Our Teachers Already Have MeritPosted by Jamie Wilson on 5/18/2019
As we near the end of this school year, our days are filled with celebrations of our students and their accomplishments. Last Thursday evening, the Denton Public Schools Foundation hosted graduating seniors who were tasked with writing a letter to an educator who impacted their life. During the “Educators of Influence” event, student after student shared how personal connections – some positive and some challenging – pushed them to excel.
When an individual enters the teaching profession, they understand the expectations of becoming a teacher. These expectations are of merit in and of themselves. A teacher’s job among other things is to instill a love of learning, create a mind of inquiry, discuss the possibilities of “what If” and to ensure students are learning.
When students are not learning, our teachers work in collaboration with our families to determine why, and rework lesson after lesson until our students “get it.” This is not just their job; it is their passion. The sooner a teacher helps find the fire of curiosity in a student, the more quickly each student can be set on the path to greatness.
This is the true meaning of merit, teacher recognition by students is the greatest reward a teacher can receive. When students speak of their teachers, they NEVER mention performance on a high stakes exam as the difference maker in their learning journey. To assume student performance on a one-day, high stakes test should determine a teacher’s salary or a performance bonus for the school district under values the merit of a teacher.
During the last few weeks, our state legislature has been discussing the idea of merit pay for teachers. I hear all the time, “merit pay is a good idea.” The bonus structure in corporate America is often more than the salary drawn by the employee because people are always paid for their performance – not the performance of their client, customer or their ability to get others to achieve. I cannot disagree with the bonus concept when it comes to sales, client acquisition, production, etc. However, when it comes to teachers, we have many variables to consider.
Our teachers assess students on a daily basis. They can tell you first hand if students are learning what they need to learn. That is their job, that is their passion. To assume teachers will work harder or do more for more money is in my opinion an insult to their profession and their work. When it comes to the value our teachers provide, their compensation is not commensurate. We employee thousands of hard-working teachers, giving their all every day.
Our teacher’s commitment, passion and investment may not override all variables when defining student success. I observe some of our most talented teachers working in some of the most difficult situations creating lifelong learners, instilling a sense of community pride, fostering creativity, and in some cases those efforts still do not translate to the high levels of performance we desire for our students. It is true that in the absence of a highly qualified/talented teacher, these variables have an even higher impact on student success.
As with many of you, our employee raises are usually eaten up with increases to insurance premiums, deductibles, or other necessities resulting in less money in their pocket. If our state has funds to offer a merit pay system, perhaps we should consider getting all teachers to at least the average national salary BEFORE siphoning dollars to a merit system tied to a one-day, high stakes test.
Our students are the message we send into the future, and our teachers shape that message each and every day. As graduation approaches please join me in appreciation of the parents, family members and teachers in supporting them along the way. The future is not something you enter, it is something WE create.
Back Pack Full of CashPosted by Jamie Wilson on 1/31/2019
Impact of Charter Schools
As the 86th legislative session gets underway, it is extremely important for our community to remain steadfast to its values. The November election saw a different twist, one seemingly focused on two major topics: Public School Finance and Property Tax Reform. A quick glance into past issues of the Denton Record Chronicle will uncover may articles, editorials, and letters to the editor on both of these topics.
In our community, our constituents overwhelmingly support our public schools, with good reason! Our local schools are focused on early literacy, college and career readiness, and among other things the social and emotional wellbeing of both students and adults. In addition, our local schools are destinations for some of the more than 1500 people moving to Texas every day.
The public schools in Denton County continue to perform at high levels on all metrics, while there may be individual differences between our local school districts, the commonalities among all of us allows for collaboration and working together to address the needs of our community.
On Monday, January 14th, the Texas House of Representatives has offered up a 17 percent increase in K-12 public education funding. This is not surprising as the new Speaker Bonnen has made it a priority to accomplish meaningful school finance reform this session. As state before, property tax relief can only be effective when our state does its part to fund our Texas public schools.
Funding public education in our state and in our community is the most important investment we can make in economic development. From Lake Dallas to Denton to Aubrey, our communities depend on one another. Jobs are created, and our economy grows when we acknowledge and invest in our schools. An educated workforce not only earns a living wage, it also contributes to the local economy and our quality of life for us all. It is for these reasons we must question the need for our state to fund two systems of public education through vouchers and charter school expansion.
