|Vol. 31, No.5/December 2021
The Spring ISD Board of Trustees met at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14 in person, and streamed via video conferencing, to address items on the agenda. President Rhonda Newhouse called the meeting to order and the Dekaney High School Navy JROTC Battalion led the presentation of colors, with Cadet Commander Enock Gota leading the pledges to the flags. Carrying the U.S. Flag was Cadet Lt. Commander Emily Salinas. Carrying the Texas Flag was Cadet Ensign Anthony Fleites. The left rifle was Cadet Lt. Avery Closner, and the right rifle was Cadet Ensign Andrea Martinez. The Dekaney High School Navy JROTC is under the direction of Chief Victor Adams and Chief Robert Dunn.
Newly elected trustees sworn in for first full three-year term
With the results of the Nov. 2 election now official, trustees Carmen Correa, Position 6, and Natasha McDaniel, Position 7, were each officially sworn in for their first full three-year term as board members. The Board had originally appointed Correa and McDaniel to the positions in August to fill new vacancies, and both were sworn in at that time for the period leading up to the Nov. 2 election, when both of the newly appointed trustees ran unopposed for the upcoming term.
Jeremy Binkley, district general counsel, presented each of them with a certificate of election, which was followed by a swearing-in ceremony conducted by Spring ISD Director of Board Services Jason Sheffer and the signing of the Oath of Office.
After the swearing-in ceremony, Trustees Correa and McDaniel acknowledged their loved ones present for the ceremony and shared a few words about serving the district as members of the Board of Trustees.
“I look forward to the journey ahead, and hope that I can do everything I can to help support the community and our schools,” Correa said.
“I just want to recognize everyone in the Spring ISD community and to just say thank you for the warm embrace for the past four months in this position,” McDaniel said.
Board members elect new officers
In accordance with Board Policy, at the first meeting following the election of trustees, the Board votes to elect its President, Vice President, Secretary and Assistant Secretary.
Following the swearing-in ceremony, the Board elected the following officers for 2022:
- Justine Durant was elected as the new board president
- Winford Adams Jr. was elected once again as the vice president
- Kelly P. Hodges was elected board secretary for the second time
- Rhonda Newhouse was elected board assistant secretary
Since January 1984, the Board has recognized students and staff for major accomplishments beyond the District with Points of Pride awards. ABCD awards are presented to individuals or groups that go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.
Winners honored in Superintendent’s 2021 Holiday Card Contest
Trustees began with a Spotlight Award honoring the winners in the Superintendent’s 2021 Holiday Card Contest. The three highest-placing students all attended the meeting to be recognized for their work in this year’s contest, and each student also received a bag of art supplies to support their creativity, along with copies of their own card to send to family and friends, together with a display print of their artwork.
Each year, the contest alternates between the elementary and secondary level. This year’s holiday card contest entries came from elementary students, many of whom started working on their submissions in their art classes early in the fall semester, leading up to the selection of the winning artwork, which took place in November.
“We received some really wonderful submissions this year from each of our elementary campuses,” said Spring ISD Visual Arts Coordinator Amanda Byers during her presentation. “The submissions were compiled, and members of the Cabinet, along with Dr. Watson, voted to select the winners just before Thanksgiving Break.”
The top three spots in the 2021 holiday card contest went to the following:
Artwork Title: “The Christmas Village”
Student’s Name: Emile Ross
School: Clark Intermediate
Teacher: Chari McHenry
Artwork Title: “Poinsettia”
Student’s Name: Derek Moreno
School: Burchett Elementary
Teacher: Sheila Broderick
Artwork Title: “Snowman”
Student’s Name: Lyric Frazier
School: Burchett Elementary
Teacher: Sheila Broderick
“We know that this accomplishment would not be possible without the support of the families of our students, who value a rigorous arts education,” Byers said. She also pointed out the important role of campus administrators, and thanked them for their ongoing support of arts education in the district.
Before personally congratulating the three top winners, Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson took a moment to commend all the students who participated in this year’s contest, along with all those who supported them.
