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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.”


LCHS Heroes inspire, educate elementary students


Garland ISD | December 29, 2014


A group of Lakeview Centennial High School students recently traded places with teachers at Sewell Elementary. But they are not future educators. They are future heroes. LCHS partnered with Junior Achievement of Dallas this year to launch a program that encourages students to become inspiring role models.


“Principal [Angel] Rivera saw a presentation about the High School Heroes program and thought it would be a great addition to the new Teen Leadership class I am teaching,” explained Lyndie Conner. “I hope students not only gain confidence and public speaking skills, but a will to serve others and make good decisions as well.”


Already in place at Dallas, Irving, Plano and Richardson ISDs, High School Heroes teaches exactly that, while also educating elementary students about workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Lakeview’s program is the first in Garland ISD. A representative from Junior Achievement visited the campus in November to train the student-teachers and model the lessons they would impart. For a month afterward, Heroes practiced their presentations and engaging activities, like a Life-style board game based on budgeting.


“This experience made them cognizant of what they said and how they acted because they wanted to appear professional,” said Conner. “I am impressed with how talented and prepared they were.”


On Dec. 5, LCHS students led classes at Sewell. They not only spent the day teaching five lessons, but also enjoying lunch, recess and specials.


“The kids were patient, respectful and really smart,” said senior Jay Ruiz. “I hope I taught them the importance of education and that there is always a way to resolve issues.”


“I look up to them,” added third-grader Riley Shedd. “The way they dressed and spoke loudly can be a model for us.”


Hearing the same success stories from all involved, Conner said she expects LCHS will visit another elementary this spring. Other GISD campuses also plan to introduce the High School Heroes program. Junior Achievement is currently working with South Garland and looks forward to more partnerships throughout the district.


“This program has many benefits,” commented Barbara Heise, senior education manager at Junior Achievement of Dallas. “High school students learn leadership skills that transfer to college and careers.


They also earn community service hours for graduation. And, elementary students learn financial skills that will benefit their future. The more we encourage saving and budgeting, the better our society will be.”


Avery Johnson visits, inspires secondary students


Garland ISD | December 29, 2014


Students at Coyle Middle School, North Garland High School and the Garland Alternative Education Center recently received some helpful advice from former NBA player and Dallas Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson. The current ESPN analyst visited the campuses Dec. 4, offering tips for a successful middle and high school career.


“We were so excited to learn that he would come and speak to our students,” said Coyle Principal Bonnie Barrett. “He was engaging and gave students practical advice for their success.”


During the event, Johnson encouraged students to strive for four simple concepts—be a super student, have a super attitude, make super friends and show super effort. His interactive talk featured audience participation, student volunteers and Mavericks ticket giveaways.


“I want to encourage you to give maximum energy and effort,” Johnson said to the Cougars. “Respect your teachers, parents and authorities with all of your heart. We want you to be a positive force [in society].”


Johnson’s visit was made possible by GISD parent Jody Luna, who is a program specialist at an education-centered nonprofit organization.


“I work for Just Say YES, and [Avery] Johnson is one of several speakers we book to give students programs that positively impact their lives,” she explained. “The benefit of having a student assembly with a high-impact speaker is beyond measure. We see many students in assemblies who share stories of their personal struggles with our speakers after the program, or even post their thoughts on social media.


Our mission is to partner with schools, make a difference in the lives of students and assist in creating a positive culture on campus.”


Sparking a positive impact at school and home is precisely what Barrett wants her students to gain from the memorable affair.


“I hope our students saw that a highly successful man who had a similar upbringing took the time to come and share his wisdom with them. This is especially important because they do not often get to see or hear from famous people who encourage them to be successful.” 


SGHS auto body students receive membership to support network


Garland ISD | December 27, 2014


An interest in auto body and collision repair unexpectedly led five South Garland High School juniors to receive a wealth of support and resources. The quintet was recently awarded a free membership to auto industry-focused nonprofit organization Women’s Industry Network (WIN).


The group was approached by WIN Board members Denise Caspersen and Petra Schroeder during the Collision Repair Education Foundation’s Cars, Careers and Celebrities Expo, held earlier this fall.


“I was immediately impressed with the positive attitude that these young ladies displayed,” Schroeder explained. “We had a great conversation. That was when I wanted to ‘capture’ them for WIN, providing all of us with opportunities to learn from each other.”


Schroeder seized the moment by donating WIN student memberships to Ana Martinez, Annette Mayorga, Juana Morales, Marissa Ramirez and Jessica Santos.


“It felt great to receive a WIN membership and be recognized because we are young women,” Morales said. “I feel that an organization like WIN can help women become interested in the automotive industry, build their confidence in a male-dominated field and motivate those who are already in it.”


Knowing that a multitude of valuable sources would be within hand’s reach, auto collision repair teacher Craig Baughman encouraged the group to attend the weekend expo.


“Every year we have more and more young women enter our Auto Collision Repair program,” he said. “We are excited about the opportunity to have them invited to join the Women’s Industry Network. I believe relationships which have the potential to develop will influence and encourage their lives more than words ever will.”


Developing a working partnership with WIN is exactly what all five juniors wish to gain from this gift.


“I am looking forward to getting experience, mentorship and hopefully scholarships out of the membership,” Morales said.


“I want to go to college, then the Army and in the end, work with cars,” Martinez added. “With WIN and Mr. Baughman’s help, now I know I have the opportunity to grow, get recognized and be supported [along the way].”


Toys for Tots donation teaches more than community service


Garland ISD | December 26, 2014


Fourth-grade teachers at Watson Technology Center for Math and Science recently found a new way to connect budgeting, expository writing and public speaking skills to the real world. They even incorporated community service just in time for the holiday season. Students completed a project-based learning lesson that culminated in a Toys for Tots donation Dec. 8.


Asking “How can I make a positive contribution to my community?” fourth-graders first learned about Toys for Tots and then split up into teams to peruse store circulars for possible gifts. Determining a monetary goal, students completed chores or acts of service to raise the funds. Group members then pooled their resources and decided which toys they could afford, taking into consideration the amount of tax for an item or if it needed batteries. Ending their efforts with a presentation to classmates, teams also recruited parent volunteers to purchase the gifts.


“I thought this project was awesome,” said Ana Cray “My son wanted to earn money to bless someone else, which is a great attitude to have at Christmas. And, he learned some great educational skills along the way.”


On Dec. 8, fourth-grade families met at Firewheel Mall during FOX 4 News’ annual Toys for Tots drive. They donated stuffed animals, dolls, cars, Kinetic Sand and more. The group also met anchor Clarice Tinsley who gave them a shoutout during the 10 p.m. newscast.


“This project made me realize how much we have while others do not,” said fourth-grader Joey Mills. “It felt good to give back.”

Elementary students design district’s holiday greeting card


Garland ISD | December 23, 2014


Garland ISD recently announced the winners of its annual Fifth Grade Greeting Card Contest, awarding three budding artists the chance to showcase their artwork on the district’s holiday greeting card. Anneth Ponce of Park Crest Elementary School, Antonelli Savattere of Keeley Elementary School and Quinlan Harper of Dorsey Elementary School produced the winning designs of 2014.


This year, 40 entries considered the best of their respective campuses were submitted for district-level judging. The top three designs were then chosen to adorn correspondence sent from the Superintendent and Board of Trustees.


The winning fifth-graders were honored at GISD's Dec. 9 board meeting. All three received an Evidence of Excellence award in addition to 50 printed cards displaying their own creation.


The district joins forces with the PTA Council Board Arts in Education committee every year to host the Fifth Grade Greeting Card Contest, which kicks off in November. Students from all elementary schools are eligible to participate.

Noon Exchange brings holiday joy to elementary students


Garland ISD | December 23, 2014


Students from 19 Garland ISD elementary schools were recently treated to a charitable holiday bash. The Noon Exchange Club of Garland hosted its annual Children’s Christmas Party Dec. 10 at Hella Shrine, giving presents to more than 150 students.


“The Children’s Christmas Party usually provides gifts to students from 16 GISD elementary schools,” said Noon Exchange Club of Garland President Javier Solis. “This year, we added three more schools and supported 171 students, thanks to Club grants and fundraising.”


Counselors from each of the schools selected nine students as beneficiaries of the event. Once those students were identified, a personalized wish list was sent to the Noon Exchange.


“Club members truly enjoyed shopping for students who might not get gifts this holiday season due to family hardships,” Solis explained. “We could not wait to see them revel in Christmas cheer and receive their presents at the party.”


During the event, student volunteers from Lakeview Centennial, Naaman Forest and South Garland high schools entertained and mingled with their elementary counterparts. Retired WFAA News Anchor Gloria Campos served as master of ceremonies for the fifth-consecutive year. And a surprise visit from St. Nick was arranged

to top off the festive affair.


“The highlight of the party was definitely a special appearance from Santa,” Solis commented. “It was amazing to see their faces light up when he walked into the room. That is why we do this every year, to

bring happiness to children in our community.”


Campuses supported this year include:


  • Caldwell Elementary School

  • Carver Elementary School

  • Centerville Elementary School

  • Classical Center at Vial Elementary School

  • Club Hill Elementary School

  • Couch Elementary School

  • Daugherty Elementary School

  • Handley Elementary School

  • Heather Glen Elementary School

  • Hillside Academy for Excellence

  • Kimberlin Academy for Excellence

  • Montclair Elementary School

  • Park Crest Elementary School

  • Roach Elementary School

  • Shugart Elementary School

  • Southgate Elementary School

  • Toler Elementary School

  • Watson Technology Center for Math & Science

  • Williams Elementary School

Photos courtesy of Javier Solis


Family-school collaborations highlighted throughout November


Garland ISD | December 21, 2014


Campuses across the district observed Family Involvement Month with fun, informative and interactive events throughout November. Activities ranged from coffee socials to college-themed affairs to outdoor festivals and trots.


To incorporate generations of families in the festivities, Kimberlin Academy for Excellence held two targeted events—Story Time with Parents and Grandparent’s Day.


“During the week of Nov. 17-21, we asked parent volunteers to come read their favorite story to a class,” said Principal Tyisha Nelson. “On Nov. 21, we invited our wonderful grandparents out for a special 30-minute program, photo opportunities and time in the classroom.”


Grandparent Karen Niehaus believes this year’s event was one of the most memorable.


“We have gone to the Grandparent’s Day program for several years with various granddaughters. But this year, it seemed to be more efficient in moving large groups of people to different areas,” she explained. “It was really an enjoyable morning. I thank Kimberlin for having grandparents visit their school.”


Jackson Technology Center for Math & Science celebrated family engagement with an education-themed night called Parent University Nov. 18.


“Parent University was amazing,” said counselor Jami Maxey. “We had a tremendous turnout and parents left asking for more. I think that was my favorite part.”


During the event, teachers, administrators and even community members held 20-minute sessions about several different matters. Health and fitness, internet safety, parent resources and study skills were among the featured topics. In addition to a public meeting regarding Jackson’s Accountability Ratings, participants attended three sessions of their choice.


“We had 13 different speakers from all spectrums of the learning process who covered topics from how to help your middle school student be more successful to suicide prevention,” Maxey said. “At the end, we conducted a survey about how to improve Parent University and almost everyone said they wished it was longer—it was two and a half hours. I have never heard of a parent asking to stay longer at an after-school event.”


Although Parent University is not new to the Viking community, the first-year counselor expanded the event to help better sustain a culture of parent-school bonds at Jackson.


“My philosophy is that as educators we do not simply teach our students, but we help educate our parents as well,” she explained. “It is a partnership; education works best when everyone is an active participant.”


Photos courtesy of GISD counselor specialist Donnell Alexander and Tyisha Nelson.


Charitable Watson MST students, teacher receive surprise


Garland ISD | December 21, 2014


Twenty Watson Technology Center for Math & Science students received a special thank you for their hard work and generosity. In November, artist Josh Groban sponsored a pizza party for the first-graders as a gift for raising $1,000 for his Find Your Light Foundation in the spring.


Kindergarten teacher Tammy Todd initiated the service project, called Cookies for Quarters, after hearing about Find Your Light, which helps fund art and music programs at public schools. Todd then met Groban’s mother at his concert in Boston earlier this fall, where she gave Mrs. Groban a student-created book detailing the campaign.


“While at work one afternoon, I was called to the office for a very sweet surprise,” Todd said. “Mrs. Groban was on the phone. She had taken time out of her very busy day to call and thank us for our service project. She and Josh were touched by it and wanted to do something for my class in return. Needless to say, I was shocked.”


Groban arranged to have four Domino’s cheese and pepperoni pizzas, vanilla ice cream cups and apple juice boxes delivered to Todd’s classroom Nov.7. He also sent a personalized video expressing his appreciation.


“Thank you so much for your amazingly generous donation to Find Your Light,” Groban said in the filmed message. “You are just some of the coolest group of kids I have ever had the pleasure of being introduced to. All your money is going to a very special organization, a group called Harmony Project in Los Angeles.”


After viewing a testimonial from a Harmony Project student, the Wildcats got to enjoy their savory and sweet treats in their former classroom. They also recognized Groban’s kind gesture with another thank you video.


“The Groban family is one-of-a-kind, and our world needs more people like them in it. They are providing my kids with a memory they will never forget, and I can never thank them enough for that,” Todd said.


