Schools - www.garlandisd.net
AEC hosts charitable barbecue cook-off
Posted March 7, 2014
Garland ISD’s Alternative Education Center hosted its BBQ Throwdown Friday, March 7. The charitable competition is part of AEC's Pennies for Patients campaign, which benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Currently, the meat-centric challenge will only feature three competitors, including last year’s champ, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services and Community Relations John Washington. AEC Principal Robert Weyman will also compete for a second time with hopes to overtake Washington’s Grill Master title.
"This is a cook-off to judge the meat—not the sauce. I want to put Washington in his place. I have had a whole year of listening to him say he is the best cook,” Weyman said. “Joking aside, this is really just a great, great event. It helps the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the kids take a lot of pride in it. The students work hard to do this every year, and you can tell it is dear to them."
AEC Assistant Principal Victoria Acevedo has helped coordinate events benefitting the LLS for eight years. The inaugural BBQ Throwdown raised more than $2,000. This year, Acevedo hopes to donate more money and see more grillers compete in the contest, which is open to all district employees.
“The competition is about bragging rights, but it is also a big event for us and the district,” she said. “Employees and members of the community are invited to join us, have lunch and enjoy carnival games provided by students from Lakeview Centennial’s Future Teachers Program.”
Fourth-grader honored nationally
Posted March 5, 2014
Just one year ago, Toler Elementary School student Tiphani Brice flaunted long, braided locks. Now, the nine-year-old is completely bald, diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder named alopecia universalis.
While the condition has changed Brice’s life, her new look has also led to national recognition. The fourth-grader was recently named the first-ever Phenomenal Bald Beauty of the Year by national organization, Sisters Living with Alopecia, and will soon be featured in lifestyle publication, Miss Lady Magazine.
Brice’s mother, Penny, said the journey her family has endured strengthened the unit’s bond and helped encourage her daughter.
“This has brought us closer together,” she said. “It has been wonderful, a real blessing in disguise. She is now more focused and has blossomed. She has got a lot of support and everything is just working out for her. This is her moment.”
Becoming a beauty queen, being featured in publications and preparing for an Arkansas-based alopecia summit in April can be a lot for a fourth-grader to handle. But Brice just wants this experience to have a positive influence on her life.
“I just want to appreciate my life, my parents, my family and have a good life from now on,” Brice said. “It is an honor to be what I am, and I want to live the speech I wrote after winning Bald Beauty of the Year.”
In the speech, Brice expresses her hope to become a leader and an inspiration to children who may feel or look different. Toler Elementary Principal Edwin Hood said a supportive environment helped Brice come a long way since losing her hair one year ago.
“When the year started, she was afraid to come to school and just wanted to be accepted by other students,” he said. “We have embraced Tiphani and the outcome is that she is now a beauty queen. We are so proud!”
GISD administrator gets doctoral studies scholarship
Posted March 2, 2014
Garland ISD Area Director Des Stewart was awarded the esteemed Johnny L. Veselka Scholarship by the Texas Association of School Administrators, a grant only a select few receive each year.
“I felt honored and very excited when I found out I was awarded the scholarship,” Stewart said.
“It feels good to know that an organization such as TASA fully supports individuals pursuing advanced degrees.”
Every year, TASA presents a $2,500 scholarship to a maximum of three exceptional doctoral students pursuing a career in educational leadership. Award recipients are selected by a scholarship committee that reviews comprehensive applications, which include professional biography essays as well as recommendation and endorsement letters.
Stewart, who oversees 10 GISD schools in the Rowlett area, is focusing his studies on encouraging troubled students through progressive teaching methods.
“My study is on high school remediation for at-risk students,” he said. “Having grown up in a low socioeconomic environment, I want to highlight many proactive and innovative practices that are being implemented in our schools to help educate kids who are in jeopardy of not succeeding.”
Stewart has dedicated 16 years of his life to education. He believes pursuing a doctorate has had a positive and illuminating impact on his career.
“Through the experience and knowledge gained while in a doctoral program, I have developed a new understanding of how to close the achievement gap that exists in schools today,” he explained. “It is my plan to help not just at-risk students, but all kids. I want our kids to see me and realize that they can reach their dreams if they set goals, commit themselves fully to their academics and make the right decisions both in and out of school.”
With the help of the TASA scholarship, Stewart will soon obtain a doctorate and is closer to his goal of becoming a superintendent in the future.
Garland man finalist for Carson School internship
Posted March 3, 2014
Clayton Van Winkle, a third-year graduate student from Garland is a national finalist for the prestigious Gilbert Hemsley Lighting Internship. In addition, his lighting design for last year’s “Candide” won first place recognition at the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and he will represent the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at the national festival in Washington, D.C., April 14-19.
“The ACTF honor was great, but the Hemsley was just huge,” Van Winkle said. “This is the premier lighting internship in the nation.”
The Hemsley Lighting Internship is open to both Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts graduates in lighting design, though graduating MFA students are more commonly selected.
The internship is named after Gilbert V. Hemsley, Jr., who created lighting for the New York City Opera, Martha Graham Dance Company, Broadway plays and musicals, The Metropolitan Opera, American Ballet Theatre, among many others. Hemsley passed away from cancer in 1983.
It’s the second year in a row that a student in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film has been a national finalist for the Hemsley internship. .
As a Hemsley finalist, Van Winkle will travel to New York City March 15-16, where he will participate in an intensive two days of workshops and demonstrations, as well as a backstage tour of the Metropolitan Opera and the interview for the internship.
“It’s basically networking for the whole weekend,” he said. “That’s more useful than anything. I know that I’ll learn so much from the other finalists and the workshops we’re having.”
At the KCACTF in April, he will have another week of workshops and seminars, while competing for the national award.
“It’s pretty jam packed, but it’s going to be great,” he said. “I’ll learn a lot hopefully.”
Assistant Professor Laurel Shoemaker is not surprised by Van Winkle’s success.
“He’s really brilliant,” she said. “And he goes above and beyond. He takes every challenge and adds to it and pushes it further. And he’s a really great problem solver.”
Shoemaker describes him as very detail-oriented.
What Van Winkle loves the most about lighting design is how adaptable it is.
“Basically I can take other people’s designs—set design and costume design—and make them beautiful and add on to them,” he said. “I also love that it’s so adaptable and quick. It really is the icing on the cake. A set can be absolutely stunning, but when you put light on it, it just glows.”
Two GISD elementary schools nominated for award
Posted March 1, 2014
Attracting national attention, two Garland ISD elementary schools have been singled out from thousands of schools across Texas. Roach Elementary School and Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence are among just 25 of the state’s private and public campuses nominated for a 2014 Blue Ribbon Schools award.
The Blue Ribbon Schools program, founded in 1982 by the U.S. Department of Education, recognizes elementary, middle and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where students are making significant gains in academic achievement. Roach, Walnut Glen and Texas’ other nominees received distinctions as exemplary high-performing schools from state assessment results. Each campus also has an economically disadvantaged population of 40 percent or greater.
“At Roach, we strive to educate the entire child, and this honor demonstrates the great growth we continue to see throughout the school,” said Principal Jeanette O’Neal. “It can be credited to our master teachers, as well as district and parent support and the hard work of students. We were very pleased when Dr. Morrison [GISD superintendent] visited our campus to announce the nomination. We appreciated that he shared in our success.”
Nominated schools must now complete a rigorous application process, detailing instruction, extracurricular opportunities, community influence, etc. through essay questions. Announcements of the national award winners will be made in September.
GISD’s 2014 distinctions continue the district’s tradition of excellence. Roach previously received the Blue Ribbon Schools award in 2006-07. Walnut Glen also has two Blue Ribbon Schools titles from 1996-97 and 2007-08. And, Centerville Elementary won the award in 2008-09.
GISD students named All-State musicians
Posted March 2, 2014
Twenty-eight Garland ISD high-schoolers have earned the highest honor a Fine Arts student in Texas can receive—the title of All-State musician. That accolade was awarded in January by the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA), and for GISD’s honorees, it signifies extensive practice as well as a commitment to their craft.
The journey to All-State status begins each fall with regional competition. The top students from more than 35,000 auditions then advance to the area round. Just 1,200 ultimately receive the opportunity to perform in one of 10 All-State ensembles during the TMEA convention in February.
“We are proud to continue the district’s tradition of excellent music education,” said George Jones, director of Fine Arts. “This recognition demonstrates the dedication of both our students and teachers.”
Not only continuing the tradition, but enhancing it, GISD’s number of All-State students increased from 17 last school year. A complete list of the 2014 honorees is below.
GISD students attend cultural conference
Posted March 1, 2014
A group of Garland ISD students will join hundreds of their high school peers across North Texas to attend the Asian American Leadership and Educational Conference at Southern Methodist University.
This two-day conference, which features workshops as well as prominent keynote speakers, focuses on Asian-American culture, leadership skills and career planning. AALEC is an educational, one-of-a-kind experience students from all backgrounds can enjoy, given they complete the application process and are accepted to the event.
