B LOOMI N G GR OV E I S D
A LDIN E IS D
C YP R E S S FA I R B A NKS I S D
FO RT BEN D IS D
F R A NKS TON ISD
KA RNACK IS D
N E W TON I S D
A NNUA L
N O RTH EA S T IS D
ROYS E C I TY IS D
S U N N YVA L E ISD
WEST OS O I S D
Texas School Business
Houston Independent School District
Maximizing your SHARS Billing and SHARS Cost Report?
We can help! 25 years of experience and the LEADER in SHARS revenue and school‐based Medicaid consulting services with expertise in all Medicaid requirements – serving more than half of the Medicaid eligible Special Education population in Texas.
Complete SHARS and MAC program needs l Web‐based SHARS Billing System l IEP and One‐Way Trip Ratios l eSHARS University ‐ Onsite and Online Trainings
l RMTS Participant List
l Medicaid Claims Management
l Audit Protocol and Regulatory Compliance for Federal or State Medicaid Review and Audits
l SHARS Cost Report
l MAC Financials
School Districts in Partnership to Achieve Excellence TM
From the editor
e are proud to celebrate our 10th year of producing Bragging Rights, which shines a spotlight on 12 districts doing phenomenal work in their schools. This year, we pored over nearly 200 nominations to arrive at the 2016-2017 winners. The districts showcased in the 10th annual special issue represent large, urban cities and small, rural towns. Excellence comes in all sizes. You’ll find stories of programs that empower students, teachers and entire school communities to be their best selves. You will read how administrators and teachers are bringing technology and innovation to the forefront in their schools. You’ll see how a small group of individuals — or even one person — can effect change across a district or even a state.
We hope that you’ll take these stories personally, in that you will see the potential to implement similar initiatives in your districts. I encourage you to reach out and start the conversation if there’s a story in this issue that inspires you to act. Every featured district expressed a willingness to share their experience and expertise with their peers in public education. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn from each other and create even more reasons to brag about Texas public schools!
Katie Ford Editorial Director
B LO O MI NG G R OV E I S D
ALDI NE ISD
CY PR E S S FAI R B ANKS I S D
F R ANKS TO N ISD
FO RT BEND I SD
19 KAR NAC K I S D
NE W TO N I S D
Texas School Business (ISSN 0563-2978 USPS 541-620)
NO RTH E AS T I S D
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Volume LXIII, Issue 9 406 East 11th Street Austin, Texas 78701 Phone: 512-477-6361 Fax: 512-482-8658 www.texasschoolbusiness.com EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Katie Ford DESIGN Phaedra Strecher
ADVERTISING SALES MANAGER Ann M. Halstead
PEARLAND I SD
TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS
31 R OYS E CI TY I S D
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Johnny L. Veselka ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SERVICES AND SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATION Ann M. Halstead DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA RELATIONS Amy Francisco 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.
33 SUNNYVALE I SD
WEST OSO ISD
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Texas Association of School Administrators, 406 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701. Â© Copyright 2016 Texas Association of School Administrators
Take ownership of the writing process with PEG Writing from Measurement Incorporated For 35 years, Measurement Incorporated® (MI) has been a partner in education, providing test creation, performance assessment scoring, and psychometric services to schools and professional organizations. PEG Writing®, the web-based formative assessment program from MI, improves student writing through practice, feedback, and guided instructional support. PEG®, our industry-leading automated essay scoring engine, is the power lying behind our contemporary, intuitive interface. With PEG Writing, teachers can: • Assign prepackaged prompts or create their own • Collaborate easily with students and other teachers • Provide detailed feedback as students practice skills • View real-time reports on student progress All in one place. All at the same time.
“It’s what we as teachers have been doing for years– lessons, ideas, prompts, rubrics, feedback, and scores–all organized into one place.” -Jordan Garnett, Roxboro, NC Winner, Outstanding Young Educator, 2016
To learn more, visit pegwriting.com.
© 2016 Measurement Incorporated
▲ Aldine ISD instructional technology specialists, known as iTechs, pose for a post-conference “family photo” with “Emmett” from “The LEGO Movie.” The 2016 theme of the Technology and Curriculum Conference of Aldine was “Building the Tech Future.”
Free annual technology conference attracts thousands of educators by Ford Gunter
handful of years ago, Aldine ISD’s instructional technology specialists, known as iTechs, noticed a trend of classroom technology tools ending up on the shelf, unused, in supply closets. At best, teachers would relegate document cameras and laptops to the computer lab — which was better than a supply closet, but it completely missed Aldine ISD’s goal of inspiring blended learning environments in its schools.
“When we buy good equipment and good digital tools and teachers are scared of them, that’s a concern for us,” says Aldine ISD Director of Instructional Technology Akilah Willery. “It was something we saw repeating over and over again on different campuses.”
Instead of seeing this as a problem, Willery says her department viewed it as an opportunity.
Superintendent Wanda Bamberg
The iTechs began brainstorming with district leaders about how to boost teacher confidence levels when it came to using technology in the classroom. Their brainstorming resulted in the Technology and Curriculum Conference of Aldine (TCCA). “We decided we would market it as technology and curriculum together, so people didn’t think it was only for computer literacy teachers or technology teachers,” Willery says. “We wanted to attract core content teachers.”
> Aldine ISD, page 8 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
> Aldine ISD continued from page 7
Officially, TCCA is a one-day professional development conference focused on integrating technology into classrooms and curricula. Unofficially, it’s a celebration of breaking down technological barriers and introducing teachers and students to the possibilities of education technology. Open to both teachers and administrators and free to attend, TCCA has grown from 250 participants the first year, in 2011, to more than 3,500 registered participants at the 2016 conference, which took place in October at Davis High School. Last year, attendees represented 73 school districts, 40 private schools, 10 universities and a home school. This year’s conference attracted a similar audience.
‘[TCCA] has truly allowed our iTechs to lead and encourage their colleagues to grow beyond technology as gadgets and gimmicks to technology as an integral part of instruction.’ — Superintendent Wanda Bamberg
For the first conference, presenters and experts came from across Aldine ISD and the Houston area. Event organizers partnered with vendors who helped provide the budget to host the event. Now, the conference features about 150 invited — and sometimes paid —speakers and vendors. They present their thoughts, theories and technology tools in TEDstyle talks and through exhibitor booths. Presenters at this year’s TCCA included industry thought leaders Jennifer Magiera, Angela Maiers and Todd Nesloney. Aldine ISD students also get to shine at TCCA. This past fall, middle school students presented a mobile app they designed. At last year’s conference, a fifth grader led a session on learning in a paperless classroom.
“She came with her mom, and they stayed the day,” Willery recalls. “She was pretty much a mini-superstar after that.” In addition to showcasing what students can achieve through technology, TCCA emphasizes peer-to-peer education. Says Willery: “We like teachers who can say, ‘This works with kids. This works in the classroom.’” She says this approach puts teachers at ease. “Buying the stuff is easy, but actually sitting with a teacher and coaching them through using it, that takes more time and effort,” Willery says. “A lot of districts spend money on the stuff, but we’re spending money on learning how to use it. TCCA is really just our big party to celebrate this.” Aldine ISD Superintendent Wanda Bamberg says the conference is comprehensive in its coverage.
“I am impressed by the number of attendees, their enthusiasm for the information and the quality of the sessions,” she says. “I’m amazed at the things our teachers use to teach students and communicate with parents and colleagues.” TCCA has become a year-round project. Planning for the 2017 conference started two days after this year’s event ended. Logistics now include tasks such as identifying overflow parking lots and coordinating shuttle buses to campus. At this year’s conference, sponsor and vendor support ensured $10,000 in door prizes and free boxed lunches for attendees. Aldine ISD culinary arts students catered a breakfast and lunch for the presenters. Three years ago, TCCA joined forces with Area 4 of the Texas Computer Education Association, which hosts its annual conference every February. “We cross-market our events, and it helps a lot,” Willery says. “They have given us a lot of guidance in planning an event like this.” TCCA has spawned a number of district-wide initiatives that are part of Aldine ISD’s larger instruction technology program, Willery says. iTech Nation is a twice-daily, 45-minute, live webcast devoted solely to technology instruction. It counts toward professional development credits. The live format is imperative, Willery says, so that teachers can ask questions in real-time. Level Up is an online course on integrating technology. Offering six hours of professional development credit, the course introduces new technology and then shows participants how to teach that technology to students and peers. Lastly, Innovate Academy offers tools for principals who need to bring their campuses up to future-ready standards. TCCA’s success can be seen in the rising demand for Aldine ISD iTechs outside the district. Aldine ISD staff members routinely make presentations to other districts on how to host tech-related events. “That’s the best feedback we get,” Willery says. “I get those emails almost weekly. We do it all the time, with joy. We’re glad to go around to other districts to help with their events.” Aldine ISD iTechs also make presentations at larger events, such as the International Society of Technology in Education’s annual conference, which was held this past year in Denver, Colo. “[TCCA] has truly allowed our iTechs to lead and encourage their colleagues to grow beyond technology as gadgets and gimmicks to technology as an integral part of instruction,” Bamberg says. Willery muses at the simplicity of TCCA’s early days, when “100 Ways to Use a Document Camera” — essentially, a session devoted to what to do with an overhead projector — was one of the most popular sessions. These days, the breakout sessions cover more advanced terrain, but the focus of the conference remains the same: Get teachers excited about integrating technology in their classrooms. “We’ve worked very hard to make sure the conference stays free,” Willery says. “By the time it rolls around, we just want teachers to show up and have fun.” FORD GUNTER is a freelance writer and filmmaker in Houston.
