Thursday, September 30, 2010

GCISD Strategic Planning

During the September Board meeting, the members of the Board approved a contract with Cambridge Strategic Services to initiate our new 5-year strategic plan process. I believe this is a big step for GCISD as we continue to work towards our mission to be the Best. For an organization to be successful in any field, the most important component needed is strong leadership. I am confident that our new superintendent, Dr. Robin Ryan, will provide that leadership to continue to move our district forward. But right after strong leadership, a strong plan is also critical. This is why we are partnering with Cambridge, an entity with many years of successful experience developing strategic plans for school districts in our state.

The Cambridge process has two purposes: to create a long-term strategic plan by rejuvenating the district's planning process, and to ensure implementation through a complete organizational alignment and systemization of plans and actions.

GCISD will have a 30-member team working with Cambridge to develop the plan for the district, and their first meeting will be in mid-October. The team will include two Board members (Jesse Rodriguez and myself), GCISD staff and other members of our community. The strategic plan should be ready for Board approval by February of next year.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Newsweek's Best High Schools Ranking

Newsweek magazine just released their annual Best High Schools ranking, and once more our two high schools made the list. CHHS was ranked #170 (top 0.7% of the US high schools) and GHS #342 (top 1.3% of the US high schools). According to the article, there are approximately 27,000 high schools in the nation. This ranking is based on the rate of AP tests taken by all the students at each school versus the total number of graduates. The ranking used the AP tests taken in the 2008 - 2009 school year.  The rate of AP tests per graduate was 3.428 at CHHS and 2.669 at GHS.  For the state of Texas, CHHS and GHS ranked #20 and #37, respectively.

The full Newsweek's article can be found here.

Congratulations to both high schools!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Welcome Dr. Robin Ryan!

On June 14th, the GCISD Board of Trustees will move to approve the contract of our new superintendent, Dr. Robin Ryan. Dr. Ryan is the Chief Academic Officer of the Dallas Independent School District and is a current Grapevine resident. He was also the principal at Colleyville Heritage High School from 2004 to 2006.

Dr. Ryan brings a strong educational background with a focus on closing the performance gaps of minority and economically disadvantage students. However, he is also experienced in attending the needs of high performing students. In his previous position as the DISD West Secondary Learning Comunity Executive Director, he was in charge of 44 secondary schools, including the Ewell Townview Center magnet schools. The Ewell Townview Center includes the School of Science and Engineering, and the School for the Gifted and Talented, two of the top ten high schools in the United States according to the US News and Newsweek magazines (2009 rankings). His success in working with such diverse student body in DISD will be a great asset for GCISD.

Dr. Ryan has a Doctorate in Education from the University of North Texas. He also has degrees from Texas A&M and Midwestern State University.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New GCISD Board Member

I would like to welcome Mrs. Karen Deakin to the GCISD Board! Karen is the current President of the CHHS PTSA. Karen received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Consumer Studies from Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles. She has been a resident of Colleyville for the past 9 years. Karen won the May 8th GCISD election with 2131 out of 4218 votes (50.52%).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

GCISD Board of Trustees Election

The GCISD Board of Trustees election is on Saturday, May 8th. Early voting starts on Monday, April 26th. The early voting locations are: Grapevine Community Activities Center, Colleyville City Hall, Euless Public Library, Bedford Public Library, Southlake Town Hall and the Tarrant County Elections Center in Ft. Worth.

The Election Day voting locations can be found using the Tarrant County Elections Center voters registration look-up application.

The GCISD Board Voters Guide from the League of Women Voters can be found here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Profile of the new GCISD superintendent

Last month our superintendent search firm held three focus groups to gather feedback from our community on the professional profile they wanted to see in the new superintendent. We had over 60 participants in the three sessions.

One of the main characteristics our community wanted to see was a superintendent with a good understanding of the Texas school finance system. Also, they wanted someone with a track record of success working in a district with a diverse student body. The participants wanted someone that can represent and promote our district within and outside our community. An excellent communicator is another important trait for our new superintendent. Our new superintendent should be accessible, with the ability to listen and work with parents.

Other desired characteristics were: an inspirational leader with a high level of integrity, a strong motivator and an innovative instructional leader. The community wanted someone that is not afraid of making tough decisions, and preferred an educator with a doctorate degree.

If there is anything else you want to add to this excellent profile put together by our community, please post your comments below.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010 GCISD Board Candidate Forums

We will have two GCISD Board candidate forums next week. The first one is on Monday, April 19th, at Stacey's Furniture in Grapevine. This forum is sponsored by the Colleyville-Grapevine-Southlake (CGS) Democrats, and it starts at 7PM. The forum will also include candidates for the Colleyville Mayoral and Grapevine City Council races.

