Monday, October 17, 2016

Star Furniture Red Apple Recognition

Bridgette Stinnett says that she knew something was up, but not sure what when campus leaders told her not to dress up in her Westwood Elementary lion mascot costume one recent Friday morning.

During a 9 a.m. live broadcast hour on Sept. 30, Cristina Kooker, a reporter with the Great Day Houston local show on KHOU-TV 11, led school and community members into Bridgette’s kindergarten class for a big teacher surprise.

Watch KHOU-TV 11 video >>

Bridgette, who has taught kindergarten boys and girls for 23 years, including 14 years at Westwood, soon learned on the air from Ms. Kooker that she was being named Great Day’s Star Furniture Red Apple Recognition Award winner.

Her live TV honors included a framed certificate and a signature Star Furniture Red Apple statue.

In addition, Houston City Council Member Brenda Stardig presented Bridgette with a special city proclamation honoring her work with kindergarten students.

Named campus Teacher of the Year twice, Bridgette is known across the district for her roles as early elementary teacher and a campus/community role model:

  • The SBISD Board of Trustees honored her last year for supporting the most student teachers in the district.
  • She provides kindergarten after-school programs for Westwood students.
  • As the campus mascot lion, Bridgette appears at special occasion events ranging from Carnival to high school Homecoming parades.
  • She helps sponsor Family Library Night once a month.
  • Bridgette is known by many for her incredible love of Kermit the Frog. Students will give her frog gifts. Her kindergarten class is represented by one animal – known as The Froggys, of course.
“With Bridgette, no child is ever left behind no matter the personality, or ability, or behavior involved,” Westwood PTA’s Dee Carlson said. “She has the ability to bring the best out of every child.”

PTA’s Carlson – like so many others – should know. Her own child had Bridgette as a kindergarten student.

“Those fortunate to have here get someone special. She is able to open their minds to do what they think they cannot do. To children, she is as energetic and truly full of life as a pop-up book,” she also said.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Guess What School Is Turning 50?

The Houston Super Bowl Mascot, TD, visits students Liam and Dashel Leonard and all students at Wilchester Elementary.
Save this most important date if you or someone you know has a family or close connection to Wilchester Elementary School – 4-5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27.

That’s the time and date set for current and former Wilchester Wildcats, community members, former school staff and students to stop by the campus to share stories, meet old friends, learn what is currently happening at the recently rebuilt elementary school, and walk down memory lane.

The school, located at 13618 St. Mary’s Lane, was one of 13 district elementary schools rebuilt under the 2007 Bond Plan. This striking, new two-story campus opened for prekindergarten to fifth-grade students in August 2011. The new school includes 35 regular classrooms with additional resource, special education and fine arts classrooms. High quality materials and finishes were chosen with community input.

Light cake and punch will be served Jan. 27 during the 50th anniversary celebration. Visitors will reminisce about the school and special events from the 1960s through 2016. Wilchester’s school doors opened in 1966. Decorations and music for the special event will reflect all five decades.

At 5 p.m. on Jan. 27, the 50th anniversary party will transition into a short ceremony as well as an expected dedication of a PTA gift to the school. Former and current school principals, along with Board of Trustees and other officials, will speak.
Anne Ross, Sean and Lucy Roche gather at Wilchester Elementary's Dads and Donuts.
For details or more information, please contact Wilchester Elementary Principal Rian Evans at, or find out more at Wilchester Elementary’s own Facebook page. 
Wilchester Elementary – past and present – hopes to see everyone there so save the date!

Stratford Playhouse Presents Puppet Musical

The award-winning Stratford Playhouse will open its new musical season Oct. 20 with the laugh-out-loud musical Avenue Q School Edition, the school adaptation of the smash Broadway hit that includes equal parts hand puppetry, comedy and a terrific musical score.

The light-hearted musical tells the story of recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York City apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. His new neighbors and friends seem nice, but not ordinary. Together, they struggle to find jobs, dates and ultimate life purpose.

The original musical production won the Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book on Broadway. To bring this incredible show to the Stratford High stage, a 15-member student cast will portray three human characters and 12 puppets who interact as if they were also human, much like on Sesame Street.