While the state will maintain funding for public schools as remained constant, that is not the full story. When charter schools are factored into the numbers, it is easy to see there may be an underlying threat to privatize our public schools. Our State is deploying the same
privatization playbook that is financially supported by the politically-motivated donors who are not a part of our community, with not vested interest in the success of our local economy. Such actions have proven to fail students in Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan to name a few. The economy and job growth in those states pale in comparison to Texas. Our state officials elected locally have a tract record of supporting traditional public schools. As a community it is easy to overlook the impact vouchers or charter school expansion can have on the greater community.
At 6:00 PM on Monday February 4th, the North Texas Education Leadership Collaborative will be screening “A Backpack Full of Cash” at no charge and will hold a panel discussion in the University of North Texas Lyceum, located on campus at the Student Union. The documentary narrated by Matt Damon is an attempt to educate viewers on the impact of charter and voucher expansion, on local communities and economic development. The panel will address the cost of funding two public education systems in our state. At a time when lawmakers are working on school finance reform and reducing local property taxes, it would also be prudent to evaluate all public-school expenditures including the expansion of charters and vouchers.
Our local communities support our public schools. The fabric binding us together is often the local school, and I fear that fabric could be in danger. In the words of William J. Gumbert, “It is time to courageously stand for the interests of community-based school districts, teachers, support staffs, and retain “A Voice in the State’s Choice” to privatize public education in local Texas communities. The future of all students, our community-based school districts, our economy and our communities depend upon it.”
Civility and CollaborationPosted by Jamie Wilson on 9/28/2018
Civility and Collaboration
Fall is upon us, the cooler weather is setting in, and the election season has just ended. Like no other time of the year, our community has an opportunity to participate in the mid-term, presidential, statewide and local elections at the same time. Not only do those of voting age have an opportunity to weigh in and an obligation to do so; we also have a shared responsibility to model civility and collaboration to our children.
In the most recent national, state, and even local elections, efforts to generate votes for a candidate or support for a political party have not focused on issues. Rather, the narrative has revolved around negative accusations or comments about the other candidate or political affiliation. In today’s political climate, what do the children of our community learn from our actions?
A better question might be what do we want our children to learn from the election process? I would argue our children should learn the importance of civility, respect for differing opinions, an overall appreciation for the right to vote, and a sense of obligation to participate in the process.
I’m not sure we have done a good job expressing our desired outcomes to our future generations. Each negative political advertisement impacts the next generation of voters-our children. From such media, be it social or mainstream, our children learn it is permissible to talk negatively about another person, attack their political affiliation, and say anything about anyone regardless of the consequences.
As a community, I believe we have an obligation to model what we want our children to become, and if we want our children to act with civility, we should model such civility. If we want our children to participate in the election process, we should model such participation. Participation is not only voting on election day, but also educating yourself on the issues and teasing out the personal accusations that can muddy the water in the voting process.
If teaching our children civility and collaboration was lost in this last election cycle, we now have an opportunity to change our behavior and interactions with each other. I challenge each of you to rally around our public-school students, and to model civility in our adult interactions. Respect the idea of different viewpoints with an understanding and a commitment to learn more. Demonstrate the importance of working together so our children see us “working across the aisle”.
While we may not agree with all viewpoints, or the outcomes of the most recent election. We can all agree an educated populace is the secret sauce to democracy. The education of ALL children includes lessons in civility and collaboration. I embrace the challenge.
Working Together for a Better TomorrowPosted by Jamie Wilson on 8/31/2018
Working Together for a Better Tomorrow
Earlier this month we had the honor and privilege to dedicate the Denton ISD Support Services Building in the namesake of Dr. Bill Giese. During the dedication ceremony I was reminded once again the contributions of many lifelong residents not only to our school district, but also to our greater Denton community. At the dedication, there were numerous individuals whose names don the building of Denton ISD. Individuals such as Dorothy Atkins, Catherine Bell, Rudy and Rosemary Rodriguez, Curtis Ramsey, and Virginia Gallian were in attendance.
