Friday, December 20, 2013

Let’s Make Every
Minute Count

“Life is made of memorable moments. We must teach ourselves to really love the journey not the destination.”   -- Ann Quindlen

If you’re like me, you want your holiday time to be especially memorable. You may even have one special time — a ceremony, meal, party or trip — in mind as the pinnacle. My hope is that even before the “big event” that preceding moments — as well as those that follow — are also filled with wonder and joy.

Take time to hug, smile, laugh, pitch in, celebrate, love, make a new special friend or strengthen a connection. Who knows, some of those more everyday experiences may turn into your other favorite recollections.  More often than not, the most special memories are those that happen unexpectedly.

Looking back at 2013, this year was full of great accomplishments for our district as well as individual successes and heroic acts.  As we wind down the last moments of another calendar year, let’s all look ahead to 2014 with great anticipation of what is to come and pledge together to make every minute count.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Today Just One of Life’s
Defining Moments

Today, the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy, is one of life’s defining moments for me as well as many other Americans. As we honor his legacy in history, I’m reminded of other special moments or turning points in my own life. Those unforgettable experiences when time stood still and I’ll never forget where I was and what I was doing.  The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, for one, conjures up memories of shock and disbelief.

Conversely, positive experiences can have the same power and magnitude. The births of my children and grandchildren stand out on the wonderful side of life, bringing smiles to my face every recollection. My first day of college or first days in various jobs at Mesquite ISD are also indelible memories, leading me to where I am today on my life’s path.

Next week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s take time to reflect upon and appreciate all the defining moments in our lives that have been good for us and for those we love. Maybe you can even anticipate the next one that’s ahead for you.

Safe travels and enjoy your time off!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mesquite ISD Schools to Participate
in Ask Not — The Dallas County Day of Service

Creating care packages for military personnel is one of many projects happening on our campuses this Thursday in honor of Ask Not — The Dallas County Day of Service. The Dallas County Commissioners Court established this service day to honor the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy and as a precursor to the 50th anniversary of his death.

Please see how you can support school undertakings planned for this day on the campus or campuses you support, including:

Trash collection at Porter Elementary
Canned food drive for Mesquite Social Services at Range and Lawrence elementaries
Crafting Christmas cards for troops and retired veterans at Mackey Elementary
Making cards and collecting donations for military personnel at Achziger Elementary
Writing thank-you letters to our local police at Austin Elementary
Making Thanksgiving baskets for Sharing Life at Kimball Elementary
Serving Thanksgiving lunch to seniors by Rutherford Elementary at the Rutherford Rec Center
Creating winter/holiday decorations and cards by Hanby Elementary for Sharing Life Community Outreach’s Senior Christmas Luncheon
Green Team campus beautification efforts by Agnew Middle School
Writing letters of appreciation to the Armed Forces through Operation Gratitude at Gentry Elementary

Monday, November 11, 2013

Commemorate Sacrifice, Service
to Country on Veterans Day

In our district, we celebrate Veterans Day in a big way. We want all our veterans — including students’ parents, grandparents, friends and relatives, as well as our own employees and alumni — to feel extra special.

To this end, some campuses host annual Veterans Day events, while district employees with military service celebrate together at a meal featuring student artwork and music.  Texas State Rep. Kenneth Sheets, a veteran himself, will be keynote speaker this year.

In addition, videos honoring Mesquite ISD alumni veterans have been airing at high school football games. A compilation of these video tributes soon will be posted on our YouTube channel.

Please join me in commemorating the sacrifices and contributions made by all and thanking the veterans we know for their services to our country.

"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." -Elmer Davis

Friday, November 1, 2013

November 4-8: Our District Steps Up for
Mesquite Social Services Holiday Program

Every year, our students and adults work together for a week in November collecting food, money and toys to benefit the Mesquite Social Services Holiday Program.  November 4-8 is 2013’s districtwide donation week that gives everyone the opportunity to be of service to others.  

Last year, our students and staff collected more than $15,500 in cash and 31,000 food items. We also adopted 233 angels to support the families in our community. 

Lewis Carroll once said, “One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing, is what we do for others."  For this week, let’s put others’ needs ahead of ours, model kindness through giving and help those in need.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Make Your Voice Heard:
Vote Early or on November 5

Early voting is under way for the November 5 election. That day, Texans will vote on nine constitutional amendments.

