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GHS, SGHS academic decathlon teams advance to state competition


Garland ISD | February 28, 2015


For the third-consecutive year, academic decathlon teams at Garland and South Garland high schools are prepping to best their competition at the Texas Academic Decathlon Meet, Feb. 26-March 1 in San Antonio.


“I am always ecstatic when we qualify for state,” said SGHS world history teacher and AcDec coach David Yeatts. “I tell my students that we are not guaranteed anything and each of us must earn our spot. The core of our program revolves around the team’s work ethic. We believe that we must outwork our opponents if we ever hope to achieve success.”


The Colonels and Owls first achieved success at regionals, held in January at Rowlett High School. Thirteen GISD students from four district campuses walked away with a total of 24 medals during the event, with Garland and South collecting the most district wins.


Every year, 28 large schools, 17 medium schools and five small schools qualify for state. As two of just 50 teams across the state to advance to the next level of competition, both groups are dedicating several hours to prepare for the upcoming match.


“In years past, the coaches and I played a pivotal role in disseminating the information to our students,” Yeatts said. “Our new program this year places more emphasis on student accountability and we believe the results speak for themselves.”


South Garland—which will compete against 16 other medium schools—is heading to state ranked No. 13, a two-spot jump from its ranking last year. Garland, which is currently in 20th place, will face 27 large schools in San Antonio.


 “These kids work very, very hard,” said Garland High School Principal Atticus Wisener. “They put in a lot of time and effort and hours working toward their Academic Decathlon success. We are very proud of them.”


Overall, both teams hope to secure a spot at nationals and vie for a share of $150,000 in scholarships. 

Tonya Adams named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | February 28, 2015


The Jupiter Chevrolet Teacher of the Month SUV has a brand-new owner. Pearson Elementary School’s Tonya Adams received the title Feb. 5.


“Principal [Vicki] DeVantier told me she needed to speak with my students and led them out of the classroom,” said the fifth-grade teacher. “When I came outside, they surprised me with the car. It was really exciting.”


Adams also mentioned the surprise came at just the right time. Her husband’s truck does not have a heater and her vehicle is a lease. That makes saving mileage a plus. She will now drive the specially wrapped SUV for the month and park it in front of Pearson every day.


“We want parents and the community to know that we have fabulous teachers here,” commented DeVantier. “Tanya is amazing. She can do anything, and when you tell her how good she is, she starts praising someone else.”


DeVantier nominated Adams for this month’s Jupiter Chevrolet contest. Numerous Facebook votes then helped her win.


“Support came from far and wide,” commented Adams. “There were high school friends who stepped up and voted, as well as many past and present coworkers. It makes me feel loved and I would like to say thank you.”


Would you like to see your campus represented and your favorite educator named Teacher of the Month? Cast your vote before Feb. 28.

Wal-Mart donation drive to benefit GRS Giving Place


Garland ISD | February 28, 2015


Nearing its one-year anniversary, Garland ISD’s GRS Giving Place has provided numerous students with their basic needs while strengthening family relationships, academic readiness and community partnerships. Nearly 200 have been helped this school year alone.


The Giving Place was designed with the district’s foster care and homeless population in mind, as well as students and families who have suffered hardships. GISD case managers work with campus counselors across the district to identify opportunities for assistance. Standardized dress clothing, shoes, hygiene products, backpacks, school supplies and other items are then distributed to those in need.


The GISD community can help the district take care of its own by participating in a donation drive at local Wal-Mart stores. Shoes, school supplies, backpacks and hygiene products are being collected from February 16-March 2. Participating Wal-Marts include:


  • 5302 N. Garland Avenue, Garland 75040

  • 1801 Marketplace Drive, Garland 75041

  • 555 W. Interstate 30, Garland 75043

  • 430 N. Coit Road, Richardson 75080

  • 2501 Lakeview Parkway, Rowlett 75088


To donate, purchase items and drop them in the purple Champions for Kids SIMPLE Giving program bins in store. All of the donations will be given to The GRS Giving Place, benefitting students throughout the district. Additionally, Champions for Kids will provide $10,000 and $1,000 awards to school districts that collect the most donations from a single Wal-Mart store in each geographic region.


For questions about donations or the Giving Place, contact Emily Jandrucko at ejandruc@garlandisd.net.

Power Hour: giving parents power to help children succeed


Garland ISD | February 23, 2015


With STAAR tests on the horizon, Garland ISD wants to ensure its students are on the right track for success. All district parents are invited to two Power Hour meetings that will help them better understand state assessments and the resources available for their children. GISD staff will also be available to answer questions regarding academic and intervention programs, special education, bilingual/ESL education, curriculum, AVID and school choice.


The meeting will be held March 2 at the Curtis Culwell Center. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. and the program will begin at 6:45 p.m.


For more information, visit the district's featured events calendar

GISD commemorates African American History Month


Garland ISD | February 20, 2015


Students across Garland ISD are observing African American history through enlightening attractions and energetic programs this month. Back Elementary School kick started the celebrations with their African American sitcom-themed Step Team tour Feb. 4.


“We included shows that we—the coaches—watched when we were kids and incorporated little things we remembered in the program, like George Jefferson’s strut,” said Back second-grade teacher and coach Anjelica Turner. “The tour went well. The more shows they do, the more comfortable they will feel performing.”


Now in its third year, the Back Elementary Step Team includes 18 third, fourth and fifth-graders. In addition to wowing the audience with rhythmic step routines, the group also entertained with dance numbers set to theme songs of popular sitcoms, such as “Good Times,” “In Living Color” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” The performance featured students sharing historical facts and uplifting messages, as well.


“We were very excited about starting this big tour this year. The kids loved it,” said music teacher and coach Jean Metcalf. “This has been a fun ride.”


By the end of the day, the Step Team and their three coaches visited Shorehaven, Couch, Club Hill and Rowlett elementaries.


“With the tour, I wanted them to get the feel of being able to perform in front of people they do not know. So, if one day we perform in a competition setting, it is not nerve wracking,” said coach and second-grade teacher Ebonee Torrens. “We have always shown them where this eventually ends up, and I hope one day to allow them to compete.”


Although Back’s Step Team tour is complete, other campuses will follow suit with festivities throughout February. The following schools will host events and activities later this month:


·         Black History Community Walk at the Garland ISD Alternative Education Center: Feb. 12

·         Black History Museum at Classical Center at Brandenburg: Feb. 20-27

·         Black History program featuring NAACP Garland Chapter President Ricky McNeal at Handley Elementary School: Feb. 26, 6:30-8 p.m. 

·         The Yellow Brick Road to Harlem Black History Celebration at Steadham Elementary School: Feb. 26, 6 p.m. and Feb. 27, 8:30 a.m.


Photos courtesy of Caren Rodriguez. 


GISD Student Nutrition Services explores refreshing initiatives


Garland ISD | February 20, 2015


With countless studies linking a well-balanced diet to high academic performance, Garland ISD places an emphasis on providing wholesome meals for every boy and girl. This year, the district introduced Breakfast in the Classroom in 15 schools, providing the most important meal of the day to all students free of charge. GISD’s Student Nutrition Services (SNS) Department is now looking for additional initiatives and participated in the first Chefs Move to Schools National Advisory Group meeting Jan. 14-16.


“It is exciting for Garland ISD to be part of an initiative like this one, which has the potential to affect students across the United States,” said Associate Superintendent of Administration Doug Brubaker. “Director of Student Nutrition Services Brandford Trudeau will do a great job representing GISD and other school districts nationwide.”


The Chefs Move to Schools program is a component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move!" campaign, which has an end goal of solving the childhood obesity epidemic within one generation. This program promotes the collaboration of chefs and schools to educate students about food and healthy eating.


GISD was invited to be one of just two school districts in the National Advisory Group, serving alongside representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture, National School Food Service Institute, White House staff and industry as well as nonprofit organizations.


“We have a great food program here and need to expose more students to our healthy choices in meals,” Trudeau said. “Chefs can bring a certain credibility to our food program that students respect.”


SNS is currently setting the framework for a Chefs Move to Garland ISD day in the fall.


“We hope this new program will entice more children to develop healthy eating habits,” he explained. “We also want to encourage them to eat breakfast and lunch in the cafeterias across GISD.”


For more information on GISD’s Student Nutrition Services, visit the department’s website.

Rowlett HS Jazz Ensemble performs with local community band


Garland ISD | February 17, 2015


The Rowlett High School Jazz Ensemble recently joined forces with the Richardson Community Band to present an afternoon of popular compositions at the Eisemann Center in Richardson.


“One of the goals of the Richardson Community Band is to offer affordable entertainment to the families of the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” said Band President Ken Lenoir. “It was the decision of the board to have no admission fee for any of the band’s concerts. We hope this decision will make our performances accessible to even more citizens.”


The concert will feature well-known jazz tunes by Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Stan Kenton. In addition to performing selections alone, both groups will collaborate on several compositions written exclusively for concert and jazz bands by McKinney-based composer John Wasson.


Garland ISD Director of Fine Arts George Jones serves as the Richardson Community Band’s conductor. Guests of honor will include Rowlett High School band director Phillip Alvarado and RHS alumnus and trumpet soloist Micah Bell.


“The Rowlett High School Jazz bands consistently rank among the top bands in our area and have garnered many awards over the past 18 years,” Jones said in a press release. “Micah received a bachelor’s of music education from Texas Christian University and master’s in trumpet performance. He has been the Dallas Area Youth Jazz Orchestra director, a Collin College trumpet professor and a University of North Texas One O’ Clock Lab Band member.”

Steadham ES parents experience day with students


Garland ISD | February 14, 2015


More than 200 adults returned to the classroom during Steadham Elementary School’s second-annual Bring Your Parent to School Day Jan. 16. They learned alongside students, experiencing 21st-century education firsthand.


“The kids were very excited about having mom or dad show up. They worked really hard all day,” said teacher Jennifer Schneider. “We took a spelling test and reviewed writing portfolios. I wanted the parents to experience what really happens in a fourth-grade classroom. By inviting them in, they get a sense of how their children work. They also get to see how instruction has evolved from a one-way communication model to the dynamic, student-driven model we use now.”


Fellow fourth-grade teacher Kimberly Charles had the rare opportunity to observe the event as both an educator and parent. She believes the well-attended affair is valuable for even the most involved mothers and fathers.


“Bring Your Parent to School Day gives the kids an experience they will never forget,” Charles commented. “This lets students know their parents care, that they want them to learn. It also gives them a sense of stability by showing that parents and teachers are on one accord.”


Developing a strong parent-school bond is the exact reason Principal Lakisha Culpepper initiated the one-day visit.


“When we look at research that examines what engages students and increases academic achievement, parent involvement is high on the list,” Culpepper explained. “By parents being present and able to hear how strategies are taught, they can in turn help students at home. For some of our students, this is the first time their parents have even come to school.”


Although this is just the second year Steadham has featured Bring Your Parent to School Day, the benefits of the enlightening event have already materialized.


“What I saw data-wise from last year was that my parent complaints went down,” she stated. “We were able to make connections between them and teachers. I also had parents who became more anxious to visit and volunteer. Again, this just gives them the opportunity to reflect and think, ‘Yeah, I am supposed to be a part of this process.’”


Kimberlin Academy nominated for national Blue Ribbon honor


Garland ISD | February 14, 2015


The Texas Education Agency recently announced its nominees for one of the most prestigious awards a school can receive. Kimberlin Academy for Excellence is now one of just 26 campuses in the state vying for a national Blue Ribbon Schools title.


"We were extremely excited to receive the news from Dr. Morrison personally," Principal Tyisha Nelson said. "The entire Kimberlin community is so very proud to be nominated for this esteemed honor. Our ultimate goal is to create and maintain a culture of high expectations to ensure that every student receives a quality education."


Founded in 1982, Blue Ribbon Schools is a U.S. Department of Education program that recognizes high-performing public and private elementary, middle and high schools. All campuses nominated for the 2015 honor were selected due to exemplary results on state assessments. Each school also has an economically disadvantaged population of 25 percent or greater.


Now that Kimberlin is in the running for the celebrated award, a rigorous application process must be completed.


"This honor is a testimony of the great growth that we’ve experienced in the last five years," Nelson said. "We share this nomination with our supportive district, parents, community members and past administrators."


This is not the Knights' first Blue Ribbon experience. The campus has won the honor twice, most recently in 1998-99.


Students earn all-state titles


Garland ISD | February 14, 2015


Seventeen Garland ISD high-schoolers recently earned the highest honor a Texas music student can receive. Besting thousands of their peers across the state, they won Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) All-State titles Jan. 10.


“An All-State musician is truly the best of the best,” said GISD’s Director of Fine Arts George Jones. “We are so proud of these students and appreciate their parents for all their support.”


Every year, more than 60,000 band, choir and orchestra students vie for a spot in one of 15 All-State ensembles. Only those who compete in regionals, advance to area and are deemed one of the highest-ranking musicians qualify to perform at the annual TMEA convention in February.


“Earning a seat in one of the TMEA All-State ensembles is one of the greatest achievements that a student can attain.  It represents countless hours of hard work and dedication,” Jones explained. “The All-State experience gives our students an opportunity to sit side-by-side with other outstanding musicians from all over Texas.”


This year’s titleholders hail from five of GISD’s seven high schools, and range in age from 14 to 18. Thirteen vocalists, two woodwind players, one trumpeter and one harpist all earned the coveted honor.


A complete list of Garland ISD’s 2015 All-State students is below.




·         Etsehiot Degefu – Naaman Forest High School, All-State Band

·         Trenord Fobb – North Garland High School, All-State Band

·         Patrick Hill - Rowlett High School, All-State Jazz Ensemble I




·         Allison Dennis – Naaman Forest High School, All-State Mixed Choir

·         Laura Dunnican – Garland High School, All-State Women’s Choir

·         Preston Hart – Rowlett High School, All-State Mixed Choir

·         Malik Heard – Sachse High School, All-State Men’s Choir

·         Michael Isenberg – Garland High School, All-State Men’s Choir

·         [Name withheld] – Garland High School, All-State Men’s Choir

·         Maritza Moreno – Rowlett High School, All-State Women’s Choir

·         Taylor Nash – Rowlett High School, All-State Mixed Choir

·         Seth O’Neil – Garland High School, All-State Mixed Choir

·         Madison Smith – Garland High School, All-State Mixed Choir

·         Kristine Ubina – Garland High School, All-State Mixed Choir

·         Karen Wemhoener – Garland High School, All-State Mixed Choir

·         Thomas Whittington – Garland High School, All-State Men’s Choir




·         Juanito Riveros – Garland High School, All-State Symphonic Band


Photo courtesy of Karen Lewis.


GISD awards turf replacement bid to third lowest bidder; low bidder files suit


Kim Everett | February 11, 2015


Bids were recently accepted by Garland Independent School District for replacement of athletic field turf and at the Jan. 20 meeting, the board of trustees voted to award the job to Hellas Construction, Inc., one of five companies that submitted bids.


