Friday Focus – 05-22-2020

Dear Team,

We did it.

Every year, I know we all feel a mix of pride, excitement, relief and a tinge of sadness as the school year draws to a close. And surrounded by our colleagues during all those end-of-year tasks and traditions we collectively think, “We did it.”

Those three little words seem so insignificant to sum up a school year, yet they carry all of our emotions in them. This year, we have even more to marvel at and to be proud of as we look back on this unprecedented spring and say to ourselves and each other: “We did it.”

This last Friday Focus of 2019-2020, I want to take the opportunity to tell you how proud I am of each and every one of you. As a staff, the Round Rock ISD team has demonstrated dedication, courage, grit, devotion and ingenuity like never before. Your love for what you do and your commitment to your profession is evident to anyone who witnesses it — to our students, our parents, our community, and to me.

I have been spending hours and hours every day this week at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, watching our 3,622 graduates walk the field, take the stage, and enjoy their moment in the sun. The masks on the faces of the staff members and principals can’t hide the pride and joy in this unique moment. And watching the parents make that walk with their child, seeing how much it means to them to celebrate this moment, has made the experience that much sweeter.

I’ve always loved our graduations. I am able to see and speak to each and every student as they cross the stage. But their family — parents, grandparents siblings — are a sea of blurry faces in the stands. Not this year. Families are front and center, wearing their Sunday best despite the heat, or decked out in matching T-shirts with their grad’s name, all beaming, crying, taking pictures. In some of those families, I saw my own. My Dad rarely wore a tie, but I remember when he put one on for my high school graduation and I knew I’d made him proud. (I miss my Dad.) I know this week’s celebrations are not the graduations we had planned or hoped for, but sometimes Plan B works out better than we ever could’ve imagined. In Round Rock ISD we will never allow any obstacle, in this case a global pandemic, obstruct our path forward.

On Monday night, the legacy class of Early College High School took the field. Of the 104 graduates, 85 had a second graduation to attend — that’s how many students earned their associate’s degree from Austin Community College. Let that fact sink in! At this pace, in two years or less, these students will have earned their bachelor’s degree.

Among them is Rayvoinne Gilmore. Rayvoinne is the adorable freshman featured in our ECHS recruitment video, where she invites others to join her at Early College High School. This week, she became the first in her family to not only graduate high school, but also earn an associate’s degree. And she’s not done. Rayvoinne plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree and ultimately become an optometrist. We updated the ECHS video this year, and Rayvoinne, now a poised, mature young lady, tells us:

“I want to start a legacy in my family… I want the future generations in my family to look at me and see they actually can do it and they can have the same drive as I do.”

That’s the story of public education. These are the stories we help write. The narrative may shift, the circumstances will change, but we will always find a way to help students reach their potential and fulfill their dreams.

Last week, I shared with you that we will be working diligently over the summer to prepare for Fall 2020, understanding that we must have plans to meet a number of scenarios and that flexibility and innovation will be key. We will communicate over the summer to keep you up-to-date and to seek your input.

This summer, like this spring, promises to be like no other. But I do sincerely hope you all find time to refresh, recharge and spend time with those you love. When August comes, we will be ready. Ready to welcome our students whether it’s in person or virtually. Ready to blaze new trails in education. Ready to write new stories and foster new dreams.

My hope for each of you is the realization of how fast the world can change. And that no matter the circumstances, we find a way to persevere and become stronger and better than ever. Garth Brooks may have said it best:

And now, I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain
But I’d of had to miss the dance

Be safe this summer. Find time to dance. I’ll see you in August.

As always, thanks for reading. WE DID IT!

Respectfully,

Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools