Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly is written by Superintendent Brian T. Woods and is sent to Northside ISD staff every Monday to keep them updated on local and state education issues.

April 25, 2016     

Good morning!  I hope you had a wonderful Fiesta weekend.  This week we have an exceptional series of events scheduled for Gus Stadium as Special Olympics kicks off.  These amazing students will display their grit and have a lot of fun.  Thanks to all of the special education teachers and assistants as well as student volunteers who work so hard to make this happen.  I also want to thank Donna Umhoefer and her team for their passion for Special Olympics. 

Recently, I was able to attend the NISD Council of PTAs annual Reflections Awards.  The awards highlight student work in the categories of dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts.  I told the group how proud I am of the over 80,000 NISD students who participate each year in the arts in our schools.  We have very talented arts teachers and the culture to support them.  I am also very thankful that we work in a district which, in spite of budget concerns, continues to emphasize arts education for our students.  Thanks to the NISD Fine Arts Department and our Council of PTAs for working to teach and recognize outstanding NISD artists!

A couple of weekends ago I was able to watch several of our middle schools compete in robotics.  I was very impressed by the persistence and problem solving abilities I saw in our students.  The robotics competitions that we are involved with not only encompass building and programming a machine, they also involve presentation and public speaking.  This is just one more way we are providing enrichment opportunities for Northside students that help them become well rounded graduates and citizens.  Thanks to our middle school principals and sponsors for their support of this effort.  I also want to thank the leadership in middle school instruction including Executive Director Deonna Dean, Science Specialist Elaine Estrada and their teams for their guidance and support.  I look forward to more robotics events!

Speaking of NISD students in enrichment programs, some Hatchett ES solar car students recently made a 

presentation to a group of Texas school superintendents who were in our area for a conference.  Fourth and fifth graders stood in front of 50 or so superintendents and blew the crowd away with their knowledge about solar energy, constructing the cars and their presentation skills.  I sat there filled with pride!  Thanks to Hatchett coaches/sponsors Darren Smith and Oscar Jimenez as well as our Elementary Science Specialist and IST Nancy Kreth and Amanda Ewenson.  As usual, it was great to see our kids in action!

Bill Thomas, a teacher at Zachry MS, sent me a great article on the national picture of charter schools.  The article looks at how the super wealthy can go around the will of the people to get social experiments like charter schools funded and otherwise supported.  The author tells the story of the development of charters in Washington State with the support of the Gates foundation in spite of public resistance.  The resistance came, not from opposition to the notion of charters, but rather from a fear that traditional schools were already underfunded and that a move to open charters would make that situation worse.  Sound familiar?

So, as usual in conversations about charter schools, we follow the money.  Beyond the obvious investment return rationale for investing in charter operators, mega foundations get another benefit – tax exemption.  The article’s author, Joanne Barken, states, “Regardless of political stands or projects, all philanthro-barons with their own foundations are generously subsidized by taxpayers.  When a baron says, “It’s my money to use as I please,” he or she is wrong.  A substantial portion of every tax-exempt foundation’s wealth—39.6 percent at the top tax bracket for filing in 2016—is diverted each year from the public treasury, where voters would have determined its use.”  In other words, foundation dollars are used, sometimes for political purposes, completely outside of the control of the public.  I don’t know about you, but that seems to fly in the face of democratic ideals.  The article is at: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/04/11/charitable-plutocracy-bill-gates-washington-state-and-the-nuisance-of-democracy/   

Have a great week!