Posted by Xavier De La Torre at 3/13/2012 7:00:00 AM
Spring 2012 Public Forums
I would first like to thank the parents, employees and other members of the community who were able to join us at the recent Public Forums held throughout the District. These events are specifically designed to collect feedback and our community’s perspective on ideas or proposals being considered. With this information, we have the opportunity to adapt and adjust or move forward as planned.
In this round of meetings, we learned a lot about our community’s current view of the District. I believe that our community is generally satisfied with the leadership and student-centered focus that the Board of Trustees, the administration, and the teachers and staff in our schools demonstrate daily.
However, I would like to see increased participation at these community events. We must continue to explore ways to improve community engagement, specifically in anticipation of the critical need to help parents understand all of the implications tied to Texas’ new STAAR/EOC accountability system. I invite all parents to be actively engaged in their children’s education.
It was a pleasure meeting the parents and community members who attended our Public Forums. Here are highlights of the items discussed at the forums:
·The 2012-13 School Calendar was well received and enthusiastically supported by all parties in attendance.
·The update on Bond 2011 and our “Promises Made, Promises Kept” campaign was also well received. Our community seems to be positively supporting our decisions and progress to date. And, our stakeholders seem to understand and support our strategic decision to move forward quickly in an effort to capitalize on the favorable pricing generated by the weak economy.
·Those in attendance were also excited and supportive of the Capital Improvements Projects initiative. Thank you to those individuals who have shown their enthusiasm for this initiative.
·Our principals have clearly done an outstanding job of laying the groundwork for our migration from the current block schedule to the traditional schedule. Their hard work certainly will help facilitate the transition to the new schedule.
·Information around the STAAR/EOC system was certainly something that alarmed most individuals in attendance. It was very evident that most parents do not fully understand the implications associated with the new accountability system and especially the 15 percent requirement. However, we shared information and assured parents that our faculty, staff and administration are available to answer questions and discuss concerns. We will also seek additional opportunities to share this critical information with impacted students and their parents.
·The boundary line adjustment and the reconstitution of three PK-8 schools next fall was discussed at the Public Forum held at El Dorado High School. The topic raised some valid concerns surrounding the impact to parents and a significant investment by the District needed to address the primary concern of pedestrian safety.
‘The Hambric Plan’
With strong opinions on both sides of the issue displayed by parents and impacted faculties, and the associated costs to the District, we are recommending that the boundary adjustments and grade reconfiguration of Jane A. Hambric, Bill Sybert, and Paso Del Norte schools not be pursued at this time. We do plan to continue with the remaining elements of the plan, including the slight adjustment to the Dr. Sue Shook/Loma Verde boundaries.
With the enthusiasm and support shown for the other items discussed, we will continue to move forward as planned.
Thank you, SISD community
I also want to take this opportunity to thank all the teachers, support staff, their families, and the community for having embraced my family and for having entrusted me to lead the Socorro Independent School District on your behalf. Leaving this great place will be difficult and I will miss you all.
Serving as the superintendent of schools for the District over the past three years truly has been the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of my professional career. With everyone’s help, we have accomplished so much over the past three years.
I am grateful to the Board of Trustees who consistently provided extraordinary leadership, counsel, and support during my tenure. They are a dedicated and caring group of individuals who should serve as a model for other governance teams. I will miss the unparalleled support and expertise that I received from my Cabinet and District Leadership Team. I am genuinely convinced that the Socorro Independent School District has the greatest principals and teachers in Texas.
The New Year is well underway and Team Socorro is excited and optimistic about our continued commitment to be "Excellent by Design"! So much is happening in the Socorro Independent School District and all of it is dedicated to preparing your student to be college and/or career- ready so that they thrive in an increasingly competitive world where knowledge, resiliency, and adaptability are the new currencies in demand. Accelerated change is the new order and so we too, must anticipate and manage change.
