El Paso ISD is building on momentum

It is amazing what a difference two years can make.

As we head into the end of the first six weeks of the 2015-16 school year, I am heartened by how much our teachers, students and staff at El Paso Independent School District have accomplished in the last two years:

  • The Irvin and Franklin New Tech High programs are off to a wonderful start, giving our students another option to find unique and innovative learning opportunities that better prepare them for life after graduation.
  • We partnered with UTEP to open the Mesita Early Childhood Development Center at Vilas, where students from two neighborhoods came together to receive age-appropriate, research-based instruction that will kick off their educational career in the right way.
  • One of our very own, Jefferson High School’s John Gable, is busy preparing for the Texas Teacher of the Year interviews taking place in October. He is one of three state finalists in the secondary schools category.
  • And perhaps one of the largest achievements we have undertaken as a district – the distribution of nearly 17,000 laptops to every high-school student at EPISD – just wrapped up, giving our teachers and students a critical tool in our efforts to create active learners.

Our focus as a district today is centered on the education of our children and not the many distractions that plagued us in the past. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to mark the end of my second year at this amazing district. Better yet, we have seven new important partners in our efforts to strengthen our efforts to create even more student-centered programming.

The elected Board of Trustees is an asset to the district and an additional layer of support for our students, employees and neighbors. Their insight, expertise and foresight have helped us improve the priorities and initiatives that have made the start of this school year so successful. Their support and trust on projects like EPISD PowerUp will have long-lasting effects in our community.

EPISD PowerUp seeks to transform teaching and learning to create students who are active learners so that that become engaged participants in our community.

Soon, because of PowerUp, parents will visit schools where learning is happening in different and unconventional settings. Instruction could happen outside the four walls of a classroom, or in a virtual setting where ideas and assignments are shared among students and teachers at any time of the day — even outside of school.

PowerUp is not just a technology initiative, although technology is part of it.

What PowerUp does is give teachers the tools to be creative with their lessons … to go beyond memorization and into critical thought. We think this will help develop students who can solve problems in creative and innovative ways, which will make them better at handling life after high school.

As you can see, EPISD educators are working in concert to bring what we hope is a top-level education.

I’m thrilled to be talking about these initiatives to our school board, our parents and the civic leaders who take an interest in what is happening in our schools.

Certainly, talking about what our teachers and students are doing in the classroom is a more enjoyable conversation to have with the public than the type of conversations I was having two years ago when I first arrived in the district.

We are changing the culture of EPISD into one that values open dialogue, transparency, ethics and – above everything else – doing what is best for our students. In the last two years we have learned from past mistakes, and we have vowed to use those lessons to make EPISD a district in which we all can take pride.

Teachers, employees provide inspiration

It’s been a busy start of the school year in EPISD and I am at a loss for words to describe just how proud I am to be part of this amazing school district.  The spirit of “I am EPISD” is truly resonating throughout the community and — best of all — it is creating a better learning environment for our children.

As we start our fourth week of school, and following a successful rollout of EPISD PowerUp’s laptop distribution to all of our high schools, I can truly say that the level of commitment I have seen from our employees has been inspiring. From the techs who helped get nearly 16,000 laptops ready for distribution to the dozens of central office employees who helped with the physical handing out of computers, I saw nothing but collaboration and amazing EPISD spirit.

Moreover, it’s been great to see how our teachers are reacting to PowerUp and the laptops by creating active-learning lesson plans and opportunities for our kids. If you want to check out some of this, go to Twitter and do a search for #IamEPISD.

Needless to say, I feel inspired and ready to take on the rest of the year. To share in some of the inspiration, I want to provide this link to an amazing list of teacher-centric posters I found while doing some research this week. I found them to be funny, clever and even touching.  I hope you do, too. Here they are.

It’s been a great first two weeks at the New EPISD

It’s hard to believe we have already completed our second week of school. In the last two weeks, I’ve visited several schools to observe the opening of the school year and to help kick off some of our new initiatives. The energy and excitement at all of our campuses is incredibly inspiring.

Of course, I immensely enjoyed our first day of school activities with our Region 19 Teacher of the Year John Gable at Jefferson/Silva and during the first 10 days I also visited a few elementary schools and I was able to sit in on classes at one of our New Tech campuses. I witnessed students at Bowie High School receive their laptops as part of our PowerUp initiative. I even enjoyed Taco Tuesday with students at Irvin High School’s cafeteria. A few students took the opportunity to take some selfies with me and other leadership team members. I am thankful we have had 10 exhilarating days as we start this school year! The best part any of my days is anytime I have the opportunity to witness happy students and happy teachers in positive learning environments. I have also enjoyed a few football and volleyball games and I look forward to attending many more extra-curricular events this year!

So many teachers in recent days have stopped me to say how excited they are about the energy at the “NEW EPISD”! They also mention that they are appreciative of all the work we’ve done together over the past couple of years in preparation of our new programs and goals for this school year and beyond.

It has taken some time to transition from the past, but I honestly believe we are moving in the right direction. This weekend I celebrate my two-year anniversary in El Paso and I couldn’t be happier about our progress and the impact we are having on the Sun City.

As Lundy Elementary School Teacher and 2014 Teacher of the Year Donald Belknap said, we have turned this EPISD ship around. It won’t always be smooth sailing, but we are definitely on the right course.

Teachers have said, “We’ve been waiting for this.” Thank you for embracing Active Learning and a new way of teaching and learning. We know this is just the best thing for our children and their futures.

These first two weeks have flown by. Enjoy your well-deserved long weekend. Before we know it, it will be time for the holidays.

Thanks to everyone on TEAM EPISD for your service to your students, their families and the EPISD community. Each one of you touches and influences many lives and you do the very important work of helping shape our future leaders. The “I AM EPISD” spirit is spreading throughout the district as we all take individual ownership in making our district great. Through these efforts, I sincerely believe that in the next few years we will be a shining national example for supporting and nurturing the whole child.

I hope you take time to rest and spend time with family and friends over the 3 day weekend. We have all earned an extra day of rest. See you on Tuesday.