When I was elected to the School Board in 2008, our district was not GT friendly. Back then, we had one part-time administrator for the GT and Advanced Academic programs, our district did not encourage telescoping, and there was no serious effort to cluster students under a GT trained teacher in their regular classrooms. We also had a very small number of minority students with the GT designation.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Sunday, September 6, 2020
When I was elected to the GCISD School Board in 2008, the district had 44 students being monitored under their dyslexia program. In a district with almost 14,000 students, a minimum number expected of students with the condition is around 700. Several dyslexia experts state that the incidence could reach 10% in some communities. Parents contacted me and informed me the situation was critical in our district, as many parents have left GCISD looking for private alternatives for their children.
To look for information on the condition and services in our area, I made an appointment with Dr. Jeff Black, Medical Director of the Scottish Rite HospitalLuke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders. The Scottish Rite Hospital is one of the nation leading experts in dyslexia, and the creators of “Take Flight”, a very successful intervention program for students. Dr. Black and his staff informed me they received many students from GCISD looking for an effective alternative for their children. One of the key findings during my visit was that one Scottish Rite Hospital’s main goals was to work with public school districts in a train the trainer model to expand the reach of Take Flight and help as many students as possible.
After my meeting with Dr. Black and his staff, I discussed my findings with our then assistant superintendent, Dr. Jim Chadwell (current superintendent at Eagle Mountain Saginaw ISD) and encouraged him to plan a visit to Scottish Rite. Dr. Chadwell did so and that started a great partnership that has resulted in over 800 students currently being serviced and monitored in GCISD’s dyslexia program.
Bringing a new program into a district has its challenges. This is where having a great parent support group is key. GCISD is lucky to have READ (Reaching, Educating and Advocating for Dyslexics), an organization dedicated to support our students with dyslexia. This group of parents described in detail the struggles of their students being served in GCISD’s program. They knew the old district’s program had its limitations, and it was not effective for the majority of the students with the condition. Using this feedback, GCISD has done a great job implementing the Scottish Rite’s Take Flight program, and also improving the accommodation services offered to our students. I worked with READ to write a district-wide goal to improve dyslexia services, and it was approved by the School Board as part of our superintendent goals. READ has also been a critical partner in helping us monitor progress at the school level. Our first dyslexia goal was to “Create and implement a comprehensive development plan to significantly increase the quality of Dyslexia Services, with emphasis in identification of students to include building awareness of Dyslexia at the campus level and monitoring of individual progress”. The establishment of a dyslexia goal set the district on the path to rapidly expand the quality and reach of our services, improving the educational experience for hundreds of students and their parents for the last 12 years.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
I have read many positive and negative reactions about the GCISD Board decision to start online classes on August 17th and add the in-school option on September 8th. I read, for example, “the Board did not listen to parents as the majority wanted in-school instruction”. That could not be further from the truth. The Board listened to parents, our teachers and our health professionals. As Dr. Ryan said at the start of our special meeting on Friday, July 31st, "we want all kids in school as soon as possible". A survey was sent to parents and employees on June 10th, and 50% of parents wanted in-school instruction only (survey results: https://www.gcisd.net/our_district/august_2020/planning_survey_results). The other half wanted either a remote or a hybrid option (online and in-school combo). We started online registration on July 15th, and parents were asked to make their selection between online and in-school instruction. On July 21st, Tarrant County released guidelines stating that districts could not offer in-school instruction until September 28th. Before our meeting on July 31st, the percentage of parents wanting in-school instruction was 60%, but many of these parents selected that option with the assumption we will start in-school instruction on September 28th. They wanted the district to start online school first as they were concerned with the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We know this because they wrote to us letting us know. Once we offered in-school instruction starting on September 8th, most parents registering selected remote instruction. Also, some parents that first selected the in-school option are now trying to switch to remote for the first nine weeks. The current split is 56% / 44% and it continues to close as more parents register their students. The bottom line is we have a split community on this issue.
Kids need to be in school, but we want to do it so it is safe to everyone, and keeps us in-school long term. We know the spread among young students is not as significant as with adults, but it is significant among adults, and we will have many adults in one place at each school. Also, there have been cases of outbreaks among high school students in other states and countries. In GCISD we have students living with at-risk adults that could bring the disease home. Those three weeks of online instruction give our community time for the spread of the disease to decrease. County health officials want the positive test rate to be close to 5% before we open schools, and it is currently at 10% (7-day average) on a downward trend. A rate in the single digits increases our chances to keep the disease away from our schools and limit disruption. The last thing we want to do is to open our schools and have to send kids home or completely close one or multiple buildings due to an outbreak. Possible health risks were seriously considered in our decision.
The three weeks of online school also gives the district time to receive all PPE ordered, get teachers familiar with COVID-19 guidelines and give them real experience in our new way of remote instruction, which will differ greatly from what we offered last spring. There will be a lot more live interaction and no more pass/fail grades. After September 8th, some teachers will have to teach on dual mode (in-school and live remote), and some teachers might need to switch from in-school to remote (if they need to quarantine). We have high expectations of our remote instruction, just like we have with our iUniversity Prep online school. Our Executive Director for iUniversity Prep, Dr. Kaye Rogers, was in charge of designing the online instruction training for all our teachers.
We all want kids in school. We know many kids and parents struggled with our online instruction during the spring. We also know socio-emotional issues arise when students are not in school, and it is difficult for some working parents to find child care for their students before we open our schools. This was not an easy decision, and we considered all the factors I just mentioned, including the many emails and texts from parents favoring either online or in-school instruction.
Our new remote instruction will be much better, more interactive and engaging for our students than in the spring. If you feel your student struggles during the first 3 weeks of the school year, please contact your teacher or principal. We are committed to assist you during those first three weeks as we transition from remote to in-school instructions (for the parents and students that selected that option). Please leave your comments or questions below this post, or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Doug grew up in Dallas and attended Texas A&M University, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets and the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. Doug completed a degree in Economics and worked in the insurance and IT industries.
Doug and his wife Courtney have lived in Grapevine for the last 15 years.
Welcome aboard, Doug!
Sunday, June 30, 2013
I would also like to welcome June Ritchlin to the Timberline Elementary family. Mrs. Ritchlin will be the new principal at Timberline, after a few years successfully leading Colleyville Elementary. We are looking forward to Mrs. Ritchlin's work at this school, as we continue to improve our STAAR scores, prepare our students as they move into Cross Timbers Middle School and continue the implementation of the Franklin-Covey's Leader in Me program.
GCISD is starting their first magnet school, the Aspire Academy, for grades 1 through 4 at Glenhope Elementary. The students attending this academy were chosen based on IQ test scores, interviews and past work in their Gifted and Talented classes. The academy will expand to 5th grade in 2014 and to 6th grade at Cross Timbers Middle School in 2015.
Finally, this year we are expanding the Exito Hispano program to our two high schools. Exito Hispano is a parent engagement program focused on increasing Hispanic parent participation in our secondary schools. The program started at Cross Timbers Middle School in 2011, and was implemented at Grapevine Middle School last year. Once per month, we invite Hispanic parents to our schools to discuss topics like STAAR, GCISD goals and strategy, bullying prevention programs, Family Access system, curriculum, Career and Technology courses and College Night.