MIGRATION TO A TRADITIONAL SCHEDULE
Perhaps, the most important initiative is the planned migration from our current block schedule at our secondary schools to a traditional schedule in the 2012-13 school year.After a great deal of deliberation and discussion with senior staff; select school principals; and, our Board of Trustees, we have determined that there are four valid and compelling reasons for migrating to a traditional schedule in our secondary schools.
1 First, the new STAAR/EOC Accountability System will elevate student expectations significantly requiring greater consistency and rigor in the classroom. Through observations, instructional rounds and discussions with teachers, parents and, more importantly, students, it is clear that the 90-minute block period is not being utilized optimally. In fairness to our teachers, engaging students for the full 90-minutes in activities that contain the necessary rigor and higher-order thinking is an unrealistic expectation for our teachers. Our experience has been that most teachers are facilitating the learning for 45 minutes maximum. The remaining time is often subject to the dissemination of worksheets and/or affording students time and opportunity to complete homework assignments.
Secondly, the At Risk Mentoring Initiative (ARMI) is not being implemented and executed with fidelity across the District. The curriculum is “piece meal” and therefore, the student experience can vary significantly from teacher to teacher. Again, it often becomes a period in which students’ complete worksheets and homework.
Thirdly, there currently exists a disparity in the preparation time afforded teachers in our elementary grades when compared to their counterparts at the secondary level. Teachers in our elementary grades receive a 45-minute preparation period every day while our teachers in grades six (6) through twelve (12) typically receive a ninety-minute (90), preparation period daily.
Finally, the state is already $6B dollars deficit and that figure will continue to grow over the next eighteen (18) months because there is structural and fundamental flaw in the current funding model. So, there will be no new money or an increase in revenue in the next biennium. To accomplish a balanced budget in 2014, while maintaining current health benefits; absorbing increased operating costs; and, supporting modest cost-of-living adjustments will be a challenge under current funding levels for Texas’ public school systems. However, it is more likely that we will actually see further reductions in state revenue. Additionally, local entities like the Socorro Independent School District that is perceived as reluctant to pay a fair local share will continue to be penalized for failing to maximize a relatively low property tax threshold. Therefore, there are serious financial implications on the horizon that will require our planning and initiative. Migrating from our block schedule to a less expensive traditional schedule will save the district almost $5 million dollars annually. And, at present, there would be no adverse impact on employees as we can absorb the surplus positions through positive attrition and projected growth. However, every year we delay this action, makes it more difficult to complete this transition without adversely affecting our teachers because we would have to hire almost 40 new teachers next year to continue with the block schedule.
MIDDLE SCHOOL SCHEDULE
Students will enroll in seven (7) classes daily instead of the current eight (8). Under the new model, students will still be afforded ample electives over their three-year period.
Students will see their teachers every day.
Each period is approximately 53 minutes long with four-minute, passing periods; this equates to an additional 12 hours of instruction per class, per semester or eight (8) additional 90-minute periods in one year.
4.Students who are on an accelerated path or want to take Algebra I, Fine Arts, and World Language class will have to consider a zero period class; an online world language class; or postpone the experience until high school where the new schedule affords four (4) more electives.
HIGH SCHOOL SCHEDULE
Students will enroll in eight (8) classes. Under the new model, students will be afforded one (1) additional elective every year.
Students will see every teacher every day.
ARMI will no longer be required in our high schools. Instead at-risk teachers will be utilized in reading/writing labs, and co-teaching models as intended.
Each period is 45 minutes long with five-minute, passing periods.
Textbooks would be provided in the form of classroom sets to alleviate the need to have students transport textbooks back and forth from home.
Homework and exams would be on an alternating schedule. For example, Monday/Wednesday would be mathematics/science and Tuesday/Thursday would be reserved for English/Social Studies.
9.CATE classes would still require and be afforded multi-period blocks to meet requirements.
In conclusion, the staff and I will be holding community forums in each of our five feeder patterns to continue to disseminate all pertinent information surrounding this initiative and a State of the District presentation that will familiarize our community with all of the exciting opportunities being considered for 2012-13.