Naaman Forest High School senior Hillary Duong has been accepted to attend AALEC four years in a row. Duong is involved in many school-related activities—a quality she believes helps her application get the green light.
“I would say that AALEC wants people who are well-rounded, involved in a lot of clubs and want to benefit from this conference by expanding their leadership skills in different ways,” she said. “I have learned how to interact with new people and make them feel welcomed.”
Aside from the speakers, Duong’s favorite aspect of the symposium is the multinational cuisine, which includes everything from Indian to Korean fare. Overall, she appreciates the stereotype-breaking effect AALEC can have on participants.
“It makes people realize there is more than one type of Asian. There is always that stereotypical, academic, club-oriented Asian who really cares about scholastic things, like me,” she explained. “But then you go to AALEC and you see people who are creative and leaders in their own way without having to fit that typical mold.”
NFHS senior Kenny Dao, pictured third from the left in the back row of the photo showing Naaman's student council, also enjoys the eye-opening experience AALEC offers attendees.
“Being both student council and class president, I think these types of conferences keep the flame burning. They keep me motivated, but they also bring out my flaws,” he said. “As a leader, you have to know you have flaws. This is going to help me for the rest of my life.”
This will also be Dao’s fourth and final year attending the conference, and he intends to make it an unforgettable outing.
“I hope to have a lot of fun, meet new people and since I am a senior, I am going to go all out,” he confessed. “I want to be that one person who makes an impression at AALEC. I just want to have a great time and learn—that is the No. 1 thing, you have got to learn.”
Photo courtesy of Naaman Forest High School.
Grant money fills schools with sound of music
Posted March 1, 2014
March is Music In Our Schools Month, and seven Garland ISD elementary campuses have an extra reason to celebrate this year. Fine arts teachers from Back, Beaver, Bullock, Couch, Ethridge, Handley and Herfurth recently received grants from the Texas Music Educators Association.
“Funding public school education is challenging,” said Brenda Hass, Fine Arts coordinator. “We wish it was a bottomless account when it comes to spending for our students. However, that is not the case. Any extra funds we can receive to help our programs flourish is a plus.”
Recognizing the budgetary difficulties facing music teachers across Texas, TMEA awarded nearly $500,000 in grant funding to more than 600 elementary programs. That generosity has helped schools purchase new instruments, music, technology and other supplies to help them deliver high quality music education to students in grades K-5.
GISD teacher pens national magazine column
Posted February 24, 2014
An educator by day and author by night, the work of O’Banion Middle School teacher Jean Greenidge was recently featured in the national magazine Teaching Tolerance.
Greenidge wrote a nearly 700-word article recounting why she pursued a career in education. In it, she describes feeling aimless, alone and invisible as a teenager. She also reveals how she was inspired—and saved—by a caring drama teacher, who praised her and finally gave her hope. To read the column in its entirety, visit the Teaching Tolerance website.
Photo courtesy of Jean Greenidge.
State sets new graduation requirements
Posted February 23, 2014
In addition to choice of school and subject, Garland ISD eighth-graders will have a new decision to make this year. Incoming ninth-graders across the state will be the first group to graduate under the new Foundation High School Program, passed by Texas legislators in 2013.
The program, a provision of House Bill 5, replaces the current 4x4 program and requires students to choose one of five endorsements for their graduation plan—Arts and Humanities, Business and Industry, Multidisciplinary Studies, Public Services, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. They can then use that decision to tailor their courses. House Bill 5 also changed credit requirements for graduation and reduced the number of STAAR End of Course assessments administered throughout high school.
Garland ISD’s Guidance and Counseling Department is scheduling parent meetings, and school counselors are conducting student conferences to convey changes and assist with choice of school, subject and endorsement decisions. For more information, visit the Foundation High School Program webpage.
GISD board of trustees will not call for May bond election
Kim Everett | February 22, 2014
The Garland Independent School District board of trustees decided at their Feb. 18 meeting not to call for a May bond election but left the subject open for a possible November attempt. The deadline for making the May ballot is Feb. 28 and trustees did not feel that allowed enough time to prepare. The deadline for getting the issue on the November ballot is in August.
Huckabee and Associates were hired by GISD officials to do a facilities assessment and almost $1 billion worth of needed renovations, improvements and additions were identified in their report. Schools, as well as other GISD facilities, are aging and many require new roofs, electrical and plumbing updates and repairs as well as heating and air conditioning updates.
The assessment also revealed numerous security issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible and the trustees stressed the importance of getting these issues solved.
“Securing campuses has to be done,” Trustee Charles Axe said.
Officials had narrowed the list to $400 million - $500 million when a telephone survey proved that voters were not in favor of proposed spending on athletic facilities that would have included a $17.5 million natatorium.
According to Athletic Director Cliff Odenwald, North Garland, South Garland and Garland high schools are the only ones that offer a swimming program. The NGHS swim program has seven students, SGHS has one and GHS has 35. Odenwald said that all of the GISD high schools could have a swim program if the district had its own pool. The students currently use a pool in Richardson.
The current list of renovations, which will continue to be edited, includes spending approximately $135 million on safety and security, $186.5 million on building systems, $74 million on technology and $97 million on fine arts and athletics.
Board of Trustees President Larry Glick expressed concern over missing currently low interest rates but said that they need a unanimous board, which they do not have, to go forward on a bond election.
GISD school duels for prize
Posted February 22, 2014
In a recent duel among schools across North Texas, South Garland High School reigned victorious. The Colonels were named victors of the inaugural Dunkin’ School Duel Jan. 31, receiving a $5,000 prize.
Launched last fall, the duel encouraged students, staff and parents to visit a local Dunkin’ Donuts to vote for their favorite campus. The school that received the most votes won the competition, and South Garland’s success can be credited to activities coordinator Lisa Crane.
“She promoted it to our students and staff through announcements, the website and Twitter,” explained Principal Tracy Curtis. “She was relentless and kept encouraging everyone to eat donuts, drink coffee and vote at our local shop on Centerville Road. With anything involving school spirit, the Colonels will always rise to the occasion.”
SGHS received its $5,000 prize at a school assembly, where the local store owner, as well as representatives from Dunkin’ Donuts, presented Curtis with an oversized check. Students were also treated to a sweet surprise upon dismissal.
“Dunkin’ Donuts is an organization that believes in supporting the local communities that support our business,” said Nathan Pressler, field marketing manager. “The support and response we received from South Garland was tremendous.”
While the school has not yet decided how to use the money, Curtis says it will help continue the positive programs in place at SGHS.
State convention to showcase GHS singers
Posted February 22, 2014
The talents of Garland ISD choir students will soon be on display for music educators across Texas. Garland High School’s A cappella Women’s Choir was invited to perform at the 2014 Texas Music Educators Association convention, being held Feb. 12-15 in San Antonio.
“This is the highest honor a choir can receive in the state of Texas,” said Director Cheryl Wilson. “It will be a lifelong memory for these girls.”
That memory began when Wilson submitted their CD for a blind audition process. Selected from more than 120 entries, GHS is the only 5A women's choir chosen to sing.
The group of 33 girls, predominantly juniors and seniors, has since been rehearsing for their time in the spotlight. They will sing six selections at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
“The concert promises to be something very special and includes two pieces written especially for the choir for this performance,” commented George Jones, GISD’s director of Fine Arts. “We are extremely proud of these young ladies.”
Garland High School’s upcoming TMEA appearance marks the fourth honor of its kind. The campus’ A cappella Women’s Choir has performed at two previous conventions and the mixed A cappella Choir has performed at one.
Photo courtesy of Cheryl Wilson.
Teacher’s love for education helps student
Posted February 22, 2014
Pearson Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Tonya Adams’ love affair with education has come full circle. She grew up in Garland ISD and has a mother who taught in the district for 33 years. Adams even left a career in accounting to get into the classroom 13 years ago.
“I really enjoy the classroom. I was the child who went home in May, and by June 15, I wanted school to start,” she said. “These walls are the thing that I enjoy. I enjoy kids. I enjoy being around them. I enjoy teaching them. I learn so much from them and love getting to know them.”
Adams’ affection for teaching can be seen through her relationship with 11-year-old Bailey Aslin, who has a rare, painful bone disease called Multiple Hereditary Osteochondromatosis.
Adams began working with Aslin when he was in third grade. As his special education teacher for two-consecutive years and his current math instructor, she has built a special bond with him—something others have not been able to master.
“Bailey is very quiet. He has some challenges, but he never complains. He is probably the bravest little boy I have ever met,” Adams said. “He has a good sense of humor, but you have to build that relationship with him. When he misses school, I email his mom to make sure he is okay—that is my biggest concern. I tell her not to worry. I send home assignments we have done in class and tell her we will make it work.”
Racheal Aslin has been appreciative of Adams’ dedication to her son since day one. She credits Adams with his progress.
“She knew very early on that Bailey had challenges and always took the extra time with him to make sure he understood what he was learning,” Aslin said. “Bailey is very shy, but he trusts and admires her. She has helped with his writing, spelling, reading—which he loves now—and math skills. She has also taught him compassion, love, strength, patience, confidence and much more.”
