we appreciate the time of those who completed it. Over the past few years, we have seen a strong trajectory upward in teacher satisfaction, and today we are at or above the national average in nearly all categories. 

We have made substantial improvement in the District’s satisfaction rating since 2017, following an increase in professional development and advancement opportunities, as well as progress in school environments. We are continuously improving, and we will not stop until all teachers feel supported and we rate above average in all categories.

These surveys help us compare teacher satisfaction and morale to that of school districts across the nation, many without the level of poverty we have in San Antonio. From our recent results, we are on the right track. We are united in being here – in SAISD – fighting for our students’ futures. It is this unity of purpose and the hard work we put toward it that propels us forward as a district. 

Together, we will build and implement a plan to recover from the pandemic. Our Board and this District are committed to ensuring our students succeed and our employees are fairly compensated. As the result of federal relief funding to help us build back, we can finally do it.

We are working on a budget that will increase staff compensation – including a general pay increase of 2% for full-time, permanent employees and additional supplemental pay opportunities through our extended instructional calendar. Educators who participate in the additional, extended days will see an increase in their hourly pay rate of 19-39% for those additional days worked, depending on their years of service and highest level of education.

The added 20 work days gives other employees – such as child nutrition staff, porters, bus drivers, and instructional assistants – added annual pay opportunities, too. They could see up to an 11% increase over current calendar days scheduled. And, like I mentioned in my last letter, we also are proposing an increased minimum entry pay rate of $16 per hour for full-time, permanent employees.

We will also continue to invest in personal protective equipment, safety protocols, a strong academic recovery, social and emotional resources for students and families, and support for remote learners.

These budget priorities align with what our staff and students need and deserve.

I want to close with two success stories. We are beginning to prepare for graduation season, and I couldn’t be prouder of our seniors and our teachers. Kathlaleen De Hoyos, a senior at Travis Early College High School, has been selected as the Distinguished Graduate in Liberal Arts at San Antonio College. This is the third year in a row that an SAISD student has received this honor. Kathaleen graduates from SAC on May 8 and from Travis on June 15.

Additionally, Blake Gandy, a ninth-grade World Geography teacher at St. Philip’s Early College High School, is the recipient of the 2020-2021 Graduate College Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award in the Humanities and Fine Arts at Texas State University, where he graduated with his master’s degree in History last year. He was recognized by the university for his thesis distinction last week.

These are just two examples of many success stories in the District. I share these to show that not only are our students achieving great things, our teachers are leading by example.


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