It’s hard to believe that we are at the end of another school year. The year has gone by in a blink of an eye and yet upon reflection much has been accomplished. First and foremost Iwant to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the teachers, leaders and staff who have gone above and beyond this year to ensure that our students are learning and reaching new levels of academic achievement. There is no more important work than what happens every day in the four corners of the classroom.
In addition, I want to once again thank the Socorro family and community for supporting and passing SISD’s Bond 2011. As you all know, the passage of this measure will allow us to meet the demands of growth we face as a district. The Board of Trustees met in a special board meeting on Friday, May 20th to initiate the planning of the work and securing of contractors to begin the expansion process. We will keep you updated via our website and this newsletter with our plans and progress.
I also wanted to share with you the administrative appointments that will take effect next year. I am happy to announce that Rose Mary Carreon will serve as the principal of Socorro Middle School. Rose Mary has a proven track record at Loma Verde Elementary School and is excited about the opportunity to bring her leadership to Socorro Middle School. Furthermore, Dr. Maggie Aguilar will be working with Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Lopez next year to improve the performance of our secondary schools. In addition, Martha Provenghi will serve as the principal at Robert Rojas Elementary next year and Art Gonzalez will serve as the principal at Benito Martinez.
I’ve also initiated the first phase of a plan to transform school-based leadership teams into the instructional leadership teams they need to be in order to meet the needs of SISD’s students, staff, parents and the broader community. With that in mind, we have initiated administrative re-assignments of assistant principals for the 2011-12 school year. These new assignments are intended to provide individuals with additional growth opportunities with the added-value of beginning to identify future school leaders. We have learned that the more experience and exposure our assistant principals and teachers on special assignment have with curriculum and instruction, the better prepared they are to take on leadership roles. These re-assignments develop leadership capacity, and in some instances, also have an impact on the budget.
We are confident that the recommended changes will positively affect our students’ academic performance, increase the capacity of our teachers and develop our future leaders. To see a listing of these re-assignments,please click here.
I remain proud and humbled to serve the Socorro ISD. It truly is a pleasure to work and grow in this district and every day I am thankful for the opportunity to lead. I wish you all a safe and restful summer break. I realize many of you will be back next week to take advantage of our Passport to Excellence Summer 2011 Professional Development offerings. I appreciate all that you do to better serve our students and families. Thank you again, for a truly successful 2010-11 school year.
We are well into the 2012 school year with all the promise and potential to have an "encore" year in the Socorro Independent School District. The 2012 school year affords us a great opportunity to reflect, acknowledge, and celebrate our 50th Anniversary - our "Golden Anniversary". Since 1961, the Socorro Independent School District has worked hard to be the "gold standard" in education. By definition, the "gold standard" promotes our belief that the Socorro Independent School District has become the school district by which other similar school districts - locally and statewide - measure their own progress and success. Throughout the year, we have planned events to celebrate this milestone and look forward to your active participation.
Over the past several years, we have elevated the presence of our District while restoring the trust and confidence of our community as evidenced by the recent and strong endorsement of our nearly $300 million dollar facilities bond; the largest bond passed during the spring 2011cycle in the state of Texas.
The bond will ensure that the District has the resources to build the additional schools needed to accomodate the fast growth that comes from being one of the most attractive, respected, and innovative school districts in Texas. We are especially pleased that securing $300 million dollars will cost an average taxpayer in our District less than $5 dollars per month. We encourage you to monitor your investment in our children - our future - by logging on to our district website, "Promises Made, Promises Kept". The website is but one vehicle that will afford a full and transparent account of progress being made toward the construction and completion of two comprehensive high schools; two elementary schools; and, one combination school. Refrigerated air systems will also be installed in twelve (12) of our elementary schools; three (3) of our comprehensive high schools will undergo the remodernization of their science facilities; and, an investment in technology will be utilized to continue to drive learning in new ways. All of these projects are well underway and should be completed by the fall of 2014.
