Home News Business City Health/
Schools Sports Human Interest Crime THE  Arts Military Obituaries Archived

The Garland Texan

Your first source for news

Contact us


Read letters
to the editor
Nicholson Memorial
Library System


Schools - www.garlandisd.net 

Cafeterias to feature fresh, local produce


Posted October 5, 2015


Garland ISD students will notice additional options in the cafeteria line this school year. Partnering with Go Texan, the district is offering a variety of local produce. GISD’s new Harvest of the Month program features fresh fruits or vegetables every first Friday.


“We hope this program will bring nutritional education to life through increased knowledge and tasting opportunities,” said Jennifer Craig, assistant director of nutrition and menu operations. “Increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables will help set a foundation for healthy eating.”


In addition to the produce, Harvest of the Month provides information about the fruit or vegetable and where it was farmed. In September, students were treated to watermelon from GMC Produce in Henderson. An accompanying fact sheet details how watermelons grow, their nutritional value and different ways they can be served.


“We feel like it is a great opportunity to promote local farmers and the great service they provide to our community,” said Craig. “The Student Nutrition Services Department also hopes to encourage students to try different varieties of produce.”


Harvest of the Month items can be chosen as a meal plan option or purchased à la carte. Those who participate will receive a trading card to keep track of their selections. At the end of the year, completed cards can be turned in for a special prize. Upcoming features include zucchini, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, peaches and blueberries.


For more information about Student Nutrition Services, visit the department’s web page.

Vista Academy announces free, reduced-price meal policy

Posted October 3, 2015

The Vista Academy of Garland recently announced its policy for providing free and reduced-price meals for children served under the attached current income eligibility guidelines. Each school/site or the central office has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by anyone on request.

Starting August 25, 2015, Vista Academy of Garland will begin distributing letters to the households of the children in the district about eligibility benefits and any actions households need to take to apply for these benefits. Applications also are available at The Vista Academy of Garland Criteria for Free and Reduced-Price Meal Benefits. 

The following criteria will be used to determine a child’s eligibility for free or reduced-price meal benefits:


1.     Household income that is at or below the income eligibility levels

Categorical or Automatic Eligibility

2.     Household receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

Program Participant

3.     Child’s status as a foster child, homeless, runaway, migrant, or displaced by a declared disaster

4.     Child’s enrollment in Head Start or Even Start

 Income Eligibility

For those households that qualify for free or reduced-price meals based on income, an adult in the household must fill out free and reduced-price meal application and return it to The Vista Academy of Garland. Those individuals filling out the application will need to provide the following information:

1.     Names of all household members

2.     Amount, frequency, and source of current income for each household member

3.     Last 4 digits of the Social Security number of the adult household member who signs the application or, if the adult does not have a social security number, check the box for “I do not have a Social Security number”

4.     Signature of an adult household member attesting that the information provided is correct

Categorical or Program Eligibility

The Vista Academy of Garland is working with local agencies to identify all children who are categorically and program eligible. The Vista Academy of Garland will notify the households of these children that they do not need to complete an application. Any household that does not receive a letter and feels it should have should contact The Vista Academy of Garland.

Any household that wishes to decline benefits should contact Angela Chavez at the The Vista Academy of Garland. 

Applications may be submitted anytime during the school year. The information households provide on the application will be used for the purpose of determining eligibility. Applications may also be verified by the school officials at any time during the school year.

Determining Eligibility

Under the provisions of the free and reduced-price meal policy, Angela Chavez, CNP Official will review applications and determine eligibility. Households or guardians dissatisfied with the Reviewing Official’s eligibility determination may wish to discuss the decision with the Reviewing Official on an informal basis. Households wishing to make a formal appeal for a hearing on the decision may make a request either orally or in writing the The Vista Academy of Garland

Unexpected Circumstances

If a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size increases, the household should contact the school. Such changes may make the children of the household eligible for benefits if the household’s income falls at or below the attached current income eligibility guidelines.

The U.S Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.) If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at program.intake@usda.gov. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

GISD natatorium, career tech center costs exceed bond program budget


Kim Everett | September 27, 2015


Herschel Acosta, a representative from Jacobs, the company that is managing the bond program for Garland ISD, provided an update at the Sept. 21 Garland ISD Board of Trustees meeting.


Jacobs has completed the programming phase for the natatorium and career technical education center and is currently working on the schematic design review for the natatorium. The design document phase is in progress for the CTE.


The total cost for each project has come in higher than the amount originally provided to taxpayers.


“The needs for the natatorium and CTE exceed a little bit more than what our budget is,” Acosta said.


What Acosta refers to as “a little bit more” represents an increase of more than 40 percent for the natatorium and more than 13 percent for the CTE.


The original budget amount for the natatorium listed on the summary is $22,491,884. The adjusted amount is $31,558,570. The difference exceeds $9 million. The original budget amount for the CTE listed on the project summary is $31,993,437. The adjusted amount is $36,398,200 and the difference is more than $4.4 million.


According to the project summary, the differences in the CTE and natatorium amounts are primarily attributable to costs of design services, construction and furniture, fixtures and equipment.


No explanation was provided as to how these increases will be funded or whether other projects will be dropped from the bond program to make up the difference.


Acosta also announced that work on the softball and baseball fields has begun and projects currently being performed include excavation, piers and foundation work for the restrooms and concessions stands. Work at Sachse HS field is being done first.


Joel Falcon, the executive director of the facilities/maintenance department announced that work on the high school football practice fields was delayed because of weather but has now been completed. This project included installing artificial turf on each field along with other improvements.


GISD iCon inspires educators, digital classrooms


Garland ISD | September 22, 2015


Now that 2015-16 is underway, several district educators are practicing newfound skills and activities in their classrooms, thanks to a technology-fueled summer conference. More than 200 educators attended Garland ISD’s iCon earlier this month, receiving cutting-edge iPad training designed by teachers, for teachers.


“This is really our way to encourage teachers and get them into new tools, practices and 21st-century learning,” said Technology Training Coordinator Angie Cheatham. “They learned tips, tricks, lesson ideas and new projects they can do with their students all using the iPad.”


Kansas-based Technology Integration Specialist Kevin Honeycutt kicked off the conference with an eye-opening, energetic keynote address. Teachers then dashed off to interactive training sessions, which covered everything from flipped classrooms to bilingual iPad lessons to Google forms.


“I have been using technology in my classroom for a while, and I enjoy getting other people on board with doing that,” said Bullock Elementary School teacher and iCon session host Stacy McGough. “I think it is what our kids need.”


iCon’s sole purpose is to arm all teachers with digital skills needed to engage the future generation.


“We have great things happening in our classrooms. Our teachers are leaders out there and are running with digital learning, but we need a way to showcase that,” Cheatham explained. “We wanted to bring them together to build that learning community among each other, from campus to campus, to capitalize on using the iPad as a tool towards further learning.”


After a jam-packed day of wired inspiration, iCon participants ended the event with closing keynote, Hall Davidson, who provided insight to the rewards of a digital classroom—something Cheatham hopes to see across GISD one day.


“Last year, we started with about 125 teachers. Our goal was to double it, and we did that this year,” she revealed. “We are going to continue with that plan—go even larger next year to reach more teachers and really get the impact to the classroom with digital learning.”


GISD director receives Texas Choral Excellence Award


Garland ISD | September 20, 2015


Six times, Garland ISD has been named a Best Community for Music Education. So it comes as no surprise several Fine Arts instructors boast awards of their own. Garland High School Choir Director Cheryl Wilson recently received the Texas Choral Excellence Award from the Texas Choral Directors Association (TCDA).


Wilson has been the head director at GHS for 16 years. Her choirs continually bring acclaim and recognition to the district through their high level of musical artistry. Her students also rack up several individual accomplishments every year. And her alumni often carry the foundations, high expectations and beauty learned at Garland High into their own teaching. 


Much like Wilson, the TCDA seeks to instill a love of music in every Texas school, church and community singer by supporting choral directors and music teachers statewide. Honoring its members who show exceptional talents and dedication to their chosen profession, the Choral Excellence Award recognizes contributions to music education, mentorship, inspiration to colleagues and students, and advocacy for the future of choral singing.


Former students and colleagues alike agree Wilson was a perfect candidate.


“Her ability to share her love and passion for music through her teaching inspires her students to be lifelong musicians and in many cases, future music educators, like myself," said former student Aaron Lucero. "For me, she was not only a teacher, but also a mentor, guidance counselor, role model, and now a friend and colleague.”


“She builds trust through her relationships with her students, and they have the utmost respect for her," added coworker Nora Henson. "It's as if you are observing a musical shorthand—she prepares her students to work at a strikingly advanced level, and they obviously love working with the intensity of a professional group. Day in and day out, year after year, Cheryl Wilson transforms ordinary students into extraordinary musicians.”


Photo courtesy of Cheryl Wilson

SGHS welcomes international students


Garland ISD | September 18, 2015


Adjusting to a new school may be a daunting task for any student, especially one from another country learning a new language. But several first-year South Garland High School students are easily acclimating to their new campus, thanks to a special orientation. More than 30 families who now call the U.S. home received a warm welcome at South Garland’s Newcomer Orientation last month.


“This inaugural event was phenomenal,” said Assistant Principal Victoria Acevedo. “We had a great turnout, met students and their families, and got to see our current students take ownership of the event.”


The jam-packed affair featured helpful information, door prizes, dinner, a campus tour and keynote speaker, Univision radio and television host Danny Luna. Following Principal Tracy Curtis’ kickoff address, participants attended four 15-minute sessions, which were parent and student-specific. Parents learned everything from attendance guidelines to graduation requirements, while students discovered clubs, organizations and campus life.


“All sessions were in Spanish, and current Colonels led the student-focused ones,” Acevedo explained. “I realized there was not only a need to make our newcomers feel welcomed, but to also assist them in understanding school, policies and procedures. We also wanted to introduce them to what our campus offers in hopes of planting a seed of interest that could lead to a desire for academic excellence and a future career.”


Setting youths up for a success in their new home was Acevedo’s goal from the start.


“My husband was a newcomer. He told me it would have been helpful to have a good group of friends who could help him understand school and the U.S. culture,” she stated. “Many of these students have gone through unimaginable struggles. School and making friends should not be one more.”


After the three-hour event, the Colonel community’s newest members were excited to be engaged throughout 2015-16.


“Parents were very grateful at the end of the night and stayed to ask questions, as well as volunteer for future events,” Acevedo said. “We had a lot of positive feedback from district personnel, students, parents and staff. I hope this year’s parents are part of next year’s event.”


Photos courtesy of Victoria Acevedo.


Middle school students start school with fresh STEM knowledge


Garland ISD | September 9, 2015


When school doors opened, several middle school students walked into their new classrooms with a strengthened set of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. These sixth, seventh and eighth-graders enhanced their knowledge at Garland ISD’s inaugural STEM Camp Aug. 3-6 at Bussey Middle School.


“For one week, these students participated in engineering challenges designed around the water crisis,” said STEM Coordinator Tina Garrett. “About one billion people in the world do not have clean water to drink. This camp was based on the global atmosphere, on real-world problems that need real solutions.”


Thanks to a partnership with Discovery Education, GISD’s initial STEM Camp offered the first 100 students who applied for the opportunity a free, fun-filled learning experience.


“This no-cost experience helped students investigate how energy works, discover amazing properties of water, learn our role in conserving the planet’s most valuable resources and explore the engineering principles and design challenges that surround us in everyday life,” Garrett stated. “In addition to all of that, they also got to form friendships with peers from across the district.”


The four-day event featured nine elementary and middle school teachers facilitating interactive challenge stations. Throughout the week, students learned about water properties, its relation to the ecosystem and how it can be filtered via hands-on lessons. For example, STEM Camp day two saw students building a virtual ship to learn the principles of buoyancy, and day three required them to engineer an aquarium terrarium to observe the water cycle at work.


“This was a really amazing and fun place to be,” said Bussey eighth-grader Joseph Gonzales. “Science, technology, engineering and math are all things you really do need in life. This was a really good start for all of us. I am a science honors kid, so this is really going to help me get an edge throughout the year.”


Garrett hopes other students echo Gonzales’ emotion in the future. She and her team are launching initiatives like STEM Camp and last spring’s STEAMposium to help students get excited about STEM courses and careers.


“Our students are the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers. Therefore, we are providing students with fun and exciting opportunities to build skills that will serve them for a lifetime,” she explained. “These kids were engaged and interested in the challenges, which is exciting to me. We want to continue this kind of inspiration and encouragement, so our students are ready for the careers of the future.”


Photo courtesy of GISD Digital Media Specialist Dave Burton


Principals exchange best practices at inaugural L3 Academy


Garland ISD | September 11, 2015


While school was out for the summer, Garland ISD campus staff continued holding classes to prepare for 2015-16. The district hosted its inaugural Leader Led Learning Academy in late July. This daylong conference—designed by principals, for principals—covered best practices for running a campus, managing staff, inspiring innovation and ensuring student engagement.


“The L3 Academy was an exciting opportunity for our leaders to learn from each other,” said Professional Development Specialist Melissa Hill. “We have so many fantastic principals doing amazing things in this district, but rarely do they have time set aside in their busy schedules to share, collaborate and learn from their peers. This event provided strategies they were able to take back and share with their teachers and students.”


Offering 25 sessions, the unique event focused on research-based components of highly effective instruction, known as the Fundamental Five, in addition to improving student achievement through Data-Driven Instruction, or teachers’ use of student assessment results to plan lessons. Session topics included Using Multiple Response Strategies to Solicit Engagement, Teaching Students to Write Critically, Making the Fundamental Five Come Alive in Small Groups and How to Build a Data-Driven Culture.


“This was one of the highest-quality, choose-your-learning conferences I have been to. The sessions were relevant and practical,” commented Liberty Grove Elementary School Principal Elisa Wittrock.


“I loved that we were able to hear from peers and learn from their mistakes and success,” wrote another attendee on a conference evaluation. “This is what true collaboration should be. We should be encouraging each other to make differences on our campuses.”


For more professional development activities occurring across GISD, visit the department’s website

GISD board to discuss morale problem


Posted September 9, 2015


Garland ISD Board of Trustees Member Charles Axe noted that he had requested that an item regarding an employee morale problem be placed on a future meeting agenda two meetings prior and that it appears to him that the matter is not being treated as an emergency situation.


The problem was discovered through an employee survey.


“It appears that the current plan is that now that the central administration has had an opportunity to discuss these results with the building principals, particularly the ones that had very alarmingly low morale situations, that they would be instructed to improve things and we would wait until next year and rate them accordingly,” Axe said.


He acknowledged that things are often handled that way, but he does not feel that the issue can wait that long.


He asked that a discussion be conducted in open session on what measures are currently being taken, what the building administrators have been told and how fast the situation can be resolved.


Additionally, Axe wants to know how the board will find out whether the problems have been resolved.


Board President Larry Glick asked Dr. Bob Morrison, GISD superintendent, if he would like to comment and Morrison declined.

National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists announced


Posted September 9, 2015


Today officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced the names of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,400 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million 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 about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title. NMSC, a nonprofit organization that operates without government assistance, was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by NMSC with its own funds and by approximately 440 business organizations and higher education institutions that share NMSC’s goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.


Steps in the 2016 Competition


About 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2016 National Merit

Scholarship Program by taking the 2014 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying

Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.


To become a finalist, the semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT® scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.


From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the finalist level, and in February they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of finalists. Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference.


GISD students from Garland High School on the semifinalist list are:


Chowdhury, Mutasim A.

Liston, Jessica H.

Matthews, Justin O.

Orticio, Evan A.

Rigsby, Paige M.

Sisk, Claire M.


From Sachse High School:


Matyas, Brent J.

PSAT is free in GISD


Garland ISD | September 6, 2015


Wanting to ensure its students are prepared for college, Garland ISD has offered all sophomores and juniors a chance to take the PSAT for free the past two years. This year, even more students will receive that invaluable opportunity. All eighth and ninth-graders will be administered the test Oct. 13-16. Tenth and 11th-graders will take the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) Oct. 14.


“The PSAT not only helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses so they can choose the right classes in high school. It also provides practice for college admissions exams and several scholarship opportunities,” said Jovan Wells, associate superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.


While sophomores and juniors have taken the PSAT/NMSQT the past two years, eighth and ninth-graders previously took a career exploration exam. The College Board recently redesigned the PSAT to include eighth and ninth-grade adaptations. Students will also no longer be penalized for wrong answers, giving them the ability to attempt every question.


GISD will host information meetings in September with more details about the new test. All eighth-11th-grade families are encouraged to attend one of the eight offered in English and Spanish.


Students can also prepare for success by taking advantage of Khan Academy. This free online resource offers specific test prep and general subject area practice. It provides personal growth plans as well, once PSAT scores have been received and entered. Visit http://www.khanacademy.org/sat and register with a district email address.


Offering a second dose of college readiness this spring, GISD will host its first SAT School Day in March. All juniors will have the opportunity to take the SAT for free at their campus during the school day.


GISD’s tech-focused DLU enlightens elementary students


Garland ISD | August 29, 2015


Ninety students from Beaver and Watson Technology Centers for Math and Science enhanced their 21st-century skills during the district’s Digital Leadership University (DLU) July 28-30 at North Garland High School. The third-annual event encouraged students from all grade levels to practice innovative programs and techniques. 


“When we started this program, we wanted students to be well-versed in all the good things technology could do in the classroom,” said GISD Magnet Facilitator Stacey Payton. “We took two students from every classroom so they could help teachers with projects throughout the year. Students attended five teacher-facilitated sessions lasting two hours each. Those sessions included everything from coding to digital citizenship training to gaming.”


Payton and her team have worked to add new courses to DLU’s itinerary each year. With the help of Sachse High School alumnus and current University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) biomedical engineer major Shelbi Parker, Payton was able to incorporate the Polycraft World session at DLU this summer. The groundbreaking course combined chemistry, 3-D printing and UTD’s version of the build-a-world video game, Minecraft.


“We taught kids about material science and how to make different things with a 3-D printer,” said UTD student Allie Dyson. “We taught them about an extruder, which takes plastic and molds it into a material, then set them to play our Minecraft mod, PolyCraft, and practice industrial applications. The nice thing about this program is that it opens kids’ eyes to how the world is built around them.”


Beaver MST fifth-grade teacher Mary Katherine Marston also delights in seeing students discover real-life concepts through technology. The two-year DLU instructor believes the mini summer camp not only helped students enjoy the thrill of digital exploration, but teachers, as well.


“I really love teaching at DLU because you get to do more of what you love doing in the classroom with technology and projects that really expand the kids’ knowledge,” she said. “Sometimes in the classroom, you are so focused on so many other things that the fun aspect of technology is not celebrated as much.”


After three days of interactive fun, students were able to share their newfound knowledge during DLU’s showcase—which saw more than 80 enthused parents and guardians.


“[DLU] was excellent. This camp was a great way for young kids to explore and understand more of the digital world,” said Cheryl Moore, grandmother of Watson MST first-grader Makenzie Mathis. “I enjoyed watching the experience.”


“The program was genius,” added Yuleydiana Marin, mother of Beaver MST first-grader Rubi. “But I would love it if the kids had more than three days to learn more about technology, considering the fast rate at which it advances.”


Payton is already on the case. Next year, she plans to open DLU to GISD students across the district and expand it to multiple weeks.


Montessori coming to GISD

Garland ISD | August 29, 2015

The area’s newest Montessori is just around the corner. Garland ISD strives to provide all students with a well-rounded education that includes school choice. Currently, the district boasts 10 specialized magnets at 16 campuses. Montessori provides families with another option to customize their child’s learning. Additionally, the locations of Herfurth and Luna elementary schools extend GISD’s programs into the Rowlett and Sachse areas.

Montessori will debut in 2016-17 with six primary classes at each campus, consisting of three and four-year-olds, as well as kindergartners. Any interested student can elect to apply. Since three-year-olds are not traditionally serviced by GISD schools, the district will allow employees and community members to enroll their children for $475 a month. At four years old, those who qualify for prekindergarten will be offered a discounted rate, and others can still enroll at $475.

"We are excited to be able to offer these new opportunities—full-day prekindergarten, three-year-old enrollment and an education that traditionally costs more than $1,000 a month," said Associate Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Jovan Wells. "We want to ensure all our students succeed academically, and magnet programs like Montessori allow us to accommodate different learning styles." 

Montessori offers individualized, integrated instruction. The classroom environment contains multisensory materials rather than textbooks, and children move around the room at their own pace, studying art, geography, history, language, math, music, science, etc., at the same time. In Montessori, education is an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline and a love of learning. It also provides practical life experiences, such as cooking and gardening.

Montessori classes group grade levels together, forming communities in which older children spontaneously share their knowledge with younger peers. In addition to the primary level, lower elementary includes first-third grades and upper elementary fourth-fifth.

Herfurth and Luna will stagger the rollout of classes throughout 2020, adding new levels and grades each year. For more information, visit www.garlandisd.net/montessori. For questions, please email montessori@garlandisd.net or call 972-475-7994 (Herfurth), 972-675-3040 (Luna).

GISD educators invited to Perot Museum-based STEM training


Garland ISD | August 30, 2015


Enhancing their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction, two Garland ISD teachers were selected to attend the Perot Museum of Nature and Science’s Kosmos Energy STEM Teacher Institute this summer, an opportunity approximately 130 local teachers received. O’Banion Middle School’s Nikki Bibb and Lakeview Centennial High School’s Chris Cuadra represented GISD during the enlightening professional development experience.


A $450,000 Kosmos Energy grant enabled the Perot to provide the innovative training, which aims to equip K-12 educators with the tools and skills needed to ignite student enthusiasm for science. Area teachers had to submit an application to be considered for the exciting opportunity.


“I applied to the program because I am interested and fascinated with STEM and how it encompasses every part of our lives,” Bibb explained. “The program is in its beginning steps right now, and in my opinion, is the start of something amazing. We had a four-day training where we met every day and took Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards to create 5E lessons that held all four STEM categories in them.”


In addition to their summer training, educators accepted into the program will continue their professional development throughout 2015-16.


“The Kosmos Energy STEM Teacher Institute is going to provide teachers with access to wonderful instruction, year-round mentoring and resources that will boost their skills and help them change students’ perceptions of STEM subjects,” stated Colleen Walker, Eugene McDermott CEO of the Perot, in a press release. “This extraordinary gift from Kosmos Energy will have long-lasting effects that will change the lives—and future careers—of both teachers and young people.”


Bibb is already looking forward to those changes occurring in her classroom.


“I am excited to be implementing STEM into my classes this year,” she said. “I think my students’ critical thinking abilities will greatly improve. I also believe my colleagues will see the success my students are showing and it will spread like wildfire.”


GISD sees high-energy 2015-16 welcome


Garland ISD | August 26, 2015


High-fives, hugs and smiles were buzzing across Garland ISD as 71 campuses welcomed students to the first day of school Aug. 24. 


“With innovative teacher trainings, exciting staff development activities and an inspiring Convocation, we were more than ready to greet students and kick off a new year,” said Superintendent Bob Morrison. “For weeks, our team of approximately 7,500 has been working diligently to make sure students have a great first day.”


Parents, grandparents and siblings also helped make “First Day 2015” a memorable event, accompanying their students to classrooms, capturing moments on camera and meeting new teachers. Dorsey Elementary School Principal Debbie Chisholm took her new staff on tour, stopping by every classroom to ensure the Wildcat community saw two new faces—Assistant Principal Denise Campbell and Counselor Kristin Holder.


New staff members were not the only introductions taking place in GISD. Several elementaries saw new art classrooms, while Weaver Elementary School launched its new Mandarin Chinese Language & Leadership magnet.


And after a busy, fun-filled first day, the GISD family is already looking forward to day two.


“Great first day, Hawks,” states Hudson Middle School’s Twitter page. “We can tell this will be a great year.”

GISD staff kicks off 2015-16


Garland ISD | August 26, 2015


Approximately 7,500 Garland ISD employees celebrated the start of 2015-16 with cheers, pride and spirit gear during the district's Convocation event Aug. 20 at the Curtis Culwell Center.


Garland High School sophomore Grace Omer emceed the lively affair. Board President Larry Glick also offered words of wisdom while Superintendent Bob Morrison presented a video detailing the touching story of GISD employee Rodney Mills’ journey to literacy. Mills then introduced keynote speaker Kim Bearden, co-founder of the celebrated Ron Clark Academy and Disney Teacher of the Year. She offered words of encouragement that excited the GISD team.


“[Kim Bearden’s] story is incredible and inspiring,” said Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Jovan Wells. “We thank her for sharing her experiences with GISD.”


Inspiration, motivation and shout outs filled the ceremony, even with Texas’ very own Governor Greg Abbott offering the district a special message.


To see more Convocation action on social media, search #gisdconvocation on Twitter. 

Students, Noon Exchange Club of Garland

partner to donate back-to-school items


Garland ISD | August 19, 2015


Two Garland ISD high school drill teams and a local organization recently came together to help students in need. Volunteers from the Sachse High School Swingsters and the South Garland High School Southern Belles helped the Noon Exchange Club of Garland donate hundreds of back-to-school items to three local organizations—the Child Abuse Prevention Center, the GRS Giving Place and the New Beginning Center in Garland.


“We would like to thank the Noon Exchange Club of Garland for their donation,” said GISD Case Manager and GRS Giving Place Coordinator Emily Jandrucko. “It looks like we are off to a great 2015-16 school year.”


Noon Exchange Club President and GISD Hispanic Community Liaison Javier Solis helped facilitate the generous act. Looking to secure a charitable project for their members, both drill team directors contacted Solis for leads. Instead of assigning separate missions, Solis saw the multiple benefits a joint service project could generate.


“Bringing girls from across the district who usually only meet in contest proved to be valuable. By working on this project together, the students realized they had more in common, which helped build relationships and form a commitment to serve the community,” Solis said. “The Club saw the need to provide children with back-to-school items, so the girls stuffed 200 backpacks with grade-selected school supplies. Backpacks were then delivered, with the Child Abuse Prevention and New Beginning centers each receiving 50, and the GRS Giving Place getting 100.”


In order to fund the philanthropic venture, the Noon Exchange Club raised $5,000 through community fundraising and bingo games throughout the year. Student volunteers had a chance to learn about the time and devotion it takes to successfully execute a job like this.


“The students were introduced to club members, who shared their reasons for service and the importance of giving back,” Solis explained. “Club volunteers all have a passion to help make Garland a better community. Many give their time, money and talents. Students learned that it takes more than one group to make a difference if the mission to serve aims for the same goal.”


Photo courtesy of Javier Solis.

Garland ISD offers free, reduced-price meal program


Garland ISD | August 18, 2015


Believing that proper nutrition plays an important role in education, Garland ISD will offer free and reduced-price meals to eligible students during the 2015-16 school year.


The district participates in National School Breakfast and Lunch programs, which provide federal funding to cover the cost of discounted meals offered to families unable to pay full price. To qualify, a student must meet certain household size and parent-income requirements. Guidelines for 2015-16 are available on the Student Nutrition Services web page.


Free and reduced-price meal application forms will be printed in both English and Spanish and sent to the homes of district families. To apply, an adult household member can complete the form and return it to their child’s campus. Applications can also be completed online. Only one application is needed per household, listing all students that attend GISD schools.


New applications are required every school year and can be submitted at any time. All information is confidential. Additional copies of the form will be available in the office of each campus as well as Food Services, located at 701 N. First St.

Carter BloodCare rewards LCHS Student Council

Garland ISD | August 17, 2015

Lakeview Centennial High School’s Student Council was recently rewarded for its philanthropic efforts. The leadership-focused group participated in Carter BloodCare’s Great Grants Program, besting 15 local high schools in the running for a monetary gift.

“This program rewards high schools that have a spirited approach to supporting the community’s blood supply by hosting donation drives,” said LCHS Student Council sponsor Amy Davis. “By attending a Great Leaders Initiative conference, hosting five blood drives and achieving a goal of a 25 percent increase in the last two drives’ average, our Student Council was awarded $2,500.”

As the only local school to meet the program’s goals, Lakeview made this year’s 36 winning participating high schools list—an honorable designation to the Carter BloodCare community.

“[The Great Grants Program] is a great way to build momentum with our high school drives and help create some amazing future leaders,” said Carter BloodCare Operations Manager Tonna Buster in a press statement. “We are looking forward to these events growing every year.”

Buster is not the only one who wants to see growth in 2015-16. Lakeview’s Student Council hopes the grant they received will help them inspire peers to become more involved on campus and in the community.

“Student Council plans to use the money to instill a high level of school enthusiasm in new and incoming students,” Davis revealed. “The officers feel these actions will help increase school pride, which in turn affects participation in clubs, drives and organizations. In Student Council, this will be incalculably beneficial, as we are nothing without participation.”

Photo courtesy of Amy Davis.

GISD educator attends ExxonMobil Academy


Garland ISD | August 10, 2015


Kimberlin Academy for Excellence fifth-grade teacher Bonnie Martinez earned a sought-after professional development opportunity, thanks to her commitment to Garland ISD students and 21st-century instruction. The dedicated educator is one of just 155 nationwide selected to attend the 2015 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy July 27-31 at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J.


“I was quite shocked when I learned I was chosen,” she said. “As educators, we do not always give ourselves the credit we deserve for the hard work we pour into our students, families and classrooms. Receiving a token of gratitude, like this teacher’s academy, makes me proud. The Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy will provide me the tools, ideas and experiences to truly challenge students with real-world practices.”


More than 1,500 professionals from across the nation applied for this one-week, all-expense paid conference. A panel of math and science educators selected attendees based on their qualifications and passion.


“Bonnie’s commitment to teaching stood out among the rest,” states a press release. “At the Academy, Bonnie will learn innovative ways to capture and inspire students in math and science. The Academy curriculum was developed around the three principles most common to national educational benchmarks for the third through fifth-grade age range: Newton’s laws of motion, action and reaction and motion and forces.”


Martinez is not only eager to learn from experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, but also excited to work with her counterparts.


“I am most looking forward to connecting with other educators from across the country, while learning the best practices of merging math and science,” the bilingual teacher explained. “I am hoping to participate in a lot of hands-on learning experiences that I can share.”


Martinez will certainly have the chance to enlighten her GISD colleagues in 2015-16, as the driven educator will take on a new role of Title I Technology Specialist.


“This Academy is going to help me in my new position. I want to be able to show teachers how to create challenging yet fun learning content for students. Our district is progressing towards STEM-based learning, and understanding how to merge math and science will help teachers and campuses enrich and increase academic rigor.”


To learn more about the 2015 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, or nominate a teacher for the 2016 conference, visit the program’s website.


GISD prepares incoming seniors for higher learning


Garland ISD | August 9, 2015


More than 100 incoming seniors recently had the opportunity to jump-start their journey to higher education. Taking advantage of Garland ISD’s free college prep program, Destination 2016, the determined high school students explored college majors, tackled entrance exams and navigated the admissions process during the six-day course.


“I feel that this year was better than last year. We had additional planning and instruction time,” said Rowlett High School teacher Rhonda Williams. “The students were excited and really knew what to expect.”


Open to all rising seniors, Destination 2016 offered a wide range of information and support. During day or afternoon sessions, participants identified hidden strengths, prepared for the financial aid process, researched colleges and even visited a local university.


“Although it rained 90 percent of the time during the University of North Texas tour, students truly enjoyed the experience,” said Austin Academy for Excellence teacher Bonita Woods. “They were able to visit different academic buildings, dorm rooms, the library, student union and rec center. Many of them were making connections to their college choice as the representative presented information about the application process, campus life and financial aid.”


After completing the jam-packed summer course, 160 soon-to-be seniors completed college essays—a huge feat in the highly competitive admissions process.


“I had an English teacher come in and help students with their essays, which provided good insight,” Williams said. “Every student was able to develop a really great essay to use for admissions.”


Attendees also walked away knowing that time management is essential in the path to success.


“Understanding goals and setting timelines were discussed. Students found that while they all had ideas of what they wanted to do in life, without focused goals and a timeline they could miss deadlines and opportunities,” Woods commented.


“We must prepare our students for the competitive world we live in. Students must understand the importance of planning and follow-through to create success,” Williams said.


To learn more about college and career planning, visit GISD’s readiness website.


Photos courtesy of Destination 2016 educators

Alpha Charter School announces free, reduced-price meal policy


Posted August 9, 2015


Alpha Charter School, 701 West State Street, Garland, Texas 75040 announced its policy for providing free and reduced-price meals for children served under current income eligibility guidelines. Each school/site or the central office has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by anyone on request.


Starting August 10, 2015, Alpha Charter School will begin distributing letters to the households of the children in the district or Garland, Texas about eligibility benefits and any actions households need to take to apply for these benefits. Applications are also available at 701 West State Street in Garland.


Criteria for free and reduced-price meal benefits


The following criteria will be used to determine a child’s eligibility for free or reduced-price meal benefits:




1.     Household income that is at or below the income eligibility levels


Categorical or automatic eligibility


2.     Household receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)


Program participant


3.     Child’s status as a foster child, homeless, runaway, migrant, or displaced by a declared disaster.


4.     Child’s enrollment in Head Start of Even Start


Income Eligibility


For those households that qualify for free or reduced-price meals based on income, an adult in the household must fill out free and reduced-price meal application and return it to Sharon Pettie, Food Services Specialist at 972-272-8079. Those individuals filling out the application will need to provide the following information.



1.     Names of all household members


2.     Amount, frequency, and source of current income for each household member


3.     Last 4 digits of the Social Security number of the adult household member who signs the application or, if the adult does not have a social security number, check the box for “No Social Security number”


4.     Signature of an adult household member attesting that the information provided is correct


Categorical or program eligibility


Alpha Charter School is working with local agencies to identify all children who are categorically and program eligible. Alpha Charter School will notify the households of these children that they do not need to complete an application. Any household that does not receive a letter and feels it should have should contact Sharon Pettie, Food Service Specialist, 972-272-8078.


Any household that wishes to decline benefits should contact Sharon Pettie, Food Service Specialist, 972-272-8078.


Determining eligibility


Under the provisions of the free and reduced-price meal policy, Sharon Pettie, Food Service Specialist, 972-272-8078 will review applications and determine eligibility. Households or guardians dissatisfied with the Reviewing Officials eligibility determination may wish to discuss the decision with the Reviewing Official on an informal basis. Households wishing to make a formal appeal for a hearing on the decision may make a request either orally or in writing to Anthony Jefferson, Superintendent, 972-272-2173.


Unexpected circumstances


If a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size increases, the household should contact the school. Such changes may make the children of the household eligible for benefits if the household’s income falls below the attached current income eligibility.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.) If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html or at any USDA office or call 866-632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington D.C. 20250-9410, by fax 202-690-7442, or email at program.intake@usda.gov. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339, or 800-845-6136 (Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Roach ES promotes summer reading


Garland ISD | August 8, 2015


Working to fight the summer slide, Roach Elementary School encouraged its students to continue learning after the last bell rang, inviting them to its library every Wednesday throughout June and July. Librarian Libby Odom helped launch the new summer program, which drew dozens of families to the campus.


“After learning about how much children lose in the summer if they are not reading, I began thinking about what we could do to help with that,” Odom said. “We do not have a public library really close to us, plus I needed something to do this summer, so I thought I would keep the library open during the break.”


In order for that idea to come to fruition, Odom and Principal Jeanette O’Neal wrote a proposal to present to Area Director Wendy Eldredge—who loved the concept.


“She just jumped on board. She even got us some reusable bags for the kids who come to check out books,” Odom said. “I want the kids to have access to books and the parents to feel like this is a place they can visit. I want us to be open and friendly, and want parents to know what is going on at school.”


The longtime librarian’s action proved to strike a chord with the community, as Odom has circulated more than 625 books to more than 35 families since June 10.


Sarai Ruiz and her two sons, Brandon and Kevin Torres, are one of the families that took advantage of Roach’s library this season.


“This is a true benefit for me as a mom because I have to keep my sons busy for three months. I do not want them to just be on the phone or watching TV,” Ruiz said in Spanish. “We wanted them to continue reading throughout the summer, but do not have enough books at home—especially Spanish-language ones. This library has a variety of Spanish books that are on their reading level, which is great because they love to read.”


Fourth-grader Amy Rosas also enjoyed the resource during the break. The future veterinarian was happy to learn that discovering new animals was just a walk away.


“In the year, I am busy with schoolwork and do not have a lot of time to read. But in the summer, I get more time to find out about more animals,” the 9-year-old said. “It is important to read in the summer so that when you go back to school, you can still read as well as you did before, and maybe even better.”


Although the program ended its inaugural run July 29, students like Rosas and the Torres brothers still have plenty of time to relish in reading, as Odom is allowing them to keep books until the first week of school.


“I feel like this has been a success. To see parents coming in and being so appreciative about what we are doing has been a real positive thing,” she said. “I have loved this experience. It has been really fun for me and I hope to do it next year.”

NGHS student attends honors-only STEM program


Garland ISD | August 5, 2015


North Garland High School student Rhiannon Roberts represented Garland ISD among thousands of gifted peers from across the nation at the 2015 Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders June 28-30 in Boston. After reviewing her teacher-submitted nomination, world-renowned American astronaut Buzz Aldrin invited the incoming sophomore to the honors-only summer program.


“When I found out I was selected, I felt really excited and honored because I do a lot to get my grades and people do not always recognize that,” Roberts said. “I am looking forward to the new experience as well as meeting the scientists and deans of top colleges who will be there.”


The 15-year-old received this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by achieving a GPA of 3.5 or greater, displaying leadership potential, and showcasing a desire to have a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


During the three-day affair, Roberts heard Nobel Laureates and National Medal of Science winners talk about scientific research, received advice from deans of the world’s top tech universities, and learned about innovative advances that will impact the future of science and technology. In addition to this summer session, Roberts also received access to the organization’s free services and programs—which include communication and mentorship opportunities with industry leaders, as well as college and career tools for students and parents.


“This is a crucial time in America when we need more nimble-minded and creative scientists and technologists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially,” said Richard Rossi, executive director of the National Academy of Future Sciences and Technologists, in a press release. “Focused, bright and determined students like Rhiannon Roberts are our future, and she deserves all the mentoring and guidance we can give her.”


Roberts wants to pursue a career in scientific engineering—a traditionally male-dominated field. She believes this enlightening symposium and the ongoing support it offers will not only prepare her for that journey, but can also serve as a sign of encouragement to her female peers.


“A lot of girls do not think they are into technology, engineering or building stuff. But girls have great ideas, too,” she commented. “It helps to have a girl’s mind instead of just a guy’s mind to develop ideas and build things. Girls can play a big part in this field. We just have to show what we can create and get out of a STEM career.”

Austin Academy, GHS teachers partner to help students


Garland ISD | August 5, 2015


Taking the leap from middle to high school, seven Austin Academy for Excellence graduates joined forces with former and future teachers during a recent competition. Austin theater director Aaron Gallagher and Garland High School speech and debate coach Lory Stewart partnered to give those students an edge at the National Speech and Debate Association Tournament June 17-19 in Dallas.


“This opportunity came about because nationals was in Dallas this year, so it was the perfect chance to take our incoming freshmen in the middle school division,” Stewart said. “It was a huge opportunity to compete at nationals because we usually only have two or three students qualify for this particular tournament.”


Taylor Dodd, Taylor Laredo, Trevor Stewart, Avery Trevino, Benji Varnan, Kennedy Wallace and Kennedy Waterman were the lucky seven who made it to nationals. Although Stewart and Wallace worked with Stewart during her time at Hillside Academy for Excellence, this first-time Austin-GHS partnership proved to be a great success.


Stewart placed fifth in humorous interpretation and was a semifinalist in duo acting, as was Varnan. Dodd, Laredo, Trevino and Waterman all landed in the top 24 in duo acting. Waterman was also a quarterfinalist in dramatic interpretation. Wallace, the group’s Lincoln-Douglas debater, impressed all when she went 3-3 her first time out—a remarkable accomplishment for the 14-year-old. But the coaches were not the only ones celebrating the crew’s accomplishments. Parents were more than proud, and also saw the long-term benefits of the event.


“We believe this opportunity really helped boost our son’s morale and helped to fuel his competitive fire,” said Varnan’s father, Jackson. “[This event] broadened the students' minds about what they are truly capable of doing. GHS will gain a valuable pool of seasoned kids who are now accustomed to the national stage, which will further help in future successes for both the school and students.”


Future successes are on coach Stewart’s mind, as she hopes to continue her collaboration with the incoming freshman and Austin’s theater director.


“We look forward to even more big things from these students in the future,” she commented. “We also hope that Aaron Gallagher will travel with us to other states for nationals in the future.”


Photo courtesy of Lory Stewart

Tips for smooth transition into school year


Posted August 4, 2015


The first day of school, August 24, is just right around the corner and kids and parents need to begin preparations early. A few tips follow:


  • Get children started back on their school schedules in advance. Have them go to bed and get up at the same times they will during school for at least a week before school starts.


  • Take advantage of your children’s schools’ meet the teacher night to make them feel more comfortable on the first day. If the school does not offer that opportunity, try contacting the teacher by phone or email to get acquainted in advance.


  • Tour the school. Explore the school with your children at meet the teacher night or call the school and set up a time to do so. This helps children feel more confident on the first day.


  • Buy school supplies together. Make the school supplies shopping trip a fun outing with your children. If possible, in addition to buying items on the supply list, let them choose a special item such as a cool spiral, folder or notebook.


  • Ensure that children are having healthy meals both at home and at school. For families that need help, check whether your kids qualify for any Child Nutrition Programs, like the National School Lunch Program.


  • Take your child to the doctor, get necessary immunizations and make sure your child has health insurance. Kids need an annual checkup just like adults. At the same time, ask the doctor to check immunization records to see if the child needs any vaccinations or boosters.  Choose health insurance that best meets your needs. For families that qualify, free and low-cost coverage is available through the Children’s Health Insurance Program.


  • Set up a homework area with no distractions.


  • Read with your child at least 20 minutes per day. It teaches children the importance of literacy.


  • If children have lost touch with friends during the summer, encourage them to reconnect with a few of them before school starts. This helps alleviate nervousness on the first day.


Sources: www.pbs.org and www.ed.gov


Student safety is every driver’s responsibility

Kim Everett | August 10, 2014

The new school year starts Aug. 25 and it’s the responsibility of all drivers to keep Garland’s children safe. Remember to follow these safety tips:

    Watch for school zones and obey the 20 mph speed limit along with all other traffic laws.

Expect the unexpected. Children sometimes forget to look both ways before going into the street. They may cross at the wrong place or unexpectedly run or ride their bicycles in front of you.


Avoid distractions – cellphones and other electronic devices; food and beverages; loud music; and anything else that could take your mind off driving safely. The use of cellphones is unlawful in Garland school zones.


Be aware of and watch out for children near schools, bus stops, sidewalks, in the streets, in school parking lots, etc.


Never pass other vehicles, change lanes or make u-turns in a school zone. Stop before the crosswalk and stay stopped until it is no longer occupied, not just until your lane is clear.




Never block crosswalks with vehicles and watch for children crossing the street when approaching an intersection. Garland, Rowlett, and Sachse provide crossing guards for busy intersections near elementary schools and some middle schools.


Always have your child use the designated crosswalk and follow the cross guard’s instructions.

Passenger drop-off


If you park on the side of the road, always have your child exit the car on the side away from traffic and avoid having them cross the street.


Follow your school’s traffic pattern for drop-off and pickup.


School buses

Flashing yellow lights -- When you see a school bus with flashing yellow lights, drivers are expected to slow down to a speed that will allow for a sudden stop.


Flashing red lights -- A school bus with flashing red lights signals that students are getting on or off the bus. Drivers must stop and wait for the driver to turn the flashers off, no matter which direction they are traveling. Students crossing the street after exiting a school bus should cross in front of the bus. Wait until the red lights stop flashing and the stop arm is retracted before proceeding.


Railroad crossings -- All school buses are required to stop at railroad crossings. Keep enough distance between your vehicle and the school bus to avoid a rear-end collision.

The fine for speeding in school zones is stiff and Texas has added an extra court cost fee to school zone tickets. At least $25 is added and used to pay for school zone crossing guard and other safety programs.

The fines and fees, though, are inconsequential in comparison to students’ safety.


Remember that wherever you are going and whatever time you are supposed to be there, it can wait. It is not nearly as important as our community’s children.


Carver Elementary students create art, donate profits to St. Jude


Garland ISD | July 31, 2015


Creating their own project-based learning lesson, six Carver Elementary School fifth-graders recently learned how to manage a small nonprofit and pay it forward. The entrepreneurial group created a club called Art with Heart, which sold original artworks, bookmarks and bracelets to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.


Originally conceived by Phillip Benjamin, Jordan Gonzalez, Modupe Karimi, Daniel Ruiz, Clarissa Salinas and Damerian Wigenton as a for-profit business, the idea to launch a nonprofit began with the advice of fifth-grade teacher Sabina Bawany.


“When they came to me and told me that they wanted to create a business, I told them they might want to start a fundraiser,” Bawany said. “I believe there are some policies in place regarding soliciting, so from there, it just took off. I have been very blessed to have kids who are really motivated and do a great job.”


Once they settled on a mission and game plan, the students got to work, meeting three times a week to craft their original art pieces—which were inspired by Carver’s first-ever art class.


“I was very proud they were using skills they learned in my class and taking them and doing good things with them,” said art teacher Christy Dickerson. “They are not only learning valuable lessons of craftsmanship, but they are also learning about being good citizens and stewards.”


After a three-month campaign of selling $1 yarn bracelets, $2 yarn bookmarks and $1-3 original drawings three times a week for 45 minutes, the bunch raised $200. In June, the group officially mailed that check to St. Jude, bringing this charitable project to a close.


“I think it is a good thing that we donated the money because the children really need it,” said Art for Heart member Damerian Wigenton. “I do not think we should get a prize for this. Our prize is that we just feel good about doing this.”


But the group gained much more than emotional gratification from their philanthropic endeavor.


“This project not only taught them empathy, but it also taught them communication, marketing, math and crafting skills. It was a multifaceted project,” Bawany explained. “The best thing is that through this project, they got to see the application in a real-world scenario.”


And though the fifth-graders are moving on to middle school come fall, they hope they established a new tradition that will thrive at Carver and ultimately inspire other campuses districtwide.


RHS to receive Texas Bandmasters Association award


Garland ISD | July 27, 2015


The award-winning Rowlett High School Mighty Eagle Band is about to enhance its packed display shelf with another shining trophy. The ensemble will receive the 2015 Exemplary High School Band Award by the Texas Bandmasters Association (TBA) later this month. Just two secondary schools in the state receive this honor every year.


“The Rowlett band is truly one of the most exemplary high school band programs in Texas,” states a press release. “It has collected many awards throughout the years, and has been a consistent example of excellence over a long period. It has developed that reputation under the leadership of Director Phillip Alvarado and staff.”


Alvarado, who recently left the district, shaped and strengthened the program over the past 18 years. Beginning with less than 100 members, the Mighty Eagle Band now boasts 260. As the largest organization on campus, it is responsible for positively impacting the lives of countless students.


“Students in band are also members of many other clubs, organizations and sports teams on and off campus,” states the Mighty Eagle Band’s website. “Being a member of the RHS band means you will receive a well-rounded education and surround yourself with others who share a passion for music.”


Because of its hardworking students and strong leadership, RHS will become the first Garland ISD campus to join the elite group of Exemplary Band Award recipients. Just 18 Texas middle and high schools have received the honor since it was introduced in 2006.

TEA study spotlights NGHS


Garland ISD | July 28, 2015


Due to its talented students and staff, North Garland High School was one of just 11 campuses spotlighted by the Texas Education Agency. The campus was selected to be part of a case study project, which outlined best practices at high-performing and high-progress Title I schools.


“The work taking place at these 11 schools reflects some innovative principles that can be applied in districts all across our state,” said Commissioner of Education Michael Williams in a press release. “It is my hope that by sharing these best practices, all schools can be in a position to help their students thrive and succeed in the classroom.”


TEA strategically chose campuses that featured a high percentage of low socio-economic students, excellent academic performance rates, quality teachers, a positive school climate and effective leadership. In order to document best practices, representatives from TEA and the Texas Comprehensive Center conducted interviews with campus principals, teachers and school improvement coordinators to learn about operating procedures and achievements.


North Garland will now impact and inspire schools across the state, as TEA plans to distribute the case study as part of its Texas school improvement trainings.


To see a list of participating campuses, or the complete case study, visit the TEA website.