If you live in Dallas County, here are the early voting times at Lakeside Activity Center, 101 Holley Park Drive, Mesquite, 75149:
Saturday, October 26: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, October 27: 1 to 6 p.m.
Monday-Wednesday, October 28-30: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m
Thursday-Friday, October 31-November 1: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Remember, you must present a valid photo ID to vote. I encourage you to exercise your right to vote and make your voice heard at the ballot box.

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting. - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Friday, October 18, 2013

Red Ribbon Week October 21-25 Spreads
Choose to Be Drug Free Message

Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don't, according to the National Family Partnership. Yet only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.

During Mesquite ISD’s Red Ribbon Week October 21-25, all schools will be providing drug prevention education. Every student will receive a Choose to Be Drug Free pencil, and each campus will hold Red Ribbon Week activities appropriate for the ages of their students.

Learn more about Red Ribbon Week and get resources to help you lead an anti-drug discussion if you haven’t already.

Friday, October 11, 2013

First Report Card Key Checkpoint
for Students and Parents, Too

Although the school year won’t end and final grades won’t be assigned for months, the first report cards issued this week are key. They provide an official checkpoint for students and parents on academic performance. Take time to review this initial performance measure, looking for places to praise excellence and for subjects where improvement is needed.

Parental influence on student success cannot be underestimated. When parents are involved in their children’s education at home, they do better in school.  And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school — and the schools they go to are better.

Parent/teacher relationships make powerful partnerships. Working with your child’s teachers, you can figure out ways to maximize your child’s academic strengths and build up weaknesses.

Rather than wait for the six-week or semester report cards, we recommend monitoring grades more often through Parent CONNECT. Let’s don’t wait for grades to slip. Address any missed assignments or needs for extra help immediately.

Let’s continue to work together to bring out the best in all of our students.  And keep reminding them of all the benefits good grades will help create for their futures.

Monday, September 30, 2013

New AP Grant Scoring
Big Within Mesquite ISD

Our student participation in AP Exams isn’t the only thing improving through a grant sponsored by the National Math and Science Initiative and the Texas Instruments Foundation. So have our students’ scores.

The grant, which debuted in the 2011-12 school year, is geared toward math, science and English AP classes. Students with a qualifying score of 3 or higher on exams in these three courses earn $100 per test. By the end of the grant’s second year, here are results of math, science and English AP Exams:

Exam participation was up by 29 percent overall.
Qualifying scores increased by 42 percent overall.
The number of exams taken by African American and Hispanic students grew by 61 percent.
Qualifying scores by African American and Hispanic students improved by 55 percent.

We look forward to continued success through this great program. Please join us in urging students to participate in AP classes, which can lead to college credit hours and tuition savings.

Friday, September 20, 2013

These Three Upcoming
Events Calendar-Worthy

Please get out your calendar, smart phone or whatever you use to flag key dates for you and your family. Over the next month or so, Mesquite ISD is hosting several events — or in one case getting a program started — that may be of value to you and your neighbors.

Have you driven by our new Technology Excellence Center, formerly the Armory Building next to Hanby Stadium, and wondered what it looks like inside? Then please join us between 4 and 6 p.m. on Monday, September 30, for our Community Open House. Tours and demonstrations will take place, and refreshments will be served.

Our next Parent University, a district-sponsored workshop geared to help our parents and guardians bring out the best in students, is set for Tuesday, October 29. With the theme of Cyber Safety, this event will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at our Professional Development Center, 2600 Motley. Learn how to protect your child through the safe use of the Internet and other mobile devices. Childcare will be provided.

And last but not least, our A.L.I.V.E. Program for parents, guardians and community patrons kicks off another annual session in October. Back by popular demand, this class continues through May through monthly meetings. It provides a thorough look inside what it takes for us to educate nearly 40,000 people a day. Not only do A.L.I.V.E. participants get one-on-one time with our district leaders, they also get to experience some things – like cafeteria food – just like a student. Perhaps you’ll want to become one of our Board members some day like one of our A.L.I.V.E. graduates successfully did.

I urge you to make a special effort to attend at least one of the three events or programs. We need your participation and connection to our district to improve even further as a school community.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Board + Students = Twice
the Fun at TASB Conference

Through my leadership roles with Mesquite ISD and the UIL, I attend many conferences. But in my mind, the upcoming annual TASA/TASB* Convention stands out as a special one for two reasons.

First of all, this Dallas convention will honor Mesquite ISD’s Board of Trustees in a huge way. Our Board is one of five finalists in the 2013 Honor Board Award Program sponsored by TASA. This is the third time MISD’s Board has been selected as a finalist for this award. The winning board will be announced on Friday, September 27.

