|Vol. 31 No. 7/February 2022
The Spring ISD Board of Trustees met at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8 in person, and streamed via video conferencing, to address items on the agenda. President Justine Durant called the meeting to order and the Spring High School Navy JROTC led the presentation of colors, with Cadet Petty Officer 1st Class Kaleb Ward leading the pledges to the flags. Carrying the U.S. Flag was Cadet Chief Terrance Mchellon. Carrying the Texas Flag was Cadet Petty Officer 1st Class Jericho Whitener. The U.S. Rifle Guard was Cadet Petty Officer 1st Class Noah O’Neal. The Texas Rifle Guard was Cadet Chief Petty Officer Luis Salinas. The Spring High School Navy JROTC is under the direction of Master Chief Mark Clarke, Senior Chief Arthur Felix, Chief Martin Horner and Chief Brian Tallette.
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.
Spotlight recognition celebrates Black History Month
Trustees began the evening’s recognitions by spotlighting the work of Spring ISD students during this year’s districtwide Black History Expo competition.
“As you know, it’s Black History Month, and across the district our librarians, our teachers, our administrators have been organizing events, they've been decorating, they developed instructional activities to celebrate Black History,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Workforce Development Dr. Matthew Pariseau. “Each year, our students also develop projects in which they engage in writing, art, as well as oratory skills.”
The theme for this year’s expo is “A Celebration of People of African Descent,” and trustees had the opportunity to hear from several students whose winning work had been selected to proceed from the campus level to the districtwide competition.
“We're excited to share the phenomenal accomplishments of our students and what they've learned about the generations that have been impacted by the culture and the history of people of African descent,” Pariseau said.
Representing the district’s elementary schools during the board meeting was Isabella Sandoval, a fourth grade student at Anderson Elementary. Sandoval shared with the trustees about the puppet show she created about the life of Frederick Douglass, who she chose after being inspired by Douglass’ life story and the message of hope and empowerment he shared as a former slave who went on to become a great orator, writer and abolitionist.
Representing the middle school level was Nia Gatlin, a sixth grader at Springwoods Village Middle School, who chose to highlight the life and work of Maya Angelou as a contemporary exemplar of Black History Month. In particular, Gatlin said she was moved by how Maya Angelou had to overcome her own shyness and introversion as a child in order to claim her voice as a poet, writer, and civil rights advocate.
The district’s high schools, meanwhile, were represented by Westfield High School seniors Megan Ealy and Mariana Torres, who worked together on their Black History Month project focused on the writer and cartoonist Aaron McGruder. McGruder is especially well known as the creator of “The Boondocks,” a comic strip and, later, an animated television series that, as Ealy told board members, challenged the status quo by humorously shining a light on both positive and negative aspects of contemporary American culture and the African American experience.
As artists themselves, Ealy and Torres said they chose to focus their project on Aaron McGruder in part because they both wanted to explore the power of art, storytelling and creativity to impact the broader culture and people’s ways of thinking.
Trustee Winford Adams Jr. complimented all the students on their wide-ranging projects that included both historical and contemporary figures.
“It is interesting that we have Maya Angelou and Aaron McGruder,” Adams said. “Black history is happening right now, just as Mexican American history is happening right now, and so I really appreciate your efforts to have a diverse group of African American historical figures. Thank you for that.”
Board President Justine Durant also thanked the students on behalf of the trustees.
“We are so proud of your work,” Durant said.
Following the student presentations, Pariseau thanked Social Studies Curriculum Specialist Samba Goddard for the months of work spent organizing the district’s annual Black History Month events. He also thanked district teachers and students’ parents for their support throughout the process.
“As you can see our students have engaged in some phenomenal learning,” Pariseau said, “and we look forward to sharing all of the different exhibits that will be displayed on February the 17th, from 5:30 to 7 [p.m.], at Dekaney High School for the full exhibition.”
Spotlight highlights 2022 Rising Writers’ Expo student medalists
Trustees next welcomed two student honorees from the Spring ISD Rising Writers' Student Expo, which was held on Thursday, Jan. 27 at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School. Executive Director of Instructional Services Marie Mendoza explained to trustees that the event promoting writing in Spring ISD was inspired in part by a challenge from Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa to find exciting ways to highlight the importance of writing and celebrate its role in students’ lives.
“Dr. Hinojosa gave us a task – an assignment, really – to make literacy a priority, a priority around equity,” Mendoza said.
