Officials with the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) announced on Friday the appointment of two experienced educators as principals at Burges High School and Morehead Middle/Johnson Elementary School.
Christopher Smith is the new permanent principal at Burges and Peggy Gustafson is the new interim principal at Morehead/Johnson.
“Mr. Smith and Ms. Gustafson are long-time educators that understand EPISD’s vision of innovation and high-quality education,” Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera said. “I am confident that under their leadership, Burges and Morehead will continue to flourish.”
Smith, whose start date is July 15, comes to Burges after serving as principal at Manor New Tech Middle School in Manor, Texas. He previously served as principal at Terrace Hill Middle School at EPISD. A former staff sergeant with the U.S. Army, Smith taught math in EPISD and served as a track and field head coach during his previous tenure in the District.
He will replace Jason Long, who has served as interim principal at the school since March.
Gustafson will move to Morehead/Johnson, effective immediately, after serving as principal of Fannin Elementary School since 2014. The two schools are scheduled to consolidate as part of the voter-approved Bond 2016 school modernization program.
Gustafson previously served as principal of the Northwest Early College High School in the Canutillo school district and was an assistant principal at Bowie High School. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Dakota and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at El Paso and New Mexico State University.
Gustafson will replace former Morehead principal Dr. Armando Gallegos who is now the interim principal at Jefferson High School and Silva Health Magnet High School; and Johnson Principal Dr. Karla Montemayor, who will return to the Rio Grande Valley later this month.
EPISD middle school students strengthened their fine-arts skills and showcased their talent in singing, acting, painting and poetry this summer during the 2019 Cultural Arts Experience at Morehead.
The experience gave more than 60 students a chance to dabble in different areas of fine arts during the three-week camp while also bonding with students from throughout the district. The program, formally known as the Renaissance Experience, had only been open to gifted and talented students but this year was open to all middle school students in EPISD.
“It’s a good way for kids to get creative in the summer,” said Franklin junior Madilyn Anderson, who has both participated and volunteered in the program. “My favorite thing about this program is seeing the projects come together at the end.”
Inside the Morehead cafeteria, students gathered around a piano to sing, while others spread out across tables drawing and painting. A half dozen students sat on the stage preparing for a play rehearsal while others worked on poetry.
“I think it’s nice because you get to learn new stuff and you get out of your comfort zone,” said Avery Awalt, a Lincoln sixth grader. “If you like painting, you can paint. If you like theater, you can act, and you get to make new friends.”
The opportunity to learn fencing initially drew El Paso High freshman Rene Diaz into the program three years ago – a signature activity of the late Renaissance experience. The revamped program will offer different themes but will continue its focus on fine arts.
“It’s a fun program. You get to do a lot of stuff,” said Diaz, a budding artist. “I fell in love with it when I joined in.”
More subtly, the camp supports students social-emotional learning.
“The cool thing about the camp is that you see the SEL strategies have really helped the kids blossom,” said EPISD Gifted-and-Talented Facilitator Cuyler Anderson. “We have several students who were super shy when they came in and, now, they are literally the life of the party.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy | Video: Angel Dominguez and Raymond Jackson – EPISD
Students in Northeast El Paso will soon attend a new school whose name celebrates the memory of a local veteran who fought for the freedom of our country during World War II.
The EPISD Board of Trustees this week chose the name of Capt. Gabriel Navarrete for the new middle school that will be built on Fort Bliss property.
“The name is very fitting and it celebrates the life of a man who made tremendous contributions to our community throughout his life,” said Board President Bob Geske. “It is a very appropriate name, too, since the construction of this campus is made possible by a partnership with Fort Bliss.”
Navarrete was part of the legendary U.S. Army’s Company E that was composed chiefly of Mexican-American young men from El Paso and served valiantly during the war.
The school will be built using Bond 2016 funds on land leased by EPISD from Fort Bliss near the site of the current William Beaumont Army Medical Center. The 25-year lease was approved by the Board this week.
The new Navarrete Middle will merge the students of Bassett and Armendariz middle schools.
Navarrete was born in El Paso in 1915 and enlisted in the Army in 1940. He quickly rose through the ranks and served under Capt. John Chapin during WWII. He participated in four battles and was wounded eight times during his service in Europe.
For his service, he obtained the coveted Combat Infantry Badge as well as four Purple Heart medals, two Silver Star medals, a Distinguished Service Cross medal and a Medal of Honor.
