July 2020

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Texas Lone Star


All Across Texas, School Districts Go Above and Beyond for their Communities

A Publication of the Texas Association of School Boards | Volume 38, Number 6 | July 2020

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4 What Heroes Look Like (Introduction)

5 TASB President’s Message

6 The Triumph of Teamwork (Abilene, Wylie

Mission Statement

The Texas Association of School Boards promotes educational excellence for Texas schoolchildren through advocacy, visionary leadership, and high-quality services to school districts.

TASB Officers 2019-20

Lee Lentz-Edwards, Kermit ISD, President

Jim Rice, Fort Bend ISD, President-Elect

Ted Beard, Longview ISD, First Vice-President

Debbie Gillespie, Frisco ISD, Second Vice-President

Bob Covey, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Secretary-Treasurer

Jim de Garavilla, Silsbee ISD, Immediate Past President

TASB Board of Directors 2019-20

Moises Alfaro, Mathis ISD, Region 2

Kay Alley, Crosbyton CISD, Region 17

Rose Avalos, Aldine ISD, Region 4H

Steve Brown, Ector County ISD, Region 18

Kamlesh Bhikha, ESC 2, ESC Representative

Steve Brown, Ector County ISD, Region 18

Kevin A. Carbo, Mesquite ISD, Region 10D

Bob Covey, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Region 4F

Yolanda Cuellar, South Texas ISD, Region 1B

Thomas Darden, Cooper ISD, Region 8

Jason Dohnalik, Cameron ISD, Region 6

Karen Freeman, Northside ISD, Region 20B

Corinne French, Valley View ISD, Region 11D

Demetrio D. Garcia, Kenedy ISD, Region 3

Linda Gooch, Sunnyvale ISD, Region 10B

Mary Jane Hetrick, Dripping Springs ISD, Region 13B

Tony Hopkins, Friendswood ISD, Region 4C

Texas Lone Star • Volume 38, Number 6 (July 2020)

Texas Association of School Boards

P.O. Box 400 • Austin, Texas • 78767-0400 • 512.467.0222 or 800.580.8272 (toll-free)

James B. Crow • Executive Director

Karen Strong • Associate Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations

Roger White • Managing Editor

Melissa Locke Roberts • Assistant Editor

Shu-in Powell • Graphic Designer

Patrick Morris • Virginia Hernandez • Photographers

Amy Rames • Advertising Coordinator

360 Press Solutions • Printer

Texas Lone Star (ISSN 0749-9310) is published 10 times a year by the Texas Association of School Boards. Copyright © 2020 by the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). All rights reserved. Reproduction, adaptation, distribution, and exhibition in whole or in part are prohibited under penalty of law without the written license or permission of TASB.

Copies of Texas Lone Star are mailed to trustees of TASB member school boards and their superintendents as part of their membership. Subscriptions are available to nonmembers for $36 (1 year), $69 (2 years), and $99 (3 years). Single copies are $5. Address changes should be sent to Michael Pennant, TASB, P.O. Box 400, Austin, Texas 78767-0400.

Postmaster: Send address changes to TASB, P.O. Box 400, Austin, Texas 78767-0400.

Website: tasb.org

Sandy Hughey, North East ISD, Region 20E

Bill Lacy, Katy ISD, Region 4E

Mark Lukert, Wichita Falls ISD, Region 9

Jayme Mathias, Austin ISD, Region 13A

Raymond P. Meza, San Felipe Del Rio CISD, Region 15

Dan Micciche, Dallas ISD, Region 10C

Vernagene Mott, Pflugerville ISD, Region 13C

Patricia O’Caña-Olivarez, Mission CISD, Region 1A

Nicholas Phillips, Nederland ISD, Region 5

Jacinto Ramos Jr., Fort Worth ISD, Region 11B

Page Rander, Clear Creek ISD, Region 4B

Georgan Reitmeier, Klein ISD, Region 4A

Armando Rodriguez, Canutillo ISD, Region 19B

Rolinda Schmidt, Kerrville ISD, Region 20A

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Houston ISD, Region 4D

Cindy Spanel, Highland Park ISD, Region 16

Becky St. John, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, Region 11A

Anne Sung, Houston ISD, Region 4

Mildred Watkins, La Vega ISD, Region 12

Greg Welch, Clyde CISD, Region 14

Robert Westbrook, Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD, Region 20D

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Keeping the Kitchens Open
10 Community Commitment (Coppell ISD) 14 A New Way Forward (Aldine ISD) 16 Crossing the Finish Line (Krum ISD) 18 The Frenship Connection (Frenship ISD) 22 From A to Z (Allen ISD) 24 A Forney Family (Forney ISD) 26 Overcoming Obstacles (Copperas Cove ISD) 28 Food on the Table (Angleton ISD) 30 ‘Nothing Stops a Lion’ (Greenville ISD) 33 Sign of the Times (Corpus Christi ISD) 34 Tough Decisions (Leander ISD) 38 If You Build It (Lockhart ISD) 41 Ready for the Challenge (McAllen ISD)
ISDs) 8
(Laredo ISD)


School Districts Statewide Stand Tall to Help Communities Cope with COVID-19

Want to know what real heroes look like? They look just like you. They are the public school teachers, administrators, board members, staff, and volunteers in every town and city in the state. Before the breaking news of the coronavirus pandemic could echo and fade, school districts in every corner of Texas sprang into action.

In Krum ISD, Krum High School seniors literally crossed the finish line of their public school education by attending graduation ceremonies, created especially for social distancing, at the Texas Motor Speedway.

In Angleton ISD, district leaders partnered with the Houston Food Bank to expand the Angleton School Market and the district’s unique AISD Fueled Meal Assistance Program to keep its community fed while campuses were closed.

In Lockhart ISD, the leadership team took the bold step of committing to build seven new network towers to provide internet access to students and families located in “dead zones” throughout the district’s 300-square-mile area.

In West Texas, Abilene and Wylie ISDs teamed up to design and create mechanized hospital tables to help local healthcare facilities deliver meals, medicines, and messages to isolated patients.

In Copperas Cove ISD, district staff lent laptops free of charge to students in all grades and set up free internet locations for families at more than a dozen locations. And in Corpus Christi ISD, human resources staff held virtual job fairs, for community members hit hard by business closings and employment difficulties caused by the pandemic.

These are just a few examples of the courageous and innovative measures taken by our public schools in this time of unprecedented upheaval. In this special “Good News about Texas Public Schools” edition of Texas Lone Star, you’ll find many more stories of dedication, generosity, and hope.

This is what real heroes look like. They look like you and me.H


Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD was recently named a national Magna Award winner in the 26th annual Magna Awards program, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) announced.

The district was one of five districts named as national first place winners in the Over 20,000 Enrollment category. The Magna Awards program, sponsored by NSBA’s American School Board Journal magazine, recognizes school districts and their leaders for programs that break down barriers for underserved students. An independent panel of school board members, administrators, and other educators selected the winners from more than 100 submissions.

Winners were highlighted in the April 2020 edition of the American School Board Journal. Read more about the programs at nsba.org/asbj.


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Challenges of Today Require Bold Steps, Innovative Thinking, Creative Leadership

There is a sense of comfort with routines and traditions. Today, many of us are asking for a return to normalcy after our nation has faced a pandemic, a major economic downturn, and heightened racial tensions in the last six months. I remember hearing the term return to normalcy; but not until I did some research could I put the term into context. About 100 years ago, when our nation had weathered World War I and was looking to recapture a normal way of life, the phrase was coined. Warren Harding in his 1920 bid for the presidency recorded his most notable speech about a return to normalcy, stating, “America’s present need is not for heroics but healing, not nostrums but normalcy, not revolution but restoration...not surgery but serenity."

Do you think America, Texas, your school district, or your community will return to normalcy? Will our schools return to their pre-coronavirus routines and regimens? Do you think life right now is the “new normal”? Or maybe it is not a return to normalcy that we need, but instead innovation and creativity.

Unprecedented Challenge

As board members and community leaders address the needs for the future, we may want to use what we know and the tools we have so we can proceed. It is not what we have done in the past that matters now; it is how we meet the needs of our students and community now and in the future. It is not a dance with one step forward and two steps back. It is that journey that begins with the single step moving forward.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning may support our schools as we begin to design our new normal. In 2001, the learning objectives and focus as defined by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom were revised. The revision moved the emphasis from passive nouns to action verbs. The highest two levels morphed from synthesis and evaluation to evaluate and create.

In non-educational jargon, this means that the knowledge gained must be remembered, understood, applied, and analyzed. Then it is to be evaluated and used to create a theory or develop a new process or product. That is where we are. We are facing problems in our schools and communities that are unprecedented.

The need to be innovative has prompted experimental solutions (e.g., moving teaching and learning to online programs). Many teachers had little to no experience in preparing virtual lessons. Therefore, schools quickly ramped up their technology training and virtual professional development for their teachers,

leaning heavily on their regional education service centers. Some schools provided flexibility in the time allotment for submission of students’ lessons. Some posted specific teachers’ hours for students to be able to contact their respective teachers for questions and additional help.

The Connectivity Problem

The Houston Chronicle recently reported that one of the largest districts in the state has over 100,000 students without internet access. It is estimated that statewide about 14 percent of students ages 3-18 lack home access to the internet. How do we address the dilemma of students with no internet access? How can students be expected to complete online lessons if they cannot access them? There is a definite need to scale up.

The June 2020 edition of the National School Boards Association’s American School Board Journal identifies one way to address the problem of connectivity. It outlines a plan in which school buses are equipped with hardware for Wi-Fi. Bus routes

(See Normalcy, page 13.)


A very special “thank you” is extended to the Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA) from TASB and the Texas Lone Star staff. TSPRA professionals from districts large and small shared their stories for this special edition of Texas Lone Star

TSPRA is led by Executive Director Linsae A. Snider and 2020-21 President Veronica Castillon, Laredo ISD’s executive director of Communications.

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Abilene ISD, Abilene Wylie ISD Provide High-Tech Health Care Solution

In the early morning hours of Saturday, March 21, Brad Holland, president and CEO of Abilene’s Hendrick Health System, pounded out an e-mail to his staff asking them for ideas on how to best respond to patient needs and keep doctors and nurses safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hendrick Director of Technology Duane Donaway then sent a message to Abilene ISD Superintendent David Young and Abilene Wylie ISD Superintendent Joey Light, asking for help from the school districts. Donaway asked if they could come up with a way doctors and nurses could deliver medicine by remote control to patients in isolation.

Abilene ISD’s Young immediately sent a message to Larry Haney, engineering instructor at the district’s Academy of Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Science (ATEMS High School). Wylie ISD’s Light e-mailed district engineering and science teacher Andy Hope. Both district leaders knew the men they had messaged would tackle the challenge head on.

Which is exactly what happened.

