Students at H.D. Hilley and Horizon Heights elementary schools didn’t spend the summer just watching television or playing video games.
Instead, the youngsters read millions of minutes, earning the two campuses entry into the top 10 schools with the most reading minutes in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.
The two campuses recently celebrated their accomplishments. Horizon Heights students slimed their principal Jenifer Hansen and covered her with Silly String during a morning celebration. At H.D. Hilley, classrooms with the most top readers celebrated with pizza, popcorn and ice pop parties.
H.D. Hilley was the 2017 top winner for Team SISD with 1,577,099 minutes. Horizon Heights came in second with just 600 minutes less.
“It does say something about how quickly our schools have embraced the idea that reading can be a fun and an exciting activity to do whenever and wherever they are,” said Marcy Sparks, SISD’s library service coordinator.
Beginning each May and continuing through mid-September, the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge encourages students to read and log in all their minutes during the summer months.
In 2016, Mission Ridge passed Hurshel Antwine at the last second to finish in first place, which earned the school a visit from Scholastic’s Summer Reading Road Trip RV.
This year, Horizon Heights was leading throughout the summer, then H.D. Hilley snuck in during the last days of the contest to take the top spot. Overall, SISD district logged in almost 6 million minutes, improving the overall minutes earned in 2016 by almost double, Sparks said
For H.D. Hilley Principal Fernando Miranda, winning the reading challenge showed his students they could accomplish anything, even when it is sometimes challenging for students to find books outside of school.
“This is a huge accomplishment,” Miranda said. “It’s enormous. These students aren’t near a public library. The only free books students can check out is in our school library or the Little Free Library that sits in front of the school. That’s why this is such a big deal.”
Horizon Heights has participated in several reading challenges during the last several years, said Shannon Ortega, the school’s librarian.
“But this year our principal challenged the students, promising she would let them cover her in slime if we could reach a million minutes,” Ortega said. “We not only read that much but we are No. 10 in the United States and No. 2 in SISD.”
On the day of the sliming, Hansen showed up at school with normal everyday clothes and jewelry. Her only protection was a pair of goggles. As soon as she knelt in a kiddie pool, student after student poured the slime on her head and then shot Silly String non-stop.
“I knew I was going to be oohey, gooey and I was so scared,” Hansen said. “But that’s OK because I am one proud principal. My children know how much I care about them. This is about them knowing that their principal sets goals, too, for them. They have to set personal goals, but so do I for them.”
Spreading the love of reading
Jared Barraza, a 10-year-old from Horizon, was one of the lucky students picked to slime the principal. He earned the right because he read more than 5,000 minutes.
“I love to open a book,” Barraza said. “I enjoy the story. But reading also helps me with my school work and improves my vocabulary. I want to become a doctor, so reading is going to be very important for my work. How can I read about illnesses and other things if I can’t read?”
It’s this kind of thinking that Horizon Heights teachers, the librarian and the principal have instilled in their students. The saying around the school, thanks to Hansen, is “Readers become Leaders.” Her focus for the challenge was to make students read for pleasure and not let it become a chore.
“Are there benefits such as vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, absolutely?” Hansen said. “Reading is that foundation for all other curriculum, subjects in our school. But this competition was about reading for the love of reading. It is about a journey. When you open a book, it takes you to a location, to a place. This was about reading for the love of reading.”
Sparks believes more students are starting to feel that way. Across the district, more and more are picking up books and reading. School administrators and staff are doing an outstanding job of encouraging it and providing time for students to read.
“Our librarians are making a concerted effort to provide access to reading materials a lot easier, especially in areas without public library access,” Sparks said. “Eastlake feeder schools all got Little Free Libraries before the summer break and that may have helped. We have also been showing our students how to access eBooks and audiobooks from home.”
In addition, the challenge makes students feel part of something bigger than themselves, she said.
“We promote the event as reading for fun, and all summer students make choices about what they want to read – whether it’s an instructional manual for a new game or reading your favorite book for the third time,” she said. “It’s a freedom that embodies the excitement of summer!”
Vista del Sol Elementary and SPC Rafael Hernando Middle will have ceremonies to open their Little Free Libraries, making them the eighth and ninth schools, respectfully, that offer these outdoor libraries in the Socorro Independent School District.
The small dollhouse-like structure, which will be located at the front of the school, will feature books donated to the library by teachers, staff, students and the community.
The idea is if a student borrows a book, they need to put another in its place, so the little library will never be empty.
Vista del Sol’s event will be at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 17. All students and faculty from the campus will be at the ceremony, which will take place on the campus’s front lawn.
