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...

Friday Focus – 05-15-2020

Dear Team, Six days from now, Thursday, May 21, at 4:20 p.m., the final bell will ring, marking, in the most traditional way, the end of the 2019-2020 school year. But this school year has been anything but traditional. This year, when that final bell rings, there will be no cheers, applause and laughter. No students spilling out into the hallways caught in the fevered excitement that only the last day of school can bring. No tears from our Teachers as they bid “good luck” and farewell to their students that by this date became their very own. The classrooms are empty. The hallways are silent. They have been for nine weeks now. In the words of The Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” What will be coming to a close is the end, or pause, of the most disruptive period in...

Friday Focus – 05-08-2020

Dear Team, During a time like this, it can be difficult to see much beyond the important and difficult work in front of us. Yet every day, I look up and out and am struck by the way Round Rock ISD staff at all levels are stepping up and leading us to do what is best for the children under our care. I had the honor on Tuesday of celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week by surprising our 2021 Secondary and Elementary Teachers of the Year with news of their selection as Districtwide winners. In both cases, friends and colleagues lined the streets, in vehicles and on the sidewalks, showering them with love and applause — from an appropriate social distance! In these times when we have needed to stay physically apart, it was a powerful reminder of the connection we all share. We have so many...

Friday Focus – 05-01-2020

Dear Team, Your life is now. Make no mistake, the global pandemic we are all experiencing right now has completely shaken up our lives and we are all bracing for an impact, though we don’t know when it will come while hoping the worst has passed us by. But in the midst of these strange new circumstances — ones that have presented me, and all of us, with the greatest challenge of our professional lives — I have seen and heard some of the most beautiful sights and sounds. I’m exploring our city parks, trails and even my backyard more than ever. I am seeing more of my neighbors taking long, rambling walks with their families. I hear children’s laughter echo down my street as their parents play with them in the front yard and see happy dogs being taken on walks, maybe for the first time....

Friday Focus – 04-24-2020

Dear Team, Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is going to be alright. (More on that later). First as a student, then a history teacher, and later a school administrator, I’ve been given a lot of books throughout my life. Books on leadership, books about presidents and generals and how they dealt with obstacles and challenges, books on pedagogy, education policy, equity and social justice. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an avid reader. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Epps and my librarian Mrs. Youngblood helped me find that passion. By the way, let’s thank our librarians, they RRock not only during National Library Week, April 19 - 25, but throughout the entire year. Many of my books sit on my shelves at home or in the office, some of them are signed on the inside...

Friday Focus – 04-17-2020

Dear Team, No player, competitor, or individual has ever won everything they have ever entered, but many have become champions. Champions are made as a result of successfully overcoming a defeat, setback, or personal triumph. They will not let defeat ever define them. In fact, it makes them better. Why? Because every Champion is resilient. Thank you for being a champion for our students. More importantly, thank you for your resiliency during these tough times. Let’s allow the word resilient to be the word of the day and hang on to it until this global pandemic is defeated. Resilient comes to mind for me again and again as I watch our educators adjust to a brand new way of delivering instruction. As I see pictures on social media of students learning from home. As I watch our staff...

Thursday Thought – 04-09-2020

Dear Team, I’m writing to you with a Thursday Thought to serve as our Friday Focus since tomorrow is a school holiday. I know the idea of a holiday feels odd since most of us have been in our homes since Spring Break, but I also know how hard you have all been working during this time. I’m so proud of our Round Rock ISD educators who, this week, launched our At-Home Learning platform. It has been a monumental endeavor to completely revamp educational delivery in the space of mere days, and though we certainly have more work to do, I want you to know how impressed I am with the perseverance, dedication and heart of our Round Rock ISD team. Think about it, we are all a part of something that has never been done in the history of our nation’s public education system! Whether you were...

Friday Focus – 04-03-2020

Dear Team, This has been another challenging but inspirational week as I watch our team rise to the occasion in what, for most of us, are probably the most difficult professional circumstances we have ever encountered. This week we handed out thousands of laptops in preparation for at-home instruction launching Monday, and our Teaching and Learning team has done an outstanding job of providing guidance to our teachers as we jump into this new frontier together. Think back to three weeks ago. What were the things that occupied your mind and caused you to feel down or not at your best? Chances are, we’d love to return to those times because we now know how drastically our world can change overnight, or by the hour and minute. My hope for each of you is that you are valuing some time in...

Friday Focus – 03-27-2020

Dear Team, Welcome back from the break this Spring. I didn’t say Spring Break intentionally. Because the world changed by the hour in the last two weeks. We didn’t have a Spring Break this year. Now, we are all dealing with disrupted lives, concern for our community, our nation and world, and missing our students, coworkers, friends and family that we find ourselves separated from. For me and my wife, Amy, we haven’t held or been able to visit our granddaughter Luna since day three of her life and she is now over two months old! And in the midst of it, as a school district, we must find a way to do something that is completely unprecedented: Shift a massive traditional education system to at-home instructional delivery in an environment we cannot control, all in a matter of days. And...

Friday Focus – 03-13-2020

Dear Team, I long for the “good old days”, like two weeks ago! How quickly our world can change as we’re all experiencing right now. Fridays before Spring Break are usually filled with excitement and anticipation, but for many of us, the enthusiasm over time off has been overshadowed by uncertainty and anxiety as we watch the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. I know many of you are wondering how this unprecedented event will impact the school year, particularly with Austin ISD making the call at 3:30 a.m. to cancel classes today and with the first two confirmed cases in Travis County. I want to assure you that I and my leadership team are discussing this hourly and talking several times a day to local and state health experts, superintendents around the state, the Texas Education...

Friday Focus – 03-06-2020

Dear Team, Do you ever have a day when you think “Why me?” Self-pity isn’t the most attractive human trait, but I get it, it’s, unfortunately, one that’s unavoidable. We all have wallowed in it from time to time. The words from an old Rod Stewart song are painstakingly accurate: Some guys have all the luck Some guys have all the pain Some guys get all the breaks Some guys do nothing but complain Something as trivial as a flat tire or a traffic jam can trigger the feeling. Other times, it’s an understandable reaction to life’s hardest moments: the death of a parent or grandparent; the cancer diagnosis of a loved one; a job loss; or trying to help an adolescent child going through depression. I’ll admit, I’ve fallen victim to it as well. Just yesterday, I was awash in disappointment...

Friday Focus – 02-28-2020

Dear Team, I enjoy reading stories, but more importantly, I love hearing the stories of others. Each of us as human beings are storytellers and each of us has our own story. Whether around a fire in the forest primeval, huddled in a cave, or gathered around a Thanksgiving dinner table, for thousands of years, people have shared and passed down their history through stories. I thoroughly feel that no communication is more powerful, more persuasive, than a story that touches the heart and ignites emotions. Nothing is more indelible and more influential. It’s why politicians use them in their stump speeches: they recall the waitress in Cedar Rapids, the veteran in Charleston, all with a personal story that ties back to a wrong the candidate wants to make right. It’s why pastors use...

