July 9th, 2012
Dear Gonzales ISD School and Community Family,
As we end a great year, we begin another. The summer months are busy with activities that directly affect school year 2012-2013. We are busy hiring new personnel, projecting a budget, completing construction, learning new approaches in all areas and examining instructional interventions and curriculum resources. Steven Covey coined the phrase, "Begin with the end in mind." This statement is pertinent to us in all of these areas.
We are a strong team of professionals in GISD. I commend faculty and staff accomplishments and thank all for a job well done! I am exited each time that I witness the dedication and commitment exemplified by staff committed to our district for years of services from 5 to over 40 years. We recently held our end of year recognition ceremony where we recognized approximately 30 people for these years of service. Additionally, we honored our retirees, who dedicated years to education and served students from 21-40 years throughout their careers. We were able to name employees of the year selected by each campus and department for exemplary service to our children. We named Teachers of the Year, recognizing Ruby Ruth Rodriguez, who was also a retiree, from East Avenue, Angela Zumwalt from Gonzales Elementary, Van Ney from North Avenue Intermediate, Sherry Simper from Gonzales Jr. High and Karen Fougerat from Gonzales High School. We are honored to support Karen Fougerat and Angela Zumwalt as they advance to the Regional level to represent GISD in the Regional Teacher of the Year selection process. It is always special to remember our staff for the commitment and dedication to our district. Additionally, we have hired new personnel who come to us with strong experiences that we are confident will complement our current strengths in performance, and bring a wealth of knowledge and excitement to our school system in the coming school year.
We are making financial projections. Budget work is well underway as we move forward in making projections. Land values have increased as you would have expected with the current oil and gas activity. This has a direct effect on school district revenues. At this time, we are projecting GISD to be named a Chapter 41 school district for the 2013-14 fiscal year. What this means for us is that we will receive increased revenue for 2012-13. When determining school district funding it is always important to look ahead at future funding projections. If GISD continues to see land values increase, state funding decreases. If all holds true, we will eventually see limited to no revenue from the state. In the past, GISD was predominantly funded by state dollars at approximately 70% with local and federal dollars making up the balance. As a future Chapter 41 district, local dollars will fund the district. As a result of higher property values we must work to lower the tax rate to what is termed an effective rate. This will essentially assist us in balancing the increased revenue. If we surpass what the state deems the district must have to operate based on the 2005 tax rate for the district, the district will have to send money to the state. You may have heard of the Robin Hood term in the past. This is essentially what that means. So as we complete a budget for 2012-2013, we must anticipate how our decisions could affect us two years in the future.
We are currently completing Phase 3 construction projects. We are excited to see the progress each day. We look forward to the completion of the major projects including increased cafeteria space and the bus drive at East Avenue, the canopy at Gonzales Elementary, and the gym and classroom space at North Avenue. Additionally, we watch our student enrollment numbers grow each year. Our classroom space in our schools is at or within a classroom or two of capacity. This year as we study the projected demographics for our county and school district, we will be thinking of current needs and district needs in the coming years. Decisions that we make now will affect GISD for the next 20-30 years.
We are continuous learners. Staff development is a highly important piece to offering the very best in educational service to our students. This summer our leadership team has attended an Administrators' Academy and will take part in advanced training focused on Response to Intervention (RTI) aimed at meeting the needs of specific gaps in performance for individual students, CSCOPE which is our foundation curriculum providing alignment between grade levels and content areas, and a book study supported by our belief in lifelong learning.
This year one of the books our team will study is the Jim Collins' book entitled Good to Great in which Collins describes the major indicators of organizations that make the transition to becoming leaders in their professions outperforming similar organizations. The other book is written by John Maxwell and is entitled The Right to Lead. This particular book describes characteristics of great leaders of the past. While we believe that the biggest difference in a child's education at school is made by the classroom teacher. We also know from many studies, and in the Collins findings as well, the leader is the key indicator and influence in becoming great at what we do in our profession. We have great leaders in our district. I commend our school board for their leadership expertise and support of our school system. I believe in our principals and directors for their work in supporting and providing for the resources necessary for teachers and staff to meet student needs. Our quest for always offering excellence and outperforming the norm will be a continual endeavor as standards change. Our motto Our Students, Our Focus, Our Future drives our challenge to go from "good to great".
Instructionally speaking we have incorporated change in many ways to our curriculum recently. Our reading performance is paramount to student success. If you have ever heard the concept that during the school years, students in Pre-Kindergarten through 3rd grade are learning to read; while students in 4th-12th grade are reading to learn, there is some correlation; however, students never completely stop learning to read. Continuous reading at anytime, any opportunity and any age will make a strong reader out of anyone. However, the focus to learn basic reading skills still rules in the primary and elementary grades. We work to strengthen the basics with our young students by incorporating a Balanced Literacy Model. This type of approach focuses instruction on phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency and phonemic awareness.
Last year, in order to support phonics, our young readers, beginning with Pre-Kindergarten were afforded another learning/strengthening strategy for knowledge of letters and sounds with Zoo Phonics. See website at http://www.zoo-phonics.com/. Additionally, we are using a guided reading program written by Fountas and Pinnell. These authors have researched methodologies supporting individual students in learning to read. The program supports a balanced literacy approach and provides an overview on leveled readers and the authors at http://www.heinemann.com/authors/2595.aspx . Students are reading leveled readers with progressive levels of difficulty according to a monitoring system designed for the individual by a system entitled Rigby PM Benchmark. You can read about the system at the following site: http://rigby.hmhco.com/en/resources/result_c.htm?ca=Research%3a+Foundational&SRC1=5
. Of course, among other supplemental resources and interventions, Accelerated Reader and Read Naturally have also been used to strengthen new knowledge. This year we piloted the use of iPADS in the first grade. When instruction in reading was supported with technology applications, reading results improved significantly. We plan to expand and continue the use of iPADS for technology integration in the classroom.
We had a lot to catch up on! Thanks always for allowing me this opportunity to share with you! Be sure to check out the district website for teacher recognitions and other updates. Currently, there have been a few minor changes to the dress code. Please know that as we plan ahead in GISD, we will continually be reflecting on how what we do will best serve our students in the end. We have so much to be proud of in GISD. Our vision is EXCELLENCE FOR ALL.
Kimberly A. Strozier, Ed. D.
Gonzales ISD Superintendent of Schools