During two Central Support Staff Meetings on Wednesday, Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson and other district administrators presented information to employees about Spring ISD’s new Leadership Definition framework, as well as updates on the district’s 2021-22 budget planning process, COVID-19 trends in Spring ISD and nearby districts, and general highlights and notes leading into the final quarter of the 2020-21 school year.
Held online due to continuing safety protocols prohibiting large in-person gatherings inside district facilities, the virtual meetings gave Spring ISD leaders a chance to speak with Central Support employees about the district’s new Leadership Definition and how it can serve as a guide for staff members at every level of the organization, regardless of their role.
“Leadership matters,” said Chief of Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability Dr. Julie Hill. “It always has and it always will, and here in Spring ISD every employee is a leader.”
Developed as part of Spring ISD’s ongoing partnership with The Holdsworth Center to strengthen and develop leadership pipelines and nurture leadership potential across the district, Hill said the Leadership Definition will offer a template and guide to behaviors that support excellent and equitable outcomes for students.
Rather than replacing the guiding principles and core values already in place in the district’s strategic plan, the new Leadership Definition – broken down broadly into the categories of Outcome-Driven, Service-Oriented and Relationship-Centered behaviors – instead provides a day-to-day reference and a template to promote a shared Spring ISD vision.
“It creates a common language for leadership here in Spring ISD,” Hill said. “We want our Spring ISD Leadership Definition to become ingrained in our culture.”
Later in the meeting, Watson recognized individual employees who had been nominated for their commitment to strong outcomes for students and the district, and for helping to exemplify the outcome-driven qualities built into the Leadership Definition.
- Stephanie Vann, Curriculum & Instruction, was recognized for her focus on putting students first since her arrival in Spring ISD. Although new to the district this year, Vann was praised for jumping right in and making a difference and consistently going above and beyond in her role as a math curriculum specialist. Whether serving as a model teacher, covering classrooms as needed, or supporting the implementation of the district’s curriculum in the classroom, Watson described Vann as “someone who continuously looks for opportunities to grow her own expertise and deepen her understanding of the goals of Spring ISD so that she can carry them out in everything she does.”
- Norma Rodriguez, Performing & Visual Arts, was honored for all the ways she works to support students and the district’s performing and visual arts programs. From helping students apply for scholarships, to working with teachers across various arts curriculums, to learning new content areas to increase her own skills and further her ability to support others, Rodriguez was praised for her dedicated and passionate support of performing and visual arts across the district, including her many efforts to support continuing arts education during the pandemic. “Whether it’s visual art, band, theater, dance, or choir,” Watson said Rodriguez continually “worked hard to serve the needs of the entire PVA community and make sure students stay creative.”
- Keya Warfield, Transportation, was recognized for her dedication as a Spring ISD bus driver, and in particular for her response after an equipment failure caused a wheel to detach from the bus she was driving. Watson praised Warfield’s skilled response, which allowed her to keep control of the situation and maneuver the vehicle to a safe location. A potentially dangerous situation was mitigated by Warfield’s ability “to stay focused, use her training and put safety above everything else,” Watson said. “For that, we’d like to recognize Keya Warfield for being outcome-driven and student-focused and rising to the moment to ensure the safety of those in her care.”
- Carlos Morales, Transportation, was also singled out for his cool-headed response in averting a crisis when the bus he was driving on Interstate 45 with six students on board experienced a failure on one of its front tires. Maintaining his composure, Morales safely maneuvered the bus into the emergency lane while avoiding heavy traffic around him. “Because of his skills as a driver and composure during this incident, none of his passengers were injured,” said Watson, adding that Morales’ focus on student safety in a potentially dangerous situation “exemplifies the student-focused behavior we desire of all of our employees.”
