The new century opened with new challenges for Northside, as the district grew to more than 67,000 students in 2002, with 8 high schools, 12 middle schools, and 47 elementary schools, with several more schools in planning or under construction. In summer 2002, Bexar County's newest high school, Warren HS, opened, along with Nichols and Rhodes elementary schools.
The $495 million bond package approved by voters in 2001 is the largest construction package for schools ever in Bexar County and the 3rd largest in Texas. Funds are being used to build nine schools and to renovate or make additions at all others. In 2002, Ed Rawlinson retired, and Dr. John M. Folks became Northside Superintendent. John M. Folks joined Northside from Spring ISD in Houston, where he also served as superintendent. He is a former university education department dean, and was the chief school leader for the state of Oklahoma.
Northside's status as the "school district of choice" in San Antonio has brought greater and greater numbers of students and families to the District. New enrollment for the 2002-03 school year was 3,369 students, far exceeding all growth expectations. In fact, it represents the greatest enrollment increase in one year in the history of Northside School District.
The 2003-04 starting enrollment was 71,507. This steady growth came at the same time that the State of Texas is facing a funding crisis in its public schools, with state funding shrinking as school districts reach the legal limit of what they can provide for themselves through local taxes. The enthusiastic support of the community in a series of bond issues has been critical to Northside's response to the influx of students. The District started the new school year with three new elementary schools and a new middle school. Six more new schools are scheduled to be opened in the next two years. Northside's dedicated teachers, staff and administrators work to maintain the same high quality education that brought so many new students and their families to live in the Northside School District.
The year 2004 will always be remembered as the year that Northside successfully sued the State of Texas for the way the state funds public education. Judge John Dietz ruled in favor of the plaintiff school districts, of which Northside was one, that the state funding system was unconstitutional. The Judge gave the State one year to design a plan that will adequately and equitably fund Texas schools.
In 2004, three more schools opened: Gregory Luna MS, Paul Ott ES, and Thomas L. Hatchett, Sr. ES. NISD experienced a record enrollment when 74,018 students enrolled in Northside Schools. The additional 2,500 new students over the previous year continued to stretch the school district’s resources in spite of a massive classroom construction program.
Bond Issue 2004 was supported by the voters and provided $439 million for more classrooms in 11 new schools, additions and renovations to countless others, the funding to purchase 9 more school sites to try and stay ahead of the building boom. With this successful bond issue, NISD voters have approved $1.25 Billion in school building bonds.
In 2004, the District’s Library Media Centers were recognized as the Best in the United States. Business Careers HS alum Darold Williamson won a Gold Medal at the Athens Olympics in track and field, becoming the first San Antonian to capture gold in field and track. Jay HS alum Wallace Jefferson captured state wide headlines when he was appointed the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. In addition, 2004 marks the year that “No Shots-No School” was enforced sending hundreds on unvaccinated students to their doctors before they could enroll in NISD schools. NISD hosted the Texas State Academic Decathlon in 2004 at Clark HS. That same year, NISD was named a Texas Recognized District for the fifth year in a row, no small feat considering the size and diversity of this school district.
The highlight of 2005 was being named the Best School District in Texas by H-E-B. The grocery giant and "power partner" selected NISD as the most outstanding school district in Texas and presented a check for $100,000 to Superintendent John Folks. In addition, H-E-B selected Linda Garcia as the state's best middle school principal.
This is the year also that the Northside Education Foundation embarked on their $2 million fund campaign having surpassed the original $1 million mark. Each year, the NEF Gala and other fundraising efforts draw big names and large numbers of people who want to be counted among the Friends of the Foundation, a mark of prestige.
Friends of Northside was also launched in 2005. This sprawling effort which employs the e-mail contacts of NISD's 10,000 employees hopes to eventually draw another 10,000 citizens into the Friends fold. This electronic communication initiative will prove that the more information you provide to people who are interested, the more they will support you, or at least understand the challenges we face.
And support this community does well. With Bond 2004 fresh in our minds, attention turns to Bond 2007. Over the years, the NISD community has supported over $1.25 billion in bonds to build new schools, renovate older ones and add technology.
Just this year alone, over 4,000 new students enrolled in NISD schools, shattering all records. This is the most number of new students ever to enroll in NISD schools in one year. Current enrollment projections put over 100,000 students in Northside Schools with in the next 8 years. Hundreds and hundreds of additional classrooms are needed to manage the growth.
In spite of crushing numbers of students, NISD did its part to help the victims of the worst hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast region. When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi, thousands of refugees came to San Antonio. When Hurricane Rita hit the Texas coast, more refugees came to San Antonio to escape the threat. NISD enrolled over 500 students, affectionately named Katrina and Rita kids. Many are expected to stay here permanently.