The Hellas bid totaled $8,876,000 and was not the lowest, or second lowest, bid. FieldTurf USA, Inc., the lowest bidder has now filed suit against Garland ISD.


The project includes replacement of turf and related tasks at Homer B. Johnson Stadium along with Sachse, Rowlett, Lakeview Centennial, North Garland, Naaman Forest and South Garland high schools.


The bid amounts, from lowest to highest, are listed below:


FieldTurf USA, Inc.                                $7,622,179

Mid-America Golf & Landscape, Inc.      $7,833,521

Hellas Construction, Inc.                        $8,876,000

Paragon Sports Constructors, LLC         $11,079,500

ProGrass, LLC                                      $12,657,718


The FieldTurf bid was $1.25 million less than the Hellas bid and the Mid-America Golf & Landscape, Inc. bid came in at $1.04 million less.


Both FieldTurf and Mid-America questioned why their bids were not chosen over the higher Hellas bid.


Evaluation categories and scores are below:



Out of a possible 100 points, Hellas scored 94 and FieldTurf received 92. Mid-America scored 84 points.


Representatives from Mid-America and FieldTurf said that preparing these bids costs thousands of dollars and they would both like to know why their bids were rejected.


FieldTurf’s suit requests copies of “Hellas Construction’s response to the RFP; documentation related to the district’s ranking, grading or scoring criteria used in evaluating responses to the RFP; how each proposal was ranked or scored; the order of ranking or scoring; analysis of the proposals; and all agreements and contracts contemplated by GISD related to the RFP.”


Chris Patton of Field Turf addressed the board of trustees at their Jan. 20 meeting.


“We spent months putting a bid together working with all parties involved including district personnel and relevant contractors in an effort to provide the most value possible to the Garland School District,” he said. “We’ve complied by all bid requirements and should grade higher than all the other bidders…”


He added that the FieldTurf client list includes more than 300 NCAA teams including the Oregon Ducks, Ohio State Buckeyes, and the Air Force, Naval and U.S. Military Academies. Some of their Texas installations include the University of Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas A&M and Garland’s Williams Stadium. Additionally, the suit states that FieldTurf’s client list includes 28 of 32 NFL teams.


“On the bid opening we were surprised and delighted to discover that we were $211,342 and $1,253,821 under the next two competitive bids,” Patton said.


Patton asked the board to explain how the bid award is justified.


“We offer $1,253,821 in savings to the district,” he said.


The $1.25 million difference in the FieldTurf bid and the $1.04 million of the Mid America bid have an impact on all those who pay taxes to GISD and taxpayers should be able to expect full disclosure on how their money is spent.


Board president Rick Lambert asked for an explanation of why the district awarded the bid to Hellas.


Joel E. Falcon, executive director of the School Facilities Department, said that they used RLK Engineering, a board-approved outside company, to do the assessment.


The evaluation process was explained: Bids were reviewed by RLK Engineering. GISD officials then met with representatives from the Athletics Department including Cliff Odenwald, athletic director, and people from maintenance and facilities. It was stated that they looked at the bidders’ history and past performance and agreed on Hellas unanimously.


It was also stated that Hellas hires their own employees and do not sub out the work which is important because that can cause “all kinds of issues.”


Trustee Charles Axe asked if there had been problems with the Williams Stadium job.


Odenwald’s answer was no, but he added that it had been a different situation as it was awarded to a general contractor because of problems with the track, fencing and other items. He said that FieldTurf was selected for the turf only for that field but none of the sub-base work was done by them.


Odenwald also said that the Field Turf product installed at HBJ in 2006 has not been a good product.


Field Turf admits to having a bad batch of turf in the past and said that they had remedied problems it had caused.


Superintendent Bob Morrison said that there are two issues that can go wrong during turf installation – either the work done underground or the work on top where the turf starts to deteriorate.


“When a company subcontracts everything, what ends up happening if there is a problem, finger pointing happens,” Morrison said.


He said that the turf people blame the people who did the underground work and those who did the underground work say that the problem is with the turf.


Morrison also said that Patton had mentioned in a meeting that they had some quality control issues. Patton said later that those issues, as mentioned above, had been corrected.


The superintendent’s concern, however, is not reflected in the evaluation, as FieldTurf and Hellas each received the highest possible score, 15, in the Quality of Goods & Services category.


Another reason cited for selecting Hellas Construction was that they are a local company. Their address as shown on their website is 12710 Research Boulevard #240 in Austin with regional offices in San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; Liberty Hill, Texas; Dadeville, Alabama; and Chatsworth, Georgia.


Work done in the past for GISD by Hellas includes installation of new track surfaces and sub base repairs on fields at Sachse, South Garland, Lakeview Centennial, Naaman Forest, North Garland and Rowlett high schools. Additional work at LCHS included installing curbs and fencing.


The vote to award the bid to Hellas was unanimous.


“We are mystified by the decision of Garland ISD to award the contracts to the third lowest bidder – costing taxpayers an additional and unnecessary $1.25 million in the process.  As the artificial turf industry leader, FieldTurf is committed to fair and responsible pricing, which is reflected in our bid of $7,622,179,” Gill said in a written statement.  “So far we have been given no explanation from the board of trustees for their decision to accept the higher bid of $8,876,000 from Hellas Construction for the same scope of work.”


FieldTurf’s suit states that the “basis for evaluation, and ultimately scoring, is unclear and arbitrary.”


It further states that “Despite the fact that the RFP did not require any specific information or submittals as to safety record, GISD assigned two points to Hellas Construction (the maximum available points for its safety record) in the Bid Tabulation, while failing to assign any points to the other four contractors.”


RLK Engineering and Hellas donated to the Vote Yes Campaign before last year’s bond election.


Parent-focused forum to discuss dating, domestic violence


Garland ISD | February 11, 2015


The Garland ISD Living Intervention and Guidance for Healthier Teens (LIGHT) Program invites all parents and students to the Power of Parents forum Feb. 17 from 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at the Curtis Culwell Center. This community forum will feature a panel discussing teen dating and domestic violence.


“The panel includes representatives from two local agencies that provide services to victims of domestic violence, as well as the Garland Police Department,” said South Garland High School lead LIGHT counselor Jolynn Briggs. “The panelists will define teen dating and domestic violence, discuss the prevalence of these types of incidents in our community, pinpoint the attributes of a healthy relationship, and provide resources to those in need of services.”


The New Beginning Center of Garland and the Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support of Dallas will be the participating counseling agencies.


The district’s LIGHT program created this important event to help students and parents establish a foundation for a successful, healthy future.


“One in three teenagers who have been in a relationship has experienced serious forms of dating violence and abuse, and some of our students encounter domestic violence,” explained Naaman Forest High School LIGHT counselor Gaye Ledford. “We know that awareness and education will help our families, which in turn helps our community and schools.”


In addition to having experts talk about this sensitive topic, the event also has allotted time for an audience-driven Q&A session.


For more information about the LIGHT program or this event, visit the Guidance and Counseling Department’s website.

Pearson ES student named district Spelling Bee champ


Garland ISD | February 11, 2015


As a first-time contender, Pearson Elementary School student Billy Hiticha did not expect to win the annual Garland ISD Spelling Bee this month. But that is exactly what he did, besting 57 of his peers to be named the 2014-15 champion.


“I was surprised when I won. My mom and my sister were shocked, too. It came out of nowhere,” the fifth-grader said. “I will be truthful and say I thought I was going to lose because I was a little bit nervous. Sometimes when I am nervous, I mess up.  But the winning word was actually pretty easy. It was tariff.”