- Carla Jones-Wiley, 21st Century CLC, was praised for her outcome-driven approach in her role as the district’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program Director. Watson noted that Taylor Wiley and her team have brought positive recognition to Spring ISD, both locally and at the state level, including earning the highest score possible on the Texas ACE Quality Assurance Process Analysis and producing a range of positive outcomes stemming from the program’s work with area students. He also noted how Taylor-Wiley was sharing best practices – both within the district and at the state level – to help replicate these successes and promote even greater positive impact from the 21st Century program.
- Kimberly Jackson, Child Nutrition, was honored as an exemplar of being able to adapt to change in her position as a Child Nutrition Area Supervisor. Watson described how Jackson had quickly risen to the challenge when asked to help manage the development of policies and procedures for concessions operations at the new Planet Ford Stadium in 2020. Jackson “was quickly able to pivot to new responsibilities to support our students and our district,” said Watson, praising Jackson’s approach to the task and her ability to work with all involved employees to create the best system possible. “As a leader, she is supportive, provides clear expectations to those on her team, and is responsive when challenges come her way,” Watson said. “That type of focus and adaptability is a model of outcome-driven leadership.”
- Jeremy “Chewy” Vanderburg, Distribution Services, was recognized for his contributions, especially over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, in his role as distribution center foreman. Watson explained how the foreman had implemented cross-functional training to help the department stay responsive and effective even with the challenges of staffing shortages in the Distribution Center. Watson said Vanderburg had “shown ingenuity, creativity and grit, doing whatever it takes to meet customer expectations.” Whether handling requests for PPE resupply or managing the ongoing day-to-day needs of Spring ISD campuses, Watson said Vanderburg and his team hadn’t skipped a beat. “Some people shy away from challenges in the face of adversity, others step up and face those challenges head on,” the superintendent said, calling Vanderburg “an example to all of us that no challenge is too great when we pull together, support one another and win as a team.”
- Ann Green, Spring ISD Police Department, was honored for her work as Spring ISD Police Department Telecommunications Manager, and for driving changes to improve the efficiency of the department and a number of its standard operating procedures and processes. Watson thanked Green for several of her recent contributions, including efforts to ensure better tracking of police activity and calls for service, with safeguards to ensure that all incidents are well documented for improved records management. Green was credited as someone who is “truly outcome-driven,” who had “contributed greatly to the culture within the department’s Telecommunications Center, including boosting performance and developing new systems to better support the work of patrol units,” Watson said.
- Pete Lares, Communications, was recognized for regularly embodying outcome-driven behavior in his work as district web specialist on the Communications team. The superintendent thanked Lares for his work on a number of high-visibility and high-reach projects, including oversight of campus websites and the Blackboard Mass Notifications tool regularly used to communicate with parents and staff members. Watson highlighted Lares for his careful attention to data and detail-oriented approach to projects. “As someone who is dedicated to supporting others and always providing consistent and responsive support to campuses, he is truly someone who makes a difference behind the scenes so that others can shine,” Watson said.
- Mark Relford, Building Operations, a longtime manager and dedicated district employee with more than 30 years in Spring ISD, was recognized for his continuing leadership and strong support of the building operations crews he oversees. Specifically, Relford was praised for his efforts over the course of the past year to ensure building staff have had the support and resources needed to keep campuses clean and safe. “In response to the many practical challenges involved in keeping schools safe in the middle of a pandemic, he has been instrumental in re-writing cleaning protocols for disinfecting campuses to comply with COVID-19 response plans,” Watson said. “Through all of this he has maintained a heightened focus on students and staff and safety.”
Watson also offered special thanks to Spring ISD Police Chief Ken Culbreath for his leadership and oversight during the district’s COVID-19 response. In reflecting on all that had happened since the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 forced the initial closure of area campuses, Watson took a moment to thank all employees for their service and perseverance throughout the pandemic.
“Thank you to each of you for supporting our communities, supporting our kids, supporting each other, going above and beyond,” Watson said. “I know we’re by no means out of the pandemic, but we are by no means where we were a year ago.”