Two more schools opened their doors this year: John Paul Stevens High School in the bustling Westover Hills area and Dean Krueger Elementary School in the outer Loop1604/Braun Road corridor. A highlight of the high school dedication was the special visit of Justice John Paul Stevens, who the day after the dedication was shown on worldwide television newscasts swearing in the new Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts. Stevens said that the highlight of his life was having the school named in his honor.
2005 also marks the year that the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that the state must revamp the way it funds schools. While the ruling was mixed, it did provide another impetus to the Governor and Legislature to do the right thing for kids and adequately and equitably fund education. It is expected that the Governor will call another Special Session, the fifth one under his watch, to deal with school finance.
State elected officials will continue to hear from Northside ISD about the issues and challenges facing Texas public schools from two powerful advocates.
Katie Reed, NISD Trustee, also represented the Texas Association of School Boards as its president during 2006; and Superintendent John Folks now also speaks for the Texas School Alliance. It is unusual that two state leaders emerge from the same school district, but it is a testament as to the leadership within the school district.
NISD named "Largest Recognized School District in Texas!"
As unprecedented enrollment growth showed no signs of slowing down, Northside continued to garner achievements and accolades in 2006. Northside moved from the sixth to fifth largest school district in the state with a total enrollment of 81,811 students. And, when the Texas Education Agency announced accountability ratings, Northside became the largest district in the state to earn a Recognized rating. Considering the great diversity and challenges NISD faces, this singular accomplishment is huge.
New schools and facilities are investments in community
In 2006, Northside opened four new elementary schools—Fisher, Mead, Murnin and Wanke—all named for beloved and long-time educators in the District. The state-of-the-art Northside Natatorium, the District's second aquatics facility, also opened in the Dub Farris Athletic Complex on Loop 1604, and Gustafson Stadium, located in the Hardin Athletic Complex on Loop 410, was rededicated after a massive renovation.
Next multi-million dollar bond issue takes shape
To keep up with the deluge of new students, preparations for School Bond 2007 took shape. A Citizens' Bond Committee was appointed to study the needs of the District—now growing by roughly 4,000 students a year—and to make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees for a May 2007 bond election. The School Board is expected to take action in January 2007.
Northside leaders honored at state level
Northside leaders and educators continued to make a statewide impact in 2006. Superintendent John Folks was named the Region 20 Superintendent of the Year by an Education Service Center selection committee. He went on to be named one of five finalists in the state for Superintendent of the Year in the annual competition sponsored by the Texas Association of School Boards.
In addition, Erika Foerster at Jones Middle School was named Middle School Principal of the Year, and Rob Fields at Stevens High School was named High School Assistant Principal of the Year by the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals.
One of the top highlights of the year came at the Texas Association of School Boards/Texas Association of School Administrators annual convention in Houston. Because longtime Northside Trustee Katie Reed was the outgoing TASB president, Northside had the opportunity to showcase itself with a 30-minute "spectacular" performed in front of thousands of school trustees and administrators from across the state. About 220 fine arts students from across the District interwove song, dance, music and the spoken word to tell the story of Northside. The high-energy, fast-paced production featured the six Pillars of Characters, the foundation of Northside's character building curriculum.
Business Careers HS becomes first wireless high school
Business Careers High School became the first high school in Bexar County to fully implement a school-wide computing initiative by putting a laptop computer in the hands of every student and teacher—and developing a curriculum to support the technology.
Other accomplishments included the launch of Inside Northside Radio, which joined Inside Northside Video Magazine and Inside Northside Weekly as yet another means to communicate with students, employees, parents and residents of the District.
NISD approves biggest property tax cut in Bexar County
Statewide, the funding of public education took center stage when the Texas Legislature, meeting in a special session, passed House Bill 1, a sweeping law that issued mandates on property taxes, curriculum and employee salaries. The law required all Texas school districts to lower property tax rates, but because of rising property appraisals, many homeowners across the state did not see a significant reduction in property taxes in 2006.
However, the Northside Board of Trustees was able to approve the largest property tax rate decrease among San Antonio area districts. Northside trustees also approved a 5 percent raise for all teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses in addition to the $2,000 pay raise funded by the state through House Bill 1.
Four years of math and science is law
The law also required all high school students, starting with ninth graders in the 2007-08 school year, to graduate with four credits of math and four credits of science. In addition, House Bill 1 earmarked funding for a "high school allotment" to help school districts improve graduation rates, increase participation in Advanced Placement courses and increase college readiness.
Northside named one of top five districts in the nation
Just two years after H-E-B Grocery Co. named Northside the best school district in Texas, NISD was selected as one of five finalists in the nation for the 2007 Broad Prize for Urban Education. This very prestigious award goes to the school district that has made the greatest improvement in student academic achievement while closing achievement gaps for minority and low income students. As a finalist for the Broad Prize, Northside received $125,000 in scholarships for the Class of 2008. This is an outstanding accomplishment, especially considering the District’s diversity and fast-growing enrollment. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings called the Broad Prize the “Oscar of Education.”
