Denton Independent School District
Empowering Lifelong Learners
- Denton Independent School District
- Letters from the Superintendent
Monthly Column from our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jamie WilsonDr. Jamie WilsonSuperintendent of SchoolsIn partnership with the Denton Record Chronicle, Dr. Wilson publishes a monthly column to highlight people, events and information in relation to Denton ISD. If you have questions or need more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still Blessed, Still Denton ISDPosted by Office of the Superintendent on 8/26/2019 8:00:00 AM
We feel blessed to be in the ninth-fastest-growing county in the United States, which causes great challenges very few get to experience. Just this past week, MetroTex Association of Realtors reported Denton County had the biggest jump in home sales in the DFW area, with a 16 percent increase in home sales compared with the same period just one year ago.
Our Denton ISD community is witnessing the growth firsthand. We opened the doors with a first day enrollment on Wednesday, Aug. 14, of 29,195 students, and by Friday, that number had grown to 29,954. The growth in enrollment and support of our community has led to the opening of 12 new schools since 2008 — an amazing feat in and of itself.
The latest, Union Park Elementary, our ninth campus in the Braswell Zone, ended the week with 447 Pioneers, most of whom are new to the Denton ISD community. This eco-friendly, 88,674-square-foot campus is our 24th elementary school. Housing grades pre-kindergarten through fifth, it serves as a focal point of an 1,100-acre master-planned community in the eastern area of our district. The Union Park Pioneers and their families moved to our community, choosing to call us home.
As I visited schools during the opening week, the excitement the new year brings for both teachers and students was inspiring. Our parents were just as excited to share their children with us as they mark another year and milestone for their child.
This past summer, our teachers were honing their skills through technology workshops, literacy training or innovative engagement opportunities in preparation for our new learners. All focused on our board goals inclusive of early literacy, numeracy and college/career readiness. We are blessed with not only outstanding teachers but outstanding instructional leaders who continue to lead their colleagues to better prepare to meet the needs of our students.
Our district is filled with professional educators who always seek ways to engage students in their learning and instill hope for their future. Engagement and hope are not measured on a one-day, high-stakes, state-mandated test. Rather, hope and engagement spring forth when we celebrate our differences, demonstrate kindness to one another and surround each other with genuine encouragement to achieve our goals.
I can assure you our teachers are driven by the needs of our students, their hopes and their dreams. After all, it is our public schools, through our educators, who serve as the great equalizer — breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
Through events like the 2019 Back to School Fair, our families feel the wrap-around support of our community. Be it “Blessing of the Backpacks” by Mission Moms, Kroger School Supply Kits or the incredible support from the many participants of the Back-to School Fair, our students and our teachers feel it.
It gives them hope, it gives our families hope, and it gives us all hope — a hope for the future of our community, our state and our nation. At a time when many questions and often-divisive issues are facing our leaders, I am proud our community steps up to rally around our most important asset — our children. Still blessed, still Denton ISD!
Educators already have meritPosted by Office of the Superintendent on 5/17/2019 8:00:00 AM
As we near the end of this school year, our days are filled with celebrations of our students and their accomplishments. Recently, 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 greater impact on student success.
It’s time to show-up for educationPosted by Office of the Superintendent on 3/17/2019
As we look up and find ourselves in the midst of another legislative session, I keep reflecting on the quote, "If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
Recently, a group of volunteers and locally elected officials traveled to the Texas Capitol for Denton County Days. It’s an annual pilgrimage organized by our local Chamber of Commerce with the purpose to advocate for Denton County through a common lens and keep the topics our residents face in the fore-front for our state’s lawmakers.
The group collaborates on pressing issues and combines our representatives from the local school district, city officials, county officials, chamber members, local colleges and universities and non-profits into smaller, issues focused action teams designed to advocate for you and Denton County. Such collaboration is unprecedented around the state, and I am proud of our citizens who recognize the value our organizations bring to the quality of life we enjoy.
Our Board of School Trustees placed their goal of having “All students reading on grade level by third grade,” at the center of the team’s agenda. They worked diligently during the collaboration opportunity for the constituents of our community, to re-enforce the need for teacher pay increases and for the state to fully fund pre-kindergarten programs.