Friday Focus – 02-21-2020

Dear Team, Earlier this week at the gym, a friend cheerfully asked me: “How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?” Those of you that read my Friday Focus emails may recall that I don’t set resolutions, preferring instead to choose a word for the year. I do, however, consider myself a goal-oriented person and like to set ambitious goals for myself. When I turned the question back on my friend (because I haven’t made as much progress as I’d like) she enthusiastically told me she was making progress: 1 percent a day. Sound underwhelming? I thought so too, but then she recommended I read Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. In it, author James Clear talks about how tiny habits build-up to seismic changes and how focusing on systems...

Friday Focus – 02-14-2020

Dear Team, Every child deserves a chance to shine on a stage. For that matter, so does every adult. Fortunately, in Round Rock ISD we all get a chance to shine (more on this later)! First things first, Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you have someone special to celebrate in your life today — whether it’s a spouse, partner, best friend, parent, sibling or child. In my opinion, Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be about romance, it’s really a celebration of love, and all of us benefit from love in our life. I saw a lot of love and pride on display earlier this week when I attended Round Rock ISD Council of PTAs Reflections Awards Ceremony at the Cedar Ridge Performing Arts Center. It was standing room only, not an empty seat in the house! Reflections is a National PTA program that...

Friday Focus – 02-07-2020

Dear Team, As parents, as educators, we want our children to be as smart as they can be. To always have the right answer. Equally, I feel we should help them in being as kind as they can be. Anyone can be right. Most of us are, on any number of things we do, decisions we make, statements we claim throughout the day. It’s really not a huge accomplishment. But to be kind, to be warm, to be sincere, now that takes a different kind of effort. If we are not kind, if we decimate relationships, hurt or ostracize others, does it really matter if we’re right? I always try to remember the great words of Maya Angelou, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” How do you make others feel? Better yet, how would others say you...

Friday Focus – 01-31-2020

Dear Team, Everyone has a story. That phrase has been stuck in my mind all week, and each time I think of it, I can’t help but ponder how meaningful it is. How reminding yourself of this simple fact can make you a kinder person, a more compassionate listener, a more powerful advocate or collaborative colleague. Why did this particular phrase capture my imagination? It started simply enough: This week I attended a few sessions at the Texas Association of School Administrators’ Midwinter Conference. Each January, thousands of school administrators from across Texas gather in Austin for professional development, learning with and from each other. The challenge for me is that I can’t make it a few steps without running into someone I know! Some are people I worked shoulder-to-shoulder...

Friday Focus – 01-24-2020

Dear Team, I try hard to not count days, preferring to make each day count. Having said that, in eight days, the calendar page will turn from what sometimes feels like one of the longest months of the year. I know many people are ready, even anxious, to move on from January, shake the last vestiges of the holidays off, and maybe even start looking forward to spring. Here’s a friendly reminder, don’t look so forward to the near future that you don’t fully enjoy today. Eckhart Tolle may have said it best: “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.” In addition, don’t entirely leave the spirit of January behind as we move ahead. The beginning of the year is a time for reflection, goal-setting, breaking old habits and...

Friday Focus – 01-17-2020

Dear Team, I love libraries. I love babies more (more on that later)! But back to libraries...I love the smell, the quiet, the seclusion. I love the feel of a book in my hand, the texture of the printed page, and the promise of more knowledge than I could possibly absorb tucked away in the rows and rows of books (I must admit, I love technology but never enough to get comfortable with a screen instead of a hard covered book). My love for libraries, perhaps surprisingly, developed because I began elementary school not speaking or understanding much English. I wanted to learn as quickly as I could, but my pronunciation wasn’t always correct. Because of that, I was often quiet in the classroom early on, afraid to say something wrong and expose myself to laughter and teasing from my...

Friday Focus – 01-10-2020

Dear Team, New. Year. Think about it, we can all do something about the “new” but nothing about the “year!” For each of us, it’s 2020. So what’s new with you? A resolution? A word? A relationship? A friend? My hope is that each has experienced a renewed start! And, if you haven’t yet, I challenge you to do so by the end of this month. Grabbing hold of those who lift your spirit is a chance for an amazing renewal. So is releasing, or letting go of those who may be keeping you from your best self. One is easier than the other, however, both might be necessary. A new year affords us the luxury of now, rather than someday (remember that Someday is not a day of the week.) The new year has always been a special time for me. As a January baby (today’s my 55th birthday!) this first month of...

Friday Focus – 12-20-2019

Dear Team, Don’t blink, because the next time we are all together it will be a new year! But not just a new year — a new decade. We are already entering the third decade of the 21st Century. How does that make you feel? Excited? Contemplative? Old?! It makes me feel all of those things. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that we’re entering the year 2020. And while, as a kid, I thought we’d all have our own flying cars by now (a lá The Jetsons), in reality, technology and progress have changed the world in ways we couldn’t have even imagined a few decades ago. But for all that has changed, many things have remained the same: the human spirit; our ability to build each other up or tear one another down; our need for love and acceptance. The beginning of a new year is a time of...

Friday Focus – 12-13-2019

Dear Team, The perfect amount. The right balance. Just right.  Enough. What a beautiful word for this time of year. There are so many words associated with the holiday season that evoke an emotional, sometimes visceral, response: joy, peace, love, family, presents, stockings, cookies….! Enough is one of those words we often say this time of year, but it’s usually preceded by “not”. Think of it: How many times have you looked at the mountain of gifts you’ve purchased for your children or other family members and friends and thought, “It’s not enough. If only I could get one more.” It seems we always want more in the holiday season. More presents, more time, more money. But none of those things bring the peace and contentment of simply having enough. Enough to meet our needs. Enough...

Friday Focus – 12-6-2019

Dear Team, Welcome back! I hope you all had a restful break and took some time to enjoy your friends and families and count your blessings. Now, just two more weeks before the long winter break. This time of year is both joyful and frenetic—there is much to be done before we leave for the holidays, our students can be especially energetic (to put it mildly!) and many of us have a host of extra commitments and activities to attend. Take a deep breath, accomplish the task in front of you, and don’t forget to take time to enjoy what this season should be about: peace, joy and love. Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting with 28 of Round Rock ISD’s best and brightest. One of the greatest honors of being superintendent is interacting with our Student Advisory Board each month. Why? Our...

Friday Focus – 11-22-2019

Dear Team, What’s your attitude today?  Excited? Overwhelmed? Exhausted? All of the above? Sometimes the day before a long break can bring as much stress as it does anticipation as we hurry to wrap up our work, worry about students who may not have a happy holiday to look forward to, or mentally catalogue all the things that need to be done to prepare a Thanksgiving meal that will please the pickiest of in-laws. But I hope in the bustle of getting ready for the holiday you don’t forget what it’s all about. I hope you choose an attitude of gratitude. I’ll admit, I can’t take credit for that catchy phrase. I learned it from Cherri Urban, library assistant at Hernandez Middle School. She and librarian Wendy Tucker, for the ninth year in a row, are promoting Project Attitude of Gratitude...

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...

