Ivonne Durant: Happy New Year TEAM EPISD!

I hope that the break provided you an opportunity to get some rest and you are now rejuvenated and ready to give 100% to our children. The spring semester is a critical time for us as we prepare for state testing. The sum of our work is certainly more than testing, but testing is our way to communicate to our community and state that all is well with learning in EPISD. Thank you for coordinating intervention groups, providing additional support, accelerating the learning for those students who are doing well, and simply being diligent to ensure that every student has a great outcome for testing.

It is our goal to provide you with the support you need to continue to make 2015-2016 the best year EPISD has ever had. As hard as it is to believe, we are already looking ahead to 2016-2017. We have a unique opportunity in front of us as we explore becoming a district of innovation. It has been truly exciting to have such positive support from our school community. Thank you for your dedication. As our Superintendent has stated, our goal is to remove barriers and give us the freedom to support our students at the highest levels. We will need each of you to be thinking about what these possibilities are for our district as we brainstorm how to get better at getting better. As an example, how awesome would it be to be able to start school a week earlier in August and get out in May? If we become a district of innovation, we could take advantage of this opportunity. This exchange of 5 days would even help to balance the number of days each semester. Keep this in mind as you w ill soon have an opportunity to give feedback about the proposed 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 instructional calendars.

The possibilities are endless and the potential is great. The best is yet to come in EPISD and I am so glad that you are part of it! Do keep an eye out for the calendars as they get posted on our website so you can examine, discuss at your campus, and then vote for your choice. I especially want to thank the many people from DEIC, our teacher organizations, and the Principal Leadership Team, who have given time and effort to provide meaningful input.

Ivonne Durant

Durant’s Dialogue

Dear Teachers,

As a follow-up on the Active Learning Leader Dialogue detailing innovative support for the classroom, I would like to further contextualize our journey. Thank you for the many emails I’ve received giving our new direction approval. We have been very fortunate to receive mentoring from a myriad of experts in our quest to transforming our culture. Today I’m featuring Mr. Tom Vander Ark. He is the founder and CEO of Getting Smart, a mission-driven organization passionate about accelerating and amplifying innovations in teaching and learning. Mr. Vander Ark is a former public school superintendent and founding Executive Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where he had an opportunity to provide two billion dollars of support to urban education. This amazing work sponsoring new and transformed high schools helped lift the national graduation rate from 66 percent in 2000 to 81 percent in 2012.

In support of our District’s new vision and focus on improving instruction, we have retained Mr. Vander Ark and his firm to assist us in developing our Strategic Plan. Because GettingSmart.com is comprised of life-long learners and contributors covering important events, trends, products, and publications across K-12, early, post-secondary education, we have been able to build innovative avenues for our students in EPISD. A couple of examples of this includes our flex-books in high schools replacing the outdated science hard copy textbooks, as well as the planning for creating two new Tech Highs at Irvin and Franklin.

Also, Tom writes a blog every day about what’s happening nationally. Here are a couple of examples from the last two weeks. I think you’ll find he’s on the same journey as we are—trying to figure out how to engage students from challenging backgrounds and provide powerful learning experiences that prepare them for their future, not our past.

Collaborative Culture Fuels Meriden’s Blended Success

What Should High School Graduates Know And Be Able to Do?

What is really important is that Active Learning is at the heart of what keeps our students engaged and that our Active Learning Leaders will be able to support you in moving toward that goal. This is our plan with our vision to improve the deficit findings and recommendations outlined in our CMSi audit report. A consultant such as Tom Vander Ark can and does ask good questions and provides some context, but our leadership team is charting the course so that our talented teachers can have the support and guidance needed to propel our students into a successful future.

We are EPISD! Active Learning is the vision to which Superintendent Cabrera and I are committed. We are learning with and from other Texas districts and are confident that we can create inspiring learning environments that work better for students and teachers. In closing, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, “Learning, especially for children, is and will remain a distinctly relationship-based enterprise, so organizational design and development will remain more important than education technology though most breakthroughs will combine both.”  (Tom Vander Ark in Smart Cities).