Robot Room Service

Haney and ATEMS aerospace engineering teacher Tracy Long met at the ATEMS offices to begin the process of mechanizing one of the hospital bed tables most often used for meal service. Haney consulted with former student Nolan Henderson and current ATEMS student Nathan Bryce on writing the programs that run the robots. Then he and Long went to work. Hope and his team of students from Wylie immediately went to work on the same project.

“Joey told his group that this was going to be a little bit like figuring out the Apollo 13 mission and that Hendrick needed it as soon as possible,” Donaway said. “Soon after those e-mails went out, we delivered a couple of bed tables to them and they got to work. That evening, I had videos from both groups showing us their working prototypes. Sunday afternoon, after some revisions by both teams, we retrieved the tables and brought them back to the hospital.”

Hendrick Director of Facilities Zane Dennis got in touch with Troy Miller of Tiger Manufacturing, and Miller and his team fabricated metal boxes around the motors to help with infection control. Hendrick facilities personnel added

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Larry Haney, engineering instructor at Abilene ISD’s Academy of Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Science, with the mechanized service table designed to safely deliver medicines and meals to isolated patients. Photo courtesy of Abilene ISD

an arm to the prototype to hold an iPad, allowing the cart driver to see the room and for the isolated patient to visit with family.

The mechanized table can deliver meals, medicines, and messages to isolated patients, as well as physician consultations via the iPad, so medical personnel don’t have to use valuable personal protective equipment resources.

“We needed to think outside the box, so why not robots?” Holland said. “Why not create a mechanism that puts distance between our staff and the patient as needed? We can’t always do that, but it saves personal protective equipment.”

Great Minds…

By the time Haney, Long, and Hope gathered at Hendrick early Monday morning, they realized their two designs were remarkably similar. Each had a motor over the two legs at the base of the cart, using much of the same framework and ingenuity.

“We developed our prototype, refined it, and then got to Hendrick and saw that Wylie had put together something very similar to ours,” Haney said. “That just told me that the kids listen to what we teach them. The processes and systems we talk about in both districts work, and we all followed them. As an instructor, to be able to experience building something like this from scratch is great. We’re putting our processes that we teach every day into action.”

Haney developed two prototypes before settling on a third that was replicated several times to give the hospital five working bed tables. Tiger Manufacturing fabricated covers, and the mechanized bed tables were in use in the hospital less than 10 days after the call went out to the two school districts.

“I feel fortunate that we were able to be part of this and hopefully help in some very small way during this difficult time that we’re going through in our country,” Haney said.

Real-World Lesson

For his part, Young said seeing the completed work answered the age-old question students have been asking for years: “When am I ever going to use this?”

“In all my years in education, I’ve seen teachers and students do great things, but this might take the cake,” Young said. “Every year, every teacher is asked by at least one student if they’re ever going to use what’s being taught. But what I see in this project is a prime example of what can be done and how what we do every day in classrooms across the country can be used.

“This really was an Apollo 13 event,” Young said. “I’m proud that we were able to partner with Wylie and Tiger and Hendrick in coming together to help our community. This is certainly an example of what can happen when people get together and the whole becomes greater than the parts.”H

General Session Speaker Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall CEO of the Dallas Mavericks

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, TASA | TASB is in an unprecedented situation requiring us to adjust normal practices. While there are no plans to postpone, reschedule, or cancel txEDCON2020, the health and safety of our members and attendees is our highest priority. Because of this, we are delaying opening registration and housing for txEDCON2020 until Tuesday, July 21, 2020. At this time, all other dates remain the same.

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Lance Fleming is chief communications officer for Abilene ISD.


Cafeteria Workers’ Super Powers: Making Hungry Children Happy

Not all heroes wear capes, as proven by the real-life champions of Laredo ISD’s Child Nutrition Program (CNP). These heroes tie on their aprons every day for the district’s free Grab and Go curbside meal service, which started as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Texas public schools March 19.

With more than 95 percent economically disadvantaged children enrolled in Laredo ISD schools, the district realized that its kitchens would have to remain open; they didn’t want any of their students to go hungry during the mandated closures. While the district closed for spring break, the Laredo ISD Board conducted a special called meeting and fully supported the Grab and Go initiative.

Classroom instruction shifted to online learning while cafeteria workers opened their campus driveways to offer warm, nutritionally balanced, and freshly prepared breakfast and lunch meals. Standing six feet apart and wearing face coverings and gloves, CNP staff welcomed the line of vehicles that filled their traffic loops. A few parents walked their children to the campus and treated the meal pickup as a diversion from the quarantined isolation. At least one dad doubled his pedaling power with junior riding in tandem.

Many families expressed their heartfelt appreciation to the servers. Children scribbled “thank you” notes and traded them in for lunch. Kids rolled down their windows to holler out a grateful “Gracias!” One mom who had just lost her job as a waitress shed a few tears as she accepted the meals. Youngsters were also delighted to see their school principals,

librarians, counselors, coaches, and bus drivers in the serving line.

On the Frontline

“All of our CNP workers have made a difference in the lives of our students by not only serving delicious meals every day, but also for the care and heart that they put into preparing these meals for our family of learners,” said Laredo ISD Superintendent Sylvia G. Rios. “I am so proud of the courage and determination that they demonstrate every day by showing up and working hard for our students, many of whom would have little or no sustenance if it wasn’t for the meals that are prepared and distributed by our LISD staff.”

During the first week of the district’s Grab and Go service, 79,150 meals were provided for local children. By mid-May, CNP staff dished out close to 743,000 meals. The number of children fed spiked when instructional packets were distributed alongside the lunch line. District CNP Director Robert Cuellar also noticed an increase in meals served when the menu included pizza, crispy beef tacos, and fresh fruit.

“Like health care workers serving on the frontline as first responders risking their lives to care for their patients, so, too, are our CNP employees risking their lives but ready with full confidence and trust in God to provide breakfast and lunch meals at our schools,” Cuellar said. “For nutritious meals, LISD is the place to be.

“I am thankful for all the LISD superheroes,” Cuellar added. “Our CNP staff is always ready to serve and provide meals during this time of crisis. Together we make sure

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A Laredo ISD Child Nutrition Program staff member hands out a free, nutritious meal to a student as part of the district’s Grab and Go initiative. Photo by Bobby Trevino, Laredo ISD

that during this pandemic, nutrition doesn’t take a vacation.”

Award-Winning Program

Throughout the regular school year, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 provides local educational agencies such as Laredo ISD with an alternative approach for operating school meal programs, thus granting every student the opportunity to receive a free meal for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Last year alone, the district’s CNP program served over 6 million meals.

Laredo ISD recently introduced a supper program, offering a free meal after school hours to any student who participates in an educational enrichment activity such as tutorials, University Interscholastic League, athletics, and fine arts programs.

“School breakfast and lunch contribute to a child’s well-being and assist in preparing them for instruction, as well as meet their nutritional needs throughout the day,” Cuellar said. “With a balanced meal, students are ready to learn and continue achieving their educational goals.”

Cuellar said the overall mission of the free meal service is to ensure that all students are able to access healthy meals when circumstances are beyond their control.

CNP has led the way in transforming cafeterias with the addition of salad bars at all elementary, middle, and high schools. The salad bars offer a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as meats, grains, and cheese options for students.

Because CNP strives to provide the best options for students, Laredo ISD was one of 15 school districts in the country to receive the 2018-19 “Turnip the Beet” Gold Award by the US Department of Agriculture. The award is given to programs that serve high-quality meals that are both wholesome and nutritious. Winners were selected for going above and beyond in ensuring that meals are also appetizing.H

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Coppell ISD Makes Engagement a Priority During COVID-19

Throughout the 2019-20 school year, Coppell ISD focused on the question: “In what ways might we make engagement irresistible?”

“One answer was meeting our community where they are,” said Coppell ISD Superintendent Brad Hunt. “After spring break, this turned out to be virtually, while our community was quarantining at home.”

In addition to the crisis communication messages in response to the closing of schools, Coppell ISD’s Communications and Community Engagement Department quickly developed a COVID-19 Closure Strategic Communications Plan to build upon the district’s collective engagement priority for the first three-quarters of the school year.

“The overarching goal of our plan was to build upon the momentum we had established all year long to continue to ngage with our community, while we were all at home together,” said Angela Brown, Communications and Community Engagement executive director.

According to Brown, early and quick planning was key to ensuring a strategic approach that met the myriad needs of various audiences. Parents and staff required school closure details and action steps to collect devices and other crucial information, such as how to collect medicine left at school. Educators and staff expected immediate information to begin to provide distance learning online. The Coppell ISD Board needed information about what was happening and talking points for constituents.

“Most importantly, we all wanted to sustain the relationship connections that CISD is known for during a time where seeing each other in person was not possible,” Brown said.

10 Texas Lone Star | July 2020 | texaslonestaronline.org GOOD NEWS ABOUT TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Coppell ISD Board members expressed their support for teachers and staff via a virtual photo collage shared on social media. Photos courtesy of Coppell ISD

Engagement Strategies

One of the tactics of the communications plan was the development of a hub editorial social media calendar focused on the timing, channel, and content of messaging from after spring break to the end of the school year. Another tactic was the creation of a district coronavirus website (coppellisd.com/ coronavirus) that housed a district message archive and links to additional resources, including social and emotional tips.

A district school closure updates group on Facebook was created to share more frequent updates with the community. Weekly activity boards also were created to encourage engagement from home.

“We wanted to ensure consistent messaging and engagement with our community,” Brown said. “Updates as information changed were crucial, and equally, if not more important, were opportunities for our audiences to interact with each other and rely on peers for support and questions to know that they were not in this situation alone.”

Hunt added, “We all missed seeing our students each day, and we had to come up with creative and innovative ways to engage with them during this new normal.”

In particular, Hunt wanted to continue to interact with students in the district from a distance, which led to the “Hobbies with Hunt” video series.

“We asked students to share their hobbies with me, and then the student and I each shot a video from our homes that were put together to share special moments with our community,” Hunt said.

So far, Hunt has learned Tae Kwon Do, how to play electric guitar, how to make soap, and how to bake muffins (from a student who recently won a Chopped Jr. competition on the Food Network).

“What has made this experience so special is that I get to learn about the incredible talents of our students and share more about myself, such as my own favorite albums growing up, as I learned the electric guitar,” Hunt said. “My own children—John Thomas and Juliana—were able to experience some of these hobbies with me, creating special memories for us as a family.”

Board Involvement

The Coppell ISD Board also missed engaging with the community and wanted both district educators and staff, as well as students and families, to know how much they were appreciated and supported. Trustees created a photo collage expressing their appreciation on social media. Each trustee also read a children’s book on Facebook Live. As the district’s board meeting award recognitions went virtual, trustees delivered certificates to honorees’ homes.

Board President Thom Hulme joined Hunt in cohosting a Facebook Live event to engage with and answer questions from the community.