Adams believes her job is to encourage achievement through knowledge. She cares not only about her students’ academic lives, but their personal ones as well.
“I have to make myself human. If they see me as a mom and a teacher, then there is more of a connection there. I think you have to take a mentor-parent-teacher role with them, or they do not respond as well,” she explained. “I try to teach the importance of education to every student, including Bailey. At times it may not be fun, but there is a better world if you have an education. You can go further. You can have a better job.”
Her approach to teaching has proven successful for Aslin, making his mother consider Adams one of GISD’s greatest.
“All teachers are special, but then you have Mrs. Adams. She is extraordinary and a blessing to our family.”
Art students embrace ancient ceramic firing technique
Posted February 22, 2014
Despite freezing temperatures, several Garland ISD students and teachers participated in the district’s second Super Saturday outdoor raku firing Feb. 8 at Rowlett High School.
A total of sixteen students from Garland, North Garland and Rowlett high schools braved the cold to raku fire original ceramic sculptures. Raku is a Japanese firing technique originally developed for 16th-century tea ceremonies.
RHS sculpture and ceramics teacher Kristine Hamidou hosted the event and is pleased that students are able to practice this advanced method.
“The raku firing process involves a ceramic sculpture that has been fired and glazed and then quickly fired again, leaving a blackened, distinct, multicolored pattern,” Hamidou said. “I think it is great that our students are able to practice raku and produce college-level work.”
Saturday’s event saw students first firing ceramics in a gas kiln for about an hour before placing them in a metal can filled with combustible material, which triggered a second small fire. The students then topped the metal can with a lid to reduce oxidation, which affects the color and causes a metallic effect. After cooling, the piece was submerged in water and buffed.
GISD obtained its first raku gas kiln in the fall, making it one of the only districts in the area to have this special device on hand.
“We have a sophisticated piece of equipment that has been approved by the Rowlett fire marshal. Two or three other districts also practice raku, but they use electric kilns, which can be dangerous,” said North Garland fine arts teacher Lee McBride. “We wanted to get a raku kiln because we wanted to have an edge at art competitions we enter, like the Visual Artistic Scholastic Event.”
NGHS senior Kristina Nguyen raku-fired an avian-inspired sculpture she will enter in the VASE competition. She enjoyed the firing process and was delighted with the results.
“It was really cool being able to actually get involved with firing the piece. Typically, when we finish our projects the teachers fire it themselves, so we do not really get to see the process,” she said. “I really like my piece. Considering this is my first time doing this, I think it is really cool.”
The district’s first Super Saturday outdoor raku firing event occurred in December. This one-of-a-kind art affair will now be held twice per school year.
GISD schedules weather makeup day
Posted February 22, 2014
April 7 was previously designated as the makeup date for GISD’s closure in December. June 6 has now been slated as the makeup date for the district’s second cancelation, Feb. 7.
All district schools and offices will be open and observe normal business hours April 7 and June 6. The final grading/recording day has been moved to Monday, June 9.
GISD academic decathlon teams prep for state competition
Posted February 22, 2014
The academic decathlon teams at Garland and South Garland high schools are getting ready to compete at the Texas Academic Decathlon State Meet, Feb. 21-23 in San Antonio.
Qualifying for a second-consecutive state appearance at the regional meet in January, SGHS world history teacher and AcDec coach David Yeatts feels it is an achievement they truly earned.
“I am really impressed with these kids. They work hard. I push them hard—we all do. It is always good to give them accolades when they deserve it,” Yeatts said. “I have been coaching AcDec for six years now, and when I took over, we were dead last.”
South Garland’s decathlon scene has undergone somewhat of a revolution since Yeatts’ arrival. The death of two AcDec coaches, as well as a student demographic shift, saddled the organization. But Yeatts worked through the challenges by partnering with English teacher Sean Duffey and adding a third coach, math teacher Tri Doan.
The three-coach dynamic helped the team place first in district competition this year and even produced GISD’s top-scoring student at regionals, South Garland senior Rachel Munson.
“Being in AcDec has made me a better student. My overall work ethic has improved a lot,” Munson stated. “Right now, we are working together and thinking of all of the miniscule details to prepare for state. I hope we progress as a team and individually. I hope to be in the top 10.”
The GHS AcDec club also has high hopes for the upcoming competition. Science teacher and coach Cynthia Curtis is implementing a novel learning method she believes will help the team grow.
“For these last few weeks, I am sort of letting them take the reins and teach each other because they know each other’s weak spots,” she said. “We are going into state ranked No. 24, and I am looking for improvement. My ultimate goal is to get into the top 10. If we could get to No. 15, I would consider that very successful. But any improvement would be awesome.”
Currently, SGHS is ranked No. 15, but Yeatts hopes his team can inch closer to the single digits.
“We would be happy if we could break the top 10—that has been our goal for the past two years. I do not know if jumping over six teams is statistically possible, but we believe in keeping our goals as high as possible and having very high expectations. We will see what happens.”
Teachers, administrators call for firing of superintendent
Kim Everett | February 20, 2014
The Feb. 18 Garland Independent School District board of trustees meeting was attended by protestors who want Dr. Bob Morrison, the district’s superintendent since the beginning of 2013, fired immediately.
Some protestors, who are employed by GISD as teachers and administers, wore bags over their faces saying that they feared being fired for participating in the protest. Their claim is that they are being bullied.
One administrator, whose identity was concealed, said that they were told not to attend.
“I’ve never seen anybody work with intimidation like this superintendent does. I’ve even been threatened,” the administrator said. “There is lots of bullying going on.”
“Employees are so scared in this district right now that we don’t even talk outside of our departments…We just kind of sit in our offices and do what we have to do and don’t talk to anybody out of fear,” he continued.
He added that a number of the longest-tenured district employees have been cut by Morrison. “We’ve watched one by one, the pillars of this district that have given…their lifelong careers to this district have been let go,” he said.
He said that the placement of Dr. Gary Reeves on administrative leave was “the last straw.”
“He [Reeves] has hired probably 90 percent of the people that work in this district,” the administrator said. “And he has always set a tone of being human-oriented and having compassion for people and there is zero loyalty with this administrator.”
Reeves, who has worked for GISD for 45 years in various capacities, including interim superintendent before Morrison was hired, was placed on leave for what a district press release called “potential wrongdoing” in the district H-1B Visa program.
Also named in the visa investigation were teacher Paul Ruediger who was also placed on administrative leave and Victor Leos, retired executive director of human resources.
The administrator said that Leos had a reputation for doing things the right way. “The man [Leos] that was running that department was very well respected and we used to call him squeaky because everything was so clean.” (Visit http://www.thegarlandtexan.com/schools.htm#visa for complete article.)
Lawrence Jones, former GISD student who recently ran for a school board seat, referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt.” He has collected 500 signatures on a petition calling for Morrison’s dismissal and was instrumental in getting a sign placed on a trailer across from the administration building that calls for an end to Reeves’ leave and the firing of Morrison.
“We’ve never had anything like this in Garland before,” Jones said. “He has to go. It’s that simple. I don’t like the way he’s leading. I don’t like the way he’s treating people. He has to go immediately.”
Reeves’ daughter-in-law, Shannon, who is a GISD teacher, told a Fox4 News reporter at the rally that Reeves “has not done or known anything that is going on” with regard to the HB1-Visa program. She said that he was put on leave because he opted not to sign a non-disclosure agreement. She also said that Morrison wants to get rid of all the “old Garland people.”
“Everything Garland has done has been torn down, everything that the district used to be. Our test scores were very good for the socio-economic group we’re in…All of that has been thrown out the window.”
Not everyone agrees with the negative assessment of Morrison’s performance. GISD School Board President Larry Glick told Fox4 News that he believes Morrison is doing a good job. “He’s been innovative. He’s brought us 21st century learning. He’s changed the culture of this district all for the better,” he said.
Another rally is being organized for the Tuesday, Feb. 25 school board meeting.
GISD announces Dell Scholar semifinalists
Posted February 17, 2014
The Garland Independent School District has 15 AVID seniors who have been designated Dell Scholar semifinalists. The Dell Scholars Program receives thousands of applications each year and they narrow down the semifinalists to approximately 500. From there, about 250 scholarships are actually awarded.
The scholarship is based on a 2.5 GPA or higher as well as a student's ability to persevere in spite of difficulties, financial need and a commitment to education and community service. Unlike other scholarships where the money is sent directly to the student's institution of higher learning, the recipient receives $20,000 over four years to spend on his/her educational needs, whatever those may be.
Finalists will be announced in April. The Dell Scholar Selection Committee determines those students whom they feel are academically prepared for college based on the rigorous courses that they have taken in high school.
Additionally, the committee rewards students for determination to achieve great things through higher education. Many Dell Scholarship winners have overcome obstacles and have maintained their grades.
The AVID students are listed below by high school and AVID teachers.
