All About ACE

News from the Spring ISD Advisory Committee on Education

2020-2021 Issue 7

The Advisory Committee on Education Focuses on Important District Matters

The district’s ACE committee met on Wednesday, Apr. 28 for its regular monthly meeting, which provided the members an opportunity to learn more about performance management initiatives and to share feedback. Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson greeted the ACE with a warm welcome and many thanks for their service, particularly during a busy week of STAAR testing throughout the district.

In his opening segment, “What’s on My Mind”, Dr. Watson expressed excitement about the recent announcement from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) regarding relief funds being made available to school systems across the state. As part of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III (ESSER III) Fund, eligible districts may apply for funding to supplement educational programs that address learning loss as a result of the pandemic, Dr. Watson explained.

“At the top of my priority list is staff. It’s so important that we use data to assess our staff and compare those results to the district’s needs. To properly align the ESSER III funds, we’ll need to know exactly what teachers need - professional development, additional support, and or resources to best reach their students,” Dr. Watson said. He expounded on broader data sources, including achievement data, which focuses on the overall results toward a set standard, as well as on value-added data that shed light on student growth over a school year.

“These conversations around data must be really transparent and they have to focus on the intentional, strategic moves we make as a district to realize the outcomes we expect for our scholars,” Dr. Watson continued, “We can no longer ignore the students who regress over a year’s time, nor can we not stop to look closely at those who make two years of growth in a six-month period of time with one teacher.”

Explaining that this is not a 'game of us against them’, but rather an opportunity to establish accountability at all levels, Dr. Watson described how pertinent feedback from all stakeholders would be to our overall improvement as a district. He invited the ACE members to share their ideas, which ranged from a needed shift in district culture to meaningful professional development.

“When it comes to teacher learning, we need a shift in culture that embraces one who admits, ‘I don’t know this or that about my content, but I’m willing to learn,” said Charity Vesey of Spring Leadership Academy.

“We could always use more PD in pedagogy for upper elementary teachers because teaching reading is everyone’s responsibility,” Rosemary Perez from Ponderosa Elementary School explained.

“Success Academy was a type of professional development series that was offered to us in years past. It was a type of ‘teacher university’ that provided the training we needed. Perhaps something similar would be helpful to our teachers across the district again,” recalled Kathryn Organ of Reynolds Elementary School.

Dr. Watson affirmed their feedback and made connections with the other remarks ACE members shared. He welcomed all the feedback and shared ideas for the way he foresees the district’s ESSER III funding plan coming to fruition. The resounding message here was the objective use of data and the need for transparent, solution-driven conversations.

Dr. Watson closed his opening segment by reassuring the ACE that professional development and support will be targeted to the needs as determined by data, “This is going to be hard work over the next few years, but I have no doubt that we can do this. Everyone has to be open to growing to our greatest potential. Our students deserve it.”

More HR News You Can Use from the District’s Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability Team

The timing could not have been better to hear from the Office of Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability to learn more about the Teacher Incentive Allotment and a proposed amendment to the District of Innovation Plan to include an exemption in health insurance provider. The team joined this month’s ACE meeting to share pertinent information and gather feedback on these two district initiatives.

Teacher Incentive Allotment

A few years ago, the Texas legislature passed House Bill 3, which in part, provided funding for the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) with a primary goal of providing a six-figure salary to exceptional teachers in high needs and or rural districts or campuses. Executive Director of Performance Management, Benjamin Hernandez, provided an overview of the TIA as well as updates on its implementation in the district.

Teachers may qualify for the TIA either by earning National Board Certification or through a local designation system. The local designation system must be based on three statutory elements as required by the Texas Education Agency, which include:

  • A calibrated teacher observation system, which is satisfied by the district’s adoption of the T-TESS;

  • Valid and reliable measures of student growth, in which MAP index results and STAAR progress measures are approved to use for this component; and

  • A spending plan, in which 100% of Spring ISD’s fund allotment will be allocated for direct payment to teachers.

School districts are allowed to develop their own designation system that includes these three criteria, which must then be approved by TEA.

“From the time we began planning the Teacher Incentive Allotment, Dr. Watson and our Board of Trustees have been very clear about the way the money is spent,” Hernandez said. “TEA mandates that we allocate at least 90% toward teacher incentive awards and no more than 10% to administrative costs. Spring ISD is allocating 100% of the fund to teachers.”