“Collectively, as a board, it was important for us to continue to engage with the community as much as we could from a distance,” Hulme said.

(See Commitment, page 12.)


During a special video presentation last fall, Pflugerville ISD’s Hendrickson High School was recognized by Special Olympics North America and the ESPN network as one of the top schools in the nation for inclusion. ESPN anchor Hannah Storm announced that the school was a recipient of the national banner of honor, awarded to only five schools nationwide.

Earlier, Hendrickson had been named to the 2019 ESPN Honor Roll as part of its Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program, joining 33 other high schools and universities as finalists for the national banner awards.

Unified Champion Schools are recognized for their work in creating an inclusive environment on campus for all, broadening the focus beyond Special Olympics events to encompass a whole-school movement for inclusion. Through the program, teachers, students, and staff are encouraged to work together to create supportive classrooms, inclusive schoolwide activities, and opportunities for growth and success.

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Commitment (from page 11)

Another way the board came together to engage with the community was through the CISD Virtual 60th Birthday Bash May 1. The district had been celebrating its 60th anniversary throughout the 2019-20 school year with popup birthday parties at various district events and parties hosted by community partners. Before the quarantine, the district had planned a community-wide birthday party April 30.

“We moved our party to a week-long, virtual one inviting our community to celebrate with us online with various activities, such as creating a birthday card for CISD, singing happy birthday to us, baking a cake or cupcakes as a family, leading up to a virtual bash May 1,” Brown said. “This also was an opportunity for our restaurant partners to engage, as they were able to offer discounts on meals for our community to enjoy while at home together.”

The birthday celebration culminated in a Facebook Live event May 1, where Hunt and the board led a video trivia contest for the community. Hunt also was the master of ceremonies for a “House Hunter” scavenger hunt for district memorabilia.

Meeting Emotional Needs

Addressing the social and emotional needs of the community also remained a top priority, as the district included daily social media posts on this topic, linked to numerous

resources on its coronavirus website, and worked to address student, staff, and community needs.

“Part of our curriculum included daily check-ins with our learners from Pre-K to high school, where they told us how they were feeling each school day,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Angie Brooks Applegate. “These included using Google forms to gather quick feedback from learners and virtual class meetings to discuss emotional feelings and needs, as well as opportunities for individual or small-group virtual meetings with counselors.”

Numerous virtual professional learning offerings also were provided to bring Coppell ISD staff together to collaborate and focus on their specific social and emotional needs. Sessions included “Renew and Connect: Social Emotional Open Forum,” “Panel Discussion: Redefining Relationships in CISD Distance Learning,” “Cultivating Relationships in an Online Community,” and “Making Hope Happen.”

“Another essential tool for our district during our closure has been the use of our Panorama survey for staff, learners, and families,” Applegate said. “This survey tool has allowed us to gather social and emotional learning data for the fall and spring semester, along with gaining specific feedback for our community’s overarching needs during this time of distance learning. We will continue to use this resource as we go into the summer and fall to help us take

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the necessary next steps for moving ahead with addressing social and emotional needs.”


Creative, Innovative’

A common theme shared throughout the closure was that Coppell ISD teachers missed seeing their students and colleagues. Opportunities to express this sentiment included the creation of video and photo messages posted to social media, drivethrough parades with social distancing, signs recognizing graduating students, and more.

One of the district’s social media posts that generated a large engagement response was via the Facebook closure group when the community was asked to share memories and photos from the past school year. It garnered hundreds of photos and comments.

Hunt said, “By being strategic, creative, and innovative, while also focusing on our values and who we are as a district, I am proud to say we at CISD were able to create meaningful engagement with our community, even from a distance.”H

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Normalcy (from page 5)

and time schedules are posted so that parents can help their children be ready to access the internet.

Accessibility also requires devices. What is the answer to providing equipment to students? Maybe iPads for grades K-2 and Chromebooks for grades 3-12? Or some other suggestions? How does the district determine who gets equipment? What’s the student-to-device ratio? How is this all to be financed?

Planning for Next Steps

What are the priorities of your school or community? Have you identified them so as board members and community leaders a plan can be developed? The advantage to having a plan is that though no one knows the unknown, it is advantageous to have a starting point. Building that plane while flying it is seldom effective or efficient.

Make a plan. It can always be changed. At least you will have a starting point. Think outside of the box. Take what you know and what you have (remember, understand, apply, and analyze), then evaluate and create.

It is not about normalcy; it is about serving the schoolchildren. Take heed and take bold steps, as the districts have done that you will read about in this special edition. Innovative districts do innovative things, like Coppell ISD with communication, Abilene ISD and Wylie ISD jointly with health care, and Laredo ISD with nutrition. They and others across the state have created a new normal and found innovative and novel solutions to issues of today.

You and your team can work together now to prepare for what comes next.H

Lee Lentz-Edwards, a Kermit ISD trustee, is 2019-20 president of TASB.

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Aldine ISD Provides Care, Support for Students, Families, and Staff

The 2019-20 school year started seemingly ordinary. Aldine ISD rolled out a new five-year district strategic plan, called a New Way Forward, but there was no inkling that this title would foreshadow the near future. In the final stretch of the school year, educators around the world were thrown a curveball that has changed the trajectory of schools.

In February, Aldine ISD began monitoring the coronavirus outbreak spreading in several major cities across the globe. The first coronavirus case in the greater Houston area was reported on March 4, just as Aldine ISD schools were preparing for spring break. March 6 would be the last time students and staff would set foot on campus for the remainder of the school year.

The coronavirus quickly spread throughout Houston. Districts turned to local health officials to get a better understanding of the virus. Their proposal encouraged Houston and Harris County residents to stay home, work safely, and help flatten the curve. The district’s March 16 return from spring break would be postponed indefinitely.

Birth of #AldineCares

COVID-19 challenged schools and educators in ways that were never expected. A COVID-19 task force was created, schools moved online, teachers were forced to learn new tools, communicating with families became more difficult, and school hallways fell silent.

Although the 67,000 Aldine ISD students were no longer learning in school buildings, eating in cafeterias, or riding school buses, school and learning continued from home: #AldineCares was birthed out of the pandemic.

Aldine Cares is a student outreach initiative created by the district COVID-19 task force outreach and engagement subcommittee. During the abrupt disruption of district operations, each teacher touched base with families to determine what their needs were. Teachers learned quickly that access to technology, the internet, and other resources, such as food and groceries, were limited for their students.

Although students were unable to participate in their typical classroom setting, Aldine ISD was still dedicated to staying connected to each student. It was imperative that each student knew that their teachers did not forget about them and that Aldine cares. Aldine Cares became a districtwide hashtag to inform the

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Aldine ISD students show off yard signs presented by their teachers to celebrate their successes and achievements during a most extraordinary semester. Photos courtesy of Aldine ISD

community of resources, encourage one another, and exhibit the ways the district was continuing to support students and families.

“Aldine Cares is much more than a hashtag,” Aldine ISD Superintendent LaTonya M. Goffney said. “Aldine Cares is how our teachers, custodians, child nutrition, police, and maintenance staff showed up for our students when they needed them the most. This pandemic gave us no time to prepare; however, our Aldine ISD family provided support on a moment’s notice.”

Stepping Up

Aldine Cares has always been a part of the Aldine ISD fabric, but this time the district was able to show the entire community exactly how much the district cares for students, families, and staff.

The Aldine ISD Child Nutrition staff stepped into action to serve over 879,000 meals to families; the technology department provided over 9,000 district Google Chromebooks to secondary and special education students; and teachers consistently reached out to each of their students until contact was made.

District nurses became seamstresses, creating hundreds of masks for district Child Nutrition employees, who showed up week after week to provide meals to the district families.

“I presented the nurses with the challenge of helping our Child Nutrition staff members, who are on the frontlines to help feed our district families, remain safe and healthy,” said Aldine ISD Program Director of Health Services Maisha Guillory. “They quickly stepped up to the plate and used their sewing talents to create masks for Child Nutrition employees. They not only tended to the needs of students, but they came to the aid of Aldine’s staff and the community, as well.”

Meeting Educational Needs

When educational equity issues were magnified, the Teaching and Learning Department created and mailed printed learning packets to the youngest learners, and the

Professional Learning Department developed an online learning hub for all Aldine ISD scholars to continue learning from home.

Teachers mailed their students care packages. They celebrated students with yard signs, applauding them for being top readers, students of the week, and for receiving top honors in their graduating class. They mailed cutouts of school mascots and flat versions of themselves to students to make the at-home learning experience more exciting.

The Visual Arts Department led a weekly art element contest to encourage student artists to continue creating at home. Some teachers even surprised their students with pizza. They simply met students right where they were, at home.

“Every day I am glued to a device so that I can communicate with my students and parents,” said Loretta Lang, Calvert Elementary School fifth-grade teacher. “I am intentional when I communicate with each of my students because each of them learns differently, and I still expect great work, even from home. We have fun online, and we have continued to grow as a classroom through Schoology.”

Showcasing Care and Support

Although apart, students, teachers, and staff were drawn closer together through the internet. Awards nights, brainstorming sessions, Zoom meetings, and virtual spirit weeks became the norm. Teachers, principals, the police department, librarians, and graduating seniors were celebrated virtually. Districtwide digital celebrations provided reminders to the students of the hard work and diligence educators provide daily, pandemic or not. Educators were recognized as the heroes we always knew they were.

Postponed events and cancellations became the norm, but Aldine ISD continued to showcase care and support during a time of uncertainty. The students were resilient, and teachers and staff persevered. The year 2020 solidified Aldine ISD’s New Way Forward, now and always.H

Valonia Walker is a communications specialist for Aldine ISD.

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Krum High School Seniors Graduate in Style at the Texas Motor Speedway

As high school draws to a close, many seniors and their families look forward to milestone events like prom and graduation; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a cloud of uncertainty began to plague the Class of 2020. With prom canceled and no end in sight for the new COVID-19 normal of masks and social distancing, Krum ISD graduating seniors participated in a graduation ceremony that they will never forget.

When Krum ISD Superintendent Cody Carroll realized that the graduation ceremony for Krum High School would

not take place as planned on May 22, he joined forces with his fellow superintendents in Denton County. Together, with the help of Denton County Judge Andy Eads, county health professionals, and representatives from the Texas Motor Speedway, the plans for a drive-in style graduation ceremony were born.

Along with over 30 other high schools, Krum High School seniors were able to don their caps and gowns, listen to speeches from their classmates, and receive their diplomas while their loved ones watched and cheered them on

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Krum High School seniors of the Class of 2020, wearing their caps and gowns, stride into the Texas Motor Speedway to “cross the finish line” in a unique graduation ceremony. Photo courtesy of Krum ISD

from their vehicles on Monday, May 18.

