Students in the Socorro Independent School District who are in the Gifted and Talented (GT) program will showcase their 2015-2016 school year products, projects and performances at the 13th annual GT event.
More than 500 Team SISD students will present their projects that feature research in robotics, engineering, computer physics and much more.
“The GT showcase gives students the opportunity to share the different activities they have participated in over the course of the year with community members and their peers,” said Rosario Rojas, the district’s coordinator of advanced academics.
What: 13th annual Gifted and Talented Showcase
Who: GT students, parents, teachers and administrators
Where: Pebble Hills High School |14400 Pebble Hills Blvd.
Ten Socorro Independent School District students — the most in SISD’s history — were named scholarship winners in the 2016 Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program.
The 2016 GMS scholarship recipients are: Sergio Dominguez from Socorro High School; Miguel Martinez and Eduardo Arzabala from Eastlake High School; Dina Torres from Mission Early College High School; Felipe Palacios and Julian Franco from Americas High School; and Aibhlin Esparza, Parrish Feimster, Jordan Lopez, Miguel Moya from El Dorado High School.
“This is more than we have ever had,” said Tammi Mackeben, director if guidance and counseling. “We are very proud of our 10 winners. Financial resources are a barrier students face when deciding on their college future. SISD counselors, administrators and teachers work diligently to assist students with finding financial aid through many channels. The Gates Millennium Scholarship is a wonderful financial aid package that covers the cost of unmet tuition, books, fees and living expenses.”
GMS winners must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale and demonstrate leadership abilities at school and in the community.
“These 10 students have worked tirelessly to complete the application,” Mackeben said. “They are very dedicated and high quality students.
The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program was established in 1999 to provide outstanding African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate college education in any discipline area of interest.
The Socorro Independent School District is committed to ensuring all students are future ready by providing a high-quality education with innovative digital learning systems and access to the latest technological resources.
As part of Operation Future Ready efforts, Team SISD students have the latest digital tools, such as laptops and tablets, at their fingertips, and classrooms, labs and libraries districtwide are equipped with high-speed and Wi-Fi Internet access.
The high-tech tools in SISD give students more blended learning opportunities, which combines traditional face-to-face instruction with web-based online learning.
In addition, the district offers a web page at www.sisd.net/Page/46396 that lists businesses within the Team SISD community that offer free Wi-Fi connectivity.
The free Wi-Fi locations page allows students and parents to quickly locate establishments where they can use the Internet for free on phones, tablets and other mobile devices.
“Internet access is critical to 21st century education,” said Miguel Moreno, SISD’s instructional technology coordinator. “It allows students to complete school work, engage in new digital learning lessons, and utilize their campus administered technology devices to get ahead in their school work at all times.”
The Wi-Fi page includes a map and is user-friendly. Business owners and community members can also assist in keeping the list current by submitting information to add or remove locations that offer free Wi-Fi service.
SISD’s Operation Future Ready, which is aligned to the federal ConnectED initiative, is moving the district forward in investing in technology to advance teaching and learning, fully training educators to utilize new resources, and offering more technological devices for student use.
In addition, for the 2015-2016 school year Team SISD was approved for $2.6 million in E-rate funds, a federal program that gives school districts and libraries the opportunity to apply for discount services with Internet access, broadband connectivity and network equipment.
This is allows Team SISD the opportunity to further expand and improve the district’s infrastructure to give all students access to high-speed Internet access and technological support.
Rams Early College, the Socorro Independent School District’s newest early college program, is one of only 16 schools in Texas to be designated as an Early College High School for 2016-2017 by the Texas Education Agency.
Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced the Early College High School designations in a press release. With the designation, the Rams Early College, which will be housed at Montwood High School, is set to open for the 2016-2017 school year.
“We are thrilled to receive this designation as it signifies the opening of another wonderful program for our students,” said Montwood High School Principal Rosa Mireles-Menchaca. “Rams Early College High School will have a great, positive impact on our students.”
Rams Early College will focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and give students the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree in science concurrent with their high school diploma. Eighth-graders in the Montwood feeder area may apply to the program.
“The TEA’s approval of Rams Early College energizes our continuous efforts to prepare all students for college, careers and beyond,” said SISD Superintendent Dr. José Espinoza. “We are proud to open a third Early College High School in Team SISD in partnership with El Paso Community College. It will give students more options and preparation for a successful future.”
Rams Early College will have 135 students in its first cohort. A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony in collaboration with El Paso Community College is scheduled for June 7 at Montwood High School.
