Friday, December 15, 2017

SBISD Part of Academic Accountability Pilot

Texas Education Agency Press Releases 

Update: 20 School Systems Part of Local Academic Accountability System Pilot 

(AUSTIN) – Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced today that 20 school systems will participate in a pilot to develop its own local academic accountability system. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) will oversee a small-scale pilot program in the 2017–2018 academic year. 

Established by House Bill 22 and passed during the 85th Texas Legislature earlier this year, the local accountability system program allows an independent school district (ISD) or public school charter to develop plans locally that evaluate its campuses. 

The 20 systems participating in the 2017-2018 pilot are: Alief ISD; Austin ISD; Bullard ISD; Canadian ISD; Clear Creek ISD; Dallas ISD; El Paso ISD; Humble ISD; Jonesboro ISD; Lyford ISD; Midland ISD; Point Isabel ISD; Premier High Schools; Richland Collegiate High School; San Saba ISD; Sharyland ISD; Snyder ISD; Spring Branch ISD; Sunnyvale ISD; and Waco ISD. 

Participating districts will be required to attend four monthly meetings hosted by TEA in the spring of 2018 as part of the local plan development. Once a plan receives TEA approval, districts and charter schools may use locally developed domains and indicators in conjunction with the three state-mandated domains to assign overall A–F ratings for each of its campuses. 

Approved local accountability systems will be available for use beginning with the 2018–2019 school year. For more information about the local accountability systems established by House Bill 22, visit the TEA website at

Thursday, December 14, 2017

C.A.M.P. Aggie Mentors Surprise Students with Bicycle Donations

Treasure Forest Elementary students received an inspired gift from C.A.M.P. (Caring Aggies Mentoring Program) Aggie mentors this week – 26 shiny new bicycles and a lesson in the power of living your values. 

For Principal Celeste Barretto, the impact of the C.A.M.P. mentoring program at her school is obvious – that program’s motto of selfless giving is benefiting school culture and outcomes for kids. “I am excited to have the mentors here today. They’ve offered programming support and new bicycles for the kids,” Barretto said during the Tuesday bike distribution. 
Camp Aggie at Treasure Forest Elementary from SBISD on Vimeo.

“We nurture our mentees from third-grade all the way to college,” said Freddie Wong, co-founder of the mentoring program. “We help create experiences that build connections and open doors to opportunities for students. Part of that is living our C.A.M.P. values of selfless giving.”

The C.A.M.P. inspires students to pursue higher education by reinforcing excellent academic standards, building confidence and leadership skills, providing fun, life-enriching experiences, and modeling qualities of success. 

An additional surprise for the students was the appearance of one extra bicycle. Wong explained it as a gift for a student not yet a member of the mentoring program – someone who exemplifies the character and values the mentoring program and the school collectively aspires to. 

Along with this important life lesson, students witness a real-time example of the C.A.M.P. value of selfless giving – Wong performing his role of mentor without hesitation – which delivered a timely message about collective impact to the celebration’s attendees.

“I can’t thank these mentors enough for their work,” said Barretto. “It’s just amazing.”

Learn more about C.A.M.P. Aggie at:
Watch a video spotlight from this event here.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

New Vanguard Fellows Teaching Cohort Named

Twenty-one Spring Branch ISD educators learned this week that they have been named as Cohort III members in the Vanguard Fellows teacher corps. They join 46 district educators picked as innovative Vanguard Fellows over the past several years.

The 67-member Vanguard Fellows group now represents 30 campuses in SBISD, ranging from prekindergarten to high school. Teachers expressing interest in the Vanguard Fellowship complete an online application. Corps candidates then interview with current Vanguard Fellows for final selection.

Vanguard teachers represent SBISD’s continuing effort to both encourage and support new methods of instruction and learning through smart use of technology integration and refocused curriculum design.

“We’re so excited to welcome the 21 new educators who have joined our Vanguard Fellowship, and we look forward to walking alongside them on their learning journey!” Karen Justl, district educational technology director, said in announcing the new cohort.

The 21 teachers represent 16 schools, with Edgewood, Pine Shadows and Wilchester elementaries represented for the first time.

“The Vanguard Fellowship creates a network for teachers who are excited about technology and who understand how to leverage it to empower learners,” Justl also said. “We bring personalized professional learning to our Fellows through a great deal of choice in how and where they learn. Ultimately, the Fellows will then share their learning across a variety of platforms to engage and empower others.”

Earlier this week, new Fellows received personal posters proclaiming “I’m IN” by mail. Many will be tweeting out poster-based selfies in the days and weeks ahead. The 21 teachers will first meet as a group on Jan. 19 at the Technology Training Center.

