NEISD 2016-2017 Coffee Talks with the Superintendent

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This school year, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian G. Gottardy will once again host "Coffee Talk" sessions to meet with members of the North East ISD community in informal one-on-one visits.

Over coffee and breakfast, parents and guests can talk to Dr. Gottardy and ask questions they may have about the District's current and future plans.

2016-2017 Coffee Talk Schedule

Wednesday, Oct. 12                           7:30 – 8:30 a.m.                  Reagan High School

Wednesday, Nov. 2                             7:30 – 8:30 a.m.                  Johnson High School

Wednesday, Dec. 14                           7:30 – 8:30 a.m.                  Roosevelt High School

Wednesday, Feb. 8                              7:30 – 8:30 a.m.                  Madison High School

Wednesday, March 22                     7:30 – 8:30 a.m.                  MacArthur High School

Wednesday, April 26                        7:30 – 8:30 a.m.                  Churchill High School

Wednesday, May 17                          7:30 – 8:30 a.m.                  Lee High School

All sessions will take place in the school library.

THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS WERE ASKED AT THE MACARTHUR HIGH SCHOOL COFFEE TALK Q&A (MARCH 22, 2017) AND ANSWERED BY DISTRICT STAFF.

Do we know a percentage of children who left to go to charters and then came back to our District?
We try to track, but it’s difficult to receive accurate information. We know currently there are more than 5,000 students who live in our District but don’t attend our schools. They could be private, homeschooled or charter students. But we also know many do return to our schools from charters.

What do you think about international students outscoring our American students?
Part of that assessment depends on the evaluation instrument. Are we concerned about achievement in math and science? Yes. We want our students to be successful, but we also look at our end goal. Most of our parents have expressed to us that they want a 360-degree experience for their students so they become well-rounded individuals. International students have told us they don’t always get those opportunities.

Do you have something for students who aren’t athletic or into fine arts?
We have hundreds of clubs on our campuses for all interests. We agree, it’s important for students to find an activity to be involved in.

At pep rallies, it seems like only the athletes get recognized. What about kids who don’t play sports?
We have Summa Cum Laude recognitions for students who have 100+ grade point averages. We have senior awards ceremonies at every high school to recognize outstanding academic achievement. UIL competition encompasses many different students. There are hundreds of academic groups and opportunities for so many interests.

Are there plans to increase vocational programs in the District?
We have many Career and Technical Education courses. We are currently building a Career Tech Academy thanks to the most recent bond program. Classes in HVAC, construction, health careers, diesel mechanics and more will be offered.

If someone doesn’t want to go to college, do they have to take physics?
It depends on your graduation plan and the graduation requirements.

Do students take some sort of aptitude test? It’d be nice to know what they are interested in. When do you do an assessment?
There are many opportunities to help students find their passion. There is a career exploration component embedded in TEKS beginning in kindergarten. Formal exploration begins in 7th grade. Counselors also are involved in determining student choices for career pathways. The AVID program is for students who are the first in their family to attend college so that they can get extra support and guidance.

THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS WERE ASKED AT THE madison HIGH SCHOOL COFFEE TALK Q&A (Feb. 8, 2017) AND ANSWERED BY DISTRICT STAFF.

Is there a progress update on bond 2015?
The first year of a bond project is usually the design phase. Many projects will begin during the 2017 school year. We are on schedule and under budget thus far. Go to the NEISD website for a full timeline.  http://www.neisd.net/constr/index.html

What are the biggest concerns/priorities with Madison right now?
Anytime you have a principal who leaves a school, it is something we thoroughly discuss. We are working to fill the vacancy, and we are hoping to name someone in the next couple of weeks. Madison deserves a great leader and we are going to work our hardest to deliver that.

How many applicants have you had?
We have had round 20 so far, which is a good number.

I have a concern about students just leaving campus and skipping school at the high school level.
Administrators do everything they can to make sure kids are in class, but does require a partnership. Parents also need to make sure their kids are where they need to be. We will continue to try to work together.

