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Eleventh Annual

BRAGGING RIGHTS

2017-2018

Beeville ISD Abilene ISD Elgin ISD

Fruitvale ISD

Granbury ISD Hawkins ISD

Kemp ISD

Mount Pleasant ISD La Porte ISD

Nederland ISD

Southwest ISD

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

Texas School Business


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From the editor

I

was excited to work on my first edition of Bragging Rights this year, and I certainly wasn’t let down. We received close to 200 nominations from across the state, each one detailing something truly amazing going on in our Texas public schools. From districts big and small, from one border to another, there’s a lot to be proud of going on at any moment in classrooms (and outside of them) all around Texas. Narrowing the finalists down to 12 was such a challenge, I’m not exactly sure how we pulled it off, but here they are, and we hope you enjoy learning about each and every one of them as much as we did. There’s a little bit of everything, from cutting edge science projects, programs that prepare students for life after high school and even a school district bringing the stars to its lucky students. It’s my personal hope that you find something inspiring in these pages. And if you do, don’t hesitate to reach out to administrators in any of these districts. They are all proud of their accomplishments and ready to share them with other schools that might benefit from their knowledge. And when you’re done with this issue — please share it. At Texas School Business, it’s our job to spread the good news about Texas public schools, and this annual issue makes a great starting point for many conversations that can only help our mission and give your schools the recognition they deserve.

DACIA RIVERS Editorial Director


Eleventh Annual

BRAGGING RIGHTS

2017-2018

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Beeville ISD

Beeville ISD makes ground-breaking step to teach computer science to all students

Abilene ISD

A string revolution takes flight in Abilene

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Fruitvale ISD

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Planting the seeds of soft skills helps Fruitvale students graduate with more than a diploma

Elgin ISD Elgin ISD students get dirty hands, healthy bodies, by partnering with community farms

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Hawkins ISD

Granbury ISD High school aviation program takes flight at Granbury High School

Globe project gives Hawkins students a leg up on helping the environment

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Kemp ISD Kemp Junior High’s Jacket Radio offers students rock ‘n’ roll real world business experience


Texas School Business

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(ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620) BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Volume LXIV, Issue 7

La Porte ISD State-of-the-art planetarium brings the stars back to life in LaPorte ISD

406 East 11th Street Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-477-6361 Fax: 512-482-8658 www.texasschoolbusiness.com EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Dacia Rivers DESIGN Phaedra Strecher ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER Ann M. Halstead

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TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS

Mount Pleasant ISD

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Mount Pleasant’s Tiger Share Fair turns staff development into a family reunion

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Johnny L. Veselka ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SERVICES AND SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATION Ann M. Halstead DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA RELATIONS Amy Francisco

Nederland ISD Electrician apprenticeship program in Nederland prepares students for postgraduation employment

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Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD Meeting an extreme need with the nation’s first early college nursing program

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Southwest ISD

Administrators and parents team up to prevent bullying in Southwest ISD

Texas School Business (ISSN 0563-2978) is published bimonthly with a special edition, Bragging Rights, in December, by the Texas Association of School Administrators, at 406 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78701. Periodicals postage paid at Austin, Texas, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701. © Copyright 2017 Texas Association of School Administrators


▲Members of Abilene High School’s Revolution Strings ensemble pose with the Calgary Fiddlers (in black hats) before performing at Spruce Meadows in Calgary.

ABILENE ISD

A string revolution takes flight in Abilene By Dacia Rivers

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orget everything you think you know about high school string ensembles. At Abilene High School, it’s a whole different animal. Started in 2002 by orchestra director Darcy Radcliffe, Revolution Strings does things their own way, with resounding success.

When Radcliffe arrived in Abilene to serve as the high school’s orchestra director, she found a dying, underutilized program.

Composed of 10 violinists, two cellists, four violists, a bass player and a drummer, Revolution Strings leaves behind traditional classical string performances in favor of lively, upbeat concerts that appeal to audiences at large. It’s not a direction Radcliffe initially set her sights on, but as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

Change sparks interest

Darcy Radcliffe

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“Kids weren’t wanting to practice, people weren’t wanting to be a part of the orchestra — nobody even knew we had an orchestra,” Radcliffe says.

A floundering orchestra program isn’t anyone’s ideal, so when the principal gave Radcliffe permission to shake things up as she saw fit, she took a leap in a whole new direction. At the time, the string ensemble included just three violinists and a bass player. Realizing that no classical music was available for such a group,

Superintendent David Young


Radcliffe thought of one musical genre that did fit: good old country and western fiddle songs. “I opened it up to after-school rehearsal and so three days a week, if you wanted to come play fiddle tunes, you could,” Radcliffe says. After a semester of rehearsals, Radcliffe turned the group into a more serious venture, holding auditions and asking students to commit to the ensemble. From there, success built rapidly. The first big break came a few years later, thanks to a personal recommendation. Producers from the NPR show “From the Top” were coming to Abilene, and approached a faculty member at a local university for recommended stories to cover. His suggestion? Revolution Strings. “I’ll never forget, we were rehearsing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Serenade for Strings,’ and I got a phone call from Boston and it was NPR wanting to know more about my group,” Radcliffe says. That exposure lead to numerous concert, travel and collaborative opportunities for the ensemble. To date, the group has taken a trip to perform in China, for the country’s 150th birthday celebration, and performed on a League of Extraordinary Strings tour of Spain, France, England and Scotland. Just this summer, the ensemble completed a 17-day Canadian tour as well. Professional musicians have taken notice of Revolution Strings, and the ensemble has performed with such big names as Mark O’Connor, Asleep at the Wheel and Riders in the Sky, among others. “I think just being connected and being consistently excellent at what we do has kept the doors open for us to go and represent our city, our community and our school,” Radcliffe says. “It’s really been a huge honor.”

Inspiration, perspiration Performing in Revolution Strings is a commitment. The group plays 40 to 50 shows per year on top of their regular school orchestra concerts. But the payoffs are deep and long-lasting.

Candi Ice

Candi Ice, now the orchestra director at Madison Middle School in Abilene ISD, was once a member of Revolution Strings herself. She credits Radcliffe with pushing her in the right direction to succeed.

“The program is very demanding of your talents, but in a good way,” Ice says. “I feel like I was pushed to be my best, and I really needed that push.” Ice went to college and got a degree in music business after being inspired by Radcliffe’s handling of the organizational side of Revolution Strings. As soon as Ice graduated, she was invited to serve as orchestra director at the middle school, and since taking the job, she often looks back at what she learned from Radcliffe for direction. “I always find myself thinking, ‘What would Darcy Radcliffe do right now?’” Ice says. “She’s a great inspiration and to work with her as many hours a week as we practiced was great for me. It kept me out of doing a lot of negative things in high school.” Radcliffe’s dedication and passionate, forward-thinking attitude keep her students motivated, when frequent practices and long-distance travel could cause some to lose interest.

“I always think if the teacher’s bored, the students are probably bored, too,” Radcliffe says. “If I’m challenged and motivated, then I know my students will be as well.” By participating in Revolution Strings, Abilene students garner not only musical skills — students study classical compositions along with modern songs and have a full hour of music memorized, something a lot of college students don’t do — but they pick up other important life lessons as well. Radcliffe’s students learn discipline, follow through and time management through their participation in the ensemble. They must remain academically eligible to play at any performance, so dedicated students keep their grades high. Stresses of travel, multiple performances and keeping in close quarters with their peers provide ample learning opportunities, too, as students sometimes struggle with homesickness, stage fright and interpersonal struggles. “There’s confidence, showmanship, professionalism,” Radcliffe says. “Being able to stand up on stage with a smile on your face even though you feel like you need to go throw up. We try to make it look easy, but the behind-the-scenes stuff can be pretty intense.”

A future in-tune

‘I always think if the teacher’s bored, the students are probably bored, too. If I’m challenged and motivated, then I know my students will be as well.’ Darcy Radcliffe, Revolution Strings director

Ice isn’t the only former Revolution Strings member to pursue a career in music. Radcliffe says of the group that went to Canada last summer, those who graduated are mostly still at least playing in college orchestras if not working toward a degree in music.