Cohort III Vanguard Fellows (December 2017)

Rebecca Thompson, Edgewood Elementary, 4th Grade, Math & Science
Sarah Starling, Meadow Wood Elementary, 4th Grade
Headiyeh Matthews, Pine Shadows Elementary, Multi Classroom Leader
Josephine Stringer, Pine Shadows Elementary, Librarian
Casey Poche, Wilchester Elementary, 2nd Grade
Joan Lloyd, Wilchester Elementary, 1st Grade
Kimberly Keefe, Hollibrook Elementary, 5th Grade
Sarah Chu, Nottingham Elementary, 5th Grade
Claudia Meza, Westwood Elementary, 5th Grade
Angela Stamps, Cedar Brook Elementary, 4th Grade
Carla Pace, Spring Branch Middle, 6th Grade Science, Endeavor Program
Christine Jackson, Spring Oaks Middle, 6th Grade, Science
Alissandre Robbins, Spring Forest Middle, 6th Grade, Science
Karen Nickel, Landrum Middle, 6th Grade, Science
Amanda Campos, Landrum Middle, 7th Grade, Science
Kelli Bolen, Stratford High, 10th-11th Grade, English Language Arts (ELA)
Matthew Barnett, Northbrook High, 10th Grade, World History & Athletics
Kimberly Abdul, Northbrook High, 9th Grade, Algebra
Seda Dawson, Westchester Academy, 7th Grade
Rachel Rose, Westchester Academy, 7th Grade, Language Arts & Social Studies (LASS)
Rebecca Jungklaus, Memorial High, American Sign Language (ASL)

Trustees Propose T-2-4 Goal Amendment

SBISD Trustees have proposed an amendment to update the language of the district’s T-2-4 goal, which aims for the doubling of the number of students who attain post-secondary success.

First written in 2012, the goal remains the same but the wording in board policy meant the goal would have expired at the end of 2017. The new proposed wording emphasizes that “every SBISD graduate” will attain post-secondary success and extends the original goal of 72 percent for five years, through 2022.

As proposed, the T-2-4 goal would read:

Every SBISD Graduate will attain a technical certificate, military training, or a two-year degree, or four-year degree. This goal will be referred to as “Spring Branch T-2-4.” The District will pursue the SBISD T-2-4 goal by increasing the number of students who complete a technical certificate, military training, or a two-year or four-year degree from 44% to 72% by 2022.

The rewritten goal and policy proposal is available for comment at the Board’s policy website. The policy will be considered on fourth reading after compiling public comment.

Board Policy Website

SBEF Harvey Relief Fund Continues to Grow Past $1 Million Mark

A modest idea blossoms into help for more than 1,000 Spring Branch ISD families

When Spring Branch ISD Superintendent Scott Muri began assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, he found more than he ever expected. Surprisingly, the SBISD buildings suffered very little damage; however, SBISD staff and student families told a different story.

It was a story of resilience. He talked with staff members who had seemingly lost everything—home, cars, possessions—but showed concern for how he and others weathered the storm. He heard from student families who were displaced and sheltering out of district, but making travel arrangements to keep their children in their home schools.

For every story he heard, he knew there were many more. He felt that by working with the district’s leadership team and the Spring Branch Education Foundation, the community could help.

While the water was still high and first responders were still housed at the district’s Darrell Tully Stadium, he explored the idea of a relief fund. He approached SBEF Executive Director Cece Thompson and challenged the Foundation to raise $20,000. Thompson and the SBEF board of directors created the SBEF Harvey Relief Fund.

Three months later, the Fund had collected $1,027,536 and was helping 1,083 SBISD families.

“When the Spring Branch Education Foundation launched the Harvey Relief Fund,” Muri said, “we could never have imagined how swiftly and how generously our community and many others across the globe would respond. With more than $1 million raised, families of more than 1,000 SBISD students and employees have received much-needed resources and support. We are grateful beyond measure to SBEF and the many donors whose #CollectiveGreatness has made this critical financial assistance possible at this unprecedented time of great need.”

“I’ve always known the generosity of this community,” Thompson said. “For more than two decades, it has funded grants and scholarships that enhance education for SBISD students. The outpouring of support in the wake of Harvey, surpassed anything I would have imagined. A community member called to say her family wanted to donate $100,000, and that was just the first of our surprises.”

Donations came from near and far. SBISD students got busy: Memorial Markettes shared proceeds from its fall fundraiser, and Cornerstone Academy pledged funds from its December fun run. The Wilchester Men’s Club contributed $9,000. Waterous Energy Fund, a Canadian company with an SBISD parent on its executive team, donated $100,000.