She explained that each campus had selected student ambassadors to attend the expo and share with members of the community about how their school engages students with writing across the curriculum and how developing their own writing skills had helped them learn in school and express themselves creatively. Hundreds of students submitted works for the expo, with many receiving recognition for their contributions.
“We had every campus represented – 469 students submitted writing entries,” Mendoza said. “We held a medal ceremony in which 118 students received medals for their commendation in their writing.”
For the board meeting, Ziffie Clark, a sixth grader at Bailey Middle School, read his poem “I Am a Champion,” an affirmation of his hopes and dreams for himself for the future and a reflection on his desire as a son to make his mother proud.
Also reading for the Board was Carl Wunsche Sr. High School ninth grader Sarah Salinas, who shared her poem “The Girl with the Blank Expression,” an intensely felt work about a young person’s struggle with depression, mental health, loneliness, and thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
Board members – who also received a binder containing submissions by all the medalists from the event – expressed their gratitude to both Clark and Salinas for sharing their work with the trustees and those gathered for the meeting, and for their courage in expressing such powerful and deeply human emotions with such clarity and insight.
“I'd like to tell you, you are our champion,” President Justine Durant told Clark, “and I'd also like to say to Sarah that I felt your poem in my spirit. You're phenomenal.”
Trustee Winford Adams Jr. also congratulated both students, and told them to keep striving for creative expression and artistic excellence.
“I am always really impressed with our artists,” Adams said. “I'm blown away by just the pure talent, and it's still developing talent, which means three, four, five years from now it'll be even more amazing. I want to encourage you both to keep doing what you're doing, because the world needs you.”
In her closing remarks, Mendoza told trustees that the expo was one part of a broader literacy campaign in Spring ISD.
“We will continue our work in helping students see the connection between literacy, achievement, and their lives,” Mendoza said.
Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa began her remarks by thanking the board for the support during the start of her tenure as Spring ISD Superintendent.
“I am totally excited, thrilled, and humbled to be here to serve as the first Hispanic female superintendent in Spring ISD, in its 87 years of history,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “My first eight days have been filled with lots of hope and possibilities with what our district can achieve. We really want to focus on maximizing the future of our district.”
Dr. Hinojosa then went on to outline the three pillars of her plans and goals for Spring ISD. These pillars are “anchored” in the district’s existing strategic plan.
“I want to ensure that one of our pillars, the foundation, is focused on joy,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “Joy in learning, joy in leading, joy in coming to school every single day, joy in being that teacher that illuminates a child’s life.”
The second pillar, Reconnect and Re-engage, is focused on reconnecting with the community after a difficult two years caused by the pandemic.
“I invite all of our community, all of our students, our parents, our teachers, to reconnect with us and to re-engage with Spring ISD, to ensure that you’re connected with us,” Hinojosa said.
The third pillar is Empowerment, giving a voice to the students, parents, and surrounding community, and providing them a seat at the table.
“To the community that is here with us tonight and those that are watching, as the superintendent and the executive team for Spring ISD, we are committed and ready to engage in the work,” Dr. Hinojosa told the attendees, both physical and virtual.
Dr. Hinojosa then went on to highlight the Communications Department and its work to engage the community through videos and other forms of communication. She also highlighted the efforts of the Communications and Family and Community Engagement teams in working with the community to engage and listen. This included a visit by Superintendent Hinojosa as well as Board President Durant and other board and cabinet members to Fallbrook Church over the previous weekend.
“We had the opportunity to visit Fallbrook Church, a cornerstone and anchor here in the community,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “We are not going to sit and wait for the parents or the community to come to us. We are going out.”
Dr. Hinojosa then went on to discuss the cancellation of schools due to a winter storm. She also reported that no buildings in Spring ISD were damaged in the storm.
She finished her remarks by announcing that the board meeting was, for the first time in Spring ISD history, being translated into Spanish to better serve and connect to the community, 49% of which are Latino or Hispanic. This was a part of an effort to make information more accessible to this large portion of the Spring ISD community, springing out of the Reconnect and Re-engage pillar.
“That’s the commitment of the board. That says that we are a very inclusive community. We are very diverse. We honor all races and ethnicities, and we want you to be involved,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “We want that Spanish-speaking community that hasn’t come to the board meetings or hasn’t had a place at the table to be involved.”
At each regular board meeting, during Opening Remarks, each board member is given the opportunity to share information with those present.
Assistant Secretary Rhonda Newhouse shared that she had attended, along with several other board members, a national equity and advocacy symposium.