Voters approve largest bond issue in District history
In May, the Northside community overwhelmingly approved a $692.67 million bond proposal to build 12 new schools and make additions and improvements to existing schools. Almost 70 percent of voters said yes to School Bond 2007, making it the fifth consecutive bond proposal Northside voters have approved since 1995. Of the past five bond issues, School Bond 2007 had the widest approval margin and also the most number of voters. Approval of the bond ensures that the District will be able to provide classroom space for the thousands of new students who come to Northside each year.
Continued growth; new schools join Northside family
The District’s phenomenal growth continued in 2007, and Northside ISD surpassed Austin ISD to move from the fifth to the fourth largest school district in Texas. Enrollment, now at 85,546, is growing by about 4,000 students per year. NISD must open at least 200 new classrooms a year to keep pace with the student growth. At the start of the 2007-08 school year, three new schools were welcomed to NISD. Julia Newton Aue Elementary and Rita Kay Driggers Elementary are both named for longtime, dedicated Northside educators. And Wallace B. Jefferson Middle School is named for a Jay High School graduate who became the first African American to serve as the Chief of the Texas Supreme Court. Construction continues at a furious pace to build 12 more schools, five of which are scheduled to open in summer 2008.
Northside prepares to go wireless
The Board of Trustees gave the go-ahead to build a wireless network, making Northside ISD the largest district in Texas to go completely wireless. When the installation is completed at the end of 2008, students, teachers, and staff will have access to the Internet anywhere and any time at all campuses. The wireless network will augment classroom instruction and increase communication between school staff, District leaders said, and in the long run, the wireless network will be more cost-efficient than installing cables and hardware every time a campus gets additional computers. Installing the network will cost about $6.7 million, which will come from funds approved by voters in School Bond 2004.
Northside energy conservation program garners statewide recognition
In December, Northside’s Energy Management Department received two statewide accolades. The District’s energy management program was selected as one of 12 innovative initiatives in the state to be featured in Texas School Business magazine’s first annual “Bragging Rights” issue. In addition, Northside was named Outstanding Government Organization in the state at the 2007 Clean Air through Energy Efficiency (CATEE) Awards. The energy management program uses innovative measures to conserve electricity, water, and paper and saves the District more than $1 million annually in utility costs.
Unfunded legislative mandates continue to challenge school districts
The 80th legislative session ended with a slew of unfunded mandates and no additional operational funding for school districts. Some of the mandates include: seatbelts on buses, defibrillators on all campuses, steroid testing of student athletes, increase in physical education requirements, and the replacement of high school TAKS exams with End-of-course tests.
Northside ISD continued to celebrate academic accomplishments in 2008:
- Northside received a Recognized rating from the Texas Education Agency, making NISD one of the largest and most diverse districts in the state to receive the coveted rating.
Isabel Anaya, a fifth grade teacher at Villarreal Elementary School, was named winner of the Rising Star Award at the 2008 H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards.
The Board of Trustees was named Regional Honor Board of the Year for its dedication and ethical service to public school children.
Northside ISD was ranked No. 1 in performance among eight public agencies in San Antonio by an Associated General Contractors survey of local builders and contractors.
New schools handle enrollment growth
NISD opened five new schools in 2008, making it the most schools the District has opened in one year. Joining the Northside family were Peggy Carnahan, Nora Forester, and Evelyn Scarborough elementary schools, all named for former NISD educators; Robert L. Vale Middle School named for San Antonio's former state representative and senator; and Louis D. Brandeis High School, named for the U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Also in 2008, the District broke ground for its 10th comprehensive high school, named for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan.
Enrollment increased to 88,400, but the growth did begin to show signs of slowing down as a result of the troubled U.S. economy. While enrollment projections for the 2009-10 school year were lowered from 3,800 to 2,900 new students, the District's construction scheduled remained on pace to meet needs for new classrooms.
School leaders seek legislative relief
Northside ISD leaders were on the front lines of the education battlefield in 2008 to urge state legislators to bring equity to the school funding system. Because of the "target revenue" system the Legislature put in place, per student funding for school districts had not increased for three consecutive years to account for inflation.
Superintendent John Folks also testified before a state legislative committee in favor of a fair and flexible accountability system to acknowledge the challenges of large, diverse districts. The flexibility is needed, especially at Northside, because of the large influx of African and Asian refugee students from war-torn, third-world countries, many of whom come to the District with little formal education.
