August 13, 2012

Arlington chamber gets look at school district plan and likes what it sees

Arlington interim Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos gets an enthusiastic reception.

Rants, raves, reviews and resources for Dallas-Fort Worth parents

ARLINGTON -- If Monday's sold-out State of the District luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce served as an approval on the Arlington school board's new strategic plan, it was more of a coronation for new interim Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos.

At one point state Sen. Wendy Davis, D- Fort Worth, presented two proclamations: one to school board President Peter Baron on behalf of the school district's "understanding the role these children play in the future of our state and our district;" and another to Cavazos himself.

"It's very, very clear why they selected you as interim superintendent," she said.

"You're absolutely a collaborator, and I hope you will apply for the permanent position." Cavazos has said that he will be applying for the job.

He began Monday with an overview of all kinds of district numbers and didn't shirk from the bad news last week on missed Adequate Yearly Progress scores.

"We must make sure we have an honest conversation about student performance," he said, explaining several ways to mark student performance, AYP being just one. Math performance was the low point, according to Cavazos, while science scores showed hope.

Strategic plan

The bulk of the program involved an introduction and explanation of the sweeping three-year strategic plan that will run from 2012 to 2015, with an extensive five-year plan currently in the formative stages to follow it.

The plan has involved focus groups of parents, teachers, student and community members, surveys, research, brainstorming and the services of a professional facilitator.

It is aimed at all aspects of student life, its goals stating that 100 percent of students will graduate on time and excel in post-high school pursuits, and 100 percent will participate in extracurricular activities while becoming lifelong learners.

"We've gotten a good amount of feedback on the first one," Cavazos said. "People say, 'Why not start out with saying that 88 percent will graduate on time, and then work up?'

"My response to that is, to not put 100 percent as our goal would be to plan on some students not being successful, and I'm not going to do that."

Each point has dozens of specific strategies and action plans, Cavazos and board members have said, though preliminary presentations don't get into the more minute points.

Cellphone survey

Though skepticism of the strategic plan was hard to find among attendees at the chamber luncheon, there was at least one note of reservation sounded from a definite stakeholder.

"I think it's really good -- if they stick with it, and it goes how they say it's going to go," said Justin Perrone, 17, a senior at Martin High School who was at the luncheon as part of the Texas 31st Junior ROTC.

He was not a member of the student advisory committee and said he had only heard a little about the plan last year.

"I definitely think AISD needs this," he said.

Perrone and his nearby corpsmen readily joined in on an interactive cellphone survey that lightened the subject matter, texting their guesses on the district statistics quiz. About 200 answers were texted for each multiple-choice question.

Former school board member Sherri Wade, a teacher in the Kennedale district, echoed the mood of most in the crowd when she gave a thumbs-up to the strategic plan.

"If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?" she said. "That's what we tell our children, have a plan."

She gave an even larger endorsement of Cavazos, who was associate superintendent of instruction when Wade served under Mac Bernd's regime.

"I'm really, really excited about Dr. Cavazos' appointment," she said. "He'll take the district where it needs to go."

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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