Editor’s Note: Below is letter sent to SAISD employees today from SAISD Superintendent Sylvester Perez, published with permission.
Dear SAISD Staff,
After reflecting upon my recent State of the District address to the Board of Trustees, today I am sharing with you, and urging you to share with family and friends, the Top 10 list below. With the day-to-day whirlwind and ceaseless efforts toward becoming a better version of ourselves, that moment of pause and review easily can slip through our hands. That’s why I was pleased to provide the State of the District address not only to our board but also, later, to community groups, highlighting our strengths and successes – all thanks to hardworking staff.
I hope you will feel as much pride as I do in the list below and know that it is possible only through you and the contributions you make to this District. Also, please feel free to email other top items that you think should appear in future lists.
Dr. Sylvester Perez
SAISD High Points – A Top 10 List to Pass On
1. Second early college high school approved
Even more SAISD students will have the opportunity to earn up to two years of college credit or an associate degree while in high school – at no cost to students or their families – thanks to the state’s approval last month of our opening a second early college high school in the fall, this one at St. Philip’s College with Alamo Colleges as our partner. More details to come after our memorandum of understanding is finalized with Alamo Colleges, which partnered with us in 2008 to open Travis Early College High School, with students attending nearby San Antonio College.
2. Outside-the-box thinking to reduce dropouts earns us big recognition
Our Middle School Partners Program to help reduce dropouts was featured in a PBS short documentary, which aired this fall on KLRN, putting our innovative approach in the spotlight.
3. On-time graduation numbers keep going up; dropout numbers keep going down
The percentage of SAISD students graduating high school within four years is expected to increase again when data are finalized this summer, to more than 85 percent for the class of 2013. That’s a whopping 24-percentage point increase in just four years. Equally impressive is our steadily declining dropout rate, projected to be at less than 10 percent for the class of 2013 – down from 26 percent in 2007.
4. Technology in the classroom continues to expand
Training is underway for the new STEM on Wheels mobile technology to be used in elementary school science labs. This package is chock full of great devices that enhance learning, but two of the more notable items, for the exploratory freedom they will allow, are an iPad and a wireless microscope that allows students to study objects outside of the four walls of their classroom while their classmates study the magnified images captured on the iPad through a projector screen hooked up to the tablet. It’s a learning approach that appeals to our students’ innate curiosity and initiates an awareness of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
5. More textbooks move to tablets
This year, Kindle tablets loaded with the Advanced Placement biology textbook replaced the traditional print version of the book at three high schools, including Fox Tech HS, where this pilot program began last year. Next year, all of our high school AP biology students will have textbooks on the Kindle. Pilot results showed increased overall grades, improved student participation and fewer lost homework assignments.
6. Code is catching on
Highlands High School is requiring all freshmen to learn computer coding, a skill that will prepare students for the jobs of the future. The online CodeHS program is the first of its kind in Texas. And students at Hillcrest Elementary School are learning code for fun as part of the school’s new Coding Club. This valuable skill helps make our students future-ready because it requires critical thinking, creative thinking and problem-solving, among other characteristics.
7. Information now at your fingertips with new mobile app
This fall, we launched a mobile app that puts at your fingertips the most sought-after District information, providing quick access to school contact information, menus, school board information and more. Its push notifications are a great way to get real-time information about major developments in the District, such as schedule changes due to bad weather. Download the SAISD app at Android Market, Amazon orApple’s App Store.
8. Learning transcends the classroom thanks to educational partnerships
This year, we expanded our long history of educational partnerships in a way that is sure to enhance our students’ learning experiences. Now, for field trips, admission to the Witte Museum is free for all SAISD 4th graders and is free for all SAISD students at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Field trip admission to the Briscoe Western Art Museum? That’s also free to all of our students under our new partnership with the museum.
9. Major partnership with University of the Incarnate Word = win for students, staff
Last month, the Board of Trustees approved a definitive agreement with UIW to lease unused Fox Tech HS athletic fields to the university to build a School of Osteopathic Medicine. The agreement includes a list of benefits for our students and staff: Approximately $16.3 million in grants to SAISD students and faculty; $1.5 million to enhance the expansion and sustainability of SAISD’s health careers programs and mentoring, tutoring, summer camps and other in-kind benefits in support of SAISD health careers programs; district-wide annual scholarships of $3,000 per year for any SAISD student who meets UIW’s admissions requirements and $50,000 annually in scholarship support for employees pursuing UIW graduate degree programs. Talk about win-win.
10. Modernization of our historic District’s facilities is progressing
We are seeing the results of our $515 million 2010 bond program. We celebrated completed renovations to the Alamo Convocation Center and saw the opening of the first phase of renovations, a classroom building, at Hawthorne Academy this month. Next up is a community event to celebrate the new and improved Cameron Elementary School.
Slyvester Perez, a native San Antonian, earned his doctorate in educational administration from Texas A&M University and his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from New Mexico Highlands University. After serving as interim superintendent since March 2012, Perez was officially named SAISD’s 18th superintendent on June 17, 2013.
*Featured/Top image: The first game held in the newly-renovated Alamo Convocation Center, Highlands vs Burbank girls Varsity basketball. Photo by Iris Dimmick.