Ivonne Durant, Deputy Superintendent
Academics and School Leadership

Durant’s Dialogue

Happy first day of school! The 2014-15 school year is here and I can’t be more excited to see our students return. Last week’s convocation kicked off the new school year with great energy. I could see that we were all “ready” for today.

Dr. Draper’s “Crucial Conversations” hit a chord with so many of us. His inspirational message made us laugh and cry. It affirmed my commitment to education and our students. The convocation also gave us an opportunity to hear from Superintendent Juan Cabrera and learn more about our district’s strategic priorities, laying the groundwork for our future. The convocations were all truly positive and unifying experience. We are EPISD.

I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t address the Job-a-Like at Coronado and Franklin high schools on Wednesday. We have received feedback and concern about the organization and delays that left many of you frustrated and upset. I assure you that we are taking your feedback to heart. When we offer training for our teachers, we want you to have an optimum experience. The issues that plagued the Job-a-Like were unacceptable and not how we want to do business. I sincerely apologize.

Planning and discussion of next year’s session is already in the works. Expect next year’s Job-a-Like to be logistically smoother, better staffed and offer dynamic presentations. We want Job-a-Like sessions to be a positive and worthwhile experience for our teachers. I assure you next year’s will meet your expectations.

You are the most important part of educating our students. We want our interactions with you to be as positive as possible and we will keep you mind in all planning that directly affects teachers. This year is especially critical for us as we embark on a new era, building a dynamic 21st century school district that will make us all proud.

You are key to the success of the district’s new initiatives and play a major role in guiding and leading our efforts on the campus with our students. We appreciate you and your commitment and dedication to EPISD’s success.

The most successful organizations foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students. In EPISD, we want to foster these relationships between students and teachers, teachers and central office, and community with all three. We at central office are committed to making this happen. We want you to know that you matter and that we will move mountains to support your needs.

The 2014-15 school year will be historic for us. Enjoy the arrival of your new students and have a fantastic new year!

Ivonne Durant
Deputy Superintendent
Academics and School Leadership

Durant’s Dialogue

Dear TeachersEPISD is moving forward and building momentum this summer, getting ready for the new school year. Even though it’s summer, I know you too are already planning and thinking about the students you’ll be teaching this fall.

I commend you for your deep dedication to educating our students. I know your commitment to our students carries your workday into the evenings and weekends, and summers, too. I assure you the time spent away from the classroom and on campus for students does not go unnoticed. Our principals appreciate it. Our students and their parents appreciate it. And so do we.

Don’t ever think that your work is not valued by administration. You are the foundation of the district and we are absolutely grateful for the work you do to make our students successful.

This is why I want to clarify the issue regarding the eight-hour day regulation. The reminder sent out is in no way a reflection of your work or desire to teach our children. It only offers clarity and uniformity districtwide. As a former teacher, I know how much time you devote to this amazing profession. We aren’t in this business because of the hours or days we spend in the classroom. It’s a calling.

Keeping uniform practices districtwide is simply fair for everyone. It gives us the basic perimeters we need. From there, I already know you go above and beyond.

We appreciate you and value what you do for our district and our students. Over the past few months, we have been working diligently to implement new programs and initiatives that will make a difference for you and our students. The expansion of dual language to all elementary campuses, new teacher websites, digital science books for our high schools, open enrollment, the expansion of No Excuses University to more campuses and Burges becoming an early college high school are just a few of the great initiatives we are ready to launch this coming school year. We want to strengthen our district and create more opportunities for student success; therefore making you even more proud to be an EPISD teacher.

Enjoy the rest of your summer break. I look forward to seeing you in the 2014-15 school year.