“Some of them are at Belmont University, and that’s a big leap for little Abilene, to have students going from a small town to a big music school in a big music community, and to get a scholarship to do it,” Radcliffe says. Radcliffe has high expectations for her students, but in exchange, she provides them with tools that will benefit them for years to come, especially for those who pursue careers in music. “I want to provide more opportunities for my students to learn,” Radcliffe says. “I think to be a musician today you can’t just do one thing, you have to be able to play different styles and collaborate with other artists.” Ice confirms that Radcliffe is accomplishing the very goal she sets out to meet for her students. “She’s provided a lot of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for myself > Abilene ISD, page 8

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> Abilene ISD continued from page 7

and the other students involved in the group,” Ice says. “She’s just one of my favorite people in the world.” Abilene ISD Superintendent David Young also counts himself as one of Revolution Strings’ biggest fans. “My first official act as superintendent in AISD was to see Revolution perform, and I was hooked,” he says. “Their passionate performances have touched the hearts of thousands around the globe and exemplify several of our district’s core values such as collaboration, creativity and communication.”

underappreciated program to a world-touring, album-selling powerhouse. It’s clear that her enthusiasm and passion have been contagious with her students and audiences worldwide. “I always tell my students, ‘If you’re excellent in whatever you do, doors will open up for you,’” Radcliffe says. For more information on Revolution Strings, visit revolutionstrings. com. DACIA RIVERS is editorial director of Texas School Business.

Luckily for students in Abilene and audiences around the world, Revolution Strings isn’t going away anytime soon. In May, the students released an album called “Homegrown,” which you can find on YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music and iTunes. All proceeds from album sales go to the group’s travel and recording fund, as the ensemble is 100 percent financed through fundraising. In 15 years, Radcliffe has put the strings ensemble at Abilene High School on the map, from its humble beginnings as an

▼Revolution Strings went on a Canadian tour in 2017, performing for audiences across the country.


▲ A Beeville ISD student works out the glitches in a computer game he created.

BEEVILLE ISD

Beeville ISD makes groundbreaking step to teach computer science to all students

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TEM education is the wave of the future, and while schools and educators everywhere are working to incorporate more science and technology lessons into their classrooms, one Texas school district has taken that push up a notch. Located in the Coastal Bend, Beeville ISD rolled out its computer-science-for-all program last year, providing coding lessons to all of the district’s 3,300 students, from pre-K to grade 12. This step made Beeville the first school district in the country to offer full-immersion computer science classes for all of its students. And the payoff has been huge.

The importance of tech education Administrators in Beeville ISD partnered with a

company called Globaloria to bring computer science and coding lessons to all of its students, in a wide-scale move to facilitate authentic student engagement in the district’s classrooms. They wanted to expose students to new ways of thinking, specifically computational thinking, and help those kids develop core competencies that will benefit them in the future.

Superintendent Marc Puig

“Computer science is an area that really encompasses all of these things, including the core competency of creativity,” says Marc Puig, Beeville ISD superintendent. “We saw this as an exciting opportunity for us to completely change the landscape and provide kids with a brand-new way of learning.” > Beeville ISD, page 10 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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> Beeville ISD continued from page 9 ◄ Students in Beeville show their parents the programming work they’ve been doing in school.

Through coding and creation programs such as Pixlr and Piscl, students in Beeville ISD work to design and build playable games that incorporate lessons from virtually any discipline. “This isn’t an isolated program,” Puig says. “It’s integrated into science, math, ELA and history. When you integrate any one of those concepts, you have the students design a game around the theme.” For example, the youngest students in Beeville might create games designed to teach color words, while older students might create games designed to teach the causes of the Civil War. Once the games are created, they are visible to and playable by other Beeville students, who test and learn from games made by other classes. “They are really deep in their conceptual understanding of whatever they’re learning, and in the process, they’re engaged and really starting to manage their own learning,” Puig says. “It’s really exciting seeing teachers no longer being the sage on the stage or the guide on the side, but facilitating the learning of these kiddos. It’s pretty remarkable to see it in action.”

Immersion at work Recently, the TEA’s deputy commissioner of governance, A.J. Crabill, visited Beeville to see the computer-science-for-all program in action. While a second grader was showing off a game he built to teach a math concept, Crabill asked if the child could change a color in the game to purple. “Sure,” came the student’s reply. “But, how do you spell purple?” This example shows how quickly the students in Beeville are picking up the new concepts, but teachers are seeing the program’s influence spread beyond coding skills.

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“Our reading grades doubled at kindergarten, our first-grade reading scores increased by 20 points, and our second-grade reading scores increased by 30 points,” Puig says. “This is the application of critical thinking.” Teachers in Beeville agree that the program’s success is evident in their classrooms. Sarah Gamez, a kindergarten teacher at the HMD Early Childhood Center in Beeville, was impressed to see her 5-year-old students come together and collaborate in ways she’d never witnessed. “Because they wanted to make this game and they wanted to code, they wanted to work toward that Sarah Gamez goal, they worked together, and that was one amazing thing that otherwise is hard to accomplish in a kindergarten classroom,” says Gamez. Kindergarten students in Beeville are learning not only to code, but are picking up the accompanying high-tech vocabulary. Creating a game designed to teach a concept, the students have to work together to design and build the game, then address any bugs, tweaking the game as necessary to get it just right. “I have to pinch myself every day,” says Gamez. “This is 5-year-olds coding this game. They amaze me every day, and every step of the way.”

Rose Bruns

Rose Bruns, another kindergarten teacher at the HMD Early Childhood Center, uses the program in her ESL classroom, where she feels the handson and visual aspects of coding have reached her students in remarkable ways.


“The reading levels we met, they were the highest we’ve ever had,” says Bruns. “We just kind of stood back and facilitated, and they took charge of their own learning. To see that in 5- and 6-year-olds is an amazing thing.” As principal of FMC Elementary School in Beeville, Martina Villarreal also saw her students’ reading scores improve after the program’s initiation. She’s received feedback from parents at the school, who are interested and impressed by their students’ achievements in such a new and important field. At the end of last school year, Villarreal hosted a parents’ night at FMC Elementary where some 500 parents and family members came to see the coding lessons their children were so excited about. Martina Villarreal

“Parents are very excited that their students are going to be able to benefit from this coding in the long term,” Villarreal says. “There’s been a lot of creativity, engagement, collaboration and higher order thinking skills.”

Bugs and tweaks While students in Beeville work to develop their games and rid them of any glitches, teachers and administrators in the district are making moves to make the program even bigger and better. One thing Puig says they learned in the first year of the program is that it can be tough to ask older students to make big changes. “When you get to high school and you try to charge 80 teachers and 900 kids to change their mindset, that is a challenge,” Puig says. “We decided this year to scale back at the high school and decide how we want to roll it out next year, with the long-term goal of creating a more dedicated pathway in computer science for high school.”

Puig says the program is now focused on emphasizing computer science integration at the early grades, where it seems to be making the biggest difference in student achievement. “If you contrast that with the early grade elementary, [the younger students] are on fire,” Puig says. “They’re like, ‘Teach me anything!’” To cover the cost of the program, Beeville ISD committed $250,000 to the initiative. That amount paid for infrastructure and equipment, such as Chromebooks and computers on wheels, along with increased bandwidth. The cost of the Globaloria program is $65 per student, adding another $220,000 to the overall price tag. Some Beeville teachers were concerned with making the change to lessons integrating computer science, but hands-on training and support have helped educators in Beeville make the move easily. And seeing the rewards is motivation enough to keep the program going. “Teachers started from a fixed mindset, to where we maybe didn’t feel the kids would be able to do it, because they were so young,” says Villarreal. “But in the end, the students did meet expectations and even went beyond that.” From students eager to dive into coding each day, to teachers and parents watching the kids in Beeville meet and exceed their educational goals, the computer science for all program was a big, brave leap in a forward-thinking direction. “It was an aggressive, bold initiative, and we are really excited about the fact that our school board was willing to live up to their core value of being innovative, because being innovative means not doing what you’ve always done,” says Puig. “It means getting out of your comfort zone, and doing the best things for children — and that’s really exciting to be a part of.”◄

‘Parents are very excited that their students are going to be able to benefit from this coding in the long term.’ Martina Villarreal, FMC Elementary School principal

► A Beeville student showcases his game design for the class. BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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▲An Elgin ISD student carries a pumpkin while on a field trip to a local Christmas tree farm and pumpkin patch.

