Schools prepare for new year BISD: Battalion of employees working to ready campuses. - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Schools prepare for new year BISD: Battalion of employees working to ready campuses.

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Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2001 12:00 am

By Mel Huff

The Brownsville Herald

Two new elementary schools, A.A. Champion and Dr. Ruben Gallegos, will welcome

students for the first time on Tuesday, the first day of classes for 2000-01

in the Brownsville Independent School District.

A third, Dr. Americo Paredes Elementary School, will be ready in December.

The process of opening a new school has become a nearly annual ritual for the

district. Eight schools opened in the 1990s, eight in the 1980s and nine in

the 1970s.

By the time BISD reaches peak enrollment in November, it could have as many as

43,000 students, figures released by the school district last week indicate.

And as the new year approaches, a familiar scene is playing out at the new


Earlier this month, a painter on metal stilts touched up the paint near the

ceiling of a quiet hall at Champion Elementary.

Meanwhile, in another wing, a line of warehouse employees, textbook staff,

substitute custodians and summer helpers unloaded supplies from three trucks

parked side by side. They moved with the speed of workers in a Charlie Chaplin


We can move in in five days, said Felix Calderon, the supervisor of the BISD


The process unfolds like a military maneuver.

Consumables and janitorial items, ordered earlier in the year, are loaded into

small trucks. Furniture and equipment are loaded into rented tractor-trailers.

Then the vehicles are driven to the school and unloaded.

It takes two days to unload, then we move things into the room, and it takes

two days to assemble everything, Calderon said.

After the classrooms and administrative offices are set up, computer services

and library services come in.

It used to take two or three weeks to move into a school, said Kent

Wittemore, BISDs warehouse administrator, but we moved into Gallegos in

three days.

The process of opening a new school has become a nearly annual ritual for the

district. Eight schools opened in the 1990s, eight in the 1980s and nine in

the 1970s.

As the warehouse staff was setting up Champion, the schools guidance

counselors were registering students at El Jardin Elementary.

Miguel Espinoza, one of the counselors, said a steady stream of parents had

been coming in to register their children. Its an exciting time because its

new, he observed.

Meanwhile, Bea Garcia, Champions principal, was using the library at Gonzalez

for an office.

Over the summer she had met with her staff and they came up with the schools

motto We are the Champions.

They chose school colors aqua and black with silver letters. And they

selected a mascot the Champion colt.

Garcia recently visited A.A. Champions wife to learn about the schools


Her husband was a researcher and a historian, Garcia said. I wanted to get

to know her so I could let the staff and the students know.

One of the schools challenges will be teaching homeless students from the

Ozanam Center, Garcia said.

She has told her teachers that their priority during the first month of school

is to get to know your students well, their background and families.

Since Gallegos was set up the week before Champion, that schools staff was

able to move in last week, even though they had no telephones or computers.

Teachers and guidance counselors started decorating their rooms, and

everywhere there were bees.

The mascot of Gallegos, which is located behind Cameron Park, is the

bumblebee: It flies, despite the fact that experts say its design makes flight


The teachers chose the school colors yellow and black and motto Bee

your best for success last June.

We get a lot of people saying, Oh, when they learn were next to Cameron

Park, said Yvonne Quezada, an art and reading teacher. We all chose to come

here. We know whats out there and we want to be here.

Gallegos principal, Lucy Green, started hiring in April. She brought five

teachers with her from Villa Nueva, which has won exemplary accountability

ratings in two of the past four years.

Green hired three administrators from the University of Texas at Brownsville

the directors of the alternative certification program, the student teaching

program and the child care and development center.

She also hired extra support teachers an at-risk reading teacher, a

certified technology teacher and a tennis coach. She envisions tennis becoming

for Gallegos what chess is for other BISD schools.

One quality Green looked for in her teachers was their willingness to help

each other. Another was their ability to provide beginning learners with a

strong foundation.

We were able to select teachers who were strong in the early childhood

education area, she said I truly believe the foundation is what makes or

breaks you.

Her experience at Villa Nueva taught her that what you do with the little

ones determines what kind of achievement you get in Grades 3-5.

Im not obsessing about the TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills), she

said. Its been made very clear to us that our goal is to have good TAAS

scores, but were going at it differently. If we focus on the whole child,

its going to fall into place.

Over the summer, between ordering resource materials, reviewing students

permanent records to see who might need extra help and lining up partnerships

with businesses, the staff pondered what is unique to Gallegos mission.

We decided its character education, Green said.

Gallegos guidance counselors, Martha Walker and Cindy Guerrero, are bringing

in a character education program that focuses on six qualities respect,

responsibility, fairness, trustworthiness, caring and citizenship.

It will include teachers, custodians, bus drivers and business partners, in

addition to students. Parents will be educated in good decision-making,

problem solving and conflict resolution.

Character education will be incorporated into athletics and academics, and

honors will be awarded to promote good character.

The students will want to do this, Green predicted.

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