Although the Grobans have already positively impacted Todd and her former class, she hopes this experience will inspire them for the rest of their lives.


“I think if you teach people when they are young that they can make a difference, they are going to go forth in the future and change our world," Todd commented. "And that is what we hope to do, to change the world for the better. I feel like we hopefully are on our way to doing that.”


Students, teachers celebrate holidays with art, choir, theater shows


Garland ISD | December 15, 2014


Garland ISD’s Fine Arts Department is ready to take this holiday season by storm. More than 200 holiday performances are scheduled to take place across the district before Winter Break, which begins Dec. 22.


“This is an incredibly busy time for our students and teachers,” said Director of Fine Arts George Jones. “We have everything from elementary music performances to theatre productions and art shows scheduled during this month. It is a wonderful time to showcase the outstanding programs that are available in GISD.”


With so many remarkable shows to choose from, those interested in attending an event can view the Fine Arts’ digital calendar for guidance.


“We hope that by listing our holiday activities on the Internet, more people can take advantage of the opportunity to attend some concerts,” commented Fine Arts Coordinator Brenda Hass.

The season’s first batch of recitals is set to occur at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2.


To view the holiday performance calendar, visit the Fine Arts Department’s website.

Elementaries invited to participate in annual essay contest


Garland ISD | Posted December 15, 2014


Conservation efforts could turn into cash for Garland ISD students in grades three through five. The city of Garland is hosting its annual Stormwater Management Essay Contest, inviting all elementaries to participate. Third through fifth-graders can submit an original essay reflecting this year's theme: "I Care About Garland’s Creeks." Essays should discuss why it is important for everyone to care about our waterways and how residents can keep them clean from stormwater pollution, such as auto fluids, dog waste, litter and yard chemicals.


Entries must be submitted or postmarked to the city of Garland by 5 p.m. Dec. 19. A panel of judges will then determine the winners. Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third-place winners from all grade levels, as well as their teachers. Honorable mention and participation prizes will also be awarded. View the official contest rules and entry form for more information.

Daugherty ES students receive new kicks


Garland ISD | December 15, 2014


More than 100 Daugherty Elementary School students are now flaunting fresh kicks thanks to some kindhearted community members. The campus received 134 pairs of brand-new shoes from medical company DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. and nonprofit organization Shoes That Fit in November.


“The shoes were amazing. Even we got excited looking at them,” said Daugherty nurse Lisa Francois. “The shoes were personalized and wrapped individually. You could tell this was truly a community effort.”


Daugherty was one of just three local schools to benefit from this effort.


“It was really overwhelming to receive the donation,” commented Principal Deborah Henson. “When the gifts arrived, it showed that each DaVita employee shopped exclusively for a student. It reminds you that there really is a whole lot of good in the world. There are people who care about children and want them to have a better life.”


Those conducting this valuable deed were employees from DaVita’s Odyssey division, located in Frisco. With the help of their partner, Shoes That Fit, and Francois, DaVita’s staff was able to provide tailored footwear to students.


“I had to measure every child’s left and right foot. I then filled out some forms I was sent that addressed each student’s age and grade,” she explained. “Unfortunately, not all students could receive a pair of shoes, so I asked teachers and administration to help me choose children from all grade levels.”


Although this is the first time a Garland ISD campus received a donation from this group, the DaVita and Shoes That Fit partnership has helped thousands of children nationwide since its inception in 2010.


“Our Southern California-Nevada division partnered with Shoes That Fit [first],” said DaVita Teammate Relations Manager Kelley Womack. “As other divisions within DaVita heard about this wonderful opportunity, they quickly got on board and began reaching out to schools in their communities.”


And now that Daugherty has established a relationship with DaVita and Shoes That Fit, the Hornet community is looking forward to working with them again in the future.


“I am hoping we can foster a partnership with DaVita, but not only at a donating level,” Henson said. “I would love to encourage them to get involved with our kids.”


RHS home to district’s first CyberPatriot club


Garland ISD | December 13, 2014


Promoting science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) education, Rowlett High School is the district’s first to implement a national Air Force Association-established program: CyberPatriot—The National Youth Cyber Education Program.


A competition-fueled initiative, CyberPatriot features teams across the nation identifying network cybersecurity vulnerabilities through virtual images. Teams compete in six-hour rounds, vying for an all-expenses paid trip to nationals in Washington, D.C., where they can win scholarships.

Computer science teacher Trina Cunningham sparked the program’s creation at RHS. She learned about the cybersecurity-focused initiative at a staff development meeting.


“I told my computer science III students about CyberPatriot and asked them to look into it,” she explained. “One student, Joseph [Sperry], did some research and said it looked like something cool that we should get started here.”


Cunningham then approached Campus Technology Specialist Frank Roesch with the idea. Roesch loved the concept and spearheaded the program’s formation at RHS.


“The industry needs computer science people,” he said. “CyberPatriot is a way to motivate high school students toward careers in cybersecurity and other STEM fields that are critically needed. Students get to learn how operating systems work, network protocol and ethics.”


After detailing the program’s importance to campus administrators and obtaining permission from GISD’s Technology Department, Roesch worked on getting the program’s technical requirements off the ground.


Corralling support for the new student-run organization was not as hard as Roesch or Cunningham thought.


“Initially we had about 20 kids who were interested in joining the program,” Cunningham said. “Now we have 14 solid Cyber Talons members who make up three teams. These kids show up consistently three times a week and are very supportive of each other.”


And to add more appeal to the program, members have a chance of receiving a University of Texas at Dallas scholarship, thanks to network security professional Kevin Henson. The UTD alumnus helped secure a university sponsorship for RHS.


“As they thrive, and if we make the rounds, I help identify the kids who are doing well,” Roesch said. “This opens up the opportunity for scholarships to study computer science at UTD. There is a market for the skills sets these students learn. And people are willing to pay for that.”


Although Cyber Talons is still in its inaugural year, it is already well on its way to making a name for itself in the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. Boasting two five-member boys’ teams and a four-member girls’ team, the green group performed well in their first competition.


“Team 1 was in the 77th percentile of the Platinum Division, with a score of 172 out of 200 possible points,” Cunningham said. “Teams 2 and 3 were in the Gold Division, with scores of 123 and 134, respectively.”


Round 2 saw even more success, with Cyber Talons qualifying for state.


“The students did a great job in round 2,” Roesch stated. “Team 1 placed in the Platinum Division, while Team 2 placed in the middle Gold Division and Team 3—our all-girls group—placed in high Gold. Everyone’s goal after state is to get that all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. for nationals.”


Cyber Talons will compete for a spot at nationals Friday, Dec. 5.

NGHS New Horizons program, North Texas Food Bank collaborate


Garland ISD | December 13, 2014


Just in time for the holiday season, North Garland High School’s New Horizons program is bringing food education to the forefront thanks to the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB). The nonprofit organization is offering its Cooking Matters® classes free of charge to NGHS students.


“We have had a partnership with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School for many years. They offered us the opportunity to work with the NTFB,” said North’s New Horizons teacher Mary Jarcy. “We have chosen the curriculum designed specifically for young families. The NTFB will provide hands-on, practical application of the curriculum to students and their parents. By involving the students’ parents in the learning process, we anticipate that healthy changes in all aspects of food resource management will take place in the home.”


The course series kicked off Oct. 30 with a food resource management class, followed by a Nov. 6 grocery store tour. Four students and two parents attended the tour, which featured bilingual medical professionals and NTFB specialists discussing affordable but healthy choices aisle-by-aisle.


“I decided to sign up for the grocery store tour class because I waste more than $150 a week on food,” said NGHS sophomore Erica Castro. “There are only three adults and a 6-month-old baby who live in the house, so that is a lot for us. I thought this class would help me save money.”


The two-hour guided tour did provide financial tips, such as buying seasonal produce and manager’s special meats. Evaluating nutrition in relation to dollars, shopping advice and how to create nutritional meals on a budget were also highlighted.


“I learned that you can feed four people for under $10,” Castro said. “I also learned that you need to look at the units and compare prices.”


Jarcy knows just how critical these life lessons are for her students, who are also young parents.


“The benefits of this kind of program are numerous and there have been no drawbacks or disadvantages,” she explained. “In addition to learning about smart food choices and habits, I hope students gain confidence in their ability to provide for their families, an expanded pool of resources, a stronger connection to school, possible career opportunities and an increased willingness and desire to learn. This experience will literally last a lifetime, hopefully for generations to come.”


And the learning is not over yet. Students will continue to benefit from NTFB courses with a six-week Cooking Matters for Young Families seminar that will commence in the spring. The series focuses on cooking tasty, economical meals using healthy ingredients.


“As in the fall, students and their parents can sign up for evening courses,” Jarcy stated. “At the end of each class, each participant will receive their own supply of all groceries used during class at no cost to the school or participant.”

GenTX Week highlighted throughout district


Garland ISD | December 7, 2014


Several Garland ISD schools commemorated the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s project Generation TX by participating in GenTX Week Nov. 17-21. Spring Creek Elementary School was among the celebrating campuses. Counselor Kimberly Hendricks organized exciting and enlightening activities, contests and programs.


“I feel it is very important for the students to know what options are out there for higher education,” she said. “Some of our kids do not hear that they can go further than high school, and I think celebrating GenTX Week will encourage them to be first-generation college students.”


Hendricks conducted a college-themed door decorating contest, which was judged by the district’s Guidance and Counseling Department. She assigned Texas colleges and universities to teachers, who then enlisted their students’ help to gather campus facts and design the layout of their creation. Teachers talked about their college experiences in daily announcements and casual dress was allowed for those wearing university spirit gear. College trivia contests were also conducted every day, with winning students receiving donated gifts, such as Arlington Baptist College mini flags, Texas A&M temporary tattoos and University of Texas at Dallas pens.


“The kids have really learned a lot and had fun doing it,” she said. “I think what they experienced this week will stick with them in the long run.”


And to continue promoting college readiness, the first-year counselor has arranged a fifth-grade field trip to Richland Community College for the spring semester.


GHS students, Hillside Academy PTA join forces

Garland ISD | December 7, 2014

The good deed 25 Garland High School students recently performed has led to a newfound partnership. GHS’ National Honor Society members answered a call from Hillside Academy for Excellence’s PTA, helping the parent organization fulfill a long-awaited event.

“Hillside Academy’s PTA reached out to us about their fall carnival,” said NHS President Alina Ha. “They told me it was their first fall carnival in many years, and I wanted to make sure it was a success. I wanted to help out because I know how hectic events like that can be, and thought it would be helpful to take some of the stress away. PTAs like Hillside Academy’s show how much adults are willing to do for children.”

Hillside Academy PTA President Janessa Neal believes the campus has gone more than 10 years without a fall carnival. She was shocked but delighted to learn GHS high schoolers would volunteer weekend hours to help their elementary counterparts.

“We were all so grateful and overwhelmed by their response,” Neal explained. “Alina put together a spreadsheet and really took on the responsibility of it all. We were very impressed with their organization and willingness to help.”

During the Oct. 25 event, NHS members worked carnival games, concessions, karaoke and raffles. Some offered their artistic abilities, helping with face painting and hair coloring, while others assisted in the graveyard obstacle course as well as the zombie run.

At the end of the day, the four-hour event generated more than $2,000.

“It was amazing. It was a true collaboration between the community, teachers, parents and the PTA,” Neal said. “We could not have pulled off an event of such magnitude without the high school students’ hard work and willing spirits. We were beyond impressed by them.”

Ha and fellow NHS members were glad they helped make the event a hit.

“The carnival was definitely exciting,” Ha added. “It was also satisfying to see how successful the carnival was because Garland NHS contributed to the success. There was a happy, energetic atmosphere and good vibes. Everyone enjoyed themselves.”

Both groups worked so well together, they have already collaborated on a second event—Hillside’s Nov. 15 Turkey Trot. Hopes to keep this budding partnership alive are mutually shared.

“We hope to continue the relationship for years to come,” Neal said. “We both provide a solution for each other. We need volunteers and they need volunteer hours. It is a win-win and we cannot wait to partner with them again.”

Photos courtesy of Hillside Academy for Excellence’s PTA.

New partnership brings school day to homebound students


Garland ISD | December 7, 2014


With a goal to provide all students a well-rounded education, Garland ISD has established a partnership that will revolutionize homebound student instruction. The district recently adopted a new Region 10 program, Reggie’s Robots, which will offer qualifying students the chance to attend class via a roving, technologically advanced device.


“This program allows students with chronic or traumatic illnesses who cannot otherwise attend school full access to classroom instruction, rather than limiting them to a few hours with a homebound teacher,” said Student Services Coordinator Wendy Brower. “It also lets them enjoy other school activities, such as guest speakers and pep rallies, as well as social interaction with friends.”


Homebound students are able to experience a real school day through a 4-foot motorized platform called VGo. The sleek device features a camera, microphone and video display, as well as lights and sensors. Students control the VGo from home through a program installed on their personal computer or laptop.


Brower learned about Reggie’s Robots from a TV news story and approached Region 10 about membership consideration. She received a list of requirements and asked GISD’s Technology Department to work out network specifications.


“The process was quite simple,” she explained. “The cost of membership on the virtual network was paid this year by Technology. It is a districtwide membership that includes all of the virtual programs, not just limited to this program. The robot itself is simply a loaner.”