In addition, Ace the Eagle, the Owl from the El Paso Public Library and Chico, the Chihuahuas popular mascot, will be there for the festivities.
At Hernando, the ceremony will be at 8:15 a.m. Thursday, October 19. It will feature the top readers from Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, members of the art class who painted the library and a guest speaker.
The first Little Free Libraries were built in 2009 in Hudson, Wi. Two friends decided it would be a great way to promote literacy and get books into the hands of children.
Campestre Elementary was the first Team SISD school to create a Little Free Library in 2016.
Cristina Nuñez, counselor at Paso del Norte School, was selected as one of the six finalists for the 2018 National School Counselor of the Year Award by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).
The award honors school counseling professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates for the nation’s students, helping them achieve success in school and in life.
“Going through this process has been emotionally overwhelming in such a great way,” she said. “To get to this point in the process is evidence of teamwork, dedication and devotion to our students who deserve to have a great support system that leads to academic achievement. Our work and efforts are invaluable and I remain blessed and honored to be a part of the everyday challenges that our students face.”
Nuñez, who has 15 years of experience in education, said she is grateful to serve as a school counselor and partner with students, teachers and families by providing them guidance and support.
To date, Texas and SISD, have had one national school counselor of the year and one national top five finalist.
“Mrs. Cristina Nuñez is a superstar, and I am very proud to be a part of her team,” said SISD Superintendent Dr. José Espinoza. “She represents all of our wonderful counselors in SISD as well as our region, state, and now nation. She is already the National Counselor of the Year in my eyes!”
Nominations for the School Counselor of the Year award were selected by the state school counselor associations. The panel selected finalists based on school counseling innovations, effective school counseling programs, leadership and advocacy skills, contributions to student advancement and other criteria. Nuñez was named the 2017 Texas School Counselor of the Year by the Lone Star State School Counselor Association in May.
“School counselors are significant contributors to the overall well‐being of students and their success,” said Richard Wong, Ed.D., ASCA executive director in a press release. “They are uniquely qualified to address students’ academic achievement, career development and social/emotional needs. Through the School Counselor of the Year award, we are able to acknowledge their diligence, commitment and excellence.”
Nuñez and her principal, Nathan Ballard, will travel to Washington, D.C. in January where they will participate in a congressional briefing, meet members of congress, and be recognized at the School Counselor of the Year Gala.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) professional organization based in Alexandria, Va. ASCA promotes student success by expanding the image and influence of school counseling through leadership, advocacy, collaboration and systemic change.
Socorro Independent School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. José Espinoza has been named the winner of the national 2017 Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education.
The award is named after the late Jaime Escalante, legendary Garfield High School calculus teacher profiled in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” and the outstanding principal, Henry Gradillas, who championed his vision.
This prestigious national award carries with it a $10,000 individual award as well as $10,000 awarded to the winner’s district. Dr. Espinoza plans to donate his $10,000 to students in the district in the form of college scholarships.
“I am humbled and extremely honored to win the Escalante-Gradillas Best in Education award,” Dr. Espinoza said. “I have repeatedly emphasized that it takes a team to educate a child. By the same token, it takes a team to earn a national education award. Thus, I share this award with our outstanding teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, Board of Trustees, and entire community who go above and beyond every day to ensure the success of our students. Achieving success as a team is what we do best in Socorro ISD!”
Dr. Espinoza was selected from a large pool of elite leaders across the nation who have done more with less, overcome obstacles, boosted achievement levels, and raised the standard of excellence for their schools and districts.
Noted by TheBestSchools.org, “as the 2017 winner of the Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education, Espinoza models for El Paso’s children, who live in the shadow of the Mexican border, a stellar commitment to academic excellence and achievement. His successes in the field of education would make not only his parents, but also Jaime Escalante and Henry Gradillas proud.”
Dr. Espinoza models a “100%…No Excuses” vision of excellence and high expectation of educating and treating all students as if they are our own children. He inspires all SISD stakeholders by sharing his personal experience as a minority, low-income student, which led him to advocate passionately with high expectations for all students including children vulnerable to failure due to poor home environments.
Dr. Espinoza’s desire, ganas, to ensure every student succeeds is evident by the ambitious initiatives he has launched since his arrival in SISD including Operation College Bound. Under Dr. Espinoza’s leadership, SISD has opened three early college high schools in a period of a few years whereas the district only had Mission Early College HS founded in 2006.
Understanding firsthand the struggles of high college tuition, Dr. Espinoza wants SISD students to graduate with not only their high school diploma but also an Associate’s Degree.
He also founded the WIN Academy to provide students struggling in a traditional education setting with more learning time, resources, and support. Dr. Espinoza’s passion to put systems in place that level the playing field for underprivileged children mirrors the uncompromising educational standards of Jaime Escalante and Henry Gradillas.