Horizon Heights Elementary School parent liaison Bonnie Soria Najera has been nominated by the National Education Association for the White House School Support Professional Champion of Change Award.
Najera, who last year was named the 2015-2016 Texas State Teachers Association Education Support Professional of the Year, will find out if she is a winner in April. If she is a Champion of Change, Najera will attend an awards presentation at the White House on May 11.
“The White House is looking for school support professionals in pre-K-12 and higher education who are doing extraordinary things every day in our nation’s schools,” said Lily Eskelsen, NEA president, in a statement. “We have nominated you because we believe the work you do for your students and community takes the vision of the whole student into action every day.”
Najera, who found out about the nomination recently, was shocked to be considered for the White House award.
“It is amazing just to be nominated,” Najera said.
Najera has been working as a parent liaison for the Socorro Independent School District for eight years. Her number one job is helping parents help their child achieve academic success, she said. But she also isbig on helping her school, the district and the community.
She hosts an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the people in the Sparks community. She was key in starting the citywide Uniform Swap and SISD’s Warm the Soul Shoe Drive after noticing a necessity at Horizon Heights.
“These are just a few examples of Bonnie’s acts of charity and kindness,” said Paso Del Norte Principal James Vasquez, who worked with Najera while he was Horizon Heights’s principal. “Her work goes far beyond what is listed in her job description. When she sees someone in need, not only does she take action, but she organizes and gets the whole community involved.”
Horizon Heights principal Jenifer Hansen is impressed with Najera’s desire to improve the lives of those less fortunate.
“Her passion to serve has made a difference not only in the lives of children, but in the members of the community,” said Hansen, who has worked with Najera for six years. “She truly is deserving of this honor.”
Najera takes all the accolades in stride. Her main concern is to help others, especially students.
“I just want to open people’s eyes to the things that are happening around them,” Najera said. “Sometimes they don’t know what is happening in a child’s life. Maybe there is no food to eat or no place for them to stay. The family may not have money for new shoes. I want people to become aware of what is happening so they can say ‘How can we help the kids?’ ”
Whether she wins or loses the White House award, Najera plans to continue reaching out to make life better for those in the community around her.
“There is so much help needed out there,” she said “What we do and say can make a difference in people’s lives. That’s why if someone needs me, I am there.”
Incoming freshmen students in the Socorro Independent School District will benefit from more academic options at the start of the 2016-2017 school year as the district introduces its sixth advanced academics academy at Pebble Hills High School.
The Sparta Business Academy (SBA) is designed to engage students in the world of business and finance to prepare them for the college and career of their choice in the field. About 125 students will be in the first cohort at SBA.
The district will host an informational session for incoming SISD freshmen students who are interested in applying at 6 p.m. April 26 at Pebble Hills High School. Program coordinator Rachel Gomez will be the session presenter along with Dr. Robert Nachtmann, college of dean of business administration the University of Texas at El Paso.
The four-year program will help students work toward an associate’s degree through the El Paso Community College. Courses being offered include accounting, economics, finance and information systems.
The district is working with the University of Texas at El Paso to offer an actuary course, a profession where people analyze future financial value using statistics and theory in insurance and pension programs.
Aside from the wide range of curricular courses offered, SBA students also will have the opportunity to meet and shadow community members in the business industry to gain real-world experience.
Each year, 125 more freshmen students will be accepted to the program. Students who wish to join are required to complete the application process. Requirements include satisfactory grades, attendance, and good citizenship. SISD eighth-grade students may ask their school counselor for an application.
Other advanced academic academies include Libertas at Americas High School, the School of Advanced Technology Applications (SATA) at Eastlake High School, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program at El Dorado High School, Montwood High School’s SYNERGI program and Health Professions Academy (HPA) at Socorro High School.
What: Sparta Business Academy (SBA) information session
Who: Incoming SISD freshmen with an interest in business and finance
Where: Theater at Pebble Hills High School | 14400 Pebble Hills Blvd.
El Dorado High School art students have transformed a drab storage room at the Hospitals at Providence East Campus into a safari-themed space perfect for newborns.
The now colorful room, featuring a floor-to-ceiling mural with monkeys, giraffes, grassland, trees and lions, is located on the labor and delivery floor and is used to bathe and care for newborns at the hospital.
“It is beautiful,” said Irma Bejarano, director of the mother/baby unit. “The students and teachers far more than met our expectations. We had expected a little thing, because that is what we asked for at first. But it’s the most colorful room in the entire hospital. Everyone loves it.”