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
▲ Korri Owens (fourth from left) and her fellow honors English I classmates created a variety of book-related projects for their Mane Event booth, titled, “Words are Life: Expressions of ‘The Book Thief.’”
BLOOMING GROVE ISD
‘Mane Event’ inspires teachers, students and community by Leila Kalmbach
n the middle of acres upon acres of farmland between Hillsboro and Corsicana sits the town of Blooming Grove. No one could blame a person for driving through it and never noticing the school.
the past year to bring the district’s total enrollment up to 950 — which is 250 more people than live in the town. (The district serves a 60-mile radius of farmland around the town.)
In fact, it’s easy to miss the town itself.
That growth can be attributed largely to a 2.5-hour event this past May — the inaugural Mane Event, socalled because of the district’s lion mascot.
“We have a Family Dollar, one gas station, a library, a post office,” says Jessica Lee, Blooming Grove ISD’s director of curriculum and federal programs. “The library is only open three days a week. There’s one bank, one little café that’s only open for lunch. And that’s all there is in Blooming Grove.”
Despite the town’s small size, Blooming Grove ISD is on the rise. It grew by a whopping 120 students in
Superintendent Marshall Harrison
Following a science fair format, the Mane Event showcases student work and achievements from every grade level, student club and academic/athletic program in the district. At the inaugural event, there were booths for Section 504, ESL, student council and even the girls’ powerlifting team. The school nurse gave out health-related information and forms for the > Blooming Grove ISD, page 10 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
> Blooming Grove ISD continued from page 9
◄ A kindergarten student describes the state map she researched and created for a Mane Event booth called “Kinder Maps Out of America.” Each student in kindergarten was assigned a state. The students had to report five facts about the state and then decorate their states based on their facts.
free and reduced lunch program. One class built robots for the event; another incubated chicks. High school students performed a song they had written about “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Kindergarteners recited facts on states. The booths went on and on, taking up two gyms, a patio, a hallway and the school auditorium.
“The response from our school and community was miraculous, and the students were so proud to show their parents what they had learned and accomplished over the school year,” Price says.
“It was a student-led open house on steroids,” muses Superintendent Marshall Harrison, who says the event will be an annual affair.
Students weren’t the only ones who were excited about the Mane Event. Lee and Harrison estimate that more than 1,500 people were in attendance. When it was over, organizers had to politely shoo away stragglers who wouldn’t leave.
While Blooming Grove ISD is not the first district to put on a yearend showcase for the community, the Mane Event stands out because it is 100 percent led by students. Every detail — from the event name to the promotional artwork to the projects showcased — is the work of Blooming Grove ISD students.
“The true telltale for me is when people who don’t have any vested interest in the school — maybe they don’t have any grandkids up here or their kids are grown — but they came to the Mane Event anyway, and they talked about it in the churches and they talked about it in the post office,” says Harrison.
Students at the event were ready at each booth to tell visitors about their projects or, in many cases, to help visitors experience the project. For instance, the chemistry and physics classes performed live experiments for onlookers. The school band played. Social studies students performed a scripted medieval dinner party, complete with student-made costumes.
Blooming Grove ISD hasn’t always had this level of community involvement — or such fun projects to show off to the community. When Lee started in the district one year ago, things were very different.
“It was amazing,” says M’Lissa Price, the high school’s family and consumer science teacher.
Price sponsors the local chapter of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a national career and technical student nonprofit organization. Price says the Mane Event was a way for her students to show the community what FCCLA competitions are all about. FCCLA students from Blooming Grove ISD competed at the state level last year, and one student advanced to nationals.
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
“Having worked in larger districts, one of the things I noticed was that Blooming Grove was kind of stuck in 1982,” Lee says, referring to the district’s “very traditional” take on teaching. “I challenged teachers to get outside their comfort zones, to think outside the box. If there was one thing that was evident about all my teachers, it was that they were very passionate about their students and wanted to be more student-centered, but they didn’t know how to make that happen.” As much as the Mane Event is a community outreach event, it also is designed to inspire teachers to explore project-based learning throughout the year. The event also offers students a chance to practice their communication and presentation skills. Korri Owens, now a sophomore at Blooming Grove High School, presented an honors English class project on the novel “The Book Thief.”
“As people stopped at our booth, we explained to them what we took away from the book, which was how strong and powerful words can be — and how people can interpret the same words differently,” she says. “As a student, it was awesome to see how much support we have from our teachers, administration and community.” Lee Owens
Her mother, Lee Owens, agrees.
“I could feel such excitement and buzz from the students, faculty and administrators when I walked into the Mane Event,” she says. “There was a huge amount of coordination and cooperation among students and instructors, and I could see the pride with which students represented each booth.” Jon Southard, president of Blooming Grove ISD School Board, admits he was “shocked” at how well the inaugural event turned out. “To be quite honest with you, I couldn’t believe that the students and the teachers had time to tackle something that was so large and detailed; it was all-encompassing,” he says. “I was very impressed with the scope of the work the kids had done.” Southard knows more about Blooming Grove ISD than most. He is the parent of a district first gradJon Southard er and two alumni — and a Blooming Grove ISD alum himself. He laughs when asked whether the district has changed since he attended school there. “Oh, definitely,” he says. “It’s different than it was four years ago! The teachers seem to have really stepped up in getting outside their comfort zones and reaching those kids.” For other districts inspired to organize a similar event, Lee says it is important to have an extremely organized staff member who can
manage the details leading up to the event. She also recommends holding the event on a Monday and closing off the event area the Thursday before to give teachers plenty of time to set up. Of course, student input and buy-in are crucial. “The key is for the teachers to know that it’s about the kids,” Lee says, who suggests that teachers ask their students what they are most proud of and let them decide what they will showcase.
A breakdown of costs The inaugural event was easy to swing financially. The district spent $600 on table rentals, $200 on plastic tablecloths to serve as backdrops and $200 to $300 on miscellaneous supplies. Expenses were drawn out of the general supply fund and split over the district’s three campuses. Even better, the expenses were mostly offset by a concession stand at the event. “You’re just saving student projects from the year, so you don’t really need anything else. It’s what you already have in your room or what kids are already doing,” says Lee. “The key is just to have the teachers save the projects.” The Mane Event payoff has been huge. If Blooming Grove ISD’s increasing enrollment doesn’t speak for itself, Lee says she already has kids telling her what projects they want to do for this year’s event — and they were telling her as early as six weeks into the school year. Lee also recalls a comment one second grader made at the close of the first Mane Event. Says Lee: “She came up to me, and she said, ‘Today was the best day ever, because I got to tell everybody about why I love school so much!’” LEILA KALMBACH is a freelance writer in Austin.
‘It was a studentled open house on steroids.’ — Superintendent Marshall Harrison
► Second graders dress up as Roman soldiers for their booth, “Vacation Under the Volcano,” based on a book that offered insight to life in ancient Rome and volcano science. BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
▲Cheryl Brehm, a PPCD paraeducator at Danish Elementary School, looks on as kindergarten and first grade students “go fishing” at Camp Summit.
Camp Summit helps students reach new literacy heights by Merri Rosenberg
ummer camp is fun. Summer school is not.
What about a program that’s a mash-up of both those institutions, offering students a way to learn in a more palatable way?
About 2,700 students participated in the six-week program this past summer.
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD may have found that sweet spot in Camp Summit, an innovative literacy intervention program for lagging and struggling readers. “The goal of Camp Summit is to improve reading levels for students who struggle with reading and to decrease the ‘summer slide,’” when students lose some of the gains they may have made during the previous academic year, explains Superintendent Mark Henry. Now in its third year, Camp Summit is designed for students in kindergarten through second grade who are reading at six months or more below grade level.
Superintendent Mark Henry
“What’s unique is that we’re starting before the third grade year,” says Linda Macias, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction and accountability. “When we dug into the data, we saw our third grade reading scores were going down.”
When they examined the data even further, according to Macias, they noticed there were “kids not reading on grade level at all campuses — not just Title 1.” > Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, page 14 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
> Cypress-Fairbanks ISD continued from page 13
Camp Summit Principal Angela Akin-Fonville, who serves as the assistant principal at Emery Elementary School, adds: “There were some students who just needed a little more time. There were others who didn’t make growth and needed intervention over the summer.” The administrators decided to offer Camp Summit at nine sites throughout the district to reach stuAngela Akindents from all 54 elementary schools. To further Fonville reduce barriers to participation, the district committed to transporting every child. The schools selected for Camp Summit also had capacity to feed the children, which was important, because 75 percent of the campers came from impoverished households. Macias further explains that more than half of Camp Summit participants have limited English language proficiency, 15 percent were identified as special education students, and 60 percent were boys. “We focused on a fun literary experience for them, so kids would stay motivated, and we sought the very best teachers,” Macias says. At Camp Summit, don’t expect to see reading sheets or students working in near silence. Conversation is encouraged to strengthen speaking and social skills. In keeping with the theme, some teachers even pitch tents in their classrooms. This past summer, a professional storyteller invited students to look at stories in a different way. For instance, students reading “Three Billy Goats Gruff ” were invited to design a bridge that could support the goats and be tall enough to clear the troll. Says Macias: “It all ties back to reading and writing; although, the kids don’t realize that.” Teacher Virginia Partridge agrees, saying: “They bump three or four levels in their reading; it’s the entire package.” One of Camp Summit’s major distinctions from the regular school year is the way it groups students by reading level, versus grade level. Students do intensive reading intervention twice a day in small groups. They also work on phonics instruction twice a day and engage in scientific experiments and other hands-on activities. All lessons are designed in 30-minute segments to keep the activities fresh and engaging. Students can take home new books to practice reading skills, and they are given three to five books to keep. Camp Summit also weaves social skills into the agenda to support students who have difficulties with teachers and/or peers.