The Checkered Flag Texas Motor Speedway, considered the fastest track on the NASCAR racing circuit, is home to the world’s largest outdoor media screen, colloquially known as “Big Hoss.” On this night, it was home to a gathering of happy graduates and their proud families.

Parents and family members drove their vehicles through the tunnel to the Speedway infield and remained in their vehicles to watch the graduation ceremony unfold on “Big Hoss.” Just like a drive-in movie theater experience, they tuned into a radio station to listen to the broadcast, while prerecorded speeches, band performances of “Pomp and Circumstance,” and a live speech from the high school principal played on the screen.

All the emotion and excitement of a traditional ceremony were accompanied by the thrill of seeing peers and teachers for the first time in months. Students, filled with joy, fussed over perfecting the fit of their graduation caps, and lined up in alphabetical order in the garage that normally houses prized race cars.

Family members cheered from their vehicles and honked their horns as the seniors walked onto the track wearing custom masks and filed into rows of chairs measured six feet apart to comply with social distancing protocols. One by one, 132 seniors were announced by name as they walked up to the checkered pattern on the track, crossed the finish line, and received their diplomas. It was a literal and symbolic way to end the marathon race that has been their public school education.

These young adults came into the world during the 9/11 tragedy and are entering adulthood during another unprecedented time as the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold. If any group of students is strong enough to undergo this experience, it is the Class of 2020.H


A recent statewide poll gauging Texans’ attitudes toward public education found they appreciate teachers greatly but have concerns about testing and the lack of funding for schools. The poll, commissioned by the nonprofit Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, found that 77 percent of Texans express trust and confidence in their teachers, much higher than the 61 percent of Americans polled on the same question.

The Foundation modeled the poll after the longstanding national PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Other major findings show that, while teachers are important to school quality, Texans believe they are undervalued.

The poll also found the following:

• Ninety-three percent of Texans say teacher quality is extremely or very important in overall school quality

• Seventy-one percent see teachers as undervalued in society

• Seventy percent say teacher pay is too low

• Sixty percent are not confident that state standardized tests effectively measure how well a student is learning

• Fifty-nine percent believe their community’s public schools don’t have enough money

When rating public schools as a whole, the more closely connected respondents are to a school, the higher they rate it, a trend reflected in the national research. The poll found 68 percent of Texas parents would give their oldest child’s campus an A or B grade. Overall, 48 percent of Texas gave the schools in their community an A or B grade, higher than the 44 percent of Americans who give their community’s schools the same high marks.

Source: Raise Your Hand Texas

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Taylor Poston is public information officer for Krum ISD.


West Texas District Maintains Strong Ties with Community via Multiple Channels

When school districts across the country left classrooms on March 13, no one knew it would be the last time teachers and students would be together, in person, for the school year. The threat of COVID-19 had been imminent for several weeks, but no one could predict the immense impact it would have in the days and weeks to come. Everyone began the journey of taking the pandemic day by day. Soon the reality hit that the pandemic was here, and it quickly became evident that its effects were going to stay for quite some time.

Public education was turned upside down in a matter of hours. New terminology was developed and adopted in a matter of days. Terms like “remote learning,” “social distancing,” and “closed, but instructing” had not existed a few short weeks ago. The road to remote learning began with no one knowing how it would look.

Frenship ISD team members knew we must lock arms and move toward a common goal of taking care of students. Oper-

ations, Curriculum and Instruction, Communications, Human Resources, Finance, and Technology department personnel put their thinking caps on and began to problem solve. There wasn’t a single layer of education not impacted, but the community and our students needed us to be adaptive and innovative.

“We do more than educate children,” said Frenship ISD Superintendent Michelle McCord. “We feed children. We take care of their social and emotional needs. We support them in many ways. We are essential to the fabric of our community.”

Perhaps the tallest hurdle was discovering how to stay personally connected while remaining socially distant. Staying personally connected to every student while maintaining physical separation would prove difficult, knowing that humans are wired for close connection.

“Relationships are just so important,” said Haley Kirk, teacher at Frenship ISD’s Westwind Elementary. “In the classroom, you are able to make those connections and have little moments and laughter. All of this has kind of taken a back

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A teacher and student from Frenship ISD’s Crestview Elementary School greet each other from a distance during a drive-through personal item pickup day at the campus. Photo courtesy of Frenship ISD

seat, and we’ve had to be creative and think about new ways to connect to students. I really appreciate how Frenship made connections most important above everything else. I’m really grateful to work at Frenship, where the number-one belief statement is ‘People are our most important resource.’ Without connection and without people, there’s no learning happening.” Being wired for connection took on new meaning during this crisis. As educators, we found unique opportunities to serve families and find solutions to educate children under any circumstance. Following are just a few.

Meeting Social, Emotional Needs

Early in the process of transitioning to remote learning, Frenship ISD leadership understood the need to serve as the stabilizing force for students and families during this crisis. Administrators and teachers took action to support, encourage, and check on students through daily phone calls from teachers. Each student was contacted, and every call was tracked to ensure no student was falling through the cracks. If a student needed more assistance than what could be given over the phone, teachers, counselors, administrators, and nurses stepped in to meet individual needs.

Curbside Meals

The district made the decision to provide meals for children in the community. The need was there, evidenced by the

fact that 900 meals were picked up from just one of the six feeding locations on the first day.

By Day 60, Frenship ISD served more than 200,000 curbside meals. In a “come one, come all” approach, we welcomed every child 18 or younger from any district to drive through our curbside locations for meals. We served curbside meals five days a week. Then, with assistance from the Texas Department of Agriculture and partner Aramark, we increased curbside feeding to seven days a week. It was one of the most vital and life-changing projects we ever attempted.

What we didn’t expect were the families who waited in line just to see district and community volunteers. Some needed the connection more than the meals. They needed to see a smiling face to ask them about their day. They craved those personal interactions that had suddenly ceased.

“For some of the kids, this is their only chance to get out of the house for that day,” said Frenship ISD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rhonda Dillard. “They just beam. They show me their stuffed animals, notes, and all kinds of things. I think it’s just their way to stay connected to us.”

The district provided much more than meals. We served as a symbol of hope and stability during a time of chaos and fear. And it came as no surprise that we needed the curbside meals as much as our community members.

(See Connection, page 20.)

texaslonestaronline.org | July 2020 | Texas Lone Star 19 ■ Web-based direct service documentation and reporting software ■ Training and best-practice guidance ■ User-friendly documentation process ■ Multi-tiered SHARS administration program ■ Step-by-step help with cost reporting and certification of funds Your district’s budget is limited. TASB Special Education Solutions can help you optimize eligible SHARS revenue through: Contact us for a low-cost solution. 888.630.6606 • shars@tasb.org tasb.org/specialeducation

“This is the highlight of my day. I get to come out here, greet the kids and families, and build connections with them even in the car line,” said Dillard. “Just knowing I’m going to get to see them each day, it makes my day.”

Remote Learning

While each school district tackled the monumental task of teaching from a distance, Frenship ISD responded with two options for remote learning: physical or digital workbooks.

The new model of remote learning was a departure from what the district had worked years to build. We had placed the most value on the human interaction between teacher and student with one-to-one instruction. We had intentionally not placed devices in front of every learner, as we value the lessons learned from an engaging teacher while encouraging a growth mindset in each student.

But, as educators do, we adapted and met needs.

The district worked with administration, instructional coaches, and teachers to develop curriculum in the format of physical and digital workbooks to equip each of our 10,300 learners, who, in the blink of an eye, became remote learners.

Technology Deployment

Our Technology Department created hotspots offering WiFi connectivity at each of our 14 campuses. While students weren’t able to enter the schools, we expanded WiFi signals to parking lot areas. Anyone, not just students, could simply drive up to a campus, remain in their vehicle in the parking lot, connect their device, and learn.

In addition to connectivity on campuses, laptops were deployed to staff and students who did not have devices for remote learning. The technology team worked countless

hours to deploy almost 500 devices in one week’s time to enable remote learning.


Effective communication was imperative through the twists and turns of the pandemic. To inform parents, students, staff members, and the community of important decisions was no easy task. It required building a new COVID-19 section of the district website, featuring the latest developments in remote learning, grading guidelines, curbside meals, technology resources, event updates, and more.

In addition to the website, we tailored minute-by-minute communication to each stakeholder through social media, e-mail blasts, callouts, and video messages from the superintendent and campus principals.

Communication remains an ongoing effort for the district as the flow of information and guidance from state and local authorities continues to evolve.

Celebrations, Recognitions

Given the circumstances and limitations of social distancing, the district was unable to host many of the traditional spring events and celebrations, including the Staff Appreciation Banquet, Frenship High School Ring Ceremony, Graduation Ceremonies for seniors, eighth-graders, and kindergarteners, and many more.

Instead, we had to be creative in our approach to recognize the deserving groups of staff and students. Our alternative celebrations included many drive-by parades, drive-through ceremonies, and virtual recognitions using technology resources.

“Seeing our kids [at the parades] makes our day,” said Ciera Martin, teacher at Frenship ISD’s Legacy Elementary. “Not getting to see students in person has been awful, and I know it’s been hard on them, too. This was a way for us to stay connected, even from a distance.”

Following CDC and the Texas Education Agency guidelines, we hosted the Frenship High School commencement ceremony at the high school stadium. We partnered with businesses in the community to provide hand sanitizer, bottled water, and signage to ensure all safety precautions were met. Even though the ceremony looked much different, it proved to be special and memorable for the Class of 2020.

“Through COVID-19, we discovered that our staff, parents, and students are overcomers,” said Superintendent McCord. “We found that our belief system can stand the test of time and provide guidance through adversity. Whether it’s becoming a teacher at home, becoming a remote learner, or lending an ear or a helping hand to those in need, our Frenship community filled every gap. I’m proud of our Frenship families, and I’m grateful. Now more than ever, I am honored to call myself a Frenship Tiger.”H

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Emily Solis is Frenship ISD director of Communications and Community Engagement. Tiffany Taylor is Frenship ISD Media Relations coordinator. Meredith Caudle is Frenship ISD communications specialist. Connection (from page 19) Photo courtesy of Frenship ISD


Allen ISD’s Unconventional Graduation Covers All Details, Creates Memories

Anne Zumwalt was looking forward to Allen High School’s graduation ceremony, but for a very different reason than most of her senior classmates. With the last name of Zumwalt, she planned to carry on the family tradition of being the final name called from the largest graduating class in Texas.

“My three older brothers were all the final people called in their graduating classes at Allen High School,” Anne said. “After such a long ceremony, the stadium goes crazy with applause. I was looking forward to that.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools across the nation to move to an at-home learning format, Anne figured her family tradition may finally come to an end. She heard rumors of a drive-through ceremony or even a graduation held entirely online. When Allen High School announced it would hold an in-person graduation and families could sign up for specific time slots regardless of alphabetical order, Anne saw her opportunity. With time slots available from the morning until the evening, Anne and her family chose one of the final times available to keep the tradition alive.

