Spring ISD staff celebrated during return of Convocation tradition; Superintendent Hinojosa unveils new five-year strategic plan

by Rony Canales
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With campuses and departments across Spring ISD making their final preparations for the official start of the 2022-23 school year, over 5,000 Spring ISD staff members gathered on Thursday at Fallbrook Church for the district’s 2022 superhero-themed convocation event and unveiling of a new five-year strategic plan.

The event, which was held in two sessions, included lively music and a celebratory atmosphere in which educators and administrators alike were excited about the return of convocation – an event that hasn’t been held in Spring ISD since 2016.

“We are here for Convocation 2022. We are here, and we are back!” said emcee Royal Hammond, who serves as athletic director at The Bailey School for Performing & Visual Arts. “We are so excited that we have brought back this rich tradition of convocation.”

Hammond welcomed attendees, led the campus and department roll-call, and introduced Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa, in her first full year as superintendent since being named to the position in February.

“Thank you so very much for making your way here today. Muchisimas gracias!” Hinojosa said, going on to welcome attendees in both Spanish and English. 

“I am so very proud to be here,” said Hinojosa, the first Hispanic female superintendent in the district’s history, who also paid tribute to the encouragement and support of her immigrant parents in developing her own passion and drive as an educator. “I am just so very proud, and it is on my parents’ dreams that I stand here before you as the super-proud superintendent of Spring ISD.”

Hinojosa took the opportunity of her first convocation event since being named superintendent in January to walk employees through the major elements of Spring ISD’s new strategic plan, Every Student—Every Teacher—Every Day. The plan will serve as Spring ISD’s blueprint for ensuring excellent, equitable outcomes at campuses across the district, guiding Spring ISD’s work and major initiatives through 2027.

The plan includes six strategic priorities developed in coordination with the Board of Trustees and stakeholders in the community. The priorities include: Student Outcomes, the district’s foundational commitment; Equity, or ensuring excellent outcomes for every single student; Well-Being, which the superintendent explained includes the well-being of both students and staff; Leadership, including developing strong leadership pipelines and enhancing professional development; Opportunities, including the continued strengthening of both traditional academic programs and the district’s schools of choice; and Engagement.

On their way into Fallbrook, campuses and departments rehearsed chants for the much-loved roll-call portion of the meeting, and many staff arrived at the venue in colorful superhero-themed costumes, in keeping with the event’s theme of encouraging every employee in Spring ISD to tap into their own superpower in order to support students and get the new school year started off right.

“It is inside of us,” Hinojosa told attendees. “Remember, that superpower is within.”

Reynolds Elementary School Assistant Principal Tim Livingston helped line up his staff before they entered into the venue. Livingston said there was a lot of excitement this year among teachers for the upcoming school year, and that faculty and staff at Reynolds were drawing on themes highlighted by Hinojosa since she became superintendent – including re-engagement, empowerment, and joy.

“The feeling this morning is electric, and I think it is directly connected to the electricity that Dr. Hinojosa communicated in making her platform about joy,” Livingston said. 

Many saw the event as marking a hopeful turning point for both educators and their students. After three academic years in which COVID-19 played a significant role in the lives of students, teachers and the local community – affecting health, mental and emotional well-being, school schedules and activities, as well as academic progress – many of the teachers, administrators and other convocation attendees expressed optimism and excitement for the upcoming school year.

For music teacher Mandie Heze, Spring ISD has now become a home twice over. Heze, a teacher for more than two decades, spent six years at Heritage Elementary School before her family moved across the state for several years. When it was time to return to the Houston area, Heze explained, she had a good feeling right away about returning to the district and joining the staff at Reynolds.

“I love my school, and I love my administration,” said Heze, who is now going into her second year at Reynolds. “It only took me a minute to be in that building and I felt like that’s where I needed to be. I love my team, I love my school, and I love my kiddos!”

Before each convocation event, Spring ISD Police Department Officer John Goodman stood in the church’s lobby, warmly greeting teachers and other staff members. Goodman, who currently serves as the police department’s chaplain, is set to retire at the end of August, following 20 years in Spring ISD and more than three decades serving in law enforcement.

“I’ve been here a long time, so this is one of those bittersweet moments for me, because it’ll be my last time to see everybody,” Goodman said between hugs and handshakes from campus staff who came over to greet the officer they know so well from his years of service in the district and its schools.

Westfield High School Lead Counselor Tangela Jones said she and her team were looking forward to welcoming students back to their campus, and to providing a safe environment for student learning and growth.

“My hope is that our kids feel safe and excited to return back to school, and that we provide them with not only the educational piece but the social and emotional piece to be successful the whole year,” Jones said as the crowd began gathering before the morning convocation event.

“They need assurance and love from the adults, to know that the adults believe they can do it,” Jones continued. “I believe if we have high expectations for them, and we exhibit that, then they will perform. And the reverse is true, too. If you want less, they’ll give you less; if you want more, they’ll give you more. They just need to know that you care.”

Meyer Elementary School Nurse Brenda Derrick said she was excited to see students back on campus again, and to help foster an environment that supports them in every way possible.

“I just hope that we have a safe, productive school year,” Derrick said, “and that the kids get all the love and support they need.”

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