“All the submissions this year were absolutely wonderful,” Watson said. “I want to thank the staff — the teachers — for your support and helping the students achieve this goal, and parents, once again thank you so much for all you do, and for entrusting your kids with us. Congratulations.”
Trustee Winford Adams Jr. also congratulated the winners, and encouraged them to keep developing their talents.
“I really do expect at some point to be buying a Hallmark card, or seeing a billboard on the highway, or seeing a commercial with some of these young people being the producers of the art,” Adams said. “This is just really amazing work. I congratulate all three of you, very well done.”
Spring ISD named among winners of 26th Annual Achievement of Excellence in Procurement
The Board awarded a Spring ISD Point of Pride to the Spring ISD Procurement Services Department, which was named among the winners of the 26th Annual Achievement of Excellence in Procurement (AEP) for 2021 from the National Procurement Institute, Inc.
“The Spring ISD Procurements team’s record of winning this award annually for more than a decade clearly shows how committed they are to continuous growth,” said Spring ISD Chief of Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability Dr. Julie Hill. “It also shows how they exemplify the district's core values, striving for excellence in all they do, building trust through integrity and winning as a team.”
The AEP Award recognizes public and nonprofit agencies that demonstrate a commitment to procurement excellence, and the 2021 award marks Spring ISD’s 12th consecutive AEP win. Executive Director of Procurement Phillip Ellison joined Hill at the podium to accept the recognition on behalf of the department.
Among the honorees for 2021, Spring ISD was one of 46 recipients in Texas and one of only 19 school districts across all of the U.S. and Canada to receive the distinction. The award criteria evolve each year as best practices in public procurement operations change, incorporating updated requirements on strategic planning and technology, e-procurement and the use of purchasing cooperatives.
Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson began his remarks by celebrating a successful Winter Wonderland event, which was held at Planet Ford Stadium on Friday, Dec. 10. After taking a hiatus due to the pandemic, the annual event returned this year with hundreds of families celebrating the season and learning about the importance of child literacy.
“It was a joy to see all of our students and especially our youngest children as they ran around and participated in all the crafts and activities,” Dr. Watson said.
He thanked the departments from across Spring ISD who participated, with booths that promoted literacy and featured various activities and crafts. Each child in attendance went home with a book of their own to enjoy.
Dr. Watson then recognized the efforts of staff districtwide in participating in the annual toy drive, in partnership with Northwest Assistance Ministries. District employees and community partners donated more than 1,300 toys toward the organization's overall goal of collecting 5,000 toys this holiday season.
“Many of the gifts will help make the holidays brighter for our very own Spring ISD students,” Dr. Watson said. “[Northwest Assistance Ministries] has already begun delivering gifts this week and we're happy to be a part of this worthwhile event.”
More holiday cheer could be found at the Blue Santa event earlier this week, at the Academy Sports and Outdoors in Spring. Dr. Watson thanked Spring ISD Police Chief Ken Culbreath for his department’s work on the event. As a part of that event, 30 Spring ISD middle and high school students and their families were selected to participate in a shopping spree for the holidays.
Dr. Watson thanked the Aldine ISD and Klein ISD police departments, as well as the Harris County Constable Precinct 4, for their support of the event as well. With that support as well as local businesses and other sponsors, the Spring ISD Police Department raised over $7,600, giving each student $200 to shop for holiday gifts for themselves as well as their own parents and siblings.
The superintendent went on to remind those in attendance about School Choice Applications for the 2022-23 school year, available through Friday, Jan. 7. Last month, many schools held campus tours and showcase nights for their various programs. In addition, parents have had access to in-person and virtual application labs, in both English and Spanish, for assistance in filling out these applications.
“I’d also like to extend my gratitude to all of our Spring ISD staff members who have supported the effort to streamline and simplify the application process for our families, including those who helped organize and run the open labs for families who needed the support,” Dr. Watson said. “It’s one more way that Spring ISD, as a district, is making opportunities accessible for all of our students.”
