|Vol. 31, No.6/January 2022
The Spring ISD Board of Trustees met at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 11 in person, and streamed via video conferencing, to address items on the agenda. President Justine Durant called the meeting to order and the Westfield High School Army JROTC led the presentation of colors, with Battalion Cmdr. Fabiana Cisneros leading the pledges to the flags. Carrying the U.S. Flag was also Battalion Cmdr. Cisneros. Carrying the Texas Flag was Cadet Cpl. Mia Brown. The left rifle was Cadet Pvt. 1st Class Virgie Mott, and the right rifle was Cadet Pvt. 1st Class Nayeli Collazo. The Westfield High School Army JROTC is led by Maj. Charles R. Thompson.
January is Board Appreciation Month
Board trustees honored for their dedication to Spring ISD students, staff and community
Each January, school board members across the U.S. are honored during National School Board Recognition Month for the contributions they make to their schools and communities.
With the traditional board appreciation dinner canceled due the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the Houston area, the district instead celebrated the school board members from Spring ISD during a series of special presentations during the meeting – some virtual, some in person, and some via video – while the trustees were given certificates of appreciation, personalized gift baskets, and thanks for their tireless voluntary service.
“This is our opportunity to celebrate you, our trustees,” said Spring ISD General Counsel Jeremy Binkley, “who volunteer your time and energy – and make no mistake, it is a lot of time and energy that you guys volunteer – to ensure all of our students and children have the opportunity to learn and grow.”
Each trustee was honored individually during the course of the program, with Spring ISD campuses and principals teaming up to prepare the gift baskets. Select campus principals offered remarks on behalf of area families, students and the district.
In addition to the messages of thanks from across Spring ISD, the trustees were also recognized by proclamations and certificates of recognition from the offices of area elected officials, including Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Representatives from Precinct 4 and from the U.S. Congresswoman’s office were on hand to deliver their thanks to the board members for their service to the local community.
Among the comments, speakers at the podium expressed gratitude for the trustees’ leadership during the pandemic and their ongoing dedication to help Spring ISD offer an outstanding education to every student.
“On behalf of the administration and the campuses and the district, thank you to our Board of Trustees,” Binkley said following the proclamations and individual presentations. “We appreciate all that you do. You work tirelessly, and you ensure that all of our students get an excellent education.”
Board President Justine Durant thanked all those who participated in the board appreciation activities, and acknowledged her fellow board members for their commitment to always work together on behalf of students.
“We don’t get paid monetarily, but we get paid every day – when we see the ‘ah-ha’ moment in our students, when we see their success,” Durant said. “We appreciate the recognition, and I also want to recognize my colleagues, because it’s been a wonderful group of people to work with. Each one of us has a love in our heart for doing what’s best for kids, and I think it’s why we’ve been able to operate in grace like we do – because we put children first.”
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: Winners honored in Spring ISD’s ‘Chill Out and Read’ Winter Break Reading Contest
Board members took the occasion of their first meeting of the new year to honor the winners of Spring ISD’s “Chill Out and Read” Winter Break Reading Contest, open to all elementary and middle school students across the district.
“Over the holiday break, we did not want the learning to stop, and our students took up the challenge,” Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Workforce Development Matt Pariseau told trustees. “We challenged elementary and middle school students to choose their favorite books and take some time to ‘chill out and read.’”
Students used the myON e-reader app – available to them on the Spring ISD student portal – with access to more than 6,000 books. Both Spanish and English books are available on the platform for students to read and enjoy all year long, though only books read by students during the Winter Break contest dates count toward the challenge.
Altogether, Spring ISD students who participated in the contest read over 6,210 books and spent more than 59,000 minutes reading over the holiday break – a collective total of over 983 hours spent reading. The top campus spot overall went to Booker Elementary School, led by Principal Keisha Womack, where students spent an amazing total of 19,308 minutes reading – more than 321 hours.
Student winners were named in two categories at both the elementary and middle school level – most minutes spent on books at or above grade level, and most total books read at or above grade level.
The student winners each received a trophy and an Amazon Kindle tablet, while the elementary and middle school campuses where students spent the most time reading each received a campus trophy and a banner to hang in front of the school in honor of the achievement and in celebration of the power of literacy to drive educational outcomes.