I remain convinced that, the strongest reason for our continued success lies in our Board of Trustees; a cohesive team of seven, high-performing, Trustees providing leadership, direction, counsel, and integrity to our District. Like many of you, I was thrilled to have Mrs. Cindy Najera and Ms. Anjelica Rodriguez join the Board of Trustees in 2010; learn that Mr. Tony Ayub and Mr. Michael Najera would run unopposed and earn a second term in 2011; and, that Mr. Craig Patton and Mr. Gary Gandara have agreed to serve an extended term through 2013. The benefit of continuing our work with the same team in place is priceless. Additionally, the Trustees have re-elected Mr. Ayub and Mr. Najera to second terms as President and Vice-President respectively. At present, the Board of Trustees is busy considering members of a newly formed Bond Accountability Committee; discussing their vital role in the redistricting process; and, joining my instructional leaders on class visits and "instructional rounds".
The 2012 school year will also usher in several new areas of interest that we believe will have a significant impact on the academic achievement and success of students. With the support of the Board of Trustees, every child in our elementary schools will have an opportunity to eat breakfast in their classroom at no cost to their parents or guardians. Our "Breakfast in the Classroom" program is districtwide and insures that no child is expected to focus and learn on an empty stomach; that no child spends all morning looking forward to lunch; and, that children do not become a discipline problem because they are hungry. Secondly, the Board of Trustees take a personal interest in the nationwide epidemic of bullying and have directed me and our staff to take every possible measure to reduce the likelihood of this happening in our schools - we couldn't agree more. The implementation of the internationally acclaimed Olweus Bully Prevention Program has been initiated in every school. We want all of our children to be focused on learning and not spending their day anxious, nervous, scared or tormented as a result of continued harassment or bullying by other children. Until a child feels safe and secure, learning will not be a priority. Finally, the District is also initiating an aggressive attendance campaign called, "Make It Count". We want students, staff, teachers, and administrators to make a concerted effort to come to school every day, if possible. Students cannot learn if they, or their teachers, are not in class as often as possible - this is, after all, when the "magic" happens. To help parents, the District is working with its Partners in Education to secure and raffle away bicycles, tricycles, gift certificates, video games, iPods, and other gifts as incentives to attend. These incentives will be awarded after every nine-week period. To see how your child's school is doing, please log on to the school website and check the "Attend-o-meter" located on the home page.
Finally, I remain thrilled and humbled to be the Superintendent of the Socorro Independent School District and look forward to another great year.
This month I've had the opportunity to meet and speak with many members of the SISD community during our Spring 2011 Forums. Each of the meetings has been well attended and I extend my thanks to everyone who took the time to learn more about SISD. At each Forum I've shared information regarding our academic performance, changes to next year's school calendar and introduced the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a new initiative that will be launched District-wide next year.
In addition, these Forums have given me a chance to hear from you, our community, regarding SISD's Bond 2011. The SISD Board of Trustees and I believe it's important to provide as much information as possible regarding Bond 2011 and welcomed the questions and concerns expressed at these meetings.
I want to once more express my appreciation to all of those who made the Forums much more enjoyable including students from each of our high school culinary arts programs. They made the light refreshments provided at each Forum. In addition, students from various fine arts programs contributed their musical talents as well.
If you were not able to attend a Forum and have any questions regarding the upcoming Bond election, please feel free to contact me at 937.0013.
Last month and continuing this month, I’ve been attending school faculty meetings to provide staff with an update on where we are as a district with regard to the proposed state budget reductions in our funding.I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the message that I’ve conveyed to various school faculties and that I will continue to communicate.
First of all I want to relieve any anxiety that you may have regarding the proposed state budget cuts by assuring you that both the Board of Trustees and I remain committed to you, our employees, that we will do everything in our power to avoid any reduction in force for the 2011-12 school year. We have known for some time that the State of Texas would face a budget shortfall but didn’t anticipate that it would reach the current estimates that project it to be anywhere from $26 to $28 billion. As a result, and according to the latest figures, the Socorro Independent School District is facing a projected reduction in funding of approximately $40 million dollars due to the budget cuts proposed by the state legislature.