Dr. Espinoza has an exceptional record of leading students to new heights of scholastic achievement during his 21 years in the field of education as a teacher, counselor, assistant principal, principal, school improvement officer, and now national award-winning superintendent.
Just like Escalante and Gradillas, Dr. Espinoza “Stands and Delivers” for the students and community that he proudly serves.
A special presentation with TheBestSchools.org representatives to award Dr. Espinoza with his prize will be scheduled at a later date in SISD.
It was an Socorro ISD Shootout at the SAC as the Montwood Rams took on the El Dorado Aztecs Friday night in Far-East El Paso.
The game was a high scoring affair, with the Rams finally besting the Aztecs 61-42.
Our very own Andres Acosta was there, and brings you his view of the game in this ‘Story in Many Pics.’
The Americas Trailblazers took on their inter-ISD rivals and district namesake Socorro Bulldogs Friday night at the Student Activities Center.
The Trailblazers gave the Bulldogs all they could handle, en route to a 45-0 victory.
Our very own Andres Acosta was there and brings you his view of the game in this ‘Story in Many Pics’
The Socorro Independent School District invites students, parents and the El Paso community to its first Farmers and Artisan Market on October 1 at the SAC.
“This is a great way to promote health and wellness in our district and community,” Erika Lucero, SISD marketing and sales coordinator said. “We have received a lot of positive feedback from parents and students who are eager to visit our first Farmers and Artisan Market and see our stadium.”
The event is part of the Healthier Team SISD commitment to promote health and wellness among students and the community.
The free event will feature artwork, crafts and fitness learning stations, including a free beginner’s yoga class from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and a breast cancer walk from 10-11 a.m. In addition, students and guests will have the opportunity to check out local merchants, artisans, food and live music.
Walk participants must wear tennis shoes and are encouraged to wear pink. Walkers also can email their name and picture to Erika Lucero, SISD marketing and sales coordinator, at email@example.com if they wish to be announced at the event.
The SISD Farmers and Artisan Market is planned to be a regular event happening once a month on Sundays.
For more information, visit www.sisdmarketing.net
What: District invites community to its first Farmers and Artisan Market
Who: Team SISD students, parents, employees and the El Paso community
Where: SISD Student Activities Complex (SAC), 13000 Joe Battle
When: Sunday, October 1, 2017 | 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
It was a Socorro ISD showdown in the SAC Thursday night as the district’s namesake school – Socorro High – took on their north-of-the-freeway rivals (and 1st ‘new’ high school added to the growing district in 1989.)
As always, the fight between the teams was intense, with the Montwood Rams’ defense forcing six turnovers en route to the 37 to 14 win over the Bulldogs. You can listen to the replay of the game by clicking HERE.
Our very own Andres Acosta was there and brings you his view of the game in tonight’s story in many pics.
Socorro Independent School District invites all sixth- through 12th-grade boys and their father or a father figure to the eighth annual districtwide Father-Son Conference.
The conference will be held at Montwood High School this Saturday, September 30th, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The free event helps fathers and sons spend quality time and learn about unique programs and opportunities available to SISD students including, early college programs and advanced academic academies.
Other sessions include college and career opportunities, cyberbullying and self-esteem and self-confidence workshops.
The one-day event also will feature games and team building activities –guests are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing.
To register, participants should visit the district website, click on the “Parent” tab and select “Father-Son Conference” or register in person at any SISD campus with the communities in school or campus liaisons.
A light breakfast will be provided and canned goods and non-perishable food items, to benefit those in need, will be accepted.
What: 8th annual SISD Father-Son Conference
Who: SISD sixth- through 12th-grade boys, father’s and father figures
Where: Montwood High School, 12000 Montwood Dr.
When: Saturday, September 30, 2017 | 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Socorro Independent School District Superintendent of Schools Dr. José Espinoza has been named a finalist for the Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education.
Dr. Espinoza is one of five finalists from across the country being considered for the prestigious prize that recognizes academic excellence.
As a nominee for the prize, Dr. Espinoza shared his commitment to treat and educate all students as if they are his own children; his personal experience as a minority, low-income student; and his ganas to ensure every student succeeds by creating the WIN Academy for vulnerable students.
He has been a dedicated educator for 21 years and an inspirational and successful leader in Team SISD, improving student performance, earning numerous accolades for instructional accomplishments, and garnering widespread recognition for SISD.
TheBestSchools.org established the annual Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education in 2014. The winners exemplify a commitment to learning, discipline, character-building, and high expectations that characterized East L.A.’s Garfield High School when Jaime Escalante taught there and Henry Gradillas was its principal.
