Spring ISD held its first Central Office Staff meetings of the 2022-23 school year on Wednesday at the Spring ISD Community Engagement Center.
During each meeting, Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa and other district administrators updated central office staff on recent district news – including Spring ISD’s improved state accountability ratings – as well as highlighting important items for the fall semester – including the upcoming vote for Spring ISD’s 2022 Bond Referendum.
Each meeting also featured employee recognitions celebrating stand-out performance and special contributions from staff members.
Hinojosa began with an update on the Texas Education Agency’s accountability ratings for the 2021-22 school year, offering an overview of the gains made by Spring ISD, which saw more than half of its campuses earning an “A” or “B” rating and the district moving up from an overall “C” to an overall “B” rating.
“Each one of you had a part in securing the accountability rating for the district,” Hinojosa said, emphasizing the role central office staff play in supporting principals and the day-to-day activity at campuses.
She also discussed redesigns to the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for the 2022-23 school year, noting that new strategies will be required as the district continues its push for excellent, equitable outcomes for every student, and as schools navigate the new STAAR exam structure and content – including across-the-board online testing; new question types, including non-multiple-choice questions; and more cross-curricular reading comprehension passages.
Following the update on the state accountability system, Executive Chief of District Operations Mark Miranda offered an update on the 2022 Bond Referendum, including walking staff through the details of the three separate propositions that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Miranda encouraged all staff to familiarize themselves with the basics of the bond in order to be ready to help inform parents and other members of the community about the referendum and how it would affect them and their students in Spring ISD. For bond fact sheets and other resources, he encouraged staff to utilize the district’s 2022 Bond website.
Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks also spoke to staff, giving an overview of the district’s recently approved 2022 tax rate – voted on by the Board of Trustees at its September meeting – and how the bond referendum would impact property taxes for area residents. Westbrooks explained that the drop in the district’s tax rate – now at its lowest point in two decades – would likely offset the expected increase if the bond were to pass.
Chief of Innovation Matt Pariseau gave staff an update on the district’s Community Engagement Committee and the 2022-23 Central Office Engagement Action Plan, and said to be on the lookout for events aimed at boosting engagement and giving employees a chance to connect with one another and strengthen bonds between colleagues and departments.
Finally, Executive Director Sandra Scott from the Spring ISD Education Foundation reminded employees about the foundation’s work to support students and teachers, and invited staff to consider setting up payroll contributions to help fund the foundation’s innovative teacher grants, scholarships for students, and other district priorities and needs supported by the foundation.
Following the presentations and updates, Hinojosa recognized a number of outstanding employees – nominated by their peers and their departments – for exemplifying the district’s Leadership Definition in their work.
- Rhonda Montgomery, Human Resources and Human Capital Accountability, was singled out for recognition in particular for her volunteering spirit on the first day of school. Volunteering at an elementary campus, Montgomery supported the front office, greeted parents and students, introduced children to their new teachers, and even pitched in for lunch duty, happily accepting any role that needed to be filled to ensure a great start to the new school year. Hinojosa noted that Montgomery “is not only a great example of our strategic priority of Engagement, but also an exemplar of what we mean when we say Service-Oriented.”
- Georgina Garza, Communications, was recognized for her amazing creativity as a graphic designer and for her strong commitment to all components of the Leadership Definition. In particular, Garza was praised for her instrumental role in the creation of a branded bond toolkit for principals to utilize in sharing information with their communities about the upcoming bond referendum. “For this talented member of Team Spring ISD, relationships matter,” Hinojosa said. “She is constantly finding joy in her work with our departments and campuses, and we are fortunate to have her.”
- Michelle Jimenez, Family and Community Engagement, was recognized for her superior customer service skills as a receptionist at the main administration building. Supporting both internal and external stakeholders daily, Jimenez was praised for her professionalism, warmth, and calming presence even during stressful situations. In particular, Hinojosa thanked Jimenez for her poise and service-oriented mindset recently in working with employees dealing with paycheck issues. “Many times parents and campus staff members visit the Central Office when they are frustrated and don’t know where else to turn,” Hinojosa said, adding that Jimenez “always calms them and defuses any anger with kindness and a willingness to help solve their problems.”
- Dr. Eric Tingle, Innovation Department, was recognized for his generous spirit and his many contributions since joining Spring ISD as the district’s Director of Strategic Innovation. Since joining Spring ISD over the summer, the superintendent said Tingle had made it his mission to embody the Leadership Definition and engage actively and effectively with all stakeholders – regularly visiting campuses in order to build relationships and identify opportunities to better support principals; consistently reaching out to help across departments at the central office; and being a presence at campus events in support of students and staff.
- Joe Hernandez, Technology, was recognized at the afternoon meeting for showing up on day one of his job as a System Engineer with a “can-do” attitude and immediately hitting the ground running, welcoming whatever challenges were put in front of him and, as Hinojosa said, “crushing each and every one!” Hernandez joined the department when it had been short-staffed for months, and inherited a long to-do list of items requiring careful attention. Since day one, Hinojosa said, Hernandez had demonstrated joy in the workplace and shown genuine love for what he does while welcoming any and all challenges.
- Jason Boyer, Technology, was singled out for his resourcefulness as a Technology Specialist, and for helping set up the processes and procedures needed to effectively track and manage computer hardware in the district. With the coming of the pandemic, Hinojosa explained, the district’s technology user base increased by 33,000 students with the sudden addition of one-to-one student devices for at-home learning. Boyer helped develop a process for checking out some 40,000 pieces of hardware to students and teachers, as well as processes to accurately track the status of hardware moves and maintenance lifecycles. Hinojosa thanked Boyer for all his efforts to “significantly improve Technology’s ability to plan for and meet our students’ needs.”
- Jeff Brossett, Technology, was recognized for his many contributions over more than 20 years with Spring ISD, including his ongoing dedication to supporting staff and students, and consistently focusing on the needs of others. Without Brossett’s contributions, Hinojosa said, “our staff and students would not be able to get on the Spring ISD network to access the online resources that have become so important in today’s world of education.” Among other responsibilities, Brossett is a primary point person in the Technology department helping to manage network repairs, including fiber optic line repairs, and regularly works with vendors during the overnight hours to minimize network downtime during the school day. “This gentleman encourages those he works with,” Hinojosa said, “and is always open to teaching them new skills and sharing things he has learned throughout his own career so that others can feel empowered in the jobs they perform.”
- James Branch, Maintenance Department, has served the district for over 30 years, starting out as a custodian and later joining the Maintenance team. Throughout his many years of dedicated work, Hinojosa said, Branch had “continued to set the standard for service excellence.” Beloved by the campuses he has served over the years, Branch has become a leader among his peers. Now, as a project leader for the district, Hinojosa said that Branch acts as a mentor to new Building Mechanics, passing on the skills, expertise, and service-oriented mindset that defines his approach.
- Samantha Morris, Family and Community Engagement, was recognized for pouring her heart each day into serving Spring ISD families in her role as a home instructor with the Smart Start early learning program, while also finding time to serve district staff in unexpected ways. Hinojosa explained that Morris often works behind the scenes to coordinate decorations for district events. “When you attend events and see the beautiful flowers, table decorations and centerpieces, balloon arches and other decorations, it’s her!” Hinojosa said, adding that Morris contributes her personal time to creating beautiful atmospheres for events without thought of recognition or reward. “She contributes because she loves our district,” Hinojosa said. “She brings joy to the Family and Community Engagement team with her infectious smile, and in all of the ways that she serves, she goes above and beyond!”