cistarrant

It's In You.


Leave a comment

Breaking News from Austin

COMMISSIONER SCOTT TELLS EDUCATORS THE SYSTEM HAS BECOME A PERVERSION OF ORIGINAL INTENT

“I cannot and will not certify the ban on social promotions unless there are resources to provide interventions to students who need to pass the test.”

Robert Scott, in a speech before superintendents and school board trustees this afternoon, pulled the biggest gun out of the education commissioner’s arsenal to guarantee lawmakers will start sending new money to schools next session.

Scott’s speech to the Texas Association of School Administrators’ Midwinter Conference was probably the best speech ever has given to the group during his years as interim and permanent commissioner. In it, he included an apology for the recent $4 billion in education funding cuts, plus the $1.4 billion carved out of the state education agency, much of which went to raising student achievement.

Too much has been loaded onto the state’s current accountability system, Scott said, a system which is dominated by a growing number of high-stakes tests that Scott generally supports. That includes a new requirement that high school students pass 12 end-of-course tests in order to graduate, starting with the Class of 2015.

“I believe that testing is good for some things, but the system that we created has become a perversion of its original intent,” Scott said, to thunderous applause from the school officials. “The intent to improve teaching and learning has gone too far afield, and I look forward to reeling it back in.”

So how does the education commissioner do that, when the power to broaden graduation requirements is given to the Legislature, and the power to set standards and curriculum is shared with the State Board of Education? In this case, Scott is going to turn to a provision in law added by Democrat Sen. Royce West when the accountability system recently was overhauled and new requirements added.

“As we move into implementation of end-of-course exams and STAAR, I believe that additional resources will be needed in the future,” Scott said. “And I will tell you that the legislative appropriations request that the agency makes to the next Legislature will reflect that, and I will say this as well, and this is going to get me in trouble when I tell you but the law says it anyway, I cannot and will not certify the ban on social promotions unless there are resources to provide interventions to students who need to pass the test. That is the law. And I cannot and will not do so unless those resources are appropriated by the next legislature.”

That’s one long complicated quote, right? And it’s hard to know, on its surface, exactly what it means without putting in a call from West, who has a clear understanding what such a decision might mean.

“When we passed the legislation several years ago – the legislation with all the social promotion consequences when kids failed to pass high-stakes testing – the state agreed that it would provide the resources necessary in order to make certain all students could pass the test,” West said. “I made the point that if the state doesn’t live up to its part of this partnership, then the children shouldn’t be held accountable for the passage of those tests. That’s what’s meant by certifying.”

So this is how it would go down: Scott would carry an appropriations request to the Legislature. The Legislature would choose to either fund or partially fund that request. If Scott’s not sufficiently confident that the funding will cover the cost of higher standards in classrooms around the state, then he can choose not to certify and render the state’s entire testing system null and void.

How that would play out is hard to imagine and possibly a huge headache for lawmakers, many of whom are not enamored of the current testing system. Would tests count for school ratings but not for student performance? If that section of law is voided, even temporarily, how will students graduate?

“I wouldn’t say that takes the accountability system off the table, but if we’re not providing the resources, the kids shouldn’t be responsible for passing the tests,” West said. “We need to have the revenue necessary to provide the resources.”

How Scott, possibly in conjunction with higher education commissioner Raymund Paredes, would determine the magic number that constitutes sufficient funding is still an open question. West’s amendment was silent on that issue, possibly giving Scott broad latitude to decide sufficient funding levels.

For his part, West, who fought for additional education funding last session, is happy to hear Scott’s commitment to funding.

“I applaud the commissioner for recognizing and taking this responsibility seriously,” West said. “He needs to make certain that the state does its part to get the resources to the classroom for this high-stakes testing that we’re doing in Texas.”