These pillars of our community lead by example, not just with their words but with their actions. Each of them worked tirelessly together to ensure our community rallied around public education for all students. The contribution from each of these individuals, though different in their impact, center around one theme--togetherness.
Dr. Giese reminded all of us what togetherness means. Public education and public services are an investment and not an expense. Each of us benefit greatly from a thriving school system and a high quality of life. His commitment to that investment has been a beacon for his entire life. A beacon I hope all of us can follow.
In addition, he holds a strong appreciation to those who put themselves out there to run for office, regardless of the outcome. A person willing to serve our community or state as an elected official is no small task. It is my hope that those who are elected to both local and statewide office will follow the actions of our Denton pillars by working to champion the concept of togetherness. Especially when it comes to education of our children.
On August 15th, we welcomed almost 30,000 reasons for all of us to come together. You can help us welcome them by visiting our website www.dentonisd.org to get engaged with the children of our community. Your engagement in our schools is needed and appreciated. In addition, we all have an opportunity during each election cycle to exercise our right to vote. It is not just an opportunity, it is an obligation. An obligation to choose representatives who show a willingness to work together and a commitment to public education. Leaving students of poverty and diverse backgrounds behind is educational malpractice. So is voting for individuals who are not in touch with our local values of togetherness.
Congratulations Class of 2018Posted by Jamie Wilson on 6/1/2018
Thank you, congratulations Class of 2018
By Jamie Wilson, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
As the school year has ended, and graduation ceremonies are in the rear view mirror, we are extremely proud of the accomplishments of our students, our parents and the education professionals who made it all possible. The graduating class of 2018 earned over $32 million in scholarship offers from colleges and universities spanning the country. These scholars are off to do great things, make a difference, and serve as a beacon of pride for the Denton community.
In May, our community overwhelmingly approved a $750.5 million Capital Improvement Plan for new and renovated facilities for the district. As a steward of tax dollars, our DISD Board of Trustees continues to pay off our bonds early. In fact, over the last 10 years we have been able to save tax payers over $170 million in interest by prepaying bonds and refunding to lower interest rates. Such discussions are held in open meetings in consultation with the DISD financial advisor. I encourage you to attend these meetings and be engaged in the process. Meetings of our DISD Board of Trustees are usually held the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month. Please visit www.dentonisd.org for a published list of meeting dates.
These building improvements will touch every campus in the district. Student learning and school safety at all levels will be addressed through these funds, and our community can expect to see safety upgrades as early as this fall. Our community will notice some changes in visiting our schools and each campus will be sending out correspondence in late July/early August outlining such changes, and explaining the upgrades.
As the summer progresses, our team is working diligently to prepare for the upcoming school year. We will welcome over 500 new students to Denton ISD this fall, and we expect total enrollment to surpass 30,000 students during the 2018-19 school year. Our design team has already started planning for the upcoming bond projects. Obviously, safety and security projects will take priority, other projects will begin as early as October. In an effort to provide as much information possible, the public can keep up with our bond projects on the DISD website.
The Denton community is extremely proud an supportive of our public schools. As a school district we need you to stay engaged in our efforts, and give us feedback to make Denton ISD the premier destination district in the state. Families are relocating to our area in record numbers, to some that is a burden, to others an opportunity. An opportunity to be an engaged member of a thriving community. Remember, the future is not something you enter, it is something we create.
Survey to help determine prioritiesPosted by Dr. Jamie Wilson on 5/2/2015 10:00:00 AMThe Denton school district has a long history of excellence within our community.
In turn, our community has supported our efforts through its engagement, volunteerism, bond elections and many other initiatives.
We pride ourselves on a commitment to continuous improvement and strive to be the very best we can be for the students in our schools, the citizens of our community and our local employers.
I believe our community understands the importance of good schools to our city, our community and our society. However, the current state accountability system assumes our local community places all of its judgment of the performance of our schools on high-stakes testing.
Personally, I think our community expects more.
I believe our community knows best about the progress of our schools, and what is valued within our school system.
Our state spends approximately $750 million on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) and not once has our state asked if that is what we want as citizens. That is about to change.
