|Vol. 31, No.3/October 2021
|The Spring ISD Board of Trustees met at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 12 in person, and streamed via video conferencing, to address items on the agenda. President Rhonda Newhouse called the meeting to order and the Westfield Mustang Army JROTC led the presentation of colors with Battalion Commander Fabiana Cisneros leading the pledges to the flags and carrying the U.S. Flag. Carrying the Texas Flag was Cadet Sergeant Oscar Velasquez; the left rifle was Cadet Private First Class Amaury Garcia-Jaramillo; and the right rifle was Cadet Major Isaiah Hayes. The Westfield Mustang Army JROTC is led by Chief Major Charles R. Thompson.
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.
20 Spring ISD juniors and seniors named National Recognition Program Scholars by the College Board
Board members began by recognizing 20 Spring ISD juniors and seniors representing all five of the district’s high schools, who were named among this year’s National Recognition Program Scholars by the College Board. The group — including eight National African American Recognition Program Scholars and 12 National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholars — were eligible for the recognition based on their GPAs, and their high PSAT and AP exam scores.
“They have been consistently pursuing excellence in the classroom and in their college readiness endeavors as well,” said Chief of Innovation and Equity Dr. Lupita Hinojosa during her remarks at the meeting.
To be eligible for the national award from the College Board, Hinojosa explained that students must have a 3.5 GPA or higher, and identify as African American or Black, Hispanic American or Latinx, Indigenous, or attend school in a rural area or small town. They must also meet one of the following requirements: Take the PSAT 10 in the spring of their sophomore year and score in the top 10% in the state; take the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall of their junior year and score in the top 10% by state; or earn a score of 3 or higher on two or more AP exams by their junior year.
In addition to honoring the students’ accomplishments, the program also helps create additional pathways to college. Students can include the award on college and scholarship applications, and colleges around the country use the list of College Board honorees to identify high-potential students from underrepresented groups and communities.
“Tonight, the scholars we will be recognizing are a testament to hard work combined with the support from their committed teachers, counselors, their campus principals, and other members of Team Spring, and encouraged and supported by their families that you see here tonight,” Hinojosa said, inviting another round of applause for the large number of parents and grandparents who attended the meeting to celebrate their students’ recognition.
“We couldn’t do it without the support of the parents,” she said.
Campus principals and college counselors were also on hand to help congratulate the students — the largest group ever in Spring ISD to be named National Recognition Program Scholars.
The Spring ISD students named College Board National Recognition Program Scholars are listed below by their home campus:
Dekaney High School
- Teon Golden, College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar
- Cali Johnson, College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar
Spring Early College Academy
- Micah Bryant, College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar
- Berenice Contreras, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Nosakhare Iyoha, College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar
- Mihael Mendo, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Alexis Santacoloma, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Devin Smith, College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar
Spring High School
- Jeanna Edquist, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
Westfield High School
- Krystal Nuñez, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Edward Lindsay, College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar
Wunsche High School
- Adam Bueno, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Alejandra Cozajay, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Fiorela Benitez, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Glenda Galo, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Robert Ventura, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Santiago Reyes, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Thomas Saenz, College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar
- Ariana Chappell, College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar
- Douglas Ford, College Board National African American Recognition Program Scholar
Bammel Percussion Ensemble honored for winning national Mark of Excellence award
Trustees next recognized the members of the Bammel Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Percussion Instructor Cam Simpson, who were named National Winners in the 2021 Mark of Excellence award competition sponsored by the Foundation for Music Education.
“Tonight, we are very pleased to celebrate with you the percussion ensemble from the School for International Studies at Bammel, which was named the national winner in the middle school percussion division of the 2021 Mark of Excellence contest,” said Spring ISD Director of Performing and Visual Arts Dr. Joe Clark.
The Mark of Excellence project recognizes outstanding achievement in performance by high school and middle school bands, choirs and orchestras. This year marks the fourteenth year of the competition, with a total of 236 musical ensembles participating, as well as the first time a Spring ISD middle school has earned the top national award spot.
“According to the Foundation for Music Education, Bammel was chosen because it serves as ‘a wonderful example of musical achievement,’” said Clark, “‘a credit to Spring ISD and their community.’”
Ensembles enter the competition by submitting recordings for adjudication near the end of the school year. The Mark of Excellence program gathers entries from throughout the United States, which are then judged by specially invited music faculty from U.S. colleges and universities. The unique competitive environment — including detailed feedback provided to all entrants, together with compilation recordings made of each year’s winners — allows participating ensembles to compare their performance quality to some of the best groups across the country.
In addition to Simpson, Bammel Head Band Director Johnathan Alvarez was also in attendance to congratulate the students and address trustees on behalf of the school’s music education program.
“None of this could have been possible without you all allowing and giving us the resources,” Alvarez said, “to shape and mold the gifts and talents that these students have, that they will continue to grow within themselves.”