Inspired by Region 6’s robot program, Region 10 launched its Reggie’s Robots program earlier this year with five VGos. GISD is one of Reggie’s Robots’ newest followers, joining Duncanville, Grand Prairie and Richardson ISD.


“Our goal is to try to help the kids who need [a robot] short-term,” said Region 10 Distance Learning Consultant Lori Aden. “If the need is long-term, we will let the district pilot a VGo and they can look at purchasing a robot of their own. Having a district-owned robot is actually cheaper than hiring a homebound teacher.”


Aden also emphasized that the “telepresence” device enables students to receive instruction homebound teachers may not be able to provide, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Career & Technical Education courses.


In October, GISD and Region 10 embarked on a VGo test run for a student candidate at Lakeview Centennial High School. The group followed the student’s schedule, paying special attention to Wi-Fi network drops or other issues.


“We are ecstatic to have Reggie in our building. This is a learning opportunity for the students who are already here about the possibilities of technology,” said Assistant Principal Linda Jones. “My hopes are that students who need this robot will be able to participate in everyday life on campus until they can join in person again.”


Although Lakeview’s candidate withdrew from the district, the trial proved to be a vital experience.


“The test run gave us valuable information, not only about Lakeview, but about what logistical considerations need to be made,” Brower stated. “We currently have another student for whom an application has been made. The first attempt taught us a lot about the process, such as the required Texas Education Agency forms.”


And as the person responsible for introducing this helpful, digitally driven program to GISD, Brower is looking forward to the benefits it will reap.


“GISD Technology Coordinator Brooks Knight has initiated the search for grant funding so we can purchase our own robot,” she commented. “But I think we have already gained all I hoped for—removing the barriers these students face in continuing their educational pursuits in the face of a chronic or traumatic illness.”

Maria Giusti named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | December 3, 2014


In a teacher of the month two-peat, Shorehaven Elementary School once again claimed the Jupiter Chevrolet honor. Fifth-grade bilingual teacher Maria Giusti was surprised with the specially wrapped SUV Nov. 17.


“I’m super excited and truly honored,” she said while receiving the keys. “Jupiter Chevrolet recognizes the efforts we make as teachers to help students believe in themselves, become critical thinkers and work toward successful futures.”


Giusti began her career as a chemical engineer in Venezuela. She obtained her teaching certificate and traveled to the United States two years ago in search of additional opportunities. When she received the teacher of the month nomination, Giusti reached out to friends and family members back home.


“To even be considered as deserving after two years of teaching is great,” she said. “I wanted to share the recognition with everyone. They wanted to help me win.”

Giusti won Jupiter Chevrolet’s Facebook contest with more than 1,000 votes. Receiving the car as a prize, she get to drive it until Garland ISD’s Winter Break. A new winner will be named in January.


Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month contest recognizes the important work of GISD educators and rewards them for their dedication.

Art students design doors for new ReStore site


Garland ISD | December 2, 2014


Paying it forward with their creative abilities, students from Garland, Lakeview Centennial and Sachse high schools volunteered to adorn four doors for Habitat for Humanity’s new ReStore in Garland.


Last month, the nonprofit organization enlisted the help of local schools to celebrate World Habitat Day. The request was simple: embellish the universal symbol of a home—a door. When LCHS art teacher Julie Gawel learned of this invitation, she presented the project to some of her students.


“I decided to participate in the Habitat door painting because it sounded like a unique opportunity to get student art into the community,” Gawel said. “I asked my advanced and art club students about the opportunity and a few decided to give it a try.”


Erianna Thompson, Melissa Angelo and Yolanda Ngo jumped at the chance to paint a door for a local charity. As avid Japanese-style illustration fans, the seniors designed an Anime-themed door.


“We were nervous at first because we only had three days to work on it,” Angelo said. “Erianna and I drew out the design the first day. We chose the most popular characters and threw in some of our favorites.”


The students dedicated more than 10 hours to the project. And when their creation was ready for ReStore, all three were impressed with their final product.


 “The doors were on display. People got a green ticket to put in a cup next to their favorite one,” she said. “The cup by our door had lots of tickets. It was really cool. I really liked the Statue of Liberty piece as well.”


Angelo’s second-favorite door was designed by her peers at Garland High School. Art teacher Jessica Thompson had four students volunteer to paint two doors.  


“We love doing anything that can help a good cause and promote art in the community. Plus, it is a great resume builder for the kids,” Thompson said. “I hope they gained experience and confidence in their skill sets. They finished the doors in a very short amount of time.”


GHS submitted one space galaxy-themed door and the Statue of Liberty piece—created by seniors Stephanie Maguire and Swathi Venattu. Set in the style of expressionist Leroy Neiman, the patriotic work of art won Angelo and the crowd over, winning first place in the people’s choice contest.


Currently, ReStore plans to keep all submitted doors on display. In addition to the three doors donated by Lakeview and GHS, Sachse High School gifted one mustang-focused piece. The GISD Transition Center, Firewheel Christian Academy and Harmony Science Academy also presented art-enhanced doors. And some Naaman Forest High School students also joined in on the fun. They fashioned the wooden door holders free of charge.


To see the student-made works, visit ReStore at 2360 Crist Road in Garland.


Photos courtesy of Julie Gawel and Jessica Thompson.


‘Tis the season for giving at Stephens ES


Garland ISD | November 29, 2014


The season of giving started early at Stephens Elementary School as students participated in two charity campaigns throughout October. They recently celebrated their results.


Garland ISD’s Education Foundation holds a giving campaign every fall, asking schools and departments to raise money for scholarships and grants that will later be distributed to students and staff. Wanting to involve the entire school, Assistant Principal Janee Haynes made the donation experience fun. She organized a Splish Splash for Cash collection, pitting classes against one another for a prize of throwing water balloons at teachers and campus administration.


“We did callouts and flyers to encourage students to purchase blue paper balloons for $1 and red paper balloons for $5, which were posted outside classroom doors during the two week campaign. We also included teachers’ contribution with class totals,” Haynes said. “The class that collected the most exchanged their paper balloons for real water balloons, with blue equaling one to throw at the teacher and red equaling one to throw at either the principal or assistant principal.”


Stephens’ collection totaled more than $2,100, and the campus raised the second-highest amount of all GISD elementary schools. Tara Gilcrease’s class reaped the water balloon reward Nov. 7, throwing more than 100 at Gilcrease, Haynes and Principal Ramona Aguilar.


But the generosity of students and staff reaches beyond just monetary donations. While teaching a lesson on responsibility, Stephens counselor Jessica Rodriguez issued fifth-graders a challenge.


“We discussed what it meant to be responsible citizens,” she said. “We also learned about homelessness and how it effects families. The students were inspired by Kid President’s Socktober initiative.”


Using posters, daily announcements, a catchy song and overall school spirit to promote the campaign, fifth-graders encouraged the campus to donate new socks. They also showed off their own festive pairs to increase participation. On Nov. 7, Stephens presented more than 400 pairs to the GRS Giving Place, a district-operated resource to help students and families in need.


“These students showed great leadership in understanding what it takes to helps those in need,” said GISD case manager Emily Jandrucko. “In addition, they paved the way to encourage others to take on this challenge in collecting donations to help those who may go without.”

Keeley ES generosity keeps local food pantry going


Garland ISD | November 29, 2014


Rowlett’s Hope in Hand food pantry will be able to continue feeding needy families thanks to the recent generosity of Keeley Elementary School. The campus donated nearly 5,000 canned and boxed food items after holding a friendly class competition. Carrie Clayton’s third-grade class collected nearly 750 items alone, and six other classes collected more than 300 items each. 


“The Hope in Hand shelves were completely empty and they would not have been able to open without us,” said campus technology assistant Laura Cox. “When Keeley sent pictures of all the items donated, they immediately came out and loaded two cars so they could open their doors for the weekend. They were very grateful.”


Picture courtesy of Keeley ES

Three GISD campuses among best in DFW


Garland ISD | November 28, 2014


Three Garland ISD high schools were selected as some of North Texas’ top campuses. North Garland, Rowlett and Sachse high schools were included in Niche.com’s 100 Best Public High Schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area ranking.


Niche used public data, statistics and surveys to evaluate public high schools across the nation. A variety of factors were weighed to determine a campus’ rating, with an “academics grade” accounting for 50 percent of the overall evaluation. Advanced Placement, ACT, SAT and state assessment scores, as well as AP enrollment, graduation rates and student-teacher ratios, affected the academics grade.


After assessing all eight factors, schools were given a rating ranging from A+ to D- and ranked.

RHS was the highest-ranking GISD campus, securing 47th place. Sachse followed at No. 49 and North Garland at 96. Rowlett and Sachse high schools received an A rating, while North Garland obtained a B+.


This marks the second time in recent history that all three high schools were ranked as some of the area's finest. Earlier this year, they landed on U.S. News & World Report's 2014 Best High Schools ranking.


Veterans honored throughout GISD


Posted November 21, 2014


Schools across Garland ISD celebrated Veterans Day with creative assignments, musical programs and touching tributes.


Pearson Elementary School kicked off the commemorations by building an honor wall, writing special letters and hosting a Veterans Day program titled “Dear American Soldier” Nov. 10.


“The entire school helped build a 'Veterans Honor Wall' with paper bricks. Each brick was filled out by a student and represents a veteran,” said music teacher Sarah Siburt. “Monday night, our third-grade students invited friends and family members who are veterans to attend our music program in order to honor them. We are also writing letters to our soldiers to be mailed overseas, and presented these letters during our program.”


Students in second through fifth grade wrote more than 200 letters throughout the week. The handwritten pieces included a brief introduction, a thank you statement, some family or job-related questions and a request for a written response. Siburt will send the letters with the help of nonprofit organization, A Million Thanks.


On Nov. 11, Kimberlin Academy for Excellence had more than 20 students personally present and thank veterans, including a World War II vet, during their annual commemoration. Many other schools also honored U.S. servicemen and women. Bradfield, Carver, Dorsey and Liberty Grove elementary schools, as well as Hillside Academy for Excellence, were among the celebrating campuses.


Now in its 41st year, the Golden Meadows Elementary School program featured the fourth-grade choir, the North Garland High School trumpet line, speeches and tributes. Several veterans attended the ceremony, including one of Golden Meadows’ very own—fourth-grade bilingual teacher Maximino Morales.


At the program’s conclusion, Principal Zaida Saldivar invited all veterans to enjoy refreshments and sweet treats. The American heroes then shared conversation, laughs and memories. They even got to leave with a student-made memento—a hand-painted patriotic magnet and thank you card.


“The program was wonderful. I have seen it many times since I have had three kids come here,” said U.S. Army veteran Alejandro Aviles. “Veterans Day means remembering everyone who has given their time and sacrificed for our freedom. We have to remember and teach our kids that all the sacrifices that have been made are seen here, because they have all the freedom to achieve anything in our country.”

Tuskegee Airman visits Hillside Academy


Garland ISD | November 18, 2014


Hillside Academy for Excellence got an early start on Veterans Day commemorations with a visit from one of the Tuskegee Airmen—the first African-American aviators in the U.S. military. Lt. Calvin J. Spann stopped by the campus to share his story with students and staff Oct. 28.


“His story is not in history books. It may be mentioned, but it is not really taught,” said Spann’s wife Gwenelle. “We are able to do what we do every day because of the protection our veterans give our country and the world. This is a way to share that message and get kids to understand that if it was not for our vets, we would not be able to have the freedoms we enjoy.”


The 40-minute visit featured a slideshow presentation detailing Spann’s career, the significance of the Tuskegee Airmen and even segregation in the South. A question and answer session then followed the presentation. 


Spann, a native of Rutherford, New Jersey, was a studious youth who dreamed of flying airplanes. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he decided to enlist in the United States Army Air Corps. His affinity for math and science helped him become one of the 26 who made up the Tuskegee Flight School’s graduating class of 44G.  The Red Tail pilot went on to fly 26 missions during World War II, including the longest bomber escort assignment—the 1600-mile round trip from Ramitelli, Italy to Berlin, Germany.


“Kids today look up to heroes they can identify with, which are mainly musicians, rappers and sports players,” Gwenelle said. “The fact that these kids were able to meet a living legend means so much more. Instead of just reading about Tuskegee Airmen, they got a chance to see a real American hero.”


The visit ended on a high note, with Principal Sonya Palmer presenting Spann with a Hillside Academy T-shirt and commemorative school flag. The Spanns also had a surprise of their own. They announced and briefly discussed their new book, Boundless Sky, a 52-page graphic novel based on the airman’s life experience.


GISD commemorates Red Ribbon Week


Garland ISD | November 14, 2014


Students throughout Garland ISD joined their peers across the country to celebrate Red Ribbon Week Oct. 27-31. Campuses commemorated the 26-year-old campaign with drug-free pledges, fun activities, informational programs and themed days.


Sachse High School kicked off Red Ribbon Week by introducing an educational, interactive course series supplied by the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.


“The program comes with a teacher’s curriculum, 18 lessons, video clips and a class set of booklets that cover everything from alcohol to prescription drugs,” said LIGHT counselor Teri Holamon. “A lot of research has found that the one-time punch approach of a mock wreck or talk does not grant lasting effects. The message has to be consistent, which is why we will be working through this kit two days a week throughout the year.”


