All About ACE

News from the Spring ISD Advisory Committee on Education

2021-22 Issue 1

Advisory Committee on Education Convenes Its First Meeting of the 2021-22 Year

The district’s ACE committee met on Wednesday, Oct. 6 for its first meeting of the year with an agenda designed to gather feedback from its members, including campus and district office staff, as well as parent and community representatives.

Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson began the meeting thanking each of the members for their commitment and service to the district in this particularly meaningful capacity. He provided an in-depth overview of what it means to be an advisor and highlighted the role each member of the ACE plays in shaping key decisions in the district.

“I will lean on you to inform me of issues that affect you as well as ask that you keep me abreast of what’s working and not working throughout the district,” Dr. Watson explained. “We will work through those issues together, knowing that unity yields blessings.”

Also at the center of Dr. Watson’s opening remarks was a presentation of the district’s new strategic plan, Every Student—Every Teacher—Every Day, which builds on the accomplishments of the EveryChild 2020 strategic plan. He first recognized the dedication and commitment of every Spring ISD employee as documented in a compilation video, marking the district’s progress over the years since 2015.

This was a perfect segue to direct the group’s attention to the six priorities, which Dr. Watson outlined, serving as key initiatives that will mobilize the district’s strategic direction toward realizing excellent and equitable outcomes for every student.

These six priorities - Student Outcomes, Equity, Opportunities, Leadership, Well-Being, and Engagement - will serve as a blueprint for the district through 2026. Embedded within each priority are key commitments and strategies that establish the district’s focus. Also undergirding these is the Leadership Definition, which claims the leader within every member of Team Spring ISD.

When discussing student outcomes, Dr. Watson described the district’s North Star Goal with utmost clarity: Increasing the number of A/B campuses in Spring ISD. “While a letter grade does not define the school, we cannot ignore what the results are telling us,” Watson said. He also expounded on grant initiatives, as well as the key roles external partners such as System of Great Schools and Holdsworth Center will play in ACE’s work.

Additionally, Dr. Watson explained the importance of data integrity, using last year’s student demographic data to highlight glaring discrepancies that impacted our state accountability. He charged members of the ACE to assist in carrying forth the message regarding the urgent need for every parent to complete an annual Free and Reduced Price School Meals application. By doing so, student demographics — including race and ethnicity, and household income — are accurately counted and the state’s accountability system is appropriately applied based on who Spring ISD is as a district.

“We need one hundred percent of our parents to complete the free lunch application,” Dr. Watson continued. “Our accountability rating literally depends on data integrity, and we have until ‘Snapshot Day’ — October 29 — to establish our data.”

Before closing, Dr. Watson spent time hearing from ACE members, where he asked for feedback on the successes and impediments in the classroom from the teachers’ perspectives. At each table, members discussed their experiences at their individual campuses and shared a summary with the whole group. “More time” was a recurring theme, particularly related to the implementation of new curriculum resources and the instructional planning associated with each.

Dr. Watson closed his opening segment with sincere thanks for a strong start to the 2021-22 school year. He restated his commitment to ensuring all staff, especially teachers, have the resources and training they need to perform at their best for all students.

COVID Update: Keeping Safety at the Forefront

Rooted in the strategic plan’s ‘Wellness’ priority are ongoing efforts to control and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus among our staff and students. Chief of Police Ken Culbreath provided updates on COVID-19 trends throughout the district and community. He first reviewed the district’s protocols for positive test results and quarantine requirements for those who may have been possibly exposed to the virus. Culbreath also outlined the district’s protocol for universal mask requirements in all Spring ISD facilities, which align with current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

“Our goal is to keep safety at the forefront to ensure the school year is not disrupted by COVID-19,” Culbreath stated.

Dr. Watson and Culbreath opened the discussion to the ACE to gather input on the current mask protocol: Should Spring ISD continue the mask mandate? Members responded to the question from their own perspectives and also spoke on behalf of their unique school community. The vast majority support continuing the current protocol, citing collective safety and ongoing mitigation as the rationale.