North Garland students impress at HOSA nationals


Garland ISD | July 27, 2015


A group of North Garland High School students earned big honors at the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) National Leadership Conference June 24-27 in Anaheim, Calif. Going head-to-head with thousands of the nation’s toughest contenders, the Raiders used their skills and talent to place within the top 10 in eight categories.


“We had spectacular results at nationals,” said health science and technology teacher Nancy Stewart. “We were there along with 9,000 of the most academic competitors in the nation. It takes dedication and hard work to place in these competitive events. We are so proud of these students and thank the district for allowing us to compete.”


Impressing in categories that covered everything from newsletters to biomedical laboratory sciences, the NGHS team proved that hard work and dedication reap rewards. But the group would not have been successful without their health science Career & Technical Education teachers. Learning real-world skills, such as medical terminology, body mechanics and taking vital signs, surely helped these students secure their victories. The future health professionals also propelled their chances by joining North’s HOSA chapter, which allowed them to acquire experience in their forthcoming careers.


That critical experience can be credited with the following results from nationals:


Miguel Aguilar – ninth, epidemiology


Eyad Alrabbat – seventh, biomedical laboratory sciences


Jesus Bermejo – Best in Category, HOSA HAPPENINGS Newsletter


Karla Martinez – Best in Category, Outstanding HOSA Chapter


Perla Martinez – National Service Project of Merit Award to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society


Tariq Muhanna – first, biomedical laboratory sciences


Vivian Nguyen – second, biomedical laboratory sciences


Maria Tijerina – fifth, physical therapy


Photo courtesy of Vivian Nguyen

New administration to welcome students back to school


Garland ISD | July 26, 2015


Several new principals and assistant principals will greet students as they return to school this year. A list of recent campus appointments is below.




Armstrong Elementary School – Coleman Bruman

Bullock Elementary School – Shannon Trimble

Centerville Elementary School – Amie Pennington

Classical Center at Vial Elementary School – Beatris Martinez

Club Hill Elementary School – Shae Creel

Daugherty Elementary School – Bonnie Barrett

Herfurth Elementary School – Jessica Hicks

Hudson Middle School – Jennifer Benavides

Keeley Elementary School – Spencer Hughes

Rowlett Elementary School – Kathy Tunnell

Sewell Elementary School – Kim Marsh

Shorehaven Elementary School – Deborah Henson

Southgate Elementary School – Quinton Darden

Stephens Elementary School – Janee Haynes

Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence – Lisa Alexander

Watson Technology Center for Math and Science – Chris Grey


Assistant Principals:


Austin Academy for Excellence – Eddrick Haskins

Beaver Technology Center for Math and Science – Magda Carrero-Diaz

Caldwell Elementary School – LaBotta Taylor

Coyle Middle School – Brent Reid

Coyle Middle School – Cherelle Wilson

Dorsey Elementary School – Denise Cambell

Heather Glen Elementary School – Pacquepsi Ramirez

Herfurth Elementary School – Bobbie Carter

Hudson Middle School – Mark Booker Jr.

Jackson Technology Center for Math and Science – Adrian Hernandez

Jackson Technology Center for Math and Science – Terri Osborne

Keeley Elementary School – Sheri Taylor

North Garland High School – Natasha Shaw

North Garland High School – Robert Quach

Northlake Elementary School – Zuri Tafciu

O’Banion Middle School – William Knuckles IV

Roach Elementary School – Claudia Saenz

Rowlett High School – Sonya Roberts

Sam Houston Middle School – Jocelynn Charbonneau

Schrade Middle School – Kenneth Pearce

South Garland High School – Angela Nolan

South Garland High School – Victoria Acevedo

Spring Creek Elementary School – Jade Hobbs

Steadham Elementary School – Jeffrey Waller

Stephens Elementary School – Kristen Babovec

Webb Middle School – Devonia Maddox

GHS math team excels at competition


Posted July 22, 2015

Dr. John Hobbs, head coach of the math/science team at Garland High School is proud of his students’ performance at the Texas Tech summer camp in Lubbock July 14-18.


“We have dominated this contest for three years in a row,” Hobbs said. “This was our best showing.”


The team’s accomplishments were:


·         1st place in Number Sense, 913 to 754

·         1st place in Calculator, 677 to 574

·         1st place in Mathematics, 606 to 540

·         1st place in Science, 448 to 348

·         1st place in Sweepstakes, 2644 to 2042


Individual students placed as follows:

·         Alyssa Shrode (senior) placed 1st in Number Sense, 2nd in Calculator, 3rd in Math and 2nd in Science.

·         Linh Nguyen (junior) placed 2nd in Number Sense, 1st in Calculator, 1st in Math and 1st in Science.

·         Andrew Doan (junior) placed 3rd in Number Sense, 8th in Calculator, 2nd in Math and 10th in Science.

·         Luz Martines (junior) placed 9th in Calculator.

·         Tien Tran (sophomore) placed 5th in Number Sense, 1st in Math and 7th in Science.

·         Rebecca Lamb (sophomore) placed 10th in Science.

·         Alina Tieu (sophomore) placed 10th in Calculator.

·         Khoa Pham (freshman) placed 3rd in Number Sense, 2nd in Calculator, 2nd in Math and 4th in Science.

·         Zacahry Nguyen (8th competing as a 9th-grader) placed 2nd in Number Sense, 3rd in Math and 5th in Science.

·         Joshua Robert (7th-grader competing as a 9th-grader) placed 5th in Number Sense, 6th in Calculator, 4th in Math and 7th in Science.

Hobbs coached the GHS math team to the district championship level in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2010 and 2015, the team placed second in the UIL Region Competition. In 2014 and 2015, they placed 7th in the TMSCA State competition and in 2015 they placed 5th in the UIL State Competition.

SGHS student selected as AVID Summer Institute speaker

Garland ISD | July 21, 2015

A recent South Garland High School graduate had the chance to inspire hundreds of students and educators with her moving story. Keyle Williams was invited to share her journey to college at the annual Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Summer Institute June 22-24.

At the encouragement of her teachers, Williams applied to speak at the Dallas event, submitting a 500-word essay about her personal quest to secure a college education. After weeks of anticipation, the 18-year-old learned she bested thousands of candidates in April.

“I was surprised when I found out I was selected to speak. All of the speeches I have heard at the Summer Institute were really dramatic,” Williams said. “I have been through a lot, but I did not think it was on that level. My mom passed away from cancer when I was in third grade, and I do not know my dad. I basically do not have anyone, except for my grandma.”

Williams’ personal life has motivated her to strive for success—an admirable trait her teachers and peers praise.

“Keyle is not your average kid,” said AVID teacher Amanda Wilds. “She is an amazing, hardworking student, and her story proves that she is an overcomer.  The fact that she went off to Harvard’s Summer School program her sophomore year, as well as her motivation to get outside of this area and explore new opportunities, means that she is going to do great things.”

Williams credits AVID as one of the reasons she is driven to reach such high achievements.

“I have been in AVID since sixth grade, and it is a support system for me,” she explained. “People in my family have been to college, but they never finished. I knew I wanted to go to college, change that history and be different. AVID gave me the tools I needed to go for it.”

Detailing how she obtained her AVID tool belt at the Summer Institute, Williams hopes others will follow in her footsteps and pursue their dreams.

“I really want to touch people’s lives and give them hope. I want them to see how AVID can impact a student’s life.”

Williams will attend Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y. in the fall, majoring in pre-med.

LCHS Watt Patrol promotes energy savings

Garland ISD | July 11, 2015


On a mission to save their campus energy and time, members of the Lakeview Centennial High School Principal’s Advisory Council introduced a novel, student-led conservation organization in 2014-15. Known as Watt Patrol, the eco-conscious group helped the Patriots achieve one of the highest facility shutdown rates by the end of the year, successfully establishing their impact on campus.


“This program has increased the accountability for adults, but it has also given student leaders the ability to contribute to the campus’ overall efforts,” said Principal Angel Rivera. “Watt Patrol is important because it instills the awareness of conservation into students and teachers. They are aware of where the savings would go and are excited to play their part.”


Taking note from Garland ISD’s Energy Conservation Program, Watt Patrol members perform random energy checks, looking for active electronics and running lights in vacant classrooms. If energy waste is observed, they leave an official Watt Patrol ticket. Students take time out of their personal schedule to complete this duty.


“Whenever one of us has a free period or time after school, we go around and check classrooms,” said senior Marquenys Brice. “When we are on duty, we knock on classroom doors, and if a teacher is in there, we tell them we are doing Watt Patrol and remind them to turn off their lights when they leave the room. If the room is empty and the door is closed, we look under the crack of the door to see if the lights are on. The goal is for teachers to be aware of what they leave on and reminded to turn off all electronics.”


Watt Patrol’s determination can be seen in their results. In the district's latest Energy Conservation Program report, Lakeview was one of just three campuses to obtain the top high school shutdown rate—98 percent. Efforts of students and teachers like those at Lakeview have helped GISD save more than $2 million in energy costs since September 2013.


“The success of the program depends on everyone,” the report states. “Special thanks go to students for creative energy program initiatives and contests.”


Although many benefits have been observed during Watt Patrol’s debut year, members are looking forward to refining the program next year.


“We meet once a month at Principal’s Advisory Council meetings, but that is not enough,” said junior Tyler Alford. “If we are able to meet every week or so, that would make us more connected. We would be on the same page and able to monitor the hallways more efficiently.”


“I think the teachers and students should be more aware of what Watt Patrol is,” added junior Christopher Caldwell. “I also think we need to start a log and assign hallways to members next year. It is most important that we save energy for the school. All in all, that saves money for the district, and that money can be used for instruction or other school activities, which will help our school even more.”

GHS student to attend renowned Interlochen Arts Camp

Posted June 30, 2015

Although Garland High School student Juanito Riveros is just 15-years-old, he has already made a name for himself in the world of fine arts. Recently ranked the No. 2 harpist in the state, the sophomore was awarded a full scholarship to attend Interlochen Arts Camp—an invitation just 2,500 artists from more than 40 countries receive every year. Riveros will commence this esteemed six-week experience June 27 in Michigan.

“At Interlochen Arts Camp, student-artists learn from world-class instructors and produce hundreds of presentations each summer in dance, theatre, creative writing, visual arts, music and film,” states a press release. “Approximately 10 percent of the nation’s professional orchestra musicians have roots at Interlochen, and the alumni community has been awarded nearly 100 Grammy Awards.”

Riveros will soon join that elite group of alumni, which includes singer-songwriters Norah Jones, Josh Groban and Rufus Wainwright, as well as jazz pianist Eldar and actor Anthony Rapp.

The talented teen will study in the Harp Program at Interlochen, which features solo, small group and large ensemble rehearsals and shows.

“In addition to hundreds of performances, presentations and readings by young artists, Interlochen brings leading artists and performers to the northern Michigan campus,” the press release details. “In recent years, guest artists have included Joshua Bell, the Decemberists, the Avett Brothers, Harry Connick Jr., Branford Marsalis and many more.”

While this summer program will serve as Riveros’ first experience with the world’s premier fine arts program, it will not be his last. The incoming junior was invited to complete his high school education at Interlochen Arts Academy—a development the Riveros family credits to Garland ISD.

“GISD has been wonderful in getting him to this point, and it all started with Ms. Pruitt at Kimberlin Academy for Excellence,” said mother Mary Riveros. “We are very grateful for the teachers and programs that provide our students guidance and solid foundations as they pursue their dreams.”

Special Education recognizes General Educators of the Year


Garland ISD | July 10, 2015


Four Garland ISD teachers were recently recognized for their commitment to all students. The Special Education Department named its Elementary, Middle School, High School and All-District General Educators of the Year May 21.


Carver Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Tammy Avants, Schrade Middle School English teacher Sarah Westerman, Naaman Forest High School chemistry teacher Heather Lincecum, and Southgate Elementary School kindergarten teacher Jimmie Hawkins took the honors this year. They were recognized during a General Educator of the Year Luncheon, receiving a plaque and monetary reward for their outstanding efforts.


Although the honorees teach at different schools across the district, they have one thing in common—an evident desire to provide a quality education to any student who steps foot in their classrooms.


Named the All-District General Educator of the Year, Hawkins is known for her compassion and elevated standards at Southgate.


“Ms. Hawkins has high expectations for all students in her classroom,” stated a nomination letter. “Principal Clyde Schilling notes that she is an effective communicator, listens without judgment and assesses situations with clear objectivity, always responding calmly.”


Like Hawkins, Avants’ positive attitude and go-getter personality secured her title—Elementary General Educator of the Year.


“Carver staff members confirm that Avants goes the extra mile. She gets to know her students on a personal level and views every child as having limitless potential,” detailed her nomination.


Westerman, who was awarded the Middle School General Educator of the Year, also believes in her students. The sixth-grade teacher is not afraid to try new strategies in her classroom to impact every learner.


“Sarah works closely with Schrade’s special education department to ensure that students who receive special services are comfortable in her classroom,” reported Principal Rachael Brown. “She also encourages other teachers to think outside the box when creating their classrooms.”


And one to certainly think creatively is Lincecum, who earned the High School General Educator of the Year designation.


“Heather relishes the challenge of teaching students with varying strengths and levels of ability,” said NFHS Principal Erika Crump. “She is a master in differentiating instruction and helps special education students see beyond their disabilities to a realization of their talents.”

Sam Houston MS Bike Club earns Garland PD honors


Garland ISD | July 6, 2015


Demonstrating collaboration between Garland ISD and its community, Sam Houston Middle School partnered with the Garland Police Department (GPD) to launch a bicycle repair program in 2004-05. Since then, the Sam Houston Bike Club has been teaching students professional skills and impacting the lives of children districtwide.


To recognize the Colt’s dedicated efforts, GPD awarded Citizen of Merit certificates to Principal Don Hernandez and social studies teacher Steve Smith, who serve as the program’s facilitators, June 2.


“We are honored to receive this award,” Hernandez said. “We always have great kids in the Sam Houston Bike Club, and the work they do is outstanding.”


The Bike Club’s mission is to repair damaged or defective donated bikes and gift them to community members. In order to fulfill that duty, the charitable organization is very selective when choosing participants. Students must maintain passing grades and be recommended by a teacher or principal. The School Resource Officer and teacher sponsor then select a maximum of 30 members.


Those students are divided into two groups, meeting for two hours after-school on two different days every week. Club members must study basic bike parts and learn how to use professional-grade bicycle repair tools. A bike shop tour, online video tutorials, instruction and a written test are administered at the start of the year. Once students successfully complete all requirements, they can begin working on bikes, which are mostly donated by area Wal-Marts.


Going strong for 10 years, individual requestors, churches, community programs, civic organizations and schools have all happily received a bike refurbished by the hands of a middle schooler. 


The Bike Club not only provides an avenue for students to use critical thinking and real-world skills. It also aims to instill a strong work ethic in participants.


“Students are required to bring homework, study materials or a book to read for the first 30 minutes of the program,” states a GPD press release. “The students are assisted with homework by the helping teacher or officer during study time.”


And those who dedicate their time and energy to schoolwork and the program’s goal receive a hefty reward.


“All participants receive ‘credit’ for days they attend the program if they have passing grades, good behavior and are working during the allotted program time,” GPD’s press release details. “After a student earns 30 days of credit, they have an opportunity to earn a bicycle of their choosing.”


GHS seniors graduate at top of nation’s Class of 2015

Posted July 7, 2015

Graduating at the top of the Class of 2015 nationwide, three Garland High School students are being recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. Lexie Ford was named a 2015 National Merit Scholar, while Mahimajanani Senthilkumar received a National Merit University of Chicago Scholarship, and Janet Aiyedun earned a National Achievement Scholarship.

More than 1.4 million juniors in approximately 22,000 high schools entered the 2015 National Merit Scholarship competition when they took the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). Last fall, approximately 16,000 Semifinalists were named, representing less than one percent of the nation’s seniors.

To compete for Merit Scholarship awards, each had to advance to the Finalist level of the competition by fulfilling additional requirements. Semifinalists were asked to submit a detailed scholarship application, which included writing an essay and providing information about extracurricular activities, awards and leadership positions. They also had to have an outstanding academic record, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, and earn SAT scores that confirmed the qualifying test performance.

Garland ISD’s honorees represent the strongest competitors, showing a combination of accomplishments, skills and potential for success in rigorous college studies. They were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors and will receive $2,000-$8,000 for their designations.

GISD Risk Management Department recognized by TASB


Garland ISD | July 2, 2015


Garland ISD was one of just 10 districts statewide recently honored by The Texas Association of School Boards. The district’s Risk Management Department earned a 2015 TASB Risk Management Fund Innovation Award for its creative safety video campaign.


“We were excited when we learned we won the award,” said GISD Risk Management Specialist Sabrina Jeter. “We were proud to know that our peers outside of Garland ISD affirm that our program is good.”


The campaign that earned the district's distinction featured students and staff creating 1-3 minute safety videos, which cover everything from cold and flu season tips to step safety.


“The videos include messages that are understandable, impactful and add a touch a humor,” Jeter said. “These original works were developed for GISD employees, and can be found on the staff Intranet website.”


Jeter, along with Risk Manager Alan Smith, attended the Fund Members’ Conference in the spring, where they received a plaque and monetary gift.


“This award was established by the TASB Risk Management Fund Board of Trustees to recognize Fund members who have demonstrated creativity, innovation and excellence with local efforts,” states a press release. "In addition to being publicly recognized by the Fund, the award comes with a $1,000 honorarium to be used toward any risk management effort in your district.”


The department plans to use the grant to invest in other safety awareness programs.


“Receiving this honor amongst our peers recognizes Risk Management and Garland ISD as innovators,” Jeter said. “We care about the safety of our children and employees.”


Sara Erickson named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | June 29, 2015


Ending the 2014-15 contest on a high note, Shorehaven Elementary School secured its second Jupiter Chevrolet Teacher of the Month two-peat, as physical education teacher Sara Erickson took the honors May 11. Surprised while writing curriculum at the Jill Shugart Professional Development Center, Erickson had a feeling she would soon receive the decked out SUV.


“I was told I had a lot of votes on Facebook,” she said. “Thank you to everybody who voted.”


With this win now under her belt, Erickson is officially part of a distinct, growing team at her campus.


“Sara is the seventh person at Shorehaven to be named Jupiter Chebrolet's Teacher of the Month,” said Principal Patty Tremmel. “We have fabulous teachers who are very dedicated to the students of Garland ISD.”


Tremmel wants to make sure Shorehaven’s hard working staff is recognized, so she tries her best to inform the community about the contest, and actively nominates teachers every month.


“We use social media and have contest information on our website,” she said. “We want to honor the teachers, and this is a very special way to do that.”


Erickson will get to drive the meaningful SUV until the end of the school year.


Although the contest just wrapped up, a new campaign will kick off again in August. Want to see your campus represented and your favorite educator named Teacher of the Month? Keep up with the contest and vote for the next winner on Jupiter Chevrolet’s Facebook page.

GISD begins search for replacement board member


Garland ISD | June 27, 2015


The Garland ISD board of trustees announced a plan to fill its Place 4 seat which will become vacant after Dr. Cindy Castañeda's resignation takes effect on August 18. The board of trustees plans to fill this vacancy by appointment.


To select this appointment, the Board will be accepting applications from qualified individuals interested in filling the position and serving the district. Applications must be received by August 28, 2015. Each applicant must be a registered voter in Garland ISD and should apply by submitting a resume and cover letter. The resume and cover letter should be mailed or hand delivered to:


Garland Independent School District

Attention: Larry Glick, Board President

501 S. Jupiter Road

Garland, Texas 75042

Five students named Terry Scholars


Garland ISD | June 27, 2015


Five graduating seniors will attend college this fall with the help of a Texas-based nonprofit organization. Students from Garland, Lakeview Centennial and North Garland high schools were all named Terry Scholars, a title that gifts guidance, support and tuition funds throughout college.


“I am proud that we have two Terry Foundation Scholarship winners,” said LCHS counselor Shelisa Benton. “The Terry Foundation selects graduating seniors from across Texas to have the honor of becoming a Terry Scholar. Those selected must represent the university and give back to the community while having their cost of attendance provided by the Foundation. This is such a big honor.”


The Houston-based organization selects outstanding students who are nominated by one of 13 affiliated Texas colleges. Candidates are chosen based on their university-provided Terry Foundation Scholarship application.


“We select bright, ambitious, service-oriented scholars who desire a well-rounded and enriching undergraduate experience,” states University of Texas at Dallas Terry Scholars Program Director Blythe Torres on the institution’s website. “[This program] enables the scholars to be plugged into the intellectual, cultural and social activities of the university while pursuing a rigorous academic curriculum. We anticipate and expect our scholars will achieve academic success.”


With that kind of guidance, GISD’s 2015 Terry Scholars will be armed with valuable resources to help them build a successful future. These impressive high schoolers will begin the next chapter of their lives at the following Texas universities.


  • Ifra Ali, North Garland High School – University of Texas at Dallas

  • Caleb Cortimilia, Lakeview Centennial High School – Texas A&M University

  • [Name withheld], North Garland High School – University of Texas at Dallas

  • Olivia Morris, Lakeview Centennial High School – University of Texas at Arlington

  • Theodora Winter, Garland High School – Texas Tech University


For more information on the Terry Scholarship Foundation, visit the organization’s website.


NGHS twice ranked as one of nation’s finest high schools


Garland ISD | June 26, 2015


North Garland High School has once again been selected as one of the nation’s best campuses. In addition to The Washington Post’s recent designation, North Garland also earned a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best High Schools Rankings, making it the only district campus to receive two top titles this year.


“This is very exciting for the entire campus. Students and staff work hard every day to ensure all are taking advantage of instructional and extracurricular opportunities afforded to them,” said Principal Glenda Williams. “There are many deserving schools in our district, and North was fortunate enough to meet all of the criteria set forth by the selection committee. But I know teachers and students are working hard in all GISD schools, and others will be recognized in future years.”


The Raiders made the revered list along with just 6,517 of the nation's 19,753 public high schools evaluated. U.S. News ranked those that made the cut, awarding the top 500 with gold medals, 2027 with silver and 3,990 with bronze. North Garland snagged a silver medal, ranking within the best-performing 2,527 schools in America.


Campuses received Best High School status if they featured all of the following: above state average scores on math and reading proficiency tests; high-performing disadvantaged students; and elevated college-readiness performance on Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate tests.


On a national level, North ranked 2,319. Just 223 Texas schools made this year’s list, with North taking the 208th spot. The campus had 32 percent of its student body take the AP test, with 18 percent earning a passing score.


“We feel we have a structure and climate in place that allows our students to shine,” Williams said. “This recognition emphasizes our student’s achievements, and we hope it inspires future Raiders to succeed. For staff, it affirms that their efforts in educating our students are highly successful and that a culture of continuous improvement supports this attainment.”

Beaver MST Penny War provides support for district families in need


Garland ISD | June 21, 2015


Since its opening just one year ago, Garland ISD’s GRS Giving Place has already helped hundreds of families in need. But the room would not be such a success without support from the district’s community. Students and staff at Beaver Technology Center for Math and Science recently showed theirs through a Penny War fundraiser.


Hosted by fourth and fifth-graders in Beaver's Leadership Academy, the competition pitted grade levels against one another to see who could collect the most coins. Pennies equaled one positive point, but grade levels could sabotage each another with silver coins equaling one negative point. After a weeklong collection, fifth grade proved victorious with 21,474 points. Overall, Penny War raised a total of $1,269.


“We could not be more proud of our Leadership Academy students and our school for stepping up to help others in need,” said sponsors DeDee Flanagan and Chelsea Hill.


“Support of people like you all helps us continue to bring brighter futures to the district’s foster care and homeless population, as well as students and families that have suffered hardships,” added GISD Case Manager and Giving Place operator Emily Jandrucko. “Our goal is to not only meet essential daily needs, but to strengthen family relationships, academic readiness and community partnerships as well.”

North Garland theater one of state’s top One-Act Play contenders


Garland ISD | June 21, 2015


North Garland High School’s Raider Theatre is being hailed as one of the state’s top drama groups. The talented company won second runner-up in the 6A UIL State One-Act Play competition May 28 at the University of Texas at Austin’s Bass Performance Center.


“We were shocked when we found out we won third place. It was already a true honor to just be among the top eight 6A schools in the state,” said theater director Nancy Gibson. “To be awarded with second runner-up, it was amazing.”


NGHS began its journey to state in March, competing against more than 1,000 participating high schools. The Raiders' interpretation of The Kentucky Cycle: Fire in the Hole proved to be a fierce production, securing their award-winning state performance.