The Spartan actors operate these puppets in full view, using both hands while singing, acting and dancing at the same time. A two-day puppet training workshop was conducted to help actors who guide a dozen puppets learn proper puppet handling, speech-mouth coordination and movements, and more. “I never knew how heavy a puppet could be,” one student said in a show press release.

Playhouse directors for the season opening musical are Marcie Baker and Christian Holmes. The student director is Kate Schageman. 

Tickets for Avenue Q School Edition are $16 in advance.  Performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. from Oct. 20-22 and also Oct. 27-29 with a matinee planned on Oct. 29 at 2:30 p.m.  All tickets are available online or can be purchased at the Box Office at Stratford High School. 

For more information or to buy tickets visit or call 713-251-3449. Avenue Q School Edition” is being presented through special arrangements with Musical Theatre International (MTI). Parental guidance is suggested for children under 13 years old.

Read the full Stratford High Playhouse press release >>

Houston Endowment Grant Supports New Strategic Plan

Houston Endowment, one of the most well-regarded and historic philanthropic organizations, has awarded a one-year, $450,000 grant to Spring Branch ISD to help the district build capacity to execute a new, five-year strategic plan known as The Learner’s Journey.

News of the grant announcement was made public on Sept. 27 during a breakfast event for 300 community members and stakeholders sponsored in the CityCentre development. A 10th-floor, unfinished space was used for the district gathering to symbolize the strategic plan as a work in development like a new office building.

SBISD serves a diverse population of 35,000 students. The district has established a goal of doubling the number of students who complete technical certification, military training, or a two- or four-year college degree, which is known locally as Spring Branch T-2-4.

In addition, SBISD earlier this year became one of the state’s first Districts of Innovation. The strategic direction set under The Learner’s Journey focuses on meeting the needs of all district students through personalized learning.

The Houston Endowment’s grant helps supports three critical areas: leadership development; improving the use of data to inform decision making; and school redesign and process with effective and diverse stakeholder engagement.

“We are pleased and honored to be the recipients of this significant gift from Houston Endowment. This investment in our strategic plan enables us to accelerate the pace of implementation while growing the specific leadership skills our leaders need to transform the learning experience for every child we serve,” SBISD Superintendent of Schools Scott R. Muri, Ed.D., said.

Houston Endowment Program Officer Wendy Cloonan said she applauded SBISD’s leadership for its vision. “They are carefully considering what education can and should be with a strong commitment to develop each child to his or her maximum potential. We are excited that Houston Endowment can support innovation at scale: This initiative has the potential to create vibrant learning communities for thousands of students in greater Houston,” she said.

Elliott Witney, SBISD Associate Superintendent of Research and Design, said the district was incredibly grateful to the Endowment for its early support of district work.

“We’re excited about the direction we’re moving as a school system on behalf of every child we serve. We know what we’re trying to do requires new learning and innovative approaches. This investment allows us to lay a strong, durable foundation that helps us move forward more quickly and effectively than we ever would have been able to without it,” he said.

The three specific areas of grant focus include the following:

Leadership Capacity Building

SBISD has established a goal of doubling the number of students who complete either Technical Certification, Military Training, 2-year and 4-year degrees, which is known as Spring Branch T-2-4.  The new strategic plan calls for personalizing the learning experience for “Every Child.” This audacious goal and ambitious strategic plan require the district to think differently, do different types of work, and solve new challenges.  Some of this investment will go to building leadership capacity through professional learning for campus and district leaders.

Expanding and Improving Data Capability

In addition to leadership capacity, we know that the district must bring its data to life – extracting better insights from data, and whenever possible making it actionable and real time.  SBISD will use the Endowment’s investment to expand capability in both of these areas.

Building Internal Capacity for School Redesign

Part of SBISD’s work over the next several years will be to help lead its schools and school communities through a redesign experience that culminates in improved learning experiences for every child.  We will identify and learn from experts in the field who have helped schools evolve over time, and we intend to leverage that expertise to build internal capacity.

Welcome to the Journey >>

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Student Safety Patrol Honors Police Officers

More than a dozen members of the Buffalo Creek Elementary Safety Patrol toured the Spring Branch ISD Police Department on a recent afternoon, leaving “survival kits” made by students with district officers and staff.