ELGIN ISD

Elgin ISD students get dirty hands, healthy bodies, by partnering with community farms

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along with partnerships with local farms, allowed the district to create a Farm-to-School action plan to get students interested in growing and eating healthy foods.

Elgin is so ripe for farming that Austin Community College recently opened a campus in town dedicated to studying agricultural sciences. And now, the local school district is digging into the fertile soil as well.

“This is a real hub for sustainable agriculture,” says Jodi Duron, Elgin ISD superintendent. “And with everything we were already involved in, it seemed like the next step for us to really maximize our community efforts with the local farmers here in town.”

he town of Elgin, just 25 miles outside of Austin, might be known as the sausage capital of the world, but the community was built on farming and agriculture and continues to have deep roots in the loamy blackland prairie soil that lies beneath the city.

Initially, administrators in Elgin ISD wanted to create campus gardens and participated in a University of Texas grant that would allow them to do so, when they heard of a USDA planning grant that could give them an extra boost. These grants,

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Planting the seeds for lifelong learning Lead by Elgin ISD Child Nutrition Coordinator Guadalupe Martin, the Farm-to-School team

Superintendent Jodi Duron


Guadalupe Martin

provides unique opportunities for all of the more than 4,300 students in the district, thanks to the grants and partnerships with 10 local farms.

pulled from the ground. In the fall, a local Christmas tree and pumpkin farm hosted students, who returned to school with pumpkins ready for pie making.

“Students from each campus are able to attend field trips to local farms to see how the actual produce and vegetables are grown,” Martin says. “They incorporate curriculum with the trip, and we also have food demonstrations with some of the food they actually went to the farms and got for themselves.”

At the middle and high school levels, students are invited to join in a Food of the Month opportunity, where they’re encouraged to try a new food each month. Some past foods have included watermelon, apples, corn, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, broccoli and carrots. At Elgin High School, cafeteria staff reinforced these healthy eating lessons by adding a fresh salad bar to students’ lunch options.

On these field trips, Elgin students get to see the exact origins of their food — a rare experience to many. “Some of these kids didn’t even know that carrots grow in the ground,” says Martin. “It’s amazing to them, and amazing for adults to watch and see their reactions.” After the field trips, Elgin ISD students and staff return to school with produce collected from the farms, much of which is used in food demonstrations or prepared in the cafeteria. “We wanted to make sure we had those opportunities for connection from what students saw on the field trips to application with food demonstrations themselves,” says Elgin ISD Deputy Superintendent of Administrative and Student Services Peter Perez. Peter Perez

To facilitate this, school staff sets out food carts with different cooking tools, such as hot plates, pans and knives, so students and teachers can prepare and taste the items they’ve just seen

The benefit of experience The chief purpose of Elgin’s Farm-to-School program is something parents are always trying to accomplish: to foster lifelong healthy eating habits in kids. But the district’s mission goes even deeper than that.

‘Some of these kids didn’t even know that carrots grow in the ground. It’s amazing to them, and amazing for adults to watch and see their reactions.’ Guadalupe Martin, Elgin ISD child nutrition coordinator

“We’re teaching food, nutrition, agriculture, but coupled with that is investing in economic development within our own community and investing in our farms,” says Duron. “Some of our cafeteria foods that are being served are coming from our local farms, so the kids get to see it, but then we’re actually purchasing it, and then they get to eat it.” In fact, it’s hard to find anyone in the Elgin community who doesn’t benefit from the Farm-to-School program, from the farms and the students to their parents. “We’re doing food demonstrations not just for our students, we’re bringing parents in,” says Duron. “We’ve done community events that have allowed parents to be involved, and this has become a very big part of our after-school program.” As the program continues and expands, Martin says she hopes to add a learning kitchen where parents can come and learn to cook healthy meals side-by-side with their children. In June, the Farmto-School team participated in Elgin’s 48th annual Western Days Festival, where students teamed up with guest chefs to prepare and share original recipes featured on their school lunch menus using produce from local farms. > Elgin ISD, page 14

◄ Elgin students learn about gardening as part of the district’s Farm-to-School program. BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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> Elgin ISD continued from page 13

A community that grows together Positive feedback about the Farm-to-School program has flooded in from all areas, from students and parents to community farms and even the Elgin city offices and chamber of commerce. The city approached the district after the Western Days Festival to see if the team would be willing to do another presentation at Elgin’s annual swine-themed Hogeye Festival. “It wasn’t us pushing them, it was the other way around,” says Perez. “We have a lot of positive comments, so it’s been really nice, and really good for everyone all the way around.” While the funding for the planning grant has ended, the district is in the process of applying for an implementation grant, which Martin says she hopes will allow her to continue on the program’s journey. In the meantime, the team is still partnering with the city and bringing aspects of the program to its ACE after-school program so that kids who are involved have the same opportunities to learn about nutrition and agriculture. “I think one of the things that Dr. Duron has been adamant about is making sure that we provide really good wrap-around services for our students, and this they can incorporate into their everyday life from this point forward,” Perez says. “It’s taking care of the body, the mind, and the soul, so to speak.”◄

▲ As part of Elgin’s Farm-to-School program, students visit local farms to learn about the industry.

◄ Elgin students take a tractor ride while visiting a local farm.

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â–˛ Fruitvale ISD students learn how to give a proper handshake.

FRUITVALE ISD

Planting the seeds of soft skills helps Fruitvale students graduate with more than a diploma

F

ruitvale is a tiny Texas town, and with a population of around 500, it might be one you’ve never heard of. But as Dallas, some 70 miles to the west, sprawls in all directions, the school district in Fruitvale is seeing significant growth. Currently serving about 440 students, the student population in Fruitvale ISD has grown by 10 percent each year for the past two years. Considering that 66 percent of Fruitvale students are classified as economically disadvantaged and 6 percent are homeless, administrators and teachers in the district

knew they had to do something to give these kids a leg up on their futures.

Superintendent Rebecca Bain

Each graduating Texas public school senior leaves school with a diploma, a transcript and a passing STAAR test in their portfolio. But in Fruitvale, teachers and administrators wanted to send their graduates out into the real world of college or employment with something more. For years, administrative teams at Fruitvale met with graduating seniors, and asked the students what > Fruitvale ISD, page 16 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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> Fruitvale ISD continued from page 15

more their schools could have done for them. Many of the students said that they wished they were more prepared with real-world skills, especially those favored by employers. So, staff in Fruitvale met with local employers and asked them just what they were looking for in new hires. Through these meetings, they learned that many young job applicants had the knowledge to get hired, but not the soft skills required to be successful. From there, a plan began to sprout.

That extra something The more-than-a-diploma in Fruitvale focuses on nine core dimensions, chosen to be the most important soft skills graduating seniors need. These are communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, initiative, punctuality, work ethic, resiliency and moral ethics. From there, teachers, administrators and the district’s advisory committee expanded these nine areas into 50 soft skills that they aimed to teach to every student in Fruitvale, all the way from kindergarten through 12th grade. “We wanted something that, when our kids go to apply for college or a job, sets them apart from other districts,” says Michelle Cline, director of curriculum, instruction and federal programs in Fruitvale. “We’re competing with kids in other districts that are rich and have more resources.” Teachers and administrators crafted and researched lessons for each of the new skills and uploaded them to a Google Drive folder. And now on every Thursday, in advisory or homeroom periods, students across Fruitvale receive an age-appropriate lesson on one beneficial realworld skill. Michelle Cline

“The very first week the lesson was on a proper handshake,” Cline says. “Everyone across the district was learning how to look someone in the eye and how to give a firm handshake.” From this simple beginning, the aim of the program is that every graduating senior in Fruitvale will have a digital portfolio that displays the soft skills they have developed in school — more than a diploma.

Soft skills, solid benefits Though the program is in its first year, Fruitvale Superintendent Rebecca Bain says she’s already seeing the results in students. “They’re developing the ability to look people in the eye, shake hands, to speak to them when walking down the hall,” Bain says. “It’s a difference in what we’ve seen before because there’s really a conscious effort to work on these things.” As part of the program, each classroom has a rotating student ambassador, who serves to welcome guests to the room, allowing teachers to keep working without interruption. “I walked into a kindergarten class, and a little boy named Jackson, about 5 years old, he walked up, shook my hand and said, ‘Ms. Bain, I am Jackson, and our class is working on its rotations,’” Bain says. “And then he goes and sits back down.” Cline says the students are getting into the program and taking pride in the lessons they’re learning. In September, students focused on communication skills, while October’s dedicated soft skill was collaboration.