“Because of the way our (Camp Summit) teachers are teaching, principals send novice teachers who then observe these master teachers in action,” says Macias. Perhaps most significant, Akin-Fonville adds, is the way the program offers both consistency and motivation among students. “Some of our students had been so frustrated that they had learned behaviors to get out of class,” she says. “Our teachers built strong relationships quickly with students.” One reason the program resonates so much with students and their families, Akin-Fonville suggests, is Camp Summit’s emphasis on positive motivation. “We celebrate every success,” she says. At the end of every week, Camp Summit celebrated “camp champs,” where students could receive certificates acknowledging good attendance, improved reading levels and so much more. Programs like Camp Summit work only when there is a serious, ongoing financial commitment from the district, Macias advises. “We are committed to this, and the board is committed to this,” says Macias, who notes that Camp Summit costs the district about $1 million per summer. Adds Superintendent Henry: “The board of trustees and I support Camp Summit because it has provided thousands of students with the opportunity to improve their reading skills and the confidence to succeed in school.” If other districts want to implement a program like Camp Summit, Macias says forming an organizational committee is the key to a successful launch. In Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, they sought principals who had an early literacy background to serve on the committee. Together, committee members identified the criteria for student and teacher selection, funding sources, and providers of materials and resources. Ultimately, the goal of Camp Summit transcends improved test scores and higher reading levels — as important as those aims are. “We just want kids to love reading,” says Akin-Fonville. MERRI ROSENBERG, a freelance writer and editor, is a former education columnist for The New York Times Westchester section.
Macias and her team developed the Camp Summit curriculum, which they continue to oversee. The district provides the supplies for the 279 teachers, who receive higher stipends than usual for a summer program. So far, the results are more than encouraging. For this past summer’s participants, 80 percent went up one or more reading levels, and 93 percent didn’t show regression in reading levels — or evidence of “summer melt.” For earlier cohorts, 87 percent of the students did not show regression in reading levels. Also, 63 percent of the 2014 summit participants who took the 2015 STAAR either met the standard or were close to it. In third grade assessment scores, there were 74 percent reading at grade level in 2015. This past year, it inched up to 79 percent. In fourth grade, the percentage of students reading at grade level went up from 75 percent in 2015 to 81 percent in 2016. Another benefit? More than 100 teachers had the chance to participate in professional development opportunities at Camp Summit.
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
▲ A Cypress-Fairbanks ISD first grader settles into a tent for some summer reading at Camp Summit.
▲Oakland Elementary student Deslyn Chaisson (second from left) and members of the Fort Bend ISD Digital Learning Department smile for the “paparazzi.” Team members (from left to right) include Jessica Mozisek, Corlette Hill and Fred Benitez.
FORT BEND ISD
Computer skills mastery plays starring role in film festival by Ford Gunter
t was a debut fitting of a Hollywood story.
The inaugural Fort Bend ISD Film Festival — complete with an awards ceremony and red carpet entrance — showcased the work of 54 student finalists and ultimately recognized 17 first place winners. The finalists represented a cross-section of elementary, middle school and high school students. The festival, held in April 2016, is the brainchild of the Fort Bend ISD Digital Learning Department, a team of 24 specialists whose mission is to help teachers and students integrate technology into classrooms. Because the district does not offer computer classes until high school, the digital learning coordinators must weave classroom technology and digital skills into core subjects for elementary and middle school students.
“We have to ensure students master computers by the end of the eighth grade school year,” says digital learning coordinator Corlette Hill.
Superintendent Charles Dupre
A film festival, it turns out, provided the perfect platform for inspiring digital mastery among Fort Bend ISD students. As a first step, the digital learning coordinators introduced a crash course in filmmaking at the district’s 75 campuses in the fall of 2015. The initiative demanded that the coordinators themselves learn new skills. They already knew how to shoot and edit film because of the professional development videos they produce, but they had to learn the fine art of storyboarding — or creating sketches of shots and sequences that tell a story — to map out a film’s narrative. They also had to learn how to organize and > Fort Bend ISD, page 16 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
> Fort Bend ISD continued from page 15
host a film festival. The team members looked to their superintendent, Charles Dupre, for this latter skill. “Our superintendent came from Pflugerville ISD, and they were already doing film festivals in that district,” explains Hill. To fund the initiative, Hill applied for and received a grant from the Fort Bend Education Foundation. With the pieces in place, the digital learning coordinators got busy creating the course and planning the festival. “Any school can host a film festival,” says digital learning coordinator Jessica Mozisek. “Ours is different because we’re not just asking students to submit films; we’re showing them the entire creative process. They don’t even know that they’re learning.” The team wanted to make sure that every student who expressed interest in entering the festival could produce a film. Therefore, they set it up so that parents of students could check out film gear from the school if necessary. Students throughout the district were invited to submit G-rated, short films in six categories: animation, book trailer, campus challenge (related to school spirit), documentary, music video and narrative. Students also had to follow industry standards. “They had to stay in the bounds of fair use,” Mozisek says, explaining that students could not, for example, shoot a music video to a Jay-Z song. They had to either find music in the public domain (not subject to copyright) or compose and perform the music themselves. Students also had to secure releases to film on certain locations, and everybody who appeared on camera had to sign talent releases. Fort Bend ISD students rose to the challenge, as the district’s first film festival drew 240 entries, representing the work of 530 students from 36 schools.
Festival night The festival awards ceremony opened with a red carpet parade of participants, complete with “stop and pop” photo ops and interviews from an “eager reporter,” played by one of the digital learning coordinators. Local news anchor Randy McIlvoy emceed the event, which was held in one of the district high school auditoriums. “To see the talent that exists at all levels of our district is amazing,” says Superintendent Dupre. “Even after 20 years in education, the creativity of our students never ceases to amaze me.” One documentary addressed poverty in America. Another issued a chilling, first-person warning against drunk driving. Titled “Jamie,” the film tells the story of a student whose life was forever altered after he chose to drive while intoxicated. The film went on to be a finalist in the Texas Independent Film Festival last spring. The campus challenge category inspired students to engage in innovative technology — from aerial drone photography to a blended mosaic of the faces of every student at one of the high schools. “The film festival gave our students an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity,” says Dupre, “but it also left all of the adults in attendance inspired.” The film festival built community among students from different campuses, who might not have met otherwise. “It’s been a ripple effect,” Hill says. “The kids started making connections. A couple of winners from last spring are now roommates at NYU.”
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
▲Crockett Middle School student Ethan Scheithauer walks the red carpet with his mother, Rebecca Scheithauer.
In its first year, the Fort Bend ISD Film Festival has exceeded Hill’s goals. Those goals included imparting technology application lessons on creativity and innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making, digital citizenship (copyright, fair use, licensing, information-sourcing), and technology operations and concept. “It’s validating to see the kids who are off doing it by themselves now,” she says. “I love it when parents come up to me and say, ‘I didn’t even know he was interested in this.’” Production is well underway for several films targeting the spring 2017 festival. “They’re already creating content,” Hill says with a laugh. “I’m afraid of the number of entrants. I just had a teacher check out a whole MacBook cart.” If Hill and her team are surprised by the success, Dupre sounds like he knew it was coming. It’s perfectly in keeping with the superintendent’s noble-but-no-bull philosophy of education. “We exist to inspire and equip all students to pursue a future beyond what they can imagine,” he says. “We’re preparing them for jobs that do not exist yet, and what they learn in the filmmaking process will benefit students for years to come, regardless of their career paths.” While Dupre can vouch for the macro vision, Mozisek, a former teacher, is seeing the change on a micro level. “Only three years ago, I was in the classroom,” she says. “It’s such a struggle every day to get students excited about the content, but we’ve been able to get them excited about learning. That’s so hard to find in education today.” FORD GUNTER is a writer and filmmaker in Houston.
▲Physics teacher Monte Regester calls parents to let them know about the awesome things their children are doing in school.
Parents say they have no hang-ups with phone call initiative By Bobby Hawthorne
ammy Williams’ fourth child is a junior at Frankston High School. Her name is Baylee, and she’s a junior by every possible measuring stick. She’s a great kid. Out of bed at 5 each morning. “Straight A” student. Cross country. Varsity volleyball. She even holds down a part-time job.
call parents unless something is wrong, and Tammy concedes that she has had more than a few of these conversations regarding her first three children, all Frankston High grads.
“She’s very different from our other children,” Tammy says. “I’ve had to figure out what we did differently as parents to end up with her.”
And so, Tammy braced for the worst.
But as solid a student as Baylee is, when Tammy’s mobile phone rang and she noticed the call was coming from the school, she immediately thought: “Oh, dear me. What has she done wrong?” Tammy thought that because she has been conditioned to think that. Teachers and principals don’t
Superintendent John Allen
“They didn’t always act very well in school,” she admits. The initiator of the call was Baylee’s physics teacher, Monte Regester — one of Baylee’s favorite teachers, by the way. “To my surprise, he told me what an awesome student she was, how great she was doing in her studies, how helpful she was, what a pleasure she was to have in > Frankston ISD, page 18 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
>Frankston ISD continued from page 17
class, that he appreciated her so much,” Tammy recalls. “I was flabbergasted.” Regester’s call was sincere. Baylee is a great student, a great kid.
The positive vibe shunts discipline problems, because students know teachers, administrators and parents are connected — for better and for worse.
But Frankston ISD is full of great kids. It’s a country school in a little country town of fewer than 1,400 people. Like all East Texas towns, it has its antique shops and curios and one Dairy Queen and a fried chicken/chicken fried steak/barbecue joint. It’s about as Mayberry as it gets.