Northside continued to grapple with state mandates, including bus evacuation drills and physical fitness testing. NISD was among the first school districts in the state to fingerprint employees, as required by Senate Bill 9 from the 2007 Legislature. It took state contractors more than four months to fingerprint more than 6,000 NISD employees.
NISD sets the bar as an environmental steward
Northside continued its commitment to the environment, becoming the first district in the country to purchase a new line of buses fueled by propane, an alternative fuel that is cheaper and cleaner than gasoline. For decades, NISD had been the leader in using propane-fueled buses until 2003, when manufacturers stopped production of vehicles that could use alternative fuels. Northside ISD and CPS Energy also announced the completion of a pilot project that will help school districts across the city retrofit campuses with energy-efficient lighting to save taxpayer dollars and have less impact on the environment.
Guide for the future
In 2008, the Board of Trustees approved the Strategic Plan for 2008-13, which will guide District decision-making for the next five years. A 200-member advisory committee comprised of staff, parents, and community members met over a two-month period to look at the current priorities and objectives of the District and to decide the long-term direction of the District. Sub-committees developed priority statements and objectives in eight areas: budget and finance, communications, curriculum and instruction, facilities, human resources, safe and secure schools, school-business-family-community partnerships, and technology.
Northside celebrated two big milestones in 2009: the 60th anniversary of the District and enrollment hitting 90,000 students.
From 823 students that first year in 1949 to 90,000 students in 2009, Northside has evolved from a rural school system to an urban and suburban district of 104 schools. While much has changed, the District always has prided itself on academic excellence. 2009 proved no different. Official 2009-2010 enrollment ended up at 91,578.
Recognitions and academic achievements
For the second year in a row, Northside was one of the largest and most diverse districts in the state to earn a Recognized rating from the Texas Education Agency.
Health Careers High School was named the No. 1 high school in San Antonio by Children at Risk, a Houston-based nonprofit organization. Clark High School was ranked No. 7, and O'Connor High School was No. 9 in the high school category. In addition, Thornton Elementary School was No. 6 in the elementary school category.
- Maricela Alarcon, a fifth grade bilingual teacher at Burke Elementary School, was named one of the three finalists for the Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year Program.
Two NISD educators were named state winners in the 2009 H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards. Brenda Farias, former principal at Cable Elementary School (now at Langley Elementary School), was the winner in the Elementary School Principal category. And Gretchen Catron, a history teacher at Jay High School and Jay Science & Engineering Academy, was the winner in the Rising Star Secondary category.
Karen Pumphrey, a special education teacher at Clark High School, was the 2009 winner of the Trinity Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
For the second consecutive year, Northside ISD was ranked No. 1 in construction among the eight largest public agencies in San Antonio by the San Antonio chapter of Associated General Contractors.
The Board of Trustees renamed the Aquatics Center for longtime Aquatics Director George Block and the library at O'Connor High School for retiring Principal Larry Martin.
Preparing for growth
Northside opened four new schools in 2009 to continue to meet the needs of enrollment, still growing at about 3,000 students a year despite a slowdown in the economy. The four new schools were: Hoffman, Langley, and Kuentz elementary schools and Hector Garcia Middle School.
In October, a 200-member Citizens' Bond Committee began meeting to discuss a proposal for a possible bond in May 2010. By the end of the year, the committee developed a proposal to present to the Board of Trustees.
NISD battles H1N1 pandemic
An outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus, initially called swine flu, prompted schools around the country to cancel classes. Though the flu led to high absentee rates in Northside, the District remained open throughout the pandemic.
In December, at the request of the San Antonio Metro Health District, Northside began a massive effort to vaccinate students. The vaccination clinics were expected to continue through March.
Federal stimulus funds implemented
Like school districts across Texas and the United States, Northside ISD was the recipient education funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Northside ISD established a Stimulus Funding Task Force to develop a plan for the most effective use of the federal stimulus funding, and then set up a web site to show taxpayers and community members how money is being used.
At the end of 2009, NISD had received about $29 million in stimulus funding that could be spent only in two areas. Title I funding must be used at schools where a majority of students enrolled meet the federal requirements for free or reduced lunch. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding is earmarked for special education students.
In addition, the District received $369,604 in Title II Part D funding which can be used to enhance education through the use of technology.
Deep in the Heart of Northside
The theme for the 2009-10 school year was "Deep in the Heart of Northside," which was was captured in a 25-minute fine arts production featured at the TASA/TASB annual convention in Houston. Northside was featured as the showcase district at the convention because Superintendent John Folks served as TASA President for the 2009-10 school year.
The "Deep in the Heart of Northside" production featured a multi-talented cast of fine arts students who performed musical and dance selections to honor Texas' rich and colorful heritage that is celebrated at Northside ISD. At its core, though, the performance was a tribute to the educators and school leaders who open their hearts every day to make sure public school children are on the path to success.