To supplement the program’s debut, Sachse’s LIGHT Brigade handed out red ribbons, drug-free pledge cards, pencils and informational fliers during lunch periods all week.


“I know there are a lot of kids who have the wrong idea about how drugs affect their body,” said LIGHT Brigade President Lauren Blackledge.  “It is important for us to have students involved in Red Ribbon Week so that the conversation is student-to-student, not teacher-talking-down-to-student. We want to talk with fellow students and educate them properly about what they put into their bodies.”


Rowlett Elementary School culminated its celebration with a high-energy athletic show.


“I was approached by Rich Wieber’s Bicycle Stunt Show and thought it sounded like a fun way to discuss drug awareness,” Assistant Principal Roderick King said. “It was fantastic and the kids had a great time.”


During the hourlong show, three professional bicycle motocross (BMX) riders performed tricks and promoted a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. The riders also provided bicycle safety tips, and ended the show by jumping over three teachers.


In the end, whether schools handed out a sticker or hosted a lively program, Red Ribbon Week festivities accomplished their mission—preparing students for a successful, drug-free future.


Jackson MST holds mock election


Garland ISD | November 12, 2014


While the nation awaits the results of Tuesday’s midterm election, students at Jackson Technology Center for Math & Science will wait to see if they correctly predicted the state’s winners. The campus held a mock election Friday, Oct. 31.


“We wanted to give our students the actual experience of voting, so we tried to make the area look as close to a voting booth as possible,” said social studies teacher Carole Jane Hensleigh. “The plan is to do an actual comparison between our results and the state’s, continuing the lesson in class.”


Jackson’s library served as the day’s voting location. Students had to check in and wait in line for the next free booth. They could also have one last look at the candidates online prior to voting. Manila folders were strategically placed to make the voting experience a private one, and students used an iPad to cast their ballot.


“I was excited when I got to vote,” seventh-grader Felix Ayuso said. “This gives us a head start on how to vote when we grow up. Kids have a decision, a voice, like older people do. We matter just like adults.”


U.S. history teacher Chawn Cummings is the man who brought this experience to the Viking community.


“Civics is part of our curriculum, and voting is a major component,” he said. “I read an article that said participation for the midterm elections drops about 40 percent. So, I thought, I am going to do a mock election. It has been great for the kids.”


Students dedicated one week to the midterm elections. They studied the candidates, discussed political topics and watched debates. Many also had to prepare an overview presentation of the week’s findings.


“Just getting students to think about the issues is the beginning,” Cummings said. “But one of the biggest takeaways is to have them realize that it is important to vote and have them talking about how they went through this process. We are also asking them to have a conversation with their parents about the election.”


Dorsey ES students enjoy tipi-enhanced history lesson


Garland ISD | November 10, 2014


Dorsey Elementary School got a head start on November's Native American Heritage Month celebrations with a special visit from the Tipi Tellers Oct. 20. The North Texas-based group fascinated students with ancient tales, tribal music and two majestic tipis.


“I have been waiting eight years to set this up,” said librarian Rhonda Simpson. “Storytellers are amazing. They bring history and folklore to life. As a librarian, nothing is more important than stories. For the kids to get the experience of being inside a tipi like Native Americans, I think that is something memorable. That is why I wanted to do this. I wanted the kids to experience something they would never forget.”


During the visit, students learned about Native American culture and heard narratives from three Tellers while inside a tipi. The storytellers covered American, Native American and Texas history, as well as folktales. Tipi architecture was also discussed, revealing the fact that the structures at Dorsey were not made of buffalo skin, but sailboat canvas. They took 17 trees to construct and housed up to 55 kids as well as four adults.


In the works for nearly a decade, this entertaining, scholastic event came with a daunting cost of $1,800. But Simpson’s determination coupled with the work of Dorsey’s PTA made the six-hour event a reality.


“I raised money with the book fair and Principal [Debra] Chisholm donated a portion, but that still was not enough,” Simpson said. “Our current PTA has been so supportive with the library and reading, so I approached them last year. I asked if it was possible to save some of the budget to help make this dream come true. Our wonderfully active PTA pulled in almost $800 of the cost. That is why we were able to host this event.”


Although the parent-teacher organization footed a large portion of the bill, PTA President Laura Watkins believes it is the Wildcat community that is responsible for this one-of-a-kind event.


“We could not have programs like the Tipi Tellers if we did not have family support and fundraisers,” Watkins said. “We really appreciate our school’s support so we can have wonderful programs like this.”


Foundation awards scholarships


Posted November 7, 2014


Three local students were recently awarded up to $10,000 in scholarship money from the II-VI Foundation to pursue a postsecondary degree in the areas of engineering, mathematics or science for the 2014-15 school year.


Garland resident Jason Combiths, a junior at the University of Texas-Dallas studying mechanical engineering was one of the recipients and was awarded $8,000. He is a second-time recipient and gained his work experience at Marlow.


The following first-time recipients received awards in the amount of $9,000: Andres Velasco Davila, Rowlett resident and freshman at the University of Missouri-Columbia who is studying mechanical and aeronautical engineering and Garland resident Indy Vermeersch, and freshman at the University of Texas at Austin who is studying electrical engineering.


The II-VI Foundation Scholarship Program was established to encourage and enable student scholars to pursue an engineering-, mathematics-, or science-related degree at a postsecondary educational institution while maintaining a standard of excellence in that pursuit.


A scholarship award must be used for tuition, books, and fees required for the enrollment or attendance of the student at a qualifying institution. Recent high school graduates and current college students are eligible.


The 2014-15 scholarships were awarded to a particularly stellar group of students, who topped a field that proved to be extremely competitive academically. Ninety students applied for scholarships. Of the 49 domestic scholarships, 26 percent maintained a 4.0 GPA, and 82 percent had a GPA of 3.6 or higher.


The program provides for an initial scholarship for the freshman year at a university or college. Scholarship recipients may re-apply each year for a maximum of four years. The student must continue to meet the criteria to renew the scholarship in order to receive additional financial support for future years. These criteria include completing at least nine weeks of practical, hands-on related work experience in an industrial environment during the 10 months prior to the award, achieving an acceptable academic grade-point-average, and having no record of disciplinary action.


The private, nonprofit II-VI Foundation was established in May 2007 for the purpose of encouraging and enabling students to pursue careers in engineering, mathematics and science.


For more information, visit www.ii-vifoundation.com.

NGHS students sought after by Texas Tech


Garland ISD | November 7, 2014


While seniors across the nation begin to contemplate which college is right for them, four North Garland High School students are well on their way to attend Texas Tech University, thanks to their RaiderLife summer camp experience.


“RaiderLife was amazing,” said NGHS student Fatima Martinez. “All of the activities and talks were really informational and helpful.”


Martinez, along with fellow seniors Benneth Dieguez, Joel Martinez and Jose Rodriguez, enjoyed a five-day, all-expenses-paid Texas Tech experience this summer. The trip was organized by Garland ISD Area Director Gerald Hudson and the university’s Office of Community Engagement.


“We really got the college experience because it was hands-on,” Dieguez said. “We got to sleep in a dorm, walk around, attend mock classes, get SAT practice and learn about the university and its traditions. We also went to Main Event and had a lot of fun.”


And to keep Texas Tech on their minds during college application season, the teens recently received a special surprise.


Texas Tech Office of Community Engagement Director Heather Martinez, Institutional Diversity Section Coordinator Mari Samarripas and Institutional Diversity Unit Coordinator Karina Chavez surprised the students with an unexpected visit Sept. 23. Armed with pizza, Texas Tech goodies and even official paperwork, these Raider reps were ready for recruitment.


“To continue promoting the idea of higher education, I along with my college and career staff wanted to visit North Garland briefly and see our students again,” Martinez commented in a written statement. “We just wanted to follow-up with them and let them know that Texas Tech is still thinking about them. We want them to be a part of our university.”


After the initial shock of seeing Martinez and her team wore off, the group discussed RaiderLife, current events and college goals. Wanting to make sure these up-and-coming Raiders had all the support they could get, Martinez told them they could count on her if they needed help during the application process.


In the end, ongoing assistance with college preparation and an unforgettable trip were not all these teens gained from RaiderLife. The students also received inspiration that could ultimately change their lives.


“Before this experience, I was just thinking about going to community college. But then I signed up for RaiderLife and now I would love to go to Texas Tech,” Martinez said. “To think about college used to make me scared. Now I look forward to it and actually want to go.” 

RHS band competes at state competition


Posted November 7, 2014 -- Photos by Brad McClendon, www.bhmimages.com


The Rowlett High School Mighty Eagle Band competed at the UIL State Marching Band Championships Tuesday, Nov. 4, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. 


The MEB placed 17 out of 37 marching bands during the prelims. The MEB returned to Rowlett Tuesday evening after the finals results were announced.






Six-foot-tall otter visiting local schools


Posted November 7, 2014


With the help of a 6-foot-tall live-action mascot named Otis the Otter, the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) is recruiting students to help in its fight to save water.


The new water conservation program features live educational school shows and a new website, Water4Otter.org.


In addition to Otis the Otter, the campaign stars his friends, Bob the Bobcat and Farah the Fox. These characters are teaching young Texans an important lesson: The water people use at home is the same water animals at Lavon Lake use to survive. Lavon Lake is the primary natural water source of the NTMWD.


“Children can help make a difference,” said Denise Hickey, NTMWD representative and conservation manager. “It’s no secret North Texas is in a drought, and conservation is a big part of making sure the water we have extends through the drought. We’re giving kids reasons to start those conservation habits early and talk to their parents about it.” Water4Otter is based on research done by the NTMWD that indicates parents are more willing to conserve if their kids ask them to. It’s part of the successful, award-winning Water IQ conservation campaign pioneered by the NTMWD starting in 2006.


On Nov. 3, the Water4Otter campaign kicks off a 21-day tour of schools in the NTMWD’s member cities: Plano, Farmersville, Forney, Mesquite, Garland, McKinney, Princeton, Royse City, Allen, Wylie, Rowlett, Richardson and Rockwall. Otis the Otter will visit schools and ask students to become “Water Spotters” during a 45-minute show that features an original game and song.


The song has catchy lyrics written especially for the school-aged crowd. Here’s a verse:


Turn off the water when you brush your teeth

Take quick showers, but please don’t reek

Get a low-flow toilet, if you can

But don’t stop flushing, do it for your fam


Students watching the show learn they can “Save Water4Otter” by pointing out broken sprinkler heads and turning sprinkler systems to manual so they don’t run when it’s raining. Students also learn to save water by not watering lawns between Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day.

GISD bond package passes


Kim Everett | November 5, 2014


More than 60 percent of Garland, Sachse and Rowlett voters said yes to the Garland ISD bond proposal in yesterday’s election.


The $455.5 million bond will include various updates and repairs at GISD campuses as well as a $20 million natatorium and career tech center.


In a press release, Superintendent Bob Morrison said that the goal from the beginning of the bond process was to encourage GISD residents to take advantage of the opportunity to vote.



“We simply wanted to help them understand the facts of what this school district is facing so they could make educated decisions when casting their ballots,” Morrison said.


He added that the trust shown by the voters will allow them to begin repairs to facilities as soon as next spring.

GISD AP exam participation increases, receives national recognition


Garland ISD | November 3, 2014


According to recent data released by the College Board, 225,627 Texas public school students took 410,788 Advanced Placement (AP) exams in 2013-14. These numbers represent a 9.2 and 9.1 percent increase over the previous school year. In Garland ISD that increase reaches into double digits. Nearly 2,250 students took 3,979 AP exams in 2013-14, an increase of 15 and 17 percent, respectively.


The district hopes to continue its upward stride with the implementation of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) College Readiness Program this year. Students at Lakeview, Naaman Forest, North Garland and South Garland high schools will not only receive exam prep and administration fee support, but incentives for passing scores as well.


According to NMSI, students who pass an AP exam are three times more likely to complete their college education. Additionally, African-American and Hispanic students who succeed in AP courses are four times more likely to graduate from college.


Making AP more accessible to all, GISD’s college readiness initiatives are gaining recognition around the world. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation recognized the district for improving AP participation and passing rates by African-American and Hispanic students.


“Garland, a 58,000-student district northeast of Dallas, was the only district whose data showed both African-American and Hispanic students increasing participation and pass rates at levels outpacing their white peers in the school system,” said the organization’s report The road to equity: expanding AP access and success for African-American students.


The Broad Foundation analyzed four years of AP exam participation and performance, finding that districts were able to boost performance without losing participation by employing many of the following practices and strategies:


  • Offer a rigorous curriculum beginning in elementary

  • Expand access to gifted programs

  • Analyze college entrance exams—like PSAT and EXPLORE—to identify potential AP students and actively recruit them to enroll in AP courses

  • Provide extra academic and social support to students

  • Dramatically increase the number of AP course offerings

  • Offer additional teacher training and professional development

  • Instill confidence in students about their college-going potential

  • Educate parents about the benefits of AP


The report also credits GISD’s gains to its Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which begins in elementary schools by covering binder organization and good note-taking skills. In high school, participating students have a daily period for AVID built into their class schedules. They cover AVID’s curriculum of developing higher-order thinking and receive tutoring from college students.