“It was very enlightening to see what other states and districts around the country are doing and how important it is for us to include equity in everything we do,” Newhouse said.
Vice President Winford Adams, Jr. also attended that symposium, and echoed Newhouse’s comments on the importance of equity in education. He mentioned that one of the highlights of the symposium was the work being done to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was passed in 1975 but has never been fully funded. He mentioned meeting with representatives to get the act fully funded.
“If you’re interested in getting involved and pushing your members of Congress to do something to help public education, that’s a phone call worth making,” Adams said.
Board President Justine Durant spoke about a recent meeting with other school districts throughout the region to identify key legislative priorities. She encouraged community members to partner with Spring ISD to advocate for students.
She finished by highlighting Dr. Hinojosa and her recent appointment as superintendent.
“I know that we are going to have some great changes, but our mission and vision is the same,” Durant said. “And that’s about educating our children and keeping them safe. That’s our key priority here, and that’s what it is all about. If we continue to focus on that and continue to drive in that direction, the sky's the limit.”
District reports on educational performance and TAPR
Dr. Jennifer Cobb, Assistant Superintendent of Research, Accountability and Testing, presented the Annual Report of the District’s Educational Performance and the Texas Academic Performance Report (TAPR), which includes state, district, and school level data for the 2020-21 school year.
The report includes a comparison of the district with Region Four and the State of Texas in the areas of ethnicity, economically disadvantaged, English language learner and special education.
In addition, the report contains data on student performance on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) and End of Course (EOC) examinations that measure how well the district’s students are performing academically from year to year in core subjects of reading, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. Also featured in the report are SAT and ACT results as well as graduation and dropout rates.
One highlight of the report was the increase of graduation rates over the past three years for economically disadvantaged students from 86% to 89%. Overall, four-year longitudinal graduation rates in Spring ISD have increased for every student group within the Class of 2018 to the Class of 2020—with the exception of two subpopulations. Dr. Cobb noted several factors that contributed to the increased rates, including dropout prevention activities, counseling, and student support services to ensure students are on track to graduate from high school.
“I think we see a lot of success around the interventions and other programs that we have in place to give students opportunities to graduate when they normally wouldn't have,” said Justine Durant.
To see the full TAPR report for 2020-21, as well as previous years, please visit this page.
Action Items and Presentations
Board considers amendments to the 2021-2022 instructional and work calendars
The Spring ISD Board of Trustees approved a resolution during Tuesday’s regular board meeting to amend the district’s instructional calendar to create two student holidays, one of which will also serve as a day off for campus-based teachers and staff.
As a result, both Monday, Feb. 14, and Monday, April 18 will be recognized as student holidays.
“We know and understand that our school staff, as everyone else, has gone through a lot of challenges,” said Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa. “This year, our school staff—specifically our teachers—have not had any professional development days built in as we've done in years past.”
Dr. Hinojosa explained to trustees that Spring ISD has built additional instructional minutes within the 2021-22 calendar beyond the required state minimum, which would allow for flexibility for possible student holidays or professional development days, if needed.
“This year, we are working straight through 180 days. The discussion now is seeing if we are at a place where we can provide a student holiday—which would allow students the opportunity for themselves to get some rest—and an additional option, where students are at home and we use that day to allow our teachers time to get caught up.”
After plenty of discussion, trustees voted 5-2 to modify the instructional calendar to make Feb. 14 a student holiday with campuses open for a Teacher Preparation Day. In a separate motion, trustees also voted 6-1 to adopt a resolution to make April 18 a holiday for all students, campus-based teachers and staff.
Board receives update on instructional programs for Emergent Bilingual Students and approves transition to a new dual-language model
Trustees received a presentation from Executive Director of Instructional Services Marie Mendoza and Director of Multilingual Programs Lettie Houck, and the Board then approved the district’s proposed transition away from a late-exit elementary bilingual instructional model to a one-way and two-way dual-language model.
Following the recommendation of a cross-functional task force that conducted a deep dive into the current research and the effectiveness of Spring ISD’s current PK-5 bilingual program model, the change was proposed in order to better serve Spring ISD’s Emergent Bilingual (EB) students – previously referred to as Limited English Proficient (LEP) or English Language Learners (ELL) – and to provide those students with an improved opportunity to strengthen their skills in both English and Spanish beginning in kindergarten, thus providing a stronger foundation for academic success at the secondary level and beyond.