Gifts arrived from Muri’s former colleagues and acquaintances—and from strangers who saw his Twitter appeal. The Discovery Channel donated $25,000. A Kentucky native who met Muri at her daughter’s church sent $500. The Fund received gifts from student fundraisers from schools as far away as Pittsburgh, PA; Avon, IN; and Barrington, IL.

The largest gift came from the Greater Houston Community Foundation to the tune of $500,000. SBEF was one of only three education organizations to receive a grant from GHCF’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.

“The grant felt like an affirmation of our efforts,” Thompson said. “As far as we know, the SBEF Harvey Relief Fund is the only one that specifically helps families in Spring Branch ISD. Our gifts help families fill gaps not met by other local and federal efforts. Since the Fund is managed by SBEF staff, there are no administrative costs. Every dollar goes directly to SBISD student and staff families.”

SBISD staff members who were displaced by Harvey and are receiving help from the SBEF Harvey Relief Fund are grateful. Thank you notes have poured in to the SBEF office.

From an employee, “I was just called to the front office to pick up some ‘mail,’ and I received the generous donation from SBEF. All I could do was laugh and then cry. We literally lost everything in the flood and have two small babies at home. What a perfect time to receive this gift/blessing. I’m so blessed to work for this district and want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is a huge undertaking on your part, and I know it’s probably been a very difficult task. You have no idea how much this means to my family and how far this will go for us. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I PROMISE to continue to pay this forward once we get back on our feet. Thank you so much.”

A parent wrote, “Thank you so much for providing the very generous Target gift card for our family. We have two boys…a freshman and a senior, and we feel so fortunate to have such a supportive school district. Having our downstairs destroyed by five feet of water for two weeks, losing all our cars and being displaced has been so very hard for us. I know there are many other families in the same situation as well. As a parent, the hardest thing has been that my senior will not be able to celebrate this Christmas (the one before he goes to college next year) in our family home. That is heart breaking. A big thank you for reaching out to us and providing support, as this is a long, tiring process! We will always remember your kindness.”

SBEF has distributed Target and Walmart gift cards to help families meet their most pressing needs, whether it’s food, clothing or supplies. The Foundation has awarded grants of $50,000 to Community In Schools – Houston (CIS), which identifies specific needs. CIS provides vouchers to families to assist with rent, utilities and other necessities.

Hurricane Harvey dumped 51 inches of rain on Houston, but the SBEF Harvey Relief Fund, which started with a dream, is an example of the community’s support and resilience.

A note sent to SBEF: “I have been an SBISD teacher for 37 years and have always felt supported and respected in my professional career. After losing my home, contents and cars to Hurricane Harvey, I have been overwhelmed by love and support in my personal life.”

A parent wrote about her family’s rescue via boat. “In the days that followed, so many kind friends, colleagues and good Samaritans…like you came forward to help us…. We want you to know you will forever be a part of our family and thank you so much for your kindness and love.”

Community members who wish to donate to the SBEF Harvey Relief Fund may visit

Friday, December 8, 2017

Family Sax Finds Home with A Cornerstone Student

Cornerstone Academy seventh-grader Jocelyn Munguia applied for a local music scholarship last spring valued at several hundred dollars.

Today, the charter school seventh-grader is the proud owner of a gently used, professional Yamaha alto saxophone valued at about $2,000.  The instrument was a family donation made by an official with the local Houston Masonic Library and Museum Foundation and Freemason Authors.

Chris Martin, whose group hosts the scholarship, presented the saxophone to Jocelyn at Cornerstone Academy earlier this fall. He was joined at the Spring Valley school campus by James Passamano, who is chairman with the Mozart Hammond Music Scholarship.

Jocelyn originally applied for the Mozart Hammond Scholarship with help from her music instructor, Stephen Bundrick. As a district charter campus with its own operating rules, the Cornerstone Academy music program is neither funded nor supported through the district’s Fine Arts Department.

As a consequence, Bundrick often visits eBay and local pawn shops so his music students like Jocelyn have adequate quality instruments for practice and performance.

In her scholarship application, Jocelyn said the $300 grant would help her buy her own personal saxophone. She played on one of Bundrick’s older instruments before the special donation.

The Mozart Hammond Music Scholarship Awards are awarded through the Masonic Library and Museum Foundation to elementary and middle school students. The scholarship funds are linked to past founding of the Houston Conservatory of Music in 1917. Today, the Spring Branch-Memorial Rotary Club is also a chief sponsor of the scholarship.