He also shared that a final open lab for application assistance would be held Thursday, Dec. 16, from 9 to 11 a.m., at the Spring ISD Community Engagement Center.
Dr. Watson ended his remarks with an update on calendar options for the 2022-23 school year. In January, the district will post two options and then take feedback from employees and families. More information will be available next month, and Dr. Watson encouraged everyone to review the two options and take part in the survey.
At each regular board meeting, during Opening Remarks, each board member is given the opportunity to share information with those present.
Trustee Winford Adams Jr. commented on the recent performance of the Winter’s Symphony at Westfield High School. He mentioned that his daughter is a part of that school’s orchestra, while his other daughter performs in the choir at Roberson Middle School, and thanked the band directors and district parents who support students involved in performing and visual arts throughout Spring ISD.
“It’s really beautiful to see during this most wonderful time of the year,” Adams said.
Trustee Natasha McDaniel spoke about her experiences over the past few months interacting with district employees and students. She began by recounting her time at the TeachUp Spring Learning Center, a professional development hub for the district, where she met first-year teachers getting trained on SpringWay Systems and Routines.
Trustee McDaniel then listed several schools and programs she has visited the past few months, including math teachers at Dekaney High School planning credit recovery for students, technology integration and literacy programming at Booker Elementary, high-level vocabulary instruction at Eickenroht Elementary, the band and Stage Breakers Step Team spreading Christmas cheer at Bailey Middle School, the PTO Christmas Shop set up for students at Burchett Elementary, and the innovative programming from photography to working with drones available to students at Roberson Middle School.
“This year has presented its own unique challenges, so just thank you to all the educators and staff, community members, and students for all of your dedication and your hard work,” McDaniel said.
Finally, President Rhonda Newhouse congratulated the Westfield High School and Spring High School football teams for advancing to the regional finals of the state playoffs. She thanked Trustee Adams for attending the Westfield playoff game in San Antonio, and thanked Dr. Deborah Jensen for attending the Spring playoff game with her in Dallas.
“We want you to know that we are proud of you, and supporting you all the way,” Newhouse said in closing.
Board Equity Committee provides update
The Board Equity Committee provided an update on their recent meeting, including a discussion on student-based budgeting led by Equity Committee Lead Winford Adams Jr. During last month’s board meeting, the committee addressed the need to figure out the budget priorities to develop based on the Cambridge Education equity audit.
“We talked last month about an initiative to add additional at-risk counselors across the district, and social workers who support the mental well-being and social-emotional learning of our students,” Adams said. “This month, we're doing a deeper dive into budgeting.”
Student-based budgeting allocates dollars to schools based on the number of enrolled students, where each student receives a funding "weight" based on the need of that campus. Currently, the committee is looking at their next budget cycle using the method — a way that will allow more autonomy to campus leaders, and requires additional training and support, according to Adams.
“Student-based budgeting is distinct from the way we do it now,” Adams said. “As of right now, we look at the total number of students on a given campus, and then we portion FTEs (full-time equivalent) based on that number. What we'll be doing differently now is looking at the different categories of students on that campus, and their additional weighted funding will follow them to those campuses to support the campus, and create an equitable allocation of resources and staff on those campuses."
During the overview, Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks mentioned a discussion among the committee to launch a pilot during the 2022-23 school year budget process to introduce the initiative within Spring ISD.
“We can pilot it at certain campuses to ensure that we get the methodology right, and work on some of that tiered autonomy and see what that looks like for our campuses as well — then replicate it once we see what the challenges and opportunities are within the process,” Westbrooks said.
The Board Equity Committee will continue to review data within the upcoming months before moving forward with a decision on student-based budgeting.
Trustees approve adoption of Health and Physical Education instructional materials in accordance with Proclamation 2022
Following a presentation and discussion during the work session on Thursday, Dec. 9, the Board approved the Health and Physical Education curriculum adoption recommended by the district’s Health and Physical Education Instructional Material Review Committee and Spring ISD’s School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC).
The adoption of the instructional materials follows on the requirements set out in Proclamation 2022, which the State Board of Education (SBOE) originally issued at its April 2020 meeting, calling for health and physical education instructional materials designed for use in Texas classrooms.
In accordance with the timeline laid out by SBOE in the original proclamation, the adoption of materials at the district level was scheduled to occur in late 2021. Once approved, the adopted materials are scheduled to go into classroom use beginning in the 2022–23 school year.
During the meeting, Chief of Innovation and Equity Dr. Lupita Hinojosa recapped the work session presentation and offered trustees highlights of the recommendations ahead of the vote.
“We've gone through the process of securing the materials,” Hinojosa said. “We've had the opportunity for our teachers to provide us feedback; we've had opportunity for our parents, our families, our communities to view the materials and provide us feedback,” all leading up to the administration making its recommendations to the Board.
As Hinojosa noted, the extensive review process for the proposed curricula included gathering feedback from district teachers, as well as from parents and representatives of the community. After reviewing the options under consideration, SHAC members in October voted on the following recommendations for textbook adoption:
- Elementary School: Quaver Education, Health and Physical Education Grades K-5
- Middle and High School: Goodheart-Willcox Company, Health Grades 6-12 and Physical Education, Lifetime Fitness & Wellness Pursuits
- Recommended the continued use of the district’s abstinence-based curriculum “Choosing the Best”
“As you'll recall, House Bill 1525 required that our SHAC be part of this process,” Hinojosa said, “and that they be given the opportunity to review the materials and make the final recommendation.”
Hinojosa said that the Quaver Education curriculum materials met several of the district’s highest priorities during the selection process, including offering an adaptable and easy-to-use online platform suitable for use in both the classroom and the gym. In addition, she noted that the Quaver Education materials cover 100% of both the Health and Physical Education TEKS elements required by the state.
The Goodheart-Willcox materials, meanwhile, impressed the district’s middle school and high school teachers with the detailed lesson plans, handouts and PowerPoint templates provided for each lesson, as well as the ease of integrating the curriculum materials into Schoology, the district’s online learning platform.
“And then finally, at the middle and high school level, our SHAC committee recommendation, as well as the textbook adoption recommendation, is that we continue using our abstinence-based curriculum, Choosing the Best,” Hinojosa said.
She noted that the Choosing the Best curriculum does an especially good job of addressing the social-emotional aspects of the lessons, while offering teachers scripted lesson templates to help them successfully navigate the complex topics and themes involved in the material.
Before the vote, the trustees expressed their thanks for the thorough review process, and especially for the contributions of the SHAC members who gave their time to help finalize the recommendations.
“I just want to publicly thank the members of the SHAC committee for engaging in this difficult work — and time consuming work — to make sure we have quality materials for our students,” Trustee Winford Adams Jr. said.
Trustee Carmen Correa — who served as the SHAC parent chair before being appointed a trustee, and thus abstained from the vote — also acknowledged the hard work done by the SHAC members, and pointed out how important parent involvement is to ensuring the strength of the district’s schools.
“This is a good example of the effect that a parent can have by getting involved in a committee like this,” Correa said. “So I would encourage anybody who's watching, anybody who's listening, to get involved in SHAC, because these are the kinds of efforts and effects that you can have on your school and in the district.”
Action Items and Presentations
Board approves Texas COVID Learning Acceleration Supports (TCLAS) grant
The Board of Trustees approved the Texas COVID Learning Acceleration Supports (TCLAS) grant, totaling $41,817,873. The TCLAS grant provides school districts access to state discretionary ESSER funding to accelerate student learning in the wake of COVID-19. Spring ISD Chief of Innovation and Equity Dr. Lupita Hinojosa presented the qualifications for the grant, which are broken down into decisions.
“Any time that we're looking at grants, we always look for alignment to make sure that it aligns to not only our district’s mission and vision, but that it also aligns to our theory of action,” Hinojosa said.