South Garland student excited to become first-time voter


Garland ISD | November 3, 2014


South Garland High School student Alexander Brown is bound to experience a myriad of special moments during his last year in Garland ISD. And the senior is currently prepping for one of them—casting his debut election ballot.


“I am very excited. I like new experiences,” he said. “I think this is one of the stepping stones of growing up, going into college and being on your own. You have to vote for yourself. You are not going to have your parents or your friends. At the end of the day, you are the one next to the ballot. It is your choice that matters.”


Once Brown turned 18, he knew he had to register to vote.


“My parents had me when they were older, so they have given me a broad knowledge of many things, including politics,” he explained. “They just encouraged me to take the information they gave me, along with my own research, and run with it. That is why I registered at the post office and plan on voting early.”


The high schooler will join more than 1.5 million Texans who have already hit the polls prior to the early voting deadline—7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31.


Brown and district residents will not only see the governor’s race on the ballot, but statewide propositions and GISD’s 2014 bond proposal as well.


 “I always hear people say, ‘What does one vote matter?’ But I think one vote matters. It makes me believe that my opinion is heard in some way,” Brown said. “I think it is important to vote and do research on everything that will be on the ballot. You are not only voting for yourself, but for your community and the city you live in.”


Brown, who is a member of the district’s Mariachi Estrellas, will attend the University of North Texas in the fall. He plans on majoring in music education. 


RHS band advances to state competition


Garland ISD | November 3, 2014


Is Rowlett High School’s Mighty Eagle Band the best in Texas? The campus will find out Tuesday, Nov. 4. RHS qualified for the UIL 6A State Marching Contest last weekend—one of just four to advance from the Area C competition.


“We are so proud of all of the hard work of the students and directors at RHS,” said George Jones, GISD director of Fine Arts. “The parental and community support is also an important reason for the success of the band.”


This will be the Mighty Eagle Band’s sixth appearance at the State Marching Contest, which is held every other year. Preliminary competition begins for RHS at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday in San Antonio’s Alamodome. Band directors are Phillip Alvarado, Ben Sumrak and Chris McHenry.

District recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month


Garland ISD | October 31, 2014


Garland ISD’s Latino community took the spotlight as Hispanic Heritage Month was celebrated throughout the district Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Several schools highlighted the nation’s celebration of the Hispanic culture with special activities, guests and programs.


The GISD Alternative Education Center (GAEC) kick started the monthlong commemoration with a visit from WFAA News 8 co-anchor Cynthia Izaguirre Sept. 23. GAEC Spanish teacher Erika Ortega organized the notable event.


“The process of setting this visit up usually takes a couple of months,” Ortega said. “However, Cynthia was so nice that she agreed to come with a two and a half week notice. I believed her struggles and accomplishments would be a great example for our GAEC student population. Cynthia represents women, hardworking immigrants and is truly an honorable representative of our Hispanic community.”


During the event, Izaguirre spoke about her Ecuadorian background, her poverty-stricken childhood and how having a positive mindset helped her beat the odds.


“I am here talking to each and every one of you because in many ways, we are really not that different,” she told the students. “I reached my lifelong goal because I had the right attitude and motivation.”


After her speech, Izaguirre had students present a mock newscast—a small activity that brought the event full circle.


“It was an inspiring visit,” Ortega stated. “It was dynamic and the kids enjoyed participating in the hands-on activity. They were engaged, enthusiastic and inspired. I hope they can relate to her story of hard work and perseverance.”


While GAEC celebrated on an encouraging note, Cisneros and Parsons prekindergarten schools honored the cultural observance with a fashionable twist. Both campuses hosted Hispanic Heritage parades.


The marches showcased traditional clothing from several Latin American countries, such as Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. Popular Latin tunes filled the air while parents, teachers and students cheered on the pint-sized models.


And as they do every year, the district’s Mariachi Estrellas paid tribute to Mexican heritage as they entertained campuses across the district. The often-requested act performed popular Spanish language compositions at nearly 20 district events from September to October.


First-year art classes spark more than creative abilities


Garland ISD | October 31, 2014


Approximately 6,000 Garland ISD elementary students are now discovering the impact of art education thanks to a district initiative launched this year. Back, Carver, Cooper, Herfurth, Luna, Northlake, Park Crest, Shugart, Southgate and Steadham, as well as Beaver Technology Center for Math and Science, are the first group of 41 elementaries to implement a dedicated art class—something these campuses did not previously offer.


“I was thrilled when Back Elementary was chosen to have art this year,” said Back Elementary School Principal Teresa McCutcheon. “I knew the experiences it would provide our students would be invaluable. Art classes give our students another approach to learning that may activate their imaginations and ignite their interests.”


Enlightening students is exactly why the district established a mission to bring art education back into elementary schools.


“We have students whose passion is the visual arts,” said Superintendent Bob Morrison. “Our job as educators is to open doors to students. I think the more opportunities we provide, the more engaged they become in school, which results in better learning.”


Cooper Elementary School’s new art teacher, Usha Cottrell, came to GISD after an eight-year career at Dallas ISD. She is excited to be one of the first to expose young students to art and the benefits they will receive from the subject.


“I am elated to be here and to be part of this process,” Cottrell said. “We want to provide the foundation for our students to becoming viable candidates in the current workforce and to be college ready. Art is an integral part of that process. Visual art has been proven to increase vocabulary, raise test scores and decrease achievement gaps between students of higher and lower socioeconomic status. I truly believe with the implementation of art education in all GISD elementary schools, we will witness students becoming more successful in their academic endeavors.”


The district is not only focused on growing the fine arts program at the elementary level. The 2014 GISD bond referendum currently includes funding for expanded band, choir and orchestra accommodations at the secondary level.


Although just 11 campuses implemented art education this year, the district plans to introduce seven to eight new programs every year through 2018.


“We are on our way to establishing a strong program in every school,” Cottrell said.  “Every student in GISD deserves the chance to experience art instruction.”


And in a short matter of time, that magical opportunity will come to all.


GSO presents Young People’s Concert for GISD


Posted October 25, 2014


The Garland Symphony Orchestra provides concerts for young people through their Young People’s Concerts for Garland ISD.  These concerts are a part of an age-specific, arts integrated curriculum designed to enhance and supplement the arts education programs of the participating school district. This project works through teacher/school partnerships and culminates with a professional symphony orchestra performance by the Garland Symphony Orchestra for elementary school students in the Garland ISD. The Young People’s Concert program creates a platform for learning through creative discovery and enhances the development of critical skills that will be useful to students in all learning endeavors.


The purpose of GSO's Young People's Concerts are to educate, inspire and entertain young students by acquainting them with the orchestra, introducing them to a live performance, as well as interest them in creating music and appreciating quality music throughout their lives. The Garland Symphony Orchestra tours it’s Young People’s Concerts each year to more than 7,000 elementary school students.


Students attending this year’s Young People’s Concert will be swept away on a musical journey featuring Verdi’s Overture to The Sicilian Vespers, Khachaturian’s Music from Spartacus, Denza’s Funiculi, Funicula, and music from Disney’s hit motion picture Frozen.


The mission of GSO is to bring a fully professional ensemble of musicians dedicated to excellence in the performance of symphonic music and to the cultural enrichment of the dynamically growing Garland corporate and residential communities, as well as to patrons throughout Garland and adjacent cities. The GSO seeks to present concerts for the community of the highest artistic quality of symphonic music for all ages. It also seeks to foster an appreciation of orchestral music and to further the performing arts.


The Garland Symphony Orchestra credits its music director, Robert Carter Austin for its continued outstanding and diverse orchestral programming.


Concerts will take place Tuesday, Oct. 28, and Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 10 a.m. at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.


For more information about the GSO visit www.garlandsymphony.org.

SROs receive special training

Garland ISD | October 24, 2014

As an educator, counselor and member of the local police force, a Garland ISD School Resource Officer plays a vital role in a school’s environment. But educating students about the legal system and personal safety is not an SRO’s only job. They also bring awareness to drug and violence prevention and help maintain campuses safe and secure.

GISD SROs decided to undertake a special training to broaden their safety and security skills for 2014-15. All SROs and several Garland police officers completed Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training this summer at Webb Middle School and Naaman Forest High School.

“The training involves preparing officers for active shooter incidents in schools, business and other locations,” explained Garland Police Department Lt. Dan Colasanto. “The officers learned different tactics and techniques which will help them respond effectively in the event of an active shooter.”

SROs were able to receive this experience due to Garland’s close proximity to the nation’s top training center.

“The ALERRT facility is located at Texas State University and is the industry standard for active shooter training in the country,” Colasanto said. “We sent four officers to the ‘train-the-trainer’ course so they could come back and provide training to our officers.”

The two-day event featured SROs and GISD teachers reenacting true active shooter situations. The intensive and multifaceted training allowed officers to analyze each simulation as well as identify and learn from mistakes.

“Part of the training includes techniques to breach the doors of the school to get in if they are locked or barricaded,” Colasanto said. “Vigilance is the key–controlling access and being alert for those who do not belong. The more difficult you make it for the bad guys, the less likely they are to target the school.”

GISD’s 2014 bond proposal currently includes projects to increase campus security, such as front entrance remodels, access control system improvements, additional security cameras and the addition of secure classroom door locks.

“This training enabled all of our officers to learn how to respond [to an active shooter incident] efficiently and effectively,” Colasanto said. “It was extremely beneficial and needs to be done on a regular basis. I would like to thank the principals at Webb and Dr. Crump at Naaman for allowing us to train in their schools. It made the training much more realistic.”

District celebrates fire safety


Garland ISD | October 22, 2014


The health and safety of students is a top priority in Garland ISD. To reiterate this focus, the district commemorated National Fire Prevention Week with special activities, awards and guests Oct. 7-10.


“Fire Prevention Week is a time to begin the dialogue of educating our students on how to be prepared should they be faced with a fire or emergency,” said Heather Glen Elementary School Assistant Principal Marc Garcia. “This year, Heather Glen students were able to practice the ‘stop, drop and roll’ and belly crawl techniques, learn tips through Sparky the Dog books and videos, and hear firsthand the importance of fire safety.”


The campus, along with several other district schools, received a visit from the Garland Fire Department. Firefighters held 30-minute discussions with students, giving them an overview of their professions and providing emergency tips. Students heard about 911 proceedings, kitchen safety and evacuation methods. Students also learned about a firefighter’s gear, tools and fire engine.


“I think this is the absolute most important part of our job, communicating to the children that we are here for them 24/7 and helping them understand that they can play a role in safety at home,” said Garland Fire Department Captain Kenneth Craft. “I really look forward to this every year.”


Special importance was given to smoke detectors this year, as the week’s national theme was “Smoke Alarms Save Lives.”


“Smoke alarms are the simplest, most effective way to save lives in the event of a fire. They really work,” Craft said. “We have seen the numbers of fire fatalities reduced due to smoke detectors. We have to constantly remind everybody–children and adults alike–about the importance of fire alarms because it is so easy to forget about them.”


A recent facilities assessment identified fire alarm systems in nearly half of GISD’s schools that will surpass their useful life span within the next five years, as well as 22 buildings without fire sprinklers because they were not standard at the time of construction. The 2014 GISD bond referendum currently includes fire alarm system replacements and fire sprinkler additions.


“As important as fire safety is, we tend to overlook it until there is an emergency,” said Walnut Glen Academy Assistant Principal Brian Trichell. “We wanted to proactively bring awareness to fire safety, while at the same time build a relationship with our local fire department.”


In addition to enlightening students and building community relationships, 12 campuses were awarded a Garland Fire Department Fire Safety Award Oct. 9 for improving fire safety hazards. A list of honorees is below.


  • Carver Elementary School

  • Cooper Elementary School

  • Caldwell Elementary School

  • Couch Elementary School

  • Garland ISD Infant Center

  • Heather Glen Elementary School

  • Lakeview Centennial High School

  • Luna Elementary School

  • O’Banion Middle School

  • Weaver Elementary School

  • Williams Elementary School

  • Toler Elementary School

Michelle McCray named Jupiter Chevrolet Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | October 17, 2014


Making its second stop of 2014-15, Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month SUV returned to Shorehaven Elementary School. Second grade teacher Michelle McCray received the title Oct. 2.


“This is awesome,” she said fighting back tears. “I am honored and humbled to be in a district where teachers are recognized and appreciated. It is an amazing feeling.”


Principal Patty Tremmel helped surprise McCray by luring her outside, where students and staff waited to celebrate.


“We just want to thank Jupiter Chevrolet for supporting the district and our fantastic teacher,” commented Tremmel. “This is so exciting.”


Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month contest recognizes the important work of GISD educators and rewards them for their dedication. Winners are chosen through a Facebook vote and get to drive the car through the end of the month. McCray received numerous votes, some from as far away as Louisiana.


“I did not know about the contest at first,” explained McCray. “My coworkers nominated me and told me to spread the word. Family, friends and even parents of former students in Louisiana voted. I started crying looking at all the Facebook posts.”


Would you like to see your campus represented and your favorite educator named Teacher of the Month? Vote for the November winner on Jupiter Chevrolet’s Facebook page.

RHS band brings home honors


Posted October 17, 2014 -- Photos by Brad McClendon, www.bhmimages.com


Rowlett High School’s Mighty Eagle Band from Rowlett High School brought home honors Oct. 11 from the Tournament of Champions March Band Contest in Carrollton. The band placed second overall and won caption awards for Best Music & Best Drum Majors.