Lakeview Centennial (Heather Minichillo - AVID Teacher)
1. Nohemi Amaya
2. Jeanette Cruz
3. Heather Gordon
4. Katherine Hernandez
5. Kashara Johnson
6. Josh Kuehne
7. Deiondre Mathis
Garland High (Erika Duarte and John Willeford - AVID Teachers)
1. Christian Hernandez
2. Jose Yepez
North Garland (Mechelle Edwards - AVID Teacher)
1. Darlene Gonzaga
2. Chelsea Hare
3. Priscilla Martinez
4. Cassandra Morante
5. Gage Whittington
South Garland (Kenya Clark - AVID Teacher)
1. Marilyn Mata
GISD passes visa investigation to Homeland Security
According to a Feb. 13 Garland Independent School District press release, an investigation of its H-1B Visa Work Program is now in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security.
Information released by Chris Moore, the district’s communications director, states that “school district employees involved with the H-1B Visa Work Program contacted district administration in September 2013 with concerns of potential wrongdoing.”
The district began an investigation during which a decision was made to seek outside legal counsel. The outside investigation resulted in two individuals being placed on administrative leave -- Associate Superintendent Gary Reeves and teacher Paul Ruediger. A third, Victor Leos, retired executive director of human resources, was also named in the investigation.
The information was reported to the federal government Feb. 12 and the Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation.
GISD board of trustees to be honored this month
Posted February 17, 2014
Every February, the district recognizes the board of trustees for their dedication during School Board Appreciation Month. Please join us in saying thank you for making GISD a leader among school districts across Texas.
GISD’s board includes President Larry Glick, Vice President Scott Luna, Secretary Rick Lambert, Assistant Secretary Steve Knagg and members Charles Axe, Cindy Castaneda and Linda Griffin. Combined, the group has 43 years of experience. Griffin is the most tenured member with 16 years.
Serving as advisors, decision makers, problem solvers and supporters of the district, trustees are responsible for 58,000 students, 7,300 employees, 71 campuses and an annual budget of more than $400 million. Their job is to establish a vision for GISD, design a structure to achieve that vision, craft policies, hire quality staff members and recognize outstanding programs. Elected by constituents, they generously give of themselves to ensure that decisions directly affecting local schools are made by district stakeholders. Trustees are also deeply involved in community and school activities, promoting a shared vision of student achievement.
During the month of February, GISD schools show their appreciation through artwork, edibles and gifts that showcase student-learned skills such as video, graphic design, horticulture and manufacturing. Posters, cards and pictures decorated the board room for Tuesday’s work session and will remain throughout the month.
Brighter Horizons Academy students at work helping others
Kim Everett | February 17, 2014
The students at Brighter Horizons Academy are making a significant impact in the community through a variety of outreach programs.
“This year is all about community,” Student Council President Sahar Kuzbari said. “It’s time to reach out and we want to do it in Garland because that’s where our school is.”
One of the recipients of the students’ help, Good Samaritans of Garland, has benefited significantly. In addition to helping with the renovation of the organization’s food pantry and doing yard work, the Brighter Horizons students recently held a food drive that involved all of the school’s nearly 800 students.
The student council distributed bags and lists of needed food items to all students and that resulted in a donation of 2,136 pounds of food. Not only did they collect the food, they also delivered it, unloaded it, and arranged it in the pantry.
“These kids are great, and they want to be here to help,” Good Samaritans’ Executive Director Jim Griffin said. “We couldn’t have finished the renovations on the pantry without them.”
In addition to Good Samaritans, Garland’s New Beginning Center, a local retirement home, and an animal adoption agency have also been the recipients of the students’ assistance. They’ve also raised money for cystic fibrosis and hosted a blood drive.
Another of their outreach programs is aimed toward special needs individuals, which is close to Sahar’s heart because she has a special needs sister. They’ve developed close relationships with the special needs kids at North Garland High School and enjoying spending time and playing games with them.
The students have a required number of volunteer hours and they look forward to the service projects.
“It’s great that we have a chance to go out and help the less advantaged. I’m glad we get to do this,” Senior Class President Maryam Elnashar said.
Yasmeen Akel, who is in 11th grade said, “It is not only an emotional and touching feeling but such a blessing to be able to give to people that are in need…It is an amazing honor to be able to give to them.”
10th-grader Jennan Akel echoed that sentiment. “Helping in the community helps us feel grateful and it reminds us that even though we are fortunate, there are always people out there that need our help.”
Zak Kuzbari, also in 10th grade, said, “It feels good…You get a sense of accomplishment out of what you do because it makes their lives easier.”
Student Council Advisors Sherry Kuzbari and Aisha Mohammed are proud of the work being accomplished. “It’s all about community service and these kids work so hard,” Kuzbari said.
The school, which was started in 1989, now offers a dual collegiate program through Richland College. In addition, they will soon start competing in several sports with other private schools.
The school’s mission statement according to their website: Brighter Horizons Academy is a private Islamic school serving North Texas. The academy’s mission is to graduate practicing Muslim leaders and responsible citizens who are well prepared for college entrance and career challenges of the 21st century.
Our mission will be achieved through educational excellence within a healthy learning environment, intimate adherence to Islamic practices and strong collaboration with positive interaction among school, students, parents and community.
Students, teachers observe college readiness
Posted February 14, 2014
Back Elementary School is now home to a new tradition that has students and teachers bringing vocabulary words to life.
The school recently hosted its first-ever Vocabulary Parade Nov. 22, which saw participants defining a word both in print and costume.
Counselor Cristina Parra said teachers desired an entertaining event to help prepare students for higher education and promote lifelong learning.
“We were looking for a fun, interactive activity for college readiness and Pinterest had so many great ideas,” Parra said. “Vocabulary parades are based off a book called Miss Alaineus, A Vocabulary Disaster, which celebrates words and definitions.”
Students and teachers were asked to select a vocabulary word from a school-approved list and wear a costume that represented their pick. Approximately 80 students and 15 teachers participated in the creative, high-energy event.
“During the parade, there was music playing over the loud speaker and parents as well as staff members lined the halls, cheering the students on as they walked through the entire school,” Parra commented.
Fifth-grader Natalie Flores joined the fun and found that she truly enjoyed the drama aspect of the event.
“Being in the parade was magnificent because you could dress up and act the way you needed to so people would know what you were,” Flores said.
The parade was such a hit that the school is preparing to host a second Vocabulary Parade later this spring.
Photos courtesy of Back Elementary.
GP&L names Jennifer Nguyen Teacher of the Month
Posted February 10, 2014
Jennifer Nguyen’s lifeline has been more of a circle than a line – one that begins and ends at Ethridge Elementary. When Nguyen’s family moved to Garland from California, she attended Ethridge. Years later, she now teaches kindergarten at the same school. In fact, three of her fifth grade teachers are still on the Ethridge faculty, and Nguyen was thrilled to re-introduce herself to them – as a peer rather than a student.
Nguyen’s career could have taken a different path. She says her parents encouraged her to go into medicine, “because they saw that as success.” As a student at Richland College and at University of North Texas, Nguyen says she kept her options open as long as possible as she struggled to choose between medicine – her parents’ preference – and education, which she had realized she was truly passionate about.
While attending North Garland High School, Nguyen had the opportunity to investigate teaching through the Future Teacher Internship program. As a part of that curriculum, Nguyen became a student teacher. “Through that experience, I discovered teaching was my true love,” she said. Now in her fifth year as a teacher, with a variety of experiences to her credit, Nguyen says she has further pinpointed her passion: she loves working with kindergarten students.
“When I first started student teaching, I worked with pre-K, then kindergarten. I loved going to work with the kindergarteners – I could tell the difference between being assigned to work with a class and actually wanting to go there.” She says kindergarteners offer her, as a teacher, nearly instant gratification. “They start out at the beginning of the year just learning their letters, and by the end of the year they’re reading!”
Nguyen credits terrific teamwork for making that happen, especially because her students begin the year at different levels of readiness. “Reading specialists come in and work with those students who really need the extra attention. I feel so fortunate to be at Ethridge – our principal, Patty Opon, is amazing! She finds the resources we need to help our students succeed.”
At the kindergarten level, student success is reading-focused, Nguyen says. “Without reading, students can’t move on to science, word problems in math and so much more,” she said. “Reading is the foundation for everything.” In addition to being named this month’s Garland Power & Light Teacher of the Month, Nguyen was also honored by her peers as Ethridge Teacher of the Year last year.
Have Nguyen’s parents come around? It’s clear to her parents – and her peers – that Nguyen knew best when she followed her heart into a teaching career where every day she makes a difference in the lives of her students.
Jupiter Chevrolet names Teacher of the Month
Posted February 8, 2014
Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month car continues to make its way across Garland ISD. The Impala will be parked in front of Pearson Elementary School throughout February. Fourth-grade teacher Jennifer Spence was recently named this month’s honoree.
On February 3, Principal Vicki DeVantier lured Spence outside to the car and a cheering group of students and staff.
“I was surprised,” commented Spence. “I look forward to using the XM radio, driving something new and giving my car a break.”