“As part of our strategic plan we focus on literacy, and we have a multi-faceted approach to that,” Pariseau said. “One aspect we know is that when students have the ability to read, their literacy rates continue to grow and expand in their learning.”
Trustees also had the opportunity to congratulate the winning students attending the meeting together with their families. Board members asked the students about their favorite books, about their reading habits in general, and students shared favorite quotes and topics from the books they had read during the contest.
Pariseau also congratulated the parents of the winning students and thanked them for their encouragement of literacy at home.
“We know that you gave a lot of support as well to make this happen,” Pariseau said.
The individual and campus winners for this year’s contest are as follows:
- Enrique Sanchez, Grade 4, from Booker Elementary won for the most minutes spent reading at or above grade level.
- Aariz Hussain, Grade 2, from Marshall Elementary won for the most books read at or above grade level.
- Booker Elementary, led by Principal Keisha Womack, was the winning campus, with students spending 19,308 minutes reading.
Middle School Level:
- Gustavo Rodriguez, Grade 6, from Roberson Middle School won for the most minutes spent reading at or above grade level.
- Jessica Ezuma, Grade 6, from Spring Leadership Academy won for the most books read at or above grade level.
- Roberson Middle School, led by Principal Cecelia Brumsey, was the winning campus, with students spending 1,432 minutes reading.
Executive Chief of District Operations Mark Miranda began his administrative update by echoing the appreciation of the Spring ISD Board of Trustees.
“We are definitely grateful to have a supportive, engaged Board that is always keeping the primary focus on positive academic outcomes for our students,” Miranda said. “We definitely believe that, as a group, we have the best Board in the State of Texas.”
He also emphasized the commitment and dedication of school board members as volunteer positions, with long hours and added responsibilities.
Miranda then mentioned the successful launch of the COVID-19 testing megasite, which was established in a partnership with Harris County Public Health. The site at Planet Ford Stadium can administer up to 300 tests per day.
He added that in addition, Spring ISD held a joint press conference earlier in the week at Booker Elementary School, where Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis appeared. They announced that Harris County would be offering more than 2,000 rapid tests for Spring ISD to distribute to students, teachers and staff.
“These test kits are yet another tool for our students and staff to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Miranda said. “We are grateful to Judge Hidalgo for these free tests for our campuses.”
He then mentioned that a plan is being put together to distribute these tests across the district, along with any other tests that may be received over the school year. In addition, Spring ISD is continuing to partner with Inspire Diagnostics to provide free testing and vaccines at locations across the district, including the Community Engagement Center and the Child Nutrition facility.
He finished the COVID-19 update with a mention of the case tracker dashboard, which is continually updated with case numbers from across Spring ISD.
Miranda then moved on to the School Choice application process, which ended on Jan. 7. He reminded parents that the next date to remember is March 11, which is when students who have been entered into a lottery will be notified of their acceptance status. Students and parents will have until March 30 to notify that campus of their intent to attend. He finished by thanking all the Spring ISD staff who have improved the efficiency of the application process this year.
Miranda then introduced Dr. Julie Hill, Chief of Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability. Hill updated the board on two cabinet-level vacancies that have been filled recently.
First, Hill introduced Dr. Miguel Perez, who has been named Chief of Schools for Spring ISD. Perez, a former superintendent of Jim Hogg County ISD, currently serves the district as an assistant superintendent of administration. Perez will lead the district’s 40 schools as well as the student support services department.
Then, Lester Gretsch was introduced as the new Chief of Communications. He brings over 15 years of experience in media, corporate, and internal and external communications. He will lead the team that drives the internal and external communications for the district.
At each regular board meeting, during Opening Remarks, each board member is given the opportunity to share information with those present.
Dr. Deborah Jensen began the trustee remarks by thanking the greater Spring ISD community for their efforts to help curb the spread of COVID-19 over the past two years of the pandemic.
“We have really come so far and our school district has been adapting and trying things,” Jensen said. “I am just so impressed with everyone who has brought forth their best game here.”
She also thanked everyone in the district for getting vaccinated and wearing masks and using the other safety protocols.
Assistant Secretary Rhonda Newhouse echoed Jensen’s comments, citing the low numbers of COVID-19 cases relative to other surrounding school districts.
“It fills my heart to know that Spring administration, school board, teachers, counselors, [and] principals care about our students and what is happening in Spring,” Newhouse said.