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“The little ones have really caught on, they love working on these skills that grownups work on,” Cline says. Some of the other specific skills students in Fruitvale work on include accepting constructive criticism, considering their digital footprint and being respectful. These confidence-building exercises have changed student behavior in Fruitvale, as students are more comfortable with such formerly hated tasks as presentations, interviews and collaborative assignments. “By the end of the year, they will have learned quite a bit,” Bain says. “And if you think of the kindergarteners who started this program, by the time they graduate, they’re going to be able to speak to people, present things well, and they’re gonna have a lot of the skills employers are looking for.”

Growth through support Teachers in Fruitvale had no issues incorporating these new skills in their classrooms, according to Cline, in part because they were on hand to help develop the program. “They saw a need for it and they were part of making this rubric,” Cline says. “It wasn’t just something we gave them and said, ‘Here, do this.’” Having a shared folder of lessons helps minimize the extra planning and work teachers might need to do to address the special skills in their classrooms. Teachers are welcome to upload their own lessons, share lessons from others or use a resources such as character.org to get ideas and lesson plans. “Adding all the lessons takes the burden off the teachers, and they’ve gotten to relax and have fun with it,” Cline says. Parents in Fruitvale are impressed by the new skills their kids are picking up at school as well. Through social media, administrators and teachers share the progress the kids are making, and the feedback has been supportive and positive. “The parents love it,” Cline says. “They say this is what we needed, that this is exactly what school is about.” As budding Fruitvale grows, so will the program. Even at this early stage, the benefits of teaching these soft skills is so evident, Bain and Cline say they’re excited that the program will continue for the foreseeable future. “We always wanted kids to have these skills, but having a focused approach to teaching them has really made a difference,” Bain says. “I can’t wait to see what they can do with several years of this and the difference between them and other graduates, outside of their core curriculum.”◄ ▼ Fruitvale students perform a hands-on lesson to build time management skills.


▲ Former Granbury High School student Nautica Owens poses in the airplane she built with her classmates as part of the Eagle’s Nest Project.

GRANBURY ISD

High school aviation program takes flight at Granbury High School By Merri Rosenberg

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alk about giving students wings to pursue their dreams.

For students in the aerospace track at Granbury High School, their ambitions literally take flight through a program that enables them not only to build an airplane, but to gain the in-air flight time and ground instruction to work toward a pilot’s license, too. With a regional airport within sight of the high school, it’s no surprise that Granbury ISD staff had looked longingly at the prospect of offering their students an aviation program. “We had a teacher who wanted to build a kit plane, but never could make it happen,” says Granbury Superintendent James Largent.

The project couldn’t get liftoff until last year, when Granbury Regional Airport Operations Manager Pat Stewart informed the school that a nonprofit organization, Eagle’s Nest Projects, would provide RV12 kit planes to schools that could access community mentors.

Superintendent James Largent

“It was divine intervention,” says Largent, who, inspired by the students, is in the process of obtaining his own pilot’s license.

A match made in the heavens Eagle’s Nest Projects, which was founded in 2010 in Indiana with the goal of encouraging students to pursue aviation careers and develop a strong sense > Granbury ISD, page 18 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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>Granbury ISD continued from page 17

of responsibility, seeks partnerships with schools that have an aerospace program, as well as community mentors. Granbury High School fit the bill on both counts. The school has long offered an engineering program, including an aviation science course, says Judy Gentry, career and technical education director in the district. The course is for juniors and seniors, with 25 students enrolled last year and about 35 participating this year. “It fits in with Pathways from the state, with our aerospace engineering, and also with projectbased learning and local initiatives,” says Largent. “This is authentic learning, with a real-world application.” Judy Gentry

Plus, the Granbury community is steeped in aviation. Not only is the regional airport adjacent to the high school, but many retired pilots in the community are eager to help the next generation. “The mentors are pilots and have owned, or built, an RV plane,” says Gentry. “These fellows are smart.”

instruction manual, as well as the assembly drawings, to accomplish the task.

As hands-on as it gets As part of the partnership with Eagle’s Nest, the school district has the opportunity to build one plane each year. Eagle’s Nest takes one back to sell, which in turn raises money for the next kit. Local organizations in Granbury have donated money for fuel costs and flight lessons for the students. Still, the experience is about more than building the plane, says Gentry, although she concedes that, “some are just intrigued by building an airplane.” The project requires a variety of skills and offers lessons that go beyond the purely technical. There are the practical, with students learning how to use basic metal-working tools for construction of the all-aluminum plane, along with engineering to install the flight control system, modern electronic instrumentation, an autopilot and the complete electrical and fuel system. “Some of these kids who are going into the lab setting may never have used a drill, or a sander,” says Largent.

“They want to help young people become interested in aviation,” adds Mark Kirk, the aerospace engineering teacher at Granbury High School.

Mark Kirk

The 15 mentors come into the school two days a week to help students build the aircraft. It takes about eight months to construct the plane. Students are required to read and understand the

Consider the experience of Nautica Owens, a recent graduate of Granbury High School who will be attending Texas A&M University in the spring. Nautica Owens

▲Granbury High School students and teachers pose with the airplane they built through a partnership with Eagle’s Nest.

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“Throughout high school I took several engineering courses because I knew I wanted to pursue a career related to engineering in my future but didn’t know which field caught my attention more,” she explains. “For my senior year, GHS offered us an aerospace engineering course, and they told us we were going to have a chance to build an actual airplane from a kit. I thought that would be so cool to say that I helped build an actual airplane from scratch. … I learned so much from building the plane, like how to debur sheet metal and how to rivet them together. Riveting was easily my favorite thing to do and the mentors would joke about how fast I could rivet.”

Cockpit time Even if computer and tech savvy students are accustomed to using 3D printers to build ever more complicated and creative pieces, there’s something undeniably cool about building an airplane that can take flight. That students can use the plane they build as a way to get sky time and gain hours toward a pilot’s license is a bonus. “All of the students in the program get free ground school instructions and 20 hours in the air,” says Largent. “Some go into the Air Force, or manufacturing.” He adds, “For some, it’s a light bulb moment. Maybe they didn’t have interest in flying, but discover they like the design side. Or working on blueprints sparked some interest in different aspects of aviation, like maintenance.” Some of Granbury’s recent graduates, are, in fact, pursuing aviation as a career. Alumni at Baylor, Texas A& M and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are studying in the field. The Baylor student obtained his private pilot license in part because of his ability to gain ground instruction and flight time while at Granbury. Perhaps even more important, says Largent, students understand that this isn’t just another homework assignment. “They make sure they do it so precisely,” he says. “There’s no room to be sloppy. They understand that someone’s life is in their hands.” Students recognize just how significant the stakes are.

▲Granbury students worked to construct a kit plane as part of an aerospace engineering course.

‘Some of these kids who are going into the lab setting may never have used a drill, or a sander.’ James Largent, Granbury ISD superintendent

“The Eagle’s Nest executive director comes to make several visits, and the FAA also inspects the plane,” says Gentry. “This is as real world as it gets.” Adds Owens, “After many months of work put into the airplane, being able to see my name on the tail end and take that first flight in the aircraft that originally came to us in boxes felt like such an accomplishment.” MERRI ROSENBERG, a New York-based freelance writer and editor specializing in education, is a former freelance education columnist for the New York Times Westchester section.

►After the plane was built, students could receive free ground school instruction and 20 hours of in-air lessons. BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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▲Hawkins High School students Brady Stone, Triston Dodson and Dalton Wages pose with teacher Audra Evans, who leads them in the Globe Project.

HAWKINS ISD

Globe project gives Hawkins students a leg up on helping the environment

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ying in northeast Texas, Lake Daingerfield is a body of water with a dirty history. In the 80s, employees from a steel mill that operated on the banks of the lake sued the company when they became sick and linked their illnesses to the chemicals the mill was pumping into the water. $70 million in settlements later, the steel plant is closed, but the polluting effects remain, unknown to many folks who live and work near the lake. And that’s where three high school students from nearby Hawkins High School come in.