Whether it’s in higher education, entrepreneurial technology or being part of the global workforce, we expect our Denton ISD students to make a difference.
Our teachers are on the forefront of leading this charge. Our teachers spend countless hours improving the art of teaching, providing meaningful feedback to their students, and creating a safe environment for our students to take risks, create and innovate.
We need to ensure we are focusing on the right tools to help our students make a difference once they graduate. To do that, we need your help.
Denton ISD is in the process of developing a community report. This report will assist us in determining the priorities you value in our school system.
Your input will be used to determine our priorities and focus areas as we continue to make Denton ISD one of the best school systems in Texas. We need to know “What we value” together.
This past week, we released a survey asking what are our community values in our school system.
We have identified four core areas within Denton ISD in which we will track progress: teaching and learning, opportunities for students, culture/climate and growth/management.
You can complete the survey online by visiting www.dentonisd.org and clicking the appropriate link, until May 15.
This short survey will be administered by an outside agency, ensuring confidentiality and the ability for us to identify what it is you — as employees, parents and community members — believe to be the highest priorities for our students and staff.
It should take about five to 10 minutes to complete and will provide us with ideas on how to maintain and refine specific points in our four core areas.
Colleagues across the state are envious of our numerous partnerships and initiatives with local businesses and organizations. People see our district as a leader in community engagement.
I am proud that we have gained such stature and believe by asking our stakeholders what is important, we will only reaffirm our position of staying accountable to those who matter the most — each of you.
Remember, the future is not something you enter, it is something we create. Education is a shared responsibility, so take our survey today and take part in creating a great future for our students.
Society’s Future Depends on Educating All ChildrenPosted by Dr. Jamie Wilson on 10/9/2014 8:00:00 AMIt is no accident that our nation’s commitment to a public government was very quickly followed by a commitment to a public education, accessible to all. A healthy democracy requires an educated citizenry. In a day when teachers and public schools are criticized at every turn and the problems of public education lead many a politician, business leader, and arm chair educator to question its value, we would do well to pause and wonder at the ambitious task we have undertaken as a society: we will educate everyone.
Whether you come to kindergarten prepared or not, we will educate you. Whether you speak English or another language, we will educate you. Whether anyone has ever read you a book before, we will educate you. Whether you come to school with a full belly or you have not eaten since the school fed you yesterday, we will educate you. Whether you come from a loving family or from generations of abuse, we will educate you.
We do this because we understand that the future of our society depends on it. We are taking that which is good and true about our civilization and the civilizations around the world and transmitting it to the next generation.
We also know that intersecting the lives of kids as early as possible is a smart, long-term strategy for tackling poverty. In one North Texas school district, Denton ISD, 45 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. 31 percent are at risk of dropping out of school. A challenge like this will take an entire community rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. Schools cannot do it alone.
It is imperative for communities all across Texas to come together in support of our public school children. In Jamie Vollmer’s book, "Schools Cannot Do It Alone," Mr. Vollmer writes as his First Rule of Restructuring, “You cannot change a school without changing the culture of the surrounding town.” One of the best ways to begin such systemic change is to create and provide opportunities for community engagement. School districts need to seek partnership opportunities with entities such as local non-profits, municipalities, faith based organizations, etc.
When our communities Make Education a Priority by taking action steps to get engaged in our schools, our students are the immediate benefactor and our economic impact is the long term benefactor. When business and community leaders join with their local educational entities to “invest” time and talent in the development of our next generation the economic prowess of our nation and state will be the insurmountable. The talent within the walls of our public schools has the capacity to create a future unlike anything we as a nation have ever seen.
We challenge you to get engaged, create an initiative, and make a difference, Make Education a Priority. Will you join us as we seek to change our community one kid at a time? Ask your local school how you can help.
Student Success is More Than a TestPosted by Dr. Jamie Wilson on 5/8/2014 8:00:00 AMDuring this time of year, Denton ISD students are finishing the latest version of our state-mandated assessment. As a result, parents will be receiving the results for their child on these academic measurements.
