Spring ISD held its final Central Support Staff meetings for the 2021-22 school year on Wednesday at the Spring ISD Community Engagement Center.
The two meetings were an opportunity for Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa to provide staff with information about the transition into the new school year and discuss priorities for the upcoming year, as well as to update employees on the Spring ISD Board of Trustees’ recent vote approving a new compensation plan for the district for 2022-23 that will impact employees throughout Spring ISD.
“I want you to be empowered to take action, to stand up, to do what you need to do for the district and for our students,” Hinojosa said, “and for us to be empowered we need to have information, to know our ‘why’ and to know what’s happening in the district, so that you can take action and make decisions.”
Hinojosa briefly discussed the ongoing development of the district’s new strategic plan, set to launch officially later this year. Included in the plan are six strategic priorities she said would guide Spring ISD’s work over the next five years: Student Outcomes, which she described as the district’s foundational commitment; Equity, including ensuring excellent outcomes for every single student; Well-Being, for both students and staff; Leadership, including developing strong leadership pipelines and enhancing professional development; Opportunities, which will encompass the continued strengthening of both the district’s traditional academic programs and its schools of choice; and Engagement.
Hinojosa paired the last strategic priority, Engagement, with a theme she has emphasized ever since becoming superintendent – Joy. In particular, she told employees that, while joy ultimately comes from within and can’t be dictated, nevertheless we all have the power to help spread joy through day-to-day actions and attitudes.
“Keep being intentional about that joy,” Hinojosa said, “intentional about that joy in you, and then intentional about asking, ‘What can I do to bring joy to someone else?’ That’s how we’re going to find that joy and help it grow.”
She also explained that, for the 2022-23 school year, the district would focus with particular intensity on three main areas critical for Spring ISD to achieve its mission in service to the community.
“Next year,” Hinojosa said, “we’re focusing on student achievement – because that’s why we’re in the business of education – along with staff retention and our district culture.”
The other main presentation came from Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks, who talked about the three-year pay study conducted by the district in conjunction with the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB). She also offered an overview of the retention and recruitment measures recently approved by the Board of Trustees, including how the measures would affect various employee groups across the district and how the new compensation plan relates to the district’s overall budget and its budget forecast over the next several years.
“We’ve been working with TASB now for three years,” Westbrooks said, “They take all of our salary information for all of our employees and they rank us against 15 other area districts. They rank us not only against those districts, but there are some jobs where they also have to look at the general market. So, if you’re in Technology, yes we’re looking at Technology positions with other school districts, but we’re also looking at Technology positions in industry, because it’s all relevant to those decisions.”
Following on the three-year TASB study, targeting teacher recruitment and retention remains a top priority – especially, Westbrooks explained, under the current circumstances faced by school districts across the country, where many teachers have retired or left the profession since the start of the pandemic. However, she noted that Spring ISD is also working to promote pay parity across the wide range of roles and job types represented within the district.
The general pay increases are targeted by employment category and pay grade, and will be based on salary midpoints within each position’s pay grade. Thus, while all employees in the district will see increases next year, the impacts will be greater for individuals in some roles than in others, and will help promote greater parity within specific roles and pay grades by raising salaries a greater percentage for those employees currently making the least within their specific pay grade.
“On average, our paraprofessionals are getting an 11% raise,” Westbrooks said. “That’s huge.”
Westbrooks told employees to be on the lookout for a query tool – available soon through the staff portal – which will allow current employees to find out how the general pay increases would affect them individually.
After Westbrooks’ presentation, Hinojosa returned to the mic to help answer questions submitted ahead of time by staff members, and to recognize several outstanding employees nominated by their departments for exemplifying the district’s Leadership Definition in their work.
- Carolyn Sarpy, Distribution Services, was recognized for her exemplary performance and her commitment to her team. Sarpy is a resource for coworkers and for the Distribution Services Department’s customers across the district, collaborating with departments and campuses. Sarpy was also praised for taking new staff under her wing and supporting their development.
- Marissa Allen, a Home Instructor in the Family and Community Engagement Department, was recognized for going above and beyond to support the mental and emotional well-being of those she serves. During a home visit, a parent expressed concerns that raised red flags for Allen, who jumped into action, connecting the parent with the Community Youth Services team the same day. Allen then went the extra mile, staying in contact with the parent over the coming days to make certain they were doing okay and that they had access to the resources they needed.
- Mike King, Technology, was honored for his “collaborative spirit, integrity, and all-around positive attitude, no matter the need or the task,” as Hinojosa said. She praised King for always bringing the “heart of a servant; a generous spirit; and a wonderful, contagious smile.” Often working long hours behind the scenes, Hinojosa described King as taking pride in his work and consistently building strong relationships with stakeholders.
- Jack Kenreck, Facility Safety, was recognized for embodying the Spring ISD Leadership Definition while taking on a new role in the district. Known for his honesty and ethics in daily interactions, Kenreck is also accessible to teammates and campus staff members, seeking ways to streamline processes and promote accountability for himself and others. Hinojosa praised Kenreck for displaying empathy and understanding when serving campus principals, and described how teammates can always count on him for assistance.
- Officer Charles Roberts, Spring ISD Police Department, was recognized for his student-focused approach as an officer stationed at the Westfield High School 9th Grade Center. Roberts was praised for prioritizing student success and for engaging with students on campus, finding out what they have going on in their lives, attending special campus celebrations, and providing words of encouragement to students, Hinojosa said Officer Roberts displayed a commitment to being service-oriented and relationship-centered, and was also empowering others through his role training new officers.
- Jason Sheffer, Director of Board Services, was honored for being a “key player” whose work is often done behind the scenes. Describing “a quiet manner and a big heart, a patient listener who takes the time to understand the needs of others and respond intelligently and skillfully to meet the need,” Hinojosa said Sheffer took extra steps to make certain that the needs of others were taken into consideration, “showing real compassion as well as grace under pressure.”