Think locally The GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) program is a worldwide school-based program dedicated to using science

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education to bring about positive environmental change by helping students perform research and solve problems through collaboration. In Hawkins ISD, a district of about 800 students in northeast Texas, the high school’s GLOBE team decided to make the cleanup of Lake Daingerfield their own pet project after visiting the lake and conducting their own water testing. “This lake has no environmental regulations that are imposed,” says Hawkins High School senior and GLOBE team member Brady Stone. “This is a public waterway, and people are pumping this water into their houses, drinking it, bathing with it.” Stone and the other two members of the GLOBE team, both juniors at Hawkins High, found high levels of mercury, among other heavy metals,

Superintendent Morris Lyon


in the waters of Lake Daingerfield. Texas Parks and Wildlife has a consumption ban on fish living in the lake, but with no signs posted at the lake and no effort to make this information public, the students saw many locals fishing from the lake without knowing the potential for mercury poisoning from eating the contaminated fish. “People were fishing everywhere, and we spoke to them and they had no idea of the consumption ban,” Stone says. In 2012, members of Hawkins’ GLOBE team took a trip to India, and while they were there, they sampled some of the contaminated waters they found. With those samples on hand, the students were able to compare the water found in Lake Daingerfield with the water previously found in India — and the results weren’t good. “I heard them say at one point that the water quality in Daingerfield was similar to some of the unregulated sources in India,” says Hawkins ISD Superintendent Morris Lyon. Audra Edwards, the Hawkins ISD teacher who leads the GLOBE program, saw the devastation caused by the contaminants right alongside her students. “When we went to the lake there was no vegetation,” Edwards says. “There weren’t any macroinvertebrates, and the water had really poor dissolved oxygen levels. We went in somebody’s Audra Edwards backyard and they were talking about their kids swimming in the lake, then we saw people fishing in the spillway, because we didn’t even see any fish living in the lake.”

The benefits of change Finding that the water quality in Lake Daingerfield had not improved, the GLOBE students took their project to the next level and began contacting local legislators to try and bring about a positive change. Hawkins is home to an Ozarka spring, and the company has partnered with the GLOBE students, providing funding to support the group’s research and travel, and even offering scholarships to the kids involved. Through this partnership, Hawkins’ GLOBE team members have had ample opportunities to perform collaborative research with other scientific teams across the world. Students in the GLOBE program have traveled to India, Croatia, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Connecticut and New York to compete and collaborate with other teams and researchers. It’s not just the lake and local residents who benefit from the GLOBE project — the students involved are reaping the rewards as well. “I’ve really enjoyed the approach we’re taking on this project,” says Triston Dodson, a junior at Hawkins High and a member of the GLOBE team. “And it hits right home. This is a local community, these are our neighbors. They are being affected and have no idea.” “The main reason for the project is for them to make real-world connections,” Lyon says. “The time where the classroom skills are applied in the real world — I think that’s the biggest piece of it.” The students agree that the GLOBE project helps them see their science classroom lessons come to life. “We’ve been taught the application of the scientific process every year, but I really never thought I’d use it like this,” Stone says. “And in Connecticut, we met kids from all over the world — Croatia, Oman, Mongolia, Thailand, and it really opened my eyes to other

▲As part of the Globe Project, Hawkins students collect, examine and compare water samples from multiple locations.

cultures, and I learned a lot about communication skills. It’s super eye opening.”

Act globally The GLOBE team at Hawkins High is looking to make a big splash with legislators moving forward, in an attempt to get help cleaning up the waters in Lake Daingerfield, and in the meantime find a way to keep locals better informed about the dangers in the water. The group also has its sights set on traveling to Ireland next summer for the global GLOBE competition. “We’re working on funding right now and getting a grant from the National Science Foundation to go to Ireland; it would be a huge opportunity for these kids,” says Edwards. “We’re trying to take our project to the next level and reach out to people, like political officials, that can make something happen.” The kids in Hawkins’ GLOBE project this year know this isn’t a short-term project, and after they move on to college, they feel sure students will follow in their footsteps to keep the work going. “As long as we keep students involved in GLOBE, this project will go on for many, many years,” says Dodson. “Especially with Lake Daingerfield, water does not simply clear up. It takes many years, and even though the plant has been closed for a long time, the effects are still very evident. With the data we have, we can track this for the next 10 years to see if it’s getting better, if it’s getting worse, and are our environmental regulations producing any positive results.”◄

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▲Kemp Junior High technology teacher Jamie Martin helps his students run a successful online radio station, right in the classroom.

KEMP ISD

Kemp Junior High’s Jacket Radio offers students rock ‘n’ roll real world business experience By Dacia Rivers

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outheast of Dallas, Kemp is a tiny town of fewer than 1,300 residents, but on a Friday night when the local high school football team takes to the field, upwards of 700 eager listeners tune in to Kemp Junior High School’s Jacket Radio station to get the play-by-play. “The community is really starting to learn about our Jacket Radio, because they turn into the football games, the volleyball games, the basketball games — that’s the gateway to the radio station,” says Kemp ISD Superintendent Phil Edwards.

Jamie Martin

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It’s been a year and a half since the radio station came to fruition, the brainchild of Kemp Junior

BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

High technology teacher and football, basketball and baseball coach, Jamie Martin. Tasked with developing curriculum for a business information management (BIM) class at the junior high, Martin was weighing what kind of mock business he could create for his students when it hit him — why not start up a real business? “I love music, so the idea for a radio station just popped into my head, and we went from there,” Martin says. Martin purchased some basic equipment to get the class started, and the school district stepped in and covered other necessary costs, including licensing and server fees to make the idea a reality. The BIM class is a high school credit, offered at the junior high, and Martin was careful to consider the

Superintendent Phil Edwards


curriculum for the program and make sure the radio class would cover the course requirements, which it does, and then some.

A vehicle for students’ passions At Jacket Radio, each student has a specific job. The class runs just like a regular radio station office, complete with a marketing department, a research and outreach team, a sports department, a group dedicated to engineering, as well as programming and music departments. Directing each class period is a student station manager, tasked with managing his or her peers and keeping things running smoothly.

Ethan Carrizales

In total, 150 to 200 students participate in the BIM Jacket Radio class, a popular offering at the junior high. Among them is Ethan Carrizales, a Kemp High School ninth grader who continues to work in the station’s sports department. Participating in Jacket Radio hasn’t just given Carrizales high school credit and business experience — it’s given him a career goal.

“The radio business is helping me learn how to be more professional and how to communicate better with other people,” Carrizales says. “It helps me be more responsible, and I like helping people who can’t make the away games, so they can listen and have fun.” Carrizales has enjoyed commentating on Kemp ISD’s games for Jacket Radio so much that he’s hoping to make a career of sports broadcasting in the future.

▲ Jordan Clack, a Kemp Junior High eighth grader, works as Jacket Radio station manger during the eighth period class.

The benefits of broadcasting When students walk into the Jacket Radio classroom, affectionately nicknamed The Hive, it’s up to them to get straight to work, just like in a real office. “The station is as much theirs as it is mine,” Martin says. “They’re responsible for the programming that goes on it.” The pride the students have in their work keeps them motivated, Martin says, and he’s on hand to help out, but generally speaking, the station is student run and directed.

Martin is impressed by and proud of Carrizales’ performance as a sportscaster. When he first allowed students to start broadcasting games, they largely had to do it on their own, as Martin was busy in his role as a coach during the games. But he says his students took that responsibility and ran with it.

Besides learning the skills involved with running a station, BIM students at Kent Junior High are getting invaluable real-world jobseeking lessons. At the beginning of the year, students create their own résumés and apply for the jobs they want at the station. They then go through job interviews and have the option to reapply for new positions every nine weeks during the school year.

“Ethan’s dad came to me and, in one of the best moments I think I’ve had as a teacher, told me that now this is what he wants to do with the rest of his life,” Martin says. “I don’t think he realized that until he actually started calling the basketball games.”

“Once I get a station manager, the station manager helps me interview for all the other positions,” Martin says. “We interview the rest of the class about which positions they think they’d fit best in.”

Pride in their work Morgan Adrio is an eighth-grade student at Kemp Junior High, and she serves as station manager for her BIM class period. She says her favorite part of the class is meeting new people and learning hands-on business skills. Morgan Adrio

“I like that we interact with so many people, and we learn all kinds of things, like Google Docs and Google Sheets,” Adrio says.