The district Spelling Bee featured elementary and middle school students vying for the No. 1 spot. Knowing he had to face older, more experienced students motivated the 10-year-old to dedicate hours preparing for the match.


“I studied about 200 words two to three times a week over winter break,” he said. “I would act like we were having a Spelling Bee in our living room. I asked my sister if she could help me study, and we would take turns spelling words.”


During the Jan. 16 competition, Hiticha and Jackson Technology Center for Math and Science seventh-grader Abigail Varkey were the last two contenders standing. The duo had an intense, multiple-word standoff for first place.


“I was tired because we kept fighting to see who would win,” he said. “I would get a word wrong, and she would get one right. Then, I would get a word right and she would get one wrong. And it went on for a long time.”


In the end, Hiticha snagged the trophy and brought a win to the Pony community.


“He is a hardworking, dedicated student and is well-liked by his peers,” stated Pearson Elementary fifth-grade teacher Tonya Adams. “We have never seen a student so motivated to win the Spelling Bee. We are very proud of him.”


And to show their pride, Hiticha was welcomed back to school with applause, cheers and a congratulatory poster.


“I hope he learned that if he applies himself, he can do anything,” said Pearson reading and writing teacher Amber Corjay. “We wish everybody will gain that from his experience.”


Hiticha and the following six runners-up will compete in the Dallas County Spelling Bee Feb. 18 at the University of Texas at Dallas.


·         Abigail Varkey, Jackson Technology Center for Math and Science

·         Ashika Khan, Cooper Elementary School

·         Abiola Joda, Shugart Elementary School

·         Elijah Quilantang, Hillside Academy for Excellence

·         Daniel Nguyen, Lister Elementary School

·         Adeeb Momen, Austin Academy for Excellence

Photo courtesy of Caren Rodriguez.


Career Expo exposes students to college, employment opportunities


Garland ISD | February 4, 2015


More than 700 students discovered the multitude of higher education and employment opportunities that exist in their backyard at Garland ISD's Student Career Expo Jan. 13. The second-annual event allowed secondary students to interact with local businesses and educational establishments.


Organized by GISD’s Career and Technical Education, Special Programs and Guidance and Counseling departments, along with the Garland, Rowlett and Sachse Chambers of Commerce and the Dallas County Community College District, the career fair promotes community success.


“This year's Student Career Expo was a wonderful, great experience,” said Garland ISD’s CTE Director Phil Gilbreath. “It was bigger than last year, and we have heard good feedback from professional participants and students.”


The 2015 affair featured 38 regional companies and colleges, increasing participation by 65 percent. The event also drew a bigger crowd, due to the inclusion of 10 schools, which is a two-campus increase from last year.


“We expanded the offering to middle schools this year,” Gilbreath explained. “I was even told that the middle schoolers asked some exceptional questions that the representatives were not expecting. It went very well.”


During the Career Expo, attendees heard from Garland Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Mayer before networking with potential employers and educational advisors.


“Fifty million people will leave the workforce over the next five to 10 years,” Mayer told the students. “That means that 50 million of you are going to have to step up to do those jobs and fill the occupations of the future. That is why we are here—to provide a way to get you to that next step.”


Atmos Energy, Digital Kinematics 3D, Garland Police Department, ITT Technical Institute, Plastipak Packaging Inc. and Sachse Veterinary Hospital were among the organizations represented.


“An event like this can really help students see that they have more options after high school,” said Remington College Pharmacy Technician Department Chair Helen Ann Vance. “I think this is really important. I wish I had an opportunity like this when I was in school.”


North Garland High School senior Yazmine Jackson took full advantage of the rich resources at hand.


“I found out that Richland can take care of my first two years of college. I now have two upcoming appointments with them,” she commented. “I think this event can help students who need information on financial aid or need a job. “


And though middle schoolers might not need jobs or seek help with college tuition at the moment, investing in the future generation is the fair's No. 1 priority.


“The fact that students are able to see and visit with representatives from local companies and colleges, they are able to make a real connection to the next phase in life,” Gilbreath said. “This event is all about opportunities. I hope to continue to expand the event next year. My goal is to have 50 booths and 100 percent school participation.”


Austin Academy jazz musicians perform at national conference


Garland ISD | February 3, 2015


Twenty-three Austin Academy for Excellence students were recently invited to showcase their skills at a national music education conference. The Austin Jazz Ensemble performed at the 2015 Jazz Education Network (JEN) Conference in San Diego Jan. 8.


“We are proud of our jazz band and their accomplishments,” said Band Director Margaret Wis.

“During the Conference, students performed a wide range of big band jazz styles for nearly an hour. Professional and student musicians, as well as jazz aficionados, appreciated the great performance that belied their young age.”


The talented middle-schoolers played seven songs during their set. They were even joined by a special guest player—former Austin Jazz Ensemble saxophonist Ross Gerberich, who is now a Rowlett High School freshman.


In addition to wowing the audience during their performance, students were able to delight in some of the event’s sessions.


“The JEN Conference is a four-day annual meeting of jazz educators with daily forums, concerts, exhibits, clinics and jam sessions,” Wis said. “Students got to try instruments, reeds, mutes and mouthpieces in the exhibit hall, and had a jam session in a Yamaha booth. They also enjoyed a keynote address by award-winning musician Herbie Hancock and saw feature concerts every evening. The highlight was Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s performance.”


After the concert, students bought CDs, got autographs and took photos with the Grammy award-winning studio composer and band members.


In addition to taking in the sights and sounds of the Conference, the group took full advantage of their time in California. Students visited Coronado Island, Mission Beach, the San Diego Zoo and the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier.


“Although some of these activities sound suspiciously educational, the students had fun,” Wis commented. “It was a nice reward for their hard work.”


Photos courtesy of Margaret Wis.

Alumnus’ artwork reemerges at administration building


Posted February 3, 2015


Over the past six months, the Harris Hill Administration Building has become home to numerous student artworks. While many of the paintings and sculptures were crafted by current students, Naaman Forest High School alumnus Freedom Ha is the artist behind one of the most recently acquired pieces.


Ha’s artwork appeared in Harris Hill due to a special request from General Counsel of Legal Services Justin Graham and Assistant General Counsel Alaina Smith. The duo approached Fine Arts Coordinator Brenda Hass about obtaining a patriotic piece for their office. Hass then fired off an email to all art teachers, one of whom was Naaman Forest High School teacher Jan Venuso.


“His work came to mind immediately because it kind of represents America as a country. It does not matter who individuals are or where they are from, together we are bigger and stronger,” Venuso said. “I was excited when I heard Brenda picked his piece. I think it surprised him, too.”


“I was really surprised because it has been a while,” the 2012 graduate added. “This is kind of a weird feeling because once you graduate, you think most people from your school do not remember you. To think that she still remembers me and still has all my stuff is really heartwarming.”


The eye-catching illustration is actually an enlarged print of Ha’s original work, which is a watercolor, ink pen and tone paper mixed-media creation.


“We love it,” Smith commented. “It is an honor to have his art in our office because it serves as a reminder of why we are here.”


Ha and Venuso had a chance to see the amplified image—as well as other student art—during a recent visit to the building. In addition to showcasing hometown talent, Ha believes exhibiting student artwork reveals the dedication of GISD faculty.


“The school district puts in tons of work into trying to improve students academically, so displaying student artwork represents the product of that time invested,” Ha said. “It is a testament to teachers and administrators.”