“I have seen one-day turnarounds, where I call a parent one day and then the next day, the student comes in and his or her whole disposition has changed,” Regester says. “Anybody who knows anything knows that when you do positive things, you get positive results, and that’s all we’ve seen.”
The problem is, until two years ago, the school was a bummer. The hallways were blank and bleak. There was zero school spirit. Every little thing was deemed a problem. Chewing gum in class resulted in a chewing out or a phone call to parents. The place was about as festive as a funeral parlor.
“When a parent gets a phone call from a teacher, naturally you expect bad news,” junior Becca Bacon says. “So, it’s awesome to receive positive reinforcement now and then for paying attention in class or being respectful or helping another student.”
So, what do the students think about these calls?
And then, Donnie Lee showed up as the new principal.
A varsity softball left-fielder, Becca says her mom has received at least three such calls, and it never gets old.
“When I arrived here, you could feel a cloud of negativity when you walked into the building,” Lee says. “Teachers were upset all the time. Turnover rate was high. Nothing was celebrated. Everything was a problem. Of course, when parents noticed Donny Lee the phone ringing and it said ‘Frankston ISD,’ they were apprehensive about picking it up. Now, they’re excited about it.”
““Now, teachers are looking for and recognizing not only the people who act up but also those who are behaving and performing well,” she says. “It’s nice that [these students are] receiving as much attention for doing good as some others might get for doing something that isn’t so good.”
The major factor in this environmental shift has been the Positive Phone Call Initiative, in which each staff member is expected to call one parent per week and tell them something positive about their child. The teacher must speak directly to a parent. No emails or voicemails. No text messages. Because the school has approximately 30 staff members, that translates into about 120 calls per month. “There’s just so much to celebrate at school,” Lee says. “More than 75 to 85 percent of the phone calls generated by schools — across the nation — are negative. Teachers only call parents when something bad happens, so, of course, parents are conditioned to expect something negative when the phone rings and they see it’s from the school. So, we flipped that model. “We’re going to phone home when great things happen,” the principal says. “What that does is when we do have to call a parent about something negative — which, of course, still occurs from time to time — we can say, ‘Johnny’s been doing awesome. You’ve received several calls from his teachers. We’re so proud of him, but he’s had a hiccup, and we need to address that.’ Now, the bad news is in context.” Superintendent John Allen agrees. “This initiative provides a more balanced approach to how we talk with parents about our children, building bridges of trust and cooperation among our schools and our parents that are essential to realizing the vision of our schools and our school district,” he says. The result? “We’ve never had the morale as high as it is now,” says Regester, who teaches a full slate of high school science courses, as well as a robotics class for seventh and eighth graders. He is in his third year in Frankston ISD, after teaching in several larger districts nearby. He describes Frankston ISD as “kind of an oasis.” “Teachers are in tune with the kids and each other,” he says. “In fact, it’s the highest morale I’ve experienced on an campus anywhere.”
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
Of course, Becca is hardly a troublemaker, so it comes as no big surprise that her parents might receive several of these calls. In fact, they might probably be inundated with calls, except that Lee encourages teachers to spread the wealth — to search for specific reasons to make calls to every kid’s parent. “When a teacher calls a parent, we keep a record of that call,” Lee says. “Who did they call and how did the conversation go? I enter all that into a spreadsheet each week so everyone can see who’s been called and how many times, and who hasn’t been called. I encourage teachers to focus on different students.” Now, when he attends school activities, “all I hear are positive comments,” the principal says. “Parents stop me at ball games and around town and say, ‘You’ll never believe what happened to me today. I actually got a phone call from the school, and it was about something good!’ Parents began calling our campus and thanking us for communicating some positive news.” The program, Lee adds, has bridged school and community, and the conversation is no longer limited to “Your kid’s in trouble again.” It has extended to curriculum, policy and vision. “It’s made my job a whole lot easier. Parents feel like they’re part of the school now, as well as they should,” Lee says. “They feel like they know what’s going on. They feel valued and listened to, and they never get tired of receiving these calls.” Parent Tammy Williams is quick to second that. “It was so heartwarming for me to get that call from Mr. Regester, because it made me feel like, ‘Well somebody else appreciates our daughter and thinks as highly of Baylee as we do.’ At the end of the conversation, he said, ‘Well, Mrs. Williams, go and have a good weekend,’ and I replied, ‘Oh, I will, but right now, I’m going to go and have a good cry.’” BOBBY HAWTHORNE is the author of “Longhorn Football” and “Home Field,” published by UT Press. In 2005, he retired as director of academics for the University Interscholastic League.
▲Karnack community volunteers adopt and renovate the coach’s office.
‘Middle of the night’ inspiration revives school district after flood By Autumn Rhea Carpenter
n February 2016, newly hired Karnack ISD Superintendent Amy Dickson and her district faced overwhelming challenges. A local ammunition plant closed, and families began moving to larger cities for work. This lowered enrollment numbers in the district to 124 students. In response, the school board decided to shutter the elementary school building and move all Head Start through eighth grade students — and central administration offices — to the high school building. Students in grades nine through 12 were redirected to the high school in neighboring Jefferson ISD. It was a dramatic change of routine for everyone in the small community, but there were even more changes on the way. A month after this transition, Karnack, located approximately three miles from
Lake Caddo, experienced its worst flooding in 50 years. Karnack High School, built in 1939, was significantly damaged, with roof leaks and water seeping through walls. After all the upheaval the district had been through, district officials didn’t think it was the right time to propose a bond or a potential tax increase.
Superintendent Amy Dickson
Dickson admits she lost sleep as her mind searched for a solution, and that solution finally came to Dickson in June in the middle of the night. “Growing up, I volunteered with mission work across the country,” she says. “I realized that we had a mission field in our own backyard, with some of the greatest needs I had ever seen in public education. > Karnack ISD, page 20 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
>Karnack ISD continued from page 19
“This was our opportunity to make a difference that could be felt and seen locally,” Dickson continues. “What if we created a plan where willing participants could be responsible for one room (in the school)? For me, it made the task seem less daunting, as well as more feasible, for the adopter.”
Volunteers worked diligently most weekends in July and August. Dickson and her secretary, Jeanette McCray, set design guidelines to create cohesiveness in the school. They chose a neutral palette, received flooring bids from multiple companies and asked to approve any choices that were made on other materials.
Dickson’s spark of an idea took shape as the Adopt-a-Room program, which the superintendent calls “a roller-coaster ride” that might go down as the neatest thing she ever did in her 23 years of working in public education.
“My husband, son-in-law, sons, dad and secretary’s son gutted the coach’s office in one day and then began rebuilding it,” Dickson says. “They framed, wired, Sheetrocked, painted and hung blinds. The only task they did not perform in the room was installing the carpet, which was generously donated by a local carpet company. The finished product is beautiful.”
“Facility upgrades had to happen in order to help raise enrollment,” says Dickson. “To conquer it all would be too expensive for one organization, but maybe, if we approached it one room at a time, we could get the financial backing we needed to be successful.”
The outpour of community support touched students as well. “I was shocked how much better the locker rooms looked this year than in the past,” says eighth grader Malik Brasher. “I like it all, and I’m proud of it.”
While many improvements already had begun on the World War IIera building — such as painting a new Head Start classroom and updating the cafeteria —attention was needed in other areas.
‘I just can’t even describe the feeling it gave me to know that these teachers wanted to help another school during the summer, when school is not usually first on a teacher’s mind!’ — Superintendent Amy Dickson
Dickson established a strategic plan that included facility construction and maintenance and school safety. She invited parents, staff, board members and community members to break into teams to address a game plan. “When the Adopt-aRoom idea started, it was fairly easy to discuss with the board the needs assessment and our priorities,” says Dickson. “It was very important to me personally for students to feel and see a difference, so it was easy to start with projects that affected them. Next, we took photographs, and let guests choose their projects.”
Around the same time, the local newspaper published a story on the Adopt-a-Room program, and readers began sharing it on social media. Things really sped up from there. “I never dreamed that this ‘middle of the night’ idea would take off at the rate that it did,” the superintendent says. In addition to community support, Karnack ISD received assistance from teachers and staff from nearby independent school districts, including Beckville, Carthage, Marshall, Waskom, Gary, Tatum, Elysian Fields and Union Grove. As momentum picked up, oil companies, church organizations, rotary clubs and more than 100 individuals or family members of staff volunteered their time. “The very first to answer the call were Beckville ISD and Carthage ISD,” Dickson says. “I just can’t even describe the feeling it gave me to know that these teachers wanted to help another school during the summer, when school is not usually first on a teacher’s mind!”
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
Adopt-a-Room received $3,700 in donations, resulting in improvements to a new coach’s office and renovations to two hall restrooms, the elementary secretary’s office, two locker rooms, six classrooms and the teachers’ break room.