Martin believes that students absorb the skills they learn working on the radio station better than those learned in more traditional classroom settings because of the hands-on, real-world aspect. “Instead of just teaching them how to put something in a spreadsheet, like you’d normally do it, they’re actually doing it because they want to,” Martin says. “They’re learning those skills through this, and these are things they’ll probably actually remember and not something they’ll forget a year from now.”

In an effort to keep former Jacket Radio students involved in broadcasting as they move on in their educations, Martin is currently working with teachers and students at Kemp High School to begin a video broadcast system. There, students will expand their broadcasting skills by creating daily news segments and even short films. “It’s skills they’ve already learned, because they already know how to engineer audio bits, and the crossover between audio and video is not really that much different,” Martin says. “And they feel a bit more comfortable by the time they get up there because they’ve been broadcast on the radio for so long.” Jacket Radio is a big deal in Kemp ISD, and in the community, and Edwards is understandably proud of Martin and his students. He says he’s received inquiries from much larger districts that are interested in implementing similar programs on their own campuses. “You walk into the classroom and there are 20 kids who are all engaged, working,” Edwards says. There’s no playing, there’s no goofing around, they’re all on target because it’s something they love to do and want to do. That’s one of the most impressive things that I see.” You can listen to Jacket Radio online, just visit the district’s homepage at kempisd.org and click on the Jacket Radio link. ◄

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▲ Students in LaPorte ISD enjoy the district’s new cutting-edge planetarium.

LA PORTE ISD

State-of-the-art planetarium brings the stars back to life in LaPorte ISD By Dacia Rivers

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hey say the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas, but these days that isn’t always the case, if you live near a large, light-polluted city. Despite being just 28 miles away from the center of Houston, LaPorte ISD has been bringing the stars to its students since 1964, thanks to one of few school-owned planetariums in the state. But LaPorte’s original planetarium, built back when Beatle boots were all the rage, was starting to show its age as new technology eclipsed what the older planetarium could do. “The old one was functionally obsolete in its delivery … but not in its mission,” says LaPorte Superintendent Lloyd Graham. “We believe its mission is timeless.”

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The community and board of trustees in LaPorte were clearly in agreement, and in 2014 approved a $260 million bond program that included a total rebuild of LaPorte High School, including the onsite planetarium. “The planetarium was the Polaris, the North Star that guided us through our bond issue as it related to the high school,” Graham says. “It’s been the guiding philosophy for what it is we attempt to accomplish with our educational facilities and our district as a whole.” Construction on the high school took about eight years in total, and LaPorte’s brand-new planetarium opened to students and the local community in August.

Superintendent Lloyd Graham


When asked how the new planetarium is different from the old one, Graham sums it up easily: “How does an iPhone 8 differ from the first Macintosh?” The planetarium’s new dome is 24 feet in diameter and can seat up to 30 students, while the old one held about 18 max. The space also features movable seating, so the room can be adjusted for different types of lessons. At the time it was built, LaPorte’s planetarium was one of the most technologically advanced in the U.S. But LaPorte isn’t leaving the planetarium’s history behind. Outside the new facility stands a floor-toceiling display of the original equipment from the 60s-era planetarium, to preserve the building’s important heritage.

Danette Tilley

LaPorte ISD’s executive director of secondary education, Danette Tilley, says she was impressed with how passionate the board of trustees were about providing this opportunity to children in the area, at any cost.

“This was not a cheap construction,” Tilley says. “Our board was so committed to giving our kids these opportunities that they didn’t even blink at it.”

Star-dusted benefits for students Matt Hausler, a physics teacher at La Porte High School, says the planetarium offers numerous interdisciplinary learning opportunities for students in the district, including, but not limited to, the astronomy and earth and space science classes he teaches.

“We do look at the planets and we have programs available that allow us to look at the night sky and fly around in the solar system,” Hausler says. “But there are several shows available for Biology I that I have found, there are several for aquatic science dealing with the ocean, and there’s geography if we want to look at things for different aspects of volcanoes and earthquakes.”

‘We can transport our children anywhere in the world to look at the sky, and we can even place them on the face of the moon. It’s pretty spectacular.’ Lloyd Graham, LaPorte ISD superintendent

The planetarium is designed to be used by all of the nearly 8,000 students in LaPorte ISD, from pre-K to grade 12. Graham points out that the possible uses for the planetarium go beyond science lessons, with history classes and English classes able to recreate the sky from any location they’re studying.

> La Porte ISD, page 26

▲ LaPorte students get up-close astronomy lessons thanks to the district’s new planetarium. BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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“We have the ability to put in any latitude and longitude in the world and see real-time sky,” Graham says. “We can transport our children anywhere in the world to look at the sky, and we can even place them on the face of the moon. It’s pretty spectacular.” Besides being a boon to LaPorte’s students, the planetarium has a separate outside entrance so it can be used by other local groups in the community, such as teachers’ associations, rotary clubs, and scouting programs. LaPorte ISD also partners with the nearby San Jacinto College Maritime Academy, whose students can use the planetarium to learn more about navigation by getting a precise glimpse of how the sky and the horizon appear when out at sea.

Pride of the community Reaction to the new planetarium in LaPorte has been immense, with numerous local groups coming to visit the building, including astronauts from nearby NASA. “The response has been overwhelming,” Graham says. “It’s a part of who we are, and the community has embraced it wholeheartedly.” Tilley was on hand to show the new planetarium to the board of trustees, and she says that each member was in awe at the possibilities and opportunities it will offer to students. “There’s so many people in LaPorte who grew up here, and they feel the same way,” Tilley says. “They remember their field trips to the old planetarium, and now they have the opportunity for their children to experience that, but in a much bigger and better way.” Hausler agrees, adding that for many longtime LaPorte residents, stepping into the new planetarium makes them feel like kids again.

▲ Constellations shine inside LaPorte’s planetarium.

For Graham, the benefits of the new facility go beyond expanded learning opportunities by giving LaPorte’s students a new way of looking at everything. “Schools are charged with teaching logic in a world that summarily accepts that the sun sets, when in fact the horizon rises,” Graham says. “So I think [the planetarium] challenges a child’s known universe and predisposed assumptions about the world. And from that, it piques interest.”◄

CONGRATULATIONS! These 12 districts are out of this world!

La Porte ISD

Beeville ISD

Abilene ISD

Eleventh Annual

Fruitvale ISD

BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018

Mount Pleasant ISD

Nederland ISD

Elgin ISD

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD

Hawkins ISD Southwest ISD Granbury ISD

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Kemp ISD

Texas School Business


▲Teachers become the presenters at Mount Pleasant ISD’s Tiger Share Fair.

MOUNT PLEASANT ISD

Mount Pleasant’s Tiger Share Fair turns staff development into a family reunion

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ach year, in the peak of August’s sweltering heat, public school teachers across Texas return to their schools to sit in heavily airconditioned rooms and listen to outside speakers give sessions on a host of staff-development topics. But in Mount Pleasant ISD, a district of more than 5,000 students in northeast Texas, they’ve started doing things a little bit differently, and neighboring districts are taking notice.

In-house expertise Three years ago, Shirley Peterson, the district’s director of state and federal programs, created the Tiger Share Fair, billing it as a “different kind of staff development.” The main difference? It makes use of the wealth of expertise available within the district.

Shirley Peterson

“There was a feeling among district-level administrators that we didn’t really get together as a whole district,” Peterson says. “We always had a keynote speaker that came in and spoke, then everybody left and went to their own campuses.”

Superintendent Judd Marshall

Rather than address staff development separately at the district’s nine different campuses, the Tiger Share Fair puts all 940 staff members in one place for one day, creating a much greater opportunity for networking and knowledge sharing. And rather than bring in outside speakers, > Mount Pleasant ISD, page 28 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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>Mount Pleasant ISD continued from page27

Mount Pleasant educators are learning from their peers and coworkers, right in their own district. Each spring, the curriculum department puts out a call for presenters. From there, staff members and teachers in Mount Pleasant can volunteer, or be nominated, to present at the Tiger Share Fair on a topic of their choosing. Peterson makes a list of all the submissions, and staff in the district gets to choose which sessions they’d be most interested in attending. On the day of the event, each attendee selects five sessions to attend, at which their fellow Mount Pleasant educators speak on a wide variety of pertinent topics, from working with students with autism to using tech in the classroom.