After the service he settled back home in El Paso and worked for decades as the County Veterans Service Officer, helping hundreds of local veterans secure the services and honors they deserved.
He married his wife Elvira and had four children. Navarrete passed away in 1988.
The EPISD Board considered three names submitted by the community: Navarrete, former Supreme Court Justice and Austin High School alumna Sandra Day O’Connor, and artist José Cisneros.
Teachers in the El Paso Independent School District will see an average salary increase of 6 percent in the upcoming 2019-20 academic year as part of a compensation package that was approved by the Board of Trustees on Tuesday.
Starting teachers with zero years of experience will earn $50,556 starting in August, up from $48,300 during the school year that ended in May. All other teachers will see an average increase of 6% from their base salary.
Trustees also approved a 5 percent salary increase from the mid-point for all other employees in the District. Part of the compensation package is a winter stipend of $750 for eligible full-time employees and a potential $500 spring stipend that is contingent on fund availability and Board approval.
“EPISD is committed to ensuring that we recruit and retain high-quality educators, and this compensation package strengthens our resolve to provide salaries that help us reach our goals,” Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera said. “The District has worked hard to create a healthy and sustainable financial outlook, and – coupled with changes in the state funding formula – this has allowed us to offer more competitive salaries for our employees.”
The Board on Tuesday voted to amend the 2019-20 budget to reflect an increase of $42.6 million in state funding, which the Texas Legislature earmarked largely to fund salary increases and other academic initiatives.
The compensation package also includes starting salary increases for school nurses and bus drivers. Nurses will see their starting salary will increase to $48,300 from $42,200.
Bus driver starting pay will increase to $15 per hour from $10.70 per hour.
The funding from the state also will funnel $13 million into academic and school-safety measures that include the expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten at schools throughout the District, as well as the purchase and update of important radio and safety technology for EPISD’s Police Services.
Computer-controlled robots mazed through the hallways while students learned CPR on manikins just across campus. Meanwhile, students crime-scene investigations were happening at a different corner of the school, near the area where students were engaging in nutrition classes and CrossFit-like workouts.
This is all part of the innovative EPISD Summer Medical Prep Academy — an intense three-week camp where more than 550 middle-school students are learning the basics of health using STEM education.
The new camp replaced the former Developing Research and Early Aspirations Medical Scholars (DREAMS) and offers similar opportunities to students for all EPISD middle schools.
The program, previously housed at Silva Health Magnet, had been limited to incoming sixth graders at Title 1 campuses. The Academy has now been moved to Henderson and is open to any incoming middle-school student in the District.
“This is a great way to keep your brain active during the summer,” said Hornedo sixth grader Merrik Brewer. “It’s important to keep the brain active because it’s good for your learning.”
Merrik joined the program because of its promise of robotics and crime-solving activities and looks forward to the exercise component to beef up his soccer game. His fellow Hornedo classmate Jose Escobedo sees the academy as an opportunity for career exploration.
“I’ve learned how to take DNA out of a strawberry and learn how to solve a crime based on people’s stomach content,” Jose said. “I like learning, and this is fun learning.”
Academy coordinator Ashley Sheldon explained that the hands-on projects and activities build students’ experiences and knowledge without appearing to be like regular school.
“We work really hard to make sure that there are no handouts, no lectures,” Sheldon said. “They’re sharing things and they don’t even realize that they’ve learned things at this point because they didn’t take any notes or listen to a teacher lecture. They just worked hands-on with projects.”
All aspects of the medical prep program are student-driven, teacher-facilitated – especially the robotics section.
“The teacher’s there to help them, but they come up with our own robot design with their own claw and their own programming,” Sheldon said. “By the end, and they get a robot through the obstacle course where before they had no knowledge of how to do that.”
Every three days, the students rotate through the forensics, medical applications and robotics. Students solve a crime through DNA, fingerprinting and fiber analysis during the forensics piece. In the medical applications segment, students learn to take each other’s blood pressure and use a practice doll to apply chest compressions for a lesson in basic CPR. A Cross-Fit-like activity – known as Raise Up the Bar – gets their heart rates up and complements a nutritional component.
“The kids are loving it,” said Bobby Macias, who created Raise Up the Bar at Ross Middle. “They’ve been very receptive to trying new things.”
The component introduces students to a variety of exercises associated with Cross-Fit-like classes including push-ups, squats, lunges and 400-meter runs.
“We’ve been introducing them to functional movements, and we’ve noticed the friendships they are forging while doing the workouts,” Macias said. “A lot of them are saying ‘I wish we had this class at our school.’”