Secondly, our district’s new Culinary Class has been invited to lead a Student Culinary Showcase at the same event. Our students will be involved in interactive cooking demonstrations with the thousands of school administrator convention guests Friday and Saturday, September 27-28.

Best of luck to both our stellar Board and students. I will see you there!

*TASA stands for the Texas Association of School Administrators,
while TASB is the Texas Association of School Boards.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9–11 Anniversary Tugs on
Our Hearts 12 Years Later

No matter how far we live from New York City or Washington, D.C., we felt close to all those impacted on 9-11. If you're like me, you remember exactly where you were, what you were doing and how your heart ached watching the TV footage.

As horrible as it was that day and during its aftermath, we cannot forget what happened. Please join me this week in honoring the 2,996 lives lost as well as the hundreds of heroes who saved others.

9-11 was the deadliest incident for firefighters in the U.S. history. Our own Mesquite Fire Department secured a piece of 9-11 history--a steel beam from the World Trade Center warped by the explosion. Money is being raised to build a memorial to show this striking 9-11 representation to our community for years to come.

Friday, September 6, 2013

PTA: An Easy Way to Get Involved
With School, Help Your Student’s Success

It’s no secret that children do better in school when families are involved.

Studies have proven this over and over. One easy way to become more active in your child’s school experience – and help bring out the best in that student – is by joining PTA.

Texas PTA’s theme this year is “Be your kid’s biggest fan. Be PTA!”

Through the local PTA chapter of your student’s school, you’ll keep abreast of the best ways to support that campus. PTAs work hard to connect families, schools and the community for the betterment of education. Campuses rely heavily on PTA’s infrastructure of volunteers, so your participation can make a huge difference.

To learn about your child’s school’s PTA chapter, volunteering, meetings and more, please visit


Friday, August 23, 2013

What’s New at Mesquite ISD?
Stay Informed All Year Long

Welcome to Mesquite ISD or welcome back!  We’ve planned a fulfilling and action-packed year for students on all of our 46 campuses, and I’d like to mention a couple of our exciting new undertakings.

Our Technology Excellence Center (TEC) opens this semester in the updated Armory Building. This $4.2 million renovation project offers innovative instruction for high school students from all five campuses, including a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) course. You’ll be learning more and more about the TEC as this semester unfolds.

Another grand opening involves Florence Black Elementary. One of our district’s oldest campuses has been replaced by a completely new 82,000-square-foot facility. This project, which began in February of 2012, was funded by the 2007 bond package. We hope you enjoy the photos of this beautiful campus that we’re posting on our district websites and on our Facebook page.

Please know our district works hard to keep you informed. We offer several ways to help you stay connected with your student’s school experience. Follow us at mesquiteisd.orgour mobile app,  the district’s Facebook page or Twitter account. You can also follow me on Twitter or here at my blog.

Best wishes for a terrific school year!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Preparation Begins Long
Before First Day of School

Just like our students and their families, our district’s teachers and leaders are busy getting set for the upcoming school year. Over the summer, we hold staff training and each campus team plans carefully how to make its school even better than the year before.

To me, preparation is so central to our schools, staff and students being the best they can be. As the famous tennis player Arthur Ashe once said, “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”

Let’s help our students start off the school year with utmost confidence by being fully ready. And that may mean changing household sleep schedules long before the first day.

Here are some recommendations:
- Ease children back into a school year routine gradually.
- During the last two weeks of summer, re-introduce a school year bedtime.
- Begin waking late sleepers earlier and earlier, closer to the time they’ll
  need to rise when school begins.

Being fully prepared also means being organized, and a centralized site for all family calendars and schedules is a popular tool. Create a centralized calendar that allows students and parents alike to add school lunch menus, class assignment due dates, extra-curricular activity schedules and more. 

What helps your family get set for school? Please share your tips for back-to-school preparedness.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Special Features Planned
for District’s 33rd Elementary

The design for the district’s 33rd elementary school will be unveiled at tonight’s Board of Trustees’ meeting. WRA Architects will present the schematic design for the school to be built south of Interstate 20 at the intersection of Lawson and Lasater roads.

It’s an impressive plan, designed first and foremost to support the instructional practices. The proposal calls for the campus to offer an abundance of natural light, and research shows this promotes learning. In addition, the octagon-shaped Library is completely accessible to classrooms, making it easy for classes to visit for research projects.

Features unique to our district elementary schools include a learning courtyard between two classroom wings with benches and ground-level covering for students to sit on during outdoor instruction. The walking trail that will compliment the school’s outdoor playground is also like none other.