“Our students work very hard and spend many hours striving to make Raider Theatre productions the best shows they can be,” Gibson stated. “[Co-Director] Michael Abrams and I are always proud of our students, both actors and technicians.”


In addition to a third-place group victory, individuals were also recognized. For their portrayals of Mary Anne and Tommy Jackson in the 1920s-set play, Sarah Valdez earned an All-Star Acting medal while Jacob Hopfer received an Honorable Mention nod.


“We now have a bond that we will not soon forget,” said senior and drama club president Vivian Akanno.


“I know they will keep the wonderful memories of this experience and will stay in touch with their fellow thespians,” Gibson added. “We have wonderful students in Raider Theatre. We know they will strive to do their best in the future and at all times.”


Photo courtesy of GISD Director of Fine Arts George Jones

RHS student’s business plan receives funding, advances to regional competition


Garland ISD | June 21, 2015


At just 18 years old, Rowlett High School senior Tara Davis has already established a foundation for her very own small business. The burgeoning CEO created a detailed business proposal through the Rowlett Chamber of Commerce's Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), a national after-school program that transforms middle and high schoolers into confident executives. In April, Davis won first place in YEA!’s Investor Panel Event, besting five other high school students and securing  $1,100 and a $500 Sam’s Club gift card for her business, Sunshine Pack. Now, this Garland ISD participant is competing for more funding and a chance to advance to nationals at the Saunders Regional Competition May 14-15 in Phoenix.


“I was so excited and grateful when I found out I won first place in April,” Davis said. “I have been rehearsing my speech, going over questions the investors might ask me and reviewing my business plan in preparation for regionals. Ultimately, I am hoping that everyone will leave satisfied and will still want to carry on their businesses no matter what happens. We worked really hard on this and I do not want anything to go to waste.”


Davis will get to tour a Phoenix-based corporation, network with YEA! advisors and complete one last prep session before competition, where she will go head-to-head with dozens of regional students in order to win one of six slots open at nationals.


“This will be one of three regional competitions with more than 85 businesses competing for a national spot,” said Tammy Alexander, YEA! program manager at the Rowlett Chamber of Commerce. “I believe Tara can win at regionals and continue to nationals in Washington, D.C. in June. Tara’s business plan is solid and includes goals for growth.”


Davis’ Sunshine Pack creation encompasses her life goal—to help people.


“I wanted to deliver a comfort pack provided by the hospitals to give children ages three to 10 a more comfortable and reassuring time while they are at the facility,” she explained. “A Sunshine Pack will consist of a stuffed animal, an 8-ounce bottle of water, an inspirational card, a plastic toy stethoscope, a coloring book with the hospital logo to help promote the hospital setting to the child, and a panda or white tiger-designed bag.”


Davis was able to flesh out the details of her comprehensive business model throughout the school year. She and seven other local high school students met from 4-7 p.m. every Tuesday from November-May for their weekly YEA! gathering. There, the Eagle was able to learn how to write, develop, organize and perfect her plan with her mentor, Lake Point Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Director Chris Burciaga. Davis' friend, RHS student Magnolia Espinoza, also helped with visual creative concepts and designed the Sunshine Pack logo.


Although the YEA! program is new to GISD this year, Davis is confident the organization is beneficial to all students, even those who are not interested in starting businesses.


“I learned a lot in this program. I developed better social skills, became aware of professional writing, can now confidently present and speak in front of audiences and just feel more self-assured talking with people of all ages,” Davis stated. 


To provide this valuable after-school program to students of all ages, Alexander has already partnered with another district campus—Steadham Elementary School. The YEA! Program Manager recently visited third, fourth and fifth-graders to introduce the organization.


“I am confident that many students will discuss this extraordinary academy with their parents and guardians and apply for the 2015-16 program,” Alexander commented. “Students at Steadham Elementary are well-equipped to succeed in this nine-month program when entering sixth grade as shown through their dedication in student-body activities and hard work.”


And to help shine a bright light on YEA!'s positive impact, Davis plans to launch her company in July—with or without the $4,638 startup costs.


“I want to carry on my business throughout college,” she revealed. “I want to see Sunshine Pack in different industries, such as airlines, child protective services and police departments. My goal is to see it worldwide, and I think I can get there in about 10 years.”


The determined teen hopes to receive a degree in healthcare administration and facility management, with a minor in business, from the University of North Texas.


SGHS students become licensed cosmetologists


Garland ISD | June 15, 2015


Twenty-six South Garland High School cosmetology students recently accomplished an exceptional feat—they all became licensed professionals before graduation. The seniors passed both written and practical state cosmetology exams in May, after dedicating hundreds of hours to the craft.


“It is a rarity that 100 percent of students who test pass both exams and are licensed before school ends,” said cosmetology teacher Shawnda Rodgers. “All of the students’ hard work and two years of learning test information and practical exam preparation paid off. We wish this happened every year.”


To be eligible to test, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation requires students to obtain 900 hours for the written exam and 1,000 for the practical. Students in South’s Career and Technical Education course earn hours based on test scores, time in class and core curriculum. Only seniors are allowed to take the state exams, and this year’s bunch proved to be motivated by success.


“These students passed because they are mentally prepared to make this a profession or use this to pay their tuition for college,” Rodgers explained. “The program, although offered in a high school setting, is run like a real salon. We highlight professionalism, persistence and perseverance.”


That training has even been recognized by prominent experts in the workforce.


“Dina Scroggins, regional manager from the Regis Corporation, told me that we are producing quality professionals that salons and spas need to make a successful team,” she revealed. “Our hope is that our newly licensed cosmetologists will continue their education and enjoy every moment in the beauty industry. [SGHS cosmetology teacher] Cindy Najera and I also hope they will continue on to become industry leaders and grow their own team someday.”


Photo courtesy of Shawnda Rodgers

GISD names District Teachers of the Year


Garland ISD | June 14, 2015


Two Garland ISD teachers received a special surprise June 3 that sweetened their end-of-year celebrations. Samantha Patten and Marie Walker-Peterson were named 2014-15 District Teachers of the Year.


“It is my pleasure to present this award,” said Superintendent Bob Morrison as he handed each a commemorative plaque. “Thank you for your dedication to GISD students. Being chosen as one of the top two teachers from an impressive list of campus winners shows a commitment to providing exceptional education and ensuring a successful future for students.”


Patten teaches second grade at Kimberlin Academy for Excellence. Chosen as the Elementary District Teacher of the Year, she seeks to innovatively improve the learning environment every day, making school a more exciting place. She also strives to be a positive role model, building relationships with students and staff. As the first member of her family to attend and graduate from college, Patten is a self-proclaimed lifelong learner.


“Each year, I set new goals for myself and work diligently to achieve them,” she said. “My students know that if I have been out for a training or workshop, when I return they will likely be trying something new. We learn together and my enthusiasm for learning makes them eager to learn and grow as well.”


Walker-Peterson, the Secondary District Teacher of the Year, has taught at Sellers Middle School for the past 17 years—the same campus she once attended. Graduating from Garland High School, Walker-Peterson planned to become a lawyer. She joined GISD instead and helped pioneer the district’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. Now districtwide, three campuses—including Sellers—also boast National Demonstration School status.


“Every May, I am blessed with news from former students about earned college degrees or acceptance letters. Most are first in their family to attend,” she said. “The smiles of first-time college students or graduates is, by far, my greatest accomplishment.”


Patten and Walker-Peterson are now in the running for Region 10 Teacher of the Year.

Free meals for GISD students throughout summer


Garland ISD | June 12, 2015


School may be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean Garland ISD campuses are shutting their doors. In addition to summer programs, several campuses are also offering free meals to district students. Breakfast and lunch will be served Monday-Thursday until July 30. A list of schools, dates and times can be found below. All students must be accompanied by an adult.


And, GISD doesn’t have the only summer feeding program available for district students. The City of Garland is also offering free meals Monday-Friday until Aug. 7 to children ages 1-18. View a list of serving locations by clicking here.


Neither program requires registration. Children must only show up during designated times and eat their meal on-site. Garland ISD serving locations include:


Austin Academy for Excellence 
(June 9-23)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12:50-1:20 p.m.

Bullock Elementary School 
(June 10-July 7)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12-12:30 p.m.

Cisneros Prekindergarten School 
(June 9-July 7)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12:15-12:45 p.m.

Coyle Middle School 
(June 15-25)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: noon-1 p.m.

Golden Meadows Elementary School 
(June 9-23)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12:45-1:15 p.m.

Handley Elementary School 
(June 9-23)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12:45-1:15 p.m.

Lyles Middle School 
(June 9-23)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12:50-1:20 p.m.

North Garland High School 
(June 10-July 2)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

Northlake Elementary School 
(June 9-23)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12:45-1:15 p.m.

Parsons Prekindergarten School 
(June 9-July 7)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Pathfinder Achievement Center 
(June 22-July 2; July 13-30)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-noon

Shorehaven Elementary School 
(June 9-July 7)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12-12:30 p.m.

South Garland High School 
(June 10-July 2)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12:30-1 p.m.

Southgate Elementary School 
(June 9-July 7)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12-12:30 p.m.

Webb Middle School 
(June 9-23)

  • Breakfast: 8:30-9 a.m.

  • Lunch: 12:45-1:15 p.m.


GISD board of trustees member resigns


Kim Everett | June 11, 2015


Garland ISD board of trustees member Dr. Cindy Castaneda announced her resignation from the board at the June 9 work session. Her resignation is effective Aug. 18.


“It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve as a trustee for this very fine district. I’m going to miss most of all…seeing the kids and having the opportunity to interact with them…That for me has always been what my service on the board has been about, serving the kids, and I hope that I have served you well,” Castaneda said.


The reason cited for her resignation is the need to devote more time to other goals including personal, educational, professional and family.

GISD first-graders receive dental health kits


Posted June 9, 2015


All first graders at Club Hill Elementary and Heather Glenn Elementary in Garland and at Sewell Elementary in Sachse were recently given free prevent tooth decay kits through the Fantastic Teeth Fan Club. Members of Garland Masonic Lodge, led by Robert Beacham, assembled and delivered kits to the schools.


The Fantastic Teeth Fan Club, sponsored by Masonic Home and School of Texas, strives to prevent suffering from toothaches, reduce missed school days due to dental problems, and cut costs for dental treatment.


Prevent tooth decay kits contain:  a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, healthy teeth sticker, two-minute timer (optimal brushing time), Tips for Healthy Teeth educational info for parents in both Spanish and English, and a summary of MHS services.


According to Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease—five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Poor children are affected by this epidemic more frequently than other children, with nearly 12 times more restricted-activity days due to dental issues than children from higher-income families. With more than 1.5 million Texas children living in poverty, there is a great need for preventive dental care.


Dental problems also directly affect success for children, with more than 51 million school hours lost each year to dental-related illness. Teachers have judged both classroom performance and classroom behavior to be significantly poorer among children in need of dental care. Pain and suffering due to untreated dental disease can also lead to problems in eating and speaking.


Masonic Home and School of Texas (MHS) is a non-profit organization with a history of helping children across Texas for more than 100 years. Contact MHS by calling toll-free 1.877.203.9111; sending an email to info@mhstx.org; or by visiting the website, www.mhstx.org


Reyna receives Eco-Educator Award


Garland ISD | June 7, 2015


Responsible for a thriving school garden and orchard, as well as a solar panel station and wind turbine, Schrade Middle School teacher Paul Reyna has gained recognition across Garland ISD for his environmental and conservation efforts. But his future plans are what is attracting attention from the entire North Texas area. WFAA-TV recently named Reyna the sixth-eighth grade Project Green Eco-Educator Award winner.


This contest spotlights teachers using innovative ideas to inspire students to impact their environment. Reyna was nominated for his outdoor learning center, which will soon include a water feature.


“Hands-on experiences make education more impactful,” he said. “They provide real-world connections that stick with students long after their lessons. The pond I hope to incorporate next year will allow students to harvest their own water samples.”


A panel of judges chose Reyna, as well as an elementary and high school recipient, from numerous entries across the metroplex. A viewer’s choice winner was also named. On April 30, WFAA-TV surprised Reyna in his classroom with a plaque and $1,000 check. The station also recognized him on-air May 4.


“It was a complete surprise,” Reyna commented. “There are a lot of people out there doing wonderful things, and I am honored to be one of them.”


Reyna is not the district’s only teacher to hold the Eco-Educator title. Abbett Elementary School’s Terri Tunnell received this honor last year.

NGHS student chosen for 2015 Congress

of Future Science, Technology leaders


Posted June 6, 2015


Rhiannon Roberts, a ninth grader at North Garland High School has been nominated to attend the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders in Boston, Massachusetts June 28-30.


The Congress is an honors-only program for high school students who are passionate about science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The purpose of this event is to honor, inspire, motivate and direct the top students in the country who aspire to be scientists and technologists, to stay true to their dream and, after the event, to provide a path, plan and resources to help them reach their goal.


Rhiannon was invited by American hero and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the science director of the National Academy of Future

Scientists and Technologists, to represent Texas based on her academic achievement, leadership potential and passion for science and technology.


During the three-day Congress, Rhiannon will join students from across the country and hear Nobel Laureates and National

Medal of Science Winners talk about leading scientific research; be given advice from Deans of the world's top tech universities; be inspired by fellow teen science prodigies; and learn about cutting-edge advances and the future of science and technology.


“This is a crucial time in America when we need more nimble-minded and creative scientists and technologists who are even better prepared for a future that is changing exponentially,” said Richard Rossi, executive director, National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists. “Focused, bright and determined students like Rhiannon Roberts are our future and she deserves all the mentoring and guidance we can give her.”


The Academy offers free services and programs to students that have the desire to learn more about their future in science and or technology. Some of the services and programs the academy offers are online social networks through which scientists and technologists can communicate; opportunities for students to be guided and mentored by technology and science leaders; and communications for parents and students on college acceptance and finances, skills acquisition, internships, career guidance and more.


The academy was founded on the belief that science, technology, engineering and mathematics education plays a critical role in enabling the United States to remain the economic and technological leader of the global marketplace of the 21st century and that we must identify prospective talent at the earliest possible age and help these students acquire the necessary experience and skills to take them to the doorstep of vital careers. Based in Washington, DC and with an office in Boston, the academy was chartered as a nonpartisan, taxpaying institution to help address this crisis by working to identify, encourage and mentor students who wish to devote their lives to advances in society as scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

GISD celebrates School Lunch Hero Day


Garland ISD | June 5, 2015


Garland ISD campuses are filled with several heroes, from teachers to students to office staff to custodians. But the Student Nutrition Services (SNS) Department was the focus of district recognition May 1. GISD celebrated School Lunch Hero Day thanking all those who serve thousands of healthy meals every day.


“For many children, school lunch is the most important and nutrient-rich meal of their day,” said SNS Director Brad Trudeau. “Garland ISD serves approximately 13,000 breakfasts and 34,000 lunches daily.”


School Lunch Hero Day, celebrated annually since 2013, was started by the School Nutrition Association and Jarrett Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series. It provides an opportunity for parents, students, staff and community members to recognize the hard work and commitment of nutrition professionals. Between preparing healthy food, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating students’ food allergies, and offering service with a smile, they have a lot on their plate.


GISD marked this year’s occasion by creating cards of appreciation and encouraging SNS staff to dress as their favorite super hero.


Story photo courtesy of Lark Stewart

Congressman Sessions speaks to students in Washington D.C.


Posted June 3, 2015


The students of International Leadership of Texas Charter School District returned from the trip heard round the world this week after an extensive 12-day tour of our nation's history. The students' history and government lessons came to life in this unique opportunity allowed to the eighth graders of this charter school district. The trip spanned the length of two weeks and covered much of New England.


Beginning May 16 the students departed for Memphis, Tennessee to experience the power of the National Civil Rights Museum. The U.S History eighth Grade Road Scholars Trip traveled to see Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, walk the very grounds of Washington’s Mount Vernon and see the beginnings of the first settlers in Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg. The group of 235 students saw the great battlegrounds of Valley Forge and Gettysburg and the very place where the Declaration of Independence was signed.


New GISD trustee sworn in


Kim Everett | June 3, 2015


Garland ISD place 6 board of trustees member Steve Knagg said his goodbyes at the Tuesday, May 26, meeting and Robert Selders, Jr. was sworn in to the vacated seat.


“It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve on this board,” Knagg said.


Other trustees praised Knagg’s efforts as a trustee.


Selders, who has three daughters at Garland ISD, has lived in Rowlett for 16 years. He served as co-chair on the School Health Advisory Council for Garland ISD and in a pre-election interview said that he hears about numerous health related issues that affect students.


“Thinking through the concept of if we had healthier children, we know healthier and more active children will fare better in class or have the opportunity to fare better. It also helps develop their minds and cognitive skills. Then if they have a really great educational experience and they feel it has been enriched, I think that provides a great opportunity for them to have many options beyond high school,” Selders said. “They can go to college and come back to Garland and start businesses, be a part of manufacturing organizations here or work in corporations, and ultimately be better contributors to the community and local economy.”


Selders, who is the owner of 3Q Fitness CrossFit Garland, holds several degrees and has been involved in numerous community organizations and activities.


Rick Lambert, returning board of trustees member, was sworn in as well.


Board of trustees officers were also elected at the May 26 meeting.


Larry Glick will serve as president. Scott Luna will be vice president. Linda Griffin will act as secretary with Rick Lambert as assistant secretary.



Schrade MS teacher wins Badough-Metts Scholarship


Garland ISD | May 31, 2015


Schrade Middle School teacher Lauren Craft received a pleasant surprise during a staff meeting in April. The sixth-grade social studies teacher was awarded the Michelle Badough-Metts Memorial Scholarship, a gift that will help her pursue a master’s degree in library science.


“I was so thankful and honored when I learned that I was this year’s recipient,” Craft said. “I felt energized by the award, as well. I am inspired to make sure I represent the purpose of the scholarship well in my future role as a school librarian.”


Sponsored by the Garland ISD Education Foundation, the Badough-Metts Scholarship awards $500 to one district teacher or librarian who is working on a library certification or degree. Inspired by her mentor and mother—both GISD librarians—Craft was one of six hopeful applicants this year.


“I applied for the scholarship because my mentor, Schrade Middle School librarian Pam Drummond, and my mother, Williams Elementary School librarian Jan Craft, suggested I do so,” she explained. “I was excited to learn that there was a scholarship specifically geared toward teachers pursuing their master’s in library science.”


After reviewing all six applications, a committee of three district librarians determined Craft best exemplified excellence in librarianship or library training. Named the 2014-15 honoree, Craft believes this distinction motivates betterment in her field.


“I feel like these scholarships are a way for GISD to show support for teachers who are actively pursuing their career goals,” she commented. “I think it is important for the GISD Education Foundation to continue to sponsor this type of scholarship, which promotes the continued professional growth of teachers.”


To learn more about the Badough-Metts Scholarship, or other professional scholarships, visit the Education Foundation’s website.  

Bullock students learn important safety lesson


Garland ISD | Posted May 31, 2015


What is the most important part of the body? Ask a Bullock Elementary School student and they might say their brain. The campus recently received a visit from the Pilot Club of Dallas, who taught students to be Brainminders by using seat belts in the car, wearing helmets while riding a bike and staying away from guns.


“A safety helmet is something that will preserve your brain and eliminate brain injury, which is the focus of Pilot International,” said Lori Rosso, president-elect of the Pilot Club of Dallas.


The Pilot Club travels to schools around the area giving free safety lessons via a puppet show. In addition to the performance, members also gift all attendees a brand new bike helmet. At Bullock, School Resource Officer Rene Granado helped reinforce the Pilot Club’s message by ending the special assembly with a demonstration of how to properly wear a helmet like he does while riding his motorcycle.

Senior Summit Luncheon honors top 2015 graduates


Garland ISD | May 29, 2015


Honoring the district’s top graduates, Garland ISD held its annual Senior Summit Luncheon May 19. The top 10 from each high school, as well as two top seniors from Memorial Pathway Academy, were invited to celebrate with their families and a teacher who most influenced their educational career. Superintendent Bob Morrison kicked off the soiree by commending students for their dedication to academic success.


“Leading the Class of 2015 not only reflects on your hard work this year, but every day since you started school,” he said. “We take pride in your accomplishments and look forward to seeing your continued success in the future. It is our pleasure to recognize you and those who helped get you here today—your parents and honored guests.”


Following Morrison’s remarks, Board of Trustees President Rick Lambert congratulated the seniors and spoke about GISD’s commitment to providing exceptional education, which can be seen through the bond program’s focus on new technology and school renovations. A video also featured the graduates explaining their plans for the future and the impact of their influential teacher. Linda Chance, deputy superintendent of instruction, closed the ceremony by challenging students to achieve their dreams.


GISD graduations will be held June 4-6 at the Curtis Culwell Center.


Two district campuses awarded second, third Blue Ribbon designations


Garland ISD | May 29, 2015


Two Garland ISD elementaries recently became repeat National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence title recipients.  Routh Roach Elementary School and Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence received 2014 Blue Ribbon awards, making them two and three-time honorees. As two of just 28 Texas schools to earn the esteemed designation, both campuses were recognized during special ceremonies earlier this spring.


“A Blue Ribbon school exemplifies excellence at every level,” said Superintendent Bob Morrison during Roach’s celebration. “This is an unbelievable accomplishment. On behalf of the school board and district, thank you for your tireless efforts. I appreciate you very much.”


In addition to visits from district leaders, every campus staff member received an official 2014 National Blue Ribbon School pin, a T-shirt, cookies and punch during the congratulatory affairs.


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. Roach secured its first Blue Ribbon in 2006-07, while Walnut Glen obtained their honors in 1996-97 and 2007-08. The road to becoming multiple-time honorees is not an easy one, but Roach and Walnut Glen have a strength in common—hardworking, longtime staff.


“This is such a great honor. The teachers who have been at Walnut Glen for all three awards are pillars in our building,” said Principal Alex Rivera. “I have learned so much from them and want to continue to do so.”


Five Walnut Glen educators have seen and received all three recognitions. Art teacher Kathleen Hodges is one of them.


“Walnut Glen Academy is a special place. We all feel very fortunate to work here, regardless of the repeated Blue Ribbon designations,” Hodges expressed. “While it is always nice to be recognized for our efforts, working with a supportive team of creative educators is what makes WGA extraordinary for me.”


And it is teachers like Hodges who help schools go above and beyond for students, resulting in national recognition and a source of pride for GISD and the community alike.


GISD celebrates retirees


Garland ISD | May 29, 2015


Nearly 100 dedicated Garland ISD employees were honored at the annual Retirement Banquet April 30 at the Curtis Culwell Center. Celebrating 4,677 years of service to education, colleagues and family members joined retirees and enjoyed a two-hour farewell filled with food, fun and musical entertainment.


The dedicatory affair kicked off with dinner followed by a presentation from Garland Retired School Personnel President Nelda Landrum. Each honoree then received a framed certificate and words of appreciation from Superintendent Bob Morrison and board of trustees members. Employees who devoted 30 or more years to GISD also received a commemorative crystal clock.


The North Garland High School Pandemonium Steel Band brought the event to a lively close, performing familiar songs in the style of calypso. The tropical, upbeat tunes were not only impressive, but they signified a heartfelt, happy sendoff as well.


