Video: Building Stronger Middle Schools – Superintendent’s Listening Tour
HOUSTON – Sept. 18, 2018 – Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson kicked off his middle school listening tour on Tuesday with a visit to Bailey Middle School where he heard from fourth- and fifth-grade elementary parents about how they would like district middle schools to be improved and strengthened.
“We want to make sure we’re doing the things you need us to do in the middle schools,” Watson said. “We want to get your feedback as we re-envision what we do.”
The Bailey visit marked the first of six middle school visits over the next three weeks. A representative group of parents from each of the surrounding elementary schools is being assembled to provide feedback in hour-long sessions that include a superintendent presentation.
Watson announced the listening tour on Sept. 11 at the Board of Trustees meeting, where he outlined the importance of a districtwide focus on middle schools. “This is a big priority for us because our data shows that some of our families are opting out of our middle schools,” he told the trustees.
Specifically, the annual opt-out rate since 2012-13 has been about five percent each year based on enrollment data. Survey data also shows a drop in the number of parents rating their child’s school as excellent or good from elementary to middle schools.
The tour drew support from the trustees who applauded the superintendent for looking at ways to strengthen the middle school program, especially as the district moves forward on its 2016 bond program that is building a replacement campus for Roberson Middle School and funding a new Middle School No. 8 near Northgate Crossing Elementary. In addition, the district has been looking at adding a new specialty middle school, known informally as Middle School No. 9.
Trustee Justine Durant said she’s looking forward to seeing the results from the middle school listening tour, which the superintendent plans to present to the board in November. “That is our area of opportunity, and we’re putting a strong focus on it,” Durant said.
On Tuesday, Watson heard plenty of ideas and recommendations from the 16 or so parents at Bailey Middle School. Among the top concerns of the group were safety, academics, teacher quality, parent communications, and overcrowding in the classrooms.
Burchett Elementary PTO President Sarah Welsh said she’d like to see the middle schools be more welcoming and inclusive of parents. In addition, she said there needs to be more structures and supervision to keep an orderly and safe environment, especially in the hallways.
In talking about how they would like the district’s middle schools to be, parents used words like collaborative, supportive and proactive. They also discussed wanting more security, commitment and community.
As the district embarks on strengthening its middle school offerings, Bailey Middle School Principal George Flores said he welcomes all the feedback.
“I’m hoping that the parents feel like this is providing a platform for them to express their opinions about the experience they want their students to have in the middle school,” he said.
At his campus, he said he’s already working to recruit and retain students by building a sense of belonging through unique clubs and extracurricular activities. “We’re offering speech and debate, photography and a gardening club,” he said.“Those are the kinds of things we are trying to do to keep our students engaged in our community, Flores said.”
Parent La’Shonte Williams, a parent of two Booker Elementary students, said her main concerns were around safety and social interactions. “If students don’t feel safe, how can learning happen?” she said.
She said middle schools should focus on building better communications and relationships with their students and families so that everyone feels welcome. “Parents need to be as involved as they were in elementary school,” Williams said. “The students want that and they need that.”
She said she was glad the superintendent was taking the time to hold a listening tour. “This is good,” she said. “It’s a start. It’s been proactive.”
Another parent, Sandra Perez, agreed. “It feels very inclusive,” she said. “We should do this more often.”
Spring ISD parents of a fourth- or fifth-grader who would like to take part in the superintendent’s listening tour, are welcome to participate and are asked to let the district know they are interested by calling 281-891-6696.
The dates and times of the remaining meetings are as follows:
September 20, 4 p.m.
Bammel Middle School
16711 Ella Blvd., Houston 77090
September 24, 4 p.m.
Claughton Middle School
3000 Spears Rd., Houston 77067
September 25, 9 a.m.
Dueitt Middle School
1 Eagle Crossing, Spring 77373
October 2, 4 p.m.
Wells Middle School
4033 Gladeridge Dr., Houston 77068
October 3, 9 a.m.
Twin Creeks Middle School
27100 Old Cypresswood Dr., Spring 77373