Judith Saxton

When Judith Saxton, the director of communications for Mount Pleasant ISD, was having a hard time compiling photos from staff to share on district social media and with local newspapers, she turned to the Tiger Share Fair for help. The high school’s journalism teacher offered a presentation on photography to interested staff, and the results have made Saxton’s job easier.

“Now I have representatives on each campus I can rely on to take pictures,” Saxton says. “He did it in just one day, three sessions, over and out, and I’m getting great pictures.” Saxton says bringing the entire district together as a cohesive unit is what makes the Tiger Share Fair unique. “I’m not familiar with another district that does mini-conferences for staff development,” Saxton says. “I’m familiar with each campus doing their own staff development, they don’t join together to do a district-wide staff development.” Attendees at the Tiger Share Fair come from every campus in Mount Pleasant, from the child development center through the high school, allowing for better communication between campuses — one need that Peterson says the fair was designed to meet. “One of the things that we want to work on doing is aligning curriculum so that no matter what elementary campus a student is from, when they come to the middle school, they’re all on the same page,” Peterson says. “We had a need for that, and we just don’t have time to do that during the course of the school year.”

A day to connect

A lunch break during the fair allows staff members to get together with those from other campuses, with meals provided by five different local chefs and restaurants. Judd Marshall, the superintendent in Mount Pleasant, says the fair has been a success for bringing staff together, and he’s received positive feedback on the event both from inside and outside of his district. “We were very surprised the first year that we had that many people who were willing to share the teaching strategies in their classrooms to help kids,” Marshall says. “We wanted to use our own teachers instead of going out and paying somebody to come in and tell us what to do.” Relying on that local insight hasn’t just brought staff together and given educators an opportunity to share what they know — it’s also resulted in cost savings. “This way, we’re utilizing the knowledge that our staff has without any out-of-pocket expense for the district,” Saxton says.

Outside attention News of The Tiger Share Fair is spreading beyond Mount Pleasant ISD — last year Winfield ISD, a nearby district that feeds into Mount Pleasant, joined in on the event, and another local district is considering doing the same in the future. “Another district close to us, when they found out Winfield ISD came, they contacted me and asked if we’d contact them when we’re planning next year, because they’re really interested,” Peterson says. “So I think it’s going to be a little bit bigger, too.” It’s clear that for the folks in Mount Pleasant, a one-day, all-campus development fair just makes sense. From here on out, Saxton says the district has plans to change the sessions as needed and considering using some outside presenters, but for the most part, the fair will continue on as-is. “I think the fact that another district approached us and wanted to be a part of it speaks for itself,” Saxton says. From his perspective, Marshall agrees that the Tiger Share Fair is a success. “It’s brought our people out of their shells, and it’s allowed them to show what they can do,” Marshall says. “Ms. Peterson gets the credit, for it was really her idea. We just kind of went with it, and we’re going to keep doing it. ◄

Bringing all Mount Pleasant ISD employees together on one campus for the day has helped foster a spirit of community among staff, according to Peterson. The first year, most attendees showed up in professional attire, but staff from one school all wore their matching campus T-shirts, kicking off a trend that has helped many link a face to a school. “Walking across campus, you see someone’s face and it’s like they’re your cousin, but you don’t know exactly how you’re related to them,” Peterson says. “And so when you see the T-shirts, you’re like, ‘OK, she works at the junior high!’ So it’s like a family reunion in a way.” Besides attending informational sessions at the Tiger Share Fair, staff members get to stroll through a growing exhibit hall, which features booths from local businesses offering services from retirement and investment advice to car sales and even massage therapy. ▲ Staff members from all Mount Pleasant schools network over lunch during the Tiger Share Fair.

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▲Seniors at Nederland High School can begin hands-on electrician training to prepare them for post-graduation careers.

NEDERLAND ISD

Electrician apprenticeship program in Nederland prepares students for post-graduation employment

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ur increasingly high-tech world has put some jobs on the chopping block, but electrician isn’t one of them. Electricians are in high demand everywhere, but especially in Texas, where new construction is a constant. But, for the Beaumont Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (BEJATC), keeping up enrollment to meet the need for electricians in recent years has become a challenge. “Their numbers were slacking a little bit as far as people wanting to enter the apprenticeship,” says Bill Jardell, CTE director at Nederland ISD, near Beaumont. “And for those entering the apprenticeship, the average age was getting up there, around 28 years old.”

Looking to recruit new and younger apprentices to its program, BEJATC, in conjunction with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), reached out to Nederland ISD to invite high school seniors to get a head start on becoming electricians.

Superintendent Robin Perez

An opportunity for success Now in its fourth year, the partnership between Nederland and BEJATC is still going strong. As part of the Construction Technology program at Nederland High School, seniors can enter the electrician apprenticeship program early and get a foot in the door toward an in-demand career. > Nederland ISD, page 30 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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Normally, interested graduates enter the program after high school and spend five years as an apprentice. But Nederland High School students starting the program as seniors only have four years of apprenticeship ahead of them after graduation. “The program is designed for a high school senior to successfully complete the first year curriculum of the five-year program while still in high school,” says Nederland ISD Superintendent Robin Perez. “The student will complete DC theory and some hands-on training their senior year.” After graduation, these students attend a six-week summer course before applying for the apprenticeship program. So far in Nederland, a total of 12 students have completed the program and are now working through the apprenticeship, while nine current seniors are following in their footsteps. The class is offered as a block class, meaning students are in the class every day for an hour and a half, during which they do some of the electrical apprenticeship work alongside construction-type steelwork. To get into the apprenticeship after graduation, students must be interviewed and selected by the BEJATC board. Once they’re in, these graduates work 40-hour weeks while attending school two nights a month with the eventual goal of becoming a journeyman electrician in four years.

A peek into the potential While not every Nederland student who goes through the program enters the apprenticeship after graduation, Jardell says that it offers them a no-cost glimpse at the possibility, allowing them to see if electrician is the right job choice for them before they even graduate. “I’ve been in this business a long time and every year in April, seniors end up that they don’t know what they want to do,” Jardell says. “We give them an opportunity to see if this is something they may want to do. If they realize they don’t want to do it at the end, they can check that off their list and go try something else.”

►Through a partnership with BEJATC, Nederland High prepares students for in-demand careers as electricians.

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▲Nederland High School students who participate in the program graduate ready to enter a four-year electrician apprenticeship.

Jardell says the feedback from graduates who are now in the apprenticeship has been positive, so much so, many come back to the high school to recruit potential new students. One major perk for these graduates — apprentices earn a full-time salary while they’re going through the program. “They’re very pleased with it,” Jardell says. “They place them in jobs, so all of them are working and doing quite well. They make good money right out of high school, and the feedback has been great.” Perez agrees, and says that the program’s partners and sponsors are impressed with the results. “The program has exceeded BEJATC’s expectations to date,” Perez says. “It’s my belief that many of these former students will end up in a management/supervisor role because of their commitment and dedication toward the craft at an early age.”◄


▲Students in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD’s nursing pathway program graduate with their associate degrees in nursing, ready to enter the workforce in a much-needed area.

PHARR-SAN JUAN-ALAMO ISD

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo meets an extreme need with the nation’s first early college nursing program

T

he U.S. has been in desperate need of nurses for decades, and as our population grows and ages, that’s not a fact that’s changing anytime soon. According to Sigma Theta Tau, an international nursing organization, the supply of working registered nurses is expected to fall 20 percent short of requirements in 2010, just three short years away. In the Rio Grande Valley, this shortage is as real as it is anywhere else in the state. But in Pharr-San JuanAlamo (PSJA) ISD, a new program allows students to graduate from high school with their associate degrees in nursing (ADN), ready to enter the workforce.

One healthy partnership The first such program in the country, PSJA ISD’s nursing career pathway started in 2015, when district administrators looked into how they could better prepare their graduates to enter the workforce.

Superintendent Daniel King

“As our district started to meet with workforce solutions and higher ed partners, we looked for the need-based fields in our area, because we definitely want to encourage students to pursue those, where they’re actually going to find a job,” says Arianna Vazquez-Hernandez, director of communications and public information in the district. Hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley sometimes bring in nurses from overseas to fill the need, but Vasquez> Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, page 32 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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Hernandez says there was a desire to bring more local nurses to area hospitals, nurses who could speak English and Spanish fluently. “There was a need for creating that pipeline from our schools to the workforce,” Vasquez-Hernandez says. The district already had a great higher education partner in South Texas College, which has worked with PSJA ISD for more than a decade in other early college associate degree programs. This made pairing with the school’s nursing program to provide a similar early college plan an easy decision, though not necessarily an easy path.