Retirees who celebrated at the banquet include:

  • Audra Antwine – 19 years

  • Deborah Baker – 26 years

  • James Baldwin – 12 years

  • Carolyn Bednar – 21 years

  • Alaina Bell – 20 years

  • Kathryn Camille Coleman Berry – 19 years

  • Janice Borland – 36 years

  • Patricia Boswell – 22 years

  • Ricky Brandenburg – 37 years

  • Jolynn Briggs – 28 years

  • Sheila Campbell – 32 years

  • Penny Campbell – 36 years

  • Robert Clare – 22 years

  • William Cummings – 31 years

  • Cynthia Dabney – 17 years

  • Linda DeWitt – 21 years

  • Dora Diaz – 20 years

  • Martha Dildy – 19 years

  • Betty Dixon – 21 years

  • Kyle Dvorak – 27 years

  • Mary Eickman – 19 years

  • John Ellzey – 15 years

  • Suzanne Ferguson – 29 years

  • Deborah Fetzer – 38 years

  • Peggy Fitch – 15 years

  • Nancy Gray – 17 years

  • Dana Greer – 23 years

  • Becky Griffin – 16 years

  • LouAnn Hainline – 19 years

  • Olive Haney – 25 years

  • Alan Hardy – 13 years

  • Christine Hart – 21 years

  • Karen Helms – 24 years

  • Judy Hester – 13 years

  • Brenda Hill – 16 years

  • Liam Hollingsworth – 16 years

  • Adelita Jones – 25 years

  • Mark Keene – 9 years

  • Judy Kocman – 26 years

  • Cathy Lachance – 11 years

  • Melba Lewis – 12 years

  • Brenda Mabry – 35 years

  • Mary Malcolm – 19 years

  • Candace McComb – 24 years

  • Joanna McGuigan – 27 years

  • Andrew McWhorter – 11 years

  • Billy Merriman – 5 years

  • Gloria Meyer – 20 years

  • Eileen Mocarsky – 20 years

  • Vijay Mohindru – 30 years

  • Beth Moore – 27 years

  • Sheri Mosser – 26 years

  • Deborah Murray – 21 years

  • Terrie Nolan – 24 years

  • Peggy O’Leary – 37 years

  • Maria Ojeda – 28 years

  • Eileen Parvin – 29 years

  • Tony Pribble – 35 years

  • Julio Puentes – 35 years

  • Beverly Purdom – 34 years

  • Beverly Raglin – 16 years

  • Connie Reeve – 21 years

  • Carolyn Rephan – 16 years

  • Diana Reynolds – 13 years

  • Cynthia Reza – 8 years

  • Joy Roseberry – 15 years

  • Clyde Schilling – 27 years

  • Lisa Schroeder – 26 years

  • Marjory Scott – 27 years

  • Carolyn Seybert – 21 years

  • John Simmons – 6 years

  • Delaina Sims – 22 years

  • Alan Smith – 23 years

  • Susan Steele – 14 years

  • Karen Sturm – 23 years

  • Connie Tallant – 38 years

  • Karen Turner – 40 years

  • Janice Venuso – 16 years

  • Linda Vrecenar – 7 years

  • Brenda Waugh – 23 years

  • Cindy Weldon – 17 years

  • Bill Wiley – 38 years

  • Debra Wiley – 29 years

  • Daniel Wilkins – 38 years

  • Marilyn Williams – 19 years

  • Wanda Wilson – 30 years

  • Gail Womack – 24 years

  • David Wood – 21 years

  • Linda Yates – 18 years

  • Teena Zihlman – 39 years


GISD offers opportunities for summer learning


Garland ISD | May 27, 2015


The final school bell of 2014-15 will soon ring, but that does not mean Garland ISD campuses will be closing their doors. In addition to traditional summer school, several will also offer various camps and enrichment programs. Find a list below, along with registration deadlines.


·         Athletic camps – Offered by district coaches in multiple sports. Registration deadlines vary.

·         Camp GISD – A day camp for elementary students that will engage participants through science, art, music, theatre, crafts, literature, math and touring Dallas landmarks through field trips. Registration ends May 30.

·         Destination 2016 – An enrichment program for juniors that will assist with college selection, essay writing, scholarship applications and more. Registration ends June 9.

·         GISD Navigators – An enrichment program for middle schoolers that will explore possible career paths through hands-on activities. Registration ends May 30.

·         Path College and Career SAT/ACT – An enrichment program for high schoolers to prepare for college entrance exams. Registration ends June 9.

·         Robotics camp – A day camp for eighth-graders to design, build and participate in a robotics tractor pull. Registration ends May 29.

·         Youth Digital Summer Camps – A day camp where students aged 8-14 will learn to code, design, illustrate, animate, program and develop products using 21st-century tools. Registration ends June 8 and 15.

GISD students earn Book Bytes awards


Garland ISD | May 23, 2015


The Garland ISD Book Bytes contest celebrates literature through fun and innovation, challenging students to convert their favorite books into digital promos. Now in its third year, the competition was as fierce as ever, garnering numerous impressive submissions. During National Library Week April 12-18, seven district students were named Book Bytes winners, bringing the two-month-long battle to a close. 

First and second-place victors were announced for elementary, middle and high school categories. Armstrong Elementary School third-graders McKenna Divelbiss and Victoria Jaramillo were among the top honorees.


“This is such a huge accomplishment. I was super excited when I found out that Victoria and McKenna had won first place,” said Armstrong Librarian Linda Gonzales. “The drive that these students displayed in wanting to participate was enthusiastic. They were determined to create an intriguing trailer that would spark other students’ interests in reading the book. Their creativity, diligence and hard work paid off. All of us at Armstrong are so proud of them.”


Memorial Pathway Academy freshman Carlos Leon also snagged a title, which resulted in a second-consecutive win for the Jaguars community.


“I felt delighted that we had a first-place winner. Last year we had a second-place winner, so two winners in a row is great,” said Memorial Librarian Rebecca Foster. “I believe it is important to participate in Book Bytes because students learn technology, show their creative abilities and find out how to do citations. It is a wonderful learning experience, especially for Newcomers like Carlos.”


And supporting a stimulating scholastic experience is something all educators appreciate.


“I am thankful that GISD offers projects that inspire creativity for our students,” Gonzales stated.


Winners of the 2015 Book Bytes contest include:


Elementary School

First place – Spiderwick Chronicles by McKenna Divelbiss and Victoria Jaramillo, Armstrong Elementary School


Second place – Treasure Island by Ethan Penney, Kimberlin Academy for Excellence


Middle School

First place – Found by Elizabeth Kabuin, Austin Academy for Excellence


Second place – Rot and Ruin by Caitlyn Roseberry, Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School


High School

First place – Fight by Carlos Leon, Memorial Pathway Academy


Second place – Clockwork Angel by Yadira Albarado, North Garland High School


Story photos courtesy of Linda Gonzales and Rebecca Foster



GHS teacher receives national coaching award


Garland ISD | May 22, 2015


After leading Garland High School’s orating team to excellence for nine years, it comes as no surprise that speech and debate coach Lory Stewart is receiving national acclaim. The highly praised teacher and mentor received the National Speech & Debate Association’s Diamond Award, making Stewart a two-time honoree.


“A Diamond Award recognizes a professional career that combines excellence and longevity,” states a written press release. “The Association provides diamond awards based on coach points received. Coaches receive one-tenth the points earned by their students.”


After a minimum of five years as an Association member, a coach who attains 1,500 points is awarded their first Diamond Award. Additional Diamonds are awarded to coaches who double their points every five years. Stewart racked up 4,509 points in March, granting her a second Diamond Award.


“It is very exciting and meaningful to earn my second Diamond because this is a direct result of my student’s success,” Stewart commented. “According to the Association, Garland High School ranks in the top three and a half percent in the nation.”


With such an impressive standing, the team's list of victories is no surprise. This year alone, GHS became home to a Texas Forensic Association state champion, two UIL state qualifiers and the first-ever National Speech & Debate Association national qualifier.


“My hopes for the next five years include continuing to have more state and national qualifiers,” Stewart explained. “Next year, we have our largest team ever, with 52 competitors in varsity. It is a very exciting time for Garland High School speech and debate. We are very fortunate to have the support of Principal Atticus Wisener, Fine Arts Director George Jones and GISD administration.”

GISD honors Campus Teachers of the Year


Garland ISD | May 22, 2015


A night of fun and fellowship kicked off Garland ISD’s celebration of 2014-15 Campus Teachers of the Year April 13. This group was recognized at Globe Life Park in Arlington as the Texas Rangers took on the Los Angeles Angels.


Every year, each school chooses one outstanding educator to receive its coveted title. The district then awards all honorees two tickets to GISD Night at the ballpark–a special game not only offering a video board spotlight, but a portion of ticket sale proceeds as well. Benefitting the district’s Education Foundation, these funds provide grants to teachers like the ones in attendance. This year’s event featured North Garland High School’s trumpet section performing The Star Spangled Banner, as well as the Foundation’s first pitch auction winner Ricky Endres helping to get the game started.


GISD will now continue its celebration of Campus Teachers of the Year through school marquees, newsletters, websites and gifts. A complete list of 2014-15 honorees is below.


·         Abbett Elementary School - Brittnee Edmonds

·         Alternative Education Center - Dolores Echevarria

·         Armstrong Elementary School - Deborah Cunningham

·         Austin Academy for Excellence - Tia Thompson

·         Back Elementary School - Maria Rada Pena

·         Beaver Technology Center for Math and Science - Christina Estefano

·         Bradfield Elementary School - Patrick Fontenette

·         Bullock Elementary School - Beverly Sweeney

·         Bussey Middle School - Kelly Wells

·         Caldwell Elementary School - Leilany Maldonado

·         Carver Elementary School - Jessica Allen

·         Centerville Elementary School - Arelis Otero

·         Cisneros Prekindergarten School - Teresa Deguzman

·         Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School - Heather Cox

·         Classical Center at Vial Elementary School - Anna Sims

·         Club Hill Elementary School - Julie Drummond

·         Cooper Elementary School - Lyndsey Alecusan

·         Couch Elementary School - Carrie Gooch

·         Coyle Middle School - Patricia Rymer

·         Daugherty Elementary School - Alera Budd

·         Davis Elementary School - Melanie Love

·         Dorsey Elementary School - Eileen Parvin

·         Ethridge Elementary School - Liz Narramore

·         Freeman Elementary School - Kristina Pena

·         Garland High School - Aldo Guzman

·         Golden Meadows Elementary School -Ana Serrano

·         Handley Elementary School - Rachael Gillam

·         Heather Glen Elementary School - Jennifer Hood

·         Herfurth Elementary School - Adriana Martinez

·         Hickman Elementary School - Sonny Suarez

·         Hillside Academy for Excellence - Tamara Bates

·         Hudson Middle School - Angela Wrinkle

·         Jackson Technology Center for Math and Science - Roy Enriquez

·         Keeley Elementary School - Cinda Foster

·         Kimberlin Academy for Excellence -Samantha Patten

·         Lakeview Centennial High School - Angela Light

·         Liberty Grove Elementary School - Melanie Farrell

·         Lister Elementary School - Leigh Holloway

·         Luna Elementary School - Pamela vonMinden

·         Lyles Middle School - Shelley Bloomer

·         Memorial Pathway Academy - Theresa Crooks

·         Montclair Elementary School - Beverly Purdom

·         Naaman Forest High School - Jeanette Watts

·         North Garland High School - Audrey Smallwood

·         Northlake Elementary School - Ashley Huckabee

·         O'Banion Middle School - Melody Meek

·         Park Crest Elementary School - Jeff Balderson

·         Parsons Prekindergarten School - Toni Domingcil

·         Pathfinder Achievement Center - Barbara Townley-Cochran

·         Pearson Elementary School - Wendy Blasingame

·         Roach Elementary School - Teresa Fontenette

·         Rowlett Elementary School - Adriana Ordonez

·         Rowlett High School - Jason Odom

·         Sachse High School - Byron Stamps

·         Sam Houston Middle School - Cassandra Chapa

·         Schrade Middle School - Julie Scott Daun

·         Sellers Middle School - Marie Walker Peterson

·         Sewell Elementary School - Norma Martinez

·         Shorehaven Elementary School - Sara Erickson

·         Shugart Elementary School - Sherry Knickerbocker

·         South Garland High School - Breegan Gholson

·         Southgate Elementary School - Alex Marquez

·         Spring Creek Elementary School - Lori Friend

·         Steadham Elementary School - Cyndi Ortiz

·         Stephens Elementary School - Gena Corley

·         Toler Elementary School - Richard Jones

·         Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence -Fernando Loaiza

·         Watson Technology Center for Math and Science - Delma Defoor

·         Weaver Elementary School - Kimberly Bounds

·         Webb Middle School - Samantha Burt

·         Williams Elementary School - Jairo Vertel


GISD honors longtime administrator


Garland ISD | May 22, 2015


Looking around the district, it is not difficult to see the impact of 40-year Garland ISD administrator Marvin Roden. He not only initiated computer services in GISD, but also oversaw production of the district’s first custom-built student information system and can be credited with the collection of several school sites. GISD honored this legacy by renaming a facility in his honor. The Dr. Marvin D. Roden Technology Center was dedicated May 9.


Born Jan. 19, 1943, in Red River County, Texas, Roden graduated from Avery High School in 1961. He then attended Paris Junior College and East Texas State University, earning an Associate Degree in 1963, Bachelor of Science in 1965, Master of Education in 1967, and Doctorate of Education in 1992.


Roden’s professional career began in 1965 at Ennis ISD, where he served as a math teacher, counselor and the Director of Adult Basic Education until 1970. He then joined the Region 10 Education Service Center as the Director of Interface Services. His 40-year tenure with the district began in 1974. Roden’s first position in GISD was Director of Pupil Personnel Services. In 1979, he was named Assistant Superintendent for General Administration, a title he held until his first retirement in 2000. After retirement, Roden returned to the district in a part-time capacity, working as the Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent and District Demographer until December 2014, when he ended his longtime career in education.

Three GISD campuses among America’s Most Challenging High Schools


Garland ISD | May 22, 2015


Showcasing Garland ISD’s academic rigor on a national scale, three district campuses snagged spots on this year’s Most Challenging list. Garland, North Garland and Rowlett high schools are among just 177 Texas campuses recently recognized byThe Washington Post for scholastic efforts.


“It is a great honor to have nearly half of Garland ISD's high schools ranked among America’s most challenging. Earning recognition at the national level is a direct result of the dedicated and hardworking students and staff at each campus,” said Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Jovan Wells. “We congratulate Garland, North Garland and Rowlett for this outstanding accomplishment, and thank them for encouraging students to excel.”


The title of America’s Most Challenging High School belongs to just 11 percent of approximately 22,000 U.S. public campuses. This annual list ranks high schools across the country by a Challenge Index, which considers the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Advanced International Certificate of Education tests given at a campus, as well as the number of students who graduated.


Garland and North Garland both earned their second honor this year. GHS first landed on the list in 2011, while NGHS made its debut last year. And with Rowlett now being added, GISD was able to increase its number of titleholders by one.


“This ranking is yet another source of pride for the district and GHS, its teachers and students,” said Principal Atticus Wisener. “It shows how hard we have worked to open up the curriculum to all of our students.”


To view this year’s list of America’s Most Challenging High Schools, visit The Washington Post website.


Jackson Technology Center:  A school that gives


Kim Everett | May 20, 2015


Students at Jackson Technology Center recently organized a fundraiser, the Let’s Beat Cancer Dance, to benefit the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Camp Esperanza, a camp for kids with cancer.


They chose the National Breast Cancer Foundation in honor of Jami Maxey, a counselor at the school who had recently battled breast cancer and the mother of seventh-grader, Rachael, who lost her life to the disease a few years ago. They chose the camp in honor of eighth-grader Kelsie who battled cancer and attended the camp two years ago.


Kelsie benefitted from Camp Esperanza and was glad to be helping raise money for the organization.


“At the time when I had cancer, I didn’t have anyone to talk to who knew how I felt,” Kelsie said. “When I went to the camp, I found people I could relate to and talk about it with.”


Rachael’s late mother is the inspiration behind her desire to give back and help others.


“When she was suffering through cancer, all she could talk about was giving to everyone else and I think she’s the main reason I do all this,” Rachael said. “Even when she was suffering she made everyone smile even when she was having a bad day.”


Rachael shared a quote that everyone would do well to live by: 


“This is only a chapter in the book. All you have to do is turn the page. Don’t close the book.” source unknown


Teacher Miguel Carzola pitched the idea of the fundraiser to some of his students and they took it and ran with it.


“It just snowballed,” he said. “I tried to get out of the kids’ way and let them do this.”


In six weeks, they had planned a dance, collected prizes for a raffle, gathered concessions to sell and arranged for the PTA to provide pizza. Everything was donated so that all the money raised could go to the charities.


Principal David Dunphy said that he and the staff want the students to learn the importance of giving back.


“One of the things we try to teach them is that it’s not just about math and reading and writing,” he said. “It’s also about giving back to your community and helping others. We hope we are teaching them a life lesson.”


He added that the students are wonderful and caring and compassionate.


“This is one of the many things they’ve done this year,” he said. “They’ve also had a canned food drive and a shoe drive and collected for March of Dimes. This is a school that gives.”


Additionally, the students raised $1,260 last year for a student that was diagnosed with bone cancer. 


Dunphy praised the school’s staff and said that he feels blessed to be the principal at Jackson.


District’s martial arts program wins big at competition


Garland ISD | May 15, 2015


Since 2009, Garland ISD’s after-school Martial Arts Knights Order (MAKO) program has provided a free, beneficial resource for students, parents and other community members. Participants not only get to experience the ancient practice of martial arts, but also receive the chance to compete in local tournaments. Six MAKO students recently took that opportunity by storm, winning eight medals and four trophies—including the coveted All School Trophy—at the MAKO Bellatores Veri Tournament in April.


“This is a tournament I plan for my students to attend to give them some very good competition experience,” said GISD network engineer and master instructor Rusty Truelock. “Finding out we won the first-place All School Trophy was overwhelming. It shows we are doing great things and our students are performing at a higher level. I am so very proud of my students. Their hard work and determination paid off.”


Truelock formed his winning team from participants who train at Freeman Elementary School—the program’s initial practice facility. After the win, the gleaming group presented the All School Trophy to Freeman Principal Kelly Garcia, thanking her for offering her campus to MAKO twice a week.


“I felt that the first-place trophy belongs to Freeman, its students, staff, families and community,” Truelock explained. “There is no better way to show our appreciation for their support than presenting a meaningful award to the school and having it displayed for everyone to enjoy.”


“It was an honor to be presented with the trophy,” Garcia added. “Supporting a program like MAKO not only gives students the ability to work on team collaboration, but it also teaches them life skills.”


After all, helping GISD’s youth learn valuable skills is what the program is all about.


“My goal is for my students to learn dignity, honesty, integrity, self-respect, courtesy, perseverance and self-control. These are all values that they will need throughout their lives,” Truelock stated. “If I can impart these ideals and values to them, then I have done my job and made a difference.”


MAKO is open to anyone in the GISD community and is currently offered at three district campuses: Abbett and Freeman elementary schools as well as Sachse High School. For more information on the program, visit the organization’s website.


Tournament honorees included:


·         Cecilia Malagon - two gold medals and first-place ladies trophy

·         Daniel Malagon -  gold medal

·         Jared Prater - gold medal and second-place boys trophy 

·         Josh Prater - silver medal 

·         Keely Herrera - silver medal and special perfect attendance trophy 

·         Myndy Prater - two silver medals and second-place ladies trophy


New college, career planning resource available to students


Garland ISD | May 15, 2015


Garland ISD is proud to announce its new partnership with college and career readiness solution, Naviance Family Connection. Focused on student success, this comprehensive resource will help middle and high schoolers better prepare for higher education and the workforce.


“We are excited to introduce Naviance Family Connection,” said Director of Guidance and Counseling Ruby Armstrong. “Students will be able to conduct college, career and scholarship searches, and even build a resume with this tool. It is a great one-stop, future-planning shop the whole family can enjoy.”

Designed to connect learning and life, Naviance’s various features help students learn about their strengths and interests, possible professions and top university choices. Parents, teachers and school counselors can collaborate with students to help them create a four-year plan, manage the college application process, and make informed decisions regarding career paths.


Because Naviance is a web-based program, students can access it from home or school on a computer or personal device. Every secondary student is encouraged to log into this beneficial system and begin developing their post-secondary goals.  

To learn how to log in, contact your campus’ counselor. For more information regarding Naviance, visit the Guidance and Counseling website.

Beaver Technology Center students

learn about potential careers


Kim Everett | May 13, 2015


As part of its College and Career Readiness Program, Garland ISD’s Beaver Technology Center offers students a chance to study specific subjects as electives. I recently had the privilege of visiting with a group of students who want to learn more about writing.


For eight consecutive weeks on Friday mornings, students attend a class where they study the elective they have chosen. Available subjects include basic engineering, computer science, science studies, multimedia, and interdisciplinary studies. These classes are a great way for young students to discover which subjects they find most interesting.


The journalism class is filled with bright, enthusiastic students who have already learned about many important aspects of writing and are covering events at the school and reporting them in an online newspaper.


Robert Selders elected Place 6 GISD board trustee


Kim Everett | May 11, 2015


Robert Selders, Jr. was elected to Place 6 on the Garland ISD board of trustees in the Saturday, May 9 election. Selders received 1,418 votes while his opponent Dwight Davis got 1,359.


Selders has three daughters in GISD and has lived in Rowlett for 16 years. He is a fitness professional and gym owner.


In an earlier interview Selders said that open communication critical. He added that he is a team player but is also not afraid to go against the status quo.

National Merit® $2500 scholarship winners


Posted May 8, 2015


Today, National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced this year’s National Merit $2500 scholarship winners. The 2,500 designees were chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 outstanding finalists in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program. National Merit $2500 Scholarship winners are the finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The number of winners named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the nation’s graduating high school seniors.


Lexie Marilyn Ford, Garland High School student, was one of this year’s winners.


These scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who appraised a substantial amount of information submitted by both the finalists and their high schools: the academic record, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from two standardized tests; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official.


NMSC finances most of these single-payment National Merit $2500 Scholarships. Corporations and company foundations that sponsor awards through NMSC also help underwrite these scholarships with grants they provide in lieu of paying administrative fees. Scholars may use their awards at any regionally accredited U.S. college or university.


This year’s competition for National Merit Scholarships began in October 2013 when over 1.4 million juniors in some 22,000 high schools took the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than one percent of the nation’s high school seniors, were named semifinalists on a state-representational basis. Only these 16,000 semifinalists had an opportunity to continue in the competition. From the semifinalist group, 15,000 students met the very high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. By the conclusion of the 2015 program, about 7,600 finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received a total of about $34 million in college scholarships.


Lt. Governor welcomes charter students


Posted May 8, 2015


The Lt. Gov of Texas welcomed Superintendent Eddie Conger and the students of the International Leadership of Texas Charter School District last week in front of the iconic Capitol of Texas. The 7th grade students are on a week-long tour of Texas. Monday, the students began their long journey with a stop at the Capitol to walk throughout the building as well as meet with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Garland State Senator Don Huffines, Garland State Representative Angie Chen Button, Keller State Senator Kelly Hancock, Keller/Ft. Worth State Representative Matt Krause, Arlington State Senator Konni Burton, and Arlington State Representative Tony Tinderholt.


Lt. Gov Dan Patrick has made tackling the failing public school system problem one of his top priorities and shows his support of parent's choice of schools. Education reform has been under debate for quite some time and one of the largest parts is the parents' right to school choice. Dan Patrick has supported education legislation intended to combat nationwide standardization of curriculum.


"Giving our children the flexibility of attending a better school, for their future, is about giving them opportunity.”  -Lt. Governor Dan Patrick


Leaving from several schools in the Dallas area at 5:00 am on Monday morning, the charter school district's 7th grade class, some 260 students, departed on a whirlwind adventure featuring the most influential and historically treasured sites throughout the Lone Star State.  The stops along the tour include the Capitol, the Alamo in San Antonio, the U.S.S. Lexington and State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, and NASA in Houston. When asked about their experience, the students remarked that they are seeing Texas like they have never before. The students' History and Government lessons come to life in this unique opportunity given to ILTexas students. Next week the leadership of ILTexas will be taking 8th graders on a similar two-week long tour of the East coast to reinforce their education of American History.

GISD hosts regional VASE, showcases state-bound talent


Garland ISD | May 8, 2015


Due to its abundance of creative students, Garland ISD was selected to host the Texas Art Education Association’s Region 10 east Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE) March 7 at Garland High School. The regional affair proved to be successful, showcasing GISD’s hardworking staff and talented students.


“Many collective hours were spent organizing and planning this event,” said GHS teacher Jessica Thompson. “All art teachers, from kindergarten through 12th grade, volunteered to work that day. The outstanding team effort and positive attitudes resulted in a very cool, calm and collected atmosphere, which made all other visiting districts, students and teachers feel truly welcomed.”


The impressive event featured college and student-led workshops, fun activities in the waiting area, food trucks, greeters and guest welcome rooms. In addition, certified jurors interviewed all participants and evaluated their work based on a four-level standard rating. Originality of concept, technical expertise, understanding of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for visual art, and the interpretation of the student’s stated intent were all considered during judging.


The 2014-15 competition included 1,532 entries, including 652 district-submitted pieces. Just 89 submissions were chosen to go to state, with nearly half of those qualifiers hailing from GISD.