I originally went to a charter for my child and then returned to NEISD. But if I want to switch schools within NEISD, how do I do that? As a parent, how do I choose the best school for my child?
The District has School Choice. Under School Choice, a parent can request his/her child be transferred to another school within the District other than the one serving their residence. Applications are accepted no earlier than the first school business day of January and no later than the last school business day of February. http://www.neisd.net/pupil/SchoolChoice/NEISD_SchoolChoice.html
Parents are advised to visit schools, talk with administrators and decide what their priorities are for their child.

How do we make sure good teachers are in the appropriate schools and grades?
We are always looking for the very best. Teaching is an art. It’s not a science. Some are better than others. We partner with universities to find specialized teachers. Across the state, there is a challenge with find special education and bilingual teaches as a whole.

The following questions were asked at the Roosevelt High School Coffee Talk Q&A (Dec. 14, 2016) and answered by District staff.

How are work orders prioritized?
Work orders are prioritized by the overall impact that the issue has on instruction.  For example, a loss of utilities is the highest priority, followed by anything else that would stop or substantially interfere with the running of the school. 
All other work orders are evaluated by a “controller” who gathers as much information as possible and then assigns that work order to the appropriate trade shop.  Work orders are generally classified as “Emergency”,  “Urgent” and “Routine”.  
Once assigned to a trade, a technician opens the work order and goes to the site to conduct a needs assessment.  The technician either fixes the issue, orders appropriate parts or involves other trades to assist in the completion of the job.
Once complete, an email is sent to the person who generated the work order with a request to verify that the work is complete.  Once the originator is satisfied, the campus designee can “close” the work order in the  WORK system.

How de we prevent or handle drugs on campus?
All of our high schools and five of our middle schools have the specialized position of STAN Intervention Counselors. These STAN counselors receive additional training including drug prevention and intervention strategies. They do preventative guidance with classes at their campuses, provide parent training, and they serve as trainers and resources for Safe and Drug Free Campus contacts (a counselor from each campus). Additionally, STAN counselors do recovery groups with students who have used drugs and work with their families to help them connect with community resources that help the student and family beyond the school day. At all levels, counselors are provided training for helping students learn positive strategies for dealing with stress and anxiety, which can frequently be the impetus for students to begin to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. At NEISD high schools, there are a number of student groups whose purpose is to empower students to be a positive influence to their peers. One such student group is Winner’s Circle, an empowerment club made up of students who are committed to staying drug free and promoting healthier choices in peer situations. Another organization at each secondary campus is Peer Assistance Leadership and Service (PALS). The PALS program is another significant influence that recognizes the power of youth as a catalyst for change. PALS are positive role models who develop trusting relationships with other students in a way that helps youth resist negative influences (such as drug abuse or bullying). Beyond these district resources, campuses have a great deal of autonomy to establish other initiatives that best fit their student populations.

School consequences for students involved with drugs on school property can range from a placement at the District Discipline Alternative Center to an expulsion from the district. This information is located in the District Student Code of Conduct and can be accessed via the District website at http://www.neisd.net/pupil/studenthb.html. There is also a link to the District Student/Parent Handbook on Parent Portal.

What are the biggest challenges that school districts face in general?
Among the issues school districts face are a need for increased parent engagement, inaccurate perceptions from the community, school funding and the changing discipline concerns as it relates to social media.

How do I best keep track of bills in the legislature that have to deal with education?
The Texas Legislature Online website at www.capitol.state.tx.us is the main resource of information about bills, committees and members. You can also watch video broadcasts of public hearings. The MyTLO feature on the site allows you to track bills and receive alerts.The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan media source for public policy, politics, government and statewide issues available at www.texastribune.org. The PTA Under the Dome newsletter provides legislative information on Texas PTA Priorities. You can sign up for the newsletter at https://app.e2ma.net/app2/audience/signup/1768473/1715664/?v=a.

How does the school district feel about the new A-F accountability ratings designed by the state?
See Web story HERE.

The following questions were asked at the Johnson High School Coffee Talk Q&A (Nov. 2, 2016) and answered by District staff.

New School
Are there plans for a new elementary school? When and where?
There are no plans currently in the works for a new elementary school.  The District does owns property next to Hill Middle School and also near Gold Canyon/Rosehart where one could be built pending need; however, this will require voter approval of a future bond initiative.