A Special Ceremony

In a normal year, Allen ISD’s Allen High School graduation ceremony is a long affair—with 1,600+ graduates—but the 2020 senior class set a new record that may never be broken. Led by thenPrincipal Jason Johnston (now Allen ISD’s assistant superintendent for Human Resources), the ceremony lasted from 9 a.m. until 9:15 p.m. to accommodate social distancing guidelines.

Even the smallest logistical details were considered to ensure everyone’s

well-being at the ceremony. Four stages were set up in each corner of Eagle Stadium, and families signed up for time slots to ensure the crowds didn’t become too heavy. Families were separated by specific parking lots and gate entrances, and they queued in lines 25 feet apart to give everyone plenty of space. Each graduating senior chose one family member to hand him or her the diploma, a photograph was taken, and the senior’s name was announced over the loudspeaker. It made for a long day for the high school staff, but each family could complete the entire process in approximately 20 minutes.

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Anne Zumwalt and her family celebrate after she was announced as the final Allen High School senior to cross the stage for the Class of 2020. Photo courtesy of Allen ISD

To complete the full graduation experience, the valedictorian and salutatorian speeches were recorded the day before, along with comments from Superintendent Robin Bullock and Board President Amy Gnadt. The recorded speeches were packaged together with footage of each senior crossing the stage to create a seamless graduation video for the students to keep and cherish.

Sharing the Plan

Allen High School was among the first of the large high schools in the state to announce its graduation plan. Johnston worked with his administrative team to create the plan; they received feedback from a student committee that expressed its desire for some form of in-person celebration. After receiving support from Allen ISD administration and local health officials, Johnston was ready to announce the details to the community. News of Allen’s graduation plan began appearing on the news and spreading across social media. It wasn’t long before Johnston began to receive calls from across the state.

“We had a number of districts and high schools reach out to us to ask if we would share our detailed plan with them,” Johnston said. “Of course, we were happy to share and potentially help out any other school. They would have done the same for us.”

After the plan was announced to the community, the response was overwhelmingly positive, albeit a bit skeptical that it would all go off without a hitch. On the day of the event, however, the program flowed smoothly and on time thanks to the hard work of the Allen High School staff.

Tradition Continues

Many families whose students graduated that day were grateful for the work that went into the event’s preparation, including the family of graduating senior Vince Pilot. “This was just such a tough time for all of us, but [the Allen staff] did a great job of honoring the students,” Victor Pilot, Vince’s father, said. “We’re just ecstatic to celebrate today.”

Despite the fact that it was an unconventional ending to the school year, there was no shortage of smiles and laughter from the Allen families on graduation day. As the event began coming to a close and the Zumwalt family entered the field, Johnston called all of the staff in the stadium to her stage. To keep Anne’s family tradition alive, the gathered group of staff and administrators began clapping and cheering loudly as Anne collected her diploma. It’s not a stretch to think, however, that they were also cheering for being able to close a difficult year on a high note. Either way, Anne and the Zumwalt family were all smiles.

“Having this graduation in person was important to all of the students,” Anne said. “We are just so appreciative of the high school staff for putting a whole day aside so that we could graduate. It meant a lot to all of us, and we’ll remember it forever.”H

David Hicks is chief information officer for Allen ISD.


Texas was one of only seven states in the country to post an adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) of 90 percent or higher, according to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

NCES data from 2017-18, the most recent year available, shows that Texas, Iowa, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and New Jersey had graduation rates of 90 percent or higher for public high school students. The ACGR is the percentage of public high school freshmen who graduate with a regular diploma within four years of starting ninth grade. The national average ACGR rate was 85 percent.

According to the NCES executive summary: “In school year 2017–18, the national ACGR for public high school students was 85 percent, the highest it has been since the rate was first measured in 2010–11.”

For more information, visit https://nces. ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp

Source: NCES

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Forney ISD Offers Plethora of Services to Keep Students, Community Connected

Whether it’s for Friday night football games, a band concert, or an open house night, public schools bring people together. Without them, we lose a large part of our sense of community. Even though we are currently in a time where we are separated, public education is still finding a way to bring people together and serve the community. That is the power of Texas public schools.

When communities are in crisis, public schools step in. As we combat COVID-19 and its many unknowns, Forney ISD is joining districts across the country that are reaching out to students, families, and community members in need. We are delivering much more than recorded lectures, worksheets, and online learning software. Our teachers have prioritized learning through connections with their students, as our core value is “relationships first.”

With all of the uncertainty and burdens that are concerning many of our families—from job loss to illness to

family separations—educators are striving to be a constant for students by bringing joy to our children and families. At Forney ISD, we’re focusing on connection over perfection and giving and asking for grace as we navigate uncharted territory together with our community.

We are communicating with our Forney families every day and making sure students and working parents have the resources they need to enable online learning. The district prides itself on being a family, and our family will continue to support one another.

More Than Online Lessons

Thousands of school districts across the country are making the switch to online learning to ensure our children receive a high-quality education during this crisis—but we aren’t stopping there. We are also doing everything we can to support our communities.

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School district staff and community members gather groceries, toiletries, and other items for families in need during a Forney ISD Resource Fair. Photo courtesy of Forney ISD

Some of the initiatives we’ve undertaken in Forney ISD include:

• Nutritious grab-and-go meals for students in need of nourishment.

• Healthy, convenient meals for our first responders.

• Partnership with community churches and service organizations, in which the district hosts resource stations for community members, including the elderly, that include boxes of food for a week, personal hygiene items, bottled water, and school supplies that will continue throughout the summer.

• A dedicated community resource hotline, allowing us to serve as the conduit between people in need and nonprofits that can best assist them.

• A dedicated tech help line to assist students and parents with technical difficulties that might interfere with e-learning.

• A dedicated counselor hotline for students dealing with anxiety, depression, and other fears brought on by the coronavirus epidemic. Counselors volunteered to staff the hotline in three shifts to provide 24/7 access for our students in need.

• An online gathering place, called Forney Family, to keep community members engaged and connected, including virtual Forney Family Nights every Saturday throughout March, April and May.

• Wellness Wednesdays, with healthy tips from school nurses.

Achieve Student-Centered Staffing with a Special Education Workload Analysis

Caseloads shouldn’t be about the number of special education staff members— they should be about the intensity of services needed by the student. We’re here to help.

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• Nurse visits for students and families through our virtual clinics.

• Encouragement for community members to support local businesses.

• Promotion of area nonprofit initiatives among our Forney Family to encourage donations and support.

There are still many unknowns concerning COVID-19, but one thing is for certain: our public school teachers, administrators, board members, and staff continue to do what they do best—educate and support students, their families, and communities in every way necessary while continuing to bring joy to our children.H

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studentsolutions@tasb.org 888.247.4829 Introducing
Kristin Zastoupil is executive director of Marketing and Communications for Forney ISD.


Copperas Cove ISD Provides Technology, Resources to Students and Families

Nancy Marrow needed a solution. The working, single mom of two struggled getting her children to complete their assignments with off-campus instruction offered by Copperas Cove ISD (CCISD). Her goal was to not pick up and return academic paper packets each week at her children’s home campus of Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary School; the goal was to have her children complete the lesson online. But she could not do it with the resources she had.

and set up more than a dozen free internet hot spots for the students to use.

Students complete their lessons online and participate in teacher video conferences and other internet-related learning. Parents may still pick up paper academic packets, but more than 90 percent of CCISD students are completing their lessons online—including choir and band practices, handson career/technology education courses, athletics through video performance, and more, said CCISD Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Services Amanda Crawley.

“Teachers have spent time learning how to communicate with their students through technology and virtual conferences,” Crawley said. “Additionally, teachers continue to prepare paper-based assignments for those students who work best that way.”


“My son’s fifth-grade teachers and staff at Fairview/Miss Jewell have been very helpful in guiding us through the easiest ways to access the things we need in Schoology (learning management system) and calling to check on us to make sure we’ve got everything we need,” Marrow said. “Our old computer wasn’t keeping up with the things my son needed to log into his live video lessons with his intervention teacher. So she scheduled us to check out (computer) devices. Assignments for my first-grader are all now available to be submitted through Schoology, as well.”

Free Laptops, Internet Access

CCISD was the first district in the Fort Hood area to provide students with off-campus instruction beginning March 17. The district began issuing laptops to students March 24

Parent Chandra Spitzer has third-grade twins, Romella and Noah Spitzer, at Williams/Ledger Elementary School.

“CCISD has been great giving out their academic packets, and now that they have the laptop that was issued to them by the school district, it is easier for them to do the schoolwork they would have been doing if they were able to go to school,” Spitzer said. “When I picked up the laptop it was an easy

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Williams/Ledger Elementary fifth-grader Dorianna Gilbert uses a Copperas Cove ISD laptop to maintain her reading skills. Dorianna reads at a high school Photo courtesy of Copperas Cove ISD

process, and I was told of the free WiFi available in the school parking lot.”

CCISD has set up free internet locations for students and their families at more than a dozen locations, and the district has distributed laptops for children in all grades pre-K-12.

Trying to pick up academic packets from four different campuses was not feasible for parent Shannoda Gilbert, who has four children in four different schools.

“Three of my children had their own computers, but my oldest child didn’t have one that was working properly. So CCISD provided her with a laptop,” Gilbert said. “Not only did they provide her with the laptop, they made sure she could log on without any problems. Even when Schoology is not working sometimes because so many people are using the learning platform, the district still provided packets to each one of my children and assured me that Schoology would be up and running within an hour.”

Reaching All Students

CCISD also loaded all assignments for students in grades 6-12 on the district website under the Remote Learning tab, so students were able to access their assignments when Schoology is overloaded.

“I was amazed at how the teachers from CCISD reached out to my children just to make sure they understood how to do their assignments and upload them to Schoology,” Gilbert said.

Despite the obstacles presented during campus closures, Crawley said teachers worked diligently to reach all of their students.

“Remote instruction is definitely not a one-size-fits-all model in CCISD,” Crawley said. “We are continuing to grow and learn to make remote instruction better for our students. I am very proud of how our staff stepped up during this time of crisis to meet the needs of all learners.”H

2019–20 Business Recognition Program

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Thank local businesses and organizations for supporting Texas public schools. Submit names using the online form. Receive an individual presentation packet for each honoree . Submissions deadline extended to July 31, 2020. tasb.org/standingup • 800.580.8272
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”—Coretta Scott King
Wendy Sledd is director of Communications for Copperas Cove ISD.
“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.”
—Fred Rogers


Angleton ISD Finds Ways to Feed Community

The COVID-19 pandemic has had major impacts on communities. Outside of the health crisis itself, hunger is one of the main concerns that community leaders are facing, and school districts across the country have been stepping in to help meet the hunger needs in their community.

