Transition Time: BISD readies for new school year - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Transition Time: BISD readies for new school year

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Posted: Saturday, August 10, 2019 9:00 pm

When school starts on Wednesday, four Brownsville elementary schools will welcome hundreds of new students and the teachers to teach them as the result of consolidation approved last spring by the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees.

The school board closed Longoria, Victoria Heights and Resaca elementary schools in central Brownsville after years of declining enrollment. The schools were among the oldest in Brownsville. Now their former students, about 300 per school, will attend nearby schools that, except for one, are newer.

District personnel have been busy all summer getting the receiving schools ready for more students. Classrooms that were being used for storage have been reopened, repainted and refurbished. Floors have been waxed, hallways spruced up, and the schools generally made to look like new. Classroom by classroom teachers were moved to their new schools.

Former students at Victoria Heights on East 13th Street are now zoned to Perez Elementary on Shidler Street just off Paredes Line Road. Longoria Elementary, 2400 E. Van Buren, will send its former students to J.T. Canales Elementary on International Boulevard. Resaca Elementary, 901 E. Filmore, will split its former students between Sharp Elementary on Palm Boulevard and Putegnat Elementary, 730 E. 8th St., the descendant of the original Brownsville Grammar School and built in 1915.

Among the receiving principals, Perez Elementary Principal Michael Moreno’s circumstance is unusual. He’s receiving students, parents and former students that he worked with at Victoria Heights when he was the principal there. Moreno became the principal at Perez in 2016.

On a recent morning, he was reviewing preliminary academic performance data for both schools from the Texas Education Agency. The data was presented at the annual administrators’ back-to-school in-service held this year at Lopez Early College High School.

He said he feels like he’s at an advantage because he already knows teachers and staff from his former school and how they teach.

“There’s an alignment in their delivery of instruction and the kids are achieving at a similar level,” Moreno said. “What I’m finding based on some of this data is that we’ll have a smooth learning transition.”

He added that one of the first tasks will be to establish a common campus mission “so all of the teachers are on the same boat in terms of where are we going to take this ship this year. We’re on a new journey, an exciting journey,” he said. “The teachers at Perez Elementary are there to welcome our new teachers, staff and parents from Victoria Heights. We want to assure them that we are a safe campus, that we are a caring campus, a nurturing campus … and that the kids are going to have a great experience.”

Moreno said he’s been surprised at the “very nice upgrades” the Perez campus has received. “We’re going to evolve into one campus, one team, one mission,” he said, adding that “excitement is in the air” and a back-to-school rally is being planned.

At J.T Canales a similar familiarity to the one at Perez is in the early stages. Myrta Garza, the longtime Longoria principal, was named the new principal at Canales as part of the consolidation.

“My administrative team and I decided our motto is going to be ‘one school, one team.’ We’ll really focus on blending both faculties and we’re going to be Canales strong at the end of the year,” she said. “The good thing is we have parental support from both sides.”

Canales Elementary will have uniforms for the first time this year, something parents like.

“We’re excited, we’re up for the challenge,” she said. “We’ll blend in the students as well as the faculty.”

Canales had an enrollment of about 500 last year. This year it will have an enrollment of more than 850.

Academically, Garza said she plans to go back to the basics, to foundational skills. “We want to work together to make Canales shine. It’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.”

Putegnat Elementary had about 480 students when school started last year and will start with about 600 this year, Principal Aidee Vasquez said.

“With the increase in students we will be welcoming some new staff from Resaca. New students, new parents, new teachers, we welcome them with open arms. I had a parent who came in to register and she said, ‘I already see the difference.’ One parent that came in and saw the positivity made me feel like we’re on the right route.”

Putegnat is adding eight new classrooms and one for special education. Maintenance employees have been busy over the summer getting them ready.

“Academically, the scores Resaca was getting are similar to the ones we were getting, which is excellent. We can hit the ground running,” Vasquez said. “I always say this is not my school. It’s a community school. … More than anything we want to make sure we make the students feel comfortable because we are here for them.”

She added that the demographics and culture at the two schools are similar so the transition should not be difficult. “We want to assure the parents that their kids are coming to just as good a school, if not better, than the one they left. We’re also welcoming the Resaca teachers. ... They’re joining our Putegnat family.”

Much the same can be said for Sharp Elementary. Principal Irma Segura said the school will have a meet and greet for all parents on Monday after holding a welcoming event for the new Resaca parents in May.

“ We had a good turnout. Everyone left happy. Over 40 families came over and they all have the same goals for their children: student academic success, Segura said.

She added that over the summer maintenance employees carefully moved everything over so that all the Resaca teachers had to do was set everything up. Sharp received seven teachers from Resaca, one special education teacher, one counselor and one paraprofessional. “I have met them and they are ready to go. Maintenance helped us tremendously.”

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

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