Meanwhile, in the nutrition classroom, students examined test tubes with different foods and taking note of their fat and calorie content. The kids got a visual perspective of the fat in foods common in their diets: brownies, buttered popcorn, cheese, ice cream sandwiches, an apple and pudding.
“Check out the fats,” said JaMya Lynn-Carswell, holding a tube labeled trail mix 350 calories and 22 grams of fat for a half-cup serving. “I was surprised by the trail mix. I see a lot of people eating trail mix in exercise commercials but they’re eating more fat.”
Story: Reneé de Santos | Photos: Leonel Monroy | Video: Raymond Jackson and Angel Dominguez / EPISD
The El Paso Independent School District on Friday announced the appointment of experienced educators to key campus and school leadership positions.
Anna Torres is EPISD’s interim Assistant Superintendent of Elementary School. Torres will join Dr. Blanca Garcia, EPISD’s other Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Schools, in supporting and guiding the District’s elementary campuses. Torres most recently served as EPISD’s Coordinator of Improvement Planning in the Academics and Leadership Division.
Teresa Zamarripa is the new Director of Transformation Talent Development in EPISD’s Office of Transformation, where she will provide leadership development to the schools that form part of the District’s Transformation Zone. Zamarripa most recently served as principal at Guillen Middle School.
Dr. Armando Gallegos is the interim principal at Jefferson High and the Silva Health Magnet. Gallegos previously served as principal at Morehead Middle School. Angela Henderson, EPISD’s Assistant Superintendent of Middle Schools, will oversee Morehead in the interim.
Corina Favela is the permanent principal at Brown Middle School. Favela had served as interim principal at Brown since January and previously also served as interim principal at Charles Middle School.
Leticia Ewing is the permanent principal at Terrace Hills Middle School as well as Collins Elementary School. The two campuses will merge to form the new Bobby Joe Hill PreK-8 School under the Bond 2016 program. Ewing has been principal at Collins since 2011 and was named interim at Terrace Hills in March.
Monica Lyons is the interim principal at Guillen Middle School. Lyons previously served as assistant principal at Irvin High School.
EPISD and the City of El Paso are forging a partnership with a unique goal in mind: to get more kids to read.
“When we talk about improving the lives of children, we need to talk about literacy. Reading is the base of learning, and we must do everything we can to help our kids tap into the instruction that will make them successful in life,” Cabrera said. “El Paso Reads will bring EPISD, the City of El Paso and other important partners into the mix in making literacy a priority for our community.”
Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera and Mayor Dee Margo this week announced the creation of El Paso Reads, a community-based initiative that creates opportunities for children to develop and enhance their love of literacy with the help of the local business and nonprofit sectors.
El Paso Reads will help create reading-friendly environments outside the traditional school setting in order to give students more opportunities to access digital books, periodicals and other reading materials in places like restaurants, rec centers and even bus stops.
Under this new partnership — which was spearheaded by Mayor Margo and the District — opportunities for students to tap into digital reading material will be created beyond the school and home environments.
That means that places like the Boys & Girls Clubs of El Paso, City of El Paso public facilities, programs of community partners like the YWCA and YMCA, and even private retailers will create spaces where children can tap into digital reading content.
EPISD is partnering with Renaissance, a national educational analytics and software company, to give students free access to the myON library of more than 6,000 digital books using computers, tablets and smartphones. The myON function should be accessible to students in the fall.
Cabrera and Margo said they will collaborate to expand the program and improve the literacy rates in El Paso, a factor he believes will strengthen the economic outlook of the city and its residents.
“Family and community engagement are key factors contributing to children’s education. I’m committed to building a stronger community of readers with Superintendent Cabrera,” Margo said. “Together, through community collaboration, we can all make a difference in the lives of children and families in the El Paso region.”
Randi Economou, a reading advocate with Renaissance, said El Paso Reads is a unique partnership that shows a commitment to children by both EPISD and the City of El Paso.
“Superintendent Cabrera and Mayor Margo have come together to make an impact and create a culture of literacy for the children of El Paso,” she said. “We all know that literacy provides hope for a better future for children and their families.”
Story by Gustavo Reveles | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD
Ten El Paso Independent School District campuses were named to the 2018-19 Honor Roll by the Educational Results Partnership, a national educational nonprofit.
“EPISD continues to set the pace in academic achievement in the region,” Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera said. “Students in every corner of the District are reaching new heights in their learning, and our teachers are demonstrating that our innovative approaches to education are working.”