Health Fitness instructor Jessica Lopez, who leads a 21-student safety patrol at the Blalock Road campus, said the Sept. 20 tour of the district police station impressed students. On the tour, they saw interview rooms, holding cells, police vehicle areas and fingerprinting equipment, as well as the most popular displays of closed-circuit television of campus schools – inside and out.

They watched Buffalo Creek’s after-school visitors come and go – via CCTV monitor miles away inside the Police Station on Ruland. 

But the police station visit was important for a simpler reason. “My patrol students were able to see what it takes to monitor the district and to keep us safe. I also felt it was important to show an authentic appreciation for our officers,” she said.

In that respect, the Buffalo Creek safety patrol came to the police station with both heartfelt and homemade offerings of love and respect. They created a color banner of the SBISD Police Dept. uniform patch with the words “Thank You” printed out above the department’s State of Texas decal.

Lopez hit on another bright idea with her students through a social media search. At school, they collected snack size candy and created 35 individual gift bags for officers printed with the label “Survival Kit for Police.”

The student-assembled gifts –paper bags with blue ribbon ties – had sweet, candy inspired notes attached:
  • LifesaversTo remind you of the many times you’ve been one
  • StarburstsFor the burst of energy you need
  • PaydayBecause you are not in it for the money
  • Hershey’s KissesTo show our love for you
  • GumTo help everyone stick together
  • Tootsie RollsBecause you have to roll with the punches
  • Peppermint PattiesTo help keep your cool
  • SnickersTo remember you need to laugh at least once a day
  • MoundsFor the mounds of courage you show
Kimberly Phan, one of the Buffalo Creek safety patrols, wrote about the police department tour. Students saw their own campus on closed-circuit television, a high point for many during the tour, including the fifth-grader. She states:

“This trip was awesome! Going around the Police Department was such a great experience. What I thought was most important was the man who received calls and checked the SBISD school cameras. . .The man who checks all the cameras makes sure that we are safe and there are no strangers at our school.”

She was also impressed with the department’s general appearance. “The police had everything they needed and were very organized,” Kimberly said.

Instructor Lopez noted that the fifth-graders are also at a key age to learn through a police department tour – and by seeing holding cells or fingerprinting equipment – that “when you do something wrong, it may follow you in life.”

SBISD Police Officer Cindy Garcia, who conducted the police department tour, is a Buffalo Creek Elementary Safety Patrol fan for what the students did to give the entire department a student-level show of support.

“It makes us all feel appreciated. They are truly interested in what we do every day and that means a lot,” Officer Garcia said.

Leadership Announcements

The following leadership announcements were made recently in Spring Branch ISD:

Pamela Butler will serve as the Interim Director for Westchester Academy for International Studies. Pam has 39 years of education experience. Before retiring, Pam was district Executive Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning for six years. She also founded and directed Westchester Academy for eight years.

Dale “Bruce” Dareing has been named SBISD Chief of Police effective beginning in January 2017.  He will serve in transition this fall as the Assistant Chief of Police, working closely with Chief Brawner until his retirement at the end of December.

Cristina Flores will be the new Assistant Principal at Treasure Forest Elementary School. Cristina was an Instructional Coach at Treasure Forest Elementary and has 15 years of experience in education. She replaces G. LaVonne Valcin who has accepted an administrator position with Fort Bend ISD.

Michael Francis will serve as the new Assistant Director of Child Nutrition Services. He has nine years of food service industry experience and previously worked as the Child Nutrition Program Specialist with Region IV Education Service Center. He replaces Katie Kattner, who has resigned.

Jennifer Jansky will serve as the new Director of Assessment & Student Evaluation for the Assessment & Compliance Division. She has 11 years of education experience, including as Coordinator of Testing & Textbooks for Texas City ISD. She replaces Joe Zerbe, who has retired.

Phuong Tieu has been named Chief of Academics for the Academic Performance and Support Division. She has eight years of experience in education and has worked previously as a Principal at Billy Reagan Education Center in Houston ISD.