“The COVID-19 crisis has hit every community hard in so many ways,” Angleton ISD Superintendent Phil Edwards said. “We know that many families rely on their school districts to help feed their children, and the pandemic has only increased that need to help families and our community during this very difficult time.”

Like many other Texas school districts, Angleton ISD has made sure that the children and even the families of its community are still getting this most basic need met through two essential programs: the Angleton School Market and the AISD Fueled Meal Assistance Program.

The School Market

The Angleton School Market is a food pantry designed to help provide healthy food to families in the community. Market access is not based on household or individual salary; everyone is welcome regardless of income or age.

The district partners with the Houston Food Bank to provide the Market, which the district has kept open since the crisis hit. In fact, Angleton ISD has even increased the number

of days the Market is open from once every other week to once a week.

The Market, which has been running for a couple of years out of Angleton Junior High School, is usually a student-run food pantry open every other week for the community. While students are not able to run the Market at this time for safety reasons, Angleton ISD has continued the Market with the help of district staff volunteers.

“Our volunteers are amazing and are what has allowed us to keep the Market running,” Student Services Director Kalean Bowie said. “We have about 35 people volunteering every Wednesday, and they put in hours of strenuous work prepping the food boxes, signing up families, and hauling and placing food in vehicles.”

Angleton Junior High teacher Alexis Beachum, who runs the Market during the school year with student help, said the Market is vital to the community.

“We are meeting a desperate need right now,” she said. “We are putting fresh produce and much needed nonperishable items in the hands of our community members every week. Some of our community members do not have paychecks coming in right now and don’t even know how they are going to eat, much less feed their children. We are helping to alleviate some of that stress and fear.”

28 Texas Lone Star | July 2020 | texaslonestaronline.org
An Angleton child collects meals for his siblings and himself from one of the many Angleton ISD buses delivering meals as part of the AISD Fueled Meal Assistance Program. Photo courtesy of Angleton ISD

Beachum added that regardless of a person’s income, the Market can help offset food costs, allowing community members to use resources in other capacities as needed.

“What COVID has done is that it has minimized the need for social tiering in terms of income, and we are eliminating some of the prejudice associated with food pantries by making sure everyone can participate,” she said. “If people do not have to spend that money on food that week, they can then spend it in other ways to help themselves, their families, and their community.”

Since switching to a once-a-week schedule, the district has been able to feed approximately 500 households each week through the Market. This averages to more than 2,000 adults and almost 1,000 children each week.

The district planned to keep the Market running every Wednesday as long as possible, committed through at least June 17.

Meals on Board

During the crisis, Angleton ISD also began running its AISD Fueled Meal Assistance Program, a district Child Nutrition Department initiative supported by the Transportation Department.

Through the Fueled program, Angleton ISD is able to feed about 2,000 children every weekday by having curbside pick-up meals at two centrally located campuses and by driving buses with meals into the AISD community, which encompasses 400 square miles.

The program runs five buses every day, making more than 50 stops at various dropoff areas. They make a point to stop at areas with a higher level of low socioeconomic populations, and the district continues to evaluate the needs of the community, adding more stops and buses as program needs grow.

At each service—curbside and bus delivery—the Fueled program provides a breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal to each child.

“It is important that we find ways to get nutritious meals into the hands of our children,” Child Nutrition Director Amy Anderson said. “We are regularly feeding about 6,000 meals a day to 2,000 children, and when our buses drive up to a neighborhood, you can see the tremendous need. It is beyond heartwarming when we see the faces of our kids light up at the sight of our buses.”

The district’s Child Nutrition Department received grants to help offset some of the expenses of the program. Dow, a local industry partner, awarded the department a grant to purchase resources such as ice chests and other items to keep district staff safe. The department also received a grant from No Kid Hungry to help pay for staff hazard pay and a GENYouth grant to purchase insulated milk crate bags.

The district will continue to run the AISD Fueled Meal Assistance Program until school opens back up, meaning they plan to run the program through the summer, as well.

Contact-Free Service

In both programs, the district runs contact-free service. People must remain in their vehicles at pickup sites, and the

meals on the buses are placed in ice chests to ensure contactless delivery of food.

Workers and volunteers, who follow recommended safety precautions from the CDC, place bagged/boxed food in the ice chests and vehicles and sign up people from their vehicles.

“Our goal is to make sure that the children in our community receive nutritious meals and that we continue to serve our community in every way possible,” Superintendent Edwards said.H

Hanna Chalmers is Angleton ISD director of Public Relations.


In recent rankings of the best high schools in the nation as compiled by U.S. News & World Report, three Dallas ISD schools were rated in the top 20 in the country.

The district’s School for the Talented and Gifted ranked sixth; the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School ranked 10th; and the Science and Engineering Magnet School ranked 17th, according to the magazine’s rating system.

High schools are ranked using six criteria: college readiness, math and reading proficiency, math and reading performance, underserved student performance, college curriculum breadth, and graduation rate.

For a complete list of high school rankings or more information, visit usnews.com/ education/best-high-schools/rankings-overview.

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Greenville Students, Parents,

Educators Show Exceptional Resilience, Creativity

One of the most remarkable hallmarks of the human spirit is resilience. That resilience was tested in many arenas when our world turned upside down this spring. In Greenville ISD, we saw three specific stages in the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike any other crisis, this one touched every life and provoked unparalleled emotions, problem-solving initiatives, and unwavering resolve.

Stage 1: The Flurry

Stacie Wilson and her son Carter were in the Phoenix, Arizona, airport when her phone started blowing up with calls, text messages, and notifications. School had been called off for at least two weeks, and adrenaline was coursing through the veins of teachers, parents, and students all over Greenville.

“There were so many questions. My heart was racing, and here I was about to get on a plane,” said Wilson, principal at Greenville ISD’s George Washington Carver Elementary. “As a principal, my heart and mind immediately went out to my students. Would they be safe? Would they have enough to eat? When would I see them again? When would I hug them and high-five them again?”

She said the time on the plane gave her time to think.

“I took a breath and put on my principal’s poker face, got back home, and started planning with my team. I told my teachers, ‘You’re still their teachers, and you’re going to keep doing what you’re great at, just on a laptop instead of in person. Walk around your house, find a place that’s pretty, and set up a little Zoom classroom.’ Then we got a master Zoom schedule together, and we started rolling with it.”

Like his mom, Carter Mosely considers Carver Elementary his second home. And

30 Texas Lone Star | July 2020 | texaslonestaronline.org GOOD NEWS ABOUT TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Stacie Wilson, principal at Greenville ISD’s George Washington Carver Elementary, shown here with her son, Carter Mosely, put innovation in high gear to keep her students learning during the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Greenville ISD

suddenly, the halls were dark and empty.

“I got confused about it.… We’re wearing masks and staying at home most of the time and not going to school every day and trying to learn how to stay protected,” he said. “Everything was different. I missed seeing my friends, and I really missed my teachers.”

The final stretch between spring break and the last day of school is always frenetic. Then suddenly, this year, everything was up in the air. What about spring sports? Fine arts events?

STAAR testing? Attendance? Funding? Grading and GPA? Banquets and receptions? Prom? And, perhaps the most important ceremony of all, graduation?

Stage 2: The Long Wait

With the exception of graduation, events were canceled one after the other, and soon the five stages of grief played themselves out, ending with acceptance.

The reality sank in that the rest of the school year would be spent teaching and learning from home. Problem-solving and innovation kicked into high gear. Suddenly, everyone was on Zoom. Teachers posted YouTube videos explaining hard-to-understand concepts. Entire learning units were converted to digital formats, and for those students who either didn’t have internet and devices at home or who preferred lessons on paper, packets were organized, picked up, and returned with completed work.

For parents like Abigail Luna, who has three students in Greenville ISD—two at the high school and one who just completed fifth grade—it was a crash course in teaching. Suddenly, she and her husband were fielding questions about pre-calculus and physics.

“I could help Tabitha, who was in fifth-grade math, which had some algebra, but that higher math, I just couldn’t do it,” Luna said. “It gave me a new appreciation for our teachers. We’ve been blessed with so many excellent teachers over the years, but this year, we saw them in a new way. We were in it together, and we’ve gotten really close. They are so committed. They’re Zooming every day, doing FaceTime, texting, and calling—anything they can do to help our kids learn and stay in touch.”

Tabitha described her teachers in one word: “Amazing.”

“At first, I thought it was just going to be a long spring break. Then we all realized we really weren’t going back,” she said. “My teachers have been doing a really great job of adjusting. I remember my first Zoom call; I was upside down on the screen. I had no idea what I was doing. My teacher was so funny, and she helped me figure it out. I’m very grateful.”

Abigail and Tabitha said they began noticing messages of encouragement everywhere. The one they remember the most was a billboard on I-30 that proclaimed, “Nothing Stops a Lion”

texaslonestaronline.org | July 2020 | Texas Lone Star 31
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Resilience, page 32.)

Resilience (from page 31)

in honor of the Greenville High School Class of 2020 and their lion mascot. After it went up, the district produced a video using a fly-over drone to capture a bird’s eye view of the billboard and declaring, “We believe in you. Your future is bright.”

“We watched that video together and got goosebumps,” Tabitha said. “To me, what it said is, ‘We’re never going to give up. We’ve got to keep moving ahead.’”

The saying has caught on, and “Nothing Stops a Lion” has appeared on social media hashtags, T-shirts, and business marquees throughout town. And with it came yard signs, car parades, and home deliveries.

Behind all of this is the spirit, the will to push through the long wait.

Stage 3: The Future

As for what the future holds, there are many hands at all levels working on that question. There are many executive orders and guidelines still to come.

But one thing is certain. Educators will remain committed to their craft. They will be sure their students’ basic needs—including meals and access to health care—are met. They will be sure their emotional and educational needs are met. And they will never forget about the importance of human contact, even if it’s virtual or six feet apart for now. They will stay connected with their school families.

Greenville High School Valedictorian Wyatt Spivy had this to say during his speech at graduation: “I want to stress that, as difficult as these last few months have been, and as robbed as we may feel of the memories we were supposed to experience, the best days are yet ahead. The point I am trying to make here is that, yes, this year did not go the way any of us expected. Despite all that has happened, we have yet to allow this coronavirus to kill our spirit.”

Ask Stacie Wilson, Carter Mosely, and Abigail and Tabitha Luna what they are most looking forward to in the future, and they all have the same answer: being reunited in person.

“In the fall, I am hoping that everything goes back to normal. I am always looking for ways to show people I appreciate them,” Abigail said. “I just want to hug the teachers, the principals, the counselors, the coaches, and everyone who has helped us through this.”

Wilson said her hopes for the future are shaped by what she has seen this spring. “The most surprising thing to me is the overwhelming response of our parents and students and their commitment to learning and to keeping the relationship strong,” she said. “It’s a testament to our teachers, who have done such an incredible job of building those relationships. Now our kids are putting everything they’ve got into keeping up with the work and pleasing their teachers.

