Friday, November 21, 2014

Class of 2014 Good Neighbors Celebration Marks Partnership High

A record 220 separate partnerships were honored during the recent, ninth annual Good Neighbor Recognition Program held at the Omni Houston Hotel Westside.

Recognized Nov. 6 at the annual dinner and program were individuals, groups, campuses and organizations that perform three or more activities that support Spring Branch ISD, an individual school, or the Spring Branch Education Foundation (SBEF).

Highlights during the annual celebration event included a tribute to Superintendent of Schools Duncan Klussmann, Ed.D., who will retire by next summer, and several  singing performances by the 60-member Landrum Middle School Advanced Choir. The choir, under the direction of Jaime Trigo, includes Landrum Middle School and KIPP Courage charter program seventh- and eighth-grade students. Both groups are based at Landrum Middle.

View Good Neighbor celebration photos >>

SBISD Community Relations Officer Linda Buchman led the public tribute to Dr. Klussmann early in the evening program. During a point of personal privilege, she described how the superintendent changed her life when he asked her to become a community relations officer.

“In the same way we aim to instill in every student the belief that they can achieve more than they think possible – you did the same for me!,” she proclaimed, saying in her tribute much more:

“Tonight, as our Good Neighbor program launches its milestone 10th year – and as you enjoy your milestone 10th and last year as a our superintendent – on behalf of everyone in this ballroom who has been privileged to work with you as parents, partners, volunteers and community members to bring to fruition the key tenet of our Good Neighbor program – that the Spring Branch ISD area is the best place in Houston to live, work, play, raise a family and educate kids. We thank you for valuing the notion that together, we are better.”

Six community members and former colleagues joined Mrs. Buchman on stage to honor Dr. Klussmann with an award and recognition as a special member of the Class of 2014 Good Neighbors. They were part of the first Good Neighbor event and organizing group.

They included District A Houston City Councilwoman Brenda Stardig; Shadow Oaks Elementary Principal Julie Baggerly; Al Russell, retired community member; Spring Branch Management District Director Victor Alvarez; Spring Branch Family Development Executive Director Ricardo Barnes; and former district Partners in Volunteer Programs Manager Sue Loudis, who is also retired.

“We have one of the greatest school district superintendents in the whole country,” Councilwoman Brenda Stardig said. “Because of Duncan Klussmann being such a Good Neighbor, we are all Good Neighbors.”

Superintendent Klussmann thanked everyone for the award, but joked that he heard a new research report on the radio recently that suggests school superintendents are the least effective agents for student achievement gains. “All these kind words here are so nice, but all of you had the greatest impact on what we do,” he said.

In prepared remarks, Dr. Klussmann focused on the need for the district to remain committed to the Spring Branch Plan T-2-4 Goal to double the number of students completing a technical certification, military training, or two- or four-year college or university degree.

Nationally, only a third of students who enroll complete college, and those who do graduate from college tend to be from affluent families (82 percent) versus those in low-income households (8 percent). African-American and Latino students are less likely than white students to graduate, too.

“We can’t sustain what we are and have been as a state or country with those rates of completion, or those statistics,” he said. “And we can’t sustain our standards of living in this state with those kinds of numbers. The work we need to do is great.”

Despite his recent retirement announcement, Dr. Klussmann remains committed to making sure that all students achieve the district’s T-2-4 goals and their promise in the future. To help T-2-4 happen, the number of Good Neighbor partnerships and adult mentors needs to double. “We can never stop doing this work in the Spring Branch community,” he said.

Six separate individuals, groups and programs were highlighted in a special video. They include:
  • Nexen Petroleum USA Inc.: This energy corporation provided employees to mentor students at Woodview Elementary School through the SpringBoard Mentoring program. Nexen supports the Spring Woods High School theater arts program financially, and provided support for and judged the J. Landon Short Mini-Grant awards program.
  • Stratford High School Community: Among more than a dozen community projects, Stratford High School hosted a school wide Saturday event called Big Day of Service, during which 500 students gathered to help many area businesses and residents clean up, beautify and improve the neighborhoods surrounding Stratford. The high school is led by Principal Chris Juntti.
  • Assistance League of Houston: This nonprofit group donated free uniform packages to about 800 district students through its annual Operation School Bell program. The League gave scholarships to 12 district seniors, and also supports Payless Shoe Vouchers for students who need shoes.
  • Sandra Newton: Sandra Newton, who helps students and families navigate the college admissions process through her business, The College Resource Center, has volunteered nine years with SBISD’s own Collegiate Challenge program, which helps many of our high school students move from college dreams to admissions and scholarships. She mentors and co-coordinates the Spring Woods High Collegiate Program, provides mentor training, and also has conducts annual Parent U sessions on higher education preparation and essay writing.
  • Memorial Drive United Methodist Church: At Thornwood Elementary alone, this congregation stepped up to provide lunch for teachers and staff, dinners for families at Literacy Night, new cabinets for the Parent Center Room and development help for the Blessings in a Backpack program. In addition, this church’s volunteers serve many other schools, and it supports and organizes mentors for Hollibrook Elementary, Northbrook Middle, and Northbrook and Spring Woods high schools.
  • Seitel: Doctor Seuss Day at Panda Path School for Early Learning would not be the success it is without Seitel’s many volunteers who read with students, don Seuss hats, perform “Cat in the Hat,” and provide each student a Doctor Seuss hat and book. Seitel’s volunteers are active in the Collegiate Challenge program and they mentor 18 students at Spring Oaks Middle through the SpringBoard Mentoring program, too, among other activities.

The 60-member Landrum Middle School Advanced Choir, led by director Jaime Trigo, wowed the ballroom crowd with stunning performances of “Circle of Life” from The Lion King and Katy Perry’s “Roar” with its uplifting chorus. The young singers won standing ovations.

Joining Director Trigo was KIPP Courage instructor Jason Farovitch, who played bass; KIPP fifth-grade student Josue Iglesias, on drums; Landrum Middle eighth-grader Joshua Rosendo, keyboards; and three student soloists – Landrum Middle eighth-graders Blanca Rendon and Kristen Reyes, and seventh-grader Ja’Liyah  Holmes of KIPP Courage.

The Good Neighbor program is coordinated by Abby Walker with considerable help and support by Community Relations and Communications team members.


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