In the Edgewood Independent School District’s first state of the district address, Superintendent Eduardo Hernandez described his vision for the district over the next five years.
The plan proposes new school models, including an all-girls kindergarten-through-middle-school academy, another prekindergarten-through-second-grade school, and a culinary and health science focus at Memorial High School.
“This is all about choice: choice for kids, choices for employees, choices for parents. That is what this is about” Hernandez said.
Acknowledging past challenges, Hernandez touched on the district’s antiquated systems and inattention to accountability. Last year, Edgewood was rated a “D” district on the Texas Education Agency’s A-F accountability system, with six of 19 schools failing State standards.
He told the crowd that in his nine months as superintendent, the district has turned to focus on accountability in the most “dignified and professional manner.”
Looking at the future, Hernandez said the district’s new plan, which Hernandez dubbed “the 355,” would focus on his three core values of professionalism, accountability, and communication; five superintendent goals; and five new innovation zones that would create new school models for the future.
The five zones are early childhood; science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM); leadership; fine arts; and culinary. Principals would drive the proposals, a district spokeswoman said.
Edgewood is already at work on the early childhood zone, entering into an agreement with Pre-K 4 SA to help turn Gardendale Elementary, which currently serves students up to fifth grade, into a prekindergarten-to-second-grade campus. Hernandez emphasized this would allow students to not worry about the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam, which is administered in third grade.
Turning to STEAM, Hernandez said Gardendale Elementary and Brentwood Middle School would work on this zone. He foreshadowed the culmination of this pathway as a potential P-TECH campus at Kennedy High School, which would allow high school students to graduate in four to six years with a high school diploma, associate degree, and industry-specific certification.
The leadership innovation zone would likely take shape as a PK-8 all-girls academy. If Edgewood is successful in standing up such a model, it would be the second district in San Antonio to operate a single-gender school, after SAISD, which operates Young Women’s Leadership Academy and Young Men’s Leadership Academy and will operate YWLA Primary starting next year.
Hernandez also left the option open for an all-boys school, should faculty be interested in leading such a model.
Details were few on the fourth zone, fine arts. Hernandez proposed an elementary school focused on the subject and a pathway leading to the Edgewood Fine Arts Academy.
Finally, Hernandez talked about on a potential culinary and health sciences focus at Memorial High School.
“Let’s put these pipelines in place so that our students can make choices,” Hernandez said. “Families can say, ‘I may not geographically live in the Memorial area, but why can’t I go there?’ That’s right, why can’t you go there?”
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The superintendent said he wants the efforts to create new school models to be led by district leaders and principals. A principal wanting to initiate a new model could present the idea, take a year away from the responsibilities of leading the campus and research the model. Then, after a “year of incubation,” Hernandez said, the principal could return to the campus and implement the new model.
At the end of the program, Phillip Chavez, Edgewood’s chief of transformation and innovation and the district official leading the charge, called on those present from various businesses and organizations around San Antonio to partner with the district.
“If you are not already a partner of Edgewood, we invite you to become one in whatever way makes sense for you,” Chavez said. “Join us in the journey toward building stronger scholars and innovative pathways to postsecondary education.”