Jocelyn was named a scholarship winner with 14 other students, but wasn’t able to attend the initial award ceremony earlier this fall.

When music instructor Bundrick emailed Passamano about her absence, the scholarship chair replied that the group wanted to give Jocelyn a high quality saxophone, not a $300 donation. On Oct. 24, Passamano and Martin presented the Martin family’s sax to a deeply thankful Jocelyn.

Martin said that he wanted to “lovingly pass this on to Jocelyn to help her continue her musical endeavors,” Bundrick reports.

In separate but related news, recent voter approval of the 2017 Bond will help replace aged student musical instruments and uniforms for campus programs.

For more information, visit Mozart Hammond Music Scholarship Award.

Navy ROTC Unit Earns Top Marks and Ranking

For a third year in a row, the student Navy Jr. ROTC unit based at the Guthrie Center has earned an Outstanding ranking (100 percent in all areas) during its recently completed Area Manager’s Inspection.

In separate but related news, the Guthrie Center-based ROTC group has also been named once again as a Navy Jr. ROTC Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Distinguished Unit designation is given to ROTC programs ranked in the top 30 percent of all regional programs. SBISD’s unit has now won the Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors ranking for 12 years in a row. As such an exemplary unit, SBISD’s program may nominate three eligible unit cadets to the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Although no historical records of every Outstanding unit ranking across the greater Houston region is maintained, Junior ROTC leaders report that one such ranking for any student unit is noteworthy. Earning multiple high-level rankings like SBISD’s unit is considered unusual.

Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Devin Williams, the unit’s Cadet Executive Officer (second in command) and a a Spring Woods High senior, notes that inspection this year was difficult due to Hurricane Harvey’s impact.

“We lost two weeks of school so it was as if the inspection came two weeks early,” he said. “We also had a challenge with instructors with Master Chief Heuser retiring last summer and being replaced by Hospital Corpsman First Class Dominic Monita, so we were also adjusting to a new instructor.”

“I feel blessed that as an Executive Officer, I was given the opportunity to learn from the experience of being in a real leadership and management project. What I learned is you get what you inspect, not what you expect,” he also said. “This isn’t really an award, it’s the results of the inspection.”

Cadet Williams serves with Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Azucena Gonzales, the unit’s Cadet Commanding Officer and a Northbrook High senior. SBISD’s Jr. ROTC unit is led by retired Navy Cmdr. Jerry Coufal and retired Hospital Corpsman First Class Dominic Monita.

The SBISD unit’s 12-year Distinguished Unit with Academic Honors ranking is based on its annual military inspection results, competition placements, community service hours, academic performance and related factors.

Navy Jr. ROTC Area 10 Area Administrator Curtis St. Pierre credits Coufal and Monita with excellent instructional leadership after the Area Manager’s Inspection.

“Commander Coufal and Hospital Corpsman Monita have been outstanding examples of showing the cadets what right looks like,” he wrote in a report.

The Area Manager’s Inspection helps to showcase what the student ROTC cadets have learned through drill performances, personnel inspections and reviews of the supply, material and administrative records that cadets must administer as part of their program.

Expanding Your Horizons Conference

Register Now for Feb. 24 Gathering for Girls in Grades 6-8

Ginger Kerrick, a NASA Mission Control flight director for 13 International Space Station and five joint Shuttle missions, will be the keynote speaker for the 26th Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Conference at Spring Forest Middle School. Registration is now open for young women in grades 6-8. The conference will be held on Saturday, Feb. 24.

In a modern way, Kerrick is a kind of “Hidden Figure” movie character, one of the unsung women located behind the space capsules or floating space station who make life possible for astronauts circling the Earth.

The daylong conference is sponsored by the West Harris County branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which plays a key role in providing career information and role models for middle school girls.

During its annual conference, professional women associated with AAUW share their enthusiasm, career information, educational requirements and salary levels for scientific, technical and financial careers with hundreds of girls, parents and teachers.

“These creative people don’t lecture kids, but involve them in various ways to create hands-on experiences in every one of the conference workshops. The message to our middle school girls is that there are both personal and monetary rewards for taking math and science in middle and high school,” reports AAUW’s KarenJean North.

“Our goal is to inspire young women to study science, technology, engineering and math so they can reach their dreams. Ginger Kerrick will share how she reached her dreams,” North also said.

Growing up, keynote conference speaker Kerrick dreamed of being either a basketball player or an astronaut. While she is not an astronaut today, each International Space Station mission astronaut “is taking a little piece of [her] with them” into space because of her Mission Control support.