Spence claimed the Teacher of the Month title through an online poll. If you would like to see your campus represented and your favorite educator honored, visit the Jupiter Chevrolet Facebook page to cast a vote before the end of the month. You can either choose from GISD’s 2012-13 Campus Teachers of the Year or write in your own entry.
DeVantier helped bring the coveted car to Pearson by encouraging her staff to participate.
“We have so many deserving teachers here. I thought at least one of them should be recognized,” she said.
“It is touching that people thought enough of me to vote,” Spence added. “I have worked at Pearson for 10 years. To think that I have made an impact along the way feels nice. I appreciate Jupiter Chevrolet for taking the time to recognize teachers.”
Motivational speaker inspires students, parents
Posted February 7, 2014
Entertaining, engaging, interactive and informative are words used to describe Adolph Brown’s recent visit to Garland ISD. The world-renowned speaker toured four district high schools in January to motivate students to make good choices.
“Dr. Brown's visit to our campus was inspirational,” said Tracy Curtis, principal at South Garland High School. “His life story and how he overcame great odds to become the person he is today gives great hope to students who might be experiencing difficulties of their own.”
In addition to the student presentations during school, Brown returned each night to speak with parents. Using song, dance, storytelling and role-playing, he delivered a message about the importance of family.
“Good parenting is inconvenient and challenging, but also rewarding,” Brown said. “I want to encourage parents to support their kids throughout school and engage their child’s educators.”
“My daughter came home talking about Dr. Brown’s presentation,” commented Denise Spell. “She asked me to attend the parent meeting because she thought I’d enjoy it and get a lot out of it. I know the importance of being involved, not only in elementary and middle school, but especially high school. Dr. Brown inspired me to do more. I left feeling all of us parents and students are on the same team.”
Brown will visit GISD’s remaining three high schools in February. All district parents are invited to attend one of his final presentations. A pizza dinner for the first 500 guests will be served before each meeting at 6 p.m. A list of dates and locations is below.
Monday, February 10 - Rowlett High School - 7-8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 11 - Lakeview Centennial High School - 7-8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, February 12 - Sachse High School 7-8:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Naaman Forest High School
GISD celebrates Black History Month
Posted February 7, 2014
Like millions across the nation, Garland ISD students and staff will honor African American heritage and history this month.
Cisneros Prekindergarten School kicked off the national celebration with its annual Black History Month hallway museum, which features African American heroes, inventors, politicians and famous figures, such as athletes and entertainers.
Principal Celia Najera said the exhibition is a great way for preschoolers to use critical thinking skills.
“The museum is very educational and interactive. We try to display inventions that are relevant and showcase the items during daily announcements,” Najera said. “This morning we showcased the mop and asked students to think about life before this invention. The kids really start thinking and guessing. It is really fun.”
Assistant teacher Doris Smith volunteered to set up the museum Saturday, Feb. 1. She helps organize the display every year and enjoys sharing her heritage with students and teachers.
“The kids are just so excited when they see the museum. They love it,” Smith said. “All of our teachers do research for this. They find one interesting fact or person, make a poster and bring a prop from home for the display table. Everybody learns from this—students, teachers and parents.”
Other GISD campuses will join Cisneros in commemorating Black History Month with intriguing and enlightening programs. The following schools will host events and activities later this month:
· Black History Month program at Sachse High School: Feb. 20, 8:15-9:03 a.m.
Filing window opens for board elections
Posted February 7, 2014
Candidates wishing to serve on the Garland ISD Board of Trustees or the Region 10 Education Service Center Board of Directors can now submit an application. Filing windows for upcoming elections opened Jan. 29 and Feb. 1.
GISD will hold an election for Places 4 and 5 as current terms of Trustees Cindy Castañeda and Scott Luna expire in May. Applications can be obtained at the Harris Hill Administration Building at 501 South Jupiter Road, Garland. The filing window closes Feb. 28.
Region 10 will also host an election for Places 4 and 5, with directors representing Dallas, Collin and Rockwall counties. Applications are available at the Education Service Center at 400 E. Spring Valley Road, Richardson. The filing window closes Feb. 20. For eligibility information, please click here.
SGHS teacher receives national recognition
Posted February 5, 2014
Rising above the rest, South Garland High School teacher Nima Kapadia recently received national recognition as an up-and-coming educator. She was named one of just 14 Rising Star award recipients by the Journalism Education Association.
Since 2006, JEA has recognized nearly 80 educators with one to five years of experience, who demonstrate a commitment to journalism and show promise as an adviser.
“Knowing how competitive the award is, winning it has been an absolute honor,” Kapadia said. “It has given me the personFeal validation that, even though I have been teaching for a short time, I can perform at the level of veteran journalism educators.”
Kapadia started her career at SGHS in 2009. She currently teaches an introduction to journalism class and serves as the newspaper and yearbook adviser. A product of Garland Independent School District, Kapadia graduated from North Garland High School in 2004. She then attended Southern Methodist University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and secondary education, as well as two master’s degrees.
“I would not be where I am without the investment of others,” Kapadia said. “I will always attribute my successes to my family, my journalism teachers in high school and college, and the other advisers I have been fortunate to work with throughout my career.”
Kapadia’s students share the same sentiments regarding her impact on their lives.
“She played an important role in helping me choose a career in journalism and has motivated me to strive for and meet exceptionally high standards,” said Patricia Villacin, SGHS alumna and current SMU student.
Kapadia’s goal for her students is to reach a collegiate caliber of reporting while still in high school. She encourages this through in-depth reporting and finding ways to localize national topics. Under Kapadia’s direction, South Garland’s newspaper and yearbook have become award-winning programs.
“My students have collectively earned more than 50 local and state awards for their reporting, photography and pagination skills,” she said. “Their work has been recognized by organizations such as The Dallas Morning News and the Interscholastic League Press Association. In addition, the staff members consistently compete at regional and state UIL competition for journalism.”
That student success is what Kapadia hoped JEA would recognize when she applied for the Rising Star award. She will be honored at the National High School Journalism Convention this spring.
Rowlett HS hosts Region X Academic Decathlon
Posted February 4, 2014
The area’s top academic scholars converged in Garland ISD last weekend. Rowlett High School hosted the Region X Academic Decathlon meet Jan. 24-25.
“RHS is proud and honored to have been chosen to host the Region X event,” said Principal Michelle Bounds. “Putting on a Regional Academic Decathlon meeting is a yearlong process. It requires many, many man hours and the cooperation of the region, district, host school, teachers, students and volunteers. Rowlett High School alone provided more than 100 student and staff volunteers.”
The United States Academic Decathlon is a program that provides high school students an opportunity to experience the challenges of rigorous academic competition through participation in team activities. Interviews, essays and speeches, as well as exams in music, art, language/literature, mathematics, economics and science, test the skills and knowledge of nine-member teams. Contests begin at the district level with winners advancing to region, state and national competition.
Rockwall High School claimed top honors at the Region X meet and will advance to state. Garland, Highland Park, JJ Peace, Plano East, Plano Senior, Richardson, Rockwall Heath and South Garland high schools will also advance. First, second and third place winners in each category were recognized as well.
“I have always wanted a medal in essay because I love to write. I thought it was amazing that I got a perfect 1,000—that was my goal,” said Serena Brandler, a RHS senior who earned first place awards in essay and speech, as well as a third place award in art.
GISD students hit the road
in name of Texas history
Posted February 1, 2014
Couch Elementary School fourth-grade students enjoyed a history and culture-filled adventure in Austin with Education in Action’s Proud to be a Texan field trip Jan. 9. They enhanced their Texas history knowledge with a hands-on tour at the Texas State Capitol and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Students saw where state laws are handled at the Capitol, which is a valuable learning experience for young minds. They also toured the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, as well as the offices of their own state legislators—Sen. Bob Deuell and Rep. Cindy Burkett.
At the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, the eight and nine year olds explored exhibits detailing Texas’ first inhabitants, the Texas Revolution and various culture-shaping events that lead to our state’s distinct character.
“Student activities during Education in Action’s Proud to be a Texan field trip reinforce and supplement fourth grade Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills learning objectives with a focus on why Texans are so proud of their unique heritage,” said Lori Duncan, Education in Action’s school programs director.
The museum visit ended with an exciting screening of the Star of Destiny at the Texas Spirit Theater. The multisensory show featured highlights in Texas history, such as an East Texas oil derrick gusher and the Saturn V takeoff, as seen from Mission Control at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston.
GISD students host electronics donation fundraiser
Posted February 1, 2014
Spring Creek Elementary School and Webb Middle School are currently accepting old, used or unwanted electronics to help raise money for a special field trip. The schools are hoping to raise enough funds to send students with disabilities to Morgan’s Wonderland, a San Antonio-based theme park designed for people with special needs.
Garland ISD Speech Language Pathologist Anne Redeman is the woman behind the resourceful drive. Although seven other GISD schools are raising money for the same trip, this is the first time a district school has utilized a recycling electronics drive.
