As the sun barely peeked over the horizon, a line of Spring ISD police cars started their engines and, one by one, turned on their headlights to begin rolling out to campuses across the district – a clear signal that safety and security for the 2022-23 school year is at the forefront.
“Our officers have spent their entire summer making sure that we were prepared to offer safe learning environments,” Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa said after meeting with the officers early Tuesday morning for their roll call. “I just wanted to, first and foremost, make sure that I thanked our officers for everything they do – and to let them know that without them, we couldn’t do what we do.”
Hinojosa kicked off a first-day-of-school district tour, greeting the officers and Spring ISD Police Chief Ken Culbreath, who said his department is well-prepared to keep students and staff safe.
“I’m more confident than ever,” Culbreath said. “Our team has spent this summer training, and I have seen them step up to the level of work and commitment. They have really rallied around our cause and mission – and I see their motivation now more than ever.”
The superintendent continued her tour of Spring ISD campuses, arriving next at Hirsch Elementary School, where she greeted students as they enjoyed their free breakfast in the classroom. Free breakfast is currently available to all students in Spring ISD.
Parent Domonique Steptoe heard about Hirsch’s new “B” rating by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as she dropped off her 4-year-old son for his first day of pre-K.
“I just want (my son) to have a nice time and get a great education,” she said, reacting to the news. “That’s awesome and makes me feel really good.”
Spring ISD offers free, full-day pre-K at all of its elementary schools. Hirsch was among 28 “A”- and “B”-rated campuses for 2022. As a district, Spring ISD improved to an overall “B” rating.
Hirsch Principal LaToya Patterson, in her first year at the school as principal and who also attended Hirsch as a child, enthusiastically greeted parents and students as they arrived.
“We have so much wonderful work to do and so many fun things planned for this school year, and we can’t wait to see how our hawks take off and start to fly,” Patterson said.
Up next on the tour was Momentum High School, a new school this year for students seeking an alternative to the traditional middle school or high school experience – including smaller classes, personalized learning plans, accelerated credit recovery and career training opportunities.
Senior Tanatica Walker said after moving from California to Houston, Westfield High School was going to have to drop her back in her progress towards graduation due to differing requirements. The Achieving Success Alternative Program (ASAP), now encapsulated at Momentum, helped her get back on target, and she’s on track to graduate this fall, then hoping to continue on to get her bachelor’s in nursing.
“I have six more classes left and they’re all initial credit, which means the classes are a little longer,” Walker said, adding that, thanks to the Momentum program, she could be caught up on those classes and eligible for graduation as early as November given that she also passed her STAAR testing. “I just have to keep up the pace, don’t stall, keep up with my classes – but at the same time, take my time and get through it.”
Lewis Elementary – which has the district’s highest number of emergent bilingual students – was next on the list. Parents and campus staff were still on an emotional high since being rated as one of six campuses in Spring ISD to earn an “A” rating from the TEA.
“I just wanted to congratulate our students here at Lewis Elementary and their superhero teachers and principal,” Hinojosa said. “Through all the hard work and challenges we experienced last year, this school worked so hard to become an exemplary school. So this is a time to celebrate and recognize the effort to provide excellent and equitable outcomes for our students.”
Matthew Walters, reading interventionist for grades 3-5, said he was happy to see all of the parents coming in super positive, with the energy on the campus reflecting the joy about the school’s progress.
“If we were able to accomplish this in spite of the challenges of the pandemic, what can we accomplish now moving forward?” he said.
At Claughton Polytechnic Middle School, school pride was even evident in the school cafeteria, where the Child Nutrition staff created handmade posters with heartfelt messages to students.
“We are working as a team, together, to support each other and our students,” cafeteria manager Cristina Carino said.
Students and teachers at the school also were celebrating the school’s state accountability ratings. The school’s polytechnic program, launched in 2021, features classes in communications and media, programming, animation and robotics, and more.
Claughton was also selected as one of the first of 22 Blended Learning Innovator campuses in Spring ISD, with teachers at the campus offering more personalized learning through the integration of traditional classroom teaching and an expanding toolkit of instructional technologies to help students learn and succeed.
In his classroom, Claughton robotics teacher Tyrone Dargins was welcoming his new students, introducing them to each other and to the concepts and topics they would be covering together over the coming year.
As a member of the polytechnic program staff at Claughton, Dargins explained that current trends in science, technology and innovation meant that it was his students now who would be solving the engineering problems of the future.
“I’m so thankful to have this job teaching robotics in this era of change, of technology, of Tesla and SpaceX and CHIPS (the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022),” Dargins said. “These students will be the generation that are going to utilize these things. They’ll be the makers, they’ll be the creators, and they’ll be the fixers and the users of the products.”
During the final tour stop at Carl Wunsche Sr. High School, Principal Dr. Alfred James took a spirited symbolic walk down the halls with members of the Class of 2023 – marking their last “first” day of school together. James shared about the exciting new programming being offered at Wunsche this year, including two new pathways in Academics and Paralegal.
“We wanted to provide more opportunities for our students, so we added an associate of arts, associate of science, and a new associate of applied science/paralegal,” James said. “So this may give our students more opportunities to pursue a path to law school or even a profession as a paralegal.”