Presidio ISD principals identify strengths and room for growth in beginning-of-year reports

PRESIDIO — At last Wednesday’s school board meeting, all three Presidio ISD principals gave beginning-of-year reports tracking student progress after the first nine weeks of school. The number of students enrolled grew from the first day of school, prompting administrators to focus extra attention on catching the newcomers up to speed. 

Presidio Elementary School Principal Joe Andy Mendoza kicked off the meeting with a report on his campus, which is also the district’s largest — 412 students were enrolled at the school as of last week. The elementary school is focused this year in bringing up scores in reading and math, and has time set aside in the school day for kids needing more support in these areas. 

Mendoza gave board members a primer on a number of electronic resources that have rolled out across the district — MindPlay is one such program, which tracks students’ reading progress and needs as they learn at their own pace. Another resource is Lead4Ward, a resource for teachers that helps them plan effective instruction and interventions, both online and through in-person conferences.

Some of these measures are a response to HB4545, a piece of legislation passed last year that set up new requirements for students who do not pass their STAAR tests — the battery of standardized tests that students in schools that receive funding from the state of Texas are required to complete. Accelerated instruction required by HB4545 is available to PISD kids after school — as well as more informal tutoring for students who want extra help in a specific subject. 

Rogelio Zubia of Lucy Rede Franco Middle School presented next. Teachers at his campus had also tested out free trial Lead4Ward products and decided to commit. PISD middle school students are also given the opportunity to attend state-mandated accelerated instruction and optional tutoring after school, but many students have also opted to attend after-school enrichment programs — rocketry, photojournalism and chess have been popular picks.

Zubia has tried a nontraditional approach for his campus — his goal is for kids to go home for the day without homework. Some of the students at his campus spend three hours a day riding the bus back and forth from Candelaria, and he wants them to be able to maximize their time at home as much as possible. “It’s been working so far,” he reported. 

Presidio High School Principal Hevila Ramos closed the presentation with positive news across the board. The biggest challenge at her campus is an influx of students who are new to the United States — this year the high school has 24 students who are first-timers in Texas schools, and three more are expected. These students often need accelerated English-language instruction, which Ramos accounted for by adjusting schedules and creating a special small group for language learners. 

Presidio High School is also seeing a large number of students enrolled in dual-credit programs — 79 students are dual-enrolled at Odessa College this semester, and 59 at UT-PB. Presidio also offers two AP courses in Spanish language and literature, which enrolled students passed with flying colors last year.

Students at Presidio High have also been taking part in a number of extracurriculars — the Solar Car Challenge and rocketry teams have been enjoying a streak of success, as well as yearbook and Art Club. Presidio Band has been expanding their marching band offerings by participating in the Marfa Lights Parade and homecoming half-time show — they even got an invitation to perform at the Sul Ross homecoming game. 

Superintendent Ray Vasquez was appreciative of each progress report. “We got very good ratings last year, but we’re trying to get to the next level,” he said — referring to the recently-released Texas Education Association (TEA) ratings, which earned the district an overall B. “We need to be all-in with instruction, bell to bell.”