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.

September 26, 2016     

Good morning.  I want to start by congratulating O’Connor High School Orchestra Director Brenda Johnson.  Recently, Brenda was named the Northside ExCEL award winner.  The award, presented by KENS and San Antonio Credit Union, recognizes just one teacher from each district in the San Antonio area.  Brenda is well known for her outstanding teaching ability and caring for children.  Well deserved!  The KENS story is posted at: http://www.kens5.com/news/education/excel-awards/brenda-johnson-wins-excel-award-for-nisd/319175370

Last week, the Northside Education Foundation (NEF) held its annual pillar recognition and fundraising gala. It is always an honor to meet the exceptional NISD graduates who have been chosen to represent the six Pillars of Character.  Click here to learn about this year's Pillars.  I also want to thank the great community and business partners who contribute so much to the Foundation and through it, to us.  Working with Director of Partnerships Cassandra Miranda and her staff, the NEF Board and volunteers did a fantastic job with this year’s gala.  The gala is NEF's largest fundraiser, but the second largest is the employee pledge drive and it has been for many years.  This demonstrates how strongly we believe in ourselves and our ability to provide our students the very best education.  If you haven’t done so already, click here to donate and be Northside and NEF Strong. 

I was asked recently to speak to a group of outstanding principals from around the state.  One of the things I encouraged the group to do was suspend what they know and ask “what if…”  As I thought more about that, and as we settle into the routine of the school year, I realized that it applies to all of us – no matter our job role.  We can and should ask “what if…” on a regular basis.  For instance:

  • What if learning could be individualized for all of my students?
  • What if we saved money by changing our process?  Could those funds be better used?
  • What if students had more choice in how they prove to me that they know?
  • What if our schedule was more flexible? Would that benefit student learning?
  • What if we weren’t tied to the usual way students progress through our school and let their knowledge and skills determine that?

A new article on charter schools in Texas indicates that there are around 250,000 students enrolled in charters.  For perspective, that is a little less than 5% of all Texas public school students.  I’m always interested in how much charters are talked about among legislators given that relatively small number, but that’s an issue for another day.  Clearly, the number of students enrolled in charters is growing.  Statewide, enrollment has doubled in the last six years.  You know that I have expressed concerns about this rapidly expanding enrollment that range from financial transparency, questionable governance models, educational quality and increasing socioeconomic segregation.

One aspect of this article that I want to focus on is the constant refrain we hear from charter advocates that there is a “waiting list” for charter enrollment that numbers more than 125,000 students.  This “fact” is quoted often in Austin.  Interestingly, data published on one of the largest charter operators in Texas, Harmony Public Schools, indicates that their current enrollment is around 30,000 and their student capacity is more like 68,000.  Harmony claims a “wait list” of over 38,000.  I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t make sense to me.  If I subtract an enrollment of 30,000 from a capacity of 68,000 that leaves me 38,000 empty seats.  One has to wonder why these empty seats are going unfilled at Harmony.  One also has to wonder about the veracity of the claim that there is a “wait list” at all.

Finally, last week we took time to recognize the members of our military and first responders.  Many campuses held events to honor these local heroes and we recognized these special people at our varsity football games.  What an honor for us to recognize these heroes.  Great idea and extremely well deserved!    

Have a great week!

  BTW