Dear Claudette and the YES, Inc. Team Members:
I am writing this correspondence on behalf of the Texas Serenity Academy Charter School District EEP participants, the TSA Board of Directors and our stakeholders. Attending the various training sessions this past week in Las Vegas, far exceeded the expectations of our participating Texas Serenity Academy team members that were fortunate enough to be present. From a school leadership perspective, I had no idea how all the various components of the training session would come together. I wasn't sure how each component would end up benefiting the growth, effectiveness, and sustainability of our teachers. From the very first welcome reception to the final training session, each and every activity helped to grow our teachers and help other members of our leadership team to understand why it is important to support teachers through the EEP grant. It emphasized the roles of the Home Office as it relates to the administration of the grant.
Our school district team members attended all the training sessions that they were required to attend. When you think of Las Vegas, the first inclination might be non stop playing around, slot machines, entertainment shows, celebrities and hanging out at the swimming pool. However, this was a working trip with the focus on growing our teachers through the EEP grant but it had well organized social events mixed in by the YES planning staff. In the opening welcome session, Claudette, you shared that it's important to work hard but to also play hard. Educators are in a highly stressful career field and it was refreshing that you opened the conference with that statement. It allowed for us to realize that it is important to take care of ourselves so that we can then take care of the students that we serve during the school year. The opening welcome evening session included comedians, singers, dancing, music, food, and raffle give-away door prizes. It kicked the conference off to a great start because we had a chance to relax and enjoy reacquainting ourselves with other educators from various school districts and the YES staff members. Even though this was the social part of the training, it created a relaxed and non pressured filled atmosphere in which we were able to discuss education and to exchange ideas among one another. It was good to know how other educators were successful and to freely exchange ideas.
From the very start of the conference, the YES staff adhered to the NORMS and the CORE values that have been taught and shared with us over the last two years. The flight arrangements were organized, the transportation from the airport was organized, the hotel rooms offered easy check-in, the per diem was accounted for upon arrival, the meals were very satisfying, the agendas were easy to follow; in short, it was clear communication at it's ultimate finest. The YES staff always are unselfish when it comes to making sure that each EEP participants needs are met. This held true to form during the entire conference.
Here are some highlights and feedback that I received from our TEAM Members that were in attendance:
- The name badges made it easy to recognize all participants.
- The meeting rooms were very comfortable.
- Presenters allowed for each attendee to actively participate in their training sessions without being negative or critical.
- Each presenter had very detailed written agendas and packets to easily follow and understand their presentations. This also allowed our school district to have materials to bring back and share out with TSA educators that were not in attendance.
- Each training session started and ended on time with ample amounts of restroom breaks.
- The Good Life sessions were phenomenal. They helped our school district define our CORE values, refine our mission and vision statements and showed us how to get this information to all of our stakeholders.
- Dr. Pepper and Marlene answered all questions about implementing the 2019-2020 professional development plans. They both shared what specific topics and domains should be covered in a professional development plan and how the plan is rated before final approval is made.
- Our TEAM Members felt the lesson planning and classroom management sessions were overwhelmingly helpful. The key take-away that our teachers shared with me was they learned new strategies about differentiation, culture as it relates to student behavior and how to better manage students inside of the classroom.
- Our Leadership team benefited greatly by listening to the sustainability presentations and ideas shared by Joseph Rendon and of course Claudette's sharing information about how to explore all your resources to sustain the growth after the grant leaves.
I personally must share that one of the most inspirational stories that I have ever heard was given by the young man from Por Vida. To hear his story, in his words was one of the key highlights of the conference. It left me personally and professionally feeling that "this is why we do what we do." It gave affirmation that education is an honorable and needed profession. He went from gangs to preparing for a doctorate program. Primarily because of Por Vida taking him in and not turning their back on him.
Our school district would not have the success we enjoyed this past school year minus the EEP grant. We are prepared to sustain what we have been provided with from the grant, but the benefit of having access to educational and business experts is immeasurable. Claudette, you have continuously hammered in on the point that our school district must be prepared to sustain the growth after the grant is gone. Here are some examples of Texas Serenity Academy's sustainability plan:
- CORE value will remain in place.
- Mission and Vision statements will be reviewed and updated as necessary.
- Unit Meetings are a permanent fixture.
- ETL's, CTL's and Equity Coordinators are a permanent fixture within our budget once the grant leaves.
- The development of professional development plans will have input from our teachers.
- We are committed to moving to high technology staff meeting by using UBER conference, teleconference, etc. in an effort to save time and money of traveling.
- Summer Reflection will remain at TSA along with New Employee On-boarding and Induction.
- Mentoring program is an essential mainstay.
- Consider if our successful product of educating students might be of value to others and then explore the possibility of packaging an educational product that TSA can sell.
Kudos to the organizers of the Las Vegas conference. Again, from start to finish it was so refreshing to participate in a training that wasn't boring or a waste of time.
Larry Jenkins, Superintendent
Texas Serenity Academy Charter School District