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Showing appreciation - May 3, 2021
Dear SAISD Staff:
I want to start this letter by honoring all of our teachers. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! I know that our campuses, students and parents will be recognizing the enormous contributions teachers make in our lives throughout this week, and I want to express my own gratitude for your hard work and dedication. I am forever in your debt.
I also want to take a moment to congratulate newly elected and re-elected Trustees Sarah Sorensen (District 1), Leticia Ozuna (District 3), Art Valdez (District 4), and Ed Garza (District 7) on their four-year terms. We will canvass the elections at the end of our of May 10 Board meeting and recognize our outgoing members. We welcome our Board’s guidance and oversight as we continue to be united in serving our students.
In addition to celebrating our Trustees next week, the May 10 meeting will be the first in-person Board meeting in more than a year! It will be held in the Board room at our new administrative building at 514 W. Quincy Ave. The meeting, as always, will continue to be livestreamed for those watching at home. 
We have been having budget presentations during the last few Board meetings, and last week, we received excellent news. On April 29, the Texas Education Agency initiated the application process for school districts across the state to apply for funding amounts allocated to each district under the American Relief Plan Act through the Elementary and Secondary School Relief III Funds. This funding will assist all districts in their budget process for the upcoming years. We are grateful for the state’s first steps in releasing federal relief funds designated for education. 
SAISD is expected to receive approximately $207 million that is available to be expended through September 2024. This is equivalent to approximately $60 million on an annual basis for the period that the federal funding is available – and this is just the start. Multiple rounds of funding have been approved at the federal level. We continue to be hopeful that all funds are released in a timely fashion.
These funds allow us to confidently plan our budget for next school year, which begins July 1; and shortly, thereafter, our Summer Jumpstart program begins July 19. Because of these funds, we are able to proactively address student learning loss and support children’s mental health as a result of the prolonged pandemic. 
We will also be able to 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. Additionally, we are proposing an increased minimum entry pay rate of $16 per hour for full-time, permanent employees.
You may also have read in the news that we are one of only a few school districts competitively selected to participate in the state’s new Teacher Incentive Allotment program. This Texas initiative incentivizes teachers working in high-poverty neighborhoods and was established as part of the landmark school finance reforms passed in the last legislative session. Our teachers now have an opportunity to add up to $36,000 to their annual salaries, an amount that includes a $10,000 SAISD contribution for additional work requirements explained below. 
The state’s salary incentives surpass our own legacy master teacher program, which was capped at $15,000. Now $15,000 is the minimum salary increase. This is a win for our teachers!
We will phase out our legacy program over the next school year, while we phase into the state’s program. Two-thirds of our designated teachers in the Teacher Incentive Allotment came from our legacy master teacher initiative. 
In this first year of the state program, the first cohort was required to be teaching STAAR-rated grades or those with end-of-course exams. By fall 2023, we expect to evolve to a third phase of the master teacher initiative to encompass teachers across all grade levels and subjects. New SAISD cohorts will be selected each year for a five-year designation as a Master, Exemplary, or Recognized teacher – and each designation carries a different incentive pay range. 
As we did with our legacy master teacher program, we are requiring designated teachers to work 20 additional days per school year and four extra hours per week to better meet students’ needs. Because of this work requirement, SAISD is adding $10,000 to their annual salaries – as mentioned above. Additionally, teachers will still be eligible for stipends for leading departments, coaching, and advising student clubs. Once calculated, some teachers could be making six figures. And isn’t it about time? This is an exciting opportunity to be a national model in teacher compensation.
Between our rising hourly wages and teacher incentives, we are kicking off a larger investment in personnel because we value you. SAISD will continue to invest in all of our employees. We talk all the time about wanting to fight poverty, and we know that we must start within with wages and follow through with the education of our children. 
As I told community leaders during my annual State of the District address, it takes a collective effort to do what we do every day. We are stronger together. Thank you for joining in this fight to improve student achievement and end the cycle of poverty. I appreciate you.

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