“The man who owns the recycling company was holding a drive at my daughter’s school and I thought it was a good idea,” Redeman said. “It is great because you never know what to do with old or used electronics. Plus, they will wipe your information off the computers.”
Ocean Star Metals recycles everything from desktop computers to printers and dated cell phones. Company owner Henry Amasha said all electronics are accepted, but computers, laptops and cell phones are the moneymakers.
“We pay by each PC and cell phone piece we get. All other electronics are just recycled properly,” he said. “We still need quite a lot of computers, cell phones and laptops to be able to get to her goal. We also try to give something back out of our pocket on top of what she gets from the donation, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Amasha said about 10 computers, which will yield about $50, have been donated. Redeman needs $10,800 to sufficiently cover the costs of the three-day trip, scheduled for April. To make sure the schools raise enough money, she has set up six additional promotions.
“We are also doing a silent auction, garage sale, candy sale, Chuck E. Cheese and Chick-Fil-A night and just finished a penny collection game,” Redeman said. “I am just trying to make sure we get what we need because this is such an amazing trip for the students. So, please recycle and help us out.”
Ocean Star Metals will pick up donations at Webb Middle School from 7:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. until Friday, Jan. 31.
Austin Academy students receive award
Posted February 1, 2014
Five ingenious Austin Academy for Excellence students were presented the Excellence Award at the Greenville Middle School VEX Toss Up Tournament held Jan. 11. All are members of the 7504E Enderphase robotics team, which made it to the VEX Robotics Middle School World Championship last year.
Seventh grade science teacher and Austin Academy robotics sponsor Corey Bankston said the award is a comprehensive, esteemed accolade.
“The Excellence Award is one of the highest honors given out at the tournament. The judges consider a team’s performance, engineer notebook and in-depth interview,” Bankston said. “These guys have been working hard since August, dedicating more than 800 hours of time to this.”
Austin's team is comprised of seventh graders Samuel Barbee and John McKelvey, as well as eighth graders Evan Anderson, Jonah Johnson and Tien Tran. The teens spend at least four extra hours at school to work on their robot and game plan every day.
This year’s 7504E robot, affectionately named Allumina, was designed and built by the team to compete in the 2014 VEX-created tournament game, Toss Up.
Anderson serves as the team’s driver, which means he uses a game console-like remote to control the robot’s movements. He said his affinity for video games helps improve his skills.
“Gaming does really increase my reaction time. I used to play games, like Guitar Hero, where you use hand-eye coordination to get the best score. It helps me drive and get out of tough situations during a competition,” Anderson said. “My favorite thing about robotics is getting to build what I imagine in my mind to see if it works. It is just really fun.”
The robotics program requires students to use science, technology, engineering, math and critical thinking skills to build and program robots.
The team’s next competition will be Saturday at Hudson Middle School, where they hope to win the Skills Challenge Award.
Expo encourages students to pursue college, local employment
Posted January 29, 2014
Approximately 700 high school juniors and seniors attended Garland ISD’s Student Career Expo Jan. 14 at the Curtis Culwell Center. In its inaugural year, the event featured representatives from 20 local businesses and three community colleges.
Career and Technical Education Director Phil Gilbreath helped organize the expo, which encouraged students to explore local career options.
“The Student Career Expo was developed to make students aware of the businesses and careers available within the community,” he said. “I think it is important that we look to do something like this every year. The event was a combined effort, involving several groups. Everybody made it a priority, so it was really a partnership effort.”
CTE, along with the Special Programs Department, the Guidance and Counseling Department, the Garland, Rowlett and Sachse Chambers of Commerce, and the Dallas County Community College District, planned and executed the career fair in record time—two months.
Garland Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Mayer spoke to students about the importance of the event before they interacted with potential employers.
“In my day, we went to school and then we went to work. Your generation is going to be so happy when you leave high school. You are going to learn and work at the same time,” he said.
On the floor, students met professionals from a variety of industries. Participating establishments included Baylor Medical Center at Garland, Matt’s Rancho Martinez and the Garland Fire Department.
Daisy Brand Human Resources Executive Ted Rodgers detailed the benefits students can receive with the dairy-centered company.
“We came to this event to connect with students and show that there are opportunities for employment and education,” he explained. “They can learn about the business-side of things while they earn money and learn about themselves.”
Rodgers also added that Daisy offers monetary reimbursement for students who continue a post-high school education.
Garland High School senior Jesus Vicuña plans to study banking at the University of North Texas or Texas Tech this fall. The career fair gave him an understanding of what Garland ISD’s tri-cities have to offer a college graduate.
“I came because I wanted to see what jobs a returning graduate can look for and get in Garland,” Vicuña said. “I talked to a lot of companies, like the Police Department, Atmos Energy and Baylor. It is a pretty good event.”
LaTrell Nelson, a GISD alumnus and current science major at Eastfield Community College, said the event allowed him an opportunity to tell students how vital higher education is for their future.
“I feel like this event was a great success and a learning experience for me. This was a stepping stone for us to help promote the importance of college,” he said. “I am not that much older than these students, and being able to interact, talk and work with them may make a difference in their future.”
Memorial Pathway Academy Principal Kim Lozada also kept her students’ futures in mind while at the career expo. She was impressed by the experience and hopes the event becomes bigger and better.
“This event is great because it mutually benefits students and local businesses. I learned about many companies that offer a wide range of jobs that are valuable to students,” Lozada said. “It will be interesting to see the impact of this event. I can definitely see it as a growing event, with even more employers and students attending next year.”
Ethridge ES wins grant, funds nutrition program
Posted January 28, 2014
Students at Ethridge Elementary School will soon take a special kind of test, unlike any comprehension exam or STAAR assessment. They will each taste-test healthy food items offered in their campus cafeteria.
P.E. teacher Derek Storey is organizing the sampling through a recent grant he received. On Jan. 15, Dairy MAX awarded Storey $4,000 for his participation in Fuel Up to Play 60—a program that encourages children to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
“The taste-test allows students to try new foods, or ones they may just have never chosen from the cafeteria,” Storey said. “If I can teach them healthy habits and expose them to new things, hopefully that will have a positive impact on their future.”
Fuel Up to Play 60 is an initiative by the National Dairy Council, local dairy councils like Dairy MAX and the National Football League (NFL), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It offers nutrition education, activity and healthy eating trackers, games, contests and prizes, which include visits from NFL players.
With more than 70,000 participating schools, Ethridge Elementary is one of just 15 in the region of Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas to receive a grant.
“I was excited to learn that I had won because this was my first-ever grant application,” said Storey.
“We look for schools with a focus on nutrition,” Mary Dickson, program coordinator for Dairy MAX, said. “Ones that offer whole grains and dairy items, promote physical activity and teach students how to sustain healthy habits.”
In addition to the upcoming taste-test, Storey plans to use his grant to purchase additional P.E. equipment. He says recent Fitnessgram assessments show needed improvement in the body strength category, so funds will be used for weight bars and other interactive equipment for students.
Ethridge’s cafeteria will also receive a new refrigerated display case. And, a new blender will allow the campus to add fruit smoothies to its menu.
Council PTA honors creative students
Posted January 28, 2014
Nearly 200 Garland ISD students were recognized for their artistic creations at the annual Council PTA Reflections award ceremony, held Jan. 9. This year’s competition saw artwork illustrating the “Believe. Dream. Inspire.” theme.
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.
Awards of merit and excellence, as well as honorable mentions, were presented at the Reflections ceremony. Twenty students also received Outstanding Interpretation Awards, qualifying them for state.
Two GISD high schools, three middle schools and six elementary schools will be represented at the state level of competition this spring.
The following students were chosen to advance:
Photo courtesy of Watson Technology Center for Math and Science and Council PTA.
the show; NGHS grad saves
Posted January 19, 2014
A theatre alumna will save the North Garland High School performance of “Chicago” after obstacles including the December ice storm and the loss of a lead actor threatened to end the show.
The students auditioned in September and had been rehearsing songs and dances for two months. The show was going to open on Thursday, December 5, but due to the ice storm, Garland ISD canceled all evening and weekend events which included all performances of “Chicago.” The next possible performance date would be in January. The technical theatre classes had to strike all sets and lights so that the holiday concerts could take place and are coming back on MLK day to rebuild everything and the show will go on.
However, several students now can’t perform on the new January dates, so restaging has been necessary and rehearsals resumed after the winter holidays. When we returned, we found out that one of our lead actors who played the role of Velma was withdrawn from school. She was excellent in the part and was heartbroken to have to leave. Once again, the students were upset at the thought of not performing as well as the stress of not having the revenue for the theatre department to help fund further shows.
Michael Abrams explained the situation and asked some professional friends to perform the Velma role. The Dallas Theatre Community was very supportive and wanted to help. Several professional actresses volunteered to help but one local actress, 2005 NGHS graduate, Nikki (Cloer) McDonald, called Abrams while on vacation with her husband in California and said she would be happy to perform the role.