Initially, Dickson envisioned organizations financially sponsoring the renovations of individual rooms. However, many people in the community came forward wanting to roll up their sleeves and get to work. “I often asked myself if I would have stepped up to the plate if put in the same position, and my answer would be no,” she admits. “I would have given money. It was an extremely humbling experience that made me think harder about what I can and should offer to others.” While the progress made thus far is incredible, one would be hardpressed to call the school building a modern facility. The rock building doesn’t have central air and heat, which means electric bills often skyrocket. It is also difficult to find parts to repair plumbing and electrical issues in the old building, and most of the classrooms aren’t updated to meet the needs of today’s learners. Dickson’s punch list includes many more improvements she would like to see, but she says it is difficult to estimate what it will cost the district. “I don’t know that I can put a dollar amount on what is still needed, because the truth is that every layer unveils a new problem. The bottom line is, anything is appreciated,” she says. According to Dickson, Karnack ISD’s challenges boil down to finances. Its tax rate is $1.04, the lowest in Region VII. The town, which suffers high poverty rates, was declared a disaster after the flood. During the 2015-2016 school year, $944,153 was paid under Chapter 41. For 2016-2017, $878,838 was paid. However, the district’s revenue also lowered due to declining property values. “After Chapter 41 for the 2015-20116 school year, $1,218,185 was spent on personnel; that left an operating budget of $549,319,” Dickson explains. “For the 2016-2017 school year, we have cut personnel to $976,580 but still only have an operating budget of $465,247. “For a frame of reference, our bus maintenance alone for August and September totaled $10,000, out of a $20,000 budget,” she says. The irony, according to Dickson, is that Karnack is considered the third wealthiest district in Region VII, due to its oil and gas property — which does not directly impact the students — and low enrollment.
“While this is equitable in theory, it truly isn’t in practice,” the superintendent says. “When you are 100 percent economically disadvantaged, it costs more to educate a child. I am looking forward to change with the new legislative session.” Yet, in the midst of these challenges, Karnack ISD’s enrollment has creeped up to 138. “We actually have 28 new students to Karnack, but to keep our Head Start program, we had to combine our 3- and 4-year-olds, which meant disbursing a prekindergarten classroom. We lost an entire grade level and still raised enrollment by 14,” says Dickson. If another district is interested in creating an Adopt-a-Room program, Dickson advises transparency and a humble attitude when voicing intentions. “You must follow the law with donations, and keep communication going with all parties,” she says. “Be very clear from the beginning
with your expectations for volunteer groups and have a plan before you start.” Because Karnack ISD is part of the 21st Century ACE grant, more than 50 percent of last year’s 124 students attended school from mid-June until the last week of July. This meant that the Adopt-a-Room program created a unique opportunity to bring community members and students together. “Our volunteers interacted with the students and put faces and names to their mission work,” Dickson says. “Our older students painted, moved lockers, removed carpet and shared their vision for the school with me. I believe the students believed that the adults working around them actually cared about the conditions in which they learn.” AUTUMN CARPENTER is a freelance writer in Kingwood.
▼ The elementary school secretary’s office before and after its adoption.
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
TASA Salutes Texas Teachers of the Year
Allison Ashley Becker Elementary School, Austin ISD, Region 13 Elementary Teacher of the Year
Texas Teacher of the Year
Deborah Campbell San Angelo Central High School, San Angelo ISD, Region 15 Secondary Teacher of the Year
Elementary Finalists Julie Garza
Alfonso Ramirez Elementary, Edinburg CISD, Region 1
Becker Elementary, Austin ISD, Region 13
Lakewood Elementary, Belton ISD, Region 12
Secondary Finalists Calvin Lambert
Uvalde High School, Uvalde CISD, Region 20
San Angelo Central High School, San Angelo ISD, Region 15
Infinity Early College High School, New Caney ISD, Region 6
Presented at the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History Austin, Texas â€¢ October 14, 2016
Texas Association of School Administrators www.tasanet.org/TexasTOY
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
▲ Newton ISD’s Eagles Landing catering service is known in the community for its professionalism and diverse array of culinary talent. Pictured left to right are (back row) Layton Simmons, Tanner Holmes, Gabe Foster, Jasmine Issac, Keenen Myers and Cameron Stewart and (front row) TaLexis Hadnot, Tristan Waller, Gabrielle Smith and Lindsey Bennett.
Students soar with Eagles Landing culinary program by Allie Johnson
prepared the food at school and transported it to the designated locations, says Newton ISD Superintendent Michelle Barrow.
In a tiny town of a little more than 2,400 residents, Newton High School’s culinary arts students gain hands-on experience by operating a catering business and restaurant known as Eagles Landing.
“We decided to revamp and remodel that and use it for our culinary program,” she says.
he students in the culinary arts program at Newton High School in Newton ISD are cooking up a lot more than tasty meals — they’re also creating community and opportunities for future career paths.
The Eagles Landing culinary arts program got its start when culinary arts teacher Kay Jones began signing up her students to cater local events to gain real-life experience. At that time, the students
Superintendent Michelle Barrow
However, the program got space to expand when the school bought a building that had once housed a restaurant, Barrow says.
During the 2013-2014 school year, the district put installed new sinks and kitchen equipment and gave the building a facelift, so the students could operate their business out of a professional kitchen attached to a full dining room. > Newton ISD, page 24 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
>Newton ISD continued from page 23
“That’s when we started really investing in the program,” Barrow says. A tiny town founded by a Revolutionary War hero and once a hub for the booming lumber industry, Newton no longer has many shops, pharmacies or restaurants. In fact, with the exception of a tiny barbecue joint and two fast food places, Newton offers few options for dining out. “We live in a very rural area,” Jones says. “We have one red light, one Dairy Queen and a Subway — and that’s about it.” To offer more choices, Jones and her students decided to make and sell “express meals” — preordered frozen meals that feed six to eight people and come with preparation instructions attached. One local favorite is chicken Dorito casserole with a loaf of garlic bread on the side. “All you have to do is pop it in the oven, and you have a meal — a home-cooked meal at that,” Jones says.
‘They are learning to communicate with people, show manners, how to wait on people correctly, how to talk to them. They meet all kinds of people. The benefits are endless.’ — culinary arts teacher Kay Jones
Recently, her culinary arts students fulfilled their largest-ever order: 45 express meals. However, the students in the Eagles Landing program are accustomed to cooking for a crowd. The students also cater a variety of ongoing meetings, including those of the Newton Lions Club, the Newton County Republican Club and the Quarterback Club, a group that regularly meets over breakfast to watch and discuss highlights of Newton Eagles football games.
The restaurant end of the Eagles Landing operation opens before all home games, giving fans a place to congregate and chow down on nourishing food. The students also host a “pink pancake supper” for the annual pink-out game, a football game dedicated to raising breast cancer awareness. In a town that loves its football, these catered events offer a new way for community members to come together around their beloved team. “We’re known in Texas for our high school football team,” says Sam Collins, president of the Newton Lions Club and a longtime Newton resident. “That’s one of the standouts in our community, and everybody supports the school and team.” The culinary arts students also host and cater chamber of commerce banquets, baby showers, family gatherings, retirement parties and weddings. The students have created quite a culinary repertoire, from gumbo and chili to stuffed chicken breast and shrimp scampi. Barrow cites their pulled pork dish, in particular, as a “hot commodity.” Eagles Landing meals — served on real plates with silverware and glassware — garner compliments from Newton Lions Club members and out-of-town guests, Collins says. “There are no paper plates or plastic knives or forks,” he says. “That’s one of the things that makes this quite impressive.”
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
Lessons from the kitchen In the Eagles Landing culinary arts program, students gain experience and an array of skills, from basic cooking techniques to food safety rules and serving etiquette. The experience and skills can help students land summer jobs, sock away money for college and even launch careers. In fact, students who participate in the program have to get certified through the ServSafe Food Handler program, from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “That’s something they can put on a job résumé,” Barrow says. Students in the program also learn about professionalism and interacting with adults. “They’re more confident,” Barrow says of students after they have been through the program. Jones agrees, saying: “They are learning to communicate with people, show manners, how to wait on people correctly, how to talk to them. They meet all kinds of people. The benefits are endless.” Senior Chris Thomas, who has been in the program for four years, says the experience has expanded his love for cooking.
“When I first started, I had already been cooking,” he says. “My grandparents are very big on cooking and taught me how to cook. This really increased my skill.” Thomas says he spent this past summer working at a café.
“I’d always get very good comments. People would compliment me on my work ethic and how I handled myself,” he says, adding that his boss rewarded his hard work by assigning him to Sunday shifts, where he earned good tips waiting on crowds after church. Thomas says he put all his paychecks and half of his tip money into a college savings account. He is considering studying restaurant or hotel management after high school. “I probably would not be thinking of doing that if I didn’t have this program,” he says, adding that the culinary arts program honed his management and organizational skills. This year, Jones plans to take a group of culinary arts students on a “behind the scenes” tour of a large hotel restaurant in Galveston, where a Newton ISD graduate and former program participant now works part time. “He’s doing very, very well,” Jones says. Barrow advises other districts interested in starting a similar program should take it slowly. “I would start small and branch out from there,” she says. For example, Newton ISD started with catering only a few events before opening its doors to take on more clients. “Taking baby steps has helped,” Barrow says. It’s also important to find the right person to run the program, Barrow says, adding that Jones truly enjoys the students and has a good working relationship with all of them. She has a knack for motivating the kids to work hard, she says. The results have been positive. “We’re inspiring kids and giving them tools they can use when they graduate,” Barrow says. ALLIE JOHNSON is an award-winning writer whose work has been published by Popular Science, Salon.com and FOX Business.
▲ A North East ISD orchestra student offers lessons to a budding violinist as part of the MacTEACH Children’s Strings Program.
NORTH EAST ISD
Peer-tutoring program helps students discover their ‘giving selves’ By Autumn Rhea Carpenter
n 2010, English language learners (ELL) at MacArthur High School in North East ISD struggled to pass state-mandated tests and core class requirements. English teacher Steve Davidson had a plan: match 15 English IV gifted and talented senior students with 25-30 ELL students for tutoring sessions during lunch. The initiative would be called MacTEACH. Davidson’s matchmaking efforts paid off when two discoveries came to light: The ELL students realized they had a friend and confidante in their tutors, someone close in age who “had their back,” both academically and emotionally. Secondly, the MacTEACH tutors got to experience what it felt like to be a part of something greater than themselves. “MacTEACH tutors are able to connect with fellow students differently from teachers because they come
to the table truly believing in the program’s underlying belief that every student matters — no matter what,” says Davidson. “The tutors provide a one-on-one calming presence for those they tutor — one far removed from the anxiety of the large classroom. Within this enviSteve Davidson ronment, the students receiving tutoring are able to realize a greater sense of attempting to do their best toward meeting academic challenges.”