‘We did the whole continuation of not only providing the ADN program from start to finish, but making sure we were providing support for them to be successful when testing for their boards.’ Brenda Ambuehl, nursing pathway coordinator

“It’s more demanding than your regular associate degree system, to actually get them into a specific program that’s very rigorous after school, but we did already have the groundwork ready,” Vasquez-Hernandez says. Eight seniors from PSJA ISD graduated from the two-year pilot program in May 2017, with their ADNs in hand, one week before receiving their high school diplomas. It was a big payoff for a huge amount of work, as students had to build their days around the college’s schedule.

This meant students split their days between high school and college classes, sometimes arriving at either campus early in the morning or staying as late as 7 p.m., and frequently attending classes on Saturdays. According to Brenda Ambuehl, the program’s coordinator, the scheduling required some juggling, but was worth it for the benefits it provides the students and the community. “We had to find staff that would teach these kids and stay late or come in a little earlier or on Saturday, so it was a lot of creative arranging,” Ambuehl says. After receiving their ADNs, the students have to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to be ready to enter the workforce. But their school won’t let them go it alone — these students receive support even after graduating as they take the final steps to becoming registered nurses. “We did the whole continuation of not only providing the ADN

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program from start to finish, but making sure we were providing support for them to be successful when testing for their boards,” Ambuehl says. So far, half of the students have taken the board test, while some chose to go on to college and may take the test at a later date.

A healing future Some of the graduates have been hired by local hospitals already and are working in the area. Many of the students are continuing their nursing educations, working toward their bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSN) through a local ADN to BSN bridge program. Three of the graduates from the pilot program have gone on to fouryear colleges outside of the area, including Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Austin and Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. These students don’t have access to the direct BSN bridge program, but because they already have their ADNs, they have a leg up for pursing bachelor’s degrees in nursing at their schools. And their high school isn’t leaving them behind. “I’m still tracking all the students,” Ambuehl says. “We are monitoring the kids, making sure their life plan is still on track.” Because this was a pilot program, it’s currently on hold, as the district, the college and a private partner, the Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance, must go before the Texas Board of Nursing, which gaved the program the go-ahead back in 2015. The board will decide if anything in the program needs to be revised or if PSJA ISD can continue with the second cohort. In the meantime, the district is running a program called Project Heal, in collaboration with the same partners. Functioning as an intro to nursing for young students, Project Heal is designed to get students ready for participating in the ADN pathway. “It’s a prerequisite to get into the program, and that way we’re working with the students already, and if they give us a green light, then we already have a class full of students who will be eligible and ready to go,” Vasquez-Hernandez says. For such a new program, the feedback has already been outstanding, locally. One of the graduates even scored a 99.9 on a test designed to predict how she would do on the board’s exam. “The partners have all said glorious things about our students,” Ambuehl says. “They felt the kids were ready, prepared, and they didn’t have any reservations as far as them going out to work in the field.” Ambuehl is understandably proud of the first graduates of PSJA ISD’s groundbreaking program, and hopes she gets to see many more students graduate with their ADNs, ready to enter a workforce that needs them desperately. “These kids were dedicated day and night to the program, they worked so hard to get there and once they did, they were in disbelief at the accomplishment they just had,” Ambuehl says. “It’s a great opportunity for them as well as our district, and it was a really positive program to coordinate.”◄


▲ Students in Southwest ISD sing at an anti-harassment, anti-bullying rally.

SOUTHWEST ISD

Administrators and parents team up to prevent bullying in Southwest ISD

B

ullying is a hot topic, seemingly on everyone’s tongue these days, especially when you consider the relatively new phenomena that is cyberbullying. Parents are worried, and as online confrontations spill over into the next school day, the onus of keeping children safe at school often falls on administrators.

Jesse Garcia

In the San Antonio area, one school district has created a new program designed not only to stop bullying as it’s happening, but to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. For Jesse Garcia, executive director of community partnerships in Southwest ISD, it’s a problem that

can only be helped by education … for all. “The word ‘bullying’ was kind of taking on a personality of its own within the district,” Garcia says. “So three years ago we decided to put together a steering group, and that’s our Anti-Harassment, Anti-Bullying group.”

Superintendent Lloyd Verstuyft

This Anti-Harassment, Anti-Bullying group, referred to as AHA-B in the district, was designed in a unique way from other anti-bullying efforts, as administrators applied a business and production model to the plan. On one hand, you have the steering group, made up of district employees, and on the other, a community task force is made up of parents and students, > Southwest ISD, page 34 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2017-2018 Texas School Business

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many of whom have experienced harassment at school. Together, these groups have come up with a plan for preventing bullying in Southwest in a positive way.

An environment of kindness The AHA-B program in Southwest is multifaceted, with the steering group and task force holding regular meetings separately and together. The groups have created several activities designed to bring kindness back to campuses in Southwest and focus on the good things about their fellow students. An art contest allows students to create motivational anti-bullying artwork, which is displayed on campuses in Southwest ISD to keep kindness on the forefront of students’ minds. Another popular part of the program is the AHA-B Sign Spinners, a group of 50 middle and high school students who perform at district events and elementary assemblies while promoting an anti-bullying message. At the end of last school year, the groups held an AHA-B rally where more than 1,500 students and parents attended, including the family of David Molak, a San Antonio student who took his own life in 2016 as a result of cyberbullying. During the rally, experts came and spoke to the students and their parents about how they can prevent bullying, in person and online. “It was a big culminating event for the work that we do all year,” Garcia says. Students in Southwest ISD are encouraged to participate in positivity building exercises as part of the program, such as a challenge to do one kind activity for someone outside of school, then return and discuss it with peers. “We’re trying to get the kids to be more aware of every action that they take, whether they’re at school or away from school,” Garcia says. “We encourage them to have those actions be more positive than negative.” School staff and other experts are also on hand to talk to students about behaving properly online, from considering the cyber profiles they leave behind to understanding how easy it is to post or text things you wouldn’t normally say to someone’s face.

The goal of the AHA-B program is to focus on prevention instead of intervention. By helping students be more conscious of their words and actions, Garcia says the district has seen a reduction in referrals and a decrease in out-of-school suspensions. “Most importantly, I think the kids are just more aware,” Garcia says. “And the more we do the younger they are, we think it’s going to have an even bigger impact when they get to middle school.”

The B word For Garcia, one of the biggest benefits of the AHA-B program is that the word “bullying” doesn’t get thrown around as much as it used to. “For a while there, every parent who came in was using it, the kids were all using it, and it was really hard to distinguish who was actually getting bullied,” Garcia says. David’s Law, a law passed after Molak’s death, requires every incident that is referred to as “bullying” be reported quickly, so having parents and students understand the significance of the word can help serious harassment cases get more appropriate attention. Southwest ISD Superintendent Lloyd Verstuyft believes that the AHA-B program has given the district a chance to push for intervention and prevention with a goal of decreasing the number of incidents that occur. “The AHA-B group has brought awareness and conversation to our staff, family and community about how important it is to stay involved in our students’ lives,” Verstuyft says. “It has also given us a chance to provide support and redirection for both the bully and the victim when we have an incident.” Garcia agrees, and hopes to see the program continue to grow and thrive in Southwest in a way that further benefits students and makes their schools safe, positive environments for learning. “We are constantly looking for strategies that the campuses can use to focus on that prevention method as opposed to dealing with situations more and more on a daily basis.”◄

A team effort Parents are a big part of the AHA-B program. The district sent out bullying surveys to all district parents, and the response was overwhelming. “I can send a survey home right now on lunch information and I’ll get back 100 of them, but we sent one out on bullying, and we got back 2,400,” Garcia says. The district holds quarterly meetings where parents are invited to share their views on bullying in Southwest and get helpful tips on how to protect their own children. This frequent parental involvement lets the district know when and where bullying is occurring, and in turn helps parents learn how to better address the newer aspects of cyberbullying. “We talk to them about checking on their kids with their devices,” Garcia says. “In some cases, it’s an awareness thing, like, ‘I didn’t know that I needed to be checking my kids’ phones.’”

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▲ The AHA-B Sign Spinners perform for students and families at the rally.


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