A Heart-to-Heart Talk
Welcome to the fifth six weeks of the 2016-2017 school year! It always amazes me that once we start the second semester, the rest of the year just seems to fly by!

Besides being the month for Valentine’s Day, which I hope you took time to enjoy, February is known as American Heart Month, a great time to learn about heart health and to commit to even some small changes that could make a big difference in your life. Several of our schools have kicked off Jump Rope for Heart and will once again contribute to the American Heart Association. Last year, Austin Elementary donated $22,107 to the AHA and recognized their Heart Hero, Reece Brown, a junior at Sterling High School and the son of Austin teacher Jackie Brown. Reece underwent two heart-related surgeries last year after his dentist expressed some concerns and suggested that he get them checked out. He is back in action at school and on the baseball field.

Obrien photo
This year, Crockett Elementary will participate in Hoops for Hearts, honoring Heart Hero Kaylee Harris, a first-grader who has recently undergone heart surgery and is now back at school, working hard in P.E. and getting ready to play softball. Many other campuses participate in schoolwide projects to benefit the AHA and to bring awareness of heart health to students, parents and staff. Thanks to all of you who contribute to this worthy cause.

February also is Black History Month, a time to learn more about black Americans’ roles in U.S. history and to celebrate their accomplishments. There are activities and programs going on all through the district, especially in our history classes. For example, Sterling will present a Wax Museum February 23 with performances in the Commons and alcove. Goose Creek Memorial High School highlights the accomplishments of a black American each day on the morning announcements. Highlands Junior gives prizes to students who answer questions about black Americans correctly. Bañuelos Elementary students are announcing facts about black history daily, and some classes are participating in a Black History Poster Project.

We traveled to Washington, D.C. last summer, and I was in awe of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, which honors our heritage for equality. You also may want to catch a newly released movie, “Hidden Figures,” which celebrates the team of African American women mathematicians at NASA who served a vital role during the early years of the U.S. space program.

If you’re looking for a worthwhile heart healthy activity, join me at the Project Blue 7th Annual Jail Break Run Half Marathon and 5K Saturday, February 25, 2017, at Lee College from 7 – 11 a.m. All proceeds from this event benefit Project Blue, a 501(c)3 organization that helps police officers when they face unforeseen illnesses or injuries outside the line of duty and funds criminal justice scholarships.

As for a construction update, the Transportation Center is coming along at about 40 percent completion, and the project is due to be finished this summer. Teachers and students are enjoying the new Career and Technical Education (CTE) wing at Goose Creek Memorial, which opened at the first of this semester. The new Stuart Career Tech High School is also nearing completion and will open August 2017.

By now, you have probably seen or heard our district’s stance on two important issues being discussed in the 85th Texas Legislative Session in Austin. It’s important for you to have all the information about these issues so that you can decide where you stand.

The first issue is the voucher plan, commonly called Education Savings Accounts. In brief, to make up for what some of our leaders are calling “failing schools,” tax dollars intended for public schools will be diverted to private institutions that do not have the same accountability requirements as public schools, such as the STAAR test. What most people don’t realize is that a voucher will not be enough to cover tuition at most private schools, so the only students who will benefit will be those who come from affluent families. Implementing this voucher system would take money from public schools, robbing our students of valuable resources. Public schools are not failing – don’t believe the hype! Stay informed. For more details and to find out who represents you in Austin, please go to We urge you to contact your state representatives.

The second issue is the Texas Education A-F Accountability System. Beginning in Spring 2018, each campus and the district will receive an overall A-F rating as well as a letter grade A-F for each of the five domains: Student Performance, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps, Postsecondary Readiness and Community and Student Engagement. This is a misleading, complex system. Please know that I am well aware that all of the wonderful things happening in our schools every day to engage, inspire and empower our students, preparing them to succeed in an ever-changing global society, cannot be reduced to a single letter grade. For more information on this, please go to

Thank you for caring about our students. Our district is focused on continuous improvement to help our students succeed, and we will not waiver from that plan. Success stories that started in Goose Creek CISD schools are heard all over the country. We invite you to visit any of our schools to see the wonderful activities our students are engaged in and to see why we are proud of our district.