In the early developmental years our children need their first teacher, their parent, to read to them daily. As children grow, our public-school teachers take them from learning to read, to reading to learn. Individuals who took time to read to and with our children, community engagement at the finest, through Read Across America Day – Dr. Seuss’ Birthday, witnessed their progress first hand.
Although less obvious, an equally important lesson was at work that day – the lesson of service to others. Students benefitted from caring adults of all backgrounds and occupations, showing up for them in the name of learning, moving forward together.
Service is at the heart of most everything we do in public schools. Our schools offer many certifications leading to fantastic careers for our students in our community. Our stakeholders are proud of these opportunities and partnerships – like the Denton Fire Department’s Academy at the LaGrone Advanced Technology Complex. Recently, Fire Chief Hedges invited me to participate in a morning of fire academy training. While all participants felt like “firefighters for a day,” we all gained an even deeper appreciation for the work our civil servants perform daily. Another example of community engagement at and with its finest.
Whether it be Read Across America, a half-day fire academy, or Denton County Days, community engagement is necessary for the economic development of our future. Not all governmental spending should be seen as a burden, quite the contrary, it is an investment.
Strong schools are critical to maintain strong economyPosted by Office of the Superintendent on 1/28/2019
As the 86th Legislative Session gets underway, it is extremely important for our community to remain steadfast to its values, not those of us as individuals, but the values you, our community, have outlined for us over the past several years. This past November, debates and the local election revealed that our community want us to focus on two major topics: Public School Finance and Property Tax Reform. A quick glance into past issues of the Denton Record Chronicle uncovers many articles, editorials and Letters to the Editor on both topics.
In the Denton ISD community, our constituents overwhelmingly support our public schools, and they do so with good reason. Our schools continue to focus on everything academic in a student’s PreK-12 career, as well as foster the social growth and emotional wellbeing of students from every background. It is no surprise that our local schools are destinations for many of the more than 1,500 people moving to Texas every day.
The public schools in Denton County continue to perform at high levels, and while there may be small differences between our local districts, the commonalities among all of us allows for rich collaboration and conversation as we address the needs of our greater community.
On Monday, Jan. 14, the Texas House of Representatives offered up a 17 percent increase in PreK-12 public education funding. This is not surprising as new Speaker Dennis Bonnen has made it a priority for our elected representatives to accomplish meaningful school finance reform during this session. As stated many times, the problems with public school funding can only be appropriately addressed once there has been effective property tax relief put into place.
Funding public education across our state is the most important investment our legislators can make in economic development in our communities. From Lake Dallas to Denton to Aubrey, our communities depend on one another. Jobs are created and our economies grow 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 the quality of life for us all.
The state will maintain funding for public schools, but at what rate? There is much more to the story when assessing public school finance. We must question the need for our state to fund two systems of public education through charter school expansion and the possibility of levying a voucher system.
When charter schools are factored into the numbers, it is easy to see there may be an underlying threat to privatization of our public schools. Our locally elected state officials have a track record of supporting traditional public schools. As members of such a supportive, local community, it is easy to sometimes overlook the potential impact charter school expansion or voucher systems can have on the greater community.
We do, however, have some state officials who have been deploying a privatization playbook that is financially supported by politically motivated donors who are not a part of our community and who subsequently do not have a vested interest in the successes of our local economies. Such actions have failed students in other states from Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan. The economy and job growth in those states pale in comparison to ours.
We live in a state that does not need a new education system, we simply live in a state where the great system we already have in place needs to be properly funded and supported by our elected officials.
At 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 4, the North Texas Education Leadership Consortium will be screening the documentary, “A Backpack Full of Cash” followed by a panel discussion in the University of North Texas Lyceum, located on campus at the Student Union. There is no charge for this screening, however, the information you may glean could be priceless. The documentary, narrated by Matt Damon, is a powerful message that educates viewers on the impact of the expansion of both charters and vouchers on the economic development and underlying fabric of the local community.
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.
The future of all students, our state’s economy and our community-based school districts could be at risk if we do not heed the warnings and signs that are currently in the forefront. Please stay involved.
Let the spirit of giving inspire us allPosted by Office of the Superintendent on 12/3/2018
Like many of you, I find that during the holidays I become very reflective, and some might say sentimental. Gatherings with family and friends during this season to reconnect and celebrate the season are moments I find meaningful. Because I love these moments, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle from event to event and the bustle of travel, meal preparations and visiting.