“We have 42 students advancing to state,” Thompson revealed. “The best thing about state VASE is that the kids just get to enjoy it, as there are no more interviews or paperwork to be completed. VASE is all about seeing what is out there, getting feedback from judges, becoming inspired to work harder and creating more art. VASE gives students an outside, unbiased opinion that can really propel them to a higher level with their art. It is such a valuable experience.”


For more information about VASE, visit the competition’s website.


Photo courtesy of Jessica Thompson


RHS Student Council partners with fellow campuses, community


Garland ISD | May 8, 2015


Four Garland ISD campuses recently joined forces to help homeless youth. Students and staff from Coyle Middle School, Keeley and Rowlett elementary schools, and Rowlett High School collected more than 1,000 pairs of jeans for the national Teens for Jeans campaign. Spearheaded by Rowlett High School's Student Council, the altruistic act proved to be a heartwarming success.


“More than one million young people experience homelessness in the United States every year, and one of the most requested items by that group is a pair of jeans,” said Student Council President Hunter Wright in a press release. “Teens for Jeans encourages young people across the country to run a jean drive in their school or community to help provide clothing for homeless youth.”


All four campuses, along with some local businesses, conducted individual drives earlier this spring. RHS encouraged their students and staff to give to the cause by offering casual dress days.


“Students were given opportunities to wear hats or pajamas to school in exchange for jeans donations,” Wright explained. “Michelle Bounds, RHS principal, also allowed staff members to wear jeans for one week in exchange for their donations.”


A friendly prank devised by RHS staff motivated contributions, as well.


“What began as a practical joke to fill Mrs. Bounds’ office with jeans turned into a philanthropic project, resulting in a total of 1,025 pairs of jeans collected for homeless teenagers,” Wright commented.


And as a result of their dedicated efforts, RHS won fifth-place in a regional Teens for Jeans competition. But winning recognition was not all the students gained from this experience.


“I hope my students learned that it is possible to make a difference in the lives of their peers who are less fortunate,” said RHS history teacher and Student Council advisor J.R. Hughes. “Beyond that, I hope my Student Council leaders gained some insight about setting a goal and putting together a stragetic plan—partnering with other schools and the community and coming up with motivating incentives to make that goal a reality.”


Photo courtesy of J.R. Hughes

District jazz bands shine at local competition


Garland ISD | May 8, 2015


Showcasing talent and charisma, five Garland ISD jazz bands wowed audiences during the 38th-annual Texas Christian University Jazz Festival March 20-21. Groups from Naaman Forest and Rowlett high schools, as well as Austin Academy for Excellence, won high honors at the music competition for their excellent performances.


“Congratulations to Austin Academy, Rowlett and Naaman Forest for earning top ratings in addition to trophies in their classifications,” said Director of Fine Arts George Jones. “We are proud of these outstanding students and their wonderful teachers.”


After showcasing their skills, Austin Academy Jazz One and Rowlett Jazz Two snagged first-place in their respective divisions. Rowlett Jazz One and Naaman Forest Jazz Orchestra also performed well, winning second and third place in their categories. And, Austin Academy Jazz Two received high marks for their act, as well.


Individual students were also recognized for their abilities. The following 20 performers were acknowledged for outstanding musicianship.


  • Aaron Goins, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Alexander Lovrine, Naaman Forest Jazz Orchestra

  • Annie Hilbun, Austin Academy Jazz Two

  • Braden Jones, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Brennan Youngblood, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Camden Gonzales, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Chi-Thien Nguyen, Naaman Forest Jazz Orchestra

  • David Galvez, Austin Academy Jazz Two

  • Dylan Mansfield, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Jack Hardy, Rowlett Jazz Two

  • Jason Hoang, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Keaton McGill, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Natalie Trejo, Naaman Forest Jazz Orchestra

  • Patrick Hill, Rowlett Jazz One and Two

  • Rachel Guenther, Naaman Forest Jazz Orchestra

  • Rileigh McCullough, Austin Academy Jazz Two

  • Sabian Carthen, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Sierra Cougot, Austin Academy Jazz Two

  • Tanner Sanderson, Austin Academy Jazz One

  • Zack Renning, Austin Academy Jazz Two


Photo courtesy of George Jones


STEAM education buzzing in GISD


Garland ISD | May 6, 2015


Committed to 21st-century education, Garland ISD launched a science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) initiative last fall. Cultivating this rigorous culture, STEAM-fueled activities, challenges and events have been occurring across the district all year.


At Kimberlin Academy for Excellence, students started practicing a skill they would not typically encounter until high school. Fifth-grade bilingual teacher Bonnie Martinez introduced her class to coding.


“I think it is great how she is integrating innovation with her kids,” said GISD Elementary Technology Integration Facilitator Brian Dean.  


Coding, or the process of creating programming language that runs everything from software to mobile apps, is essential to computer science. And, with the current nationwide need for engineers and scientists, teaching coding at the elementary level might arm students with skills for a successful future.


Southgate Elementary School is also focusing on the careers of tomorrow. The campus recently hosted an interactive hallway exhibit, inviting every student to learn more about college and STEM.


“The exhibit defined what STEM is and what the jobs of the 21st-century look like. We are trying to help these kids see the future through words of excitement and things they will remember,” said Counselor Virginia Schafroth. “We know that college is important for our kids and that the more information they get at a young age, the more excited they are about going to college.”


Southgate's eight-station exhibit featured critical thinking activities, goal-oriented endeavors and technology-driven items. From February-March, students in every class were given 3-7 minutes to visit each station in groups of four or five.


“It was about your college, career and education,” said fourth-grader Yvette Rosales. “The further you go [in school], the better you get and the more you will learn. It was really fun because you get to do teamwork and learn at the same time.”


Some of Rosales’ older peers were also able to work in teams and expand their knowledge at a STEM event outside of GISD. Students from Jackson Technology Center for Math & Science participated in Southern Methodist University’s Visioneering 2015 in February, earning high honors in the competition.


“Morris Goldade asked our seventh and eighth-grade students–who wanted to learn more about engineering–if they were interested in participating,” said Jackson Campus Technology Assistant Linda Marzolf. “A team was formed, and the adventure began as they started to work on communication skills and learn from each other in preparation for the event.”


Visioneering invites students from the region to solve a real-world problem using engineering concepts.


“The students were tasked with bringing water from a distant river to a Ugandan town with a population that is quickly increasing,” the event’s website states. “They needed to design a treatment facility and the distribution system to bring water to town.”


Jackson's team faced 70 others during the competition and won one of just six awards up for grabs—the Smart Solutions Award presented by Bell Helicopter.


The district has presented some of its own STEAM honors as well. Seven students were named Elementary Regional Science Fair winners, including Pearson Elementary School students Madi Lindsey, Sarah Mayes and Shelby Chesier. The trio won first-place in the fifth-grade engineering category for their project titled, “How Do We Save Humpty Dumpty?”


Embracing the Maker Creator stage of GISD's four-phase STEAM initiative, Bussey Middle School held an invention convention.


“What I like about Maker Creator is the fact that it gives my students more options than just the science fair,” said Bussey science teacher Bethanie Robinson. “Last year, we had kids who were making things and just told me about them. I thought I would throw the idea of Maker Creator to my students and get feedback from them. The ideas for projects just started flowing in—even more than what was proposed on the STEAM initiative potential creation list. It was awesome.”


In the end, students crafted everything from a smartphone holder to a new sports drink flavor to a dog collar.


And though the 2014-15 year is nearing its end, the STEAM buzz is not over yet. All these efforts will culminate in the district’s one-day STEAMposium, May 16 at the Curtis Culwell Center. The mega affair will showcase projects from all four phases and award a STEAMLY Cup to one winning school area.


For more information, visit the Curriculum and Instruction Department’s website.

Garland ISD Education Foundation's annual Golf Tournament a success

Garland ISD | May 6, 2015

Nearly 200 community and staff members gathered to celebrate learning at the Garland ISD Education Foundation Golf Tournament April 10 at Firewheel Golf Park. Lucky year No. 13 featured fellowship, friendly competition and high spirits.

“This year’s Golf Tournament was a true success. Thanks to our supportive community partners, we raised a record $61,575 for GISD’s teachers and students,” said Education Foundation President Lisa Cox. “All of that money will help fund grants and scholarships for innovative teaching and learning.”

During the charitable affair, 140 players on 35 teams enjoyed a Chick-fil-A and RaceTrac-sponsored breakfast and received a tournament T-shirt, as well as an Atmos Energy-embellished goodie bag, before hitting the green in hopes of a grand prize. While teams vied for first-place, Superintendent Bob Morrison cooked hamburgers and hot dogs in preparation for their lunch. Executive Council members then served golfers after they hit their last tee shots.

In the end, 80 door prizes, which included everything from a Master Hatters cowboy hat to a Spring Creek Barbecue gift basket, were presented. First, second and third-place teams, as well as three individuals, also received shining crystal trophies.

“We had a wonderful time, and cannot wait to do it again next year,” Cox commented. “I want to thank title sponsor Pogue Construction, presenting sponsor Gay, McCall, Isaacks, Gordon & Roberts, Firewheel Golf Park, Dr. Morrison and his Executive Council, and all of our volunteers. Without all of them, we would have not been able to pull off this amazing event.”

To learn more about the Garland ISD Education Foundation, visit its website.

Place 6 GISD board of trustees candidate: Dwight Davis


Kim Everett | May 5, 2015


Dwight Davis, candidate for Place 6 on the Garland Independent School District board of trustees, loves kids and believes that our kids are our future.


“I want to serve the kids and make sure they get the right education,” he said.


Davis has lived in Garland for 37 years and is a retired college professor, serves on State Representative Angie Chen Button’s Education Roundtable. He is also involved in several teachers’ organizations and his wife has been an educator in GISD for 18 years.


He said that part of the district’s strategic plan is to have better communication with the community, parents and children. To this end, meetings are now available on television and online and all contract information is posted on the website. He believes that the district is trying to continually improve and become more transparent.


“Total visibility is needed,” Davis said.


Davis wants to help ensure that the recently approved bond money is spent wisely and that there is no overspending. The money has to be spent the way it was intended and the best contracts and best people to do the work must be sought out.


“I want to ensure that the board has a clear understanding of the details for all major expenditures, not just a blank check,” Davis said, “I want the checks and balances and visibility to be there.”


“I plan to work as a team member with the board and the superintendent,” Davis said.


He also expressed a willingness to disagree on items that he does not feel are best for the district.


“I really want to support the students, the teachers and the community. I know what the community is feeling and what they have expressed to me. I want to see that we have any changes that we make will result in GISD being more transparent and accountable to the community,” Davis said. “We plan to keep improving GISD in these areas which would benefit everybody -- students, teachers, everybody.”


“I was a part of the GISD five year strategic plan during 2014 and worked on the formulative assessments for the elementary students,” Davis said. “This will help teachers in the classroom develop individual growth plans for their students to better help them achieve better growth.”


He is excited about the opportunities that will be opened up for Garland as a result of the new Career & Technology Center with 16 core areas of advanced and new career areas. Davis feels great about the direction the district is going by providing career training for students. Every student should be able to receive the courses that they need to go into any trade, occupation or college following high school graduation.


Davis has served as a board member on three boards over a nine year period, which he feels is an asset to him for service on the GISD school board. He has also attended about 100 GISD board meetings over the last 10 years and clearly understands the GISD board processes and requirements.


Davis said that he has been actively serving GISD in several ways over the last few years and is ready to spend the time required to fully serve GISD on this board in a professional and active manner.


Some personal qualities that Davis feels will benefit him as a trustee include that he works hard and is accountable for everything he does, his people skills and that he works to build people up.


“I’m going to be an advocate for the people,” he said.


Additionally, he feels that his job experience both in human resources and working with contracts will be helpful.




Four degrees from Grace College in Indiana plus two certifications


·         Master of Theology in Christology - Theology, Bible, Leadership, Staff Performance (Summa Cum Laude)


·         Master of Business Administration in Management (MBA) in Human Resources Management

OD, Business Leadership, Finance, Conflict Management (Summa Cum Laude)


·         Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources Management

       OD, Business Leadership, Finance, Coaching (Magna Cum Laude)


·         Bachelor of Science in Electro/Mechanical Engineering in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering with Computer Science (Dual Major - Magna Cum Laude)


·         Certified Performance Technologist in Human Performance Technology from International

Society for Performance Improvement in Maryland


·         Project Management Professional from Project Management Institute in Pennsylvania


Job responsibilities have included:


·         Human resources management

·         Organization development, effectiveness and learning

·         Information Technology program and project management

·         Finance and cost controls

·         Contracts

·         Quality assurance


Community service includes:


·         Leadership Rowlett

·         State Representative Angie Chen Button’s Education Roundtable

·         State Representative Angie Chen Button’s Senior Citizens and Technology Roundtables

·         Garland and Rowlett Chambers of Commerce

·         GISD five year strategic plan - Assessments development team

·         Campus Improvement Team - GISD Academy campus

·         Garland Retired School Personnel - member

·         UTD PM Symposium - annual presenter


Place 6 GISD board of trustees candidate:  Robert Selders


Kim Everett | May 5, 2015


When Robert Selders was going through Leadership Garland, there was a day dedicated to learning about Garland Independent School District which ended in attending a board of trustees meeting.


“I remember saying to myself that it would be interesting to be on the board and that I could maybe add value in a different kind of way,” Selders said.


He has three daughters that attend school in the district and he co-chairs the School Health Advisory Council for GISD. Selders said that there are many health related issues that he hears about.


“Thinking through the concept of if we had healthier children, we know healthier and more active children will fare better in class or have the opportunity to fare better. It also helps develop their minds and cognitive skills. Then if they have a really great educational experience and they feel it has been enriched, I think that provides a great opportunity for them to have many options beyond high school,” Selders said. “They can go to college and come back to Garland and start businesses, be a part of manufacturing organizations here or work in corporations, and ultimately be better contributors to the community and local economy.”


Selders, who has lived in Rowlett for 16 years, said qualities that will help him if he is elected include being a good listener, he asks lots of questions even when it makes people uncomfortable and he isn’t afraid to go against the status quo.


“People who say that something has to be a certain way because that is how it has always been done doesn’t fly well with me,” Selders said. “I like to make sure we have evidence to support why we are doing things a certain way. If the things you are doing aren’t working, then changes or adjustments are needed.


He feels that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing right now.


When asked how an MIT educated Engineer becomes a fitness professional and gym owner he says, “God has a plan, so God’s purpose for me became my life’s plan. That’s what I focus on,” Selders said. “That’s why I’m here where I am and that’s why I feel like now is the time for me to pursue being elected to the school board.”


If elected as a new school board trustee, people will wonder if Selders will have any reservations about voicing his opinion during challenging issues or discussions.  He said, “I have great respect for all the board members and the work they’ve done.  I’m realistic though and I understand that we’re not always going to agree on everything, and I’m totally comfortable sharing my thoughts or standing firm on difficult items.”  


As a former high school and collegiate athlete and corporate engineer, Selders understands the value of team work.  “At the end of the day, we’re a team and the board has to work together for the common good of the district, educators, and all the students,” he said. “You’ve got to function as a cohesive team but that doesn’t mean you are always going to agree.”


Selders said that he has had numerous questions about fiscal responsibility with the bond funds and making sure the money is used properly and in the right places is very important.


He said that as a father, taxpayer and member of the community he thinks everyone has a “right to know the things they have a right to know.”


“Open communication is key. It is absolutely critical,” he said.



  • High School Diploma, Washington-Marion Magnet High School (1988), Class Valedictorian

  • Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (1993), Summa Cum Laude

  • Master of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts (1996)

  • Master of Exercise Science (Emphasis: Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention), California University of Pennsylvania  (2004)

  • Post Master Certificate in Exercise and Rehabilitation Science (Emphasis: Functional Rehabilitation and Corrective Exercise Programming), California University of Pennsylvania (2010)

Career:  Fitness Business owner, 3Q Fitness CrossFit Garland

Community service:

  • Leadership Garland

  • Parent co-chair of GISD School Health Advisory Council

  • Garland Chamber of Commerce WBe Empowerment Luncheon sponsor

  • Business supporter of “Vote YES” GISD Bond Campaign

  • GISD staff development instructor

  • Business sponsor for GISD Council of PTAs Annual Spring Awards Luncheon

  • Richland College Management/Business Administration Advisory Committee

Ana Rodriguez named Jupiter Chevrolet Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | April 28, 2015


Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month SUV made its way back to Shorehaven Elementary School for the third time this year, surprising Ana Rodriguez with the honor April 6. Principal Patty Tremmel lured the third-grade bilingual teacher to the school’s parking lot to present the gift.


“I was surprised and shocked when I walked out here. I was not expecting this at all,” Rodriguez said. “I just want to say thank you so much to everybody who voted for me. Words cannot explain how I feel right now.”


Rodriguez collected more than 400 Facebook votes, granting her a landslide win.


“I think this is amazing. Teachers work so hard across the district. This is something cool that teachers deserve,” she commented.


“Yes, thank you Jupiter Chevrolet. I am so happy that you are able to honor all of the teachers in GISD,” Tremmel added.


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

RHS earns Dallas Summer Musicals award nominations

Garland ISD | April 27, 2015

For the third straight year, Rowlett High School’s Eagle Theatre Company has been named a finalist in the Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical Theatre Awards. The talented theater group is up for nine Best of Category honors for its production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

“It feels humbling to be a three-time finalist. It speaks volumes of not only our students’ dedication and talent, but also the Fine Arts faculty’s commitment to our students,” said theater director Brandon Tijerina. “We have entered the past three years and have been very blessed to have an amazing group of students each year. We train our students to have a great work ethic, and that never fails, regardless of talent.”

The company went head-to-head with 68 other high school shows from across North Texas to become a finalist in nine out of 15 categories—which is four more nods than the group collected last year.

“It feels great and reassuring to have an increase in nominations,” Tijerina commented. “I attribute that to the collective efforts of everyone involved: our administration, teachers, students and parents.”

“I think this accomplishment is such a wonderful example of the collaboration of our theater, choir, band and dance departments,” added Principal Michelle Bounds. “Each of those groups meld into one huge effort of hard work and talent, and it is so rewarding to see each of them garner nominations.”

RHS is in the running for best all-student orchestra, choreography, direction, ensemble or chorus, lighting design, musical direction, musical and scenic design. Senior Sarah Manns is also up for best supporting actress for her rendition of Princess Puffer in the melodic play.

The High School Musical Theatre Awards contest features DSM judges who assess a production’s overall quality. Rowlett’s gifted fine arts students will find out if they receive top honors at an awards ceremony April 29 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.

For a full list of finalists, visit the competition’s website. To learn more about the Eagle Theatre Company, visit Rowlett High School’s website.

Photos courtesy of Brandon Tijerina

GISD celebrates music program


Garland ISD | April 27, 2015


Proving the excellent Fine Arts education offered in Garland ISD, the district earned its sixth Best Communities for Music Education title at the end of March. The National Association of Music Merchants  Foundation awarded GISD and 387 others with this distinction.


“We are incredibly honored to continually receive this recognition,” said George Jones, director of Fine Arts. “It not only speaks to the talent of our students and staff, but also to the importance our district places on music education.”


According to the NAMM Foundation, more than 2,000 schools and districts applied for a 2015 BCME award. Applicants were required to complete a detailed survey about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support and community programs.


In its 16th year, BCME recognizes school districts that have demonstrated exceptional efforts toward maintaining music education as part of schools’ core curriculum. The designation is an important part of the NAMM Foundation’s efforts to advocate for school-based music education. Numerous studies have demonstrated that learning to play music can boost other academic and social skills.

GISD hosts Hispanic parent FAFSA workshop


Posted April 22, 2015


For more than a decade, Garland ISD’s Hispanic Community Liaison, Javier Solis, has helped students whose home language is not English complete an important college document—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Keeping that tradition alive, 200 parents attended the 11th-annual Hispanic Parent FAFSA Workshop March 28 at Naaman Forest High School, giving their students a leg up on tuition assistance.


“I am proud to announce that this was the first time the workshop was held in GISD,” Solis said. “We had a great turnout, and 80 FAFSA forms were successfully filed. The FAFSA is difficult to complete if parents have no Internet access, are missing or have difficult circumstances with tax documentation, or have no knowledge of how to navigate through this process. Assistance was also provided in Spanish, which is of great importance to many of our parents.”


During the event, financial aid officers from the Dallas County Community College District and Texas A&M University-Commerce volunteered their time to help parents file the FAFSA. But applying for financial aid was not the only action addressed.


“In addition to filing FAFSA forms, students also had the opportunity to submit their Apply Texas College Admission and DCCCD applications,” Solis explained. “Furthermore, representatives from DCCCD and A&M-Commerce were present to meet with parents and highlight their respective programs.”


Those who were interested in Commerce’s offerings will also be given the chance to attend University Preview Day April 25, which features free transportation to and from the college.


For more information on how to prepare for higher education, visit the district’s college readiness website. And, learn more about GISD’s Community Liaisons here.


Photos courtesy of Javier Solis


Budding actors, cinematographers shine


Garland ISD | April 19, 2015


Celebrating future cinematographers with a Hollywood-style, red carpet affair, the third-annual Fire Reel Film Festival Awards Gala was held Feb. 19 at Sachse High School.


“Each year I am in awe of how great the films are, and this year was no exception,” said Northlake Elementary School PE teacher and Fire Reel Film Festival host John Beltz. “The films were extraordinary examples of what Garland ISD students and staff are capable of creating with technology.”


More than 250 participants from 17 campuses submitted 49 video productions in the 2014-15 competition. While a panel of judges critiqued most entries, more than 1,400 individual votes determined the People’s Choice Award.


During the event, participants signed a large, commemorative poster, while others posed for photos and provided on-camera interviews for Sachse’s “Mustang Report.” The audience then enjoyed an engaging show, complete with entertainment breaks from Sachse’s comedy improv troupe—JOTS—and the district’s Mariachi Estrellas. Twelve district teachers and administrators served as presenters, awarding 28 Best in Category titles.


“This is my first time doing Fire Reel. I got nominated and was really happy about that,” said Jackson Technology Center for Math and Science student Maisha Ahmed. “It feels awesome winning [four awards]. That just made my day.”


Like Ahmed, North Garland High School senior Ilce Villeda-Principe also took multiple wins home, including Movie of the Year.


“It is surprising. I was only expecting one award,” she revealed. “I worked hard on my submission. I feel really proud.”


Sachse High School technology applications teacher Brian CdeBaca believes one of the Festival’s finest attributes is that it rewards dedication and diligence.


“It was an amazing feeling to see students on stage and all the hard work—the planning, directing, editing and hours in post-production—be recognized. It was very rewarding,” he said. “The most valuable thing I think the students get out of this competition is real-life experience. They learn skills working with technology, collaborating, communicating and thinking creatively. Those are all things that they can take and use in and outside the classroom.”


Beltz hopes many more sign up for this experience in the future.


“I hope the Festival grows even larger next year. I hope there are more entries and more people at Gala night to experience how cool the ceremony really is.”


To see a complete list of 2014-15 Fire Reel Film Festival winners, visit the competition's website.

GBLL magnet students enjoy field trip


Garland ISD | April 19, 2015


Nineteen students in the School of Global Business, Language & Leadership magnet program recently enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour of two hometown establishments. The Sellers Middle School and Naaman Forest High School students visited Garrett Metal Detectors and Resistol Hats March 18, learning about business practices in their own backyard.


“One of our goals is to provide these students with an understanding of business within a global context, and many of our students have never visited a company,” said GBLL advisor Tracy Glick. “The tours provided a foundation in business and helped reinforce entrepreneurial concepts learned throughout the school year.”


Organizing the trip with both middle and high school students further strengthened those notions. The four Rangers acted as mentors to the 15 Sharks, offering a chance to collaborate with and learn from fellow magnet peers.


“The high schoolers encouraged their middle school counterparts to participate in activities and modeled professional behavior,” noted Glick. “The middle schoolers enjoyed working with their older counterparts, and had the opportunity to learn what GBLL is like throughout high school.”


During the outing, the group saw entrepreneurship, international sales and marketing ideas put into real-life practice. In addition to a tour, the students tested out both company’s products and even took time to develop leadership skills during a special stop at another professional landmark.


“The Garland Chamber of Commerce was generous to accommodate us with the space we needed for our lunch break,” Glick explained. “We took that time to participate in various activities, one of which required two students to stand on a small piece of carpet and flip it over without stepping on the floor. The students worked creatively to try to solve this challenge, and learned how to work together with others to tackle it.”