Tafadzwa Charuma receives leadership award 


Posted October 17, 2014


The Bob and Gayle Riley Servant Leadership Award was presented to two students at East Texas Baptist University.  Tafadzwa Charuma was presented his awards from Dr. Riley, president emeritus, and his wife Gayle during Chapel Monday, Oct. 13.


Tafadzwa is a psychology major from Garland and is scheduled to graduate this December. He is the son of PeeCee Charuma and Lydia Munesti-Charuma. He is an active member at Friendship Baptist Church of Marshall. During his time at ETBU, he has participated in the Baptist Student Ministry especially through the Charge ministry and currently is the president of .com (cultural outreach ministry). During his early years at ETBU, he was a member of the Tiger football team.


The Bob and Gayle Riley Servant Leadership Award is given annually to students who exhibit exceptional servant leadership. Students are nominated by their peers, faculty and staff during the spring semester and then invited to apply for the award.


“Here at ETBU I have experienced community in a way most people only read about,” wrote Charuma in his application. “As I make plans to leave here and serve elsewhere, wherever it is God calls me next, I will work to become community for the people I meet there by serving and leading them in ways that I have been served and led while at ETBU.”


The Riley’s presented each winner with a miniature replica of Max Greiner’s sculpture of Jesus washing the feet of Simon Peter named the “Divine Servant” and a scholarship award.

GISD announces parents of GISD students on same plane as Ebola patient


Garland ISD | October 17, 2014


To Garland ISD Parents and Guardians: It has been well publicized that a second health care worker was diagnosed with the Ebola virus and traveled on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas earlier this week. She was not showing any symptoms of the disease during her travel.


Today we learned the parents of four GISD students at two schools were aboard this plane with the health care worker. The campuses are North Garland High School and Schrade Middle School.

All parents have been in contact with the Center for Disease Control. Officials from the CDC have assured family members their seating location aboard the flight was in a no-risk area, no quarantine is necessary, and all students are not being withheld from school.


Both families are cooperating entirely with the organization. Administration at North Garland and Schrade are also communicating with the parents. Additionally, the district is working with CDC, Dallas County Health & Human Services and city officials from Garland and Rowlett.

There are no other family members at any other GISD campus.


It is important to know individuals are not contagious until symptoms appear. GISD is taking proactive measures at both campuses - increased cleaning throughout the day, an intensive deep-clean this evening and an expert cleaning this weekend. Additional disinfectant measures are being performed at all GISD campuses.


The following information is available online:



These include frequently asked questions, how to talk to your child regarding Ebola, and timely updates. GISD is in ongoing communication with the Center for Disease Control and DCHHS. A hotline is also available for reporting concerns, 800-527-7140.


If another situation arises of a student who may have been exposed to an individual diagnosed with Ebola, the district will continue providing as much information as possible.

GISD celebrates anti-bullying and cyber-safety


Garland ISD | Posted October 16, 2014


Students, teachers and parents throughout Garland ISD commemorated Help Everyone Respect Others (HERO) and Cyber-safety Week with enlightening activities, informational forums and superhero-themed days Sept. 22-26.


“This year’s celebration was better and more focused than last year’s. We involved parents in the discussion of what the 'Golden Rule' is and had a follow-up conversation in the classroom,” said Cisneros Prekindergarten School counselor Margarita Gonzalez. “We also created a flier in English and Spanish that included information and tips to help parents set limits regarding cyber-safety.”


In addition to organizing campus activities, Gonzalez physically showed support for the week’s message by dressing up as Batman on “Superhero Day”—a gesture students and fellow district staff thoroughly enjoy annually.


“One of the week’s highlights is always ‘Dress as a Superhero Friday.' This year, some of our schools were even featured on the local news,” said Director of Guidance and Counseling Ruby Armstrong.


“Other high points included the various anti-bullying assemblies held throughout the week, one of which featured distinguished speakers.”


Parents and students learned about bullying, online safety and suicide prevention at the Power of Parents Forum Sept. 23. The hourlong presentation featured four renowned speakers and GISD’s Technology Integration Team discussing how parents can strengthen their family, build resiliency skills in their children and combat cyber bullying.


“We hope continued education will help identify cyber-safety issues, such as cyber bullying, safe social networking, cyber security and online identity protection,” Armstrong said.

Overall, administrators and educators expect the week’s activities will have a long-term impact on students.


“Education is power, anytime we educate students and parents about topics, we tend to have fewer incidents concerning those behaviors,” Gonzalez explained. “We are hoping HERO and Cyber-safety Week 2014 laid a foundation for lifelong anti-bullying behavior and cyber-safety awareness.”

Students prepare for future with PSAT/NMSQT, Readistep tests


Garland ISD | Posted October 15, 2014


To help prepare students for college entrance exams, Garland ISD administered the PSAT/National Merit Scholar Qualifying Test to all sophomores and juniors Wednesday, Oct. 15. The ReadiStep testing window for all eighth-graders will began as well. Although these tests may seem intimidating, many students are ready to tackle them, thanks to targeted classroom events.


“We have been working on integrating PSAT/NMSQT practice into core-area classes through warm-up activities and practice tests,” said Sachse High School Assistant Principal Brandy Schneider. “We have also held tutorials specifically geared toward PSAT, SAT and ACT for math and English.”


Schneider, other district administrators and teachers are putting a strong emphasis on these exams because of their value. The PSAT/NMSQT provides students with excellent SAT practice and opportunities for college scholarships, as well as recognition programs. Eighth-graders will also be able to identify skills, select accommodating high school classes and pinpoint pre-Advanced Placement, AP, magnet and Gifted and Talented program eligibility through Readistep results.


“We hope students gain the experience of taking this type of test and become more comfortable with what these tests are like,” Schneider said. “We also hope that our students will take ownership of their results and see what their areas of strengths are and what areas need improvement.”


Given the benefits to students, GISD paid all fees related to both the PSAT/NMSQT and ReadiStep. After all, these tests have the power to change a student’s life.


“The best-case scenario is that a student who had not planned to attend college scores well on this test,” Schneider explained. “That can help them see their own potential, and look at college in the future.”


For more information on the PSAT/NMSQT and ReadiStep, visit the Guidance and Counseling Department's website.

GISD students learn to

support, report, defend


Posted October 14, 2014 


The Allstar Nation Tour, an anti-bullying campaign and concert assembly tour, will visit about 15,000 students and faculty at 12 Dallas area schools this month and Garland ISD’s Lyles Middle School is on the schedule. The tour is a growing national effort to prevent in-school bullying and encourages students to report, support and defend against bullying.


The Houston-based, peer-to-peer anti-bullying music tour features recording artists ages 12-25 who perform and speak out against bullying in middle and high schools. Artists are well-known among their peers and perform Top 40 and original songs. Between performances, the artists speak out against bullying, share personal experiences and prevention methods. There is no charge to schools for the 90-minute assembly performance.


Various recording artists will be featured throughout the tour. Scheduled to perform in Dallas are New Caney native Branden Mendoza, 21, who competed on NBC’s “The Voice” Season 6 held earlier this year; Frisco native and pop singer Tristan Blaine, 15, a tour veteran with fans whom refer to themselves as “Blaniacs”; Micaiah Walker, 24, of Houston who is the lead singer of rock band VerseCity; and Boston native and Nashville recording artist Jessie Chris, 17, who has opened for several country stars such as Chris Young and Ayla Brown.


The Allstar Nation Tour will perform at Lyles Middle School Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.


“This tour is so important because what used to be a harmless rite of passage among school-aged children decades ago has quickly grown into an epidemic resulting in lives lost,” said tour founder Dillon Smith.


Facts about bullying:

·         Bullying affects nearly one in three American schoolchildren in grades six through 10. It’s a major factor in teen suicide and school shootings.


·         Eighty-three percent of girls and 79 percent of boys report experiencing harassment at school.


·         Nearly nine out of 10 LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation


·         Bullies often go on to perpetrate violence later in life: 40 percent of boys identified as bullies in grades 6 through 9 had three or more arrests by age 30.


·         Six out of 10 teenagers say they witness bullying in school once a day.


·         Nearly 70 percent of students think schools respond poorly to bullying.


·         It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.


·         Thirty-five percent of kids have been threatened online.


·         Sixty-four percent of children who were bullied did not report it.


·         Nearly 70 percent of students think schools respond poorly to bullying.


·         Cell phones continue to be the most popular technology utilized by adolescents with almost 83 percent of youth in a sample report having used one at least weekly.


·         Statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. More than 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.

Sources: Cyber bullying Research Center, National Education AssociationPACER Center, and Make Beats Not Beatdowns.



About: The Allstar Nation Tour is a Houston-based anti-bullying music tour featuring recording artists ages 12 to 25 who hold free, 90-minute performance assemblies at middle and high schools. Artists perform Top 40 and original songs to connect with their peers. Between performances, the artists speak about bullying, share personal experiences and prevention methods. The tour is expected to reach more than 100,000 students in more than 30 school districts in Texas, Florida, and other locations to be announced. For more information including how to schedule a school performance or audition to be on the tour, visit www.allstarnationtour.com or call 713-562-1708.

Fire Reel Film Festival now accepting submissions


Garland ISD | October 11, 2014


Calling all budding cinematographers, directors and creative types, Garland ISD's 2014 Fire Reel Film Festival is now underway, accepting videos until midnight Dec. 31.


The festival challenges classes, students and staff to create an original, inspired film that follows six simple guidelines. Participants can submit as many movies as they want. And with nine movie genres, the possibilities are endless.


Returning film categories include animation or stop-action, infomercial, instructional, music video, story, video announcement showcase and weekend challenge. New this year are the campus challenge and innovative picture fields.


An official committee will grade each film by evaluating five criteria: acting, cinematography and editing, direction, music and storyline. Entries will be judged only against submissions in the same age group.


Each age group has a chance to win an award in seven categories, while all groups will compete for five additional titles.  


For more information about the 2014 Fire Reel Film Festival, visit the competition’s website

Raytheon partners with GISD to introduce elementary engineering


Garland ISD | October 10, 2014


Thanks to a $37,000 Raytheon grant, students at Northlake Elementary School are tackling a rigorous subject most do not encounter until college. Their campus is Garland ISD's first to adopt the award-winning, project-based engineering program Elementary is Engineering (EiE).


“We are thrilled to begin implementing the EiE curriculum,” said Elementary Science, Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator Tina Garrett. “Northlake was selected to pilot the program for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because of their enthusiasm to implement engineering challenges throughout the 2013-14 school year.”


GISD was one of just eight school districts nationwide to receive funding from Raytheon. The aerospace and defense company gifted $2 million to promote and strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum.


“With the release of the Next Generation Science Standards in 2013, there is a new expectation that engineering will be integrated with existing elementary science curricula—and schools and districts need an effective way to do that,” said Christine Cunningham, vice president at Boston’s Museum of Science and EiE founder and director. “We are really pleased to be able to offer support through the Raytheon scholarship program.”


GISD's grant not only funded program curriculum and materials, but an EiE Teacher Workshop as well. During the summer, Northlake educators attended a six-hour, hands-on training with a Museum of Science expert. They discussed technology, engineering and EiE program details. They even conducted experiments.  


“The workshop experience was both engaging and motivating,” Garrett said. “This learner-driven opportunity supported deep understanding of the pedagogy and structure of the enrichment curriculum.”

Though Northlake students have had just six weeks to try out the program, Garrett believes its benefits are already apparent.


“I foresee endless student benefits. EiE is not only fun. It also increases problem-solving and critical-thinking skills,” she explained. “College and career readiness starts in prekindergarten, and EiE will allow Northlake to enrich an already strong instructional focus.”


Because Northlake’s teachers have had in-depth EiE training, they will help the district’s implementation process by guiding their peers at the next designated school. This practice will continue until all of the district’s 47 elementary campuses have EiE programs.


Eagle band excels at competition


Posted October 7, 2014 -- Photos by Brad McClendon, www.bhmimages.com


The Rowlett High School Eagle band competed at the 2014 Centennial Marching Festival in Frisco Oct. 4 and brought home the following awards:

  • Grand Champion

  • Outstanding Marching Performance

  • Outstanding Musical Performance


Students in the photo are:  (l-r) Rayleigh Palmer; Scott David, head drum major; Jerel Labra; and Peyton Edwards, color guard captain.

GISD campuses named national Blue Ribbon Schools


Garland ISD | October 3, 2014


Earlier this year, the Texas Education Agency nominated 25 Texas public schools for national 2014 Blue Ribbon Schools recognition. Two of those 25 were Routh Roach Elementary School and Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence.


The U.S. Department of Education announced the nation’s 337 schools selected to receive the honor Sept. 30. All 25 Texas public schools made the cut, granting Routh Roach its second title and Walnut Glen its third.


Founded in 1982, Blue Ribbon Schools is a U.S. Department of Education program that recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools with high-performing students.


Watch U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan address all 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools online.

For more information on the Blue Ribbon Schools program, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

GISD Facilities and Maintenance keeps busy


Garland ISD | October 3, 2014


Now six weeks into the 2014-15 school year, Garland ISD students and staff may have noticed building upgrades at several campuses. The district's Facilities and Maintenance Department dedicated its summer to completing 34 school projects.