Traveling from campus to campus, it is inspiring to see the canned food drives, the toy collections and the coat distributions taking place to benefit our most vulnerable students. Countless acts of kindness and generosity take place each day in our classroom, however they seem to multiply during the holiday season.
More specifically, what began as a project in Gregg Sawko’s garage eight years ago has grown to a full-scale effort to collect and distribute more than 3,000 warm winter coats to those in need in multiple school system in Denton County. This past Monday, a group of volunteers did just that. School counselors matched students, some of whom have never owned a proper winter coat, with a coat sized just for them.
Even small efforts like the Student Council at Stephens Elementary collecting jars of peanut butter and jelly for a local food pantry in an initiative they are calling “Spread the Love” will make an impact on both the giver and the recipient.
Recently, two Denton ISD graduates and local restaurant owners, John Williams (Oak Street) and Corey Bobbitt (Komodo Loco), could not stand the thought of students not being able to pay off their school lunch balances. Their solution created The Mac’n Cheese Festival of Denton and quickly became the hottest ticket in town.
Thousands voted for the best macaroni and cheese sample prepared by 32 local restaurants and organizations. An afternoon of fun has now reaped $4,500 which is now clearing student’s balances and helping hundreds of students across the district.
Special thanks to participants that included: Komodo Loco, Caskey’s Bar & Grill, Halley King, Mulberry Street Cantina, Access Bank Texas, Dot’s Hop House, Guaranty Bank & Trust, Sweetwater Grill, Dusty’s Bar & Grill, Game Changers Sports Arcade, II Charlie’s Bar & Grill, Armadillo Aleworks, Bone Daddy’s, Denton Elk’s Lodge 2446, Q’s, Mellow Mushroom, Lucky Lou’s, Warren Dane of Anderson Spector & Co., East Side, Bet the House BBQ, Bolivar St. BBQ, Greenhouse Restaurant, Juicy Pig Barbecue, 940’s Kitchen, Cartwright’s Ranch House, The Loophole, Local Pint, Horny Toad Café, The Chestnut Tree, Ten: One Artisan Cheese, Milpa Kitchen, Denton Co. Brewing Company, The Bearded Monk, Andy’s, Paschall Bar.
Student performances, pot-luck lunches and gift exchanges seem to seep into every extra moment we have during this time. Celebrating our student’s talents and the fellowship with our colleagues is never more prevalent than during this month.
If you have a moment to experience the vast array of student talent we enjoy, please check our Fine Arts web calendar at www.dentonisd.org/finearts. Not many things will help you capture the essence of the holiday more, then attending a concert featuring our community’s young people.
I would like to acknowledge our appreciation for the visionary leadership that is provided by our outstanding Board of Trustees. Our seven board members serve as the consummate example of engaged citizens who represent and impact our community. Their efforts and sound decisions continue to illuminate the path of excellence for our entire district.
Finally, I feel truly grateful to live in a school community where education is valued. I wish the very best to you and yours during this joyous season.
Our children are watching… so let’s lead by examplePosted by Office of the Superintendent on 10/31/2018
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 completely focused on issues. The narrative has instead revolved around personalities or comments about the other candidate or his/her political affiliation.
In today’s political climate, what do the children of our community learn from our actions?
A teacher reminded me recently, “Every day I teach kids that being unique is a great thing. I teach students that differences make the world a better place. I teach children to listen to one another and help each other, but there is so much in our world right now that is showing our kids the exact opposite.”
Our community has an opportunity to participate in the mid-term, presidential, statewide and local elections this month. Not only do I believe those of voting age have an opportunity to weigh in and an obligation to do so; we also have a responsibility to model civility and collaboration for our children.
If we want our children to participate in the election process, we must work to make it a positive experience. And, we must remind them that being part of an election is a process not just voting on one day. Citizens have a duty to study the issues and research the content that candidates present.
Today, we have a pivotal opportunity to change our behavior and interactions with one another. I challenge each of you to rally around our public-school students and to model civility through our interactions.
Remember to show respect for people, their ideas and different viewpoints. Pledge to research more and interact with people who have different beliefs and backgrounds. Demonstrate the importance of working together so our children see us working together.
We can all agree an educated populace is the “secret sauce” to democracy. The education of ALL children includes lessons in civility and collaboration. As Denton ISD’s lead learner, I embrace the challenge.