Pinwheels for Peace Spin Across Spring Branch ISD

Pinwheels for Peace at Memorial Drive Elementary
Several Spring Branch ISD campuses took part recently in Pinwheels for Peace, an international art and literacy project best known for school yards “planted” with pinwheels and youth-written messages of peace and good will.

In a world where the images from war-torn cities like Aleppo, Syria, tear at the soul, pinwheels spinning in a school yard are simple reminders that the future can be far brighter and flush with the hopes and dreams of the next generation.

Memorial Drive, Wilchester and Woodview elementaries were among schools taking part in the international effort. On Sept. 21, Wilchester Elementary students in prekindergarten through the fifth grade designed nearly 800 pinwheels of all shapes and sizes.

Wilchester Elementary kindergarten students Alexandra and Allison Kassner, Anna Rose Poteet, Claire Osteen and Claire Brendel
Under the guidance of art teacher Stephanie Walton, the pinwheels were both public statement and art exhibit and installation. Mrs. Walton began working with Pinwheels for Peace in 2006, when she taught at Northbrook Middle School. She also helped coordinate the project this year for interested art teachers across the district.

Wilchester Elementary, where she now teaches art, is celebrating 50 years. Students and faculty tied the pinwheels there into the peace, love and happiness theme of the 1960s. Teachers put on Afro-style wigs and wore mod costumes this year to recall the decade’s fun groove.

View more photos:

Seeing hundreds of pinwheels spinning each September makes Mrs. Walton proud. “Each year, schools across the district, led by the art teachers and counselors, fly more and more pinwheels! It’s something beautiful to see a child’s face holding a pinwheel that is spinning in the wind. It’s definitely a day to celebrate. Playfulness and happiness fill the campus,” she said. 

Pinwheels for Peace was created a decade ago by two Florida art teachers, Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, as a way for students to express their feelings about what’s going on in the world and in their own personal lives. By one estimate, the violence of war represents only a fraction of the physical or emotional violence encountered by children in their personal and home lives.

The art teachers’ student project was an immediate success. In the first year, more than 1,300 separate locations created and displayed a half million pinwheels worldwide. Last year, it is estimated that more than 4.5 million handmade pinwheels were spinning on more than 3,500 campus and other sites ranging from the United States to Australia.

The event also coincides with the United Nation’s annual observance of International Peace Day, which is followed by many nations and governments worldwide. Woodview Elementary’s Kathy Frith says the campus “uses it more as an anti-bullying and anti-harassment lesson for students.”

Woodview Elementary students "plant" pinwheels.
Woodview last month had 650 students from prekindergarten through fifth grade take part, the fifth year that campus has participated. Fifth-graders helped the PreK and kindergarten assemble their pinwheels and then blow on them and watch them spin.

“When they blow on them and they spin, all the students will smile. That first smile is really the photograph, or the special moment, that describes what it all means, but that’s the photograph so hard to capture,” art teacher Frith said.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Broadway Actor Performs Saturday

Renowned Broadway actor Craig Schulman –the lead actor in The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and Jekyll and Hyde – will perform for one night only on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. in the Memorial High School Performing Arts, 935 Echo Lane.

In Les Misérables, one of the greatest musical roles in modern theater, Schulman portrayed Jean Valjean with four separate acting companies in more than 1,900 performances in three countries.

He performed in the PBS broadcast of The 10th Anniversary: Les Misérables in Concert. He has also played Che in Evita, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and Archibald in The Secret Garden.

Several Memorial High and Spring Branch ISD students will also perform in the special concert Tickets are available online for the one-night performance. Please visit and then click on “Purchase Individual Tickets” or use the direct link here.

District theater students who are interested in attending a Master Class with Mr. Schulman from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. also on Saturday, Oct. 8, should contact Nicole Morgan in Memorial High’s Theatre Department at this email:

Download flyer >>

Monday, October 3, 2016

Woodview Elementary Wins SPARK Park Funding

Principal Pennington (second row, left) joined area City Council Member Brenda Stardig (second row, right) and several Woodview parents for the official announcement.
Woodview Elementary School has won new park funding. The Spring Branch ISD campus is one of 30 schools across the region named as a future location for a new SPARK park to serve as a school playground and a community park.