Friday Focus – 11-8-2019

Dear Team, We are all construction workers! More on that later. If you drove by Elsa England Elementary last Saturday morning, you might’ve double-checked the calendar. It looked like a school day morning with a long car line snaking around the crowded parking lot. Saturday was a beautiful, sunny fall day and it’s hard to imagine any kid, or teacher for that matter would want to be back at school for a sixth morning in a row. But I can tell you what was happening inside was beyond a typical school day. It was pure magic! Saturday was the sixth annual World Class Student Leadership Conference where more than 400 students and sponsors spent the morning learning how to be better leaders, bolstering each other’s spirits, and learning from one another. Bar none, this is one of my favorite...

Friday Focus – 11-1-2019

Dear Team, There’s a line in the movie “Pretty in Pink” (OK, I admit it. I like this movie...a lot) where Iona, played by Annie Potts, is reminiscing about her prom 20 years prior and says to Molly Ringwald’s character: “Why can’t we start old and get younger?” I think a lot of us can relate to that sentiment. Why does it sound so attractive? Because, as we get older, we recognize how precious time — how precious life – is and we lament the “wasted” days of youth. But whether we start young or old, like Benjamin Button, life is finite and bounded and it’s how we spend the time in between that matters. The concept of time is built into us as humans, much like it is built into animals, fish and even insects. The rising and setting of the sun, the movement of tides, the changing of...

Friday Focus – 10-25-2019

Dear Team, Spend 36 years in education and you cross paths with many people. I’ve taught and coached countless students over the years, and yet there are so many that I remember. I never fail to be surprised when something brings one of them to mind—someone I perhaps haven’t thought of in years—but some reminder brings them back with such clarity and detail and I realize the impact they had on my life. That happened to me yesterday when I came across the obituary of a former student. He actually wasn’t much younger than me. As a college student, I served as a coach at Edison Junior High in San Angelo, Texas and Obie Dwayne Ray was one of my players. While tragic that he is gone at just 47 years old, I couldn’t help but smile when reading his obituary. It spoke eloquently of the light...

Friday Focus – 10-18-2019

Dear Team, I like to think of myself as someone who does well at keeping cool under pressure. After all, I’ve had years of practice. I played the part of “Fonzie” at my San Angelo Elementary Spring Choir Show in 1977 (the # 1 comedy sitcom in the 70’s was “Happy Days” and the Fonz was the coolest dude on the planet for those too young to know!) As a middle and high school quarterback, I liked to think that ice ran through my veins. And, the ultimate test of keeping my cool? I was a middle school principal. But every now and then, just like everybody else, I find myself feeling frustrated. In fact, it happened to me earlier this week. I’d run home for a quick lunch and was reading a work email that caused my blood pressure to rise. I must have uttered something out loud (I’ll leave...

Friday Focus – 10-11-2019

Dear Team, I love being asked to serve as a judge for various campus and department events. If my schedule allows, I proudly serve. I get to witness the incredible talents of our amazing students and staff. Suffice to say, I’d rather be a judge than be judged. Actually, I don’t know of many people who like to be judged, right? The very word itself is often used with a negative connotation. “How dare you judge me?” “He’s so  judgmental!” “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” But really, we are all judged every day by everyone we come in contact with, whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not. Judgment is everywhere, not just for individuals but for organizations as well. Round Rock ISD was judged in August when the Texas Education Agency released its ratings, and thousands of...

Friday Focus – 10-04-2019

Dear Team, Happy New Year! I love the Autumn season! Nature finds a way to cool itself down after a hot Central Texas summer. For me, each October 1 marks the completion of another great year (I began serving Round Rock ISD as Superintendent of Schools on October 1, 2013). October brings out the first true signs of Fall: pumpkin patches, leaves changing, Halloween candy specials, and the hope that cool mornings are just around the corner. Though Thanksgiving is still almost two months away, these signs of Fall always focus my thoughts on attitudes of gratitude for the blessings in my life. Maybe it’s human nature — it’s definitely part of American culture — but we all seem to have the urge to accumulate, whether it’s a concern of having enough of what we need or a desire to keep up...

Friday Focus – 9-27-2019

Dear Team Rock? Paper? Scissors? Usually, I choose rock. Why? The rock is always the solid choice. What do you think of when you hear the word “rock”? Do you think of an object to be hurled and cause damage? A pebble tossed into a stream, creating ripples that go on and on? Your favorite kind of music? For me, the word rock makes me think of a solid foundation. A steady constant. An anchor in a chaotic world. Rocks can be impressive examples of nature’s power and beauty. Like Enchanted Rock, just north of Fredericksburg. A mountain of pink granite, it’s the largest of its kind in the United States, and legend has it the Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche all held it as a spiritual place. Rocks can also be transformed into works of beauty and remembrance by human hands, like Mount Rushmore,...

Friday Focus – 9-20-2019

Dear Team, Simple things to me matter most, yet I often don’t slow down long enough to enjoy them. Let me explain. Hours in a bookstore on a rainy day. Salted peanuts in a Coca Cola glass bottle. Sipping coffee watching the sunrise on my back porch. My dog’s tail wagging when I get home. You get my point. Just the other night, I watched Forrest Gump for the 43rd time. As Forrest watched his little boy board the school bus, and the forgotten feather drifts up into the clouds, I found myself wondering why it is that I can never turn away from this movie. What is it about this story that appeals to me so? And it came to me: It’s simple. Forrest’s approach to life, to love, even to storytelling is simple. Brilliantly so. That led to reflection about my own life, the pace at which I live...

Friday Focus – 9-13-2019

Dear Team, We as a country, know how to come together in times of tragedy, peril, and need. As Americans, it is in our DNA. On Wednesday, we commemorated a defining moment for our nation’s history. Every generation has a moment its members point to, that they reflect on as the years go by and recall where they were and what they did when they heard the news. For me, I was leaving my office in Pflugerville ISD heading to a bilingual kindergarten class to read Jorge el Curioso. I never made it there. After 18 years as an educator, this was my first as a central office administrator. I learned that day, you must be prepared for the unexpected. Another 18 years down the road, that still holds true. For all those generational touchstones — D-Day, the Kennedy assassination — there is none...

Friday Focus – 9-6-2019

Dear Team, “In a world where you can be anything...be kind.” Thanks Caraway Elementary for such a powerful bulletin board. Sometimes the tragedies of the world consume us. They are hard to turn away from — ever-present, on every screen, on the news, in our social media stream — and to ignore them seems heartless, maybe even cowardly. But with so much bad news in the world sometimes turning away is a form of self-preservation. Then other times the tragedies come too close together and too close to home, and we cannot help but be consumed by them. To feel frustration, helplessness and despair. I’ve been there, having lost my oldest sister to a senseless act of violence in February 1985. No parent should ever have to bury a child. That’s how I felt after the terrible tragedy in El Paso...