Ha is currently a molecular biology major at the University of Texas at Dallas.

New program feeds appetites, minds


Garland ISD | January 30, 2015


Last fall, Garland ISD introduced a food program at five pilot schools. Daugherty, Davis, Golden Meadows, Heather Glen and Southgate elementary schools launched the Breakfast in the Classroom program in August. Ten additional campuses will join the group by Feb. 2.


“Breakfast in the Classroom was created to increase breakfast participation among students,” said Student Nutrition Services Supervisor Jennifer Craig. “Research has shown a significant correlation between eating a healthy breakfast and improved academic performance. By bringing breakfast to the classroom, all students are able to choose to eat breakfast if they wish.”


In years past, students were required to arrive early to have breakfast in the cafeteria. With Breakfast in the Classroom, students go directly to their classrooms at 7:45 a.m. to begin eating the most important meal of the day free of charge.


As one of the first to implement the program, Daugherty Elementary School students are accustomed to the new routine. First-grade teacher Marisa Gonzalez believes the program helps students begin the day on a positive note.


“I think it is great for students to come to school and have a balanced meal in their classroom set to eat. It gets them ready to start the day,” Gonzalez said. “Since starting the program, I can tell that my students are a little bit more focused.”


Gonzalez also stressed that Breakfast in the Classroom helps parents and educators, as well.


“Some parents have said it is convenient for their schedules. Having breakfast in class eliminates the extra time they might spend preparing food in the morning, which helps when they have to drop off kids at different schools,” she stated. “As a teacher, it also very convenient because it allows me to check homework or work with a student one-on-one while the rest of the class is busy eating.”


Breakfast in the Classroom menu includes cereal, fruit, muffins, string cheese and wheat sausage rolls. Food is delivered to classrooms in padded coolers before students arrive.


Most teachers have students serve themselves after their belongings are organized. Centerville Elementary School is among the second batch of campuses to begin the program this spring. The Cheetah community kicked off Breakfast in the Classroom Jan. 12.


“When I found out we were starting the program here, I was really excited,” said fifth-grade teacher Inez Hayes. “I used to work in Dallas ISD and we had the same program. I saw what it did for my class there and so I was excited to see improvement with my class here, and it has been great.”


“The students have been very excited about it. They are trying their best to come to school on time. I have had just one tardy this week, which shows that the program has impacted attendance,” she explained. “As far as being engaged in the lessons, their bellies are full, so they are ready to learn. I have already seen an improvement in their focus and their eagerness to get the day going.”


Both Centerville and Daugherty principals are thankful their campuses have the program and hope to see others savor its rewards.


“I was thrilled to have the means to provide breakfast for every student,” said Daugherty Principal Deborah Henson. “We have almost tripled the number of students eating breakfast, and the program has created a more family-like atmosphere in the mornings. It is really something to see the kids listening to their teacher read or discussing a concept while they are eating breakfast. I would like to see the program in all eligible campuses.”

Alpha Charter School now enrolling

Posted January 26, 2015

Alpha Charter School at 701 State Street in Garland is now enrolling students for the 2015-16 school year.

Lots of new activities are available at Alpha. Check it out by calling 972-272-2171 to schedule an appointing or visiting www.alphacharter.org.

A few of the schools’ new and existing offerings include:

  • Small class sizes
  • Tablets for every grade 8-12 student
  • Laptops and fully equipped computer labs
  • STEMS projects for enrichment for K-8  
  • Athletics for grades 4-12 including elementary (4-6), middle school 7-8  and varsity 9-12 girls volleyball, boys’ basketball, varsity boys’ and girls’ track and varsity boys’ and girls’ cross-country
  • UIL Varsity academic sports

Alpha Charter’s vision and mission: Providing a tuition-free private school education to families regardless of their socio-economic background.

Alpha Charter motivates empowers students with the tools and skills necessary to become strong, productive members in society. Through rigorous academics, character building and parent involvement Alpha Charter School will “soar above expectations.”

Students help redesign playground


Garland ISD | January 26, 2015


Garland ISD students are leaving their mark on the City of Rowlett in a big way. District elementaries were recently enlisted to help redesign the famed Kids Kingdom playground.


Built by volunteers in 1998, Kids Kingdom was not only a child’s playtime wonderland, but a tangible symbol of community. In 2013, an inspection revealed that the playground contained rotting wood and chromated copper arsenic, causing its demolition.


Now, Rowlett is working on rebuilding Kids Kingdom, involving community members in the process—just like it did 16 years ago.


Upon returning from winter break, the city asked children from all nine Rowlett elementary campuses for their creative input. Students were given the chance to draw and submit a playground design, which will help guide a custom model for the new and improved Kids Kingdom.


“We wanted to allow them an opportunity to put their design ideas on paper, since they will be ones using the playground,” said Rowlett Parks Division Manager Keith Flournoy. “A lot of the design features are consistent, like swings or a slide. But there are some components that kids will ask for, like a train, barn, boat or helicopter, and the design firm is able to work with manufacturers to get those type of things made. When the playground is completed, it is truly a one-of-a-kind playground that is unique to our community and has been inspired by our kids.”


Imaginative layouts were submitted Monday, Jan. 12.  Designers will study the drawings and will visit all schools Friday, Jan. 16, to discuss the blueprints.


“We will get the kids charged up,” Flournoy said. “I am excited and I hope we get a lot of support. We are asking the kids to bring their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and everybody in their family out to be part of this project. We are still in the process of raising funds and gathering volunteers. It is going to take the community to get this done.”


But now that the design phase is complete, a celebratory bash is set to excite residents of the forthcoming attraction.


Students recognized for creative abilities


Garland ISD | January 27, 2015


More than 100 students were recognized for their creative abilities at the Council PTA Reflections awards Jan. 8. Students’ artwork reflected the “The World Would be a Better Place if…” theme.


“Overall students did a magnificent job interpreting the theme,” said Council PTA arts and education chairperson Celia Proffitt. “It was evident that students put a lot of thought behind the creation of each piece because of the statements that were written for each entry.”


Before winter break, campuses submitted their best student art pieces in six categories: dance, choreography, film production, literature, musical composition, photography and visual arts. The Pre-K through 12th-grade submissions were then judged by GISD’s Council PTA.


This year’s awards event showcased entries in an art gallery-style setting. Interactive, digitally enhanced stations were also featured, allowing attendees the chance to easily view audio-based and kinetic pieces.


“We heard many positive comments and were pleased with the engagement of the crowd,” Proffitt commented. “We have a total of 22 students from GISD who will move on to compete at the state level. I do believe we have some really strong entries.”


One of those state qualifiers is Bussey Middle School eighth-grader Jean-Marie Truelock, who won a medal for her faith-inspired poem.


“I won an overall excellence award,” Truelock said. “It is surreal to find out that I am going to state. Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a musician. I write lyrics and have been doing that for a couple of years. I definitely think this will benefit me because this is my real first step to getting out there and doing what God wants me to do. This is only the beginning of what will happen later.”


And what might happen later is a win at state and a chance at nationals—something Proffitt believes is within GISD’s reach.


“I think we have amazing students who encompass a wide range of creativity,” she explained. “I was blown away by some of the film productions and musical pieces. It is truly remarkable when a piece of artwork moves you. I hope we get some good news March 1, which is when they announce the winners.”