Given this, we have been working since last year in maintaining efficient operations.During the 2009-10 school year, we reduced personnel and payroll costs at the District Service Center by nearly $2 million dollars; implemented a position control system and introduced staffing formulas to yield $3 million dollars and avoid overstaffing; and leveraged our federal and state categorical monies to alleviate the burden on our general operating fund.We were pleased to be able to afford our employees modest increases in compensation for this year while preserving arguably the most generous health benefits package in the region; and still, managed to maintain the lowest maintenance and operations tax rate in El Paso County for the fourth consecutive year.
In addition, at the beginning of this school year, the Board of Trustees adopted a new fiscal year, July – June, generating $12 million dollars in fund balance. More importantly, the Socorro Independent School District remains at the forefront nationally as a two-time, Broad Award Finalist in Urban Education and a Texas Education Agency, “Recognized” school district – truly, we have done more with less. Yet, the legislature will take none of this in to account and proposes cutting budgets “across the board”.
Given the anticipated budget reduction from the state we have developed a plan. We have instituted a hiring freeze and we will continue to seek cost savings by filling vacancies internally, when possible or foregoing positions; we will utilize positive attrition and growth to absorb nearly 150 positions; we will continue to maintain tight control over staffing through the use of formulas; we will reduce departmental and campus budgets; and, we will limit capital expenses and facility improvements. Most importantly, we will take every possible measure to avoid a reduction in our force for the 2011-12 school year.Notwithstanding, reducing the budget an additional $40 million will result in the district being hard pressed to deliver the same level of service to our students and to our staff and yet, I remain confident that we will rise to the challenge.
The district continually benchmarks its spending and staffing levels against peer and neighboring districts and with industry standards. It is gratifying to know that outside agencies have taken notice of our good stewardship of taxpayer dollars and SISD has been acknowledged for operating in an efficient and effective manner.
In times like these it is easy to become distracted from our focus - educating our students. I want to reassure you that the Cabinet and I, working in partnership with our Board of Trustees, will work to minimize the impact on all of our employees. We remain committed to you, our Socorro family, and will keep you informed about the budget and any proposed changes.Your work with our students, whether in direct instruction or support, remains critical to achieving our goal of becoming an Exemplary district. I am confident that working together we can achieve it.
I am very proud of the fact that here in Socorro ISD we offer a variety of educational programs to meet the different needs of our students. One of our best kept secrets is Options High School. The school opened its doors on June 4, 2006 and is an alternative high school that offers academic options for students who want to complete the necessary requirements for a high school diploma. Students who attend Options are often facing a myriad of challenges and need the flexibility that the school offers.
This morning the Options High School staff and administration held a ceremony for the 25 students who have completed all of their requirements and were awarded their certificates of completion. Welcomed and applauded by family and friends, students marched in, dressed in caps and gowns to receive their certificates.
Mr. Pat O'Neill, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services and former Options High School Student, Eve Knott, were featured as guest speakers. Board Member Cynthia Najera and I were on hand to congratulate and recognize the students.
It was a touching ceremony. It's also a tribute to these students, their families and to the entire faculty and staff at Options that made the ceremony today possible. It takes a different level of commitment and desire for these students to realize this goal. In turn, the faculty and staff at Options provide a great deal of support and a different way of serving students to help them be successful. It was the highlight of my day!
This morning I had the honor of attending a surprise scholarship presentations at both El Dorado and Montwood high schools. Officials from The University of Texas at El Paso came to Montwood High School to surprise thirty (30) of our seniors with scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $6,000 per year to attend the University. And, earlier in the day, they visited El Dorado High School and seven of our seniors were awarded scholarships totaling $112,000. The four-year scholarships - part of the UTEP Scholars Excellence Program - are given to selected students based on merit. At El Dorado High School, two (2) students received the Presidential scholarship worth $12,000, four (4) students received $16,000 Presidential Excellence awards, and one (1) student earned a $24,000 Leadership award.
Students at America and Socorro high schools received surprise visits on Thursday, December 9th with additional scholarships awarded.
I am even more proud of the fact that between the four high schools, our seniors received some of the largest number of scholarships among high schools in the city of El Paso. This is a credit to the students who have demonstrated that hard work pays offs. The scholarships provide an opportunity for students to continue to fulfill their potential. In addition, these scholarships also recognize the dedication and support students attending our four comprehensive high schools receive from their parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators.
There is nothing more rewarding then seeing the faces of our students, along with their family and friends, when they learn that their dreams of attending college are being realized. This is why we do what we do. Our work, teaching and learning, is the most rewarding profession. Every day I am thankful for the privilege of leading an outstanding team of teachers, counselors and leaders who make it possible for our students to know success.
Congratulations to all of our scholarship recipients and their families!
On Friday, August 20, 2010, the Socorro Independent School District completed its third week of school with well over 42,000 students; nearly 1,500 more students then the past year. I remain convinced that this new enrollment figure will establish the District as the second largest school District in El Paso County surpassing the Ysleta Independent School District.
During the 2009-10 school year, our team closely analyzed all pertinent demographic data and determined that District enrollment would increase by a minimum of two (2%) percent. We also understood that this growth, while welcome, would not manifest itself equally across all District schools and in all grade levels. In anticipation of elevated levels of growth in two feeder patterns; the El Dorado High School feeder pattern and the Eastlake High School feeder pattern, the team developed a short-term plan to increase capacity in high impact schools without modifying existing attendance boundaries. Specifically, the Board of Trustees and I worked closely with the Citizens Oversight Committee in November 2009 to redirect approximately $20 million dollars of remaining 2004 Bond monies to increase capacity at Eastlake High School and at the El Dorado 9th Grade Academy. The later represented both an opportunity to provide much needed relief to El Dorado High School and to experiment with a ninth grade academy model; a research-based, best practice being utilized nationwide to decrease dropout rates, increase completion rates, and improve the academic achievement of academically vulnerable ninth grade students. Both of these decisions have turned out to be extremely sound - the El Dorado 9th Grade Academy is home to nearly 900 students and Eastlake High School has 520 freshmen. Secondly, our short-term plan called for the establishment of two pre-kindergarten hubs - one in the northern part of our district and one in the southern part of our district. By strategically redirecting pre-kindergarten students to O’Shea Keleher Elementary School and to the Escontrias Early Childhood Education Center we created capacity in elementary schools most affected by growth.
Thirdly, with the support of the Board of Trustees, the superintendent and the leadership team identified schools in each feeder pattern that either had adequate capacity or that would best accommodate temporary classrooms to accommodate all redirected students. For example, six (6) portable classrooms were added at Hurshel Antwine Elementary School and two (2) portable classrooms were added at Specialist Rafael Hernando III Middle School in anticipation of accelerated growth in the El Dorado region that has come to fruition. A second example is the increased capacity created by adding two (2) additional classrooms at Horizon Heights Elementary School; an elementary school that normally accommodates 850 students but has a current enrollment of 1,000 students. Most recently, the Board of Trustees approved a plan presented by the superintendent to invest $2 million dollars of unanticipated 2004 Bond contingency monies to expand Chester Jordan Elementary School and Dr. Sue Shook Elementary School. Chester Jordan will be expanded by four (4) classrooms by the fall of 2011 and Dr. Sue Shook will have another ten (10) classrooms by fall 2011. In aggregate, these two (2) schools will be able to accommodate over 300 new students next year in our fastest growing areas.