Friday Focus – 8-30-2019

Dear Team, I’m no Lou Gehrig, but I can relate to his saying, “Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” He said that in his emotional farewell speech on July 4, 1939. Since I last wrote to you, three remarkable things occurred within a couple of days of each other that had me saying that I too consider myself a lucky man! First, and most personal, my wife Amy and I traveled to St. Louis over the weekend to attend our son’s 30th surprise birthday party, our first grandchild’s gender reveal party, and celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. We learned that in a few month’s time we will become grandparents to a beautiful baby girl. It’s been 25 years since we welcomed a baby into our family and, as parents to two boys, a baby girl is an experience we can...

Friday Focus – 8-23-2019

Dear Team, Bien Hecho! (Well Done!) Depending on when you’re reading this, you’re either about to wrap up or have wrapped up our first full week of the 2019-2020 school year. I’ve lost count of how many campuses I’ve visited in the last week and a half, but no matter how many, it’s not enough! I love visiting each and every campus across our 110 square mile District. Each is unique. Each is special. And, most importantly, each is a nurturing place for kids. To get a taste of the first day of school from campuses around the District, check out this 1st Day of  School video captured by our Communications and Community Relations team. What a great day filled with excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation of what’s to come. Feel free to share with me your hope for this school year! What’s...

Friday Focus – 8-16-2019

Dear Team, I am so glad I get to be Superintendent of Round Rock ISD. What are you excited about that you get to do? More on that later. My staff and my wife may not believe it, but sometimes, I am speechless. Experiencing the first day of school yesterday, kicking off my 36th year as an educator, left me speechless and smiling. I had the best time traveling around to as many campuses as possible greeting our students and parents and congratulating teachers, administrators and support staff on an amazing first day of school! I hope you had the opportunity to watch our “Welcome Back” video earlier this week. If you did, you heard me say this will be our best year yet, and I truly believe that. As I’m sure most of you know, the Texas Education Agency released its Texas School Report...

Friday Focus – 5-17-2019

Dear Team, Teachers are passionate about teaching….not so much about testing! Our amazing teachers in Round Rock ISD understand that assessments are critical to making student achievement a priority. The old adage rings true, “We measure what we treasure.” Having said that, I personally will never believe that one standardized test can be the true measure of what a student has learned or how they have benefitted from all our schools have to offer. In Round Rock ISD, our focus will always be on the “whole” child and we will never underestimate the importance of those things not covered on our state’s standardized tests, like fine arts, extracurricular opportunities and enrichment. This week, my thoughts have especially been with our classroom teachers, and everyone on our campuses...

Friday Focus – 5-10-2019

Dear Team, Imagine a world with no teachers. It’s impossible, I know, but it’s worth reflecting on because teachers make the world go ‘round. In life, we get a chance to give gratitude to those deserving of praise. My challenge to you, as we wrap up Teacher Appreciation Week, is to take the opportunity to thank a teacher who influenced your life. Show gratitude today, rather than “in memoriam” later. I have a few regrets, and one of them is never thanking Mrs. Rice, my elementary music teacher who made me feel I was a talented singer. I had no confidence in my ability before Mrs. Rice, but she made me feel like I was Julio Iglesias! And that boosted my confidence in countless other ways. I tried a decade ago to find her and thank her, only to learn she had passed away several years...

Friday Focus – 5-3-2019

Dear Team, I “rumble” for _______. If you’re a boxing fan, you may know the name Michael Buffer. And even if you have no idea who he is, I guarantee you would recognize his voice immediately if you heard him say: “Let’s get ready to rumble!!!!!” He has trademarked that phrase! The word “rumble” in pop culture has come to mean a physical fight—usually a street fight where playing dirty is acceptable. But in the world of boxing, where, thanks to Michael Buffer, the word has experienced a renaissance, there are rules to the fight. Whether you are a fan or not, boxing is precise, it’s rehearsed and, in order to win, the rules must be followed. The fight isn’t personal, it’s business. And there’s no hitting below the belt. This week, I was enlightened by author Brene Brown’s latest blog...

Friday Focus – 4-26-2019

Dear Team, Seize the moment. Make time your friend. Take advantage of opportunities. Be productive. (Read in a cynical tone). All of those thoughts came to me on Tuesday afternoon. My meeting ended at 4:30 p.m., enough time before my next event at 7 p.m. to mow my yard, so I seized the moment in time! That decision turned out to “bite” me! During the mowing, I was stung by a bee, just above my eye. I woke up Wednesday morning with my eye swollen shut, half my face puffy, and feeling some pretty substantial pain. Not the greatest start to a busy day with a calendar filled with meetings, a speech in front of 150 or so people, a memorial service, and dinner with partners and supporters of the District. After squeezing in a visit to the doctor to make sure I wasn’t about to go into...

Friday Focus – 4-12-2019

Dear Team, Just the other day, a good friend invited my wife and me over for burgers. He and his wife served as gracious hosts. Aside from the great burgers, they made us feel welcomed and valued. Our wonderful experience as their guests made me wonder if we extend that level of hospitality to our guests. They, in essence, provided quality customer service. How do I know this? Simple. I look forward to going back. In the meantime, I think I’ll invite them over in the near future. This spring, I asked all of our campus principals and department leaders to read Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, a book that outlines the principles taught at the Disney Institute where thousands of professionals go each year to learn from the company that has set the world’s standard...

Friday Focus – 4-5-2019

Dear Team, When is the last time you complimented a colleague on the work they do or a student displaying great effort or resiliency? I don’t mean a polite but insincere, or maybe half-hearted, “Good job,” but truly taking the time to appreciate, recognize and thank someone for incredible work or effort. Some believe that not saying anything is a show of approval. I don’t subscribe to the saying, “no news is good news.” I believe that news, good or bad, provided to you by someone who cares for you is always good. So work to make the gift of feedback something you share often with those you care about. In my position, I am beyond fortunate to be surrounded by amazingly talented, dedicated people. And while I recognize that fact all the time, I don’t always give the kudos I should and...

Friday Focus – 3-29-2019

Dear Team, Sometimes, you just need a little perspective. That basic truth was brought into sharp focus for me recently. Just before Spring Break, I was on a conference call with the Commissioner of Education’s office. Much to my surprise, when Commissioner Mike Morath learned I was on the call, he asked to speak to me one-on-one. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t what I heard: “Steve Flores! How great to hear from you! It’s not often that I get to talk to a superintendent in charge of a school district doing as well as Round Rock ISD!” I was a little taken aback — though I appreciated the enthusiasm — so I thanked the Commissioner and launched into business. Before we hung up, he said it again, and added: “Tell me how it feels to be superintendent of one...

Friday Focus – 3-15-2019

Dear Team, I write to you today from Miles, Texas. (Have you ever been there?) It’s a tiny town about 19 miles from San Angelo. I’m here today to say goodbye, to honor and lay to rest to my 96-year-old aunt, my late mother’s older sister/best friend and the last of her generation in our family. So, to me, 96 wonderful years of living is a celebration of life and not a funeral. RIP Tia Chelo (Please remind Mom that she has an eternity to get caught up on the last 11 years). It is a time of sadness, but also of celebration for a life well-lived, and an opportunity to reconnect with family who have scattered far and wide. Was it difficult for me to make the decision to attend my aunt’s funeral, given the busy week at work and a Board of Trustees meeting last night? I have to tell you: I...

