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Superintendent Watson Delivers Annual State of the District Address
Spring ISD Superintendent Rodney E. Watson delivered his second annual State of the District address on Wednesday, Jan. 30 to more than 200 invited guests gathered in the Southwestern Energy conference room. Among those present for the event were local faith leaders, elected officials and community and business partners.

Watson’s presentation focused on the district’s ongoing efforts to fulfill promises made in its strategic plan, Every Child 2020, along with an update on the 2016 bond program. In addition, the superintendent outlined future goals for the upcoming school year, as well as shedding light on challenges that Spring ISD and other area districts will face in the coming years.

In introducing the event’s theme – “Higher Purpose, Greater Achievement” – Watson invited his audience to consider all the elements necessary to create lasting success for schools and students.

“Everyone has a ‘why.’ Everyone has a purpose and a calling and a why they do what they do,” he said. “It’s that calling, it’s that desire, it’s that passion that each one of us brings to our role that causes us to be able to excel in those things.”

Replicating Successes Across the District
As Spring ISD marks the fourth year of its five-year plan – dubbed the “Lift” year – the superintendent said the focus has increasingly been on expanding the reach and scope of successful initiatives such as early childhood outreach and full-day Pre-K college and career readiness programs and advanced placement (AP) offerings; and strengthened professional development to better support teachers in the classroom. Read More

Without skilled, motivated classroom teachers working in creative collaboration with strong campus leadership, district board members, dedicated volunteers, parents, and community partners, Watson said that the gains Spring ISD had seen would not have been possible.

“It’s all about hard work, it’s all about passion, it’s all about commitment,” Watson said. “It’s greater achievement based upon our higher calling and our higher purpose. It’s the ‘Lift’ year for us, and when we talk about the ‘Lift’ year, it really is about replicating upon those successes that we’ve had in years two and three of our strategic plan, and replicating those all across the district – not necessarily starting something new every year, but building upon those successes.”

The superintendent went on to highlight several areas of growth and positive student outcomes seen since the launch of the strategic plan, including an increase in the percent of students reaching “meets grade level” or “masters grade level” on the STAAR test; impressive year-over-year gains in third-grade students reading at or above level; and growth on STAAR high school end-of-course (EOC) exams that show Spring ISD outpacing both the state and the region in four out of five tested areas. Read Less

Enrollment Trends Spur Innovation
In discussing challenges faced by Spring ISD, Watson went over data showing a leveling out in student enrollment – a trend impacting districts across the area in recent years. He pointed out that the shifting trend presents both challenges and opportunities. With state funding directly linked to enrollment and attendance figures, declines in enrollment – due to slower economic growth in the Houston area as well as the expanding draw of area charter schools – directly impact school district budgets. Read More

On the other hand, the superintendent indicated that the shifts have forced Spring ISD to adapt and develop in response – learning what works, listening intently to district stakeholders and their needs, and moving to provide greater opportunities and choice for students throughout the district.

In talking about the district’s commitment to building college and career readiness, Watson touched on both the expanding number of high school students enrolling in AP classes and the increasing number of those students taking and passing end-of-course AP exams. Since the launch of Every Child 2020, Spring ISD schools have seen a 41 percent increase in AP exams taken by students, as well as a 40 percent increase in AP exams where students scored a three or better.

With more students taking and passing rigorous AP exams – combined with increased access to Pre-AP coursework for middle school students – Watson said the district is building a culture of college readiness and preparedness that will propel students to success.

“We’re excited about having more students taking our AP and Pre-AP classes,” Watson said. “We expect our AP numbers to also show improvement in the coming years as we strengthen how we prepare our middle schoolers for the rigors of high school and college-level work.” Read Less

Gains Seen Under District’s Strategic Plan
Watson also noted other milestones, including the more than 3,500 hours of individualized home instruction offered to preschool-age children and their parents through the district’s Smart Start program; Spring ISD’s 28 percent increase in campus-level distinctions from the Texas Education Agency; and the solid gains seen in parent and community involvement, volunteer hours, community engagement and stakeholder perception since the launch of the strategic plan. Read More

“Do we still have room to improve? Absolutely,” Watson said. “But the work we’ve done to date, under the guidance of our strategic plan and our board of trustees, is leading us in the right direction.”