The accurate projection and successful management of accelerated student enrollment growth is not a foreign concept to me or my team. My tenure in the Elk Grove Unified School District; the fastest-growing, school district in northern California for the past two decades with average increases in enrollment of six (6) percent annually and 62,000 students at present, make me uniquely qualified to provide the strategic leadership necessary to effectively and successfully manage the accelerated growth that our District is experiencing. However, our current reality presents a new level of challenges when one considers diminished resources at the State level; the fragile economic conditions that currently exist; and, the significant expansion of Fort Bliss, Texas. Notwithstanding, our District is committed to being proactive and to aggressively pursuing "Excellence by Design". This will mean immediately reconvening to analyze demographic data and patterns; enrollment projections and capacity levels; and, considering all options available to insure that the schools are available when our students arrive. Boundary lines will have to be studied; multi-track, year round schedules examined; the procurement of additional portable classrooms will be considered; and, sources of new revenue will also be explored. Nothing has been decided at this point and the District will likely commit to a plan involving one or more of the aforementioned possibilities later this winter. In conclusion, the 2010 school year has experienced one of the smoothest starts to any school year in recent memory.
We have successfully opened two new, state-of-the-art, secondary schools. Our short-term, plan has made it possible to accommodate nearly 1,500 new students without a great deal of inconvenience or interruption. May we all live in exciting times!
Let me be the first to welcome you to my blog; an exciting and emerging technology and communication portal that will improve and facilitate communication between the superintendent of schools and members of the Socorro Independent School District family.
By regularly posting pertinent and accurate information around all aspects of our District, I hope to introduce an unprecedented level of access, reliability, rationale and clarity of purpose surrounding decisions and events aimed at addressing our work and our reality in the Socorro Independent School District. Regardless of the issues facing our District, this site will afford an unabridged account of decisions being considered or made on behalf of the nearly 42,000 students we have the privilege of serving.
Once again, the Socorro Independent School District finds itself in a familiar place; the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) report will indicate that nineteen (19) schools in our District earned a TEA Exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency (TEA); an increase of eight (8) schools or a seventy (70%) increase over the previous year. In aggregate, thirty-seven (37) of our thirty-nine (39) eligible schools will earn a Recognized rating or Exemplary rating by TEA; a ninety-five (95%) percent success rate and the highest among all public school districts in Region 19. ATEA Recognized District rating coupled with a second consecutive Broad Award Finalist for Excellence in Urban Education nomination will propel us into the 2010-11 school year.
Earlier this week, the Socorro Independent School District welcomed almost 42,000 students at 41 schools including two (2) new, state-of-the-art, secondary schools - Eastlake High School and the El Dorado 9th Grade Academy. This year will be a pivotal but monumental year for the Socorro Independent School District; our students' academic performance on the final TAKS administration and the subsequent rating that the District receives from TEA in 2011 will define the District for the next three (3) years while the State gives Texas school districts a respite from accountability ratings in preparation for the new STAAR accountability system.
Our team and our District are well-positioned to secure an Exemplary rating as a result of the deliberate decision to commit all available resources to support our principals, classroom teachers and support staff. Earlier this spring, I presented, and the Trustees approved, a strategic plan that included a significant reduction in staffing levels at the District Service Center. My plan was developed to insure that our principals received the level of attention, expertise, training, and support they need to be successful; we in essence flattened the organization and eliminated all non mission critical positions and cut nearly $2 million dollars from the payroll budget at the District Service Center. These same resources when coupled with our new budget development process and position control system to generate almost $5 million dollars of savings that then made it possible to improve staffing ratios at our largest elementary schools and, more importantly, to give all employees in the District a modest raise. The later is something that the Board of Trustees and I felt was important when one considers what an impact they have made on student achievement over the past several years.
Notwithstanding this tremendous commitment, becoming an Exemplary district will not be easy, it will require 100% effort from all of us, 100% of the time! It will require that we, "Leave it all on the Field"! Our challenges include diminishing resources as a result of a $20 billion dollar deficit that the State of Texas is facing; our continued and accelerated growth that without some relief in the near future, will overwhelm the enrollment capacity at many of our schools; and, significant changes in the accountability system that threaten our standing as a TEA Recognized District.
No worries! School is off to the smoothest start in recent memory and the Socorro family is committed to the children and students of our District. Again, welcome back and I look forward to meeting and speaking with as many Socorro ISD stakeholders, as possible, over the course of the school year.