Friday Focus – 3-8-2019

Dear Team, Continue. Consider. Two very different words, especially when followed by a verb. Recently, I was introduced to this concept while attending an amazing professional development focused on providing feedback. More on that later. I don’t know about you, but to me, it feels like our world needs more happiness. Unfortunately, too often we let circumstances and surroundings fuel anger and resentment instead of joy and positivity—whether it’s political pundits on TV trying to score points by out-yelling each other, a long, cold winter with too little sunshine, or just trying to make it through Central Texas traffic. Someone cut me off on the highway earlier this week, and I immediately felt my blood pressure rise as the anger bubbled up in my chest. Ironically, I was on my way to...

Friday Focus – 3-1-2019

Dear Team, I often find myself saying, “I wish I had had enough time to…..” Truth is, after 53 years and two months of living, I’ve found I still haven’t learned to use the time I have as wisely as I should. Maybe that’s why a trip I took a couple of weeks ago to Chandler Oaks Elementary stuck with me for so long. While visiting the Fifth Grade IB Exhibition, I met Evan Jaf and Niko Galvan whose project on taking a pledge to unplug from technology intrigued me. I’ll be the first to admit: I LOVE technology! I love my iPhone. I love the ability to post and scroll through Twitter and Facebook. So, while I was impressed with the boys’ project as I heard them make their case, leaning on the research they’d dug up, and inspiring their friends to take the pledge, I wasn’t ready to take it...

Friday Focus – 2-22-2019

Dear Team, “Mom, I can’t wait to get to school tomorrow to take my state assessment test,” said No Kid Ever. Our Pre-K and kindergarten students come to us with the zest and enthusiasm to learn, explore, create, dream, share, make friends...you get my point! There are also those that come to us and we help ignite the aforementioned actions. That’s why our jobs are so important for our nation’s continued success. That’s what I see when I visit classrooms around our District, I am struck by the opportunities, the access to technology, the focus on project-based learning, the celebration and emphasis on fine arts and creativity, and so many other things that make our District not only great but world-class. We educate the whole child! We have amazingly talented students, supportive...

Friday Focus – 2-15-2019

Dear Team, Much like love itself, Valentine’s Day can be complicated. When in the midst of young love or a new relationship, it can be exciting and romantic. But when mourning the loss of a loved one it can be a sad reminder of what once was. For those of us in relationships that have weathered many years, it can be a challenge to keep Valentine’s Day fresh and new. For parents of young kids, it often means a late-night trip to H-E-B because you forgot Valentine’s Day cards! I confess: I’ve been there! Whether you’re a hopeless romantic who loves February 14, or more of a cynic who thinks it’s all a conspiracy by the greeting card and chocolate industries, (I’m a little bit of both, by the way), I think we can all agree that celebrating love is a positive thing. I woke up on...

Friday Focus – 2-8-2019

Dear Team, We are better together! I had the privilege this week—along with my leadership team, our three newest Trustees, and several District staff members, including directors, principals and teachers—to participate in one of the most affirming and enlightening professional development experiences of my career. Beyond Diversity is described as a powerful, personally transforming two-day seminar designed to help leaders, educators, students, parents, administrators and community participants understand the impact of race on student learning and investigate the role that racism plays in institutionalizing academic achievement disparities. After my experience, I can confidently say that the description is spot on — and then some. The ability to have Courageous Conversations with our...

Friday Focus – 2-1-2019

Dear Team, Our work here in Round Rock ISD keeps me close to home, spending my time at campuses and events across our District, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Every now and then, however, I get the chance to connect with friends, peers and former colleagues from around the state, like I did this week at the Texas Association of School Administrators’ annual Midwinter Conference. In many ways, TASA Midwinter for me feels more like a family reunion than a professional conference. I’ve been in public education for well over three decades now and served in districts from West Texas to North Texas, from the Rio Grande Valley to right here in Central Texas. It’s always great to run into those that helped you along your professional journey. Even more rewarding, I now find myself...

Friday Focus – 1-25-2019

Dear Team, One of my favorite events each year is attending the Round Rock Black History Organization’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration and Walk (this year’s event was the 32nd Annual!). Not only is it a moving and reflective experience to dwell on the impact and sacrifice of the great civil rights leader, it is also a personal honor to watch so many of our Round Rock ISD students participate in the program. Last weekend at the First Baptist Church of Round Rock, I watched our students bring the house down with their heartfelt performances. Today, I’m bringing Hopewell sixth-grader Bronson Burleson lunch to congratulate him on his powerful recitation of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It’s also a chance for me to let him know that he inspired me at a moment I needed a little...

Friday Focus – 1-18-2019

Dear Team, This month signals the beginning of the 86th Texas Legislative Session. In Texas, our Legislature meets every other year to make laws and set the state budget for the next two [ ‘byears. The former civics and government teacher in me absolutely loves this time of year — I actually enjoy digging into the policy and details of new legislation and also just observing our great democracy in motion. This session is kicking off with a sense of optimism I’ve never experienced in my three-plus decades in public education in Texas. The school finance system that dictates funding for Texas schools has been the subject of lawsuits since the 1960’s, has been retooled and tinkered with countless times, yet still is not a system that adequately or equitably funds public schools. In fact,...

Friday Focus – 1-11-2019

Dear Team, Welcome back! Can it really be 2019? We are now closer to 2040 than we are to 1998...Let that sink in! Speaking of celebrating the new year, I hope everyone had a restful winter break and took advantage of the opportunity to spend treasured time with family and friends. And to our hardworking custodians and maintenance staff and others who worked through the holidays to make sure our campuses were ready for our students’ return: THANK YOU for all you do! Last year at this time, I shared with all of you my “one word” for the year. The “one word” movement encourages us to select a word as a theme for the year, instead of setting a new year’s resolution which is often about breaking a bad habit or changing a single behavior. Selecting a word to govern us day-to-day provides...

Friday Focus – 12-21-2018

Dear Team, While I know all of you, like me, are looking forward to a much-deserved winter break, you’re probably also facing a VERY busy weekend. Maybe you’ve left your holiday shopping until the last minute or are hosting a houseful on Christmas Eve, but whatever is on your “to do” list, I’m sure you’ll be swamped over the next few days. While the hustle and bustle of the holiday season are part of its charm, I hope you all will take the opportunity to rest and recharge and remember that the simple pleasures bring us the greatest joy. When I was a little boy growing up in San Angelo, one of the things that brought the most excitement was the little silver Christmas tree my mom would put up every year. It was spindly—probably the least-expensive she could find—and it didn’t have...

Friday Focus – 12-14-2018

Dear Team, Think kindness. Close your eyes and visualize your last act of kindness. Were you the giver or the receiver? How did this act of kindness make you feel? We have a choice to be kind, unkind or indifferent to others. I challenge you to find someone before the end of the day to be a receiver of your kind heart. You will feel better, but, more importantly, you will have helped someone else to feel better. Our culture is full of mixed messages and contradictions. We’re taught from the time we’re babies to be nice, be polite, but then society tells us “Nice guys finish last.” We expect our leaders to act with decorum and dignity, but the spotlight seems to shine on those who cut down their adversaries with insults and accusations. This retreat from civility is troubling to me...