“I think I took a lot for granted before, when things were normal,” Wilson added. “I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to: being in front of school every morning hugging and high-fiving my kids. I just can’t wait to be back with my Carver family.”H


Results released from a recent poll by the National School Boards Action Center show that voters strongly support public schools and are opposed to taking away funds from public schools to fund for-profit charters or private schools.

Some key findings:

• Sixty-four percent think funding for public schools should be increased.

• Seventy-three percent agree with the statement that funds should not be taken away from public schools to fund private, religious, and home school education.

• Sixty-four percent indicated they are less likely to vote for an elected official who supports taking away funds from public schools to give to private schools.

• Seventy-two percent are favorable to public schools in their community.

Source: NSBAC

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Corpus Christi ISD Campuses, Homes Blossom with School Spirit in 2020

When COVID-19 sent residents scurrying indoors, Corpus Christi ISD immediately started thinking outside of the venue box. Spring celebrations are a treasured part of the public school year, and a pandemic was not going to dampen the district’s spirit.

“In addition to the great deal of worry that accompanied the pandemic, we were dealing with a lot of disappointment due to canceled celebrations,” said Superintendent Roland Hernandez. “It has been gratifying to see the servant leadership among our staff as everyone pulled together, both in terms of continuing district business and finding ways to celebrate the many accomplishments that occur each year in public school districts.”

The pandemic led to a bumper crop of innovation, as Corpus Christi ISD staff responded to the unusual challenge with, “How may I help?”

To date, more than 270,000 curbside meals have been provided to local children. The district’s custodial team has worked tirelessly to keep onsite workers safe. Teachers quickly adapted to online instruction. Human resources staff held virtual job fairs, particularly welcome events during this challenging time.

Creative Celebrations

But back to the celebrations. District and campus leaders were undaunted in finding innovative ways to keep spirits high.

“Senior year is such a special time, and public schools have been so creative in finding ways to celebrate our graduates,” said Mary Carroll High School Principal Jamie Meek. “Our tiger mascot got a makeover this year, and we were able to have eye-catching signs made to honor our 360 seniors. Other schools in our district ordered signs, as well, and we all enjoyed having a few minutes—at a distance—with our seniors to share this small

gesture of gratitude for the time they spent at our school.”

As schools and the district reluctantly canceled banquet after banquet, organizers literally took to the streets, decorating campuses and front yards and organizing parades to show honorees that their achievements would not go unrecognized.

“When I saw the Teacher of the Year sign and my Gloria Hicks Elementary School family and friends in the parade, it made this incredible honor truly magical,” said Monica Garcia, the district’s elementary school teacher of the year honoree. “It meant so much to me that they would find such a meaningful way to celebrate this achievement in my life. It is a moment I will never forget.”

Signs of Hope

Behind many of these celebrations were campus principals, and the district made sure these campus leaders knew how greatly appreciated they were.

“We knew we were not going to be able to celebrate our principals with a luncheon as we traditionally do,” said Angie Ramirez, executive director of School Leadership for Corpus Christi ISD. “We worked with a vendor to create 57 yard signs, and each director personally delivered them all on the same day. Our principals loved the public demonstration of gratitude, and we had so much fun taking photos and sharing our appreciation on social media.”

Every morning, it seemed, the Corpus Christi ISD community awoke to fresh blooms of celebration in yards and on campuses throughout the district. These were more than signs of recognition. They were signs of hope.H

Leanne Libby, APR, is director of Communications for Corpus Christi ISD.

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Monica Garcia, teacher at Corpus Christi ISD’s Gloria Hicks Elementary School, stands with her Teacher of the Year sign made by district staff to celebrate her achievement. Photo by Jake Gonzalez, Corpus Christi ISD


Leander ISD Focuses on Relationships, Accessibility to Maintain Connections

Leander ISD’s leadership team sat around a table in the district’s administration building on Wednesday, March 11. The day before a school board meeting, the week before spring break, the routine work was there; however, the discussion was anything but. A bowl of white Lifesavers mints at the ready, we crowded as many smart people as we could fit into the room to make the first of many tough decisions.

In retrospect, this may have been the easiest decision in the coming months.

School districts in Houston and Dallas, already on spring break, were canceling trips and events while the novel coro-

navirus surged to the forefront for school and district leaders across the nation. Were we going to cancel spring break trips for student groups hours before students, parents, and staff members boarded airplanes and charter buses?

Later that night, a ban on European travelers entering the United States was announced. Disney World closed its parks. Families felt blindsided. Students sent e-mails and attended our school board meeting to share stories about how they spent an entire year raising money for a trip that we abruptly canceled after the refund deadline.

Hearing those stories and talking to parents, we soon realized that tough times were here, and we needed to

34 Texas Lone Star | July 2020 | texaslonestaronline.org
A Leander ISD staff member helps a community member pick up a laptop computer, which the district provided for students and families that needed them. Photo courtesy of Leander ISD

maintain trust, order, and relationships. When your value comes from relationships in shared physical spaces, how do you continue to be visible when we’re all forced into isolation?

Leander ISD decided to institute a multi-faceted, multimedia approach to family and community engagement. Our goals were to remain visible, accessible, and constant with two-way communication. To achieve those goals, we used multimedia, technology, and community resources—and we continued to celebrate our students and teachers, even with our buildings closed.

Multimedia Strategies

On Wednesday, March 25, we asked teachers to reconnect with their students. We came out of spring break with two days of learning, training, and emergency preparations for remote instruction. As a district team, we wanted to follow our teachers’ lead and reconnect with our community.

We launched the first of what would become a 12-episode season of “Let’s Learn with Bruce and Friends,” a weekly show on Facebook Live and eventually YouTube Live, in which Superintendent Bruce Gearing spoke to our families and we answered questions. We had fun, featuring performances, interviews, and games with students, teachers, and staff. The show evolved throughout 12 episodes, ending with our “State of the District” episode on June 10.

We found an opportunity in allowing students and performance groups to share their canceled spring performances. We redistributed the live shows into podcasts, highlight videos, and video supplements to online articles and webpages. We gave our leadership team a voice. A video montage featured all seven school board trustees offering personal, heartfelt messages. To engage with people more directly, we hosted Zoom webinars with the superintendent.

Finally, to align with our two-way sharing goal, we launched a time capsule project encouraging our community to share “artifacts” (drawings, videos, music, essays, etc.) from their remote learning experience.

Supporting Teachers, Families

With the help of the Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA)—a cadre of school public relations experts across the state with strong bonds and commitments to foster collaboration and learning—we problem-solved and shared concerns and solutions. In a group chat, a TSPRA peer asked a timely question: “How is your district managing phone calls while working remotely?”

One of our district goals for COVID-19 communication was accessibility, and, for many, the most convenient way to reach someone is a phone call. We partnered with K12 Insight, our provider of the “Let’s Talk” customer service tool, to launch what grew to be a 44-campus virtual call center. We moved our main district phone line into “Let’s Talk,” allowing the communications team to act as emergency

(See Decisions, page 36.)


Businesses and organizations all over Texas show their support for public schools, whether through donations, in-kind support, or internships. Many of these partners have stepped up even more during the COVID-19 crisis. Say “thank you” to your supporters through TASB’s Business Recognition Program. The program is a win-win for districts and businesses. Districts can express appreciation for partners and encourage new partners to participate, and businesses get statewide recognition and visibility in their communities for standing up for public schools.

TASB will send the following presentation materials to your superintendent for each business name submitted:

• Stand Up for Texas Public Schools lapel pin

• Recognition folder containing the following:

□ Congratulatory letter from TASB’s executive director

□ Stand Up for Texas Public Schools vehicle decal

□ Personalized recognition certificate suitable for framing

□ “We proudly support Texas public schools!” counter/desktop sign

Submissions for the 2019-20 year are due July 31. For more information, visit tasb.org/ about-tasb/supporting-texas-publicschools/businesses-supporting-schools/ business-recognition-program.aspx.

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Decisions (from page 35)

call center receptionists for the first three weeks of building closures.

Thousands of calls came in over the first week, and the team thrived. People were excited to talk to a real person, not an answering machine. When receptionists returned to work, we trained all of them so when parents called their school’s main phone line, they spoke with a receptionist. Everyone felt safe and connected.

To protect teacher privacy, we launched the premium version of a communications tool called Remind. This allowed our teachers to make “masked” phone calls and access parent contact information through an app. Our Instructional Professional Learning team continuously monitors, guides and supports teachers in the use of video conferencing apps. Our tech support team continued to run their hotline as we distributed 5,000 extra laptops for students.

While remote learning inherently creates inequity, our team remained focused on trying to build equity through technology under emergency conditions.

Community Coming Together

Our caring community stepped up, as well. The Leander Educational Excellence Foundation partnered with local nonprofit Hill Country Ministries, which provides food and financial assistance, to create a special fund for district students and staff. Together, we were able to continue our food backpack program, providing weekend meals to families in need.

Our Council of PTAs launched the Unexpected Art Contest to recognize students’ creativity with weekly prompts and accolades.

Local media helped tell the stories of our COVID-19 response. We partnered with the media by sending reporters video clips, interviews, and photos, building a remote classroom using the Remind tool to communicate via text messaging, and sending individual messages during our COVID-19 updates.

We also partnered with one of our high school broadcast anchors when we needed to announce our rescheduled graduation ceremonies to early July. A UIL state-winning anchor interviewed Superintendent Gearing about the announcement, allowing us to put a graduate front and center with this monumental decision.

Continuing to Celebrate

While sending out 27 total COVID-19 response updates between March and May 22, we knew people would get fatigued and crave normalcy. We tried to keep our storytelling as normal as possible, continuing to highlight our weekly “shout-outs” to students, staff, and community throughout April and May.

We moved our school board recognitions for state and national award winners to a virtual format. We thanked almost 50 district retirees with our traditional dinner, delivered directly to their homes to enjoy.

Achieving Accessibility

As our society searches for the “new normal,” we are focused on opportunities to reimagine education. Timely, honest communication is an essential part of that. People want predictability. People like talking to people to solve problems, but they also like the option to easily access information on their own.

Complete accessibility is one of the hardest things a public entity can hope to achieve. But that’s the goal—because when all means all, then we can always do better.H

36 Texas Lone Star | July 2020 | texaslonestaronline.org
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
—Fred Rogers
He is counting on you. Speak up for our children. Speak up for Texas public schools. standup4txpublicschools.org


Lockhart ISD Constructs Towers to Provide Internet Access for All

As Texas school districts announced closures in March due to the pandemic, the leadership team at Lockhart ISD understood things would not return to normal for a very long time. It was clear that online distance learning would be the key to staying connected with its students. What was not clear was how many students faced barriers due to lack of internet access.