While at NGHS, McDonald performed lead roles in Once Upon a Mattress, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Anything Goes. She is currently a professional actress who has performed in theatres around the DFW Metroplex after graduating from SMU. She has been seen in shows at Theatre Three, PFamily Arts, Rover Dramawerks, and other venues. She will have one week to learn the role before showtime.
“Chicago” show dates are Thursday, Jan. 23 and Friday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. in the North Garland High School auditorium. Tickets will be $10 and $5 for any student with an ID.
Award-winning author conducts literacy tour across GISD
Posted January 19, 2014
On a literary tour across Garland ISD, award-winning author Susan Crummel visited eight elementary campuses in December. While there, she spoke with students about her craft.
“The more you write, the better you get,” Crummel said during a presentation at Heather Glen. “Always be thinking and use your imagination.”
Crummel then led students through the publishing process, showing them initial manuscripts, editor’s notes and requests for re-writes.
“Editing is an important part of the process,” she said. “Books are never right the first time. There is always room for improvement.”
Telling students how she gets ideas for writing, Crummel also enlisted several to act out her popular stories. Heather Glen fifth-grader Dayqwon Henderson played a trashcan from The Little Red Pen.
“I learned to keep trying,” he said. “I’m going to work on my writing and illustration. It was funny and fun,” added classmate Jose Mendoza. “I want to be a writer someday.”
Comments like those keep Crummel coming back to GISD year after year. For the past seven or eight, the district’s Library Services Department has invited her for a literary tour at different campuses to give every student the opportunity to meet an author while in elementary school.
“When I was a librarian, I saw the difference it could make,” said Teena Garvin, library coordinator. “Meeting an author inspires students to read and want to write. Susan gives us everything we could ever want. She uses music, humor, puppets, etc. The kids learn a ton.”
Crummel has written more than 20 books for children, winning the Texas Bluebonnet Award twice. She is a recently retired educator and lives in Fort Worth.
GISD receives financial recognition
Posted January 13, 2014
Garland ISD recently received a nod of recognition from the State Comptroller’s office. The district was given a four-and-a-half-star rating in the Financial Allocation Study for Texas.
Every year, school districts and campuses throughout the state are assigned a FAST rating of one to five stars. The study evaluates each organization’s success in combining cost-effective spending with the achievement of measurable student academic progress. A five-star rating reflects the strongest relative progress combined with the lowest relative spending.
Launched in 2010, GISD received five stars for two consecutive years–a feat achieved by just 23 of Texas’ 1,237 school districts. 2013 marks the district’s second four-and-a-half-star rating.
GISD also earned a Superior Achievement rating this year from the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas. This marks the district’s 10th time to receive the organization’s highest honor for quality financial management and reporting.
Cooper ES celebrates anniversary
Posted January 11, 2014
Students and staff at Cooper Elementary School had an extra reason to celebrate this holiday season. They commemorated the campus’ 50th anniversary Dec. 18.
Holding a daylong birthday party, the entire school first participated in a parade. Parents, along with former teachers and administrators, were then invited to a nighttime get-together. A relative of the campus’ namesake kicked off the celebration, and students continued it with songs from the 60s. Attendees then indulged in cupcakes, games and dancing.
Cooper opened its doors in 1963, named after longtime school board member William Boone Cooper. Additional classrooms, a gymnasium and computer labs were built in 1979, and a second addition was built in 2005. Cooper’s motto is “where little people do big things.”
Carver ES students receive bikes
Posted January 11, 2014
The new year will bring new adventures for students at Carver Elementary School. Thirty boys and girls recently received new bikes from Academy Sports and Outdoors.
The company opened a North Garland store in October and is looking to impact its surrounding community.
“Academy Sports and Outdoors loves to partner with youth organizations to promote active lifestyles,” said Chris Young, North Garland store director. “That is why these bikes are important. They encourage kids to stay healthy and fit.”
Carver’s donation was one of 110 events that Academy held across 13 states throughout December. In total, the company surprised more than 3,300 boys and girls with new bikes and helmets estimated to cost more than $200,000.
Carver’s lucky 30 were chosen through a random drawing from the school’s first and second grades. Each recipient received their prize at a special assembly Dec. 19.
“Kids often dream of finding a bike under the Christmas tree,” said Principal Wendy Williams. “That dream came true for our students, thanks to Academy. I know I speak on behalf of our families and faculty when I say that we are blessed to partner with Academy and lucky to be the only GISD school chosen for this program.”
GHS student chosen for Congress of Future Medical Leaders
Posted January 8, 2014
Fiona Cherian, a sophomore at Garland High School, has been chosen to attend the Congress of Future Medical Leaders Feb. 14-16, 2014 in Washington, D.C. An honors-only program for high school students who want to become physicians or go into medical research fields, the Congress inspires, motivates and directs these top performers to stay true to their dreams. The event also provides a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal.
"This is a crucial time in America when we need more doctors and medical scientists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially," said Richard Rossi, executive director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists. "Focused, bright and determined students like Fiona Cherian are our future, and she deserves all the mentoring and guidance we can give her."
Cherian was nominated by Dr. Connie Mariano, medical director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists, to represent Garland High School based on her academic achievement, leadership potential and determination to serve humanity in the field of medicine.
During the three-day Congress, Cherian will join students from across the country to hear from Nobel laureates and National Medal of Science winners. She will also learn about cutting-edge advances in the future of medicine and what to expect in medical school, as well as hear stories from patients who are living medical miracles.
World-renowned speaker to visit GISD
Posted January 6, 2014
To kick off its second semester, Garland ISD will receive a visit from internationally-recognized and sought-after speaker Adolph Brown. The real-world business leadership and educational excellence authority will travel to the district’s high schools throughout January and February, delivering a message about making good choices.
Brown will also host a parent event each night entitled An Inspiring Journey to Practical Parenting. All district families are encouraged to attend one of the seven conversations.
A complimentary pizza dinner—enough for 500 guests—will be served from 6-7 p.m.
Find dates and locations of each event below.
Monday, January 13, Naaman Forest High School, 7-8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, January 14, Garland High School, 7-8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, January 15, North Garland High School, 7-8:30 p.m.
Thursday, January 16, South Garland High School, 7-8:30 p.m.
Monday, February 10, Rowlett High School, 7-8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 11, Lakeview Centennial High School, 7-8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, February 12, Sachse High School, 7-8:30 p.m.
GP&L names Billy Bennett Teacher of the Month
Posted January 1, 2014
Billy Bennett started professional life as a Richardson police officer right out of high school. Then he spent several years in sales. “I didn’t have a sales mentality,” Bennett said. “I was over 40 and I knew that what I’d always really wanted to do was coach baseball. I thought the best way to do that was to become a teacher and coach a school team, but I realized I’d be 44 when I graduated from college. I had a friend who had gone back to college late in life, and his dad had told him, ‘You’ll be over 40 whether you get your degree or not,’ and that certainly applied to me. So I attended Richland College for two years, then graduated from University of Texas at Dallas.”
After student teaching in Garland ISD and landing his first job as a middle school English teacher in the district, Bennett said he learned three things: He preferred teaching history; he preferred high school students; and he wasn’t that interested in coaching after all.
Nearly 20 years later, Bennett says he has “the best job in the world! I love teaching U.S. history.” As an Advanced Placement history teacher at Sachse High School, Bennett enjoys the high-level discussions he has with his students. “I’m constantly amazed by what they can do,” he said. “One created an animated production of a Civil War battle; another built a huge model of a battlefield.”
Bennett says he is able to share important insights about preparing for the AP tests with his students because he has also worked as an AP essay grader for six years. “That’s been such an eye-opener,” he said. “I’ve learned what they’re looking for on the essays, and as part of my training for that, I hear from teachers and professors all over the U.S. about good essay writing techniques.” He shares those, as well as previous tests – available to all teachers – with his students to help them do their best on the important college-credit tests.
Bennett goes beyond the classroom walls to show his students he is invested in them. He attends every kind of activity at the school, such as band and orchestra concerts, sporting events, and theater productions.
“The kids need to see you supporting them – and they love it when you do,” he said. That extracurricular care Bennett shows his kids is all part of teaching, he says. “The kids are what keep you going. If you don’t like the kids, you shouldn’t teach. And if you don’t like teaching, believe me, the kids can tell.”
There’s no doubt that Bennett’s students know where his heart lies. It may have taken him a few years to find his calling, but fortunately for the students at Sachse High School, he did just that. Congratulations to Billy Bennett, an exemplary, dedicated professional and this month’s Garland Power & Light Teacher of the Month.
Posted December 29, 2013
In a Teacher of the Month two-peat, Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School once again claimed the honor from Jupiter Chevrolet. Band teacher Jim Palmer was named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month Dec. 10.
“It was a complete surprise,” he said. “I am very appreciative of those who voted. I also appreciate Jupiter Chevrolet and their support of education.”
Palmer credits his victory to assistant band teacher John Vanhook, who launched an email and social media campaign to solicit votes.
“We have a lot of supportive band families,” Vanhook said. “We want to get them as involved as possible in any aspect that we can.”
