Week of: May 20, 2013
Leander ISD is fortunate to have two Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs active in our schools – the Air Force Junior ROTC (AFJROTC) unit at Leander High School and the Naval Junior ROTC (NJROTC) unit at Vista Ridge High School. These programs are closing out very successful years, and I’d like to highlight a few of their accomplishments.
The NJROTC program instills the values of citizenship, service to the United States and personal responsibility, along with a sense of accomplishment for our students. These character traits are developed through participation in disciplined competitions, mastering rigorous academic coursework and volunteering in the community and at school functions.
This year NJROTC students gave 4,282 volunteer hours through community service at the Ronald McDonald House, Capital Area Food Bank, Cedar Park Veterans Memorial Park, Special Olympics, Adopt-a-Road and Humvee to ACC, in addition to 1,017 hours spent at school functions such as college night, senior projects, eighth-grade parent night, science fairs and senior awards. The unit swept all three awards in the National Sojourner’s Essay Contest and competed in two drill meets, five academic meets, six air rifle meets, two physical fitness meets and three orienteering meets. In addition, the NJROTC placed third in the State of Texas in Air Rifle Championship and went on to nationals in Anniston, Alabama, where they placed 23rd. These events, together with the dedication and hard work of these young men and women, earned this unit the notable Distinguished Unit Award.
Similarly, the AFJROTC seeks to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community. Cadets are enrolled in classes which focus on aerospace science, history and physical fitness. Giving back to the community is also a big part of the AFJROTC program. This year, students in this program volunteered for a total of 5,650 hours. They supported Soldiers’ Angels, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States’ Armed Services, by traveling to San Antonio and packing more than 3,250 pounds of necessities for deployed service members. This school year cadets donated $1,000 to the Center for the Intrepid, an organization that helps rehabilitate men and women who have sustained injuries while serving our country. AFJROTC cadets also coordinated with New Hope Nursing Home staff to make and distribute Valentine’s Day cards to residents to show their appreciation. These events, combined with cadet performances, resulted in TX-20007 being awarded the Distinguished Unit with Merit.
The NJROTC and AFJROTC units contribute exponentially to our schools and to the greater LISD community. Our cadets are well-rounded, mature and hardworking students who are not deterred by challenges. Again and again I hear from teachers, staff and community members about how well these remarkable young men and women represent their units and schools, whether they are stopping in to visit residents at a nursing home or supporting the recent track and field events for the Special Olympics. The qualities that define our cadets – leadership, self-discipline, respect and academic excellence – better the individual, the corps and our community. Truly, these are honorable students.
I’d also like to recognize the program instructors, Master Sgt. Edmund Perez and Maj. Terry Neidecker with the AFJROTC, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rocky Hulse and Master Chief R.L. Turner with the NJROTC. These instructors work diligently to make sure the participants get the most of their experiences, and we appreciate everything they do for their programs. And a special note about Master Sgt. Perez: this year he was recognized as 2013 AFJROTC Outstanding Instructor of the Year.
Congratulations to the NJROTC and AFJROTC program participants and instructors on wrapping up a great year! There is no doubt that our cadets know how to succeed; they know how to give their all. Our ROTC cadets are excellent examples of how LISD is ensuring that students graduate with every option open.
Have a great week!
Week of: May 13, 2013
The district’s 8th Leadership Leander ISD Class concluded its nine-month program with a graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 9. Through this program, 20 community members were invited to get a first-hand, behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to operate the district.
By all accounts, our participants found their time in the Leadership LISD program to be informative and enlightening, as each meeting focused on different components of the district. They shadowed principals for a day; witnessed how our teachers are using technology to facilitate learning; took a closer look at LISD’s advanced programs and college- and career-readiness initiatives; explored our efforts to close the achievement gap; saw how the Family Services team supports the needs of the whole child; learned how the Parents as Teachers program is getting our youngest learners ready for school; reviewed how we plan for growth and develop our budget; discussed the 83rd Legislature’s educational issues; and even got a taste of our Child Nutrition Services menus.
These educational topics, and the many others addressed during the Leadership LISD program, gave these community members a holistic picture that, while we are teaching students, our district is also striving to meet students’ needs on multiple levels — educating, feeding, transporting, counseling, challenging, nurturing, protecting and guiding them toward successful futures — all at the same time.
Closing out this year’s program, we gave participants an opportunity to share what they’ve learned during their time with us. I want to relay some of the bright spots noted from that discussion:
Every topic covered during the Leadership LISD program came back to our focus on student learning, the center of our Learning Model, because it is why we are here. It came as somewhat of a surprise for some Leadership LISD members to see everyone, even folks outside of the classroom, emphasize that they weigh what’s best for students and their learning in every decision they make.
Both as guest principals and frequent visitors at campuses, participants praised the levels of learner engagement and student ownership of learning they witnessed. They saw the many ways learning is coming alive in LISD.