The district quickly mobilized its teachers to contact parents to take an inventory of how many students had access to devices and the internet. The survey revealed 40 percent of Lockhart ISD’s 6,200 students did not have internet access. The lack of access was not solely due to income barriers. Many parts of the 300 square miles of the school district are “dead zones,” in which no provider offers service.

Like other school districts, Lockhart took stock of all available hotspots and ordered additional devices, but because many of the areas didn’t have coverage, hotspots were an inadequate solution.

The district decided to redirect its campus internet service outward toward all school parking lots. This enabled parents to drive to the parking lots with their children so they could access the internet with the devices distributed by the district and participate in online distance learning.

Even as the district took measures to close the gap, many students remained without access, and teachers who lived in those “dead zones” drove to school parking lots to teach

38 Texas Lone Star | July 2020 | texaslonestaronline.org GOOD NEWS ABOUT TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
To ensure internet access for students and families, Lockhart ISD partnered with a local communications company to access three towers for “dead spot” areas and will construct seven new towers by August. Photo courtesy of Lockhart ISD

online. The district provided paper-based options for those without internet, but the district wanted something better for them.

A Bold Idea

Lockhart ISD Superintendent Mark Estrada and Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Technology Adam Galvan had a bold idea—the district would build towers to provide its own wireless internet to all students and staff in need of service. Galvan quickly obtained information about logistics and costs, and the leadership team presented a proposal to the school board to approve budget amendments that would enable the district to build seven network towers over the summer and provide service with a total first-year cost of $447,500.

At a special meeting of the Lockhart ISD Board on April 6, the board voted 7-0 to approve the budget amendments. The annual cost of internet service, dubbed Lion Link, will total $60,000 per year in subsequent years.

The district partnered with Particle Communications for access to three existing towers in small rural communities within district boundaries, providing service to students in May in a staggered rollout. In addition, the district is building four new towers at Alba Brewer Strawn Elementary School and other parts of the district. In total, seven towers will provide internet coverage countywide by August. The company is installing 500 routers in homes throughout the summer.

“Because of the urgency, our leadership team took swift action to review options and identify a solution to bring to the board for approval,” Estrada said. “I am grateful to our board for fully supporting the budget amendments that enable us to more immediately address this issue as quickly as possible. Moving forward, however, it also enables us to fulfill the longheld district vision for the future of providing every student a device, becoming a 1:1 school district, and growing our visionary instructional plan initiative. This is about equity. Every one of our Lockhart Lions needs to have access to the opportunities they deserve to grow and truly thrive with equitable and excellent education.”

A Safety Line

The very first Lockhart Lions to receive Lion Link internet access were Victoria Morales, Cam’ron Morales, Jaya Schawe Sanchez, Jazmine Schawe Sanchez, and Daniel Morales. The students live in a rural part of Caldwell County not served by internet providers. In May, Particle Communications installed equipment that would receive a signal from one of the towers, providing the family internet service at home for the first time—a true game changer.

Victoria, a Lockhart High School freshman, shared, “We would jump from place to place. We would go to my grandma’s hair salon and get the internet there. Sometimes we would go to Clear Fork Elementary in the parking lot. Sometimes, we would go to my dad’s office to get the internet there, too.”

Daniel, a Lockhart High junior, added, “The class I was taking was a University of Texas history class. I needed the in-

ternet to do my final readings and quizzes each week. It was kind of hard to not have the internet and do all of that.”

Providing internet service went beyond the function of distance learning. Schools are often the safest places for many students with difficulties at home. Lockhart ISD’s approach to caring for the “whole child” involves supporting students’ social and emotional well-being. With students at home, the district wanted to ensure it had a

(See Towers, page 40.)


Although scores nationwide on the fourthgrade mathematics section of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have remained relatively flat since 2007, Texas’s fourth-grade students have consistently outperformed the national average for more than a decade, continuing the trend with a statistically higher average in 2019.

Texas African American, Hispanic, and Anglo students performed in the top 10 nationally in fourth-grade math, with African American students ranking first among their peers in all states.

For more information on NAEP scores and trends, visit nagb.gov/naep-results/naepday-2019.html.

Source: Texas Education Agency

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Towers (from page 39)

way to remain connected with teachers and counselors for support. The district launched the “Lion HelpLine,” an online mechanism for students to reach out for help when they need it, providing a safety line to the district during school closures.

Poised for the Future

As Texas moves through the stages of reopening businesses and facilities, school districts are already preparing for what instruction and learning will look like in the fall. Lockhart ISD continues to use distance learning options for both its summer school and its Texas ACE summer programming. The district is surveying parents to determine levels of interest and comfort regarding options for the fall, varying from face-toface traditional instruction to continued online instruction to a potential hybrid of both face-to-face and online.

It is unclear at present which option the district will choose, but what is certain is that with the action taken to establish Lion Link internet service for all students and staff in need, Lockhart ISD is well-poised to deliver equitable access and ensure that the community has the infrastructure needed to be resilient through any circumstances.H

YOU’VE HEARD THE ADAGE: If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain. Delegate Assembly is your opportunity to fully participate in helping to guide TASB by voting on policies and electing officers. If your district isn’t participating, you are missing the opportunity to have the Association reflect your district’s wants and needs.

40 Texas Lone Star | July 2020 | texaslonestaronline.org
your board’s delegate today! delegate.tasb.org
Texas public schools need YOUR VOICE. Register
—Helen Warwick, Marshall ISD
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.“
—Fred Rogers


Established Tradition of Technology Ensured Learning Carried on in McAllen ISD

As the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures across the nation, McAllen ISD rose to this extraordinary challenge by swiftly transitioning toward distance learning for nearly 22,400 students at 31 campuses and all grade levels.

“These extraordinary times call for extraordinary unity,” McAllen ISD Superintendent J.A. Gonzalez said. “We will get through this challenge to our community together.”

The result has been phenomenal. Student learning has continued without interruption. Not a single day has been missed. While this required a complete team effort across the board, two factors were also key: an established tradition of embracing technology and a commitment to open the way for extensive teacher training once the health crisis began.

Our students and teachers have had their own electronic learning devices since 2011; our elementary students use iPads, while secondary students use Chromebooks. Thanks to skillful training, our teachers are already experts in an amazingly wide variety of software tools. That knowhow, amassed and continually enhanced over the last nine years, gives our students an advantage.

National Attention

When the crisis hit, McAllen ISD quickly partnered with the City of McAllen. The district’s Department of Instructional Technology provided hot spots that were placed at sites across the city to expand the community’s Wi-Fi reach.

All these efforts have drawn the attention of national experts.

“I would say that the schools that are getting it right now have already been preparing their teachers,” said Carl Hooker, a nationally known presenter on education technology. “They’ve had training over the summer, which I know you guys have done religiously over the last several years, in terms of bringing teachers in and saying, ‘here are the tools you can bring in to enhance your classroom and blend the actual learning.’ Well, this moment happens in time and, all of a sudden, that switch has to be turned on. The districts that are doing it well have already had those practices in place for several years.”

The district’s high level of viable distance learning also caught Google’s attention. The internet giant included a McAllen ISD teacher in action in a video that went worldwide.

Gathering Resources

McAllen ISD began with full-scale distance learning (all teachers and students working from home) on March 23. Many staff members reported to work the previous week (during spring break) to make plans and communicate with teachers and parents about what would happen when school resumed in a shelter-at-home environment.

Since then, the district’s Professional Learning Department, combined with the Digital Learning Department, have provided near daily virtual trainings for teachers and staff. Professional Learning organized the trainings, and Digital Learning conducted them. The Department of Instructional Technology provided the connectivity to make it all possible.

(See Tradition, page 42.)

texaslonestaronline.org | July 2020 | Texas Lone Star 41
In response to the pandemic, McAllen ISD began full-scale distance learning March 23. All of the district’s teachers were already well-trained and well-versed in remote teaching and learning. Photo courtesy of McAllen ISD

Tradition (from page 41)

The district’s teachers have used a plethora of instructional software tools, including EduSmart, Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, Gizmo, Google Meet, Flipgrid, and many more.

“We turned around right away during spring break,” McAllen ISD Professional Learning Strategist Melissa Lara said. “We entered this new platform of distance learning, and we wanted to make sure our teachers felt comfortable. There are so many tools out there, but it’s not about utilizing something new every week; it’s about getting proficient and feeling comfortable with a few tools.”

A web page was created to house all the resources teachers would need. This included webinars, videos of past trainings, protocols, best practices, and more—all designed to save teachers time.

“It’s about making sure our teachers don’t have to go out and Google something,” Lara explained. “If a teacher was looking for the newest things happening with Google Classroom or Zoom, etc., we wanted to make sure we had…those tools in our toolbox.”

Support Pays Off

Teachers have appreciated the support.

“They (trainers) have been with us every step of the way,” high school teacher Carlos Ponce said. “I’m glad because there are a lot of questions we as educators needed to know. They’ve been excellent as far as preparation goes. Any questions we’ve had, they’ve been able to answer quickly.”

Elementary school teacher Paola Valdez has participated in about 10 trainings. Her mastery of the software has helped her students, too.

“From one of the trainings I attended … I was able to create a virtual classroom for my second-grade students in which they had access to (our school) Google site, their suggested daily schedule, a direct link to their reading assignments, and many other links they can access,” Valdez said. “They find it appealing and easy to navigate because they have all their resources in one place.”

One principal saw a silver lining during this unique crisis in that students and teachers both are improving their software management skills.

“They can definitely use those tools when they go off to college,” high school principal Albert Canales said. “We like being ahead of the game in McAllen ISD and being ahead of the curve, so being able to go to trainings in the summertime and taking our teachers to summer trainings has really paid off and benefited our campus and our district as a whole.”

Working as a Team

Many teachers across the district held regular gradelevel or departmental meetings to share best practices and plan together. Mariela Rios, a special education teacher in McAllen ISD’s STRIDES Program, said that teamwork was a big help.

“There was no time when I felt alone,” she said. “The reason being is because we work as a team. All teachers got

together. We made sure we had what our students needed.” Rios said she found the support at the district level to be equally beneficial.

“I don’t think this (distance learning) would have been possible without their help,” Rios said. “Our students have been able to complete their education because McAllen ISD was able to provide devices, hot spots, and everything that the students needed to finish the school year.”H

Mark May is community information specialist for McAllen ISD.


Twenty-six Texas public schools nominated by the Texas Education Agency were awarded National Blue Ribbon Schools honors for 2019, the US Department of Education announced.

The schools received Blue Ribbon honors either as Exemplary High-Performing Schools or Exemplary AchievementGap-Closing Schools. Each school has an economically disadvantaged population of 30.9 percent or greater.

For a list of the award-winning schools and for more information about the Blue Ribbon Schools program, visit the US Department of Education’s website at www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/index.html

42 Texas Lone Star | July 2020 | texaslonestaronline.org

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