Our second forum is sponsored by the GCISD Council of PTAs and will be held on Tuesday, April 20th at the Colleyville Heritage High School Library. The forum will start at 6:30PM.

These forums will give you the opportunity to hear the Board candidate viewpoints on important issues the affect our School District.

The GCISD Board election will be held on May 8th. Early voting starts on April 26th.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Texas High Schools Rankings by "Children at Risk"

Children at Risk, a non-profit organization based in Houston, published their 2010 ranking of the best public schools in Texas. According to their website, Children at Risk is an organization that works to improve the quality of life of children across our state through strategic research, public policy analysis, education, collaboration and advocacy.

The factors Children at Risk considered when ranking the high schools were: the percentage of students achieving TAKS Commended Performance standards in Mathematics, English Language Arts, Social Studies and Science, the percentage of ACT/SAT test-takers,  mean SAT and ACT test scores, enrollment in advanced courses, completion of the Recommended High School Program, participation and performance on AP/IB exams, graduation rate and attendance rate. The percentage of economically disadvantage kids was also taking into consideration when ranking the schools.

Our GCISD High Schools ranked very high in this list, with CHHS ranking #34 in the state (#12 in DFW) and GHS ranking #46 (#15 in DFW). Over 1000 high schools were included in the ranking.

Children at Risk also published individual ranking lists for elementary and middle schools. The complete lists of schools is posted on their website.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thank you Dr. Waggoner!

The beginning of the Spring Break marks the end of Dr. Waggoner's tenure as superintendent of GCISD. Under Dr. Waggoner's leadership, the district saw dramatic changes. In the last 6 years, our TAKS scores increased significantly, earning our district the Recognized status from the Texas Education Agency. We also have 10 out of 17 (traditional) campuses ranked Exemplary. The district continued to earn the Superior Achievement rating under the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas.

Our district has a graduation rate of 95%, and has one of the strongest Advance Placement programs in North Texas.  Our students continue to scored significantly higher than state and national averages on ACT ad SAT college entrance exams.

During her time in our district, GCISD established important partnerships with the JPS Health Network (health clinic), Alliance Waste Management (recycling program) and the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital (Dyslexia program). The district also opened the Early Childhood Development Center for children of our employees. Finally, GCISD passed the 2005 Bond program, and completed all related projects on time and under budget.

Thank you Dr. Waggoner for your excellent service to GCISD!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The search for a new superintendent

On February 20th, our School Board officially started the process to find a new superintendent for GCISD. The process started with the selection of the search firm that will assist us in finding the candidates to be considered. After the search firm is selected, the process moves to the development of the profile for the position.

There are many important characteristics the superintendent for GCISD should have. I believe it all starts with strong leadership, but there are others traits we need to have. A strong communicator and motivator, high ethical and moral standards, strong focus on college readiness, curriculum and instruction background and fiscal responsibility are also highly important when considering candidates.

I would like to hear from you! Please feel free to post your comments on what kind of superintendent you would like to see leading GCISD.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dual Language Camp Out at Silver Lake Elementary

The parents for 18 kindergarten students camped out yesterday night in front of Silver Lake Elementary, as they wanted to be the first in line to sign up for the new dual language immersion program at the school. I had the opportunity to speak with the parents at the camp out, and they were extremely excited for the opportunity to take part of this great program. If the program is successful at Silver Lake, GCISD will consider expanding it to Cannon and Timberline Elementary Schools.

Our dual language program was featured in today's news on CBS 11.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Frostig Center Parent's Guide for Succesful Children

The Frostig Center is a non-profit organization that specializes in working with children who have learning disabilities.  Ms. Bennett Ross, Executive Director of the Center, posted in our Blog that there is a free Parent's Guide available for download at their website. The guide is based on a 20-year research, where the Center traced the lives of individuals with learning disabilities to identify factors that predicted successful life outcomes. The factors discussed in the guide were self-awareness, proactivity, perseverance, goal setting, the presence and use of effective support systems, and emotional coping strategies.  Although the guide focused on children with learning disabilities, these factors apply to all kids and adults. I believe this guide could help all of us become better parents and teachers for our children.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Scottish Rite seminar on children's self-esteem

On February 3rd, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar titled "Fostering strengths and building self-esteem in children with dyslexia and related disorders". The seminar was presented by Dr. Monte Davenport, Diagnostic Services Coordinator at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital and was attended by over 50 GCISD parents and administrators. Dr. Davenport discussed the symptoms of low self-esteem and their long term impact on our kids. He also discussed what we as parents can do to break the low-self-esteem cycle in order to help our children succeed. His presentation was based on the study by the Frostig Center titled "Predictors of success in individuals with learning disabilities".