Superintendent Brian Gottardy
MacTEACH continues to boom and has achieved measurable results. In 2014, MacArthur junior-level English teachers reported that from three classes > North East ISD, page 26 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
>North East ISD continued from page 25
of STAAR remediation students, totaling 67 students, MacTEACH tutors helped secure a passage rate of 82 percent. In 2015, a senior teacher reported that out of one class of STAAR remediation students, totaling 23 students who had not passed their previous tests, the MacTEACH tutors ensured a passing rate of 74 percent. MacTEACH offers small-group sessions during the high school’s three lunch periods — a format that meets the vast needs of the student body. Tutors, who volunteer for one-year terms, must be in good standing academically and demonstrate a heart for serving others. “It is imperative that he/she demonstrate a sense of humility,” says Davidson. “They must be committed to higher ideals, as most are involved in tutoring activities requiring they be available before, during and after school — to include numerous off-campus activities.” McArthur High School student and MacTEACH tutor Mia Self struggled with dyslexia as an elementary student. Self ’s backstory helps her connect with the students she tutors.
“Homework would take me twice as long as my peers,” Self says. “Many of my memories from my elementary school years consisted of crying myself to sleep because I felt utterly alone and stupid. Often, I was bullied because of my learning disability.
“I never had anybody who could help me overcome my struggles,” she continues. “That is why I became a MacTEACH leader. No child should feel less than another. Within MacTEACH, I’m able to help so many children experience their ‘epiphany moment’ — that moment when everything clicks, and so much more. In this life-changing organization, every child matters.” MacTEACH has allowed students to develop meaningful connections with their peers, instead of feeling disconnected and disenfranchised. It also has built bridges between elementary and secondary students, as MacTEACH tutors reach out to assist students at feeder elementary schools.
“Our hope is to establish these programs in our feeder middle schools too, so that we build a culture of students helping students become successful,” says MacArthur High School Principal Peter Martinez. “We now have other high schools wanting to establish this program, so we see the ripple effect across the district. We are excited to share this with other campuses and all the benefits it brings to our campuses and community.”
Several service-oriented MacTEACH programs have launched as a result of the initial program’s success. The Neighbor-to-Neighbor Program began when a nearby church contacted Davidson about Burmese refugee families in the area. The parents in these families were struggling just to survive and needed academic support for their children. According to Martinez, the program helps refugees at MacArthur, as well as at the feeder schools. He says the tutors meet with students twice a week in the library. The tutors soon realized that music was a powerful way to reach the Burmese students, and the MacTEACH Children’s Strings Program began. “Some of our orchestra students decided to offer violin lessons to the students as a way to give them some connection and engagement, and the result has been spectacular,” says Martinez. “I don’t know that any-
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
one could have seen the way the program would grow back in 2010.” Adds Davidson: “While we were reaching the students academically, music provides an entirely new kind of connection.” This year, the district launched an adult education program for the parents of children who receive tutoring. “As with all our programs, it is critical that they first meet their immediate short-term goals — this being that each properly serves their respective audiences,” says Davidson. “In the case of the adult education program, it is our hope that more adults in the area discover this unique, free tutoring opportunity.” Martinez says Davidson has done a great job of adapting MacTEACH to the changing needs of his students. “Flexibility is so important, because things change from year to year,” Martinez says. “When the program started, it was a handful of students working with our ESL kids. It has grown to include our struggling students, as well as involvement in specialized ‘pull-out’ sessions for students who have struggled with the STAAR EOC exams.” If other school districts would like to start a peer-to-peer tutoring program, Davidson says to keep it simple and find the right teachers to spearhead the initiative. “Find teachers who truly embrace the role of educator, the willingness to do whatever it takes to make certain that every students comes to realize they matter — no matter the walk, no matter the talk. Then, just do it! It will change every person involved.” Davidson receives no additional compensation for leading these programs. “What drives me? Seeing miracles occur on a daily basis,” he says. “Hearing a child holler, ‘I can read! I can read!’ It’s worth more than any monetary value. “What makes me most proud? Realizing that I, on a daily basis, have the opportunity to truly change lives, near and abroad,” Davidson says. It’s Davidson’s dream to expand MacTEACH district-wide. “I’d truly like to see every student have the MacTEACH experience,” says Davidson. “Ongoing strategies are taking place to see this vision met. I’m fortunate in that I have a very supportive principal in Peter Martinez and a superintendent in Dr. Brian G. Gottardy.” Superintendent Gottardy says Davidson has won countless awards for his work at MacArthur. “More than anything else, however, he is a teacher with a true passion for making a difference,” Gottardy says. “We are so proud of all he has done and look forward to the things he will continue to do in the future. He has given his students an inspiring and life-changing opportunity.” In addition to teaching the values of humility, community and compassion, MacTEACH has paved the road for future educators and humanitarians. “According to what many have shared with me over the years, MacTEACH was instrumental in their pursuing lives as teachers or humanitarians because they fell in love with what happens when we take the time to simply care, simply be present for those who need emotional, physical or academic support,” Davidson says. AUTUMN RHEA CARPENTER is a freelance writer in Kingwood.
▲ A Pearland ISD student enjoys a game of UNO with her mentor, Laura Cole, who visits her at school once a week.
RISE mentoring program offers students a shoulder to lean on by Shelley Seale
n the 2014-2015 school year, three Pearland ISD students committed suicide within five months of each. The incidents, which were determined unrelated to one another, shook the school community to its core. “The Pearland ISD Board of Trustees became extremely concerned about the mental health needs of our students,” says Kim Hocott, the district’s director of communications. In response, the school board urged district administration to improve student access to mental health services and to find ways to identify, early on, students who might need those services. “So many students today, even from great families, have undetectable problems or just need encouragement,” Superintendent John Kelly says. “Giving our
young people another shoulder to lean on is arguably the most powerful tool we have to render them the compassion and care they deserve.
Superintendent John Kelly
“There’s a lot of research out there that shows that nothing is more important to the education of a child than at least one caring adult,” he says. Pearland ISD offered its student “another shoulder to lean on” with the creation of the RISE mentoring program, which is available to all Pearland ISD students, from pre-K through 12th grade. The name is meant to serve as a call of action to the Pearland school community to rise up and help its students. As Hocott points out: “It takes one person reaching out to another to make a difference.” > Pearland ISD, page 28 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
>Pearland ISD continued from page27
The national Big Brothers Big Sisters organization found in its research that students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37 percent less likely to skip a class. Moreover, according to MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, young adults who have a mentor are 55 percent more likely to enroll in college, 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions. Mentored youth also maintain better attitudes toward school, make more responsible decisions, stay engaged in school and avoid risky behavior, such as drug use, according to MENTOR research.
The district recruits volunteer mentors from diverse backgrounds, from bankers, bus drivers, law enforcement officers, retirees and college students. Yet, all RISE mentors are united in wanting to offer a listening ear and their time to students. RISE mentors are required to undergo a background check and training, and they must commit to 30 minutes per week on campus with their assigned mentees for the duration of the school year. •
Reach: To gain the trust of young people, you must be willing to reach them by knowing their world.
Pearland ISD’s mentoring program strives to:
Inspire: As a mentor, you need to be a role model.
identify students whom teachers and counselors feel would most benefit from a mentoring relationship;
find adults who are committed to meet with their mentees once a week from the match date through the end of the school year;
Support: Be committed to the cause; be present and show up. Your mentee needs to know you are unconditionally there for him/her.
provide adequate training and ongoing support to mentors; and
Empower: Help kids see more, want more and be more than they ever thought was possible.
establish mentoring relationships that continue in succeeding school years.
Mentors also must respond to the RISE program’s call to action:
Students are selected for the RISE program through school counselor and teacher recommendations. Students may be nominated for a variety of reasons, from making risky social choices to lacking self-con-
▲ Mentor Scott Cummings (right) chats with his mentee. RISE mentors meet weekly for 30 minutes with their mentees.
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
fidence to struggling in school socially or academically. Parents cannot nominate their children, but they can talk to campus counselors about mentoring as an option. “Whatever the reasons, most students just need the support of an adult friend who is not a parent, teacher or counselor,” says Hocott. Because the program has only been offered since the fall of 2015 — with around 200 students participating — the district has yet to quantify its effect on mentee grades, discipline and attendance records. Yet, RISE appears to be taking hold in the school community, with many of the first-year mentors continuing to meet with their mentees in the 2016-2017 school year. Also, 42 new mentors signed up during January National Mentoring Month last year, which equated to a more than 40 percent increase in the volunteer mentor community. Marilyn Woody, a counselor at Sablatura Middle School, says that sometimes mentors come to her, saying they aren’t sure they are getting through to or helping their mentees. After all, what can 30 minutes a week really do for a student? “But they really are making a difference,” Woody says. “I know these students personally, and I get to see the other side that they don’t get to see. I’ve seen them struggle through the year, and I see them turn around. Just having that person who makes them feel special, the person who comes to the school just for them — who else gets that?” “I believe many children’s lives are filled with so much pressure, stress and negativity, and the more caring adults in their lives, the better they will be able to overcome any challenges,” says RISE mentor Roxanne Palmer. High school student Auniqua Sipsey says she appreciates that her mentor tells her the truth and helps with direction on how to be more successful in school and in life. Middle school student Trey Tyrone says his mentor is one of the best
he could have asked for. “She’s really great with listening,” he says. “She puts herself in my position in our conversations.” It’s not only the mentees who benefit from the RISE program. “I’ve gained patience and a deeper understanding of self-sacrifice,” says RISE mentor Nathan Warren. “I’m gonna be there, in a good mood for him, no matter how I feel or what’s going on in my world.”