The schools were chosen from areas designated as “park deserts” in Harris County.

Woodview was one of nine elementaries to win funding Sept. 21 from the Houston Endowment and Kinder Foundation. The Houston-based philanthropies announced a three-year gift of $5 million to either build or “refresh” SPARK Parks. The City of Houston will contribute about $500,000 through available federal funds.

The parks will serve as dual purpose playgrounds and parks. A “park desert” is defined as an area that is more than one-half mile or a 10-minute walk from an existing county or school park.

The SPARK park group is a 33-year-old nonprofit operation dedicated solely to the improvement of school playgrounds for student and public uses. SPARK’s founder was former City Council member Eleanor Tinsley, who served the Spring Branch-Memorial area for many years.

Woodview Elementary’s parents, community and partners worked hard to raise the initial $5,000 seed money needed to jump start full project funding.

“This is huge for Woodview,” said Principal Pamela Pennington. “We have been working hard for over a year to secure funding for our Spark Park. Our students, our staff, our PTA Sister School – Hunters Creek Elementary, our parents, and our community have all worked to raise money for this much needed park.”

She said many Woodview students live with limited access to nearby green space, making park funding an “extremely important” goal for the school’s community. 

“Our goal is to develop a safe and beautiful space for students to play and exercise. We want to partner with our community so that our families have a place to gather after school and on the weekends for family gatherings or track and field activities, ball games, and to celebrate birthday parties and family events,” the principal said.

A Trust for Public Land evaluation led to the final ratings that resulted in selection of Woodview Elementary as one of the best spots for a new community park.

“Every single child in greater Houston should be able to walk to a park, to swing, to slide down a slide, to chase a soccer ball,” said Houston Endowment President Ann Stern during the Sept. 21 luncheon.

“Every neighborhood should have a place where residents and families and people can come connect, get a chance to know each other, to be in a place that contributes to the pride and character of their neighborhood,” she also said.

Principal Pennington joined area City Council Member Brenda Stardig and several Woodview parents for the official announcement.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Attend SBISD College Night on October 11

College Night is an evening designed especially for students and their families to learn more about the many post-secondary options available to students after high school. The evening program is organized as a one-stop “shopping” event. In recent years, up to 3,000 people have attended and we are expecting just as strong turn of a turn out in light of hosting this event on only one night this year.

We will welcome over 200 representatives from regional, state and national colleges and universities, both public and private, as well as technical and military-related institutions on October 11, 2016 from 6-8pm at Spring Woods High School.

In addition, due to the early opening of the federal and state financial aid process, we will host financial aid information tables and also welcome representatives from Wells Fargo to share information about saving for higher education.

Students and parents can review a weekly updated list of college fair participants.

October 11, 2016
SBISD College Night
6-8 p.m.
Spring Woods High School

2045 Gessner Rd. 77080

Lastly, the Texas Vaccine Institute will be offering the Meningococcal Vaccine again this year at College Night.  Accepted insurances are Aetna TRS Active Care I, Aetna TRS Active Care II, Aetna TRS Choice POS II, United Health Care, Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO, Medicaid, and Amerigroup Medicaid.  Students covered by these insurances do not have to pay anything and will need to submit a copy of the insurance card and the student’s DOB must be written on the copy.  For children without insurance, the cost is $15.00 per person (for children 18 years old or younger). For 19 years old and older without insurance, the price is $110.00. Cash, check and debit card (Visa and Master Card) will be accepted.
Download parent consent form >>

*Overflow parking will be available with shuttle service to/from Spring Woods High School throughout the evening

**SBISD regrets that College Night conflicts with the Yom Kippur Holiday. We have worked since July to try and change the date to no avail. For families impacted by this scheduling conflict, please note that Katy and Alief ISD have graciously offered our families the opportunity to attend their district events as follows:

October 5, 2016
Katy ISD College Night
Merrell Center
6-8:30 p.m.
Leonard E. Merrell Center

October 13, 2016
Alief ISD College Night
Alief Taylor High School
6-8 p.m.
Alief Taylor High School

Tips for students attending the college fair >>