By Kimberly Reeves

Copyright January 31, 2012, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved


Leave a comment

The key is to work together

It always amazes me to hear the arguments when it comes to school reform. Most pundits propose simple answers: better teachers, better accountability, no more testing, more fine arts, more early education, more charter schools, better post high school options … many are viable and yet, all of these work on only a part of the problem.

Communities in Schools works to keep kids in school because research shows that in the end, it is best for all parties involved. The model consists of placing a social worker in schools that want one. These social workers serve as a resource aggregator for teachers and administrators to get what the student needs to be successful. Sometimes it is as simple as a new pair of eye glasses. Oftentimes it is much more complicated. But ours is one part of the solution. Instead of battling it out over the “best” solution, why don’t we look at the problem like it is … a really tough, complex and important problem to fix. We have been talking about reform for more than 50 years … don’t you think it is time to work together to make it happen? I found this from a local media outlet from the fall outlining a program to prevent drop outs. Working together, we can make a difference.

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/09/09/city-leaders-knocking-on-doors-to-find-school-dropouts/

Stacy Landreth Grau
Community in Schools Tarrant County Board Member


Leave a comment

Save a Smile

If a child is sick or in pain it is very difficult for them to pay attention and learn in school.  If they are hungry or sad, school work might not be the most important thing on their mind. These are all needs that must be met to give that child the best chance of succeeding in school.  The same can be said for a child who is experiencing dental pain, but it seems that it is sometimes easily forgotten that a child’s mouth is connected to the rest of their body.

Save a Smile is a program that is the product of a very unique collaboration between Communities In Schools, Cook Children’s Hospital, and 107 volunteer dentist throughout the community.  Save a Smile takes very generous volunteer dentists to screen 16 Tarrant County elementary schools annually.  Students are screened and put into categories according to the severity of

their dental decay.  Save a Smile then case manages the students who were found to have the most severe dental decay through those screenings.  There are 6 Community Health Workers who are dedicated to these students.  The CHWs make numerous attempts to contact parents, including phone calls, notes home, and home visits, to offer SAS services.  Once a family has agreed to work with SAS the CHW will have a discussion with the family about available resources such as savings and insurance.  If the family does not have private insurance the CHW will assist the family in applying for Medicaid and/or CHIP.  If for any reason the family does not  qualify for either of those programs, the CHW then gives the Save a Smile Program Director the student’s information to schedule a dental appointment with one of the SAS volunteer dentist.

We have volunteer dentist in every specialty including general practice, oral surgery, endodontics, pediatrics, orthodontics, and we even have a couple of anesthesiologist who volunteer for surgery cases. Students are scheduled with a dentist that most closely meets their needs. Our dentists treat Save a Smile patients in their private offices free of charge.  SAS provides translation and transportation for families when needed. The CHW also works with the family throughout their child’s entire dental treatment to ensure the child makes it to scheduled dental appointments, and that the parents understand the child’s treatment.

There have been many cases in which the CHW assigned to a child has gained the trust of a family and was able to assist in other areas of need.  We have received donations of beds for children who have been sleeping on floors, we have assisted families in need of food and clothing, we have helped families pay for prescriptions that are needed for their children, and we are able to help families begin the process of receiving treatment for medical conditions that may not necessarily be related to the child’s mouth.

It is very rewarding to be part of the save a smile program.  It is so great to see so many members of our community give so much to the students in our schools. I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by so many individuals from different professions who have come together to give the children in our community the gift of a healthy smile and another nudge in the right direction to overall success.

Brigitte Diaz-Voigts LMSW
Save a Smile Program Director


Leave a comment

New Things, New Comforts

There were a few ideas that came to mind when I was asked to write this blog but I think the most significant has been my recent experience as a new Program Director.  This change has taken a bit of getting used to, but I am finding more and more every week that I am truly enjoying it.  I respect and appreciate the increased responsibilities of being a PD.  While traveling around to 6 different offices puts a lot of mileage on my car, it is great to change the scenery and see new faces almost daily! A few things that I love about this position is helping the PM’s with field trips, events and doing groups all while encouraging and watching them grow to produce their best work.  I have a wonderful area of ladies and could not be more blessed with hard workers!