Ivonne Durant
Deputy Superintendent

Academics and School Leadership

Durant’s Dialogue

Greetings EPISD employees,Summer is here and as we say farewell to the students for a couple months, the work at Central Office continues. There’s never a dull moment here at Central Office. Offices and departments are moving throughout Ed Center to ensure our teams are working together to be the most effective and efficient. We’ll update you before school starts on where our C&I units and individual employees will be housed for the upcoming school year.

This summer, we are also working closely with Human Resources to begin filling professional positions that were approved earlier this year as part of the reorganization of Curriculum & Instruction. These positions had always been slated for the 2014-15 school year, so they had not previously been advertised. If you are interested in a position in this area, I would encourage you to check the job postings this week and apply. We want to make sure our team is complete and in place before school begins in August.

I want to thank our C&I staff for their patience over the past few months as we’ve progressed through many changes. These key changes could not have be successfully accomplished without your assistance and dedication to EPISD. I am confident that we are moving forward in the right direction for the betterment of our 60,000 students and our district as a whole.

As we approach a well-deserved two-week break this summer, I want to wish everyone a safe and restful time off. This is just the break we need to recharge our batteries and begin a successful new school year.

Thank you for all that you do to make EPISD a success.

Enjoy the break!


Durant’s Dialogue

I would like to share with you a few changes to our Academic Team. We are continuing to add highly qualified educators to our team and have brought on board outstanding talent. We are moving our agenda forward and are developing a more rigorous curriculum.

I am excited to announce that Mrs. Mary Ann Clark has been named Executive Director of Core Curriculum grades 3-12 for general education and advanced academic services. Mrs. Clark has been with our district for 27 years as teacher and has held various positions in Central Office.

We would also like to welcome Ms. Eliza Simental as our new Executive Director for Connecting Languages. EPISD will become the leading role model in bi-literacy, and we welcome her as she leads us towards this goal. She now supervises programs, policies, and practices for students in grades Pre-K through 12 for English Language Learners. Ms. Simental also oversees the general education program for Pre-Kindergarten through second grade. Ms. Simental began her education career with EPISD. She has taught Dual Language, as well as worked in Central Office in support of English Language Learners.

Mrs. Maria Gutierrez will serve as our interim Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction while we launch a nation-wide search for this critical role. Mrs. Gutierrez’s service to EPISD has been invaluable, and she will continue to serve our students. Dr. James Steinhauser will now report to Dr. Tom Miller as our new policy advisor. We are in the process of reviewing and updating all of our policies, and we know his talent and expertise will be of great value to the district in his new role.

Please join me in extending a warm welcome to our newest team members. Our commitment to bringing the best educators to EPISD is commitment to our students and community. With every step we take, we are inching closer to becoming the best district in Texas.

Ivonne Durant
Deputy Superintendent for Academics and School Leadership

Ivonne Durant, Chief Academic Officer / Deputy Superintendent


Ivonne Durant returned to El Paso to become Chief Academic Officer/Deputy Superintendent after serving more than 20 years in the Dallas Independent School District. During her tenure at the Dallas ISD, Durant was the chief academic officer, an area superintendent, executive director of a Multi-Language Enrichment Program, executive director of a Comprehensive School Improvement Program and as an elementary school principal.

Prior to her time in Dallas, Durant worked at EPISD and Region 19 Service Center from 1975-1990. At Region 19 she worked as a bilingual education consultant, director, and division administrator for Special Populations and at EPISD she implemented bilingual education design program adopted by the various areas in the district. She also worked on the design and implementation of a middle school program for English language learners. She joined Dallas ISD in 1990.

Durant earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western New Mexico University and a Master of Education from UTEP. She is currently working on her doctorate studies at Texas A&M University Commerce and expects to graduate December 2015.

Divisions under Durant’s leadership include: Chief of Schools led by Dr. Danna Diaz (Area 1) and Dr. Royce Avery (Area 2); Special Education led by Assistant Superintendent Pam Howard; Curriculum & Instruction/Research, Evaluation & Assessment led by Dr. James Steinhauser; and Academic Support Programs led by Dr. Joseph Lopez.