Finally, Board President Justine Durant also thanked everyone in Spring ISD for their continued dedication to curbing the spread and following safety protocols.
“I just want to thank our teachers, because they are on the front lines, and the administrators in those buildings that support them,” Durant said. “We as a board recognize and understand that that is the cornerstone, that’s the key, that is where success will happen.”
Action Items and Presentations
Spring ISD Board of Trustees approves 2022-23 instructional calendar
The Spring ISD Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved a 2022-23 Instructional Calendar that will have students starting classes on Aug. 16, 2022, and finishing school on June 1, 2023.
“Per review, the results of the survey from last week’s work session determined that there was a 10-difference vote between option A and B,” said Dr. Julie Hill, Chief of Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability. “At that time, the Board also asked for a recommendation from the administration, and the administration recommended that we select option A for our instructional calendar.”
The approved calendar was one of two options presented to staff and the community for input in a survey that drew feedback from more than 1,700 people.
The Spring ISD Advisory Committee on Education (ACE), which includes staff and teachers, offered input and guidance before the two calendar proposals were presented to the public. Both options met all state requirements for instructional time, including 174 days with 440 instructional daily minutes to build in make-up days if necessary.
Board hears presentation on Opportunity Culture Residency Model
Dr. LaTracy Harris, Director of Leadership Development, presented the Opportunity Culture Residency Model to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday evening, which aims to help schools restructure to extend the reach of excellent teachers, for more pay, within recurring school budgets.
In partnership with Opportunity Culture and Sam Houston State University, the model is currently in development for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year and aligns with the Spring Leadership Definition.
“This Opportunity Culture Residency Model is aligned to being outcome-driven because we want our teachers to continuously grow, as well as we want our teachers to be student focused and use data to drive instruction on their campus,” said Harris. “It is aligned to being service-oriented because we want our teams to remain ‘team focused’ and to continue empowering others to ensure that we are developing and supporting leadership.”
Harris also spoke on the common teacher challenges within a traditional classroom structure, which often results in high-performing educators leaving the classroom for different roles or careers with higher pay. Within an Opportunity Culture, students would gain consistent access to excellent teaching, higher performing teachers would advance and help support growth on their campus through working on small teams, and principals would drive change through distributed leadership.
“By utilizing this Opportunity Culture structure, teachers on the team will receive daily support they need to grow and develop,” said Harris.
The model is based on five principles:
- Reach more students with excellent teachers and their teams;
- Pay excellent teachers more for extending their reach;
- Fund pay within regular campus-based budgets;
- Provide protected in-school time and clarify how to use it for planning, collaboration, and development; and
- Match authority and accountability to each person’s responsibilities
The model offers additional benefits as well, including limiting teacher vacancies on teaching teams, establishing more sustainable systems to help teachers grow and thrive, and strengthening the recruitment pipeline for bringing highly qualified teachers into the district.
With key partnerships already in place to support the launch of the program, next steps would include starting the campus selection process to identify initial pilot campuses for implementing Spring ISD’s Opportunity Culture Residency Model for 2022-23. Campus-based design teams would work over the spring semester together with campus and district leaders to determine the most effective ways to implement the program in the district. The process would also include identifying Spring ISD teachers and teacher residents to take part in the program’s launch.
Trustees asked questions about contingencies for potential challenges the district might face in implementing the model over the coming months, including dealing with staffing shortages that have affected schools during the pandemic. They also expressed strong support and excitement for several elements of the plan, including the way it leverages the skills of excellent teachers to support outstanding instruction, teacher growth and career development, and student success.
In other action, the Board approved:
- The minutes from the Dec. 7, 2021 special called session; the Dec. 9, 2021 work session; the Dec. 13, 2021 special called session; and the Dec. 14, 2021 regular meeting;
- Approval of application seeking reimbursement for costs associated with damage to district facilities as a result of Winter Storm Uri;
- Approval of the 2022-2023 Education Planning Guide;
- Authorization of the Superintendent of Schools to assemble a committee to develop a District of Innovation renewal plan;
- Approval of the proposed interlocal agreement with Lone Star College System - Lone Star College North Harris;
- Approval of the Second Resolution Providing Additional Leave Time Due to COVID-19; 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, Feb. 8 at the Gordon M. Anderson Leadership Center, 16717 Ella Blvd.