It took the three teachers and about 20 students about two months to create the mural. They worked through intersession, evenings and every spare minute they had, said Candi Printz, an art teacher at El Dorado.
“We knew right away we wanted to do the whole room,” Printz said. “So we asked and they agreed. As we progressed everyone – teachers, students and hospital staff – got more and more excited.”
She is proud that the students were dedicated to the long-term project.
“They just pushed through,” Printz said. “This mural is something that will outlast them in high school. They should be proud they created a bright, happy and cheerful place for babies and parents.”
She also is honored that the hospital asked the art department to do the mural. The hospital, a Partner in Education, also often helps El Dorado High School.
“They are always there when we need a space to showcase art or some kind of event,” Printz said. “This was our chance to do something nice for them.”
The mural was officially unveiled with a reception earlier this spring. Students signed their art work and showed their creation to their parents.
Ana Frias, 11th grader at El Dorado, was thrilled to contribute to the mural.
“Knowing people are going to see this makes me so happy,” Frias said. “Because I know it’s my work. It will be there for a long time. It’s been a fun experience.”
Montwood and Socorro high schools excelled at the recent University Interscholastic League 1-6A High School One Act Play competitions, having advanced to the bi-district and area competitions.
The SISD schools competed at the bi-district contest on March 23 and 24, and have advanced to the area competition on April 7 in Midland.
“Our two schools were the best there,” said Don Rominsky, SISD director of fine arts. “They deserve to go to area.”
SISD hosted both the 1-6A and the 2-5A One Act Play contests for the El Paso region the week of March 14. Eastlake and Pebble Hills high
schools competed in the 2-5A contest.
“(Montwood and Socorro) plays were well organized,” said Don Rominsky, SISD director of fine arts. “The students knew what to do. When you make it to this level, you aren’t just being judged by the other plays here. You are being compared to every play in the state.”
One Act Play competition is not easy, he said.
“The hardest thing is the time constraints” Rominsky said. “You have a maximum of 40 minutes to perform and seven minutes to set up and seven minutes to take down. It is not easy.”
During the 1-6A contest, Montwood staged “Candid” by Michael Scanlan. The play is about a young student photographer, T.J. who chronicles the break-up of his family after his mother walks out. The demise of the family and its devastating effect are captured in dramatic and photographic flashbacks.
“This is surreal,” said Evanie Gamboa, the Rams’ drama instructor. “This is an honor. We competed with some of the best people in the district.”
This was Gamboa’s first time as a UIL director. The “VIVA El Paso” veteran was excited to be among other district instructors. She hoped her students learned about themselves as actors, picked up new techniques and grew in their craft.
“They were so ready,” she said. “I am so proud of them.”
Socorro High School theater teacher Troy Herbort, who has been participating in UIL for 24 years, directed the student cast that performed “The 39 Steps.” Written by Patrick Barlow, it is about a man with a boring life who gets caught up with a spy, who is murdered. Soon, a mysterious organization called “The 39 Steps” is hot on the man’s trail in a nationwide manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale.
With the intense, but humorous play, Herbort knew his students were ready to give it their all.
“I love this,” he said. “My kids worked so hard. They enjoyed working with each other. I think advancing is just the icing of all we’ve been doing.”
Socorro student Jessica Fernandez said the “39 Steps” cast’s intention was to leave everything on stage.
“There was no going back,” said the senior, who has been to UIL four years in a row. “We hoped for the best.”
SISD also earned several District 1-6A individual honors. Sean White of Montwood was named “Best Actor” of the contest. Anthony Marmolejo, Americas High School; Krystian Rodriguez, Americas; Nolan Herbort, Socorro; and Blanca Torres, Socorro, were named to the “All Star Cast.” Daniel Fourzan, Montwood; Julissa Mitchell, Americas; Brandon Hester, El Dorado High School; Armando Veloz, Socorro; Ethan Barerra, Socorro; and David Fernandez, El Dorado, were on the “Honorable Mention All Star Cast.”
“Sean White made people cry,” Rominsky said. “He was that good.”
At the bi-district 1-6A One Act Play contest, the individual results included Montwood’s White once again earning the best actor award; Armando Veloz and Jessica Fernandez, both of Socorro, were named to the “All Star Cast;” Katie Balderama, Montwood, and Herbort and Torres, both from Socorro, made the “Honorable Mention All Star Cast.”