Career and Technical Education
Can you talk about NEISD Career Tech courses and what the District is doing to expand on them?
In 2011 about 10,700 students accessed Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses in North East ISD. This year (2016-17) we are estimating close to 15,000 students will be accessing North East ISD CTE courses. North East ISD has spent the last few years building programs of study that are rigorous and create a pathway for students to follow that link to in demand career fields. Examples of these programs include engineering, automotive, education, business, marketing, health science, and information technology. For a full list of all the programs offered throughout the district as of the 2015-16 school year please click here:  http://www.neisd.net/career/docs/EndorsementStudyGuide_FINAL4_2015.pdf

Beginning the 2017-18 school year, Career and Technical Education will be potentially adding programs of study in

  • Diesel Technology Academy (9th -12th)
  • Aeronautics and Aircraft Maintenance (pending approval of contract) (11th-12th)

Beginning the 2018-19 school year, Career and Technical Education will be potentially adding programs of study in:

  • Construction Technology Academy (9th-12th)
    • Construction
    • HVAC
    • Electrical
    • Plumbing
    • Welding
  • Medical Technology Academy (11th-12th)
    • Certified Nurse Aid
    • Phlebotomy
    • Dental Assisting
    • Medical Aid
    • Pharmacy Technician

If you have any additional questions about Career and Technical Education at North East ISD, please free to contact Johnny Vahalik in the CTE department through email, jvahal@neisd.net, or by phone at (210) 407-0362.

Bond Projects
Where we can find information and timelines on the 2015 bond projects?
Visit the following NEISD website for timelines and information. http://www.neisd.net/constr/bonds/2015/index.html

What do you think about charter schools and how do you think it affects NEISD?
As a superintendent, I realize that parents have choice. I have visited one-on-one with parents who have left for charter schools to understand their reasons for seeking another option, and I’ve seen many families come back to NEISD after being in a charter environment. I do find it troubling that the state is funding duplicate services. We already have a system of neighborhood public schools to educate our children, and when a public charter school opens next door to one, those costs are redundant. If that neighborhood public school is not performing up to expectations, the parents, taxpayers, and state should hold that school and school board accountable rather than just moving their students and funds somewhere else. We need to invest in our schools to make them better. I am also concerned when a charter school’s enrollment isn’t similar to the neighborhood public school when charters are also public and required to be open to all students. We need to be cautious that we are not creating a system of elitism where some students go to charters and others are “left behind” in neighborhood public schools. NEISD is seeing an impact from charter schools opening in our district boundaries and around the city. The expansion affects our enrollment and ultimately the availability of resources.

The following questions were asked at the Reagan Coffee Talk Q&A (Oct. 12, 2016) and answered by District staff.

Graduation Plans
Why are children of the same parent on different graduation plans. Why is that and what do you see for the future?
Passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013, HB 5 initiated substantial changes to the curriculum requirements for high school graduation in Texas. The legislation replaced the existing graduation programs, the minimum high school program, the recommended high school and the distinguished achievement high school program, with the Foundation High School Program and included the option for students to earn endorsements, a distinguished level of achievement and performance acknowledgements within the new program. To receive a high school diploma, a student entering Grade 9 in the 2014-2015 school year and thereafter will graduate under the Foundation High School Program. Students who entered grade 9 prior to 2014-2015 have other graduation requirements.

Textbooks
How does the District choose textbooks?
The State Board of Education (SBOE) creates an adoption cycle for subjects in the Foundation Curriculum (including social studies) to ensure the materials are reviewed once every eight years. The SBOE uses a proclamation process to call for new instructional materials. The proclamation lists the subject areas scheduled for review and outlines adoption procedures and requirements for publishers. The SBOE solicits recommendations from the Texas Education Agency to inform their decision making. Ultimately, the SBOE determines which materials are adopted or rejected for the state. Following the SBOE’s decision, each school district sets their own policy for selecting instructional materials. School districts are allowed to consider instructional materials on the SBOE’s approved list and other instructional resources. In North East ISD, teacher committees are formed in each grade level or course adopting a textbook (hardback and/or digital). The teacher committee includes one representative from each campus. Parents are invited to serve on committees and provide feedback on instructional resources. The teacher textbook committee reviews the resources by applying a predetermined rubric which includes evaluations of:· alignment to state standards (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills – TEKS)· technological compatibility· cost per studentA publisher hearing is held to allow all teachers an opportunity to evaluate the textbook, interface with publishers, and provide feedback. A recommendation from the committee is taken to a district level Instructional Materials Allotment Committee to ensure that the recommendation adheres to purchasing guidelines set by the state. Finally, a recommendation is made to the Board of Trustees. A typical instructional materials review process will take six months to one year. North East ISD does not utilize a textbook-driven curriculum. A textbook serves as one of many instructional resources available to teachers.