Kerrick became the first non-astronaut Capsule Communicator (CapCom), a NASA Flight Control position that relays information from Mission Control to the astronaut crew flying high above Earth. With 25 years of experience, she is now providing leadership in development, testing and certification of new spacecraft to restore U.S. launch and landing capabilities involving the International Space Station and regions beyond low-Earth orbit.

Through hard work and perseverance, Kerrick won academic scholarships. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics, an area of study that demands mental focus, acuity and deep thinking skills.

Read more about Ginger Kerrick’s life and watch her NASA video here:

Read Ginger Kerrick's Bio here.

Download Expanding Your Horizons brochure here.

Learn more about Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics:

Register for the Feb. 24 Expanding Your Horizons Conference:

Thursday, December 7, 2017

NextGen for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

A new APP promises to make the FAFSA process more accessible for low-income and disadvantaged students, a demographic with the lowest application completion rate in the nation.

The new APP boasts a host of features along with simplifying the financial aid process. Promised features include: the ability to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on a phone; the ability to manage a borrower’s federal student loans in the APP, and the ability for students to check their credit score.

“This is a significant first step in our commitment to improving the experiences students, parents and borrowers have with Federal Student Aid (FSA) and in bringing federal student aid programs into the 21st century,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said earlier this month.

Planned for launch in the spring of 2018, the new APP is a part of what the education department calls the “NextGen” approach to financial services by the FSA Department. The department also plans to integrate the current FASFA website into the larger website, allowing applicants to seamlessly switch between web and mobile platforms, enabling applicant access and choice.

The Federal Student Aid Department, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. Every year, $120 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds from FAFSA help 13 million students paying for college or career school. For complete information about FAFSA, visit the current FAFSA website at:

Be on the lookout for updates and changes to both websites in 2018. Students and parents can contact campus counselor for additional details or assistance.

Video - What will the APP look like?

Additional Resources for FAFSA:

Terrace Students Named to National O.A.K.E. Choir

Donations sought to fund related travel expenses

Four Terrace Elementary School students were chosen recently to join the Organization of American Kodály Educators (O.A.K.E.) National Children’s Choir, which will perform during the group’s national meeting next spring.

Donations are being sought online through the campus and greater Spring Branch community to support family travel needs of $5,000 or more for the four students. See GoFundMe details on this topic below.

Selected for the O.A.K.E National Children’s Choir is Terrace fourth-grade student Jonathan Hogue and fifth-graders Saray Noyola, Ricardo Costilla and Isabella Hernandez. Their Terrace music teacher is Eric Murillo. They are the only SBISD students selected this year for the national choir.

The four students will train, rehearse and perform as part of the O.A.K.E national conference. The Kodály method is an experience-based music educational program developed by a mid-20th century Hungarian composer, educator and philosopher, Zoltan Kodály.

The Kodály (pronounced KO-die) method focuses on using experiences with movement, sight and sound to teach musical concepts. It is famous for the use of solfege, or “do-re-me,” as featured in the Rodgers and Hammerstein song performed in the popular Sound of Music film.

“We are so proud to have these students representing Terrace and Spring Branch ISD at a national level,” Principal April Falcon-Blanco said.

“This experience will provide our students with opportunities to learn, share their talent, build their confidence and meet other students who share their hopes and dreams. They are all really great kids and very deserving of this honor,” she also said.

Music Specialist Eric Murillo said the audition requirements for the students were quite challenging. The four worked with Murillo for weeks after school on choir audition materials.

Training and rehearsals led the students to these vocal accomplishments:
  • Singing four designated, five tone ascending and descending scale passages on a neutral syllable, a cappella, after only being given a starting pitch
  • Singing upper/middle/lower parts of a basic chord progression using solfege (a system for singing notes) while Murillo played an outline of chords with the parts they were not singing
  • Singing America the Beautiful a cappella after a given starting pitch
“I told my students that I’d be proud of them for just making it through the audition process regardless of the outcome,” Murillo said. “The fact that all four of them made it (into the national choir) is beyond exciting! I’m thrilled that their perseverance paid off and that we’ll head to Oklahoma.”

The National Children’s Choir is composed of 4th and 5th grade students.
The Terrace students will perform March 24, 2018, inside the Civic Center Music Hall downtown in Oklahoma City. O.A.K.E choirs usually perform with renowned conductors.

Murillo estimates that each student’s family will now need to raise between $1,200 and $1,600 to travel and participate. GoFundMe accounts were set up recently for all four students. Individual campaign links:

Saray Noyola

Ricardo Costilla

Jonathan Hogue

Isabella Hernandez

Related Links:

Organization of American Kodály Educators

Kodály Concept & Theory

National Conference Choirs