The following students were chosen to advance:


Dance Choreography

  • Makayla Mathis, Watson Technology Center for Math & Science
  • Kiana Sanderson, Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School
  • Isabella DeRita, Lakeview Centennial High School


Film Production

  • Claudia Velasco, Classical Center at Vial Elementary School
  • Serene Haroon, Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence
  • Tram-Anh Le, Naaman Forest High School



  • Jason Warren II, Classical Center at Vial Elementary School
  • Elizabeth Howard, Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence
  • Jean-Marie Truelock, Bussey Middle School
  • Clara Truax, Garland High School


Musical Composition

  • Ely Eckles, Classical Center at Vial Elementary School
  • Haley Maret, Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School
  • Ricky Phengsy, North Garland High School



  • Elijah Joseph, Kimberlin Academy for Excellence
  • Madeline Watkins, Dorsey Elementary School
  • Lauren Crook, Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School
  • Kaitlyn Saunders, Garland High School


Visual Arts

  • Aundrey Cawis, Dorsey Elementary School
  • Miriam Rivera, Williams Elementary School
  • Phoebe Heng, Austin Academy for Excellence
  • Vivian Dang, North Garland High School
  • [Name withheld], North Garland High School


For more information, visit Texas PTA’s website

GISD board member Steve Knagg will not seek re-election


Posted January 22, 2015


Steve Knagg has announced that he will not seek re-election to Place 6 of the Garland ISD board of trustees during the May 9 election.


Knagg released a statement saying:  “I have been very closely involved with the Garland ISD for 75 percent of my life. I have experienced this wonderful district as a student, a 30 year employee, and a trustee. It has been a very great honor to serve on the GISD Board, and I wish all the best for our students, staff and trustees.”

Teachers reinvigorate classrooms after inspirational trip


Garland ISD | January 24, 2015


Students might notice some exciting changes in the classroom this spring. Innovative instructional initiatives inspired by Convocation keynote speaker Ron Clark are sweeping the district, thanks to a recent inspirational road trip.


Encouraged by Clark’s energetic, motivational presentation, Garland ISD organized a two-day trip to the Ron Clark Academy last fall. Director of Professional Development Nelson Orta helped coordinate this life changing experience.


“After Ron Clark spoke at convocation in August, we began planning a group visit,” Orta explained. “The Professional Development Department designed an opportunity that not was only about experiencing the Ron Clark Academy, but also reflecting on learning and our practices in GISD.”


Campus principals were tasked with choosing one teacher who routinely goes above and beyond—known as a “runner” in Clark’s philosophy. Those 71 runners, along with 28 principals, two area directors and three members of the Professional Development team, loaded two busses headed to Georgia at 5:30 a.m. Oct. 9.


“There was a lot of singing, cheering, chanting and collaboration on the busses,” Orta said. “We arrived in Atlanta at 8 p.m. Over the next two days, GISD educators observed Academy teachers and students in their classrooms. They also met with Academy teachers to discuss their philosophy, and had access to students and Ron Clark himself throughout the visit.”


When these educators returned to GISD, they started sharing—and practicing—what they learned during the remarkable outing.


“That magical place changed me in many ways. It changed me as a parent, teacher and even as a person,” said Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence teacher Fernando Loaiza. “You look at yourself, and you say, ‘I am a good teacher.’ But being a good teacher is not good enough. You have to strive to become a great teacher. And that is one of the things that fired me up.”


Loaiza now features cheers, music and movement in his classroom—mediums that excite and motivate his students. Fellow runners are also incorporating ingenious methods of instruction, such as simulating a surgery to teach the mathmatecial order of operations.


These fresh techniques were on full display during a Jan. 5 staff development training called Design Your Own Learning. The teacher-led affair kicked off the spring semester, equipping educators with novel ideas to jumpstart their classrooms in 2015.


“Teachers have been challenged to be ‘life changers’ by Ron Clark,” Orta commented. “Our educators are still influenced by what they observed in Atlanta, and are affecting others at their campuses. We are excited to see the transformations happening in classrooms throughout GISD.”


Photos courtesy of Ron Clark and GISD staff

District partners with Discovery Education to host Math Academy


Garland ISD | January 21, 2015


Garland ISD established its partnership with Discovery Education when the district implemented the use of Techbooks in elementary classrooms. Strengthening that relationship, Garland ISD and Discovery Education have joined forces once again to present an intensive professional development training for teachers and instructional leaders. The district will host Discovery Education’s Math Academy Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Curtis Culwell Center.


This one-day event will highlight 21st-century teaching strategies, as well as learning capabilities for all-level math and integrated classrooms. Attendees can expect to learn practical applications for teaching math through a digital medium, personalized solutions for transition needs and best practices from experts.


In addition to six hours of professional development, the Academy also offers breakfast, lunch and a 60-day free trial to Discovery Education Streaming Plus.


Teachers and instructional leaders across North Texas are invited to register now for this free training. Interested GISD staff should contact the Professional Development Department to attend. Early registration is recommended as space is limited to the first 200 educators who sign up.  


For more information about Discovery Education’s Math Academy, visit the district’s featured events calendar.


Students, parents select choice of school for 2015-16


Garland ISD | January 21, 2015


While other districts use attendance zones to determine a student’s campus, Garland ISD parents are able to enlist the district’s far-reaching, open-enrollment “choice” plan to select their child’s school. With 49 elementaries, 12 middle schools and seven high schools in GISD, approximately 58,000 students have plenty of options at their fingertips.


Secondary families can select their preferred campus starting Thursday, Jan. 22. Choice of school forms will be sent home with students and must be returned by Feb. 20. Elementary choice begins March 19 and ends April 17.  


Although the district’s goal is to grant everyone’s choice, and students are placed at their preferred school with a 97 percent success rate, certain factors play a role in placement. Number of open seats, walk zones, transportation zones and sibling rules are all weighed for proper assignment.


For more information, visit Garland ISD’s Choice of School website. 

Michelle Staubach Grimes visits IL Texas

Elementary, shares passion for writing


Kim Everett | January 17, 2015


Author Michelle Staubach Grimes recently entertained students at Garland’s International Leadership Texas Elementary by reading her new book, “Where Is Pidge,” and explaining the book creation process.


“The biggest thing I want you guys to take from this today is to think out of the box,” she said. “Know that you can do whatever you want to do. To get there, reading and writing is going to help.”


Journaling led Grimes to become an author and after practicing law for a couple of years and taking time to be at home with her children, she returned to school for writing classes.


Her first project was a fiction novel which she said she would get back to someday, but the story about Pidge is what she felt that she needed to tell. Grimes chose the name Pidge because it was the childhood nickname of her mother, Marianne Staubach.


In addition to promoting literacy, Grimes’ book carries multiple messages. It encourages doing things for others and reminds readers to tell others that they are important as well as not to underestimate their own value. It wasn’t until Pidge, who is a middle child, went through a lonely, frightening experience that she realized what an important space she filled in her family.


Grimes drew from some of her own life experiences as she wrote the book and there are several similarities. Pidge’s dog is named Maverick, the same as Grimes’ dog. And like Pidge, she is a middle child in a large family. In addition, the number “12” is used on football jersey in an illustration and that was the number of Grimes’ father, the legendary quarterback Roger Staubach, NFL Hall of Famer and winner of two Super Bowls.


The book was illustrated by Bill Deore, former editorial and sports cartoonist of the “Dallas Morning News” and Grimes said that she was fortunate to work with him.


She encouraged the students to write as she explained the creative process. “It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, or if there are misspellings, just keep doing it,” Grimes said. “Stories don’t just happen. They don’t just come out right the first time.”


As she explained editing, Grimes held up a page to show the students how her editor marked up her work and inserted comments and changes.