He hopes to also hold the Teacher of the Month title this school year. But for now it belongs to Palmer, who was surprised with a new car while at school. He will get to drive the specially-wrapped Chevy Impala for a month and receive a prime parking spot in front of the campus, so everyone can see. That tradition started when sixth grade reading teacher Christie Creel brought the Teacher of the Month honors to Brandenburg in November.
“The front parking spot is exciting,” Palmer said. “The car also has some nice features. But I’m most excited about the support from our parents and students. The car is ultimately a symbol of that.”
Would you like to see your campus represented and your favorite educator named Teacher of the Month? Vote for the January winner on Jupiter Chevrolet’s Facebook page. You can either choose from GISD’s 2012-13 Campus Teachers of the Year or write-in your own entry.
Armstrong ES students buy, sell bracelets to help classmate
Posted December 28, 2013
‘Tis the season for giving, and students at Armstrong Elementary School are not only helping a family in need, but a fellow Aviator. The campus launched a Mighty Mia fundraiser to benefit fifth-grader Mia Alfred, who doctors recently diagnosed with stage 3 throat and neck cancer.
Hearing of Alfred’s condition, Armstrong students sprang into action.
“Fifth-graders were very concerned to hear that one of their peers was sick, and they wanted to help,” teacher Amanda DuCharme said. “They knew she would need many expensive chemotherapy treatments, so they started making and selling rainbow loom bracelets.”
The charitable entrepreneurs developed a business plan and secured supplies from parent donations. They also advertised with posters throughout the building, made morning announcements and even wrote letters to newspapers. In just two weeks, students have sold more than 850 bracelets, raising more than $1700.
And the fundraiser has now expanded to include handmade bookmarks by Alfred’s sister and her third-grade class.
“We know Olivia and want to help her sister get better,” said third-grader Gina Disi.
Another group of students also started selling school supplies this week.
“One day in the hospital can cost $1,000,” fourth-grader Destiny Doggett said. “The more we raise, the longer she can stay.”
Armstrong students plan to raise a lot more money with sales before, after and sometimes during school. Fifth-graders also say they just received 300 purple bracelets with Alfred’s name inscribed, which they will sell throughout January. All the proceeds from Mighty Mia fundraisers will be donated directly to Alfred’s family.
International exchange provides unique learning opportunities
Posted December 28, 2013
Special visitors could be
seen throughout Garland ISD in December. The district partnered with the
Dallas-Fort Worth Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce to host an international
“We have comparatively
longer school hours,” added Wei. “And you’ve got very large campuses.
Our campus is relatively small.”
“I really like your food here because we don’t usually have so much chicken or burritos,” said sophomore Charlie Cheng. “My favorite is fried chicken. I know it’s not healthy, but I like it very much.”
Since Garland is the cowboy hat capitol of Texas, each also left with a genuine souvenir, thanks to Master Hatters. Children of GISD's host families will be given the opportunity for a reciprocal exchange next year.
GISD’s annual toy run rides to Williams ES
Posted December 21, 2013
Trading his sleigh for a motorcycle, Santa Claus made a special appearance at Garland ISD’s Williams Elementary School Dec. 13. Saint Nick led 30 other bikers during the eighth-annual GISD Rolling Thunder Toy Run.
This year’s event began at Williams Stadium, where Santa and his gang were treated to lunch by the district’s Food Services Department. After fueling up, riders were given the all-important cue to “start your engines.” Police officers then escorted the group to Williams ES.
Upon his arrival, Santa picked up third-grader Omar Hernandez before riding through the campus into the gym. School Resource Officer Rene Granado followed with Principal Ellen Mooney as students erupted into cheers, applause and expressions of excitement. After thanking the sponsors who made GISD’s Toy Run a reality, Mooney introduced the Rowlett High School Silver Rhythm Dancers.
“They continue to impress the students every year with their outstanding conduct,” commented event organizer Larry Williams. “This may be the first time some of the elementary students have seen a drill team or interacted with high schoolers.”
RHS once again impressed the crowd as the dancers dropped into the splits to end their performance. The girls then led Williams students back to class, where they handed out gifts and candy canes. Thanks to Toy Run sponsors, each student received an age-appropriate book to call their own.
“The knowledge that this book might be the first one they have ever received is why we continue to do it,” Williams said.
“We are very appreciative to all that participated and contributed to make this event a great success,” added event organizer Gaylon Garrison.
Before mounting his hog and heading back to the North Pole, Santa showed off his ride.
“The look of excitement on children’s faces is what Christmas is all about,” Garrison said.
And the bikers will bring that excitement to several more faces this holiday season. Every toy they brought has been given to the district’s Counseling and Guidance Department to distribute to families in need.
The GISD Rolling Thunder Toy Run would like to thank its 2013 sponsors— America's Credit Union, Texas Teachers and 1st American Pension Services. For information about becoming a 2014 sponsor, contact Gaylon Garrison at firstname.lastname@example.org
Local church hosts holiday party for GISD students
Posted December 21, 2013
The holiday season started early for several Garland ISD students, thanks to Northplace Church. Campuses in Garland and Sachse hosted a celebration for the district’s Applied Learning Environment classes Dec. 11.
Hundreds of volunteers helped turn the GISD Technology Building into a winter wonderland, complete with decorations, food, fun and presents.
“We wanted to connect with the community, and Garland ISD is a big part of that” event organizer Greg Hartmann said. “We contacted the district and got in touch with its Special Education Department, who mentioned the annual ALE Christmas party. They asked us to provide decorations, but we offered to do more.”
That desire to serve aligns with Northplace’s core value, which Lead Pastor Bryan Jarrett terms glocal compassion—an initiative to touch lives both locally and internationally. The church’s service to GISD started with its congregation donating gifts for each of the celebration’s attendees. Members then donated even more gifts for the district’s ALE teachers and assistants. Northplace also held gift-wrapping, decoration and food preparation get-togethers to prepare for the big day.
On Dec. 11, approximately 30 volunteers manned craft, game and snack stations. They also surprised students with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
“The smiles on their faces were priceless,” Jarrett said.
“If we invest in the future of Garland, Rowlett and Sachse, we’re mobilizing leaders,” added Executive Pastor John Cruz. “We believe in what GISD is doing and are excited to come alongside any way we can.”
GISD fifth-graders design district’s holiday cards
Posted December 21, 2013
Garland ISD recently conducted its annual Fifth Grade Greeting Card Contest, choosing the district’s holiday correspondence design for 2013.
Fifth-graders from every elementary were invited to participate, and campuses chose a winning entry to represent their school. A panel of district judges then narrowed the submissions to three winners. Designs from Elma Skeikh at Watson Technology Center for Math and Science, Joseph Nunez at Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence, and Raylon Rouwtt at Roach Elementary School were chosen for GISD’s 2013 holiday greeting cards.
For many years, the Fifth Grade Greeting Card Contest has been a joint project of the PTA Council Board Arts in Education committee and the school district. Its purpose is to design the holiday greeting cards sent by the Superintendent of Schools and the board of trustees to friends and associates across the state.
The three winning artists will be recognized by the Board and given 50 copies of the greeting card for their personal holiday usage.
GISD to hold grading policy input meeting
Posted December 21, 2013
Garland ISD’s Division of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment invites students, staff, parents and the community to help revise the district’s grading policies. A meeting will be held Jan. 7 to review current practices and gather input regarding changes. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Curtis Culwell Center. Grading policies to be revised include:
· Grade Averaging (categories, weights, extra credit, correcting assignments)
· Grade Point Averages (grade point scales for classes, including AP, Dual Credit, IB)
· Class Rankings
· Exam Exemption Policies
Can’t attend the meeting? Share your input via a brief online survey.
Garland ISD feeds needy families
December 21, 2013
The generosity of Garland ISD schools will help feed thousands of needy families this holiday season. The district recently held its annual Garland Christmas Association Food Drive, collecting 100,104 items.
Kicking off in November, schools had one month to solicit donations. GISD’s Maintenance Department then donned Santa hats and visited each campus to collect food drive items. Filling several trucks, the donations were delivered to the Garland Christmas Association before Winter Break. Over the past nine years, the district has donated 2,426,683 food items for needy families.
Totals for each campus were tallied and divided by the school’s student enrollment. Winners of this year’s Garland Christmas Association Food Drive include:
1) Hickman ES - 11.1 cans
1) Brandenburg MS - 8 cans
1) Memorial Pathway - 6.7
cans per student
“Each year our students and our teachers really take part in donating canned food back to the community,” said Disa McEwen, principal at Hickman Elementary. “It’s become a friendly competition where we challenge each other, and the spirit in which it is done is all in giving. We just want to thank everyone for supporting us. I’m very proud of our campus.”
And the Christmas Association Food Drive was not Garland ISD’s only outreach effort this holiday season. Watch a video to see the other charitable drives conducted by Brandenburg, and campuses like it. The district’s Harris Hill Administration Building also adopted two families. Collecting clothes, food, gifts and holiday decorations, employees delivered several boxes of Christmas cheer before the big day.