Sex Education
Is parent feedback considered in the adoption of the District's new sex education curriculum?
Parent feedback was requested through the School Health Advisory Council made up of District staff and community members. After their input was received, the current curriculum was adopted.

Ranking
Students that spend time in extracurricular activities are expected to spend a lot of time in those activities. Has it ever been considered to add a multiplier for those?
NEISD has always been, and will continue to be deeply committed to its extra-curricular activities. Courses that receive a rank multiplier are courses that are vertically aligned to Advanced Placement (AP) courses or are considered Gifted and Talented (GT) courses. As a result, NEISD has not considered adding a multiplier to extracurricular activities.

Water Prices
The price of water bottles is $1 in schools. Why is it so much?
NEISD provides free pourable water and cups to all students in the cafeteria. Bottled water is priced based on costs to the district. This year the student price for 16 ounce bottles of water is $0.90.

Operations
What is the District doing to explore options to reduce the cost of utilities?
The Facility Maintenance Department maintains standard temperature set points and operating schedules for heating and air conditioning through the district-wide energy management and control system. These set points and schedules are approved by Executive Staff.
The Facility Maintenance Department conducts an on-going program of commissioning existing campus energy systems. It is a continuous process of monitoring energy data by measuring and trending equipment settings, status and building conditions that focus on identifying and implementing operational improvements that optimize operating efficiency and occupant comfort while reducing energy usage and costs.
Over the last five years, electricity usage per square foot of building floor area has been reduced by 12.7% resulting in an avoided cost savings of $1.7 million dollars per year in electricity charges and, it is 7.5% lower than the commercial benchmark average for schools in our climate zone.

Homework
Why is there disparity between schools when it comes to homework required?
Research is inconsistent in regard to the benefits of homework. Some experts, including Alfie Kohn and Timothy Naughton state that there is no benefit to giving homework and that there is no correlation between academic achievement and homework. Other experts, such as Harris Cooper and Ronald LaConte suggest that homework is a good tool, which can be quite beneficial if approached as part of a focused strategy for increasing understanding. In NEISD, homework is assigned at the teacher’s discretion to help students master the content by providing an opportunity for extra practice and/or to extend the learning. Teachers use classroom and individual student data to make determinations as to the quantity and frequency of homework. As such, homework may vary from course to course and campus to campus. Regulations for homework in NEISD secondary schools can be found at: http://www.neisd.net/curriculum/CurComp/GradingandReportingRegulations.html

Exemptions
Can we look at District policy to see if exemption rules can be changed for extreme circumstances like prolonged illnesses?
During the summer of 2016 every high school principal attended a meeting to discuss the current Exam Exemption Policy. During that conversation hospitalizations and/or documented serious illnesses were discussed. Each high school will assign a committee to consider all appeals to the Exam Exemption Policy with respect to this topic.

Top 10
Why don’t universities consider that different high schools have different top 10 percent groups and degrees of competitiveness within the schools?
According to CollegeBoard there are many factors that influence admission decisions. Factors include, but not limited to, courses taken, grades received, class rank, standardized test scores, personal statements and essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities and/or interviews. NEISD cannot influence colleges or universities in any way as to the perceived competitiveness of a high school.

Bus Service
Can you explain how the decision is made as to who can receive bus transportation?
State guidelines stipulate that a student may be eligible for school bus transportation services who lives two or more miles from the student’s campus of regular attendance; measured from an established landmark at the student’s campus and an established landmark at the student’s legal residence. Additionally, we use calibrated equipment installed in vehicles to measure the distance over public roadways between the nearest property line of student’s residence to the attending campus’ landmark to determine the eligibility for services to further comply with applicable guidelines.

Posted on 09/27/2016