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Veterans honored throughout GISD


Posted November 21, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Tuskegee Airman visits Hillside Academy


Garland ISD | November 18, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


GISD commemorates Red Ribbon Week


Garland ISD | November 14, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Jackson MST holds mock election


Garland ISD | November 12, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Dorsey ES students enjoy tipi-enhanced history lesson


Garland ISD | November 10, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Foundation awards scholarships


Posted November 7, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

NGHS students sought after by Texas Tech


Garland ISD | November 7, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

RHS band competes at state competition


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


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


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






Six-foot-tall otter visiting local schools


Posted November 7, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


Turn off the water when you brush your teeth

Take quick showers, but please don’t reek

Get a low-flow toilet, if you can

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


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

GISD bond package passes


Kim Everett | November 5, 2014


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


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


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



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


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

GISD AP exam participation increases, receives national recognition


Garland ISD | November 3, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


  • Offer a rigorous curriculum beginning in elementary

  • Expand access to gifted programs

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

  • Provide extra academic and social support to students

  • Dramatically increase the number of AP course offerings

  • Offer additional teacher training and professional development

  • Instill confidence in students about their college-going potential

  • Educate parents about the benefits of AP


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

South Garland student excited to become first-time voter


Garland ISD | November 3, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


RHS band advances to state competition


Garland ISD | November 3, 2014


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


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


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

District recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month


Garland ISD | October 31, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


First-year art classes spark more than creative abilities


Garland ISD | October 31, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


GSO presents Young People’s Concert for GISD


Posted October 25, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

SROs receive special training

Garland ISD | October 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

District celebrates fire safety


Garland ISD | October 22, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


  • Carver Elementary School

  • Cooper Elementary School

  • Caldwell Elementary School

  • Couch Elementary School

  • Garland ISD Infant Center

  • Heather Glen Elementary School

  • Lakeview Centennial High School

  • Luna Elementary School

  • O’Banion Middle School

  • Weaver Elementary School

  • Williams Elementary School

  • Toler Elementary School

Michelle McCray named Jupiter Chevrolet Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | October 17, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

RHS band brings home honors


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


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





Tafadzwa Charuma receives leadership award 


Posted October 17, 2014


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


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


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


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


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

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


Garland ISD | October 17, 2014


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


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

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


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

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


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


The following information is available online:



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


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

GISD celebrates anti-bullying and cyber-safety


Garland ISD | Posted October 16, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

Students prepare for future with PSAT/NMSQT, Readistep tests


Garland ISD | Posted October 15, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

GISD students learn to

support, report, defend


Posted October 14, 2014 


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


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


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


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


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


Facts about bullying:

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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



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

Fire Reel Film Festival now accepting submissions


Garland ISD | October 11, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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

Raytheon partners with GISD to introduce elementary engineering


Garland ISD | October 10, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


Eagle band excels at competition


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


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

  • Grand Champion

  • Outstanding Marching Performance

  • Outstanding Musical Performance


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

GISD campuses named national Blue Ribbon Schools


Garland ISD | October 3, 2014


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


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


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


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

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

GISD Facilities and Maintenance keeps busy


Garland ISD | October 3, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Garland resident asks for change in GISD board composition


Posted October 3, 2014


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


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


The document follows:


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


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


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


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


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


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

Students show college pride, learn about higher education


Garland ISD | October 3, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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

SGHS to host anniversary bash

Garland ISD | September 30, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Special needs students raise money for amusement park trip

Posted September 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semifinalists named in National Achievement® Scholarship Program


Posted September 26, 2014


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


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


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


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


About the 2015 Competition

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


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


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


National Achievement Scholarships

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

Students get creative during National Arts in Education Week

Garland ISD | September 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weeklong celebration to teach respect, responsible technology use

Garland ISD | September 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ecolab awards $50,000 in grants to district teachers

Garland ISD | September 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Misty Parmer named Jupiter Chevrolet’s Teacher of the Month


Garland ISD | Posted September 21, 2014


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


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


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

waiting to celebrate her honor.


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


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


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

GISD-issued iPads enhance classroom


Garland ISD | Posted September 21, 2014


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


This spring, GISD armed every teacher with an iPad.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Garland, Sachse mayors encourage PTA participation

Garland ISD | Posted September 19, 2014


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


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


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

Daugherty ES recognized for architectural design

Garland ISD | September 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

District launches college readiness program


Garland ISD | September 12, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


National Merit Scholarship Program announces semifinalists


Posted September 10, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


National PTA recognizes GISD schools for family involvement

Garland ISD | September 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elementary Schools

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

Middle Schools

  • Sam Houston Middle School

High Schools

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

NFHS Global Business, Language and Leadership program begins


Garland ISD | September 5, 2014


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


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


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


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


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


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