Another great part of this new job, and probably my favorite part, is the camaraderie among all of the Program Directors.  As every social worker knows, paperwork is no picnic.  This is especially true here at CIS when, at the end of the month, each of the 88-92 students has about 20 days’ worth of documentation that is turned in. The load can seem overwhelming at times. Reviewing five or six of these loads can be an even bigger trick! However, it becomes a lot easier with the knowing smile or jokes from a fellow PD who is in the same boat. When we are all together, the various personalities of the PD’s come out and create true laughter and support.  Sometimes I’ll hear giggling from the office at the end of the hall and we all run down to hear the joke.  (Some PD’s have ALL the jokes J). Laughing together really breaks up the hum-drum of staring at Campus Plans or Monthly Measures.  We all work very hard with our different schools, schedules and staff, so coming together to share ideas and lean on one another is often times the kick we need to keep up that hard work.  These girls have gotten me through some tough days with a smile on my face!  This school year has been chaotic to say the least, but the importance of office humor and support from the Central Office staff has been wonderful and makes all the difference in the world.  Going to a job every day to find people that make you smile is the best work of all!

Sara Isley, LMSW

Program Director

Communities In Schools, GTC


Leave a comment

Tidbits for Thought

CIS is about keeping kids in school because we believe education determines our future. Hopefully this is one thing that everyone can agree on – at least at some level. Keeping kids in school may be the biggest opportunity to change the things that need to be changed and create a future that is rich in independence, confidence and the desire to be self-sufficient.

There are several challenges that get in the way of children’s success and make staying in school difficult.  Most of them don’t have anything to do with the work required in school but rather the nurturing of the heart and dealing with basic needs of life.  Teaching is about engaging the brain and heart and requires different kinds of resources – maybe more than one teacher can present. The heart is as critical as the brain to performance, wellness, and emotional stability.  When children find meaning in their life, and have a mentor to help them define their path and deal with the obstacles they are confronted with, they learn to be independent and learn to succeed in life.

Questions I ask myself:
1.       Doesn’t it make sense to seek out children in need and create an environment that nurtures the heart so we can engage the brain?
2.       Does the combination of CIS Social Workers and quality teachers in our school district provide the best approach for dealing with the life challenges that get in the way of education?
3.       How do children in a negative environment, with no mentor to help them find meaning in their life, find the way to create a future for themselves and build confidence?
4.       Can we change “takers,” those people looking for someone to give them something, into “contributors” by providing an environment that nurtures and teaches independence and self-sufficiency?

The concept of helping others to help themselves is far from new.  A basic example that we have all heard, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”, is what  this is about and, we need to find a way to begin teaching children why “learning to fish” will prepare them to improve their future.

The problem isn’t access to education, it’s helping children and families overcoming the obstacles and helping them to understand the relevance of education and it’s positive effect on our future.  We should be asking the questions “What do you want your future to be? What do you want it to be for your children, your community, your world?”

-Michelle Jenkins, CIS Board Member


Leave a comment

Prom Dress Drive

It is time to kick off our 2nd annual CIS Prom Dress Drive!  Please look in your closet and pull out any formal dresses that you would like to donate to our CIS prom store. The CIS Prom Store is designed to allow girls who attend our CIS high schools, who would not otherwise be able to afford a prom dress, to “shop” for their very own prom dress at no cost to the student. We are looking to collect approximately 80 formal dresses with no discrimination in size, color, or style. We are only asking that the dresses be in good shape.  If you are interested in donating a dress (or two!) please contact Brigitte Diaz-Voigts at brigitte.diazvoigts@cistarrant.org  or Sara Isley at sara.isley@cistarrant.org.  If you do not have dresses to donate but still wish to help, we are accepting small monetary donations to go toward dry cleaning and event supplies. We will need to have all dresses collected no later than Wednesday, March 21, 2012. Thank you so much for your help in making prom a special event for the seniors who attend CIS schools!