In addition, Socorro High School’s technical crew was named tops and also were recognized for its sound and lighting.
While no Socorro schools advanced in the District 2-5A contest, three students were recognized for their performances. In addition, this was Pebble Hills High School’s first time competing in the UIL contest.
Jose Ruiz Camargo III from Eastlake High School earned “All Star Cast” honors for the fourth year in a row and his classmate Ah Kin Halterman de Ochoa, another Falcon, received “Honorable Mention.” Scarlett Flores becomes the first student actor at Pebble Hills to receive “All Star Cast” honors.
“We were very excited,” said Israel Boswell, Spartans’ theater director. “This has been a great opportunity for the kids. I wanted them to see what the next level was because there is a big future for them.”
Ten SISD students made the semifinals of the 2016 El Paso Do the Write Thing Challenge, a national writing contest that gives middle school students an opportunity to examine the impact of youth violence on their lives through poems and essays.
The youngsters were 10 of 40 in the El Paso area to be chosen as semifinalists and went on to participate in a Leadership Summit at the University of Texas at El Paso. They went through an interview session to determine if they would be one of two finalists to represent the area in Washington, D.C. The students were asked to comment on their writing and how it expresses original ideas on how to end Violence
“This is a great avenue for students to express themselves about the world they live in,” said Yvonne Aragon, instructional officer for English Language Arts with SISD’s Academic Services department. “It also demonstrates the student’s potential as a writer.”
The two national finalists will be announced at a recognition event in April at UTEP and then will travel to the nation’s capital during National Recognition Week for the “Do the Write Thing Challenge” in July.
The 10 SISD student semifinalists are:
Jessica De la Rosa, John Drugan School
Maria Gutierrez, John Drugan School
Samantha Gamez, Col. John O. Ensor Middle
Angela Moran, Salvador H. Sanchez Middle
Saje Lewis, Jane A. Hambric School
Heather Nguyen, Jane A. Hambric School
Blake Hall, Montwood Middle
Nicholas Quinn, Montwood Middle
Karla Quintana, Montwood Middle
Daniel Sotelo, Montwood Middle
Two Team SISD schools have earned 2016 National Excellence in Urban Education awards from the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) at San Diego State University for being outstanding and high-performing urban schools.
Mission Early College High School won the silver award and SPC Rafael Hernando Middle School earned a bronze award. They are two of 15 schools nationwide that will be recognized at the 2016 National Symposium on High-Performing Urban Schools on May 24 in San Diego.
“The faculty and staff at Mission Early College High School and Hernando Middle School are doing a phenomenal job providing a rigorous and relevant education for students and raising the bar for our commitment to academic excellence,” said SISD Superintendent José Espinoza. “We are extremely proud to have two schools recognized for this prestigious award. It is truly a team effort and these two schools are excelling by providing a high quality education to all students and engaging parents in their school community.”
Mission Early College and Hernando Middle, which received on-site visits during January, earned the awards for presenting the evidence of high achievement, rigorous content, engaging instruction, positive relationships among students, teachers, parents and administrators and continuous improvement efforts. Both demonstrated that their schools are achieving impressive academic results for every demographic group they serve, according to NCUST officials.
Finalists were selected from a large pool of applicants, including many schools that have earned recognition as National Blue Ribbon Schools, National Title I Distinguished Schools, and winners of many other state and national awards.
Mission Early College will receive $2,500 for its silver award and still has an opportunity to earn a gold medal. All silver award winners are in the running for the gold ($5,000) award, which will be announced at the May ceremony, said Meya, Egan, an administrative support coordinator for NCUST.
At the May event, administrators from the schools and district will share processes and practices on their success. SISD leaders will describe their efforts to support and sustain these high-achieving urban schools. For more information visit www.ncust.org
Four Socorro Independent School District mariachi groups were selected to play at the first-ever UIL State Mariachi Festival in San Antonio, recently.
The UIL pilot competition featured the bands from Socorro, El Dorado, Eastlake and Montwood high schools. They competed against 54 other Texas schools and were four of five groups from the El Paso area to travel to state.
“With four schools advancing, it shows our district strongly supports mariachi programs,” said Donald Rominsky, SISD’s director of fine arts. “We actively support the performances and the classrooms.”
Schools were judged on a variety of things including instrumentation, attire and stage presence, and earned division ratings from 1 to 5, with 1 being the highest score. All four of the SISD mariachi groups earned a Division 2 rating.