Cielo Vista, Hawkins, Hughey, Lamar, Mesita, Milam, Polk and Western Hills elementary schools, along with Silva Health Magnet and Transmountain Early College high schools were among the 855 public schools in Texas to be included in the Honor Roll.
Schools on the list demonstrated consistent high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in student outcomes over time and reduction in achievement gaps among student populations.
For high schools, the Honor Roll also recognized campuses with high levels of college readiness.
The Educational Results Partnership performed national research and identified common sets of learning objectives and college- and career-readiness factors among high-performing schools that include:
Defined college- and career-readiness practices
Human capital investments
Production and monitoring of student performance data
Training and resourcing of staff to help student preparation.
All recognized schools will receive a banner to display on campus, and each school will be included in an online Honor Roll database with detailed information on student performance. The list can be viewed at www.edresults.org.
Guest Columnist June 12, 2019NewsComments Off on Video+Gallery+Story: Space exploration summer camp blasts off at Mesita
The hallways and classroom at Mesita Elementary this summer have been blasted into outer space for a couple of weeks this month to celebrate the iconic 50th anniversary of the 1969 lunar landing by the United States.
Not literally, of course. The darkened instructional spaces are part of the Interstellar Summer Camp that for two weeks will invite students to learn more about space exploration and STEM concepts — in English, Spanish and even Mandarin Chinese.
“We are exposing our students to the technology and the newest research in outer space and giving them first-firsthand accounts of what real astronauts go through in order to train for space exploration,” said teacher Anaeva Rodriguez. “We’ve created activities for them that are very similar to what the astronauts go through at NASA.”
Black lights replaced the traditional fluorescent bulbs and black paper lined hallways in the camp area. Glow in the dark space creatures, planets and recordings from NASA kept the theme going throughout the hallways.
Coordinators of the program designed flexible and unique seating, glow-in-the-dark hallways, hands-on activities and other coursework with one goal in mind: to make the enrichment camp fun. In fact, in their effort to differ the camp from the traditional school day, the organizers decided not to assign homework.
“It’s summertime, and we know that kids want to stay home and relax or do other camps. So we wanted to bring them a whole different experience that starts with how they feel when they walk into the building and in the classroom,” said Mesita Assistant Principal Marcela Duran, the camp’s coordinator. “Every student gets to do some type of hands-on experience with different topics of space exploration in three languages – English, Spanish and Mandarin.”
Students from Mesita and eight other surrounding elementary schools were invited to the two-week camp.
Fifth-grader Arnav Tonde, already a NASA camp veteran, spent part of camp researching the Oort Cloud, a spherical shell of icy objects that exist in the outermost reaches of the solar system.
“I like to the projects Mr. (Pete) Delgado gives us because we get to work in teams and I get to interact with other people,” said Arnav, who plans to be either a computer engineer a doctor — or both. “It’s pretty fun, exciting and we’re learning a lot.”
Second-grader Evelyn Villanueva already enjoys observing the nights sky, the stars and planets. So, this year’s theme definitely caught her attention.
“I’ve been learning about space and new stuff I never knew,” she said. “I’m pretty excited because I think about space and it gives me ideas to be creative.”
Her fellow second-grader Grey Boyd from Bond Elementary enjoyed the chance to explore new languages, space and much more.
“I like that we get to do projects about space and learn about new things. I also like coming because there is free lunch.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy | Video by Raymond Jackson / EPISD
Guest Columnist June 6, 2019NewsComments Off on Pet project gives Lincoln student admission to Texas leadership program
Incoming eighth-grader Katie Kimberlin is among 72 outstanding student leaders from throughout the state who earned membership in Education in Action’s 2018-19 Lone Star Leadership Academy Alumni Council.
The Lincoln student received a certificate of merit for her dedication to developing her leadership skills and for her service to the community.
As part of the program, Katie created the service project called “Have a Heart, Help a Pet” that benefits the Humane Society of El Paso.
She enlisted the help from her National Junior Honor Society peers to collect a goal of 50 items for the agency, but the group exceeded expectations bringing in 102 items.
“This experience has allowed me to identify my personal interests, strengths and values,” she said. “I have also learned how to be adaptable and creative because many of my service project plans changed throughout the course of the project. Although there were challenges, I was able to overcome them and successfully complete my service project, which exceeded my original goal.”
Katie participated in a week-long Lone Star Leadership Academy summer camp last year and received leadership training during the school year.