Friday Focus – 12-7-2018

Dear Team, This week, our nation laid to rest our last President of the Greatest Generation. An adopted son of Texas, George H.W. Bush’s success began in the very earth of Texas, shortly after he moved his family to Midland in 1949. But before becoming an oil magnate, George Bush had already been a public servant and a war hero. As a Navy pilot in World War II, he nearly lost his life when he was shot down over the Pacific and only narrowly escaped being captured by the Japanese. And after making his fortune in Texas, he returned to public life and served his country with humility, dedication, brilliance, and quiet leadership. While historians have plenty to debate when considering Bush’s presidency, the highs and lows, I choose to focus on the example he set for what it meant to be...

Friday Focus – 11-30-2018

Dear Team, I hope your Thanksgiving break was restful and that you were able to spend meaningful time with family and friends. I know I did but, as always, it’s great to be back at Round Rock ISD working with the best educators in the world! Leading up to the November elections, I wrote a lot about our responsibility, particularly as educators, to participate in the democratic process. While voting is a critically important manifestation of that participation, it isn’t the only thing we can and should be doing as Americans and Texans. The Texas Legislature meets every other year for 140 days to pass laws governing the state of Texas. They’ll convene in January under the big pink dome in downtown Austin for the 86th Legislature, and all the signs are pointing to the fact that public...

Friday Focus – 11-16-2018

Dear Team, I love November for so many reasons. Football, cooler weather, the chance to spend time with family...did I mention football? But seriously, while I do love football, what I love most about November is the focus on gratitude. I am one of those people who truly appreciates those around me, but, I’m afraid, I don’t always take the opportunity to express that appreciation like I should. I’m a note-taker, a list-maker. If something strikes me—a quote, a phrase, a book I intend to read—I like to write it down, often on the whiteboard next to my desk. That action and visual reminder gives me focus. Perhaps that’s why I love the intentionality of November as a month of thankfulness and gratitude, from the day we set aside to honor our veterans and thank them for their service to...

Friday Focus – 11-9-2018

Dear Team, It has been an eventful week in our nation, our state, and right here in Round Rock ISD. Americans were inspired in record numbers to go to the polls on Tuesday and make their voice heard. I’m thankful to the voters right here in Williamson and Travis counties who weighed in, not just on important national and state races, but also local elections that hit close to home. Most importantly for Round Rock ISD, voters demonstrated their overwhelming support for the District’s Bond package that will provide $508.4 million for capital projects across the District. Our operations department is hard at work determining next steps—first up will likely be purchasing much-needed buses for our fleet, which is the oldest in Central Texas, and laying the groundwork for projects that will...

Friday Focus – 11-2-2018

Dear Team, “Tell me something good…..” I’m sure most of you are much too young to remember the show “Soul Train” that used to air on Saturday mornings, but I’m not! This song that I first heard on Soul Train somewhere around 1974 as a little kid has stuck with me my whole life, and it reminds me that, even when the news all around seems grim, you can still find something positive if you just ask. Wednesday, I was looking for someone to tell me something good, so since I had received a gracious invitation from FAC teacher Erica Cooper at Ridgeview Middle School to visit their pollinator garden and experience the Monarch migration, I headed over. Erica and her class lovingly tend the garden, help nurture butterfly eggs and, with help from the rest of the school and the community, have...

Friday Focus – 10-26-2018

Dear Team, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” - Benjamin Franklin The well didn’t exactly go dry this week—actually the opposite—but this quote seemed to fit what many of our campuses, as well as one million people in and around Austin, have been experiencing this week. When you go into the field of education, you anticipate discussion, decisions and action around the best curriculum, engagement opportunities, discipline, athletics, and addressing special needs. But school districts are also massive operations that, in our case, are responsible for the safety and well-being of more than 50,000 students for the better part of their day, at least five days a week. When an emergency happens, we usually turn to our Operations Department for the solution, and I can’t say...

Friday Focus – 10-19-2018

Dear Team, I love our theme of One Family. It rings so true to me that rather than discard it for a new theme, like many organizations do year-to-year, we decided to keep it and expand upon it this year to: One Family. One Future. Because everything we do impacts the future of our students and our own collective future as a community, state and nation. That’s the influence of being in education. We are a large family in Round Rock ISD, with more than 50,000 students and nearly 7,000 staff members and many wonderful, extraordinary moments and achievements happen every day. But also, in a family as large as ours, we unfortunately see our share of sorrow. Just this week, the Round Rock High School family experienced a tragic reminder of that when they unexpectedly lost Coach Will...

Friday Focus – 10-12-2018

Dear Team, Last year, as an assignment through our work with the Holdsworth Center, each member of Round Rock ISD’s leadership met with RRISD employees across departments and levels to connect and get feedback. Staying connected, ensuring the right communication reaches the right audience, and promoting our culture of “One Family. One Future.” can be challenging in a District that spans more than 110 square miles, 55 campuses and is home to 6,500 employees. We try to provide multiple ways of two-way communication, including regular online climate surveys. But I was absolutely blown away at how revealing, informative and energizing these face-to-face meetings were, not just for me but my entire leadership team. That’s why, this year, we our conducting these “listening tours” four times...

Friday Focus – 10-5-2018

Dear Team, There are many varied roles that make up a school district. I know because I’ve held several of them! I’ve driven a bus and served as a teacher’s assistant, been a coach, and a classroom teacher. No matter where you serve, you are important, and, in one way or another, contribute to a student’s ultimate success. But if I had to pick a position to single out as the clutch player, the quarterback, the team captain in public schools, I have to go with campus principal. If the classroom teachers are our boots on the ground, our principals are our captains in the field, the leaders that make the crucial decisions, determine strategy, and execute the mission. October is National Principals Month and I am thrilled to take the opportunity to brag on our 55 principals. Our community...

Friday Focus – 9-28-2018

Dear Team, What a great time of the year! I hope you all are enjoying the hint of fall weather in the air and are ready for some high school football tonight. September is winding down, which means we’re no longer in back-to-school mode, but are now in full stride of this 2018-19 academic year. It’s a busy, but exciting, time of year for school districts. I’m writing to you from the annual TASA/TASB Conference, this year in downtown Austin, where several Round Rock ISD educators are presenting, sharing their expertise with educators from around the state, and also where our students’ work is being showcased in the Student Innovation Challenge. The Texas Tribune Festival is also underway in downtown Austin and, on Saturday morning, I’ll be speaking on a panel about a subject that’s...

Friday Focus – 9-21-2018

Dear Team, I’ll admit it: I see value in Facebook. When you’ve lived as long as I have, in as many places as I have, you end up with friends, family, former colleagues and mentors scattered miles and miles apart. While social media has its challenges, I do enjoy and marvel at the connectivity it affords. I have had the privilege of working with many phenomenal, inspirational educators over the course of my three-plus decades in public schools. Some of them I haven’t seen in years and so are frozen in time for me. Thankfully, many are on Facebook and I can follow their careers and the impact they continue to make on students’ lives. Just this week, I happened on a post from my old friend Delinda Castro. Delinda is an assistant superintendent in South San Antonio ISD, but many years...