‘There’s a lot of research out there that shows that nothing is more important to the education of a child than at least one caring adult.’ — Superintendent John Kelly
Hocott suggests that school districts interested in starting a mentoring program hire a staff member to oversee the program’s implementation. She says it is important to find an individual whose passion and vision matches the district’s. “Recruiting, training and matching should be based on quality, not quantity,” she says. “From the beginning, numbers have never been more important than the individual lives impacted.” Authentic relationships are the goal of mentoring, so start small, Hocott says. It might make sense to recruit district staff as mentors before expanding into the community. Ongoing support for the mentor community is also important. Pearland ISD held a mentor roundtable last year, in which novice and established mentors were grouped together according to the ages of their mentees. The roundtable gave mentors a chance to share their successes and challenges. The experience not only proved validating for many of the volunteers, but they left the event with fresh ideas and inspiration from their fellow mentors. RISE mentor Lily Galindo, who also serves as a Pearland ISD human resources specialist, says, “I recommend mentoring because not only will you touch and impact a student’s life, but they will touch and impact yours.” SHELLEY SEALE is a freelance writer in Austin and the author of “The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India.”
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
Texas Reads One Book Once again, we are proud to offer this unique opportunity in Texas...
Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys
leads the charge with a huge Texas style kick-off this coming spring as
Texas Reads One Book!
Coach Garrett reads the first chapter via exclusive video cast - then each of the families in your district reads a chapter each night.
Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys
KICKOFF : April 3, 2017
Register early by December 31st to receive special pricing. Choose one title for your custom One District, One Book® reading event in the fall or winter… then read The Lemonade War for Texas Reads One Book in the spring - all for $9.95 (regular price $10.95). General registration continues through March 1st. Just want Texas Reads One Book?
Register by December 31, 2016 for just $4.95 per student
regular price $5.95
You’ll receive books for every student as well as in-school activities, assembly ideas, teacher resources, and family engagement tools. Tens of thousands of families across the state will read together in this celebration of literacy.
Send an e-mail to sign up your district! email@example.com
Texas Association of School Texas Association ofAdministrators School Administrators
® Creating a Culture of Literacy in Every Home
▲Royse City ISD digital learning specialist Cody Holt (center) briefs two “Chromies” — sophomore Cade Baridon (left) and senior Skyler Suydam. The Chrome Squad offers IT support to teachers and students at Royse City High School.
ROYSE CITY ISD
Chrome Squad empowers students with future-ready skills by Allie Johnson
ne fall morning, 16-year-old junior Tyler Crumrine watched his teacher struggle with a projector in his advanced placement chemistry class at Royse City High School. The teacher was attempting to deliver a PowerPoint presentation, which she had delivered many times without any problems. However, that day, the image on her computer screen would not display on the projector. As a member of the school’s elite Chrome Squad, Crumrine rushed to his teacher’s rescue.
“I realized there was a simple setting I could change that would fix everything,” he says. That made the flustered teacher “so happy,” the teenager remembers.
In that moment, “I realized how important the Chrome Squad program is for me and our school,” Crumrine says.
Superintendent Kevin Worthy
The Chrome Squad is a team of student interns who provide tech support and training to teachers and students who use Google Chromebook laptops and other devices. The program began in tandem with the high school’s 1:1 technology initiative, in which all stundents received Chromebook laptops to help them stay connected inside and outside the classroom. Royse City ISD’s motto is “Empowering students and shaping the future,” so it was fitting that the high school turned to its students to help launch such a significant technology initiative. The school distrib> Royse City ISD, page 32 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
>Royse City ISD continued from page 31
uted more than 1,500 machines in the first year, and school officials knew one person wouldn’t be able to run the program and deal with the glitches that were certain to arise as students and teachers became familiar with the devices. “It was such a big initiative,” Royse City ISD Superintendent Kevin Worthy says. “We thought, ‘What a great idea to get student interns to run the program.’”
For the first year, during the 2015-2016 school year, 21 students were selected to serve as student interns. Digital learning specialist Cody Holt, who heads up the program, put many decisions in their hands. One of the first decisions the students made was to call themselves the Chrome Squad. Members became known as “Chromies.” Holt says this initial step was important in gaining student ownership of the program, because “names give us identity.”
The Chromies also assisted in deciding which Chromebook model would be ordered for the school and what training resources Chromies would offer for teachers and students. The Chrome Squad also decided to expand its tech support to include Windows and Mac operating systems, projectors and smartphones. “We handle just about all of it,” Holt says. The 1:1 initiative — called Connected 4 Learning, or C4L — is headquartered in the high school’s C4L lounge, where Chromies can be found throughout the day. During every period, at least two Chromies are stationed in the lounge, where they work on various facets of the program and are ready to lend a hand. How do other students regard Chromies? “They see us as the go-to people for any tech problem they might be having,” Crumrine says. “That’s why we’re here.”
A solid start The Chrome Squad was integral in getting the 1:1 program up and running at the high school. Now, they spent most of their time ensuring that students and teachers continue to learn and use new technology without anxiety or worry. “One reason we don’t try something new is the fear that we’re going to fail,” Holt says. “Now teachers say, ‘I’m not scared to try because if I need help, I know where I can go. I don’t have to call and put in a ticket with a technology desk and wait.” Students also appreciate the speedy help. “They can walk into the C4L lounge and, in under 15 minutes, pretty much get any problem solved,” Holt says. The program also helps Chromies develop a broad range of technical and people skills. “One of the things we’re super excited about is the opportunity for our students to have future-ready skills,” Worthy says. “We want all of our students to be future ready, whether they’re heading to college or into the workforce.” Indeed, the program encourages Chromies to consider careers in technology or jobs in other fields that require technology proficiency. “They’re seeing that technology trickles into everything,” Holt says.
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
A role model for others When Royse City ISD leaders first explored the idea of training student interns to help run their 1:1 initiative, they found only one school in the country with a similar program. Now, due to the success of the Chrome Squad and the C4L initiative, leaders from other districts are visiting Royse City High School to see the program in action. Royse City ISD offers this advice to their peers in public education: Pick the right kids for the job. One key to success has been choosing students whose main focus is helping others. After all, technical skills can “We thought, be taught. The Chrome Squad looks for kids who ‘What a great idea are respected among stuto get student dents, teachers and staff members. Also, a teacher interns to run the must recommend a student for the squad. The program.’” recommended student — Superintendent then gets vetted by other teachers. “If a single Kevin Worthy negative thing about that student comes up, they’re taken off the list,” Holt says. “We go from about 100 nominations to about 30 students.” This year, Chrome Squad members and Holt interviewed students from a shortl ist and chose eight to join the squad. Focus on customer service. On their first day, new Chromies receive a lesson on how to provide excellent customer service. “Customer service is a big part of the Chrome Squad — the way they treat teachers and other students,” Worthy says. “We believe soft skills play a big role in being future ready.” Seek innovative ideas. “I have experience running businesses, and I said, ‘I’m going to run this like a business,’” Holt says. Like a boss with employees, Holt encourages squad members to take initiative, pitch ideas and develop projects. This year, squad members suggested that Chromies divide into eight teams, including a blogging team, a social media team, an inventory team and a team that recognizes teachers for innovative use of technology in teaching. The creation of teams has allowed students to specialize and focus. However, there’s flexibility, so students can jump in and help on a different team if necessary, Holt says. “The ownership I give kids makes a big difference in what they have the power to do,” he says. With one successful year completed and another underway, Royse City High School is looking forward to continued success in the years to come. “With any program, you look to evaluate each year to determine how you can improve,” Worthy says. “We were so happy with the success of year one, and year two is even better.” Allie Johnson is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Popular Science, Salon.com and FOX Business.
▲Third grade teacher Kari Gomez assists student Dru Taylor with her writing assignment. Photo by Shaira Starnes.
SISD Writes inspires TEA pilot program By Bobby Hawthorne
unnyvale ISD Superintendent Doug Williams and his wife, Kris, had an agreement: Leave school talk at school. However, as Kris — chair of the high school English department — sat at the dining room table in the evenings, poring over sophomore essays, she couldn’t help herself.
“These things are getting worse and worse every year,” she would say, which would trigger a long conversation with her superintendent husband. The district had always stressed the importance of communication skills — particularly clear, purposeful writing. Why was this happening?
Other teachers in Sunnyvale ISD noticed it too. Year
after year, student writing remained shallow and formulaic — and that was in the English classes. Writing skills in math, science and social studies were worse, says Jennifer Settle, a high school academic coordinator.
Superintendent Doug Williams
“We agreed we had to teach writing in a different way if we hoped to see students improve,” she says.