The presentation covered enrollment trends and demographics of Spring ISD’s EB student population; the current academic performance of EB students in Spring ISD; an overview of instructional models in place for bilingual programs; and an explanation of the proposed shift for the district’s bilingual instruction model.
Even as overall district enrollment numbers have trended downward in the academic years since 2015-16, the EB student population in Spring ISD has generally continued to rise, reaching nearly 30% of the total student population for the current school year, 2021-22.
Currently, Spring ISD utilizes what is referred to as a late-exit transitional bilingual instructional model, which emphasizes native-language instruction (in this case, Spanish) much more heavily during students’ early years in school, then gradually transitions toward a higher percentage of instruction in English.
However, this model has resulted in achievement gaps, and longitudinal research being conducted both at the national level and regionally – including by the Houston Education Research Consortium at Rice University – shows two-way dual-language programs (where native English- and Spanish-speaking students are mixed together) and one-way dual-language programs (where classes are composed of native Spanish-speaking students only) to be more effective options overall as instructional models for serving EB student populations.
Specifically, both one-way and two-way dual-language immersion (DLI) instructional models balance instructional time evenly across English and Spanish throughout all the years that students are part of the program. This gives EB students a better opportunity to develop proficiency in both languages – in this case, in English and Spanish – right from the beginning.
To ensure the academic success of EB students, Spring ISD initially plans to transition to a one-way dual-language program for EB elementary students starting next year, with the possibility of also expanding the district’s existing two-way dual-language programs going forward. The district believes this shift will bring several important benefits for EB students; including higher levels of English proficiency to ensure success at the secondary level; a reduction in dropout rate disparities and an increase in graduation rates among EB students; and an opportunity, eventually, for more native English speakers to join the program and reap the benefits of becoming bilingual, bi-literate, and bicultural alongside their EB peers.
Following the Board’s approval during the meeting, the district now plans to begin the implementation of the new model over the coming months, including professional development for current faculty and the recruitment of additional highly qualified bilingual teachers to support the new instructional model, with the goal of implementing the PK-5 one-way dual-language bilingual program for the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Trustees receive report on delinquent property tax collection
Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks led a brief discussion to update trustees on the collection of delinquent property taxes for the district as of January 2021. Each year in October, the Board adopts Spring ISD’s tax rate, which supports school funding. After Jan. 31, any unpaid property taxes become delinquent and begin to accrue interest.
Yolanda Humphrey of Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins & Mott, LLP provided a detailed report for Spring ISD, which showed a breakdown for 2020 — the most recent delinquent tax year.
“For instance, for 2021, we're not going to get that account until July of 2022, so [business accounts] will receive their bill in October,” Humphrey told trustees. “It goes delinquent on Feb. 1, and they don't hear from us until July 1, meaning they basically have a whole year. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses, especially right now during this time, are not able to stay open.”
Humphrey then presented an update on the percentage of collection goals met for 2017 through 2020, including a targeted goal to have at least 70% of delinquent property taxes collected by the end of the fiscal year. As of January, 58.99% has been collected within the first six month for the 2020 year, placing the district on track to hit their yearly goal.
“Your tax office does a great job of collecting most of your taxes, then we hit it and try to collect as much as we can,” said Humphrey. “The rest are the accounts that are harder to collect.”
For more information on how the property tax system works, visit the Spring ISD Tax Office website.
In other action, the Board approved:
- The minutes from the Jan. 6, 2022 work session; the Jan. 11, 2022 regular meeting; the Jan. 14, 2022 special called session; and the Jan. 22 special called session;
- Approval of adopting the resolution regarding school closures due to winter storm;
- Approval of investment policy CDA (LOCAL);
- Approval the Notice of Grant Award for Spring ISD’s 21st Century Community Learning program;
- Approval of cooperative purchases exceeding $50,000;
- The awarding of contracts for HVAC filters, HVAC parts and supplies, an Enterprise WAN Routing System (E-Rate), college and career readiness products and services, and restaurants and catering services to the providers recommended by the administration;
- The ratification of the actual expenditures (December 2021);
- Approval of approving the 2021-2022 Second Budget Review; and
- Taxpayer Refunds.
Winford Adams Jr., J.D.
Kelly P. Hodges
Rhonda Newhouse, M.Ed.
Deborah Jensen, Ph.D.
Natasha McDaniel, M.Ed.
Citizens who want to speak at a Board meeting are asked to register at least 15 minutes prior to the time when the meeting is scheduled to begin.
For more information, click here.
The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22 at the Gordon M. Anderson Leadership Center, 16717 Ella Blvd.