“I am looking forward to attending the Lone Star Leadership Academy this summer in Houston/Galveston and plan on participating in the Alumni Council again next school year,” she said.
“The skills I learned over the last year will help me develop an even more successful service project next year.”
Story by Reneé de Santos | Photo courtesy of K. Kimberlin – EPISD
Guest Columnist May 24, 2019NewsComments Off on Juniors from throughout EPISD graduate from Jr. Leadership El Paso
Eleven EPISD high-school juniors on Thursday graduated from the prestigious Jr. Leadership El Paso, a selective program aimed at developing the skills students will need to become the next generations of leaders in the city.
The program is organized by the El Paso Chamber and takes students through a yearlong curriculum that puts them in contact with civic and business leaders to discuss the hot topics impacting the city.
Students joined other high-school juniors from neighboring school districts, private schools and charter schools.
To successfully graduate, students must attend the monthly sessions and complete a substantial project. This year project collected more than 11,000 socks for the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.
Graduating the program as Jr. Leadership El Paso Class XVI are:
Free breakfast and lunch will be available to children ages 1 to 18 at several El Paso Independent School District campuses during the summer break thanks to the Summer Food Service Program.
The meals are provided without charge and are the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. The District does not discriminate in meals in the course of meal service.
Elementary schools will serve breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday on June 3-27 at the following campuses: Bond, Cooley, Powell, Putnam and Tom Lea.
Mesita Elementary will serve meals on June 3-14 only.
Middle schools will serve breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday on June 3-26 at the following campuses: Armendariz, Bassett, Brown, Canyon Hills, Charles, Guillen, MacArthur, Magoffin, Morehead, Richardson, Ross and Wiggs.
Henderson Middle School will serve meals on June 10-27.
High schools will breakfast from 7:15 to 8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the following sites and dates:
Bowie and CCTA from June 3 to July 19.
Chapin from June 3 to July 16.
Franklin from May 28 to June 16.
Jefferson on June 3-16.
Transmountain Early College will serve meals on June 3-14 with lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
No meals will be served on July 4-5.
Story by Gustavo Reveles | Photo by Leonel Monroy – EPISD
Guest Columnist May 21, 2019NewsComments Off on El Paso ISD Police K9 officers among the Top100 K9 teams in country
The fierce and furry protectors of students and staff members throughout the District – EPISD Police Services K9 officers and their handlers – are getting some national recognition.
Five K9 teams from EPISD attended the 2019 National Narcotics Detector Dog Association’s annual conference in the Dallas-Fort Worth area earlier this month and walked away with trophies for excellence in dog-assisted policing.
Officer Phil Deal and K9 Jack, Officer John Dominguez and K9 Drago, Officer Efren Pulido and K9 Nuka, Officer Chris Duran and K9 Gibi, and Officer Christopher Rodriguez and K9 Sam attended the conference to receive important training and then compete in front of peers from throughout the country.
Two teams placed among the top 100 K9 units in the country. Dominguez and Drago were ranked 11th nationally, while Deal and Jack placed 57th in the U.S.
Additionally, Dominguez and Drago were given the “Top Gun” award for new K9 teams that perform at an exemplary level.
“The goal of the EPISD Police Services Department is to serve and protect the children and staff of the District,” said EPISD Police Chief Victor Araiza.
“The work that these officers and K9s have done is proof positive that we are well equipped to give students and teachers safe and secure learning environments.”
Story by Gustavo Reveles | Photos by EPISD PD, EPISD
Hundreds of EPISD students this spring sharpened their foreign language skills and participated in the National Language Exams in Spanish and French.
The results are in, and the District can boast one of the best track records in the country.
More than 600 EPISD students earned a medal in the National Spanish Exam and 98 students from the district received the same recognition for the National French Exam.
“These are stunning results,” said Amber James, a facilitator with EPISD’s Connecting Languages Division. “The students showed mastery in language proficiency and skills in comparison to students and peers from throughout the United States.
Qualifying students in EPISD middle and high schools participated in the program.
In the Spanish examination, EPISD boasted 95 gold medal winners, 247 silver medal winners and 288 bronze medal winners. Nationally, EPISD is one of the top medal-earning school districts in the Spanish exam.
In the French exam, also known as Le Gran Concours, a total of 98 students earned either a gold, silver or bronze medal. These students were honored during a banquet earlier this month.
Additionally, EPISD won the sweepstakes award for French in the region.
Story by Gustavo Reveles | Photos by Connecting Language – EPISD