Friday Focus – 11-15-2019

Dear Team,

On the banks of the Concho River in downtown San Angelo, there was what seemed to my 6-year-old mind a little slice of heaven. 

Anyone who grew up in West Texas in the past 50 years remembers Neff’s Amusement Park. By park standards, it was small and more closely resembled a carnival to anything approaching Six Flags, much less Disneyland. But it was the only amusement park within 200 miles and folks came from the “big” cities of Midland, Odessa, Abilene and beyond to go. 

As a small child, you don’t think of things like that costing money—I only knew I desperately wanted to go. The day my dad finally took us I was bursting with excitement. Maybe it was no Disneyland, but for a little boy who’d never been more than 20 miles from San Angelo, I couldn’t imagine anything more magical. I worked up the courage to board the Little Dipper roller coaster. My heart felt as if it would beat out of my chest as we climbed each hill and my stomach dropped with each careening descent. It was wild. It was scary. It was exhilarating. And I knew one thing for certain: I didn’t want it to end.

In the moments that I take the time to look back on my 36 years in public education, especially my time here at Round Rock ISD, I feel the same way. There have been ups and there have been downs, but through it all, I have never wanted the ride to end. Leading this District—and its team of world-class educators—is the honor of a lifetime. I’ve served in school districts across the state and have left a little piece of myself in each place, but my heart is in Round Rock. 

Monday night was a time of reflection for me as I sat with the Board of Trustees for my annual evaluation. I love sharing with them all the wonderful accomplishments of our team, the exceptional work happening on our campuses, the incredible support from a small army of people who help get our students to school, keep them safe, and make sure they have the tools and environment they need to learn and thrive. Operating a 55-campus district with 51,000 students and more than 7,000 employees is a massive undertaking on a daily basis. The team at Round Rock ISD knocks it out of the park day after day, and does it with a heart and passion for kids.

Last year at this time, the Board chose to extend my contract to June 30, 2022. This year, the Board did not opt for a contract extension, voting 4-3 to keep it as-is for this year. Those not in favor of an extension accurately pointed out that two years and eight months (what’s left on my current contract) is a significant amount of time.

What I want you, my Round Rock ISD family, to know is that this amazing ride isn’t over! June of 2022 is a long way away and I remain as focused and intent as ever as we address our most pressing challenges and set a trajectory that will keep Round Rock ISD on a steady course for decades to come. Whether I am here beyond that time frame is in the Board’s hands, but the task before us now is clear. 

I am excited that the Board completed some important steps in our Lone Star Governance training during Monday night’s meeting. Lone Star Governance is a continuous-improvement model for governing teams—boards in collaboration with their superintendents—who choose to focus intensely on only one primary objective: student outcomes. It is administered by the Texas Education Agency and our Team of Eight (seven board members and superintendent) have been on our Lone Star Governance journey since this summer. The research-based model, which is a first-of-its-kind training initiative, helps clearly define the roles and responsibilities of school boards and school district staff. With this clarity and a laser focus on student outcomes, I am confident we will see improvement in student performance on our campuses that stumbled on the state accountability system last year. While overall student performance was up in Round Rock ISD in 2018-19, we know we must ensure EVERY student on EVERY campus is held to high standards and given the tools they need to reach them. I said it at the Board meeting and it bears repeating: “This is not an ordinary District; this is an extraordinary District.”  In Round Rock ISD, our across-the-board standard is excellence. I continue to believe that ALL children should be able to drink from the “victory” cup.

At the same time, as educators, we know that the value of a child and the effort of hard work and dedication are not always reflected in a test score. I commit to you that we will continue to focus on the whole child. We will ensure our students are immersed in rich, engaging learning experiences, have access to a variety of extracurricular activities that challenge them and help them feel connected, and see school as a place where they feel safe, loved, encouraged and inspired. I believe as a team we can accomplish all this AND deliver exceptional academic performance across the board. I believe this because we are Round Rock. And we are not ordinary. We are extraordinary.

I am so happy you’re on the Little Dipper with me. I have the best team in public education and I am honored to be your superintendent. I know we are coming up on Thanksgiving break and the winter holidays will soon follow. But this ride is far from over. There is much work to be done. I hope your focus, like mine, remains on ensuring the future of our 51,076 students and those who come after them. I am proud, humbled and incredibly grateful that you all are with me in this endeavor. 

Buckle up. Let’s ride. Enjoy the ups, downs and fast curves. One thing is certain, it will come to a stop, but it never has to end. 

Thanks for reading. I’ll ride again soon, I mean I’ll write again soon!

Respectfully,

Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools