All About ACE

News from the Spring ISD Advisory Committee on Education

2020-2021 Issue 4

Advisory Committee on Education Meets to Discuss District Priorities

The district’s ACE committee met Wednesday, Jan. 20 for its regular monthly meeting, which focused on discussions around the district's 2021-22 calendar. Beginning the meeting with New Year's greetings, Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson surveyed the "Zoom room" to check on each ACE member. In his usual fashion, he opened the meeting with his “What’s on My Mind” segment. He shared his reflections from the Student Advisory Committee meeting, which was held earlier that day, and first wanted to check on everyone's well-being, specifically each person's social and emotional health. Additionally, Dr. Watson brought forth thoughts on student achievement, referencing the Students Not Being Served Report, formerly known as the Failure Report. Most importantly, he wanted members of the ACE to share their thoughts on the students' feedback around challenges with remote learning and needing more support in concurrent instruction. Several teachers shared ideas from their school's revamped schedule to remedy the issues their students were facing under the concurrent teaching model. Dr. Watson explained that the schools were encouraged to alter their instructional scheduling model at the turn of the semester and he opened the dialogue to learn more about the teachers' experiences with the new schedules. Teachers described the benefits of the newly-adopted teaching models, primarily with split scheduling. Student engagement has increased tremendously as one teacher noted. The drawbacks, however, have come as a result of other issues such as teacher absenteeism and challenges with covering classes. Dr. Watson acknowledged these concerns and stressors, admitting that he wished for "a magic wand" to solve them all at once. "These are trending issues in districts all across the state, while I realize there isn't a quick fix, I'm open to your ideas and recommendations for improvement," Dr. Watson stated. Further, he expressed the commitment of central office staff to provide coverage at the campuses to help mitigate the teacher absentee rate to ensure uninterrupted, high-quality instruction for our students.

Dr. Watson also addressed other critical concerns regarding the district's response to pandemic-related issues at the campus and district level. A recurring theme was the district's decision regarding school closures in light of the Harris County COVID-19 Dashboard and recommendations. In an effort to dispel misconceptions associated with the district's response, Dr. Watson explained the rationale and decision making process in greater detail as well as some of the key considerations employees should know as the district continues to navigate these unprecedented circumstances. Here's a summary of the main points:

  • Closing the district is not allowed in Texas as directed by Governor Abbott as well as the Texas Education Agency.

  • As COVID-positive cases increase to the level of an outbreak and/or teachers and students are at an increased risk, a decision to close the affected campus or grade level will be made on a case-by-case basis.

  • School or grade-level closures can be made for a period of up to five days.

  • State accountability will look differently this year. While the usual letter grade will not be issued, school districts will be held accountable for testing every student regardless of their selected learning model. That said, in-person and remote learners' results will count. In fact, the scores will be used to determine next year's growth index.

In closing, Dr. Watson shared his heartfelt appreciation for the feedback and again pledged his commitment to the students and staff of Spring ISD, "My stance has not changed. I will not jeopardize the health and safety of students and staff."

2021-2022 District Calendar

In December, members of the ACE were invited to volunteer for an ad-hoc committee to give input in developing the district’s 2021-22 instructional calendar. Several volunteers joined members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory and Parent Advisory committees, in addition to select principals and central office staff to make recommendations that were compiled into two final versions of the instructional calendar. The team began by revisiting the shared goals from the Board of Education and Dr. Watson as well as guidelines as issued by Region 4 pertaining to instructional calendars. The team was also encouraged to review other districts' proposed calendars as samples for consideration.

Key aspects of the calendar to highlight include the following:

  • There is a total of 180 days of school, with less days in the fall and more school days in the spring. At first glance, this may appear unbalanced; however, notice that there are a total of 14 standardized testing days in the spring semester. Therefore, the number of actual instructional days is approximately the same.
  • Daily schedules meet the required 440 minutes of instructional time, including the early release days that will adhere to the mandatory four hours and thirty minutes of instruction.
  • All grading cycles will be on a nine-weeks schedule for all school levels. This is typical for elementary, but a shift for secondary campuses that have been on a six-weeks grading cycle for the past several years.
  • The calendar was developed to align with Lone Star College-North Harris to eliminate any conflicts in dual credit courses for students attending comprehensive high schools as well as Spring Early College Academy.