Although this standardized test will be used by the state to score and rank our campuses and our district, it is not the only standard used in Denton ISD. Our district expects more; we have a higher standard. Each Denton ISD student means so much more than just a number on a test. There is no test that can truly assess the value of each student.
The faculty and staff in our district have chosen this profession out of our commitment to children. We are focused on individual student growth and the adult our students will become. Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
This single test cannot measure what we know about our students. We have students who speak multiple languages. We have students who play musical instruments, dance, sing, play sports, write songs, write poetry, and produce magnificent works of art. We have students who work after-school jobs, who care for younger siblings, and some even provide care for their parents or grandparents.
This test cannot measure when our students are thoughtful, kind, trustworthy, helpful or when they work to be the very best they can be.
Although the data from this assessment will assist in developing enrichment or intervention activities for some students, we will continue to focus on so much more. We will continue to deliver the best instruction possible for our students, and ensuring all of our students are ready for life after graduation.
Our students are encouraged to be involved in community service, to increase their global connectivity using the latest technology, and participate in extracurricular activities. We encourage our students to build upon their talents - theatre, speech, band, choir, orchestra, cheerleading, drill team, UIL academics, Destination Imagination, agriculture, world languages, career technology and numerous other studies, clubs and organizations.
We are committed to our mission: “Empowering life-long learners to be engaged citizens who positively impact their local and global community.”
And finally, our district has a tradition of excellence, and that excellence starts with you, our parents and community. The parent and community support in Denton ISD is amazing. At any given school function, our parking lots are full and people pour through the doors to learn about our schools and watch our students perform.
Our business community continues to support our educational partnerships and Denton Public Schools Foundation, which has awarded numerous grants to teachers and scholarships to our students. You have supported us in bond elections to provide educational facilities for our growing student population. The Denton ISD trustees have worked diligently to build energy efficient and sustainable buildings. Our community organizations spend countless hours volunteering and mentoring in our schools, so that our community is a better place for all.
Because of the cooperative effort of our students, parents, teachers, staff, trustees, volunteers and community supporters, Denton ISD has become the place to be. Our desire for the students of Denton ISD is so much more that test scores. Our highest priority is for every student to achieve their highest potential. Thank you for your unwavering support in our tradition of excellence. Education is more than a number; it is about creating our future.
Engaging Our Youngest Learners and Their FamiliesPosted by Dr. Jamie Wilson on 2/9/2013 8:00:00 AMDuring the past decade, school systems and policy makers across the country have emphasized the importance of graduating a college and career-ready student.
Professional organizations, research centers and policy makers have spent countless hours working to identify the factors that determine if a student is ready for college or the workforce. While the emphasis has been on the end, Habit Number 2 in Steven Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” reminds us to begin with the end in mind.
The Denton community also views early childhood education as a crucial period of a child’s education and development. It is just as important for a child to be school ready as it is for a student to be college or career ready. In fact, research shows it is difficult to have one without the other.
The Denton Independent School District prides itself in providing quality pre-school programs throughout our community to engage our children in the pursuit of life-long learning.
Our board of trustees and community members are formidable advocates for pre-school educational programs. They continuously push for stronger early childhood education funding and programming at the local, state and national levels - realizing the importance of collaborating resources to help lay a strong educational foundation for our youngest children. However, as a community we cannot wait for outside resources to assist us in this important endeavor.
The needs assessment conducted by the United Way of Denton County in 2011 further recognized the current and pending need for increasing access to quality early childhood education.
The first effort to increase such access resulted in a collaborative partnership inclusive of Denton ISD, United Way of Denton County, City of Denton and representatives from many community organizations. The initial effort of this group is to offer a new online school readiness resource to all our Denton ISD families for those who have children five years old or younger in their homes.
ReadyRosie is an innovative, locally developed, online school readiness resource that will send daily emails to parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers. The messages ReadyRosie has developed will include a short video of an interactive activity that can be done with young children to encourage basic learning skills.
These videos focus on literacy and math. For example, one message will be how to expand a child’s vocabulary. Building a larger vocabulary will prepare our youngsters to start reading and writing when they start school. Another video would build a child’s math concepts. For example, learning to count cans of food at three will help a child succeed when they are taught arithmetic concepts in school.