Leave a comment

Happy New Year

Believe it or not, it is 2012. With the start of the new year here at CIS we are saying goodbye to a close friend, Yvette Hanshaw who has helped CIS grow into 38 schools in seven school districts. She accepted the position of Director of Development for the College of Communication at TCU. We already miss her smiling face.

We are also saying hello to a new school, Sharrod Elementary School in Arlington. We are interviewing now to find the perfect social worker for that school.

As we returned from the holiday break, we also learned that two of our staff members are now engaged! Congratulations to Myra McGlothen and Alejandra Morado…….2012 will be a big year for the two of you.

One last thought – In our December e-newsletter we asked for help to restore the right ear for one of our elementary school students who was born without the outside part of her ear. Her family needed about $5,000 to move the process forward and we received generous gifts that moved them closer to that goal. Members of the extended CIS family always seem to come through when we need them. Thank you for your generosity.

Have a happy and prosperous new year.

-Mike Steele, President & CEO


Leave a comment

The Holidays

The holiday season is a time of reflection and thanks. Family is always my first thought, but I am lucky enough to have a great family at work too. That family includes our Board members…..all of whom came to us because of their passion to help kids and specifically to help them secure an education……the kind of help that lasts a lifetime and into future generations. But at this time of year, my heart really goes out to our staff. None of these wonderful people are here because of great salaries. CIS people, social workers, financial, marketing and other office staff find their way to CIS and stay with CIS because they know CIS is making a difference in the lives of thousands of kids and their families. It is not everybody who is lucky enough to get paid for doing something that they really love. I am thankful for the opportunity to be associated with so many wonderful and dedicated people. Those of you who know me know that I love my job……you hear me say it all the time. I also hear it from CIS people all the time. So I want to wish a very happy holiday season to everybody in the CIS family…..a very special family.

– Mike Steele, CEO


Leave a comment

Aim Higher. Fight Harder.

I was very blessed to always have the support of my parents when I was in school. My parents have always encouraged me to be better than them; to aim higher and fight harder. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school and continue on to get a college degree. I am the new Marketing and Special Events Coordinator at CIS (8 days strong) and I am excited to be part of such an incredible agency.

During my initial interview, Yvette Handshaw, Vice President and Chief Development Officer, shared a student’s success story with me and I wanted to ask her if it was okay to cry! I was so inspired and touched by the story I had to choke back my tears. I’m pretty sure it’s not appropriate to cry during an interview. I knew at that moment that I wanted to be part of CIS.

In my position I will be working with committees, board members and other staff to bring awareness to CIS and raise money so we can keep Tarrant County kids in school. I am here to do my part so that our at-risk students can aim higher and fight harder too.

– Alejandra Morado
Marketing & Special Events Coordinator


Leave a comment

Kitchens Tour Excitement

On Saturday, October 29th, I attended the 16th Annual Communities In Schools (CIS) Kitchens Tour.  What a fun and excited weekend for CIS!  Over 500 people came out to see some of the most beautiful kitchens in the Idelwild neighborhood.  Thank you so much to the homeowners in this gorgeous community who so graciously opened their homes to help serve the kids of our community.  Thanks to all of our sponsors, homeowners, chefs and volunteers – we truly had a day to remember.

It was fantastic to watch the live Chef demonstrations outside in the beautiful weather – along with all of the incredible edible dishes they cooked up inside each home.  These homes were beautiful.  Some had an extensive collection of art, some had landscaping and backyards that were stunning, others had the most beautifully decorated tables – and of course all of the kitchens came right from a magazine.  What a treat to get to spend a Saturday with great food and wonderful people all to raise money for CIS so that we can keep more kids in school and graduate them!  It is such an honor to be involved with an organization that strives for excellence in everything they do.

Tiffany Cason

Board Chair

Communities In Schools