Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa hosted the first Central Support Staff Meetings of 2022 on Wednesday at the Spring ISD Community Engagement Center.
The meetings – one in the morning and the other in the afternoon – were not only the first of the new calendar year, but also the first since Hinojosa began her new role as the district’s first-ever Hispanic female superintendent.
During each meeting, Hinojosa emphasized the importance for all employees – at every level of the district – of building strong relationships and practicing relationship-centered leadership, in keeping with elements of Spring ISD’s Leadership Definition.
“If you want to go fast, go alone,” Hinojosa said, referencing the words of an African proverb. “But if we want to go far, we must go together. As Spring ISD, we want to go far. We want to go far for you all as employees, but most important, we want to go far for our kids. So let’s do it together!”
As the district continues to weather the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – including on student learning, district enrollment and teacher retention – the superintendent during her remarks challenged central support staff members to find ways to re-engage with their own sense of mission and purpose, to look for opportunities to meaningfully empower themselves and others, and to kindle a greater sense of joy in the work they do to support Spring ISD’s campuses and students.
Hinojosa encouraged staff to reflect on how their individual roles connect to the district’s strategic plan, Every Student—Every Teacher—Every Day, and how their own jobs support the plan’s broader strategic priorities, including Student Outcomes, Equity, Well-Being, Leadership, Opportunities, and Engagement. The superintendent also noted the important work being done across every department as the end of the 2021-22 academic year approaches.
“We want to make sure that we finish strong,” Hinojosa said. “We’re going to stay focused, and we’re going to be strong. We’re going to end this year strong – for our kids, for our district, and ultimately for our community.”
During the meeting, employees also learned about work underway to develop the district’s 2022-23 budget, with Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks going over some of the factors and challenges impacting the upcoming budget cycle.
She explained that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the district had lowered some expenditures and found ways to conserve funds, leading to savings. But Westbrooks also explained that lower student enrollment numbers since the start of the pandemic – a factor for many districts both across Texas and throughout the country – are in turn affecting district revenues, which are closely tied to student enrollment and attendance.
Spring ISD Police Chief Ken Culbreath also spoke during the meetings, providing staff with an update on district safety and security and highlighting efforts by the Spring ISD Police Department to support campuses on a day-to-day basis while also responding proactively to incidents when they arise.
He discussed several current and upcoming initiatives for the department, including enhanced investigative capabilities, implementation of new crime prevention and crime displacement efforts, and a community policing strategy aimed at building stronger connections with the communities that surround Spring ISD’s schools, together with those living in them.
Hinojosa returned to the podium near the end of each meeting to answer questions and to recognize several outstanding employees who had been nominated by their departments for displaying the hallmarks of relationship-centered leadership in support of the district’s work.
- Kristen Cobb, Communications, was honored for her efforts to build trust with both internal and external Spring ISD stakeholders, utilizing her strong relationship-building and communication skills to share important stories and news with the community. “As a member of our district’s Communications team, she is well known to many of you as a trusted point person on many, many projects and district priorities,” Hinojosa said. “As our Leadership Definition says, she demonstrates honesty and ethics in her interactions with others, and builds a collaborative and inclusive culture that values the contributions of all.”
- Wynetta Brown, Transportation, was recognized for her outstanding leadership skills and dedicated efforts as a Special Education bus driver. “It gives me great joy today to be able to recognize one of our wonderful Spring ISD bus drivers,” Hinojosa said. Hailed for her professionalism and positive attitude, Brown was also celebrated for building strong service-oriented relationships with students and families. In particular, Hinojosa recounted a recent situation where Brown volunteered to drive an alternate route for several weeks specifically to support a Richey Academy student during a challenging transition to a new school. Hinojosa thanked Brown for “always leading by example.”
- Faye Trimmer, Transportation, was recognized for her contributions as a Special Education bus attendant. In addition to her ongoing work with new attendants – mentoring them and training them to do the job with care and compassion – Trimmer was also singled out for joining fellow Transportation employee and bus driver Wynetta Brown to help a student manage the transition to a new, longer route to a new school. “We know our bus drivers literally go the extra mile everyday on behalf of students, and it is doubly the case with these two special employees,” Hinojosa said. “It means so much to our students, to their families, and to our district.”
- Kelsi Robinson, Child Nutrition, was singled out for the many ways she supports the department and the district through her work as a dietician. In addition to training staff and working to meet the unique needs of students, Robinson was also praised for her efforts to keep families informed. “Strong lines of communication with the public are more important for our district than ever, and she has more than stepped up to meet the challenge,” Hinojosa said, also noting Robinson’s ongoing management of hundreds of individual special diets for students with severe food allergies and disabilities.
- Corinne Smith, Performing & Visual Arts (PVA), was recognized for exemplifying the Relationship-Centered competency of the district’s Leadership Definition while effectively seeing her department through a staff shortage lasting most of the current school year. In addition to supporting the Performing and Visual Arts leadership as the department secretary, Smith also supported over 170 PVA teachers across the district, building trust and strong relationships between campuses and central office. “Through it all, she kept her department going strong,” Hinojosa said, “getting the job done in an honest, thorough and timely manner, while always remaining ready for a new challenge.”