Superintendent Williams turned to Assistant Superintendent Christi Morgan to form a team to rethink how the district assessed writing skills in all grade levels. The team of administrators, English teachers and community > Sunnyvale ISD, page 34 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
>Sunnyvale ISD continued from page 33
members reviewed the K-12 TEKS, analyzed ACT/SAT writing components, and talked to industry professionals and higher education officials about writing skills that were important to master. The team developed writing rubrics for elementary and secondary levels and enlisted technology experts to build a broad, Google-based portfolio program. Called SISD Writes, the program offers a platform for students to hone their writing skills and receive feedback from their teachers. Each year, students are issued a set of folders in Google Drive. One folder might be for expository writing, another for persuasive writing and yet another for “relevant writing” — such as résumés and letters of introduction. There also are folders for math, science and social studies writing samples. Throughout the school year, students add writing samples to their folders, and teachers issue grades based on the respective rubric. For example, the secondary level rubric emphasizes idea development, organization, clarity, diction and composition technicals. “Students and teachers can talk back and forth about any issues they have, which then helps the students form their next piece of writing,” Morgan explains. “They are asked to reflect on their writing and to identify strengths and weaknesses and areas for improvement. These portfolios travel with the student all year long, and their teachers can look at the writing samples and see if the student is making the appropriate progress.” Third grade teacher Kari Gomez says, in the past, if she said, “We’re working on writing today,” all she would hear was “Ugh. Writing? I have to write again? I don’t know what to write about. I don’t have a story.” No longer. Using a writer’s workshop model, she allows her third graders to choose a topic for writing. They are given time to bounce around ideas Kari Gomez and conjure up and compare writing examples. Once they’ve written something, students are invited to share their drafts with a partner or with the entire class. After Gomez offers her feedback, the students can decide whether to start a new piece or revise an old one. “All of this has made them more comfortable, more confident writers,” she says.
Taking it statewide Teachers in Sunnyvale ISD aren’t the only ones who see promise in SISD Writes. This past fall, Sunnyvale ISD joined six other districts in a Texas Education Agency pilot program to test a new state writing assessment tool that utilizes the strengths of the SISD Writes program. The pilot is part of House Bill 1164, which went into effect in 2015. In lieu of the traditional STAAR writing test, Sunnyvale ISD fourth and seventh graders will be assessed through the TEA pilot. Freshmen and sophomores will still take the STAAR/end-of-course exam, but their teachers will continue to evaluate their writing through the SISD Writes program. “I think it’s the best thing we’ve done in a long time,” Morgan says.
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
“Our goal from the beginning was for kids to develop fluency and comfort level in writing. “You know, we started hearing rumblings in 2015 about the Legislature changing the writing assessment, but we were already working on it,” she continues. “The legislation has only reinforced the idea that we were on the right track all along.” A key component to that “right track” is strengthening relevant writing, from letters to the editor and data reports to wedding speeches and eulogies. Also, writing assignments are expected in all classes — even extracurricular ones. All teachers, in effect, are writing teachers.
‘You know, we started hearing rumblings in 2015 about the Legislature changing the writing assessment, but we were already working on it.’ — Assistant Superintendent Christi Morgan
“True assessment takes place over the course of the year,” Superintendent Williams says. “Yes, you have to assess for mastery, but you need to assess for student improvement too. If we do this successfully, and I’m confident we will, we can show that assessment can be more than a one-day test.” Trish Conradt, chief of staff for House Rep. Gary VanDeaver, a sponsor of HB 1164, says: “I hope the results of the pilot will mirror what Sunnyvale ISD has discovered through its writing portfolio. … I hope the state learns that writing is a fluid, creative process that cannot be judged by a 26-line, formulaic writing sample.” More than an assessment tool, SISD Writes instills confidence in young writers. “Not long ago,” Morgan says, “a sophomore stopped me in the halls and told me, ‘You know, I’m not scared of writing anymore. It used to make me really nervous, and I thought I wasn’t any good at it. But I’m writing in all of my classes, and I’ve found that I kind of enjoy it.’” Before SISD Writes, students in Sunnyvale ISD considered writing an abstract chore, confined to their language arts classes. Says Kris Williams: “So, our science teachers were getting awful efforts because the students had it in their minds that ‘It’s science. We don’t write in here, so I don’t have to put any effort into my sentence structure or my correctness or my fluency.’ “But now, it’s becoming obvious to them that they are expected to be able to communicate in writing in all of their classes. They’re recognizing that writing isn’t just an English class thing. It’s a life thing.” BOBBY HAWTHORNE is the author of “Longhorn Football” and “Home Field,” published by UT Press. In 2005, he retired as director of academics for the University Interscholastic League.
▲ New-to-the-district teachers with up to a year of teaching experience gather at the kickoff meeting of the First Year Teachers Academy.
WEST OSO ISD
Bear TIPS offers comprehensive support for teachers by John Egan
hen Chris Summers joined West Oso ISD as the director of curriculum and instruction in the summer of 2014, the district’s teacher turnover rate stood at 33 percent, according to his calculations. To make matters worse, the cost associated with that turnover rate was an estimated $717,500 in 2014-2015.
“Instead of spending money on initiatives and programming to improve teacher quality and student learning, we were having to spend money on recruiting, hiring and replacing teachers,” Summers says of his district, which operates four schools, employs 130 teachers and has a student enrollment of 2,000.
In response, Summers set in motion an induction program for newly minted teachers: Bear Teachers Induction Program and Supports, or Bear TIPS — a nod to the West Oso ISD bears. Only two years into its operation, Bear TIPS has proven a success. Teacher turnover rate slid from 33 percent in 2014 to 15 percent in 2015 and 13 percent in 2016, according to Summers. Moreover, costs associated with turnover sank from $717,500 during the 2014-2015 school year to $472,500 in the 2015-2016 school year. Summers estimates another dip to $446,250 this year.
Superintendent Conrado Garcia
“Induction programs and mentoring help beginning teachers’ classroom teaching practice, which has a positive impact on student achievement,” says Norma Puente, an elementary instructional facilitator > West Oso ISD, page 36 BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
>West Oso ISD continued from page 35
with West Oso ISD. “New teachers get to learn and practice high-quality instructional strategies, build relationships with district leaders and mentors, and develop a support system within their cohort and the district.” The Bear TIPS induction program has four components. Norma Puente
First-Year Teacher Academy All new-to-the-district teachers with up to one year of experience are enrolled in the year-long First-Year Teacher Academy (FYTA). Members of the academy meet for two days in August, to kick off the school year, and then for four days spread out through the school year, Summers says. FYTA covers topics such as effective teaching, classroom management, learning styles, working with parents and community members, and stress management.
FYTA2 As the name implies, participants of this academy are second-year teachers who went through the First-Year Teacher Academy. Enrollees meet at least twice during the school year for full-day workshops, where instructional coaches hone what was learned in the first-year program, according to Summers. Workshop topics include brain research as it relates to learning, higher-level thinking strategies and cooperative learning.
Mentor and Coaching Academy This year-long academy gives mentors of first-year teachers the tools they need to be champions for their new colleagues. All mentors must attend a full-day workshop in the fall and a half-day workshop in the spring.
Bear TIPS newsletter This newsletter, published five times a year, aims to impart thoughtful reflection on topics covered during academy workshops. “Our teachers have told me that they feel connected to our community as a result of going through the new teacher induction process,” Puente says. “They want to stay and contribute to their school. “After their first year, they feel more confident and able to contribute more to their grade level, as far as planning and taking on more responsibilities,” she continues. “They also look forward to mentoring new teachers as their careers progress, because they have experienced the value of this process.” Conrado Garcia, interim superintendent of West Oso ISD, says the district’s induction and mentoring activities are built on three words: prepare, support and succeed. “Because we are collectively engaging in transforming our schools into places of academic excellence, we foster a collaborative culture and rely on ongoing systemic training and support for teachers,” says Garcia. Such collaboration and support are especially vital in a district like West OSO, where 93 percent of students have learning challenges and come from economically disadvantaged families, Summers says.
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
▲ The First-Year Teacher Academy covers topics such as effective teaching, classroom management, learning styles, working with parents and community members, and stress management.
“Our students are amazing and they work so hard, but, with that, our teachers also have to work incredibly hard to identify student learning gaps, intervene and accelerate student learning,” he says. “They must provide a myriad of academic and social supports.” That’s why addressing the district’s high turnover rate was so crucial. “We know that students lose out on learning opportunities when there is a constant revolving door of teachers each year at our schools,” Summers says. “It is quite difficult to build a successful learning community when turnover rates are high, and the district has large numbers of novice educators teaching our students.” Summers encourages all school districts, no matter their size, to honestly assess how they support news teachers and to consider adding an induction program, like Bear TIPS. Summers estimates the West Oso ISD program costs about $4,000 to $5,000 a year — far less than what the district forks over in annual turnover-related expenses. “A district doesn’t need to have a large curriculum or human resources department to implement a robust induction program,” he says. “They don’t need a lot of money either. They can tap into the talent and experience within the district and utilize human capital and material resources to impact the growth and development of new teachers in their district.” JOHN EGAN is the former editor of the Austin Business Journal and a freelance writer in Austin.
to brag about your district? Weâ€™re taking nominations!
Submit your nomination online today for the 11th Annual Bragging Rights 2017-2018 issue at Texasschoolbusiness.com
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
January 29â€“February 1, 2017 Austin Convention Center
Shanna Peeples 2015 National (and Texas) Teacher of the Year and Secondary ELA Curriculum Specialist, Amarillo ISD
Mike Morath Texas Commissioner of Education
Lauren B. Resnick and Christian Schunn Institute of Learning, University of Pittsburgh
The Midwinter Conference is the conference of the year for school leadership teams. See the conference website at tasanet.org/midwinter and follow the conference on Twitter using #TASA17 as we post updates on the growing lineup of speakers and sessions. And now through December 16, take advantage of early-bird registration to save on your registration fee. 38
BRAGGING RIGHTS 2016-2017 Texas School Business
* *PRINCIPAL OFFICE, AUSTIN
Texas Association of School Administrators 406 East 11th Street Austin, TX 78701-2617
Back cover ad 8” x 8.25”