Their ratings were commendable, considering the groups were competing for the first time against bands that go up against one another regularly, said Roger Rosales, mariachi director at Socorro. Many high school mariachis in the San Antonio area are ranked top in the nation.
“It was a very good learning experience for all of us,” Rosales said. “We all now know what to expect for next year.” Rosales, who has been with the program for 21 years, took 18 students to the competition. Making it to state was an honor, he said.
“This tells others good music is coming from El Paso. We are all just going to get better and better and the programs are getting bigger and bigger,” he said.
For the Eastlake group, making it to a state contest was an awesome achievement for a mariachi class that started only a year ago with most members being underclassmen. Eastlake student Blanca Alvidrez earned a gold medal for Outstanding Vocalist at state.
“We are happy where we came in at the contest. This gives the kids something to work for,” said Albert Martinez, the Falcon’s mariachi teacher, who took 15 students to state.
Eastlake principal Gilbert Martinez is proud of the groups’ accomplishments.
“Mr. Albert Martinez is a valuable person to our team,” he said. “He works hard and is committed to showcasing our students to the state of Texas. It is no accident that our students perform at such high levels.”
El Dorado High School has been selected as an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) National Demonstration School, a model for the non-profit organization whose goal is to close the achievement gap and prepare all students for college and other postsecondary opportunities.
The Socorro Independent School District campus is one of 31 in Texas and 140 nationally to have the distinction.
“I am extremely honored to be part of an organization like this,” said El Dorado Principal Cindy Retana. “It speaks volumes of the great things that go on at El Dorado. It makes you feel so proud of all the work teachers have put into the school, into the classroom and into the kids.”
The school was selected through an application process, a screening and a review that included a local visit. Now, as part of the demonstration site network, the Aztecs will get visits from schools worldwide who will come to observe a highly evolved AVID system.
“El Dorado was selected as an AVID National Demonstration School because it has implemented the AVID system throughout the school and can serve as a model for new sites,” said AVID Chief Executive Officer Sandy Husk, on the significance of attaining demonstration site status.
AVID is implemented in approximately 5,000 schools in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and 16 other countries/territories and impacts more than 800,000 students annually in grades K-12 and postsecondary institutions.
Young parents in the Socorro Independent School District, who are working to earn their high school diplomas, now may enroll their children in the new ESC19 Head Start program that will be offered at Options High School for the 2016-2017 school year.
Options High School is a non-traditional campus designed to serve self-disciplined and strongly motivated students committed to furthering their education in a self-paced environment.
The proximity of the new site will be an asset to young parents who are seeking to earn their high school diploma at Options High School. Team SISD is proud to partner with ESC19 to provide resources, encouragement and guidance to both early education students and adult learners.
Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood development program designed to increase school readiness in children from birth until the age five.
To be eligible for the Head Start program, applicants must live in El Paso County, meet the age and federal income eligibility guidelines and have updated children’s immunization records.
For enrollment information, contact ESC 19 at 790-4600 or Options High School at 937-1300.
What: Head Start program to be offered at Options High School
Who: Young parents, expecting young mothers in SISD
Where: Options High School 12380 Pine Springs
When: Enrollment open now for 2016-2017 school year
The Socorro Independent School District will host its 30th annual Spring Games in memory of James P. Butler March 23 at the SAC.
“This is a major event for our special education students,” said Richard Ortega, SISD director of special education. “It helps our kids emotionally and socially by pushing them to do more and be more.”
In 1986, Jose Morales, adaptive P.E. coach for the district, pioneered the program with the participation of 30 students. This year, more than 700 special needs athletes will participate in the track and field events.
The games will feature events such as the 25-meter walks, assisted walks and 25, 50, 100, 200 and 400-meter runs. Other activities include relay races, wheelchair races with and without assistance, bike races, ball throws and javelin throws.
Elementary students will compete from 8 a.m. to noon. Secondary athletes will participate from 1 to 4 p.m. Both sessions will begin with a mini parade of all participating athletes.
Former special education students will be at the games to cheer on current athletes and honor Morales, who will be recognized by members of the special education department for his 30 years of service and dedication to the James Butler Spring Games.
The games are named after the late SISD physical education teacher and athletic coach James P. Butler, who dedicated his life to ensure students succeeded in athletics and special education. The Butler games are endorsed by Special Olympics Texas allowing for more El Paso athletes to compete in the statewide competitions.
Where: SISD Student Activities Complex (SAC) 1300 Joe Battle