The success attributes discussed were self-awareness, self-acceptance and proactivity. According to Dr. Devenport, the goal of self-awareness is to help our child understand that his difficulties are not who he is as a person. In terms of self-acceptance, the presentation discussed steps that parents and teachers can take to help students change their negative "self-talk". "Self-talk" is what children think of themselves when facing difficult situations. Finally, Dr. Davenport encouraged parents to be proactive by establishing a support network for their children. The support group includes teachers, counselors, tutors and other parents and children with similar experiences.

For more information, you can access the whole presentation with this link.

The Frostig Center study summary can be found in this link.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

GCISD's Advanced Placement (AP) Program

Currently 54% of GCISD graduates attend a 4-year college, and 72% attend either a 2 or 4-year college. One of the keys to continue to improve on these figures is to increase the enrollment in our Advanced Placement (AP) program. This program offers students the opportunity to take college level courses at our high schools, which gives students the chance to earn a higher credit weight per class versus standard courses. Also, students in AP courses can take an end of year course exam, which allows them to earn college credits based on their test scores.

In summary, AP courses give students the experience of a college course while having the support provided in a high school environment. Performance in AP courses is a good barometer to predict future success in college. However, even students that do not pass the end of year AP exams are well served for their future college lives by having the experience of a more rigorous high school coursework.

The following table compares the AP programs of the main suburban districts in North Texas, based on student participation and passing rates. The data was provided by the TEA and College Board websites for the 2007-2008 school year. The AP exam passing criteria is a score of 3 or above.
As the table shows, GCISD has the second highest participation rate in North Texas, and the 6th highest AP exam passing rate. It is expected that a higher level of participation in the AP program will result in a lower passing rate among students. However, top AP programs continue to increase student participation while maintaining or increasing the exam passing rates.

In order to compare the AP programs among school districts, a simple calculation that gives equal weight to participation and passing rates could be used. The AP Index included in the table is based on multiplying the participation and passing rates for each district. Using this figure, GCISD places 4th among AP programs in North Texas.

I would like to encourage all parents to get more information about the pre-AP and AP programs offered at our secondary schools, in order to help us make all students aware of these options. GCISD has a very strong AP program, and all our students should take advantage of this opportunity.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

GCISD Highlights 2009

January is almost over, and our new semester is in full swing. I would like to take this opportunity to review some of the many accomplishments in our district during last year.

The year started with a partnership with Allied Waste Services to establish a district-wide recycling program. This is a great initiative to teach our students the value of keeping our planet clean, reducing waste, and decreasing emissions that affect the air we breathe.

During the month of February, eleven of our schools made it to the National Center for Educational Achievement list (BES, CES, GES, GHES, HES, TES, CMS, CTMS, HMS, CHHS and GHS) for outstanding performance across multiple grades and years.

We had our high school graduations in June. Our GHS top students were Salutatorian Heejung Park and Valedictorian Christopher Newkirk. From CHHS, Salutatorian Alexander Nasr, Valedictorian Joseph Yu were the top students. We also welcomed Tona Taylor as the new principal at Cannon Elementary. During this month, Leigh Hockenbrough (BES) and Tim Bressler (HMS) were announced as the GCISD Teachers of the Year.

In July, TEA released the Accountability Ratings for districts across the state, and GCISD earned Recognized status for the second year in a row. Ten of our campuses earned Exemplary status. The district also saw significant improvements in test scores in the areas of Math and Science, while continuing to show top performances in Reading, Writing and Social Studies. For the first time since TAKS replaced TAAS as the tool to measure district performance in the state (2003), over 90% of our students passed the test in each subject area. Also during this month, we welcomed June Ritchlin as the new principal at Colleyville Elementary. Mrs. Ritchlin joined GCISD from Katy ISD.

In August, our school year started with a new bell schedule, which allowed the district to better serve the transportation needs of our students while avoiding the purchase of additional buses, saving thousands of dollars in our budget. A report to the Board on our Advanced Placement (AP) program showed that GCISD has one of the top 4 programs in North Texas, based on participation and AP exam passing rates. In September, the district started offering an enhanced dyslexia program in partnership with the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. Also this month, Bransford, Glenhope and Timberline elementary schools were named to the Texas Business & Education Coalition Honor Roll.

During the month of December, TEA awarded Gold Performance Acknowledgements to GCISD and both high schools based on the new state college readiness indicators.

Congratulations to GCISD for a great year!