Several Leadership LISD class members remarked that even though we are large district, we make a conscious effort to make sure students don’t get lost in the shuffle. Our unique culture, which is truly district-wide, sets us apart to those who are familiar with other impersonal, “business-only” systems.
Participants commented about the pride everyone throughout LISD — from district administrators, to campus principals; from classroom teachers, to cafeteria workers (and everyone in between) — demonstrated a genuine passion for their work. They deeply care about students.
On behalf of LISD, I’d like to thank our Leadership Leander ISD Class of 2013 for participating in the program this year: Jeremy Barclay (Cedar Park Regional Medical Center), Kristin Campomizzi (Texas Stars Foundation), Dr. Brent Cardwell (Cedar Park Pediatric & Family Medicine), Pete Dwyer (Dwyer Realty), Ray Freer (Four Points Chamber of Commerce), Bill Gardner (Leander Fire Dept.), Laurie Garza (United Way Williamson County), Jennifer Kready (Habitat for Humanity of Williamson County), Doris McDonald (Williamson County African American Chamber of Commerce), Tim Meals (Horace Mann Insurance), Jason Nicholas (Office of Congressman John Carter), Alex Olmos (Regions Bank), Patrick Patterson (UT Outreach, University of Texas at Austin), Nathan Reilly (Texas Stars Hockey), Kirk Scott (Dell), Julie Shields (Texas Assoc. of School Boards), Cassandra Stone (Law Offices of Jason M. Jett), Greg Talburt (The Talburt Group, Inc.), Seth White (Chick-fil-A Lakeline Mall) and Eric Zeno (City of Leander).
LISD is a remarkable place, in large part because of the support we receive from our community. Our schools are strengthened by our students, staff, parents, businesses, organizations, community leaders and those who are part the Leadership LISD program.
If you are interested in being a part of the next Leadership LISD class, contact Lauren Bingham, LISD community services coordinator, at Lauren.Bingham@leanderisd.org
Have a great week!
Week of: May 6, 2013
During May 6-12, Texas schools are celebrating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Week, following Governor Rick Perry’s proclamation that recognizes the importance of STEM education when it comes to preparing the youth of Texas for their futures. At the local level, the cities of Leander and Cedar Park also presented proclamations in celebration of STEM Education Week. With this in mind, today I’d like to focus on one STEM initiative in LISD, which is Project Lead the Way (PLTW).
PLTW is a rigorous national, problem- and project-based learning program that allows students to gain knowledge and skills in engineering or biomedicine by bringing participants together to work toward common solutions. The curriculum is hands-on and engages students in their learning, with teachers serving more like facilitators. PLTW engineering courses are offered at all five LISD high schools. In addition, Vandegrift High School is piloting the PLTW biomedical sequence.
PLTW is very challenging and students are required to collaborate as a group to come up with solutions. How groups arrive at their solutions can vary, giving students a lot of creative leeway. The group settings also create an opportunity for differentiated learning by meeting students where they are in their understanding. Each student brings his or her own unique skills and abilities to the table, and as the team works together, students benefit from peers. In this setting students are excited and having fun (and often don’t realize how much they are learning). All of this builds a student’s confidence in STEM subject areas.
Students have access to important technology, as well. For example, thanks to a generous grant from the 3M Foundation, students in PLTW can use 3-D printers. With access to such technology, teachers have noted that students are enthusiastic about their projects and demonstrate a genuine connection to their learning and its real life practicality. For example, students in the biomedical course at Vandegrift High School are solving problems to real-world issues that we are faced with today, such as helping to end world hunger and inventing better helmets for athletes. The work they are doing is truly astounding.
The middle school level of PLTW, Gateway to Technology, is currently being piloted at Leander, Four Points and Canyon Ridge middle schools. So far, the results there have been phenomenal, as well. Teachers and principals are reporting that students are highly engaged in this course and can explain the relevance of the curriculum to their future careers. Like PLTW at the high school, middle school students are given challenges and must come up with solutions. The students at Leander Middle School, for instance, are creating useful products for campus staff to help them in their day-to-day roles—such as a gavel for Principal Christine Simpson—
using a program called “Inventor.”
PLTW negates the question, “When am I ever going to need to know this?” Students are intentionally exposed to the value of disciplines and gain an understanding of what careers lie ahead of them if they pursue these fields. And this is what STEM Education Week is all about.
Please recognize that science-, technology-, engineering- and math-centered learning is not isolated to the few examples I mentioned here today. There are many other courses that fall under the STEM umbrella that demonstrate a holistic approach to learning. In addition to our traditional math and science curriculum, which also embed STEM activities, courses that involve computer science, robotics, health science technology and technical education build within students a complete skill set; not only can our students do the rigorous work, but they can also reason critically, collaborate with others, solve problems, manage time and communicate effectively. STEM education is one way LISD is bringing the Graduate Profile to life and ensuring that our students are better able to compete in tomorrow’s workforce.