“It can be frustrating at times but like anything you do, there is hard work and you get through the tough times, and it’s all good,” Grimes said. “That’s the only way you learn. I’m 46-years-old…and my editor is still ripping apart my paper.”


The book, which will be released in March, is dedicated to her parents who she said always made her feel loved and important.


“This story is so close to my heart,” Grimes said. It is me at 46-years-old telling my mother thank you.”


She shared in an email that she loved the students’ questions and regretted that there wasn’t time to answer them all. She added that receiving a handmade card from one of the students made her day.


“I love going to schools,” she said. “I love talking to the kids.”


About IL Texas:  At ILTexas Garland Elementary, we are committed to providing all students a rigorous and engaging education that empowers them to excel during their entire educational career. ILTexas will prepare them for the challenges they will encounter at the post-secondary level.  High expectations have been set for both students and staff and it is of the utmost importance that all goals are reached.


Maria Rada Pena named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | January 16, 2015


Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month SUV has made another stop on its journey to reward dedicated educators in Garland ISD. Maria Rada Pena from Back Elementary School received this month’s honors Jan. 6, along with the specially wrapped prize.


“I was surprised to walk outside with my principal and see my students next to the car,” said Back’s bilingual kindergarten teacher. “I am really excited because my husband and I only have one vehicle, so this will help a lot. Thank you Jupiter Chevrolet, GISD and Back Elementary.”


Rada Pena’s honor can be credited to thousands of votes during the November/December contest on Jupiter Chevrolet’s Facebook page. Coworkers, administrators and Back families all rallied to bring the coveted award to one of their own.


“We put the link on our website and in our newsletter, telling everyone we could to vote for Ms. Rada,” said Principal Teresa McCutcheon. “She deserves this recognition for being a hardworking, loving and patient teacher. Her students and parents just adore her.”


Rada Pena will drive her new wheels until the end of the month. Would you like to see your campus represented and your favorite educator named Teacher of the Month? Cast your vote before Jan. 28.

Sewell principals kiss a pig for charity


Garland ISD | January 16, 2015


What would you do for $10,000? Administrators at Sewell Elementary School recently proved they would pucker up to a pig.


Assistant Principal Deidre Hannible and Principal Susan Craig smooched the swine before winter break, after learning that students and staff reached the campus’ Jump Rope for Heart goal.


“Last year, we raised $9,100—the most in the district,” said physical education teacher Reida Wallace. “I wanted to keep that going, so this year, I set the goal for $10,000. I thought the kiss a pig incentive would help us reach it, and our principals agreed to participate.”


Kicking of the four-week campaign last fall, students solicited donations and were able to jump rope in gym for an entire week if they raised at least $5. Wallace revealed the grand total before school let out for the holidays.


“More than half the members of our campus made a donation,” she said. “Layton Dotson, a kindergartner, was the top contributor, raising $525.”


At a special assembly, Craig and Hannible made good on their promise. They planted one on a product of Garland High School’s FFA.


“The pig was scared and would not come out of its cage, so they got down inside it,” explained Wallace. “The kids were so excited. They chanted ‘Kiss the pig. Kiss the pig,’ before counting down and erupting in cheers. We also recognized everyone who gave.”


Sewell’s Jump Rope for Heart campaign marks one of the district’s first this school year. Many other campuses will follow suit this spring. With the bar set high already, Wallace hopes GISD students take away more than just the competition from this campaign.


“Heart disease affects everyone, whether we experience it ourselves or know someone who does,” she said. “It is very important that students know how to take care of themselves—eating right, exercising and living an active lifestyle. If we do not take care of our heart, it cannot take care of us.”


Photos courtesy of Sewell Elementary


Faculty art show helps fund scholarships


Garland ISD | January 14, 2015


The Garland ISD Faculty Art Show will continue to showcase talent and heart through Jan. 20 in the Granville Arts Center’s gallery. This homegrown exhibit offers patrons the opportunity to see impressive artwork and help fund student scholarships.


Gallery-goers will see personal pieces created by 44 campus teachers. Some will also be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Kaye Swartz and Terri Smith Scholarship Fund. Founded in honor of two longtime GISD art teachers, the scholarships are given to qualifying senior art students. Any patron can donate a tax-deductible gift at the show. The public is also invited to vote for their favorite work of art to determine the People’s Choice award winner.   


Viewing hours are from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as during all night and weekend shows. For more information, visit the Granville Arts Center’s website.


Contest challenges students to show off marketing, technology skills


Garland ISD | January 12, 2015


Garland ISD will kick off its third-annual Book Bytes contest Jan. 6, calling all reading enthusiasts to advertise one of their favorite pieces of literature through technology.


Open to any GISD student, the competition challenges participants to create book trailers using Photo Story, Movie Maker or iMovie. In addition to showcasing advertising and technological capabilities, Book Bytes also allows competitors to hone their critical thinking skills, creative direction talents and research abilities. License-free or original music and photographs can be featured in the digital advertisements, which have a two-minute time limit.


Only one submission per student or group will be accepted. Participants have until noon Friday, March 6, to submit their original piece in person to their campus librarian.


For more information on the contest, visit the Library Services Department’s website.

Middle school music programs receive grants


Garland ISD | Posted January 12, 2015


The Texas Music Educators Association recently gifted nine Garland ISD campuses with the opportunity to expand their composition collections. The campuses were awarded a portion of a $10,588 TMEA grant that will go toward 11 band, choir and orchestra middle school programs.


Earlier this fall, the TMEA Executive Board approved $500,000 in funding for sixth, seventh and eighth-grade music programs. Any teacher who was a current TMEA member could apply for a grant, which had a limit of $1,000 per program and $3,000 per campus.


The selection process was primarily based on a program’s financial need, but requests for complex or significant sheet music were also weighed. Campuses that received an endowment must now use the funds to purchase sheet music for full ensemble concert performances.


The following GISD campuses and corresponding programs were awarded, and will soon display the benefits of this generous donation through harmonious melodies.


  • Austin Academy for Excellence—band and orchestra

  • Bussey Middle School—band and choir

  • Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School—band

  • Coyle Middle School—band

  • Hudson Middle School—band

  • Jackson Technology Center for Math & Science—orchestra

  • O’Banion Middle School—band

  • Schrade Middle School—band

  • Webb Middle School—choir

GISD supports community's youngest learners


Garland ISD | January 9, 2015


Parents in the tri-cities now have a helpful, educational resource at their fingertips, thanks to a new partnership between Garland ISD and ReadyRosie. The data-driven program focuses on helping children become school ready by age five.


“Parent-child interaction in the early years really lays the foundation for success,” said Parent Involvement Facilitator Jonathan Armstrong. “We are really excited to be able to provide ReadyRosie to parents. Through this program, parents can watch videos and do activities with their children at home, preparing them for school and supporting their learning.”


GISD has paid all fees related to the subscription-based service so parents can have free, unlimited access to ReadyRosie’s content through a smartphone, computer or laptop. The program offers literacy and math-fueled activities, videos and additional resources for parents with children up to age five.


Since hearing about the district’s new collaboration at a staff development meeting, Cooper Elementary School kindergarten teacher Nancy Phetsarath has encouraged her student’s parents to take advantage of the rich resource.


“I like the program because it features very short videos, which is great for parents who are short on time,” she said. “Just like parents, I have a login and I receive an email every day of the newest video on their site.”


The digital shorts, available in English and Spanish, last anywhere from two to three minutes and cover everything from math to letters. They feature a real adult and a child working through a lesson.   