Specifically, Spring ISD received funds for the following areas:
- Decision #1 – Accelerated Learning Strategic Planning (Lift 6 Middle School project) - $312,500
- Decision #2 – High-Quality Instructional Materials Core (Literacy and Math) Approved Products - $37,785,893
- Decision #3 – High-Quality Instructional Materials Supplemental Approved Products - $1,134,400
- Decision #4 – Teacher Recruitment Support - $138,500
- Decision #5 – Opportunity Culture and Teacher Residency Program - $1,000,000
- Decision #6 – Vetted Texas Tutor Corps Tutoring Supports - $400,000
- Decision #7 – School Day/Calendar Redesign (ADSY) - $696,580
- Decision #9 – Pathways in Technology Early College High School - $350,000
Out of the 10 total decisions under the grant, two areas to which Spring ISD did not apply include:
- Decision #8 - Strong Summer Program
- Decision #10 - New School Models
Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks joined in the presentation, providing trustees with information on how Financial Services is partnering to help ensure alignment for each decision.
“Each one of the decisions are very specific, very targeted,” Westbrooks said. “And so the dollars that are set aside are set aside for a specific purpose as outlined in the decisions, and as outlined in the grant application that the district submitted.”
Board approves recommendation to leave TRS-ActiveCare insurance plan
The Board approved a recommendation to leave the TRS-ActiveCare Insurance plan and to expand the district’s self-funded Spring ISD Preferred Medical Plan. Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks led a brief discussion on the recommendation, citing upcoming changes within the statewide plan.
“With some changes that are happening with the TRS-ActiveCare system and moving to regional rates that would actually increase as of right now, based on the data that the state has shared with school districts,” Westbrooks said. “The Houston region would actually have a higher cost relative to that of the state, so we're seeking the Board's approval to continue offering only the self-funded medical plan for all of our employees for the upcoming plan year.”
During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, Senate Bill 1444 passed, requiring school districts to choose to stay in or leave the Teacher Retirement System of Texas plan, which Spring ISD has utilized since 2011, by Dec. 31, 2021. If a district chooses to leave the plan, they may not rejoin for a total of five plan years. Spring ISD may not participate in both the TRS plan and a self-funded plan after August 31, 2022.
“The next steps, based upon the Board's vote this evening, would be to start collecting that data from our employees to see how we may need to tweak and fine tune the district self-funded plan going forward to make sure that we're meeting the needs of our employees and their families,” Westbrooks said.
At the December board work session, trustees were presented with an estimate of the long-term costs of the preferred plan, a side-by-side comparison of each plan’s costs and coverage, and a recommendation from the administration before voting during the board meeting.
In September, the district began offering the Spring ISD Preferred Medical Plan, a self-funded medical plan, as an alternative to the TRS-ActiveCare health plan. Westbrooks said that the district’s medical plan can be adjusted in the future based on the needs of Spring ISD employees.
“We do have the ability to make decisions going forward each plan year based upon the needs of the district,” Westbrooks said, “and if those needs changed, then we’re at liberty to make those changes based upon the information that’s available at that time.”
In other action, the Board approved:
- The minutes from the Nov. 4, 2021 board work session; the Nov. 9, 2021 regular meeting; the Nov. 16, 2021 and Nov. 18, 2021 town hall meetings; and the Nov. 30, 2021 special called session;
- Approval of the Internal Audit Mid-Year Progress Report for FY 2021/2022 and revised Internal Audit Charter;
- The adoption of a resolution to vote Martina Lemond Dixon for the Harris County Appraisal District Board of Directors position representing all Harris County school districts except Houston ISD;
- A contract for Workers' Compensation Third Party Administration services to the provider recommended by the administration; and
- Taxpayer Refunds.
Winford Adams Jr.
Kelly P. Hodges
Rhonda Newhouse, M.Ed.
Deborah Jensen, Ph.D.
Natasha McDaniel, M.Ed.
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The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 11 at the Gordon M. Anderson Leadership Center, 16717 Ella Blvd.