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.
“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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I teach ESL because, when I was 12, my next-door neighbor, whose family was from Poland and spoke very little English, told me that I was the one who taught her and her sister their ABCs. I didn’t even think about what I was doing at the time. I wanted to be helpful, but, really, all I’ve ever done is teach. I’ve only ever wanted to be a teacher. It’s what I feel like my calling is.Allison Brown (Westfield ESL Teacher)
I sing because I love it. I love to sing, it’s my passion. When I’m on the stage, I feel like a different person. You get away from your troubles you might be experiencing, and you just focus on singing – you focus on what you’re singing about. In choir, we sing a lot about love, and happiness. When you might be going through a rough time, it’s good to focus on a positive.Yesenia Ruelas Reynaga (Dekaney Senior)
I teach because it matters, and that might be simplistic, but if you don’t have people who care about being teachers and who care about their students’ well-being and growth, then education is nothing. So – I teach because it matters.Morgan Pease (Kindergarten Teacher, Cooper ES)
I support technology infrastructure because I enjoy the challenge of keeping 35,000+ students and staff reliably connected to our network. I know, having been a teacher myself, that if our equipment is down it can directly impact the instruction in a classroom. I have always been passionate about technology, and working in a school district there is a sense of motivation, as we are directly helping students learn. Everyone in the district has a part to play, and network infrastructure is ours!Jared Sabin (Infrastructure Specialist, Technology)
I excel as a student-athlete because I always had support from my teachers and my coaches. They really care for you as a person. It’s bigger than football for them. They want to see you grow as a man, and grow as a person, and be successful in life. What motivates me is really my mom, you know, always seeing her – so much she sacrificed for me and how hard she works, and I feel like I want to be able to give back to her and give back to the community as well. I feel like God gives you everything you need. You just have to prioritize. How bad do you really want it?Marcus Banks (Senior, Dekaney High School)
I teach elementary music because, when they come in here and find something that they can succeed at, then it boosts their confidence. And then I kind of take that and say, ‘Look, if you can apply these principles of perseverance, diligence, practice – if you can take these and be successful here, then you can apply them in academics.’ It’s not just about making the music, or performing for someone. It’s really about, ‘You are so valuable! Do you know what’s in you?’ I love changing lives in that way. That’s my passion.Suzette Fears (Music Teacher, Booker Elementary)
I teach Spanish because of the face that they make when the light bulb turns on and they get it. That to me is the reason why I come, because it’s an awesome feeling. Spanish is not only a language, but it’s a whole culture. The fact that the students are so willing and wanting to learn about my culture and my language, it makes me want to come and teach everybody! I’m passionate about it.Belen Polanco (Dual-Credit and AP Spanish Teacher, Spring Early College Academy)
I study hard as an EMERGE Fellow because, in my family, I’d be the first woman, on both sides, to go to college. I want to change that. And not just for my family, but for other Hispanic women as well. I want to change that patriarchal society to one where everyone has the same opportunity.Diana Salmeron (Junior, Spring High School, and Spring ISD EMERGE Fellow)
I am a school nurse because I love kids, and because I know how it is as a mom. My drive is to help them grow, to help them be healthy, to not only fix them when they’re sick, but teach them the importance of handwashing, of taking medicines, or eating right, or exercising – just helping them know what they need to do to grow and succeed in their future.Staci Brinkley (School Nurse, Beneke Elementary School)
I am a bus attendant in Spring ISD because I have a passion for children. I love what I do. When you’re working, you’re interacting with the children, and you get to know them, you build those relationships. For children with special needs, that consistency is important, because they depend on us to be here. I have children, so I want to make sure I’m treating everybody’s children the way I want my children to be treated when I’m not with them. I try to be who I want my kids to encounter.Breea Wiltz-Foster (Bus Attendant, Transportation)
I teach in Spring ISD because these kids bring something different every single day. It’s always trying to figure out, ‘What does this student need from me so that I can put them in the best spot to be successful?’ I want them to take into the world the thought that what they do matters. I’m not really doing anything out of the ordinary, I don’t think. I’m just giving them a chance. And these kids are amazing when you give them a chance to excel.Keith Underwood (Criminal Justice Instructor, Carl Wunsche Sr. High School)
I attend Early College because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that people wouldn’t get at a traditional high school. Basically, when I graduate, I’ll go into college as a junior, and all of the expenses – for the classes we take, the textbooks – everything is covered. At Early College, it’s a small community. The teachers expect a lot out of us, and all the students get along. The community is very open and accepting. They’re actually getting us ready for college, and I’m just grateful for the experience.Jerard Watkins (Junior, Spring Early College Academy)