Spring ISD Board of Trustees President Rhonda Newhouse was on-hand to deliver greetings and introduce the program’s two featured student emcees from Westfield High School, Anitiz Demond Muonagolu and Esu Joy Ekeruche. Muonagolu and Ekeruche talked about their own experience as students in the district, and also welcomed a number of distinguished guests, including former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige; Tara Dennis, attending on behalf of U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee; Tonia Wells, attending on behalf of State Rep. Jarvis Johnson; and Kent Clingerman, attending on behalf of Harris County Pct. 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle. Earlier in the morning, guests also enjoyed choral performances from Northgate Crossing Elementary School students and members of the Spring High School Chamber Choir. A combined Navy JROTC group from Dekaney and Spring High School was there to present the colors and kick off the morning’s agenda. Read Less

2016 Bond Work Progressing
Ongoing work related to the district’s $330 million bond was heavily on display, with Watson offering attendees updates on Spring Early College Academy’s upcoming transition to the campus of Lone Star College–North Harris; the district’s two new specialty middle schools (Springwoods Village Middle School and the Spring ISD Leadership Academy); the newly designed replacement campusthat will serve as Roberson Middle School’s new home; the replacement district stadium opening later in 2019; and the three ninth-grade centers scheduled to open in August 2020. Read More

In her remarks, Newhouse mentioned the construction project just across I-45, where the new Springwoods Village Middle School will open in time to welcome students in fall 2019.

“We’re excited about opening this school in August,” Newhouse said, “and it’s as a result of our 2016 bond program, so we are still thanking our bond supporters.”

In addition to a modern design that encourages flexibility and collaboration among students and staff, the new middle school will feature Spring ISD’s first dedicated International Baccalaureate program. Newhouse said it was fitting that the new school would be located so close to existing hubs of innovation and international commerce like Southwestern Energy and other district partners.

“We designed it specifically to prepare students to be global citizens,” Newhouse said of the new school. “Our students are going to be ready.” Read Less

Donations to Buy Books for Students
Guests at the event had the opportunity to contribute to a special literacy campaign to purchase take-home book bags for second-graders as part of the district’s push to ensure all elementary students are reading at grade level.

Mame Yaa Bloxton, a parent leader and volunteer at Ponderosa Elementary School, said she was most impressed to hear about the advances that the district had made within the past four years.

“The improvements with the reading scores, and the results of parent and staff satisfaction surveys was all new to me,” said Bloxton. “That’s what I can take away from today and tell other people that we’re growing, and how one-third of our teachers have their master’s degree. It’s a bragging point.”

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Khechara Bradford said the event was a welcome one for district leaders as well.

“It’s an opportunity to sit down and talk with our partners in the community,” Bradford said, “to have a chance to thank them, share with them, and show our appreciation to them for their work with the district. I think there is a pride and an energy for where we are moving, and the community is standing with us, partnering with us on that vision. It’s a great time to be in Spring ISD!”

That theme of partnership was also on the mind of Spring ISD parent Kimberly McClintock, who, together with her husband, runs the Darrian Anthony McClintock Jr. Impact Foundation. The new foundation – named after McClintock’s son Darrian "DJ" McClintock, a Spring High School graduate who passed away in 2016 – has already started offering scholarships to Spring ISD graduates. But, McClintock said, she and her husband want to keep doing more.

“This was really good,” McClintock said afterwards, “because we’re able to see the vision, and where the district is going. It’s also going to help us, as a nonprofit, to see where we’re needed and where we can help in moving that vision forward.”

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