The winner is honored for his or her legacy of academic excellence and is awarded $10,000 for him or herself and $10,000 for his or her school or school district. If he wins, Dr. Espinoza will donate the $10,000 awarded to him to a student.
The winner of the 2017 Escalante-Gradillas Prize for Best in Education will be announced on Oct. 5.
On a night featuring two unbeaten teams, the Pebble Hills Spartans took another positive step forward defeating the No. 2 Chapin Huskies 31-14 at Tony Shaw Field.
Chapin’s senior quarterback, Anthony Baird, who was expected to continue his stellar performance; leading his team in both rushing yards and passing yards, which were on average 93 yards more than Pebble Hills, was shut down.
The Spartan defense defied the statistics, holding the Huskies offense to zero points the entire first and fourth quarter.
The Spartans started the game off strong, gaining yards on every play of their first offensive drive. Orlando Puig came in clutch late in the drive, completing an 11-yard pass on a fourth down conversion to his favorite target of the season, Haredt Gonzalez, who helped put the team in the red zone.
The Spartans struck first via a 5-yard run by junior running back Caleb Gerber.
The defense for the Spartans showed their dominance early by forcing the Huskies to turn the ball over twice, and not allowing the Huskies to put points on the board.
Senior Juan Santiago made a big play on fourth down when he sacked Baird; causing a turnover on downs. The momentum was in favor of the road team, and they looked to capitalize early.
The Spartans continued to maintain control of the game, scoring a 9-yard field goal on their first offensive drive of the second quarter, making it 10-0.
The Huskies defense made their first statement of the game when they intercepted the ball during the second quarter. They would capitalize soon after by completing a 15-yard touchdown pass on the first play after the interception, bringing the score to 10-7.
After a series of questionable calls and penalties that were called on the Spartan defense, senior Kevin Esquivel turned the tide.
Esquivel recovered a fumble on the 20-yard line in Spartan territory and ran it all way back to the house, bringing the score to 17-7.
“It put us further up in the score and made us want to push harder,” Esquivel said.
The crowd went wild and coach Cortez even mentioned that the Huskies messed with the wrong team.
But the momentum didn’t stop there, as corner Jailyn Spires made an impressive interception on the Huskies first offensive play after the fumble late in the first half.
“It gave everybody a lot of energy,” Spires said. “We have been working too hard for this. We came in thinking we were going to win, but keep it humble and let them do the talking.”
The Spartans kept the ball rolling in the second half, forcing the Huskies to punt on the first offensive drive of the half. Puig then connected with Justin Wolfe via a 9-yard touchdown pass, making it 24-7.
The Huskies were able to score soon after on a 25 yard touchdown pass, making it a two possession game at 24-14.
However, the Huskies defense was not capable of stopping the motivated Spartans, allowing Christopher Beanes to score a 2-yard touchdown, making it 31-14. The Spartans then added a cherry on top of t when they recovered an onside kick, allowing them to run down the clock and defeat the Huskies, 31-14.
The Spartans (3-0) are on a hot streak and want to continue to improve on both sides of the ball as they enter their bye week. That extra week of preparation comes ahead of a showdown with the Franklin Cougars to the SISD Student Activities Complex Sept. 29 at 4:00p. m.
By Matthew Thomas – Special to the Herald-Post
Socorro Independent School District, in partnership with the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), continues to offer educators professional growth opportunities in spring 2018.
The program, implemented last spring, allows district teachers and administrators the opportunity to expand their skills, obtain a doctoral degree in the field of educational administration or a master’s degree with an administrative license in principal certification.
“This is a great opportunity for Team SISD,” said Dr. Holly Fields, school improvement officer. “Our employees can further their education without having to travel all the way to UTEP for their classes.”
The new program works with the district’s year-round calendar to make the course schedule flexible and adaptable for SISD employees. Instruction is provided through a hybrid method using face-to-face and online instruction.
Classes are conducted at the SISD District Service Center, Americas High School and online.
Carlos Berumen, a math and science teacher at Socorro Middle School, is one of 15 employees advancing the status of his teaching profession by taking advantage of the program.
“It’s great that SISD is working with UTEP to bring the master’s program closer to us,” Berumen said. “Teachers no longer have to travel to UTEP, instead UTEP comes to us. Every class we’ve had has been taught by some of the best professors and it’s a reflection of SISD expectations that we get nothing but the best.”
The master’s degree program in educational administration focuses on K-12 administration and can lead to a principal certification.
Candidates in the advanced study programs also can apply research to replicate effective outcomes and improve public and post-secondary education in the border community.