Friday Focus – 9-14-2018

Dear Team, Last week’s Friday Focus on leadership prompted many of you to share your stories of taking on the role of leader. Some of you actively sought it, others had it thrust upon you. All of you mentioned someone who saw more in you than you saw in yourself. Dennis Hardesty, our principal at GOALS, shared a story of his time in the U.S. Navy and an unexpected opportunity he was given as a junior petty officer. Thanks in part to guts and grit, Dennis was selected over more senior colleagues to lead a division. Was he scared? You bet. But, as Dennis put it, it was time to #leaderup. (I have to give Dennis credit for that hashtag and I hope it catches on in Round Rock ISD!) Dennis said he couldn’t help but wonder what the captain saw in him to choose him for such an important job....

Friday Focus – 9-7-2018

Dear Team, Round Rock ISD is known around the state and across the nation for many things, but one of the highlights is our success in producing great leaders, coming from the ranks of both our students and our educators and staff. We believe in leadership development and that the qualities of leaders, like Sen. John McCain who I wrote about last week, are needed now in our country—and our world—more than ever before. Our work with the Holdsworth Center is taking our focus on leadership to a whole new level. At KickOff this year, we talked about our District’s Leadership Principles developed through our partnership with Holdsworth. These principles to Include All, Invest in Growth, and Inspire Action are driving our mission to be a District of leaders. They are foundational to all we...

Friday Focus – 8-31-2018

Dear Team, I began my morning Wednesday at Round Rock High School, watching JROTC students raise the flag in front of the school. The raising of the flag is an act that I have always loved to witness and I’m proud that we recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day in our classrooms. It never fails to touch me, make my heart swell with pride, fill my mind with images of the courage and sacrifice of our servicemen and servicewomen that have made our country the greatest on earth. There is a reason so many risk everything to come to America—despite obstacles, despite prejudice, despite politics—America is still the land of opportunity and beckons to those who seek refuge. This day, watching students raise the flag was especially meaningful, because the flag did not reach the top of the...

Friday Focus – 8-24-2018

Dear Team, Last month, I had the honor of attending the Urban Superintendents Association of America’s national conference in Louisville, Kentucky, to present on our partnership with the Holdsworth Center and share our leadership principles of Including All, Investing in Growth and Inspiring Action. The conference itself was phenomenal and provided a great reminder of why we do what we do. But I was equally impressed with the city of Louisville. One of the attractions I made sure to visit was the Muhammad Ali Center, an interactive museum that offers educational programming and special events to inspire people to pursue greatness in their own lives, communities and countries. I wanted to stop by because I’m a lifelong boxing fan, but I only expected to stay an hour or so. Truth be...

Friday Focus – 8-17-2018

Dear Team, What a week! Between KickOff, learning that our District earned an A on the state’s report card, and celebrating the first day of school, my calendar and my heart have been full. I’m so excited for this new year, because every new year is a fresh opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children. I’m also happy to renew our weekly communication through these emails. As I told you at KickOff, the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences and—more importantly—to hear back from you if something I said struck a chord or inspired an idea means the world to me. Please respond either via email or Twitter @sfloresRRISD if you have feedback, questions or topics you’d like me to address. In fact, tweet me about your #FirstDayofSchool and let me know how it went! I...

Friday Focus 4-27-2018

Dear Team, Leading a school district the size of Round Rock ISD encompasses many responsibilities and areas of focus—some things that I never would’ve thought of when I was a teacher and coach. Beyond the classroom, there are a host of things that we need to support our mission and the District is home to experts in finance, operations, construction, risk management, legal services and scores of other fields. As a career educator, sometimes it feels surreal managing what is essentially a medium-sized city, but it has also been a fascinating journey as an administrator to understand how all of these resources work together to provide a world-class environment for our students. We need all of them—all of YOU—to accomplish our mission. Given that my portfolio is broad and my focus must...

Friday Focus 4-20-2018

Dear Team, Several times a year, I have the privilege of selecting a RRock Star for our District and surprise them at the monthly luncheon hosted by the Round Rock ISD’s Council of PTAs. RRock Stars are individuals who impact students in a positive way, and honoring them is a highlight for me. They get a pin, a certificate and I take them out to lunch at the restaurant of their choice—though I think that’s more of a treat for me than them! This week, we honored Delvin Brooks, a general maintenance lead, and I don’t think I have ever received as many enthusiastic responses confirming that I made the right selection. Delvin personifies selfless commitment, both in his professional and personal life. He is a problem-solver, a bright light of positivity, and goes out of his way to help...

Friday Focus 4-13-2018

Dear Team, Last night was a milestone for Round Rock ISD. A committee of citizens who have been studying the needs of Round Rock ISD for the past several weeks together decided to recommend that the Board of Trustees call for a Bond Election for November 2018. This has been an entirely community-driven process, with District staff offering information and answering questions, organizing tours of campuses and providing insight to District needs, whether it’s overcrowded schools, outdated facilities or safety and security concerns. The decision-making has been entirely up to the community members. Eventually, our Board of Trustees will decide whether to take their recommendation and call for a Bond referendum. I am proud of Round Rock ISD citizens—many of them parents—who care so much...

Friday Focus 4-6-2018

Dear Team, One of the great things about being an educator in Round Rock ISD is that we benefit from engaged parents who advocate passionately for their children’s education and students who are able to draw from an abundant set of resources, whether it’s the opportunity to travel around the state, nation or even the world with their families, or exposure to a variety of enrichment activities outside of school like art, music or athletics. Much of my career has been spent in districts where that wasn’t the case. Districts in places like San Angelo, urban Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley. That also wasn’t my own experience growing up in San Angelo with English as my second language. As an educator in public schools, we all want to deliver the absolute best education for students,...

Friday Focus – 04-06-2018

Dear Team, One of the great things about being an educator in Round Rock ISD is that we benefit from engaged parents who advocate passionately for their children’s education and students who are able to draw from an abundant set of resources, whether it’s the opportunity to travel around the state, nation or even the world with their families, or exposure to a variety of enrichment activities outside of school like art, music or athletics. Much of my career has been spent in districts where that wasn’t the case. Districts in places like San Angelo, urban Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley. That also wasn’t my own experience growing up in San Angelo with English as my second language. As an educator in public schools, we all want to deliver the absolute best education for students,...

Friday Focus – 03-23-2018

Dear Team, I hope you all had a restful spring break, are enjoying all the beauty this season brings, including the gorgeous Texas Bluebonnets springing up all along our highways and byways, and are ready to #finishstrong this school year! I also want to sincerely thank those invaluable members of our family throughout the District who were working hard last week—like our custodial staff who used the opportunity to refresh our buildings, ensuring our students returned to a healthy, clean environment. We also had maintenance folks hard at work, construction projects ongoing, coaches fielding practices and games, and principals meeting with parents over the break. I’m proud that our RRISD family puts students first and goes above and beyond to create a world-class education experience...