While the two calendar options are very similar, the major differences are in the school year start and end dates, teacher preparation days, and designated dates for parent-teacher conferences. All employees are encouraged to review the proposed instructional calendar options and participate in the district survey. The calendars and employee survey results will be submitted to the Board of Education for review and discussion at the Work Session on Feb. 4, and for approval at the monthly Board Meeting on Feb. 9.

Q & A Recap

As with previous ACE meetings, other questions and topics of importance are brought forth for discussion and recommendations. Both Dr. Watson and Dr. Lupita Hinojosa, Chief of Innovation and Equity, addressed these questions to provide ACE members pertinent updates to take back to their campuses. The following Q & A Recap highlights the questions and responses:

Will there be an extension to the COVID-19 leave days that were allotted earlier this school year? At the January meeting, the Board approved a local extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This 10-day leave benefit will be available for employees to use through the end of this school year. Please note, the Board's approval did not add days to the leave bank. If an employee has used the FFCRA leave days prior to December 31, the remaining days from the original 10 are available for use through the end of this school year.

Will the District Employee Attendance Incentive be awarded this year? No, the attendance incentive will not be awarded this year.

Should employees expect to participate in summer professional development? Professional development will be offered this summer. The district's approach will shift to micro-credentialed sessions, which are development courses that focus on a narrower range of skills and abilities as demonstrated for a set group of employees. These sessions will be offered both in-person and remotely, and will include online options that are facilitated for flexible completion. Stay tuned for more information from the Workforce Development team in the coming months.

Are students allowed to attend school on the four designated asynchronous days this semester? No, students will not attend school on asynchronous days. District and campus communications will be sent to parents as a reminder of the dates and expectations for asynchronous instruction. The asynchronous learning days are designated for instructional planning and preparation. Campus-based administrative meetings will be limited to ensure this purpose is maximized.

Would the district consider extending the current testing window for TPRI? Yes! In fact, two of the windows for Middle of Year (MOY) testing will be extended - Circle Assessment PreK and TPRI/Tejas Lee ONLY Kindergarten Reading will be extended until February 5, 2021. Please be aware:

  • Per TEA requirements, the Dyslexia Screener in Grade 1 consists of TPRI/Tejas LEE and Lion/Leon which must be completed by January 29. Therefore, there is no extension to the deadline for grade 1 TPRI/Tejas LEE and Lion/Leon.
  • TPRI/Tejas LEE, grades 1-2 testing window will still close January 29,2021.
  • MAP K-8 Math, 3-8 Reading window will still close January 29, 2021.

These questions and decisions are a direct result of conversations with campus and district staff, as well as from members of the ACE. Dr. Watson and the senior leaders are committed to listening and taking feedback from the district into consideration All employees are encouraged to pose questions and share ideas for improvement with their respective ACE representatives, which will be brought forward for discussion at the monthly meetings. We win as a team!

Meet the ACE Member of the Month

For the past five years, Antonionette Nolen has served the students of Spring ISD as a first grade teacher at Booker Elementary School. Beginning her career as a substitute teacher, which led to a long-term assignment, was a great introduction to the teaching profession. However, Antonionette was no stranger to Spring ISD. She is a product of the district and fondly recalls her years as a student from elementary through high school. Within minutes of knowing her, you'll know she's a proud Westfield Mustang! As an energetic and engaging first grade teacher at Booker Elementary School, Ms. Nolen was honored as the Teacher of the Year for school year 2019-2020. When asked about her role as a teacher, she stated, "It has been a great pleasure to work at Booker Elementary School. Booker has always been abundant with inspirational ideas, learning experiences, and opportunities for growth." Regarding this year’s service on the ACE, Antonionette describes it as a true and rare privilege. She acknowledges that her busy life as a teacher rarely affords her the opportunity to engage with other teachers from around the district, and the ACE gives her a different perspective and other points of view. "I believe the ACE is something every teacher should experience. It has been an enlightening opportunity to work with Dr. Watson and staff from around the district. This forum gives teachers a voice, and our voices are not only heard but taken into serious consideration." Let’s all applaud Ms. Antonionette Nolen for her service to Spring ISD and to the 2020-21 Advisory Committee on Education.

Here’s What’s on the Agenda

The following is a list of the ACE meeting dates and topics of focus for the remainder of the year. The calendar is subject to change if additional items need to be added based on discussions, recommendations, or district priorities.

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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 were also elected and serve in the same capacity. Devoted community members, appointed by the Superintendent, serve on the ACE as another integral voice as well. If you want to ensure your views are heard, reach out to your ACE member. Click here to learn who represents you.

The next ACE meeting will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 5 p.m.