That interactive break proved to be one of the most popular and powerful moments of the day.


“This field trip was a profound learning experience. My favorite part was lunch at the meeting center, bonding with fellow students and practicing team-building exercises,” said junior Gabriel Juarez. “This trip opened by eyes to the key factors in a successful business—the most important being teamwork. I will never again forget the necessity of working together."

Students learn about Taiwanese culture, education first-hand


Garland ISD | April 18, 2015


Nine Garland ISD students, two administrators and one alumna recently had the opportunity to reciprocate an international exchange hosted by the district two years ago.  Thanks to the district’s partnership with the Dallas-Fort Worth Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce, the group enjoyed an enlightening trip to Taiwan’s Luzhu District March 3-12.


“The rich educational experiences of this trip will never be forgotten or duplicated,” said Parsons Prekindergarten School Principal and participant James Howard. “These students have been exposed to an entirely different way of life, and I believe it has changed all of us for the better.”


As one of the host families in 2013, Howard was selected to attend the trip. He helped organize it by working with high school principals to select students. After an application process, nine students and one alumna from five high schools were chosen for the cultural journey. Students experienced a real-life home setting with host families. They toured Nankan High School, soaking in campus culture and student life. Nankan administrators were delighted to expose GISD students to typical courses, such as calligraphy, Chinese painting, handball and shooting. But the courses were not what left an impression on the group.


“Nankan High School students typically arrive at school at 7:30 a.m. and clean their classroom,” Howard explained. “They will stay at school until 5 or 6 p.m. every day. Many times, they will leave and come back to study some more later that evening. They also attend school on Saturday. It was amazing to see their dedication to education.”


And this once-in-a-lifetime trip was not all about campus life. Restaurant outings, scenic drives, sightseeing and visits to a temple and zoo were also incorporated, along with star-like moments.


“We were treated like celebrities,” Howard stated. “The mayor even invited us to city hall for a press conference, which was an exciting time for everyone. We all had our picture taken and were made honorary citizens. However, one of the best days occurred when each student spent the day with his or her host family.”


Overall, the nine-day, eventful trip offered students a chance to develop academically and individually.


“After witnessing the growth that took place in the GISD students, it is clear to me that this trip has a very important place in this district. We live in a global society. The students who went on this trip came back with a better appreciation of our school system and those who have dedicated their lives to teach others.”


The following students, alumna and administrators participated in the trip.


  • Matthew Aragon - Sachse High School

  • Lynzi Carroll - Sachse High School

  • Steven Cave - Naaman Forest High School

  • Jacob George - Rowlett High School

  • Ethan Howard - Lakeview Centennial High School

  • James Howard - Parsons Prekindergarten School Principal

  • Jonah Johnson - Garland High School

  • Prescott King - Sachse High School

  • Calder McCarthy - Sachse High School

  • Rachel Sanders - 2014 Lakeview Centennial High School graduate

  • Deb Sanders - Luna Elementary School Assistant Principal

  • Nicole Teal - Sachse High School


Story photo courtesy of James Howard.

Kimberlin Academy, Weaver Elementary receive trip donations

Garland ISD | April 13, 2015

Kimberlin Academy for Excellence and Weaver Elementary School were recently the lucky beneficiaries of monetary gifts. Kimberlin received a $5,000 endowment from a generous community member, while Weaver accepted a $2,955 check from a charitable middle school club. Both donations were made with the intention of sending students to the special needs-focused theme park Morgan’s Wonderland.

“I was overcome with emotion when I learned we received the donation,” said Kimberlin Principal Tyisha Nelson. “When I received the check, I cried tears of joy. We have been working very hard this year to raise funds for this field trip.”

Craig Ingram, president of the Plano-based Special Organization Founded to Aid Special Kids board, is the person behind Kimberlin’s contribution.  Ingram’s wife, who learned of Kimberlin’s fundraising efforts in the fall, sparked the meaningful surprise, which was presented during a February assembly.

“Morgan’s Wonderland is an exceptional place and the first of its kind. While other theme parks accommodate people with disabilities and special needs, Morgan’s was created with them in mind,” Nelson commented. “Our students will have access to things they could not participate in before. This park has thought of all those voids and unlocked a whole new world for each student through accessible play, sensory stimulation and social development the whole family can enjoy.”

Like the Knights, Weaver’s Eagles will also get that memorable experience, thanks to an unexpected sponsor—the Sam Houston Middle School National Junior Honor Society (NJHS).

“My son is in the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) class at Weaver,” said Sam Houston special education teacher Melissa Mains. “This year, they wanted to go to Morgan’s Wonderland, but it does have a lot of cost associated with it. We knew there would be a little bit of an issue raising enough money.”

To help the cause, Mains’ husband started a GoFundMe page and informed Principal Don Hernandez about it. Hernandez then alerted science teacher and NJHS sponsor Teresa Walker.

“When I found out that finances could possibly keep Weaver’s students and parents from going to San Antonio, that just touched my heart,” Walker explained. “From that moment on, I thought my kids could do this as their service project.”

Walker set a goal of $2,500 to get Weaver halfway to their aim of $5,000. Through candy sales and casual dress days from October to February, the group collected much more than they expected.

During a celebratory breakfast gathering March 3 at Sam Houston, Walker and NJHS members presented Weaver’s PPCD class with a 6-foot check. The festive occasion offered the middle schoolers an opportunity to meet the students they supported.

“It was really nice to work on this project,” said eighth-grader Alma Juarez. “It is really emotional knowing that we are helping these kids go on a field trip.”

“I learned that you always need to help someone because you can be in the same situation in the future,” added fellow NJHS member Norma Rodriguez. “We wanted everyone, parents and children, to go on this field trip. I really like to do this, help others. It feels amazing.”

And it felt amazing for the Weaver crew to be the recipient of that kind act.

“I was absolutely thrilled when they announced their donation. I cannot believe a middle school did this for us,” said Weaver special education teacher Sheila McComas.  “I hope they know how much we appreciate them. We are now able to take one parent with each child, and it is a wonderful, wonderful thing they have done for us.”

Weaver’s Morgan’s Wonderland adventure kicked off April 8. Kimberlin’s Applied Learning Environment students will embark on their trip April 21-23.

Austin Academy, Sachse HS robotics teams to compete at worlds

Garland ISD | April 14, 2015

Showcasing 21st-century STEAM learning, five Garland ISD robotics teams have qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championship April 15-18 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. For the first time ever, Sachse High School will represent GISD alongside veteran worlds participant Austin Academy for Excellence at the intense international competition.

“It is an amazing feeling and experience to qualify for worlds,” said Austin Academy science teacher and robotics sponsor Corey Bankston. “During the 2014 season, my boys worked more than 2,300 extra hours as a group from August to April to reach worlds once again.”

Three Austin Academy-based teams will control and direct their personally designed robot in pursuit of the title. Group 7504E will make its third appearance, with 7504X making its second and 75040Z unveiling its debut. Sachse High School’s 5408A and 5408F teams will spar alongside their younger peers, hoping to make Mustang history.

Although all teams are hosted by Austin Academy and Sachse, students from other GISD campuses have also contributed to this feat.

“7504E is made up of my two most experienced veterans, Evan Anderson and Tien Tran. They were members of my first team to compete, and despite going to Sachse and Garland high schools, they wanted one more year together to try and pull-off their third straight appearance at worlds,” Bankston explained. “75040Z originally consisted of 7504X’s John McKelvey, so we had to recruit a new driver. We chose Anderson’s younger brother, Keeley Elementary School fourth-grader Eric Hritz.”

The long road to face 15,000 participants from 28 countries was difficult, but satisfying. Austin’s teams won 25 titles, while Sachse’s snagged 10. Their impressive performances have garnered recognition across the district and community. 5408A and 5408F were even acknowledged during the April 6 Sachse City Council meeting.

Now that these tech-savvy teams are approaching game day, Bankston and Sachse’s sponsor Michael Roha are not only focusing on awards, but also the long-term benefits of competition.

“The majority of these kids want to become engineers, and being involved with robotics will certainly help them achieve their goal,” Bankston commented. “But the life skills they have learned are far more important. They have learned how to work as a team, interview and strategize. Communication and negotiation skills, time and project management, and a positive self-esteem have also been developed. Overall, I am beyond proud of these guys and appreciate all of the hard work they have devoted to Austin’s program. They mean the world to me, and I know they all have bright futures ahead.”

Photos courtesy of Corey Bankston and Jennifer McKelvey

GISD Employee Clinic offers staff affordable, quality healthcare


Garland ISD | April 10, 2015


With healthcare costs on the rise, Garland ISD aspired to create an affordable and convenient resource for its employees. After months of planning, construction and fine-tuning, the GISD Employee Clinic opened Wednesday, April 1.


“This will be a great advantage to GISD,” said Employee Clinic Manager Christi Rachal. “We have a very friendly, well-experienced staff. Since we are not open to the public, we are not going to be cattle herders.

We are going to get to know you as an individual.”


All full-time staff members, as well as their spouses and dependents, can take advantage of this brand-new clinic, located at 3121 N. President George Bush Highway, Suite B3, Garland 75040.


Regardless of medical insurance enrollment, the clinic accepts patients with symptoms of minor illnesses, such as cough, sore throat and sinus pressure. A $10 flat service fee is taken at the front desk upon arrival.


Walk-ins are accepted from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and appointments are scheduled from 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday.


“Call the clinic and we will offer the first-available appointment.” Rachal explained. “If you are at school, start feeling bad and it is 12 noon, you just come to the clinic. We will take care of you and get you back to work. We look forward to serving the GISD community.”


To learn more about the GISD Employee Clinic, view the tour video or visit its website

National Achievement Scholarship winners announced


Posted April 8, 2015


Today, National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the names of approximately 800 outstanding Black American high school seniors who have won Achievement Scholarship® awards through the National Achievement Scholarship Program.


These awards, totaling over $2 million, are financed by grants from 30 corporate organizations and professional associations, and by National Merit Scholarship Corporation. The National Achievement Scholarship Program is a privately financed academic competition established in 1964 specifically to honor scholastically talented Black American youth and to provide scholarships to a substantial number of the most outstanding participants in each annual competition.


By the conclusion of the 2015 program, which marks the 51st annual competition, over 34,200 participants will have received scholarships for undergraduate study worth about $108 million. The program is conducted by National Merit Scholarship Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance.


The Achievement Scholar designees announced today include 700 recipients of National Achievement® $2500 Scholarships. All students who advanced to the Finalist level in the 2015 competition were considered for these single-payment scholarships, which were awarded on a regional representation basis in proportion to the population of Black Americans in each geographic region.


Garland High School student Janet A. Aiyedun was one of the $2500 winners.


About 100 Scholars are winners of corporate-sponsored Achievement Scholarship awards. These winners were selected from Finalists who met the specific criteria of their grantor organizations. Most are residents of an area served by the sponsor, children of the organization’s employees, or Finalists planning to pursue a college major or career the sponsor wishes to encourage. Almost all corporate-sponsored scholarships are renewable and provide stipends that can vary from $500 to $10,000 per year, but a few provide a single payment between $2,500


2015 National Achievement Scholarship Competition


About 150,000 students entered the 2015 National Achievement Scholarship Program by requesting consideration in the competition when they took the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) as high school juniors. In September 2014, approximately 1,600 of the highest scorers were named semifinalists on a regional representation basis. To continue in the competition, semifinalists had to fulfill requirements for Finalist standing, which included having a record of consistently high academic performance; being endorsed and recommended by an official from their high school; earning SAT® scores that confirmed their PSAT/NMSQT performance; and writing an essay. From the semifinalist pool, some 1,300 advanced to the Finalist level, and the 800 National Achievement Scholarship winners were selected from this group of outstanding students. Achievement Scholar awardees are the Finalist candidates judged to have the strongest record of accomplishments and greatest potential for academic success in college.


Transition of the Program


The National Achievement Scholarship Program will undergo a transition after the conclusion of the 2015 program. NMSC is forging a new relationship with UNCF, the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. UNCF will carry on the name and legacy of the National Achievement Scholarship Program through a newly designed program for college graduates. The new program, which will be administered by UNCF and underwritten by the National Achievement Scholarship Program, will honor and award financial assistance to high-achieving, underrepresented college graduates.


AcDec teams have memorable competition experience


Garland ISD | April 7, 2015


The Garland and South Garland high school Academic Decathlon teams had memorable experiences during the Texas Academic Decathlon Meet, Feb 26-March 1 in San Antonio. Both teams set and met goals for their state performances, leaving the competition feeling accomplished and satisfied.


Showcasing Garland ISD talent, the teams brought seven medals home. The South Garland High School team not only secured five of those medals, but they also achieved a longtime goal. 

“We are extremely proud that SGHS finally broke the top 10. I am thrilled to announce that South Garland placed 10th overall in the Academic Decathlon state competition,” said world history teacher and AcDec coach David Yeatts. “They were initially ranked 13th, so this is a huge improvement. I cannot begin to express how proud I am of these young men and women.”


SGHS Junior Desiree Cadena placed third in both scholastic math and speech, while senior Alison Van Alen secured third place in varsity art, math and speech. Their GISD counterpart, Garland High School senior Lexie Ford, won first place in honors essay and third in honors economics.


“The Garland High School team went into state ranked No. 20, which is six places higher than last year,” said science teacher and AcDec coach Cynthia Curtis. “They performed remarkably well and broke 40,000 points. In the end, our team was ranked No. 16, which is a huge jump for this competition.”


But earning medals and moving up on the ranking scale are not the only benefits students receive from this competition.


“Our team really learned how to study and work as a group," explained Curtis. "They are incredibly cohesive, collaborative and communicative. Carol Rosales and I are incredibly proud of their performance.”


Photos courtesy of David Yeatts and Cynthia Curtis


GHS speech, debate students excel at competition


Garland ISD | April 7, 2015


The Garland High School speech and debate team had a successful run during the Texas Forensics Association State Tournament March 4-8 in El Paso. In fact, the group did so well, they made campus history.


Led by nine-year speech and debate coach Lory Stewart, the fierce orators gave fine performances in their various categories, which included everything from congressional debate to foreign extemporaneous speaking.


“I knew this year was going to be special, because we have such a talented team of 45 students,” Stewart said. “We are proud to announce that we had a GHS record breaking three students in the finals at state, and I could not be more proud.”


Of those three state finalists, two placed in the top five of their respective divisions, while one became Garland’s third state champion.


“We have a new state champion in prose reading—junior Amani Abderahman,” Stewart revealed. “She received first place in every round, besting 99 other competitors for the title.”


In addition to Abderahman's win, senior Liam McCoy placed fourth overall in poetry reading, and senior Hannan Ahmed also placed fourth in impromptu speaking. Garland's gifted group also had four state semifinalists and two quarterfinalists.


“These students lead by example, and I know this experience will give them confidence in the future, as well as inspire future speech and debate members.”


Abderahman is now set to showcase her skills, along with nine of her team members, at the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions in May.


Photo courtesy of Lory Stewart


GISD Education Foundation holds Texas Rangers first pitch auction


Garland ISD | April 6, 2015


There is still time for baseball aficionados to vie for the chance to fulfill a popular bucket list item. Garland ISD's Education Foundation is auctioning the ceremonial first pitch before the Texas Rangers face the Los Angeles Angels April 13 at Globe Life Park in Arlington.


This special act will also commence Garland ISD Night, which is an annual event that gifts one dollar from each ticket sold to GISD. 2015 Campus Teachers of the Year will be given complimentary tickets and recognized at this game, as well.


The current first pitch bid is $355. To get in on the action, email an offer to Education Foundation secretary Pam Parks at pkparks@garlandisd.net before noon Wednesday, April 8. The lucky winner will be announced later that day.


All proceeds from this campaign will benefit the youth of Garland, Rowlett and Sachse. The Garland ISD Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization that generates and distributes resources to enrich teaching and learning throughout the district.


For more information on the auction or Garland ISD Night, visit the Education Foundation’s website


CTE students to compete in state SkillsUSA


Garland ISD | April 3, 2015


After besting their competition at regionals, nearly 100 Garland ISD students are on their way to compete in the state round of the SkillsUSA Texas Leadership and Skills Conference, March 26-28 in Corpus Christi.


Fourteen Audio Video Production Magnet students from Lakeview Centennial High School are among the contenders who will represent GISD at state. The talented Patriots swept all five of their categories, which included everything from digital cinema to radio production.


“It was kind of a shocking realization, to learn that we won first place in all categories,” said TV Production Broadcast teacher Greg Paschal. “We have placed in every event before, but never have we gotten first in everything. It is very gratifying, but we have some really good kids, which is not unusual.”


Nineteen Auto Collision Repair students from South Garland High School will join their Lakeview counterparts, having also earned first place in their respective categories.


“I am really proud of what my students have done. They stayed after school, worked weekends and a snow day to get their projects completed,” said Auto Collision Repair teacher Craig Baughman. “They are really looking forward to competing at state to see how they compare with other schools.”


Like their fellow GISD state challengers, both groups prepared by holding mock competitions, honing their skills and reworking projects in anticipation to bring a second win home.


“We did not win Best in Show at district, and are hoping that some of the additional work we did in preparation will put us in the running for that award,” Baughman explained.


But winning is not the ultimate prize. Baughman and Paschal see many more benefits to this challenge-driven experience.


“The desire to win drives students to dig and learn at a deeper level than they might reach otherwise,” Paschal revealed. “The experience students gain from working at a high level in a high-pressure situation is invaluable for their future success. I also hope that working in a team teaches students humility. It is not all about ‘me’ and sometimes we need to defer to others, work together and find a greater strength through teamwork.”


For more information on SkillsUSA, visit the competition's website.


Story photos courtesy of Craig Baughman and Greg Paschal

CTE students to auction, exhibit, sell fruits of labor


Posted March 24, 2015


For more than 70 years, Garland ISD and the community have come together to celebrate Career & Technical Education at the Livestock & Plant Show and Sale, as well as the CTE Exhibit. This gathering allows the public to purchase homegrown goods and peruse innovative, class-based creations. GISD invites community members to become a part of this tradition March 27-28 at the Curtis Culwell Center.


During the show, agriculture students from Garland and South Garland high schools will present their yearlong livestock projects for auction and judging. Thousands of bedding plants, hanging baskets, herbs and vegetable starters will also be for sale. And creations from various CTE classes—from architecture to cosmetology to TV production—will be on display.


The CTE Exhibit will kick things off at 8 a.m. Friday, March 27, followed by the Livestock Show at 6:30 p.m. The Plant Sale will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, March 28, while the Livestock Auction will commence at 2 p.m.


Entrance to the 71st-annual GISD Livestock & Plant Show and Sale, as well as the 34th-annual Career & Technical Education Exhibit, is free of charge.


For more information, see the district’s featured events calendar.


Television crew surprises Walnut Glen Academy teacher


Garland ISD | March 24, 2015


Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence teacher Andrea Hardgrave received the surprise of a lifetime last month. Television personality Paige McCoy Smith interrupted her fifth-grade class with a camera crew in tow.


“We are so excited because you have won the Teacher of the Month award,” Smith announced after walking in the door.


Every month, WFAA-TV’s Good Morning Texas partners with City Credit Union to bestow this honor. As part of the surprise, City CU’s President and CEO Sharon Moore gifts the winner a goodie basket, which includes a $100 gift card, classroom supplies and tickets to Six Flags.


Hardgrave’s coworker Julia Lepek nominated her for the Teacher of the Month title.


“She goes above and beyond for our school,” commented Lepek. “At Christmastime, she organized a fundraiser called Slumber Party with the Elves. Students got to bring stuffed animals and have them spend the night on campus. Overnight, elves took the animals to the North Pole and students received a picture from their trip in the morning.”


To view the Feb. 27 Good Morning Texas segment, visit WFAA’s website.

NGHS students learn tools of television trade


Garland ISD | March 22, 2015


When NBC reporter Eric King visited North Garland High School in February, he did not come to cover a story. Instead, he came to impart tools of the trade. King taught students proper interview techniques in preparation for a class project.


“We are researching emerging architects, trying to understand them and their work,” explained teacher Lester Ortley. “For the project, students will pair up and conduct interviews with one acting as the architect they have researched. The goal is to inform the rest of the class through the questions that are asked.”


Asking the right questions is exactly what King taught during his visit. He encouraged students to think about what others would not ask and to find information that is relatable and interesting. King also advised students to keep their dialogue simple and demonstrated proper body language and posture that will make interviewees comfortable. Before leaving, he held a question and answer session.


Librarian Debbie Reed is responsible for King’s visit.


“I thought it would be a great opportunity for students to hear from someone whose business this is,” she said. “You never know what effect an interesting lesson might have. Eric gave them some great college and career advice, so we might have a few budding reporters.”

Fourteen students named Dell Scholar semifinalists


Garland ISD | March 23, 2015


Fourteen Garland ISD AVID students are vying for a chance to receive $20,000, a laptop and ongoing educational support. The high school students were recently named Dell Scholar semifinalists due to their academic rigor, ambition and perseverance.


“This is great news for our AVID students, their teachers and families,” said GISD AVID Director Janice Howard. “To be recognized as a Dell Scholar semifinalist involves a rigorous process and is a tremendous honor.”


The Dell Scholar Program is an initiative of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which has gifted more than $60 million to highly motivated, underprivileged high school students since 2004. The Dell Scholar Program considers students who are enrolled in an approved college readiness program, hold a minimum 2.4 GPA, demonstrate a financial assistance need, and will enroll as a full-time college student in the fall.


“Dell Scholars are students who demonstrate their desire and ability to overcome barriers and to achieve their goals,” the program’s website states. “These scholars serve as positive role models and change the trajectories for their families, friends and communities.”


Dell Scholars will be named April 10. The following GISD students are in the running to earn the esteemed title.


  • Yarely DeLeon – Garland High School

  • Adriana Diaz – North Garland High School

  • Katherinne Estrada – Lakeview Centennial High School

  • Uriel Granados – North Garland High School

  • Thomas Hall – South Garland High School

  • Bianca Herrera – South Garland High School

  • Ashley Hilario Ramirez – North Garland High School

  • Jershayla Johnson – Lakeview Centennial High School

  • Jo’el Kilgore – Garland High School

  • Tiye Moore – Garland High School

  • Betzy Mundo – Garland High School

  • Jennifer Nguyen – Lakeview Centennial High School

  • Esbeyde Romero – Lakeview Centennial High School

  • Ramiro Rosas – North Garland High School

Alera Budd named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | March 23, 2015


Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month SUV can be seen in front of Daugherty Elementary School this month. First-grade teacher Alera Budd received the honors March 6.


This is so exciting. I am just thrilled,” she said after being lured outside by Principal Deborah Henson and surprised with the specially wrapped automobile.


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. Budd received numerous votes from Daugherty families.


“My parents in my classroom have been with me for two years, so we have a really great relationship,” she commented. “I feel so honored.”


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

GISD launches STEAM education initiative


Garland ISD | March 20, 2015


Garland ISD is joining hundreds of school districts nationwide by implementing the innovative educational framework known as STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Championed by educators, public officials and researchers across the country, STEAM’s official concept is that science and technology interpreted through engineering and the arts, all based in mathematical elements, is an adaptable program that supports a rigorous, 21st-century education.   


GISD launched its STEAM program this year with a four-phase plan that includes a STEAM Engineering Challenge, the Science Fair, VEX Robotics competitions and Maker Creator challenges. Fueled by the district’s Strategic Plan and the desire to motivate more participation in the annual Science Fair, the initiative was devised and kicked off in a relatively short amount of time.


“The idea to launch a STEAM initiative began from community participation in the strategic planning process last year,” said Elementary Science Coordinator Tina Garrett. “We realized that we needed to inspire more creativity, innovation and collaborative work. We wanted our students to experience critical thinking and problem solving strategies every day, all year long—not just for one event.”


GISD’s STEAM program has seen an enthusiastic welcome thus far. In the fall, several schools competed in the Engineering Challenge, which asked students to build everything from bridges to catapults to rollercoasters. Lakeview Centennial High School held a “Hunger Games”-themed catapult experiment. Students designed, built and tested nearly 40 catapults in December.


“We worked for two months preparing our submissions for the challenge,” stated physics teacher David Downing. “Students had to construct a catapult capable of throwing a ‘vial’ egg over a 2-meter ‘fire’ wall and land in a target 10 meters away, which is where their injured ally was waiting for the medicine vial. A protective shell also had to be designed to encase the egg, as a broken ‘vial’ would lead to disqualification. Students submitted documentation of their initial research, blueprints, prototypes, testing and data collection.”


