All About ACE

News from the Spring ISD Advisory Committee on Education

2021-2022 Issue 3

Advisory Committee on Education Met to Discuss Important Matters in the District

The district’s ACE committee convened on Wednesday, Feb. 23, to discuss important district matters and to gather feedback from its members. The committee, which includes campus and district representatives, and parents and community members, focused on the District of Innovation renewal process as well as curriculum updates and announcements.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lupita Hinojosa began the meeting by sharing her thoughts in her opening piece, “What’s on My Mind?” She expressed her sincere gratitude for every member of Spring ISD, including the students, teachers, support staff, administrators, district leaders, parents, and community members. “It truly takes all of us to achieve success,” Dr. Hinojosa said. To further emphasize the importance of a strong team, she cited an African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This eloquent adage painted a clear picture of a successful team in the minds of everyone gathered.

Dr. Hinojosa continued with a focus on the District’s new strategic plan, Every Student-Every Teacher-Every Day. The plan is our blueprint for excellent equitable outcomes and is hinged on six major priorities, which include Student Outcomes, Equity, Well-Being, Leadership, Opportunities, and Engagement.

Expounding on the priorities for equity and leadership, Superintendent Hinojosa spoke to what this work will bring forth this year. “It is vital for equal opportunities to exist for all employees in the District, and for everyone to feel supported,” she continued, “Moreover, we must put at the forefront new pathways for teachers to grow and develop. Teacher leadership is a huge part of the future of Spring ISD.”

Linked to each of the six priorities is effective communication between stakeholders, Dr. Hinojosa explained. “How communications will be strengthened between the district and community relies on our ongoing efforts to communicate openly with all our stakeholders,” she stated.

Before closing, Dr. Hinojosa shared her reflections from recent campus visits and how each one of them reignited her sense of joy for the work we do throughout the District. “It’s not hard to catch joy-filled moments around Spring ISD!” She recalled a teacher’s bright smile while sitting on the floor with students in a read-aloud circle and seeing two co-workers enjoy lunch in the sunshine on the patio.

“I cannot say it enough - find joy in what you do everyday. Reconnect with students, parents, other staff, and even yourself. And be empowered. The best learning happens when you make a mistake and try again,” Dr. Hinojosa said. “These are three key ingredients to achieving excellent and equitable outcomes as a District. Our scholars are counting on us.”

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District of Innovation Renewal

The ACE Committee was afforded another opportunity to learn more about the Spring ISD District of Innovation Renewal Plan, which is an extension of the original plan that was developed in 2017. Collaboration between all major stakeholder groups is central to the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) District of Innovation (DOI) process.

Four members of the ACE Committee, along with Spring ISD Board members, campus principals, central office leaders, and business and community representatives, served on the DOI Renewal Plan Committee. Beginning at the end of January through mid-February, they met three times to develop the new plan that would guide the district’s innovations under the TEA guidelines over the course of the next five years.

Antonionette Nolen (Booker ES), Rosemary Perez (Ponderosa ES), Andrew Stewart (Spring Early College Academy), and Robert Williams (Claughton MS) all volunteered to serve on the ACE and reported back to the full committee regarding their experience on the DOI Renewal Plan Committee as well as the key developments over the series of meetings.

Each of these dedicated committee representatives shared their reflections on the process as a whole and the unique connection the DOI plan has on their campus and individual role as a teacher in Spring ISD. They also spoke to the time that was allocated in small groups in each of the meetings that afforded an opportunity to review other districts’ plans as a way of evaluating similarities and considering new opportunities for Spring ISD. Most importantly noted in their remarks was the strong sense of collaboration that was embedded throughout the DOI renewal process.

The next step in the DOI renewal process is a final approval from the ACE Committee. Prior to doing that, however, is an additional opportunity for all ACE Committee members to provide feedback on the exemptions that are included in the renewal plan.

“We want to ensure that not only the representatives’ voices are heard in this process, but that all of your voices are heard,” Dr. Julie Hill explained to the ACE members. “Therefore, we will provide you an opportunity to share your feedback on each exemption area,” she said.

Dr. Christian Winn, one of the DOI Renewal Plan Committee facilitators, reviewed the exemption areas that make up our district’s innovation plan, which include:

  • Modifications to the School Day, which allows flexibility of scheduling to ensure time for planning and preparation is afforded to campus staff before or after instructional hours.

  • Modifications to the School Year, which provides a school district the option to begin the instructional year before the fourth Monday in August.

  • Innovation Curriculum and Instructional Methods provides an exemption from the required 90 percent seat-time rule to attain course credit;

  • District Budget and Sustainable Program Funding, which waives certification mandates of career and technology education teachers; and

  • Campus Governance, which allows flexibility in district-wide staff development, class size, and specific staffing requirements.

Members of the ACE Committee were provided an electronic feedback form after the meeting and were encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas. The final approval process will be ongoing through May 2022.

In the Know with Budgeting & Finance

It is important for each and every member of Team Spring to be informed of the district’s budgeting and finance matters, which is why Ann Westbrooks, who serves as Spring ISD’s Chief Financial Officer, makes time to speak with the ACE Committee at least once a year. An experienced leader in the district’s financial services department, Ms. Westbrooks believes we are stronger as a district when more of us are informed of intricacies of school district finance as well as the budget planning process.

This year’s budget presentation kicked off with an exciting game, which she named “Finance Trivia”. The ACE members were truly engaged, especially after Ms. Westbrooks revealed a tray of beautifully-wrapped prizes! The trivia actually revealed a strong understanding of school finance basics.

Here are the questions…let’s see how you do:

  • What is the district’s primary funding source? State aid based on attendance

  • What is the name of the operating fund? General Fund

  • What is the largest district expenditure? Payroll at over 87% of the total budget

  • What percentage of Spring ISD students are economically disadvantaged? 85%

Ensuring the budget aligns with and supports the six strategic priorities is critically important. “Each of these priorities drives the budget process and we must all ensure that every expenditure is tied back to the strategic plan,” Ms. Westbrooks stated.

Further described were the district’s total revenues and expenditures. Graphs were presented to describe the general fund, which is made up of state, local, and federal funds as well as the appropriations therein. State revenues account for nearly 55 percent of the general fund, and as explained in the trivia game, it is primarily calculated using the average daily attendance of the district’s enrolled students. Local funds are the second largest portion of the general fund at 43 percent, and are primarily tax dollars. Lastly, federal funds, which consist of approximately 2 percent of the general fund are generated from Medicaid-eligible services that qualified students receive.

Additionally, Ms. Westbrooks explained the detailed aspects of the general fund appropriations. “This graph clearly reveals that our district is centered around people,” she said, highlighting that 87 percent of the general fund expenditures are allocated to payroll. The second-largest cost center is contracted services which includes utilities, and noting that all employees have a role in reducing the district’s energy usage to help lower these costs.

Lastly, an overview of the budgeting process was provided. Key actions and decisions are made throughout the year to ensure the budget is prepared, implemented, and monitored effectively. First and foremost is the Board of Trustees’ annual budget adoption, which occurs in June of each year, followed by the official beginning of the fiscal year on July 1. Implementation and monitoring of the budget at the campus and district levels continues throughout the following months until the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

It’s true: School district budgeting really is an ongoing process.

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 the remaining ACE meetings of the 2021-2022 school year. Contact your representative and look for updates on key district decisions over the coming months.

The next ACE meeting will be held on Wednesday, Mar. 30, at 5 p.m.

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