More than 400 Spring Leadership Academy students, dozens of teachers and campus administrators, district leaders and special guests gathered Thursday morning to celebrate an important milestone for the popular Spring ISD middle school of choice – a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school’s new home.
“Today is a day of both reflection and celebration,” said Spring Leadership Academy (SLA) founding principal Dr. Kevin Banks, who still leads the campus, now in its fifth year.
“We are reflecting on our past – when, where and how we started,” Banks told attendees at the ceremony. “We are reflecting on our present – how far we’ve come and the achievements we’ve attained. We are celebrating our future – entry into our new building, and the SLA scholars and staff that will take us to the next level.”
Following extensive renovations and upgrades to the former Clark Primary campus on River Laurel Dr., Spring Leadership Academy students and teachers were excited this fall to move from their school’s previous location – a former office building near FM-1960 and T.C. Jester. – into their new facility. Nearly 60% larger in square footage, SLA’s new home was also custom-renovated to meet the unique needs of the school – including its distinctive Leadership Officer Training Corps (LOTC) program – and to enable the school to respond to its growing popularity by increasing student enrollment.
“This has been an amazing journey, for not only Dr. Banks, but for the entire staff here, and for the district,” Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa said during her remarks before the ribbon-cutting. “And for us here in the district, the Spring Leadership Academy is the perfect example of how Spring ISD responds, first and foremost, to the students, to the parents, and to the community.”
Hinojosa said the seeds for SLA began to grow as far back as 2016, when the district conducted listening tours to ask parents, students and community members what they wanted more of in Spring ISD.
The answer, she said, was more choices and more opportunities for students – to grow, lead, and serve.
During those listening tours, many older elementary students asked for a middle school where they could build strong, close-knit communities that would support the success of every student. Their parents, meanwhile, wanted an inspiring program, one that would provide strong academics while also instilling leadership skills and teaching young people the importance of serving others.
Compared to previous classes of sixth grade students – which numbered about 100 each year since the school first opened in 2019 – this year’s new entering class grew by leaps and bounds, with approximately 200 sixth-graders enrolled for 2023-24. The school will continue to expand enrollment over the next few years to serve an increasing cadre of Spring ISD students who are drawn to the school’s unique approach and culture of achievement – one that led to an overall “B” rating for the campus last year from the Texas Education Agency.
When asked what he’s most proud of at the school, Banks said it was the culture that had been created there – by faculty and staff, but also through the dedication and drive of the students themselves. SLA teachers agreed, including eighth grade science teacher Oscar Munoz, who said it was a key marker that sets SLA apart.
“What I like about Spring Leadership Academy is the culture set by Dr. Banks here,” Munoz said. “It’s just a culture of excellence – setting the bar really, really high, and bringing the students to that level, and it starts at the top.”
The newly remodeled campus is the work of scores of Spring ISD Maintenance and Operations staff members, as well as representatives from Huckabee Architects and ICI Construction, Inc. – both of whom received special mention and seats of honor at the event. After the official ribbon-cutting ceremony was over, SLA students led parents and other guests on tours of the building, describing how it had been designed and laid out to meet their needs.
Spring ISD staff member and SLA parent Xindy Morales said her son, Luis Rodriguez, had especially benefited from the LOTC program, and from SLA’s community-driven culture where teachers get to know their students and can respond to their individual needs.
“He was diagnosed with ADHD, and I thought the small setting and programs that they had here were better for him,” Morales said. “He’s in seventh grade now, and he’s had a good experience.”
During her remarks at the ceremony, Spring ISD Board of Trustees President Justine Durant took a look back even further into the origins of SLA’s newly remodeled home, recalling bringing her own daughter to the former Clark Primary campus to begin elementary school. Durant’s early days on the school’s PTO turned out to be the beginning of many years of service to the district, and she hoped the generation of SLA scholars studying at the campus now would take to heart the call of success through servant leadership.
“Spring Leadership Academy offers middle school scholars leadership training in an innovative environment,” Durant said. “This new building will only expand our original vision as a board to develop today’s young scholars into tomorrow’s leaders.”