“I cannot say enough about the support we receive from SISD,” Berumen said. “When SISD uses the motto of ‘Endless opportunities’ they are not just referring to students, it applies to employees as well.”
Team SISD administrators and faculty members interested in learning about the master’s and doctoral program can attend an information session from 4-6 p.m. at the District Service Center on the following days:
Sept. 12, District Service Center Board Room
Sept. 27, District Service Center Board Room
Former Montwood High School and UTEP student April Waugh’s path has led her from Far-East El Paso all the way to earth orbit.
Waugh, a 1998 Ram graduate, helped build the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-16 weather satellite system that tracked the recent solar eclipse and Hurricane Harvey.
“There will be days when you think you can’t do this or other people think you can’t do this,” Waugh said in an email. “The world will tell you that you won’t make it. The bad days will sometimes outnumber the good ones…it doesn’t matter. Keep moving forward. Success requires a certain amount of defiance in the face of adversity. Nothing will ever compare to the day that you DID make it happen.”
Waugh graduated Summa Cum Laude at the University of Texas at El Paso in 2003. She also was named Outstanding Engineering Student (Electrical) and Montwood’s Outstanding Ex in 2006. Waugh is currently working as a space systems engineer for Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado.
Waugh’s work is making many people proud, including her mother who works in the Socorro district.
“Here is an example of what Team SISD’s hard work has created!” said her mother, Josie A. Viel, an art teacher at Sun Ridge Middle. “Go TEAM SISD!”
A trade website, satnews.com, praised the GOES-16 weather satellite, which stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.
Launched into space last year, it provides atmospheric and surface measurements of the Earth’s Western Hemisphere for weather forecasting, severe storm tracking, space weather monitoring and meteorological research.
Tutoring, campus clean ups, working with non-profit organizations and other volunteering opportunities have added up to hundreds of thousands of hours donated by the Class of 2018 back to the community.
This year’s senior class is the first cohort required to complete 30 hours of community service per year or 120 hours for their four years of high school. The requirement began in fall 2014.
“EPISD believes that education is more than just about textbooks and laptops,” said Tim Holt, director of Innovation and Pilot programs. “It’s about teaching our students to give back to the community.”
Holt has been working on the community service project since its inception. He encourages students to look to their campuses for opportunities to volunteer and even consider reading or tutoring to students in their feeder pattern.
“Too often people stereotype teenagers as lazy, uncaring, and self centered,” Holt said. “By creating a district wide army of students that volunteer, we hope to break down some of those perceptions. Not only are we building a better citizen, we are creating a more empathetic student, one who will take the idea of giving back into their college years and beyond.”
Students also find the experience rewarding.
“Giving back to the community is very important in the development of a person,” said senior Irvin High School senior Alyssa Lomeli. “We as students, need to humble ourselves in order to help others.”
Lomeli plays an active role on campus, too. She’s StuCo treasurer, Community Service chair and senior class vice president.
“Volunteering teaches you to be compassionate, responsible and develop life skills that seniors will use later on in life,” she said.
EPISD has partnered with the United Way of El Paso to help students find volunteering opportunities, login hours and give campuses a place to list their volunteer needs. Students can set up an account with United Way on its volunteerelpaso.org website, which is also linked from the District’s Community Service page. Both pages are available for students to use to log hours.
“It is important for students to volunteer because it creates a sense of initiative, leadership, and engagement for our community,” said Brandon Guzman, community impact associate with United Way. “Volunteerism is based on the premise that we all have some time and talent to give, and that bringing people together, rather than working in isolation, strengthens and can achieve greater impact.”
More than 250 agencies are accessible through Volunteer El Paso with a wide range of opportunities for community service.
“This service is a free online source for students to create individual profiles and search for volunteer opportunities right here in our community,” said Brandon Guzman, community impact associate at United Way. “This service provides additional support for our students to help meet their volunteer service hours required for graduation, community support, and overall success.”
Opportunities include helping at local food banks, homeless shelters and providing administrative support, marketing and outreach for nonprofit organizations.
“We also have one-time specific events that students can volunteer with such as the McKelligon Canyon Green Up, which helps beautify our parks, and Project Bravo Paint-A-Thon, which helps our seniors and physically disabled by re-painting their homes,” Guzman said.
The service also gives EPISD campuses a place to post their volunteer opportunities on the volunteerelpaso.org website. Campus volunteer (VIPS) chairs can contact Guzman to set up an account to show campus-based volunteering opportunities for students such as mentoring, homework assistance and event help. United Way is working with the VIPS program to ensure volunteers are eligible to participate.
For more information, email Guzman at firstname.lastname@example.org.