“It’s ultimately about safety for everyone, especially the students,” said Chris Dinh, who serves as a community representative on the ACE. “We have to keep the kids safe from COVID as well as the variants, and we definitely want to avoid the ‘Fall surge’ that comes this time of year.”

Culbreath provided additional information on the COVID-19 leave bank benefits that are available to every employee and issue up to five paid leave days after the employee’s leave back is exhausted due to time off duty as a result of COVID-19. He also encouraged everyone to complete the district’s survey that is currently being conducted to solicit feedback on masking, while also imploring the cooperation and support for the current protocols and processes that are in place for everyone’s safety. Learn more information on the district’s COVID-19 response here.

Q & A Recap

Time was set aside for Q & A to address questions directly from Dr. Watson and Cabinet members. Here’s a recap of this portion of the meeting:

The number of reported COVID cases has drastically decreased. Is the district’s reporting accurate?

Chief Ken Culbreath acknowledged that the COVID-19 positive rates are decreasing, which is a trend across major cities. In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) predicts a continued decline over the next several weeks. However, lower rates do not mean the pandemic has ended. All Spring ISD protocols and processes remain in place to ensure the safety of all students and employees.

What is the district doing to ensure all schools have computers for students?

The district’s Technology Department is currently reconciling its inventory and determining classroom needs. Dr. Watson confirmed that computers are available in ample quantities for every campus and will be distributed soon.

Will the district award a pay-incentive to vaccinated employees?

No, the district is not paying employees who choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the district extended the COVID-19 leave bank up to five days for employees who test positive or require quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. Employees are eligible to use these days after exhausting their current leave bank.

Is the vacant position list updated?

Dr. Julie Hill, Chief of Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability, confirmed that the current roster of vacancies by campus is accurate as the vacant teacher list is updated daily.

What is being done to recruit and retain bilingual teachers?

Dr. Hill also addressed this question by sharing plans her team will undertake in the near future. One new recruiting strategy is teacher recruitment in the South Texas/Rio Grande Valley area where certified bilingual teachers are available in greater abundance than in the local Houston area. Bilingual teachers and teacher aides will be recruited to work in Spring ISD, offering a highly-competitive salary and annual stipend. Additional strategies are in the works to continue recruiting teachers and other employees.

Did we reach our goals of the annual Success Walk?

Yes, the district met its outreach projection, yet there is still work to be done at some campuses. The Office of Student Affairs has been working alongside each of the schools, with the help of Academic Completion Specialists and Community Youth Services workers, as well as through targeted wraparound services.

What is the district doing to hire more bus drivers?

Executive Chief of District Operations Mark Miranda provided an update on the new pay scale for bus drivers. Spring ISD increased the hourly rate from $17/hour to $19/hour, which ranks us as one of the highest paying districts for bus drivers in all of Region 4. Additionally, the district started an employee referral incentive program, which pays $500 to any employee who refers a qualified bus driver for employment.

Make Your Voice Heard! Talk to Your ACE Representative

Make Your Voice Heard! Talk to Your ACE Representative

Every campus in the district has at least two ACE representatives elected by the staff to serve in an advisory role to the Superintendent. Central office representatives are also elected to serve, as well as community members who are appointed by the Superintendent serve on the ACE as another integral voice.

Over the next month, your ACE representatives will share meeting highlights such as those found in this newsletter as well as gather your input to bring to the next meeting. Be on the lookout for updates to be shared at your next faculty meeting (campuses) and or staff special call-meeting (district office). If you want to ensure your views are heard, reach out to your ACE representative. Click here to learn who represents you.

2021-2022 ACE Meeting Dates

Mark your calendar for this year’s ACE meetings! Contact your representative and look for updates on district news and key decisions throughout the year.

The next ACE meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 5 p.m.

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