Our children need to know 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. Our country’s future – and more importantly, their future – depends on it.
If property values continue to rise, why do local school districts continue to request more funds?Posted by Office of the Superintendent on 10/9/2018
As you receive your tax bill this fall, I feel it is important to demonstrate the complete picture of why the largest portion of the property taxes you pay is designated “Denton ISD” but does not benefit our local schools.
Many ask… "With the increase in property values, why can’t our school district lower the tax rate for our public schools, after all, the property tax we pay for our schools is the largest portion of our tax bill?”
What does all this mean? The answer lies in the public-school finance system. An early projection has our state decreasing state funding to public education and using our local school property taxes to fill the gaps.
The Texas Legislature has created a school finance system that depends on more than half of our property tax bills to fund the state’s budget – and this includes budget functions and projects that do not directly impact education or local public-school districts, even though they are labeled as such on your tax bill.
One would think a rise in property value and economic boom, would mean districts could or should lower their rates. However, the funding formula dictates that as property values rise, our state reduces its share of funding that legislators return to our public schools.
Frankly, we don’t have a tax problem in our state, we have a state allocation problem. And the only way for meaningful property tax relief to occur in our state of Texas is to address the state funding of our public schools.
Voters in our community and in the majority of those across our state agree, continuing to support tax ratification elections and bond elections, demonstrating their approval of their local schools.
Our community passed a TRE last fall by more than an 80 percent margin in an effort to help our district gain $7.9 million, which was needed because the state’s share of funding our schools dropped to 31 percent this past school year.
This fall, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath confirmed that the Texas Education Agency has projected a drop in the state’s general revenue for public education by more than $3.5 billion over the next two years. TEA’s solution is not to come up with a solution for this shortfall. Why not? Because our local tax revenue is making up the difference.
Denton ISD hit a record enrollment of 30,019 student on the 10th day of this school year. We currently rank first in the North Texas area for number of undeveloped lots, so growth will continue. Denton County sits as the ninth-fastest growing for population in the United States, and every one of the district’s 41 campuses saw a double-digit increase in enrollment.
Again, your tax bill will continue to increase while our campuses will work to educate more students with fewer supplies, higher class sizes and less support.
Like many other areas with a thriving local economy and strong public schools, Denton ISD is one of the largest employers in our community. Not only do we operate an organization that ensures we maintain an educated workforce, we ARE the educated workforce. And our employees are often the most stable, economic drivers of a community’s economy.
We know the majority of you understand this and the current situation public schools are in because you continue to support Denton ISD. In order for us to make meaningful change, I urge each of you to exercise your right to vote, and to let our state elected officials know we expect true property tax reform that includes adequate public-school funding.
Working together for a better tomorrowPosted by Office of the Superintendent on 8/29/2018
Bill Giese, 90, is a wonderful man who in his own words, “Lived a humble life in service of others.” Earlier this month we had the honor and privilege to dedicate the Denton ISD Professional Support Services Building in honor of him and his service on numerous community committees and boards.
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.
“While this organization is formally known as an Independent School District, it really should be an Interdependent School district,” said Dr. Giese. “Appropriately educating ALL students really takes us all – we depend on one another.”
The ‘nods’ in the audience included individuals such as Dorothy Atkins, Catherine Bell, Dr. Rudy Rodriguez, Rosemary Rodriguez, Dr. Curtis Ramsey and Virginia Gallian who understand as fellow school namesakes what it takes to build a legacy of service in a growing community.
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, and that public education and public services are an investment and not an expense. Each of us benefits greatly from a thriving school system and an exceptional quality of life. His commitment to the children of our community has served as a beacon for his entire life. A beacon, I hope all of us can follow.
In addition, he holds a strong appreciation for individuals who step forward to run for elected office, regardless of the outcome. Serving our community as an elected official is no small task and it is a principle upon which our country was founded.
On Aug 15, we welcomed almost 29,711 students to our classrooms giving us 29,711 reasons for all of us to come together. Whether it’s through reading to students volunteering for a Field Day or employing a high schooler through the Mayor’s Summer Work Initiative, your engagement with our students is needed and appreciated.
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.
As I reminded our administrators this summer, leaving students of poverty and diverse backgrounds behind is educational malpractice. I believe supporting candidates who support system that widened the divide is unconscionable. Join me in voting for individuals who are in touch with our community and our local values of togetherness.