Clark seconded that sentiment, thanking the Board for its continued support of the arts in Spring ISD.
“This award is yet another testament to the value that the Spring ISD Board of Trustees places on music education each year in Spring ISD,” said Clark, also taking the opportunity to thank the parents who had come to cheer on their students at the meeting. “We know that this accomplishment would not be possible without the support of the families of our students — who value a rigorous arts education — and our campus administrators, so we really appreciate them.”
Trustees also celebrated the contributions of the parents of all those receiving Point of Pride awards at the meeting by adding a special, final request for the Bammel ensemble.
“Thank you to our students and our parents, we are so pleased to have you here tonight,” said Board President Rhonda Newhouse. “The Board wants to hear these students, so at some point, can you bring them back to perform for us here in the boardroom? These are national middle school winners!”
The members of the 2020-21 Bammel Percussion Ensemble who attended the meeting were: Lisa Crosby, Rosalynn Molina, Dylan Phelps, Jayden Price, Beyonca Whitfield, and Dedrick Wilkerson.
Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson opened his remarks by acknowledging the success of the recent College Night, which was held at Dekaney High School on Oct. 6. Representatives from over 100 colleges and universities were on hand to help Spring ISD seniors and their parents with questions about higher education. In addition, several agencies attended to assist with disability services and other community resources.
“Each year, this event brings a wealth of information to our families shopping for higher education opportunities, and it also answers a lot of the questions they have around financial aid, admissions processes and scholarship opportunities,” Watson said. “A big thank you to Dekaney and our College and Career Readiness staff for hosting this wonderful event.”
Watson continued with a recognition of the 2021-22 Advisory Committee on Education. The committee meets regularly to discuss district issues and concerns, from developing practical strategies to fulfill the promises made by the Spring ISD strategic plan to budgetary questions. Watson welcomed the new members in attendance, and thanked them for their dedication to district students.
Next, Watson “tee’d up” the excitement for the upcoming Spring ISD Educational Foundation charity golf tournament, set for Monday, Oct. 25.
“Now I don't know about you, but my game isn't all that great,” he said. “But I love getting out there, having fun with all of the staff and the community members who support our students.”
The event will be held at Northgate Country Club and will include contests for longest drive, closest to the pin and hole-in-one, with cash prizes. A charity auction will also be held on-site. More information on the golf tournament can be found at SpringISDFoundation.org.
Watson also touched upon the overall decline of COVID-19 cases — both across the region and within Spring ISD — and encouraged ongoing vigilance and cooperation to help continue the trend. He reminded everyone of vaccination and testing sites available — free of charge — at locations across the district.
Watson then celebrated Spring ISD principals in recognition of National Principals Month, which takes place every October. He emphasized the need to remember the social-emotional needs of campus leaders, especially during the pandemic.
“Although the pandemic has caused a lot of obstacles and issues in students’ education, our school principals have persisted and led their campuses through some very difficult times,” Watson said. “Our principals are the foundation of our schools. Despite the many challenges they have faced, which often fluctuate daily, they have continued to encourage and continue to lead strong.”
Watson ended his remarks by introducing and recognizing Pablo Resendiz, the new principal of Spring High School. Mr. Resendiz joins the high school with a host of experience at the high school and middle school level, most recently serving in the East Area of the Houston Independent School District as principal of Holland Middle School.
“There’s a lot of great things happening at Spring High School already, and I hope to build on that tradition,” Resendiz said. “I want to leverage that community support, come in and listen, learn more, and move the school in the right direction.”
At each regular board meeting, during Opening Remarks, each board member is given the opportunity to share information with those present.
Trustee Dr. Deborah Jensen spoke about her recent experience attending Dueitt Middle School’s fall orchestra performance, and thanked Dueitt Head Band Director Robert Munoz and everyone at the school who helped make the concert a success.
“They do it outside, in front of the school,” Jensen said. “Parents, grandparents — and even a school board member with her husband — went out with folding chairs, and got to see planes fly overhead on this beautiful evening to hear the kids play. It was just one of those wonderful, wonderful experiences.”
She finished by encouraging the Dueitt students to keep up the good work, saying, “You’re just wonderful kids and developing wonderful talent. Thank you.”
Trustee Winford Adams Jr. encouraged everyone to be on the lookout for examples of great leadership at every level of the district, and highlighted a way that members of the Spring ISD community can celebrate individuals displaying positive leadership attributes.
“I wanted to remind the community — teachers, parents, students — that we are trying to cultivate leadership within Spring ISD,” Adams said. “And to that end, we have developed a new board recognition mechanism, which is focused on the Leadership Definition, that we’ve developed here in Spring. I want to encourage everyone to be on the lookout for leadership in your building and your school, and to nominate someone for the board recognition.”