“We typically see about 20 big school-related projects every summer,” said assistant director of Maintenance Bill Wiley. “But this summer that number was a bit on the tall end. And these jobs are on top of our everyday duties.”


In June 2013, the district hired independent architecture and engineering firm Huckabee to complete a comprehensive facilities assessment of all district buildings. The report identified more than $1.7 billion in maintenance and construction needs throughout the district.


"We felt there were some critical items they identified that needed to be addressed immediately,” said Director of Maintenance Paul Gonzales. “We submitted a document to the board of trustees in May to secure funding for some of these projects."


With more than 70 percent of GISD buildings built between 1937 and 1990, the facilities and maintenance crew had to identify which schools received priority. And, they were not able to work at every campus needing a repair or improvement because of limited resources. Summer tasks included mechanical, electrical and plumbing work, as well as making and installing new cabinets, completing a bathroom stall overhaul and revamping tiled kitchen walls.


“If you do not maintain something and you wait until it breaks, it will cost more for you to fix it. Some of the jobs we completed this summer were essential because the material was original,” Wiley explained.” Everything has a life cycle, so we were trying to get ahead on what we could.”


GISD's 2014 bond referendum currently proposes funding for additional items identified in the district's facilities assessment, such as replacement of air conditioning and heating systems, fire alarms, windows and electric panels.


Although the summer has ended, the Facilities and Maintenance Department continues its work to help students succeed in the classroom.


“It is our goal to make sure that our students continue to be in a safe and clean environment,” Gonzales said.

Garland resident asks for change in GISD board composition


Posted October 3, 2014


Garland resident Eric Stuyvesant appeared before the Garland Independent School District board of trustees at the Sept. 23 meeting to read a document asking that the trustees consider abolishing the at-large school board seats and creating seven single-member districts. The Irving ISD board of trustees recently voted to reorganize in this manner.


Stuyvesant said that a petition drive is underway to try to get the item on the May 2015 ballot if necessary.


The document follows:


“I had a question (or concern) regarding the schools, but I didn’t know who to talk to.” This sentiment, or frustration, is entirely too common among the citizenry served by the Garland ISD school board. That shouldn’t be the case.


With the exception of the Garland ISD Board of Trustees we live in a community served by single district representation at the city, county and state levels. If there is an issue in our neighborhood which needs attention we know with which city council member to meet. If we want to champion positive change in our community we know to call our Mayor. If we see something out of order in our county we have a specific commissioner whom we can contact. If we have a concern that requires action by the State of Texas we know which State Representative or State Senator to contact. If we take issue with Federal policy we know which congressman we can write to voice our displeasure. Even at the highest office in the land the boundaries are clearly defined.


Presently the Garland ISD Board of Trustees is a somewhat unique body that is comprised of 7 members who are all elected at large. This equates to a single, multimember district. At the time the seven member school board was formed in 1901 the entire population of Garland was under a thousand people. Today our high schools teem with over a thousand students each. Garland has evolved into a thriving, dynamic community while the structure of the school board has remained static. This antiquated multimember district fosters systemic confusion and inefficiency. In a multimember district each trustee represents the entirety of the district. This complicates the ability of the voter to have a dialogue with a trustee because they don’t know which trustee represents them, or has their best interest at heart. In addition, it complicates the ability of the trustee to understand the needs of the constituents who are comprised of wonderfully diverse economic and cultural backgrounds. By comparison, single district representation focuses the attention of the trustee on a much smaller segment of the electorate. 


With single district representation it is much easier for a trustee to know the will of the constituents and much easier for the constituents to be heard.  Implementing single district representation would mean that each trustee would represent a much more manageable segment of the population, that being just under 15% of the total district. Likewise, each citizen would know exactly who to call when they had a question or concern.  Also it is possible in a multimember district for all of the board members to come from one city, or worse yet, one city block within the GISD.  This is certainly something that impedes diversity instead of promoting broad-based inclusion and representation of the electorate.


A government which governs closest to the people is always the most responsive government which is why all of our other political representation is done through single member districts.  Let’s all come together and get this out of date system reformed to single member districts for all of the reasons above and to also be in line with all of our other representative bodies.  This reform is in the best interest of the children, the taxpayers, and our great representatives on the school board who give their time graciously. 


We request that the Garland Independent School District be divided into 7 districts with a single representative elected from each, and that no representatives be elected at large. We request that the term of office shall remain three years, and that there be no restrictions or term limits preventing a Board Member from continual service, if their district so chooses.  We further request that the current school board votes to enact this redistricting policy themselves, and that the enactment of the redistricting policy begin concurrently with the next election as the current board members’ terms begin to expire.”

Students show college pride, learn about higher education


Garland ISD | October 3, 2014


Future Aggies, Bears, Bucks, Longhorns, Raiders and more showed pride for their respective educational institutions during Garland ISD's College Day Sept. 16. 


“This is a way for students, staff and administration to support higher education and show college school spirit,” said Director of Guidance and Counseling Ruby Armstrong.  “Many posted pictures wearing their favorite college T-shirts on school websites and Twitter accounts.”


But the college-motivated fun did not stop when the last bell rang. More than 2,700 students, parents and staff attended an after-school education fair at the Curtis Culwell Center.


“College Night 2014 was one of the best we have had,” Armstrong said. “We had more than 140 colleges, trade schools and universities attend, as well as various military branches. In addition, we featured breakout sessions that covered everything from National Collegiate Athletic Association requirements to financial aid.”


Students and parents received advice, goody bags and vital information at the event. And college-focused high schoolers were not the only students present. Plenty of their elementary school counterparts also navigated the sea of attendees.


Although College Day and Night is an annual one-day extravaganza, higher education is a year-round topic. For more information about college readiness, visit the district website.

SGHS to host anniversary bash

Garland ISD | September 30, 2014

Since 1964, South Garland High School has prepared students for success, fostering lifelong relationships between classmates and coworkers. The campus now invites current and former students and staff to commemorate Colonel history Oct. 2-4.

A three-day anniversary celebration will kick off with alumni and students decorating SGHS halls from 3 p.m. - 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2. To commemorate South Garland’s 50-year existence, halls will display décor from the ’60s through the ’90s.

On Friday, Oct. 3, alumni are invited to a pep rally, reception and pregame tailgate. The spirit rally will begin at 1:40 p.m., and guests can begin checking in at 12:30 p.m. While a live stream will be set up for alumni in the auditorium, former band members are encouraged to revel in the pep rally as they did years ago. Interested attendees must bring their own instruments and notify the campus upon arrival. Past mascots are also asked to participate. Post-rally, a reception will be held in the library and school tours will be offered. Before the Colonels face Forney High School at 7:30 p.m., alumni will be treated to grilled hot dogs, chips and water from 4:30-6 p.m. at Homer B. Johnson Stadium.

To wrap up the celebration, current cheerleaders will host a meet and greet in the west gym from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4. Former students and staff will also be given the opportunity to take home school trophies. 

For more information on South Garland High School’s 50th anniversary celebration, visit the campus’ website.

Special needs students raise money for amusement park trip

Posted September 29, 2014

Many people might call Disney World the happiest place on earth. But for some students at Garland ISD’s Luna Elementary School that title belongs to an amusement park in San Antonio called Morgan’s Wonderland. The amusement park is the country’s first attraction of its kind, built specifically for children with special needs.

These children have been diagnosed with Downs syndrome, intellectual disabilities, autism, speech impairments and also have a variety of health issues. By going to Morgan' Wonderland these children will have access to things that they could not participate in before or just could not benefit from because of situations that were simply too overwhelming for them.

The high cost of medical treatments, therapies and assistive devices makes this trip extremely difficult to afford for the families of these children. Consequently, they depend on donations from the public and the community’s help would be appreciated.

One chance to help the special needs children classes (A.L.E) raise the money to attend the amusement park is to shop at their garage sale being held Oct. 18, 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Luna Elementary, 1050 Lochness Lane in Garland.

Morgan's Wonderland unlocks a whole new world for these children through sensory stimulation with lights and music, accessible play and social development. The students would appreciate your help to be able to attend.

For information on the park, visit www.morganswonderland.com. 

Semifinalists named in National Achievement® Scholarship Program


Posted September 26, 2014


More than 1,600 Black American high school seniors who have been designated semifinalists in the 51st annual National Achievement Scholarship Program were announced recently by National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) officials.


Janet A. Aiyedun and Naomi Samuel from Garland High School were designated semifinalists.


These scholastically talented young men and women now have an opportunity to continue in the competition for approximately 800 Achievement Scholarship® awards worth about $2.5 million that will be offered next spring. To be considered for a National Achievement Scholarship, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 80 percent of semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half of the finalists will win an Achievement Scholarship award.


The National Achievement Scholarship Program, conducted by NMSC, is a privately financed academic competition that operates without government assistance. It was initiated in 1964 to recognize academically promising black students throughout the nation and to provide scholarships to a substantial number of the most outstanding program participants. To date, approximately 33,500 young men and women have received Achievement Scholarship awards worth about $105 million.


About the 2015 Competition

More than 160,000 high school juniors from all parts of the United States requested consideration in the 2015 National Achievement Scholarship Program when they took the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®). Semifinalists are designated within geographic regions and are the highest-scoring program entrants in the states that make up each region.


To advance to the finalist level in the competition, the semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application in which they provide information about the student’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. Semifinalists must present a record of high academic performance throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay and earn SAT® scores that confirm their PSAT/NMSQT performance.


From the approximately 1,600 semifinalists, about 1,300 are expected to advance to the finalist level, and in January they will be notified of this designation. All Achievement Scholar® awardees will be selected from the finalist group on the basis of their abilities, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies.


National Achievement Scholarships

National Achievement Scholarships provided in 2015 will be supported by corporations, professional organizations, foundations and by NMSC’s own funds. Two types of scholarships will be offered. Every finalist will compete for one of the 700 one-time National Achievement® $2500 Scholarships, which will be awarded on a regional representation basis. In addition, corporate and business sponsors will underwrite about 100 Achievement Scholarship awards for finalists who meet criteria set by the grantor. Although some corporate-sponsored awards provide a single payment, most are renewable for up to four years of undergraduate study. NMSC will release the names of scholarship winners to news media in early April.

Students get creative during National Arts in Education Week

Garland ISD | September 24, 2014

Numerous studies have shown that art education provides critical thinking, communication and creativity skills essential to academic success. To celebrate this vital scholastic field, schools across Garland ISD commemorated National Arts in Education Week with fun, imaginative assignments Sept. 8-12.

Students fashioned mixed-media art pieces, paintings and illustrations. Some even shared their original works with others.

“For National Arts in Education Week, our third-grade students discussed the many uses of art. We also created a Banyan tree painting and made decorative coasters to give to administrators,” said Kimberlin Academy for Excellence art teacher Krystal Custard.

In addition to receiving embellished coasters, district administrators were also surprised with one-of-a-kind pieces featuring clothespins from Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence students.

“This was our way of sharing our creativity with those who may not be thinking about the arts, so they could witness the ingenuity displayed by our kids,” said Walnut Glen art teacher Kathleen Hodges. “We wanted to show that when the visual arts are a part of a child’s life, amazing things happen.”

Students at Daugherty Elementary School celebrated by crafting colorful illustrations featuring complementary colors. Art teacher Eira Rodriguez Cordero made sure to incorporate 21st-century learning tools in the week’s lessons, taking advantage of the upgrades her campus received during its 2012-13 renovation.

“On a day-to-day basis, I use the Smart Board, web camera and iPad to expose students to new art concepts or techniques, encouraging them to be active participants in the classroom,” Rodriguez Cordero explained. “Integrating technology in the art room may seem strange or even impossible when resources might not be readily available. But having it helps students expand ideas, think critically and explore new options."

GISD’s 2014 bond election currently proposes funding for one-to-one devices, such as an iPad or laptop, at the secondary level. Upgrades to aging equipment are also included.

“Art is an avenue for developing imagination and vision about the future and life as we know it today,” Custard said. “I believe National Arts Education Week promotes these learning experiences. By connecting art and technology, we further promote the ability to strengthen student’s minds creatively.” 

Weeklong celebration to teach respect, responsible technology use

Garland ISD | September 23, 2014

Garland ISD is dedicated to providing students with a safe, productive learning environment. To help maintain this standard in the classroom, schools across the district will celebrate Help Everyone Respect Others and Cyber safety Week Sept. 22-26.

“The Guidance and Counseling Department is teaming up with the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Department to have a big celebration in one week,” said Director of Guidance and Counseling Ruby Armstrong. “We are doing this for the safety of kids and because bullying—whether in person or online—contributes to a lot of other issues.”

Students will receive stickers and recommended daily activities during the weeklong celebration. Some will even attend a student rally at the Curtis Culwell Center.

“The first 500 secondary students who sign up to attend the student rally will get to hear renowned speakers talk about bullying and depression, as well as drug and suicide prevention,” Armstrong said. “It will be very informative and helpful. Interested students should see their LIGHT counselor.”

In addition to receiving information about bullying, students will also learn cyber safety tips throughout the week.

“Our goal is to educate students, teachers, parents and the community about a safe and effective way of using technology for educational purposes,” said Technology Applications Coordinator Jasna Aliefendic. “Every day will cover a topic, such as cyberbullying, copyright, digital footprint and internet safety and privacy.”