The district is now providing this service free to all families in Denton ISD with children five years old or younger. In order to receive the free service, families will need to register by clicking the ReadyRosie link on our website. Once registered, families will begin receiving video clips in English and/or Spanish on a daily basis.
One of the goals for ReadyRosie is to engage parents and other caregivers to play a larger role in the child’s language and math development by utilizing these learning tips. Parent engagement is crucial to a child’s success in school. ReadyRosie encourages a love of learning with parents and their children.
A six-year study by Hart and Risley (1995) suggests at least half of the educational achievement gaps between economically-disadvantaged students are evident by the time a child reaches kindergarten. ReadyRosie is one effort we are implementing to help decrease these learning gaps - creating the opportunity for children in our community to be ready for school.
Children, between the ages of three and five, are eager to learn and have a broad range of interests. Their curiosity is extremely high. Through this program, we hope to fulfill our children’s “inner curiosity” and help them be better prepared for kindergarten.
We need your assistance. Please share this initiative with any families who have children five years old or younger, or engage in a greater role by getting involved with the early childhood coalition by contacting Gary Henderson of United Way of Denton County at email@example.com.
This is a community project – and we need your help to spread the word. It is clear that early childhood programs do make a difference (Barnett, 1998), and they are worth supporting.
Together, we can build a stronger foundation for academics, social interaction and self-esteem, for our youngest learners. The future is not something you enter, it is something we create.
Our Schools, Our FuturePosted by Dr. Jamie Wilson on 9/24/2012 8:00:00 AMOver the past few months we have shared with you the importance of engaging our community in creating a stronger future for our students. Our district is fortunate to have many individuals, businesses and organizations providing countless volunteer hours, resources for our classrooms and mentors for our children.
In the early 1900s, school was designed to create a constant stream of workers for U.S. factories and industry. Approximately nine percent of Americans had a high school diploma in 1910, with that percentage increasing to just over 50 percent in 1950.
Today, the high school diploma is the gateway to additional educational and economic opportunities. After graduation, all of our students will enter the work force. Some directly out of high school, or through the military, while others will arrive after attending college.
As a community committed to education, we need your input. Just as the function of education has changed in the last century, so have the expectations of our community.
It is no longer adequate to focus student learning on developing 21st century skills. We have been in the 21st century for more than 12 years and our focus already includes 21st century skills. What worked yesterday does not necessarily work today.
The Denton ISD Board of Trustees works with district staff to establish the mission, vision, values and goals for the district. This workload is shared with the Education Improvement Council (EIC), a district site-based decision making committee consisting of representatives from across the district including a teacher from every campus, representatives from central office, counselors, nurses, librarians and principals.
Key members also include parents, community and business representatives. The function of the EIC is to advise the board in establishing and reviewing the district’s educational goals, objectives, and major district-wide classroom instructional programs.
To further engage our community, Denton ISD will be actively seeking input from staff, businesses, teachers, community members, parents AND students. Input will be collected by a variety of methods including the use of Facebook. This initiative is known as “Project EIC.” The purpose is to provide an avenue for meaningful feedback on what really matters in educating our children.
We will solicit responses to five guiding questions via Facebook over the course of five weeks by asking one question per week.
- What is school for?
- Posted Sept. 30
- What matters to you? (What’s really important to you?)
- Posted: Oct. 7
- What is success? (What does success look like?)
- Posted: Oct. 14
- Why do you do what you do? (Why are you a student, parent of a student, a civic-minded community member, an educator, a teacher, etc.)
- Posted: Oct. 21
- Why are you here? (Why are you in Denton ISD?)
- Posted: Oct. 28
There are great things happening in Denton ISD, and we want you to get engaged with us. Please take the time to access more information regarding “PROJECT EIC” on our website at www.dentonisd.org/eic. Starting today, find our questions online at www.facebook.com/disdeic.
Our community has a long history of commitment to the public school system, and the benefits of education for all. As a public school system, we would be remiss if we did not make a concentrated effort to engage the entire community in this process.
Conversation began in the EIC. It is now time for you to help us shape the future of our school system.
The future is not something you enter, it is something WE create. Please join us in creating our future.