“I have some first-time parents who may not know how to work with their child,” Phetsarath explained. “This is just a simple, easy way to say, ‘Here is how you could do it.’ They could definitely expand on it and change it up to where it works with their child. But it is just a great model to get parents involved. It does not cost anything, and you do not have to buy anything to participate.”


Parent Kristi Ordaz began using ReadyRosie as soon as Phetsarath talked to her about it.


“It takes a lot more for my son to learn certain concepts,” she commented. “So I have to take more steps and find different ways to be able to help him. I enjoy the program because it really does help.”


Ordaz believes every parent in the community should jump at this opportunity, as she would have if it were available to her years ago.


“If I was able to have this type of program when my son was two or three, I think he would have been more advanced,” she said. “I totally recommend it to all parents, especially those who have kids who are not in school yet.”


Any parent or caregiver in Garland, Rowlett or Sachse is eligible to access ReadyRosie content. Visit ReadyRosie’s website to begin a free subscription.

CCC to offer graduation shout out messages


Garland ISD | January 9, 2015


Whether a prekindergarten, high school, college or technical school graduation, it is a special moment that signifies the culmination of success. To help make Garland ISD high school graduations even more special, the Curtis Culwell Center is offering parents the chance to honor their student on the big screen.


From now until May 1, family members can order a personalized message to appear on the CCC’s digital display for $100. The shoutout will feature a photograph accompanied by a short note, which can be up to 126 characters.  


Because every GISD high school graduation sees hundreds of seniors walk the stage, the CCC has set a limit of 180 spots per event.


To order a digital shoutout, this form must be completed and submitted along with one single image of the graduate by email. All forms and photographs must be received by 4 p.m. Friday, May 1.


For more information, visit the CCC’s website.

GISD earns bragging rights across state


Garland ISD | January 6, 2015


Committed to academic, athletic and fine arts excellence, Garland ISD often receives recognition. But it is a new program earning the district bragging rights across Texas. The GRS Giving Place was recently featured in Texas School Business magazine’s Eighth Annual Bragging Rights 2014-15 special issue.


The periodical spotlights 12 districts that have implemented innovative programs which improve the lives of students, school and the community.


“We had close to 100 nominations this year, and all of them deserve bragging rights,” Texas School Business Editorial Director Katie Ford says. “We hope the 12 stories we singled out and chose to share will inspire other districts into action. Our mission at Texas School Business is to report on the good things happening in our public schools, and I can tell you with certainty that I am never short on stories.”


The GRS Giving Place opened in March to supply standardized dress, hygiene and other household items to GISD families in need. Since the start of 2014-15, more than 142 students have been served.


Students give input on school breakfast, lunch items


Garland ISD | January 4, 2015


With new leadership and a new name, Garland ISD’s Student Nutrition Services recently enlisted some new help to evaluate school breakfast and lunch items. Director Bradford Trudeau invited the Superintendent Student Advisory Council to taste-test possible offerings, such as flavored water, sweet potato fries and fajita chicken.


“We have some work to do at the high school level,” said Trudeau. “We want to open all serving lines to all students, offer a meal deal of the day and improve the overall quality of food. USDA guidelines govern what can be sold in school during the day. They limit sodium amounts and say that all grains must be 50 percent whole grain, Our goal is to meet those standards while also offering a menu that is customer-driven and appealing to you.”


Representing that focus, the Superintendent Student Advisory Council contains junior and senior leaders from all eight high schools. They attend four meetings a year to learn about district operations and offer student opinions.

GHS teacher battling cancer surprised by students


Kim Everett | January 4, 2015


Melanie Hensleigh-Parsons, a teacher in the Garland High School ‘Advancement via Individual Determination’ program, recently received a special Christmas gift from the AVID students.


Parsons has battled breast cancer several times and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments. The side effects of the treatments sometimes make it difficult for her to carry in daily class supplies. Colleagues and students have been great to help her carry things in, but the AVID students went one step further.


Teacher Aldo Guzman’s AVID class recently surprised Parsons with a decorated parking place near the outside door by her classroom. The painted space includes a pink ribbon to represent Parsons’ breast cancer fight.


Parsons, who has been at GHS for 27 years, said that the people there are like a second family.


“I consider it an honor to teach my students and coworkers about our culture and how we serve our campus and community with heart and pride because we are the Owls,” Parsons said.


Parsons had already decided that she would ask Principal Wisener about a parking place but was waiting until the end of the semester.


“But wonderful things happen at GHS as we all know,” she said.


To her surprise, it had already been approved and when Guzman’s students finished the painting, they went to her classroom and tricked her into going out to see the parking space.


“It was the best surprise ever. I love my Owl family and AVID clan,” Parsons said. “I can't count the letters, cards, posters and hugs we share for strength and encouragement daily at GHS.”


She recalled a past story of a GHS colleague’s show of support and compassion.


“One of the kindest things a colleague did for me was when I went through my illness before was when I was working in the office doing Student Activities and needed a place to park to come and go for appointments and radiation,” Parsons said. “Assistant Principal Rick Brandenburg gave me his space and the Art Department painted it and put my name on it.”


Parsons said that the students and teachers tell her that she inspires them.


“They also inspire me to continue fighting because of their spirit and compassion,” she said.


“It's a beautiful thing,” she said. “I am blessed by my school and the love we share for learning and each other.”

GISD donates nearly 100,000 items


Garland ISD | January 4, 2015


Local food pantries will be able to continue serving needy families thanks to the generosity of Garland ISD students and staff. They donated 96,737 items during the annual Garland Christmas Association canned food drive. This year’s donations will benefit the Salvation Army and Good Samaritans in Garland, as well as Operation Rowlett Reindeer and the Crossroads House Food Pantry in Sachse.


Responsible for 1,532 items, Liberty Grove Elementary School’s newly formed Student Council led the campus campaign. Fourth and fifth-grade members made posters to hang up around the school, encouraged participation with morning announcements and spent their recess time counting all the cans each grade level brought in to donate. In the end, Liberty Grove collected 2.47 items per student—an amount higher than many other GISD elementaries.


Top totals from the districtwide campaign were recognized during the Dec. 9 board meeting. Principals from Hickman Elementary School, the Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School and the Alternative Education Center received plaques and Evidence of Excellence awards to commemorate their efforts.


This is the second and fourth-consecutive honor for Brandenburg and Hickman.


“The Salvation Army helps thousands of people throughout the year, and one of the ways we do that is to give out food,” said a representative from the organization. “Most of those canned goods come from this food drive. It’s going to last probably the good part of next year. Thank you very much.”


GISD’s donations total 2,523,420 items during 25 years of participation in the food drive.


Photos courtesy of Liberty Grove Elementary.

Graduates of SGHS honor campus’ first principal


Garland ISD | January 4, 2015


Celebrating 50 years since the opening of South Garland High School, some of the campus’ first graduates are making sure the legacy of their principal will live on for at least 50 more. The classes of 1966 and 1967 designed a commemorative plaque to honor Robert Sewell. They also held a dedication ceremony Dec. 10 to display the artwork outside South Garland’s entrance.


Ceremony attendees included one of Sewell’s sons, as well as the first director of the Southern Belles drill team, a City Council member and Garland ISD administrators. The Colonel band kicked off and closed the event leading alumni through the Fight Song and alma mater with help from cheerleaders, Belles and the mascot. Afterward, guests received a tour of the school to relive memories.


“My first job was in this building, and my children both graduated from this school,” said Robert Sewell Jr.


“My dad was an inspiration for me—his passion for education, great love for kids and great love for people. He was my model and my mentor. I am so thankful and humbled to recognize him today.”