Aliefendic and three of her colleagues will travel across the district to help answer questions and promote the importance of cyber safety.

Parents and community members are also invited to learn about promoting cyber safety and preventing bullying. An extended version of the student rally called the Power of Parents Forum will take place from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Curtis Culwell Center.

Ecolab awards $50,000 in grants to district teachers

Garland ISD | September 23, 2014

Ecolab, the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technology and services, continued a 27-year partnership with Garland ISD Sept. 4, gifting $50,000 to district teachers in the Harris Hill Administration Building.

“A company maintaining a partnership with a school district for nearly 30 years is a rare, but very special, effort,” said Garland ISD Education Foundation President Lisa Cox. “We are lucky and so thankful to Ecolab for supporting our teachers throughout the years.”

Cox kicked off the award ceremony with a welcome before Ecolab representatives Donna Webb and Nita Tyson presented honorees with checks. Forty-nine GISD educators received grants, including network engineer Rusty Truelock who oversees the district’s after-school Martial Arts Knights Order (MAKO) program. When accepting their $3,000 grant, Truelock and MAKO Grand Master Hernando Pinilla Perez thanked Tyson, Webb and GISD administration for supporting the program. Pinilla Perez then presented Superintendent Bob Morrison with an honorary black belt and certificate, which Deputy Superintendent of Business Operations Rene Barajas accepted on his behalf.

“I could not have thought of a better way to end the ceremony,” Cox said. “It was a neat gesture that summed up how we all feel about Ecolab’s sponsorship.”

Since 1987, Ecolab has enriched GISD classrooms and programs with more than $800,000.

Misty Parmer named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | Posted September 21, 2014


Garland ISD’s Teacher of the Month car is starting the year at Shugart Elementary School. Misty Parmer was surprised by Jupiter Chevrolet Sept. 4.


“I am not going to cry,” she said as Principal Kelly Williams led her outside.


In addition to the brand new, specially wrapped SUV, Parmer’s special education class was also

waiting to celebrate her honor.


“I am so happy,” Parmer said. “I love my job. I want to help children—to move them forward toward success in any endeavor they choose.”


Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month contest recognizes the important work of GISD educators and rewards them for their dedication. Winners are chosen through a Facebook vote and get to drive the car through the end of the month. Parmer received numerous entries from May to September.


Would you like to see your campus represented and your favorite educator named Teacher of the Month? Vote for the October winner on Jupiter Chevrolet’s Facebook page.

GISD-issued iPads enhance classroom


Garland ISD | Posted September 21, 2014


In 1997, when many Garland ISD seniors were born, the Internet was still in its infancy. Research shows approximately 20 million Americans spent an average of 30 minutes a month online. Today, as the class of 2015 prepares to graduate, more than 245 million Americans spend an average of 30 hours a month on the Worldwide Web. Given today’s tech-savvy, fast-paced world, it is not surprising that teaching has also evolved to better serve students.


This spring, GISD armed every teacher with an iPad.


“The iPad has allowed me to reach students with a tool that they are very comfortable using,” said Lakeview Centennial High School English teacher Terrenee Knight. “Teachers are able to interface in a new way, with a multitude of apps that allow for differentiated instruction to occur. This gives a greater amount of students the opportunity to have their learning style met.”


GISD’s iPad initiative is part of the district’s Strategic Plan, a document developed during 2013-14 to guide decision-making through 2018. More than 2,000 students, staff, parents, business leaders, clergy members, city officials and more helped identify seven goals and the actions necessary to achieve them. Goal 2 calls for integrating more technology into the classroom to ensure students are future-ready. It also addresses access to digital tools for all students and staff.


In addition to last May's iPad deployment to teachers, GISD implemented Bring Your Own Device this school year. And, the Strategic Plan recommends one-to-one devices, such as tablets or laptops, for middle and high school students by 2017.


“It would be a tremendous advancement if all students could have a device because there are some who do not have cell phones or computers of their own,” Knight explained. “If we had this in our district, or at a non-magnet campus like mine, it would allow for everyone to receive the same experience in class and diversify their experience in the classroom.”


GISD’s 2014 bond election currently proposes funding for one-to-one devices at the secondary level.


Committed to engaging instruction, the district held its first iConference in July for teachers to brainstorm about effectively incorporating the devices into everyday lessons. Knight, who was among more than 150 attendees, said she is excited to be able to foster a dynamic 21st-century learning environment.


“Technology allows for the stigma of things being ‘too difficult’ to be taken away. It promotes student engagement and the teacher’s ability to make the classroom experience seamless and more productive.”


Garland, Sachse mayors encourage PTA participation

Garland ISD | Posted September 19, 2014


Garland ISD’s Council of PTAs kicked off the 2014-15 school year with its first meeting Sept. 3. Attracting special guests, Garland Mayor Douglas Athas and Sachse Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Bickerstaff both read proclamations declaring Sept. 1-5 as “Join Your Local PTA Week.” Click here to read the city of Garland’s proclamation and here to read the city of Sachse’s.


GISD’s Council PTA is made up of 71 individual units, one at each campus. With a combined PTA membership of more than 20,000 parents, teachers and community members, the council convenes on a monthly basis to conduct business.


Interested in joining? Contact campus administrators about joining individual PTAs, or visit the GISD Council of PTAs website.

Daugherty ES recognized for architectural design

Garland ISD | September 19, 2014

Garland ISD is being honored for excellence in the planning and design of Daugherty Elementary School’s new campus, which made its debut last year. The district received the Caudill Award’s Citation of Special Honor and will be recognized in the Exhibit of School Architecture at the Texas Association of School Administrators/Texas Association of School Boards (TASA/TASB) Convention Sept. 26-27 in Dallas.

“This architectural competition is a celebration of outstanding 21st-century learning environments,” said Jim Brady, program facilitator and associate principal with Page Southerland Page Inc. “There is much we can learn from these projects that started with a vision, and having now been realized, truly merit recognition.”

While a six-member jury determines annual Caudill honorees, a 13-member committee that included teachers and construction experts created Daugherty’s soon-to-be showcased winning vision and design.

“My staff and I, as well as Corgan Associates Inc., put a great deal of thought into the design of the building. We wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly, we wanted to meet the needs of our students,” said Principal Deborah Henson. “I never really thought about the possibility of earning recognition, as my focus was to design a school that would serve my students and their families. When I received the announcement, I was truly surprised and thrilled.”

The 800-capacity facility is a modern marvel, with geothermal heating and cooling, a rainwater collection system, solar panels and school-wide Wi-Fi. The campus also features an outdoor courtyard with multisensory areas and amphitheater-style seating.

“I believe our building received this honor for the way we maximized the space with very little land area, made provisions for special needs students, incorporated natural light in every classroom and took steps toward green energy,” Henson explained. “I am hopeful that as future schools are designed, Daugherty may be studied for what it has to offer. I love that our building has received so much attention, and everyone is still excited by the new facility.”

For more information on the Caudill Awards, visit the TASA/TASB website.

District launches college readiness program


Garland ISD | September 12, 2014


Nearly 100 people celebrated the launch of Garland ISD’s new National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) College Readiness Program Sept. 2 at the Curtis Culwell Center. Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Texas Instruments Foundation (TIF), it is offered at Lakeview Centennial, Naaman Forest, North Garland and South Garland high schools this year.


Administrators, teachers, supporters and program experts were all in attendance at the kick-off event. Superintendent Bob Morrison opened the ceremony by welcoming guests. TIF Executive Director Andy Smith then provided remarks and NMSI program manager Toni Schneider delivered a program overview.  


“The NMSI College Readiness Program is currently in more than 550 schools in 23 states and continues to grow,” Schneider said. “NMSI prepares students for success by building strong foundations in science, technology, engineering and math. The goal is to increase the number of students enrolled in and taking Pre-Advanced Placement and Advanced Placement (AP) math, science and English courses and exams.”


Schneider also detailed the expectations of a NMSI AP School, student and teacher support offerings, NMSI’s “Elements of Success” and the program’s incentive feature. Each student who scores a three or higher on an AP exam will be rewarded with $100. Teachers will also receive the same amount for each successful test-taker.


After Schneider’s presentation, participating teachers and administrators attended breakout sessions conducted by GISD’s lead NMSI teachers— Garland High School math teacher Lee Henry; Naaman Forest High School English teacher Tammi Stewart; Sachse High School science teacher Denise Shupe; and Director of Research, Assessment and Accountability Kim Klakamp.


Although NMSI’s inaugural year just includes four campuses, the remaining three high schools are scheduled to implement the program in 2015-16.


National Merit Scholarship Program announces semifinalists


Posted September 10, 2014


Officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation recently announced the names of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the annual National Merit Scholarship Program.


Local students named as semifinalists include Bilal A. Mukadam and Ayesha S. Rahman from Brighter Horizons Academy and Lexie M. Ford, Mahimajanani Senthilkumar and Horus M. Vidal from Garland High School.


These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth about $33million that will be offered next spring.


To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. About 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist standing, and more than half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.


Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2015. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit® $2500 Scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by approximately 240 corporations and business organizations for finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located.


In addition, about 200 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,100 Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.


National Merit Scholarship winners of 2015 will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and concluding in July. These scholarship recipients will join more than 308,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.


National PTA recognizes GISD schools for family involvement

Garland ISD | September 10, 2014

Garland ISD schools are receiving national recognition for fostering strong family-school partnerships. Thirty-four were named 2014-16 National PTA Schools of Excellence Aug. 28, an honor just 170 campuses nationwide received this year.

“The efforts of these schools to engage and involve families are making a substantial, positive impact on student success and well-being, and we are pleased to recognize their hard work and achievements with the National PTA School of Excellence designation,” said President of National PTA Otha Thornton.

With 30 elementaries, one middle and three high schools receiving recognition, GISD represented 80 percent of the state’s honorees and 20 percent of the nation’s.

“The faculty and staff of Sam Houston Middle School were honored to be selected as a National PTA School of Excellence,” said Principal Don Hernandez. “We work extremely hard to cultivate an environment conducive of communication between parents and educators. Our PTA works solely for the betterment of our students and this selection was a validation of all of our efforts.”

Proving that hard work does pay off, Naaman Forest High School, revitalized its PTSA presence last year and earned the admirable designation.

“Last year was our first to have an active PTSA chapter on campus in over five years,” said Principal Erika Crump. “We started a ‘We Care’ Membership campaign and enrolled more members than any other school is GISD. The NFHS PTSA Board also brought in some great programs to inform parents, staff, students and our community about a variety of topics. We are so honored to have a caring, supportive community.”

National PTA began its School of Excellence program to encourage family-school partnerships across the country and progress in the arts, cultural exploration, education and health and safety. Schools receive the Excellence title once they exhibit campus-family engagement or positive improvement.

GISD campuses named 2014-16 National PTA Schools of Excellence can be found below. For more information on the program, visit the National PTA website.

Elementary Schools

  • Abbett Elementary School
  • Back Elementary School
  • Beaver Technology Center for Math & Science
  • Bradfield Elementary School
  • Centerville Elementary School
  • Classical Center at Vial Elementary School
  • Club Hill Elementary School
  • Couch Elementary School
  • Davis Elementary School
  • Dorsey Elementary School
  • Golden Meadows Elementary School
  • Heather Glen Elementary School
  • Hickman Elementary School
  • Hillside Academy for Excellence
  • Kimberlin Academy for Excellence
  • Lister Elementary School
  • Luna Elementary School
  • Park Crest Elementary School
  • Pearson Elementary School
  • Roach Elementary School
  • Sewell Elementary School
  • Shorehaven Elementary School
  • Spring Creek Elementary School
  • Steadham Elementary School
  • Stephens Elementary School
  • Toler Elementary School
  • Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence
  • Watson Technology Center for Math & Science
  • Weaver Elementary School
  • Williams Elementary School

Middle Schools

  • Sam Houston Middle School

High Schools

  • Garland High School
  • Naaman Forest High School
  • North Garland High School

NFHS Global Business, Language and Leadership program begins


Garland ISD | September 5, 2014


Striving to prepare all students with a well-rounded education that helps them succeed in the real world, Garland ISD invited community members to celebrate its newest magnet program Thursday, Sept. 4. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the Global Business, Language and Leadership program at Naaman Forest High School.


GBL provides students with courses that expand their understanding of business, marketing and finance within an international context, granting students an array of skills that are essential in the globalized, professional world. While it is currently just offered to secondary students, an elementary magnet will be introduced in 2015-16.


This year, GBL participants can look forward to challenge-based learning and developing leadership skills through community service activities, portfolios, student organizations and academic competitions. Mandarin Chinese courses and the opportunity to study abroad will also expose students to other cultures and prepare them for business careers in a global economy. Dual credit business courses, a student project management capstone class and the magnet’s collaboration with the local business industry will help students when applying to colleges and universities, as well.


Next year’s elementary-level program will feature a rigorous scholastic and dual language immersion program designed to develop linguistic and academic proficiency in English and Mandarin Chinese. Management skills will also be fostered through service learning and leadership development projects.


The launch of GBL will be celebrated in Naaman Forest’s commons area, with Superintendent Bob Morrison welcoming guests, a program overview, a student testimonial and a ribbon cutting.


For more information on GBL, visit Naaman Forest High School's website.