Teacher incentive awards will be based on a standardized allotment matrix, which spans from a base allocation of $3,000 to $12,000, and increases based on factors including, but not limited to the percentage of economically disadvantaged students a teacher serves.

Currently, TIA only awards teachers whose students earn a STAAR progress measure and a MAP growth index; however, next year’s incentive allotment will include more teachers who are eligible for the designation.

Dr. Watson welcomed feedback and questions. He also clarified, “The TIA awards will be distributed as a lump sum payment. The award is based on your work from the previous year and we think you should have what you’ve earned at one time.”

Additional updates will be provided as the TIA is further developed for the 2021-2022 school year.

District of Innovation Amendment

The District of Innovation (DOI) designation provides school districts exemptions from specific statutes within the Texas Education Code (TEC), allowing more flexibility and autonomy than traditional school systems commonly have. Information regarding a DOI amendment was also shared with the ACE prior to the meeting for pre-reading as a vote of approval from the district’s advisory body is a required first step for passing an amendment.

Specifically, the amendment specifies the district’s exemption from offering only the Teacher Retirement System’s group health benefit plans. Currently, TEC Section 22.004 (i) prohibits school districts from offering alternative group coverage, thereby dictating TRS-ActiveCare as the sole health insurance provider for Spring ISD employees.

When asked about the timeline for changing the district’s insurance plan, per the approved amendment, Dr. Julie Hill, Chief of Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability explained, “We must first fulfill the amendment process, which gives us permission, on behalf of Spring ISD, to seek more affordable insurance plans.” As for the timeline, Dr. Hill stated that the present time provides an ample window of opportunity as new plans are elected before the end of July.

Immediately following the presentation, the ACE members completed an anonymous online voting poll, in which they voted in favor of amending the current DOI. The following next steps are required in the amendment process:

  • The amendment will be referred to the Spring ISD Board of Trustees for an approval vote.

  • If the proposed amendment receives a favorable two-thirds majority vote, the amendment will be adopted.

  • After the adoption, the district will post the amended DOI plan on the website for access by all district stakeholders and the general public.

  • No later than the 15th day following the amendment adoption, Spring ISD is to notify the Commissioner of Education of the amendment.

If you have any questions or would like additional information on the Teacher Incentive Allotment and or District of Innovation, kindly email Dr. Julie Hill at Meanwhile, click here to learn more about the TIA. All teachers and principals are encouraged to explore the system and its award matrix for a more in-depth understanding of this incentive program. Further updates and information regarding the DOI amendment will be provided as well.

Big picture

Meet the ACE Member of the Month

The April ACE Member of the month is Ms. Rosemary Perez, a fifth grade bilingual teacher at Ponderosa Elementary School. Her teaching journey in Spring ISD began three years ago, after studying abroad in Spain and following a year of working for an agency that supports special needs students. “I had a great experience collaborating with the Special Education department in my former role and applying to Spring ISD to become a teacher was a no brainer,” she remembers.

Ms. Perez fondly recalls her first year as a teacher and being “welcomed with open arms” by her colleagues. “When the work became really tough around October of my first year, my colleagues made me feel at home and poured so much into me,” she said.

While this is her first year serving on the ACE, she has been very active on her campus and in the district. She serves as the campus gifted and talented coordinator, which has provided lots of new learning from the Advanced Academics department. She also took advantage of opportunities that came forth at the onset of the pandemic by working with the district’s Curriculum & Instruction bilingual team to design project based learning units and other resources that were made available to teachers throughout the district. “It was a great experience because C & I is an area where I would like to continue to grow,” Ms. Perez said.

“I thank God for placing in my heart that education was the career I should pursue,” she continued, “I am a testament of a successful bilingual education and strive to be the best version of myself for my scholars.”

When asked about her year as an ACE campus representative, she stated “I absolutely love being a member of the ACE and providing input on key decisions. It gives me a clearer picture of the district’s vision and I appreciate that.”

The Advisory Committee on Education salutes Ms. Rosemary Perez for her service to Spring ISD and commitment to this amazing team for the 2020-2021 school year.

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.

Big picture

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, May 19 at 5 p.m.