NOVEMBER 2020 UPDATE

Our FOCUS Priorities provide direction and vision for our work and ensure that we align our efforts around common goals and outcomes for students and our community. Through our FOCUS priorities, we aim to optimize and improve our fiscal management; improve and enhance student learning experiences and supports; and improve internal and external organizational climate and connections.


The key areas of focus are: 

  • Finance

  • Organizational Redesign

  • Campuses and Classrooms

  • Unity 

  • Systems and Sustainability

Below, are a few high-level updates in each area that leaders should note.


FINANCE

DeSoto ISD welcomed former interim CFO Deb Cabrera back in September to oversee district financial operations while the district searches for a long-term appointment. 


Under Cabrera’s management, the district has improved its financial rating and continues to make positive strides to rebuild the fund balance. 


The district will hold a public hearing regarding district finances and the tax rate prior to the November 2020 regular meeting of the DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees.


ORGANIZATIONAL REDESIGN

Despite a brief interruption to the district’s strategic planning efforts due to COVID-19, DeSoto ISD provided an update to the Board of Trustees in October. 


To date, the district continues to engage stakeholders and partners in furthering the progress of this effort. The district will present a community update at the December Board Meeting which will outline learning priorities and pillars of the strategic planning effort.


In addition to the district’s ongoing strategic planning efforts, DeSoto ISD was recently awarded the New Tech Network Planning Grant after expressing interest in improving student outcomes by exploring the New Tech Network school model and innovative practices.

In a landmark move, the Texas legislature passed HB 3, which offers a financial incentive for engaging in school design and professional development with New Tech Network.

New Tech Network’s systemic approach to school-based innovation through project-based learning and work-based education has a proven track record in Texas schools.

NTN is a national nonprofit and leading design partner for comprehensive K-12 school change. NTN has successfully guided over 200 schools and districts in 28 states through a whole school, systemic redesign process. The NTN model emphasizes multiple student learning outcomes combined with pervasive project-based learning, an inclusive school culture and the real-world application of standards and technology in work-based scenarios.

NTN’s Planning Grants (valued at more than $6,500) provide district and charter schools with:

  • Participation in New Tech Network’s School Design Academy for school teams

  • Custom School Readiness Assessment for school teams

  • NTN Model Overview workshop for school and district teams

  • Full access to NTN School Design Studio self-paced courses

  • NTN virtual learning resources


CAMPUSES and CLASSROOMS

In response to COVID-19, the DeSoto ISD developed the Anytime, Anywhere Learning System. This state- and nationally-recognized learning framework is the foundation of the district’s virtual learning effort affording families the choice to select campus-supervised or home-supervised virtual learning.


During the summer, DeSoto ISD engaged more than 85 teachers and leaders to refine the framework for the 2020-2021 school year. As TEA mandated that all school systems provide an in-person learning option, the district scaffolded students’ return to campuses following the development and implementation of COVID-19 safety guidelines.


To provide deeper support for campuses, the district appointed East Middle School Principal Deidre Hannible as the Deputy Chief Academic Officer and has welcomed academic consultant Dorland Norris to serve as the interim Chief Academic Officer while the district seeks a long-term leader.


Additionally, EMS Assistant Principal Travis Anderson was named Interim Principal at East Middle School. Retired administrator Sissy Lowe was named Interim Principal at West Middle School and Roberto Torres was named Interim Principal at Frank D. Moates Elementary.


UNITY

Given the iterations to school and work due to COVID-19, DeSoto ISD remains focused on organizational culture. The DeSoto ISD hosted its first virtual convocation to kick off the school year and continues to establish virtual engagement opportunities for staff and families including teacher meetings and conferencing for parents; staff development and professional learning communities; and community engagement and updates like virtual town hall meetings, parent trainings and informational sessions.


SYSTEMS and SUSTAINABILITY

DeSoto ISD is focused on creating systems for long-term sustainability by recording and operationalizing our work practices with opportunities for innovation in mind. As a school system, we desire to streamline our processes and workflows while ensuring a means for evaluation and refinement. 


A new system in implementation in DeSoto ISD is the MTSS framework. Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a systemic, continuous-improvement framework in which data-based problem solving and decision-making is practiced across all levels of the educational system for supporting students.


MTSS will replace the district’s previous use of RTI (Response to Intervention). MTSS is an approach of intentional focus on every child rooted in an effort to holistically serve our students through mental and emotional health services, educational and life-need resources, and other supports.


The District Student Support Services and Social-Emotional Learning and Guidance teams are collaborating to design training and informational sessions for various segments of the DeSoto ISD school community.


The district will also publish a new Panorama survey to collect feedback from district stakeholders with the goal of assessing learning experiences and areas of opportunity within the district. The survey will be made available for completion in December.