This spring’s Science Fair also saw creative entries, such as fourth-grade Hillside Academy for Excellence student Elijah Quilantang’s winning “Oops the Oil Spilled” project. And several schools started new robotics clubs to compete in VEX competitions. GISD even hosted a 44-team showdown, which earned Austin Academy for Excellence, Hudson Middle School and Sachse High School spots at regionals Feb. 21.


“The feedback and participation has been amazing,” Garrett said. “It has been a great start. I think a yearlong challenge like this allows our students the opportunity to acquire skills that will support them for a lifetime. ‘STEAM—Students and Teachers Energizing Active Minds’ is the culture I hope to cultivate through these experiences.”


Winners, as well as every entry in each category, will garner points for their school area. All events will culminate at the one-day STEAMposium May 16, which will showcase projects from all phases and award a STEAMLY Cup to the winning area. Currently, students, parents or teachers are encouraged to collaborate and submit an innovative creation accompanied by written research, as well as an oral and digital presentation for the Maker Creator stage. All submissions are due by May 5.


For more information, visit the Curriculum and Instruction Department’s website


GISD students win

Stormwater Essay Contest


Garland ISD | March 16, 2015


Turning their conservation efforts into cash, several Garland ISD students were recently named winners of the Stormwater Essay Contest. Every year, the city of Garland issues a challenge to all GISD third through fifth-graders: submit a prose to promote the chosen theme. This year, nearly 2,000 essays touted “I Care About Garland’s Creeks!”


First, second and third-place winners were named in every grade level, receiving $200, $150 and $100 respectively. The teacher of each winning student was also awarded $100 for classroom supplies. And, three honorable mentions from each grade level received $25. Additionally, Bradfield Elementary School teacher Sylvia Valdez-Vasquez won $150 for class participation of at least 90 percent.


This year’s honorees include:


First place

  • Third grade - Nhien Tran, Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence

  • Fourth grade - Ayden Young, Kimberlin Academy for Excellence

  • Fifth grade - Aangela Oommen, Watson Technology Center for Math & Science

Second place

  • Third grade - Rogelio Cabrera, Dorsey Elementary School

  • Fourth grade - Melanie Ramirez, Classical Center at Vial Elementary School

  • Fifth grade - Kunal Sawhney, Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence

Third place

  • Third grade - Briana Perez, Bullock Elementary School

  • Fourth grade - Lochlin Belcher, Cooper Elementary School

  • Fifth grade (Tie) - Ericka Nguyen, Kimberlin Academy for Excellence

  • Fifth grade (Tie) - Christian Guerrero, Watson Technology Center for Math & Science

Honorable mention

  • Third grade - Mallory Nelson, Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence

  • Third grade - Neha Rajput, Dorsey Elementary School

  • Third grade - Elina Medrano, Dorsey Elementary School                    

  • Fourth grade - Izzy Carrasco, Herfurth Elementary School

  • Fourth grade - Anthony Nguyen, Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence

  • Fourth grade - Marvin Lam, Abbett Elementary School                       

  • Fifth grade - Filiberto Gutierrez, Watson Technology Center for Math & Science

  • Fifth grade - Emily Lawrence, Watson Technology Center for Math & Science

  • Fifth grade - Sofia Gill, Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence

Photo courtesy of Kimberlin Academy

SGHS students mentor, teach Heather Glen counterparts


Garland ISD | March 15, 2015


Forty-two South Garland High School students recently had the opportunity to become teachers for one day. Introducing finance and marketing principals to their younger peers at Heather Glen Elementary, these juniors and seniors enlightened students, honed their presentation skills and became role models—all thanks to the High School Heroes program from Junior Achievement of Dallas.


“We partnered with Junior Achievement because one of the things I am looking to build and strengthen is my students’ communication skills,” said South Garland marketing teacher Rochelle McMillon. “I was actually taken aback by my students and their interaction with the kids. Before coming, they were kind of afraid to present. They really got into this program, and are really acting as High School Heroes.”


The SGHS student-teachers are all members of DECA, an association of marketing students. During the Feb. 13 event, five hands-on lessons covered everything from city planning to entrepreneurial skills in kindergarten through fourth grade.


“This is a pretty good experience to come here and teach the kids about money, the importance of family and how businesses work,” commented senior Julyssa Macedo. “I taught first grade, so we were explaining what family is–what they do, how they live, how they are different and how they are the same.”


Students at Heather Glen were happy to see high schoolers in their classrooms, and teachers were impressed by the lessons the Colonels led throughout the day.


“I was pleased that South Garland shared their time, knowledge and resources with my students,” said second-grade teacher Ashley Hill. “The Junior Achievement program offered my students a fruitful opportunity to learn about the interconnectivity of community while developing a relationship with upperclassmen.”


South Garland is the second campus to collaborate with Junior Achievement. In the fall, Lakeview Centennial High School students visited Sewell Elementary School. District campuses are taking advantage of Junior Achievement’s High School Heroes program due to a presentation principals saw in the summer.


“Junior Achievement has been around since 1919, and our goal is to bring economic education to students in kindergarten through 12th grade,” said Senior Education Manager Barbara Heise. “This is the first time we have worked with Garland ISD. We are really excited about this new partnership and getting the high school students involved.”


McMillon said she is excited to see the benefits of this new relationship help her students in the future.


“Ultimately, I want this experience to teach my students to have confidence in themselves, to let them know that they can conquer anything.”

District teachers to benefit from Texas Instruments Foundation grant


Garland ISD | March 14, 2015


Last year, the Texas Instruments Foundation generously gifted Garland ISD $1.5 million to implement the National Math and Science Initiative College Readiness Program. This year, the organization is partnering with GISD's Education Foundation to offer Innovations in STEM Teaching Awards.


All secondary science, technology, engineering and math teachers are encouraged to apply for one of three $10,000 grants before March 20.


“We are honored to be one of just six districts in North Texas selected to offer this grant to our teachers,” said Garland ISD Education Foundation President Lisa Cox. “This opportunity will not only reward our hardworking faculty, but it will also allow them to purchase cutting-edge instructional tools that support a 21st-century classroom.”


Applying for a Texas Instruments Foundation Innovations in STEM Teaching Award requires two steps. Principals must first nominate dedicated, innovative teachers who encourage participation and interest in STEM curriculum through letters of recommendation. Nominees must then complete the grant application available at their campuses.


An Education Foundation panel will review all submissions and choose three beneficiaries, who will be awarded in May. Winners will receive $5,000 for themselves and $5,000 for STEM-related professional development, technology or classroom materials.  


For more information, visit GISD's Education Foundation website

Hillside Academy students stack their way to success


Garland ISD | March 14, 2015


Football, baseball, cheerleading and speed stacking? While the sport of stacking cups may be lesser known than its counterparts, the skills learned lead to their success. And, Hillside Academy for Excellence boasts one of the nation’s largest teams.


More than 100 kindergarten through fifth-graders make up the Stackin’ Eagles–a number that has nearly quadrupled since Physical Education teacher Christi Becker introduced the sport 12 years ago.


“The students really enjoy it,” she said. “We begin with a two-week lesson in P.E. class and then host a schoolwide tournament. This year, Hillside held its first-ever Garland ISD Speed Stacking Championships, competing against other district schools, as well as Mesquite ISD.”


The Stackin’ Eagles will now advance to the Southern Regional Tournament this weekend. There, the team will face off against others from Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. Hillside hopes to continue its legacy of success.


“In years past, we have won numerous medals and set state and world records. Some students have even traveled to the Junior Olympics in Iowa and Michigan,” Becker commented.


Despite the outcome of this year’s competition, students can already be labeled winners. According to Becker, speed stacking enhances hand-eye coordination, ambidexterity, concentration and reaction time–skills that are all useful in other sports, as well as playing musical instruments, reading and learning mathematic patterns.


Photo courtesy of Christi Becker

Rowlett HS teacher wins music competition 

Garland ISD | March 13, 2015


Rowlett High School Assistant Choir Director Evan Ramos recently won the first-ever Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) Composition Contest. He received the title for his original work “O Magnum Mysterium,” a piece written for middle school boys’ choirs.


“I was speechless when I found out I won, it is such an honor,” Ramos said. “So much time had passed between me submitting and the email telling me I won that I had pretty much written it off.”


Ramos entered the inaugural contest in the fall, thanks to a helpful and thorough counselor.


“My college advisor sent me an email listing the contests and scholarships TMEA was offering, and this competition caught my eye. I have been writing music for my school choral groups for years and thought it would be fun to enter,” he explained.


TMEA asked for compositions fashioned for beginning and developing choirs. Ramos decided to focus on a much-forgotten group—middle school boys—to help fill a significant void.


“Much of the choral music written for middle school boys is quite trivial,” Ramos stated. “I believe they are capable of experiencing music in a more meaningful way when they are allowed to perform good music that has a significant text. Due to the voice change that occurs during this time, a boy’s vocal range is very limited. I found the challenge of writing for middle school men very creatively stimulating.”


Ramos’ enthusiasm for the challenge helped him secure the win and a public acknowledgment. The RHS faculty member was recognized during the 2015 TMEA Convention Feb. 12 in San Antonio.


“It was such an honor. My former and current professors came up and congratulated me. I was the only one of the finalists who was also a full-time teacher. Many people were surprised that I was even able to find the time to compose,” he revealed. “This has boosted my confidence in my compositional skills. I truly appreciate TMEA and the multifaceted ways they support Texas music classrooms.”


Photo courtesy of Evan Ramos.


Local young artist to attend premier camp


Posted March 10, 2015


Juanito Riveros, age 15, of Rowlett, has been accepted and will attend Interlochen Arts Camp, the world’s premier summer arts program for aspiring artists in grades 3-12. Juanito, the son of Manuel and Mary Hellen, will study the Harp Program at the Camp.


He is currently a harpist with the Garland High School Honors Orchestra, Greater Dallas Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. He was named a Texas Young Master and received a scholarship to fund his private studies. Juanito has been First Chair for the Region 3 orchestras for the past four years.  In 2013, he was ranked ninth harpist in Texas, and in 2014, he was ranked second harpist in Texas. Juanito studies privately with Alison Read and attends Garland High School.


Interlochen Arts Camp attracts students, faculty and staff from all 50 U.S. states and more than 40 countries. These 2,500 artists fill Interlochen’s northwoods campus with an explosion of creativity. Student-artists learn from world-class instructors and produce hundreds of presentations each summer in dance, theatre, creative writing, visual arts, music and film.


Among the distinguished Camp alumni are Norah Jones, singer Josh Groban, members of the band OK Go, Rufus Wainwright, opera and concert soprano Jessye Norman, conductor Loren Maazel, jazz pianist Eldar, actor Anthony Rapp, cartoonist Cathy Guisewite and many more. Approximately 10 percent of the nation’s professional orchestra musicians have roots at Interlochen and the alumni community has been awarded nearly 100 Grammy Awards.


In addition to hundreds of performances, presentations and readings by young artists, Interlochen brings leading artists and performers to the northern Michigan campus. In recent years, guest artists have included Joshua Bell, Josh Groban, the Decemberists, the Avett Brothers, Olga Kern, Harry Connick Jr., Trace Adkins, Branford Marsalis and many more.  


Video of the summer arts program is available online at: camp.interlochen.org/media


Interlochen Arts Camp is part of the nonprofit Interlochen Center for the Arts, recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the only organization in the world that brings together: a 2,500-student summer camp program; a 500-student fine arts boarding high school; opportunities for hundreds of adults to engage in fulfilling artistic and creative programs; two 24-hour listener-supported public radio stations (classical music and news); more than 600 arts presentations annually by students, faculty and world-renowned guest artists; a global alumni base spanning eight decades, including leaders in the arts and all other endeavors. www.interlochen.org.

Ethridge grant to equip students with pedometers 

Garland ISD | March 9, 2015


Ethridge Elementary School physical education teacher Derek Story is beginning to see the truth behind the well-known saying, “Ask and you shall receive.”  Last fall, he applied for his second-consecutive Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60 grant. This month, Storey received his second-consecutive $3,000 check.


“I filled out a question a day, and before I knew it, I was finished,” he said. “I think it is important to take advantage of opportunities like this to provide additional learning experiences for my students.”


Last school year, Storey used his grant to buy blenders and supplies, launching a smoothie bar during National School Breakfast Week.


“We knew some students might have fruits they typically did not like, or others might be too small to eat a large piece,” he explained. “We figured if we chopped up some traditional fruits like apples or bananas and then threw in a mango, it would get them to try something new. Now when they are at the grocery store, they might recognize those fruits and make healthy choices.”


This year, Storey is buying his students pedometers to monitor activity during gym class.


“We tell them that the more they move, the healthier they are,” he said. “Pedometers are a good motivator because students like watching their number of steps go up. Sometimes you will see them running in place because they want the steps. I just hope students take this awareness with them to middle and high school, college, wherever. I want them to have the mindset that it is all right to move, eat something healthy and get a good night’s rest because it all benefits their body. If they take something with them then I have achieved my goal.”


Ethridge Elementary was selected from hundreds of schools across the country that applied for funding to help jumpstart and sustain healthy nutrition and physical activity improvements. Grant funding is provided by the dairy farm families of Dairy MAX. Schools can learn more about eligibility requirements, and find the Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60 application, at FuelUpToPlay60.com. There are several application windows each year.

District technology staff members to be recognized


Garland ISD | March 9, 2015


Two Garland ISD administrators are being recognized for their professionalism and reliability. Director of Enterprise Communications Ken Brinkley and Man Wan Systems Engineer Saji Thomas were selected by local engineers to be the recipients of both Special Utility Partnering Recognitions and Dallas County Court Resolutions.


“Ken and Saji have been some of the best and most reliable utility partners our group has had the pleasure to work with over the last several years,” said Dallas County Property Acquisition Supervisor Carter Ferguson. “The county is in the process of completing several projects in the Garland area, and they have participated in all of our various meetings and completed their work in a timely manner, saving both agencies, as well as our taxpayers, time and money.”


Dallas County Public Works has recognized its exceptional utility partners since 2008. In the fall, Brinkley and Thomas were awarded the 2014 Special Utility Partnering Recognition. Word of receiving the honor was a pleasant shock for the hardworking duo.


“I was completely surprised,” Brinkley explained. “We attend every monthly meeting to discuss the County’s utility projects. The November-December meeting always provides breakfast and presents awards. Carter later told us that all of the professional engineers vote on who wins the award, and they voted unanimously for us to receive it. I had no idea that Dallas County would give us this award, and for me, it was a really great honor.”


Now, Brinkley and Thomas are prepping to receive the prestigious Dallas County Court Resolution, scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, in the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court. The exciting event will help reinforce the ongoing partnership between GISD and Dallas County.


“We want to keep the relationship strong with Dallas County,” Brinkley said. “Being visible and engaged with governmental entities makes their contractors and utility departments understand that GISD is out there and serious about our outside plant network. We do not want our fiber optic cables to be cut or damaged and impact the district’s instruction or operations.”

DECA students compete at state conference


Garland ISD | March 9, 2015


Forty-three marketing, finance, hospitality and management students from six high schools represented Garland ISD at the Texas DECA State Career Development Conference Feb. 25-27 in Dallas.


“We have some amazing DECA programs across GISD,” said Lakeview Centennial High School marketing teacher Christopher Fleming. “DECA competitive events test our marketing students on their knowledge using a combination of role play of real business scenarios, sales presentations and other assessments.”


The 43 conference-bound students qualified for the meet by winning District Champion titles at the District 11 Career Development Conference Jan. 24 at North Garland High School.


The following list shows the number of students per campus who vied for a spot at the DECA International Career Development Conference, scheduled April 29 in Orlando, Fla.


  • Garland High School—14

  • Lakeview Centennial High School—13

  • Naaman Forest High School—3

  • North Garland High School—6

  • Rowlett High School—6

  • South Garland High School—1


Photo courtesy of Christopher Fleming

GHS grad now hometown firefighter


Garland ISD | March 4, 2015


Just one year after graduating from Garland High School, Micah Wesberry landed his dream job. The alumnus was recently hired to the city of Garland Fire Department, all thanks to a grant he received his senior year.


“Firefighting was something that I wanted to pursue,” he said. “Having the ability to have a full-ride to go through an academy and be able to obtain my certificates was very valuable for the future, which is why I applied for the scholarship.”


The Garland Fire Academy scholarship offers 16-18 weeks of classes and training to one GISD student per year. The grant was first offered in the 2012-13 school year as a way to spike interest in the public service field.


“The scholarship was started to promote careers in the fire service,” said Garland Fire Department recruiter Kristi Shepherd. “We wanted to give a GISD student the ability to receive their firefighter certification and training without having to pay for it themselves.”  


Grant applications are available through campus counselors, who then select just one submission to send to the Fire Department. Grades, community involvement, recommendation letters and a desire for a fire service career are all weighed when determining the scholarship’s sole beneficiary.


“It was awesome to learn that I got the scholarship,” Wesberry said. “The only way I can describe it is like when you watch NFL draft day and you see someone get the phone call. I felt like I had just been drafted. It was amazing.”


Although he was guaranteed admission to the academy regardless of his performance on the entrance exam, oral board interview and physical, his determination and talent secured his seat in the training school.


“The deal was that you took the entrance exam, and if you did not do well enough, you still went through the application process—but not for hiring,” he explained. “I scored high enough to be able to move on and continue through the stages and eventually ended up hired.”


But Wesberry’s career did not just fall into his lap. The 19-year-old made an effort to stay fit and learn as much as he could in order to earn the uniform.  


“The hunger for knowledge in how he could better prepare for the process was unbelievable,” Shepherd commented. “He was very mature, very determined, knew exactly what he wanted and was just ecstatic because he was given this opportunity.”


And the opportunity could have not come at a better moment, as the GFD was hiring for the first time in three years. Wesberry was one of 300 people who tested, and one of 21 who were hired.


“When I found out I got the conditional offer of employment, I was excited and could not believe it,” he said. “Now I am getting paid during the academy, and its whole point is to get your certification.”


Because he was hired before attending the academy, Wesberry did not even have to use the gifted funds—something Shepherd considers a true success story.


“He is just an awesome kid and very deserving of this. I have just been wowed,” she said. “He has a very long and successful career ahead of him. I hope that Micah will be a frontrunner in the department. He has the ability to promote every two years, and I look forward to that happening.”


Wesberry is currently undergoing training to receive both state firefighting and basic emergency medical technician certifications. For more information about the scholarship, visit the Guidance and Counseling Department website.

GISD Council of PTAs celebrates 60 years


Garland ISD | March 3, 2015


Every February, PTAs across Texas celebrate Founder’s Day, commemorating the formation of the state’s first club. This year’s anniversary marked a special milestone for the Garland ISD Council of PTAs.


Founded in 1955, the group has served students, parents, teachers and schools in the communities of Garland, Rowlett and Sachse for 60 years.


“When the organization was established, there were just 4,637 students enrolled in nine district campuses and six local PTA units were represented,” said former Council President Cari Murray. “In 1985, the Garland Council of PTAs changed its name to the Garland ISD Council to represent new schools in Rowlett and Sachse. The district had also grown to approximately 32,000 students and 48 campuses.”


GISD now serves nearly 58,000 students at 71 campuses and 68 PTA units are represented in the Council. Reveling in its rich history, the district invited Texas PTA President Leslie Boggs to speak during the Feb. 4 Founder’s Day celebration.


“PTA makes a difference,” she said. “We need to be proud of our association. One hundred and six years old does not mean that we are out of touch, but that we have changed with the times. We are here to say that we are here to stay.”


All local GISD chapters continue to accept new members. Contact campuses for more information, or visit the GISD Council PTA website.

GHS, SGHS academic decathlon teams advance to state competition


Garland ISD | February 28, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Tonya Adams named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | February 28, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Wal-Mart donation drive to benefit GRS Giving Place


Garland ISD | February 28, 2015


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


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


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


  • 5302 N. Garland Avenue, Garland 75040

  • 1801 Marketplace Drive, Garland 75041

  • 555 W. Interstate 30, Garland 75043

  • 430 N. Coit Road, Richardson 75080

  • 2501 Lakeview Parkway, Rowlett 75088


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


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

Power Hour: giving parents power to help children succeed


Garland ISD | February 23, 2015


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


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


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

GISD commemorates African American History Month


Garland ISD | February 20, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


Photos courtesy of Caren Rodriguez. 


GISD Student Nutrition Services explores refreshing initiatives


Garland ISD | February 20, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Rowlett HS Jazz Ensemble performs with local community band


Garland ISD | February 17, 2015


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


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


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


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


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

Steadham ES parents experience day with students


Garland ISD | February 14, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Kimberlin Academy nominated for national Blue Ribbon honor


Garland ISD | February 14, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


Students earn all-state titles


Garland ISD | February 14, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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


Photo courtesy of Karen Lewis.


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


Kim Everett | February 11, 2015


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


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


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


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


FieldTurf USA, Inc.                                $7,622,179

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

Hellas Construction, Inc.                        $8,876,000

Paragon Sports Constructors, LLC         $11,079,500

ProGrass, LLC                                      $12,657,718


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


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


Evaluation categories and scores are below:



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The vote to award the bid to Hellas was unanimous.


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


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


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


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


Parent-focused forum to discuss dating, domestic violence


Garland ISD | February 11, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Pearson ES student named district Spelling Bee champ


Garland ISD | February 11, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


·         Abigail Varkey, Jackson Technology Center for Math and Science

·         Ashika Khan, Cooper Elementary School

·         Abiola Joda, Shugart Elementary School

·         Elijah Quilantang, Hillside Academy for Excellence

·         Daniel Nguyen, Lister Elementary School

·         Adeeb Momen, Austin Academy for Excellence

Photo courtesy of Caren Rodriguez.


Career Expo exposes students to college, employment opportunities


Garland ISD | February 4, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Austin Academy jazz musicians perform at national conference


Garland ISD | February 3, 2015


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Photos courtesy of Margaret Wis.

Alumnus’ artwork reemerges at administration building


Posted February 3, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

New program feeds appetites, minds


Garland ISD | January 30, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Alpha Charter School now enrolling

Posted January 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students help redesign playground


Garland ISD | January 26, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Students recognized for creative abilities


Garland ISD | January 27, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The following students were chosen to advance:


Dance Choreography

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


Film Production

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



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


Musical Composition

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



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


Visual Arts

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


For more information, visit Texas PTA’s website

GISD board member Steve Knagg will not seek re-election


Posted January 22, 2015


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


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

Teachers reinvigorate classrooms after inspirational trip


Garland ISD | January 24, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Photos courtesy of Ron Clark and GISD staff

District partners with Discovery Education to host Math Academy


Garland ISD | January 21, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


Students, parents select choice of school for 2015-16


Garland ISD | January 21, 2015


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


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


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


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

Michelle Staubach Grimes visits IL Texas

Elementary, shares passion for writing


Kim Everett | January 17, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Garland ISD | January 16, 2015


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


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


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


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


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

Sewell principals kiss a pig for charity


Garland ISD | January 16, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Photos courtesy of Sewell Elementary


Faculty art show helps fund scholarships


Garland ISD | January 14, 2015


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


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


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


Contest challenges students to show off marketing, technology skills


Garland ISD | January 12, 2015


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


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


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


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

Middle school music programs receive grants


Garland ISD | Posted January 12, 2015


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


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


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


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


  • Austin Academy for Excellence—band and orchestra

  • Bussey Middle School—band and choir

  • Classical Center at Brandenburg Middle School—band

  • Coyle Middle School—band

  • Hudson Middle School—band

  • Jackson Technology Center for Math & Science—orchestra

  • O’Banion Middle School—band

  • Schrade Middle School—band

  • Webb Middle School—choir

GISD supports community's youngest learners


Garland ISD | January 9, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

CCC to offer graduation shout out messages


Garland ISD | January 9, 2015


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


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


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


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


For more information, visit the CCC’s website.

GISD earns bragging rights across state


Garland ISD | January 6, 2015


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


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


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


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


Students give input on school breakfast, lunch items


Garland ISD | January 4, 2015


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


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


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

GHS teacher battling cancer surprised by students


Kim Everett | January 4, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

GISD donates nearly 100,000 items


Garland ISD | January 4, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


Photos courtesy of Liberty Grove Elementary.

Graduates of SGHS honor campus’ first principal


Garland ISD | January 4, 2015


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


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


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


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