President Rhonda Newhouse thanked the Spring High School parents who attended the recent town hall meeting at the campus, expressing her appreciation for their involvement and encouraging all parents to actively participate in support of their schools and their students.
"I know we are all busy people, but parents, it is very important that you participate and take part in your child’s schools,” Newhouse said. “So the Board would like to welcome you to please feel free to come out at any time for any of our activities for parents.”
District receives School FIRST Superior Rating for Financial Accountability
Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks reported that the district once again received an “A” rating with a score of 94, or “superior achievement” — the highest possible from the Financial Accountability Rating System of Texas, for the district’s 2019-20 fiscal year.
Commonly referred to as School FIRST, the objective of the rating system, as explained by Westbrooks during her presentation, is to hold school districts accountable for the quality of financial management in Texas public schools.
“It is designed to encourage better management and better oversight of financial resources in order to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct, instructional purposes,” Westbrooks said.
The School FIRST rating system used to assess the 2019-20 year consists of 20 base indicators that analyze trends related to financial management efficiencies. The first four indicators are answered with either a “yes” or “no” answer while the remaining indicators are assigned a point value. Each indicator is weighted equally with the exception of the first four. Failure to comply with any of these four indicators results in an automatic failure.
Westbrooks said the report will be posted on the district’s finance webpage. She drew attention to page 14 of the document where the indicators are explained, and also noted that there are new indicators and ceiling requirements this year.
The report also includes specific disclosures including the superintendent’s contract, reimbursements received by the superintendent and trustees, outside compensation, gifts and business transactions between the board members and the district, if any.
District holds public hearing on Optional Flexible School Day Program: ‘Achieving Success Alternative Program’
The trustees approved funds allocated for the 2021-22 academic year for the Optional Flexible School Day Program (OFSDP) — also known as the district’s Achieving Success Alternative Program (ASAP) — after holding a public hearing on Tuesday.
The Board had previously heard a detailed presentation at the Board Work Session on Oct. 7 regarding the program, which aims to improve graduation rates for students who are in danger of dropping out of school or have dropped out or who are behind in core subject courses.
At the work session, trustees received an overview of ASAP from Spring ISD Chief of Innovation and Equity Dr. Lupita Hinojosa, who explained how the program would provide flexible hours and days of attendance for students in grades 3-12 who meet one of the following criteria: The student is at risk of dropping out of school; the student, as a result of attendance requirements, will be denied credit for one or more classes in which the student has been enrolled; or the student is attending a campus with an approved early college high school program designation.
Board approves 2021 Tax Rate
The Board unanimously approved a 2021 total tax rate of $1.3128 per $100 valuation – marking a 7 cent decrease from last year’s tax rate and introducing the lowest rate in 22 years.
The amount is based on the combined .9028 Maintenance and Operations tax rate and 41-cent Interest and Sinking tax rate, which is used to pay the debt service requirements on outstanding bonds.
Last year, Spring ISD approved a tax rate of $1.3843 per $100 valuation, also a decrease from the 2019 total tax rate of $1.43 per $100 valuation.
According to Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks, the tax payment on the average home with the $25,000 homestead exemption would be $1,785 – $97 less than what would have been paid at last year's rate of $1.3843.
The 5.17% tax rate decrease follows the 2019 Texas Legislature’s passage of House Bill 3, which includes tax compression based on the extent to which property value growth estimates exceed 2.5%.
Annually, the district proposes a tax rate when the next year’s general operating and debt service budgets are approved in the spring, but the tax rate is not approved until fall, after the Harris County Appraisal District provides the certified property appraisal rolls.
In Other Action the Board Approved:
The minutes from the Sept. 2, 2021 board work session; the Sept. 7, 2021 regular meeting; and the Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, 2021 special called sessions;
Acceptance of grant funds awarded by the Harris County Department of Education and the Education Foundation of Harris County for a total of $20,000;
Execution of Northwest Harris County Municipal Utility District No. 23 – Easement for Spring ISD Roberson Middle School Campus;
The 2021-2022 Child Care Local Match Contribution Agreement with Gulf Coast Local Workforce Board for the federal funds received annually for Child Care services;
The 2021-2022 Workforce Solutions Memorandum of Understanding (MOU);
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension resolution that 4-H will be considered as an extracurricular activity and that the Board will recognize the Extension agents as adjunct staff;
The resolution regarding school closures due to Hurricane Nicholas;
The bid offer for tax resale of property;
The 2021 Appraisal Roll Certification;
Taxpayer Refunds; and
A contract for 21st Century Enrichment Services to the providers recommended by the administration.
Rhonda Newhouse, M.Ed.
Winford Adams Jr.
Kelly P. Hodges
Natasha McDaniel, M.Ed.
Deborah Jensen, Ph.D.
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The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at the Gordon M. Anderson Leadership Center, 16717 Ella Blvd.