Friday Focus – 03-09-2018

Dear Team, There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss something about being on a campus full time, but days like today really make me long to be at a school. I know the kids can be squirrely and full of excitement but, let’s admit it, we all are on the day before spring break! I hope each of you takes time for yourself next week to recuperate, restore and re-energize for this final push to the end of a school year. As a coach, I always told my players: “No one remembers how you start the game, but everyone remembers how you finish it.” The same goes for educators and all of us who support the mission of Round Rock ISD. This is a crucial part of the school year and we must all do our part to keep students engaged and excited to learn. So, please, make sure next week to take some...

Friday Focus – 03-02-2018

Dear Team, Those of us in public education have spent our entire career making miracles happen on what sometimes may feel like a shoestring budget. Educators are creative, inspired and, above all, determined to make sure students have the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of where they live or their economic circumstances. For decades, the public school finance system in Texas has been a target of legal challenges and a source of frustration for public education advocates. Several judges over the course of the last 50 years have ruled the system unconstitutional. Concerns abound both over the equity and adequacy of funding. In other words, every child, whether they’re in Austin or Abilene, Lubbock or Laredo, Dallas or Dalhart, should have the opportunity to attend...

Friday Focus 2-23-2018

Dear Team, This has been a fascinating week to be an educator, watching the power of the student voice and how so many, in the wake of tragedy, are putting into practice the things they’ve learned in their social studies classes and exercising their rights as Americans to speak up and demand action. I know opinions differ wildly on sensitive topics such as gun control, but I also know that collectively as a country we all want our schools and classrooms to be safe havens for students and teachers. That desire has inspired the passion and eloquence of the students making their case in Tallahassee, Washington, D.C., and across the country right now. Just today in Round Rock ISD, several students at Pearson Ranch Middle School staged a peaceful demonstration in support of students from...

Friday Focus – 02-23-2018

Dear Team, This has been a fascinating week to be an educator, watching the power of the student voice and how so many, in the wake of tragedy, are putting into practice the things they’ve learned in their social studies classes and exercising their rights as Americans to speak up and demand action. I know opinions differ wildly on sensitive topics such as gun control, but I also know that collectively as a country we all want our schools and classrooms to be safe havens for students and teachers. That desire has inspired the passion and eloquence of the students making their case in Tallahassee, Washington, D.C., and across the country right now. Just today in Round Rock ISD, several students at Pearson Ranch Middle School staged a peaceful demonstration in support of students from...

Friday Focus 2-9-2018

Dear Team, Have you ever had a week where the less spectacular aspects of your work seem to weigh you down and maybe, for a moment, dim the passion that drew you to education? It happens to everyone from time to time, including me. But every time the enthusiasm ebbs and the stress flows, I find there is always a moment or experience that inspires me and reminds me why I’ve dedicated my life to public education and why Round Rock ISD is such a special place. Just last week, that moment for me was meeting at Walsh Middle School with librarians, instructional coaches and information technology specialists who were fervently enthusiastic about the ways they are supporting teachers and students. From TED Talks to virtual reality, it was inspiring to hear the excitement in the voices of...

Friday Focus 2-2-2018

Dear Team, This week I had the opportunity to attend the Midwinter Conference in downtown Austin, organized by the Texas Association of School Administrators. It is one of the biggest and best of its kind in the nation and provides school leaders the opportunity to share and learn new ideas focused on nearly every aspect of education. Professional development and growing ourselves as leaders, no matter our role in the District, is vitally important and I hope you are seizing every opportunity to expand your horizons and discover innovative ways to make a positive impact on our students. I was especially inspired by author Chip Heath’s presentation focused on his latest book, The Power of Moments. Chip (who incidentally is a 1981 graduate of Round Rock High School and now a Stanford...

Friday Focus 1-26-2018

Dear Team, Every week is a great week at Round Rock ISD, but this week particularly highlighted the amazing, uplifting spirit of the people who make up our District. Why? Because this week Round Rock ISD schools joined hundreds of schools across the country for the 2018 Great Kindness Challenge. The Great Kindness Challenge is a grassroots campaign aimed at spreading goodwill and happiness in schools across the country. I can tell you from personal experience what a monumental impression a seemingly small act of kindness can have on a life. Being kind—even if it’s just offering a smile, a compliment or a word of encouragement—costs us nothing, but it could be immeasurably valuable to the receiver. We never truly know the challenges those around us might be facing. The insecurities,...

Friday Focus 1-19-2018

Dear Team, I have been in school district administration for more years than I care to count and every day is a new adventure. I truly love and value the opportunity afforded to me to participate in decisions that benefit our nearly 50,000 students, to work on the “big picture” and to be both an advocate and a cheerleader for Round Rock ISD, the best school district in Texas. But I began my career in education directly connected to students. First, as an instructional aide, a coach, a bus driver and, after college, a teacher and later principal. I don’t mind sharing with you that the downside to working in district administration is missing the day-to-day interaction with students. For those of you working on campuses, I hope you treasure that experience and your opportunity to daily...

Friday Focus 1-12-2018

Dear Team, Welcome back! I hope everyone has returned from winter break rested, refreshed and ready to take on new challenges. The dawning of a new year offers the opportunity for a new beginning, the chance to set goals and to chart a path for achieving them. While the winter break is a time for friends, family and joy, the Round Rock ISD family sadly experienced loss and tragedy as well. Our family is not the same as it was when we left each other December 22. We lost a beloved member, Shelley DeHart, who worked as a diagnostician at Round Rock and McNeil High Schools and had previously worked at other campuses throughout the district. Shelley’s colleagues recall her infectious laugh, her beautiful smile and her commitment to her students. We also watched and prayed as we followed...

Friday Focus 12-15-2017

Dear Colleagues, I couldn’t let this season of giving pass without thanking all of you, once again, for your amazing commitment to Round Rock ISD and for giving so generously to the Round Rock ISD Partners in Education Foundation Employee Giving Campaign. The PIE Foundation supports our students and campuses in so many critical ways, from memorial scholarships and school supplies to grants for classrooms and campuses that enrich the learning experience for our students through countless avenues. The PIE Foundation had a goal of $140,000 for the Employee Giving Campaign, with a stretch goal of $160,000. On her first week on the job, I put our new executive director of communications and community relations, Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, on the spot and challenged her to kiss a pig if RRISD...

Friday Focus 12-8-2017

Dear colleagues, As we head into the weekend, I want to be sure to thank all of you for what you do for the students, parents and community members of Round Rock ISD every day. I recently celebrated my fourth anniversary as superintendent with Round Rock ISD and I can say with confidence that from the dedicated staff on our campuses, to those providing support at central office, to the critical team members in maintenance and operations—and everyone in between—I truly believe we are home to the hardest-working people in Texas, people who put our students as their top priority. Sometimes it may feel like that work isn’t always recognized, or even appreciated. But, as educators and school district employees, we must remember our motivation, remember our “why”, and hold tight to our...