This new campus will be built in a highly populated area of Mesquite ISD. It will relieve crowding at Mackey and Gray elementaries.

With board approval, the project will go out for bids this February, and construction will begin in March 2014. The school will open in August of 2015.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It’s Not Too Late to Take Advantage
of Community Ed’s Summer Programs

Fun and learning run hand in hand at various summer camps offered by Mesquite ISD’s Community Ed Program. And the good news is that it’s not too late to register for these creative, four-day camps held at elementary campuses in our district.

New offerings this year include Robot Mania and Rock Star Camp. At robot camp, students will actually build a robot to take home as they explore how technology will continue to affect our future. Rock star students will be exposed to improvisation, theatre games and more. They will even perform for their family and friends at camp’s end.

And one example of a camp that’s back by popular demand is Adventures in Art. Students create two new works of art each day, so campers can even retake the class without redundancy.

Besides these classes for aspiring artists, mathematicians, singers and scientists, Community Ed still has spaces for its popular dance and cheer and self-defense courses.

For more information, visit Community Ed’s website or call 972-882-CLASS (972-882-5277).

Hope you hurry and sign up!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 4 Always a Good Time
for a History Refresher

Using fireworks to help celebrate Fourth of July, or Independence Day, actually started on the original holiday in 1776. And many of us, as American citizens, still use fanfare like this to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

As we gear up for the holiday and amidst our barbecues and fun, you may consider it a good time to give our children an American history lesson. And if you’re like me and like to reread about this special anniversary for our great country, you may uncover some interesting facts you didn’t know before or had forgotten.

As an example, I just discovered a remarkable coincidence. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as United States presidents, died on the same day: July 4, 1826. Just five years later, James Monroe died on July 4, 1831, becoming the third president to die on this federal holiday.

Most importantly, let’s reflect on and share with our children the overall importance of this day in history as well as our appreciation for freedom. Independence Day signifies the first time a nation was formed on ideas rather than by ethnicity or race.

We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.  ~Robert J. McCracken

Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stimulate Summer Student Learning
with Engaging Educational Websites

Online educational games and resources will stimulate student learning this summer. It seems like there is something for everyone, and kids can work at their own pace. 

See if some of these offerings pique interest:

·      A Marvel comic creator helps student practice artistic mastery and experiment with storytelling techniques.
·      Art Games allows kids to create abstract paintings online and discover painting techniques.
·      Wonderopolis explains a new “wonder” of daily life, such as why zebras have stripes.
·      Oxford Owl offers games that test reading comprehension while improving memory, and much more.
·      Science Netlinks helps kids tap into interactive and vibrant games, listen to podcasts and get help with hands-on activities. They can learn about the inner workings of the body and much more.

Let us know your favorite educational sites and why.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Help Students Prepare
for Another Stellar Year

As the 2012-13 school year comes to an end, this great news just came in: Mesquite ISD graduates were offered more than $30 million in scholarships—nearly $12 million more than last year. Results like that would not happen without stellar students guided by our exceptional staff, as well as strong community and family support.

Let’s continue building on this momentum over the summer by encouraging and participating in learning. To avoid summer brain drain, in which students can lose four-six weeks of knowledge, here are a few tips:

- Keep lots of books around and make regular trips to the library. You can also access the district’s digital library with grade level recommended reading lists 24/7 from anywhere.
- Keep math in mind, since kids lose more math skills than anything else over the summer. For free online math problems and reading instruction for grades 3-8, go to And for grades 9-12 or high school prep, offers excellent study aids.
- Encourage journaling or emailing to keep writing skills sharp.
- Start a family book club or discuss current events to build analysis skills.

Remember, learning is a lifelong pursuit. Let’s help all Mesquite ISD students realize that hard work and focus will pay dividends.

Have a safe and wonderful summer break.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Still Beaming from 2012-13
Graduations? You’re Not Alone

If witnessing five high school graduations and looking forward to another one next week isn’t invigorating for me, nothing can be. It is so fulfilling to address these proud new graduates, hand out diplomas and hear the applause from their proud relatives and supporters. Also, seeing the joy from their teachers, principals and others on their campus support teams is contagious.

After Mesquite Academy’s upcoming ceremony, our district will graduate about 2,700 students in total this school year. Congratulations again to all new graduates. I also commend their parents; teachers and principals from kindergarten through senior year; and all others who helped influence this great achievement.

For those of you who had to miss a graduation or just want to watch one again, all Mesquite ISD graduation ceremonies are posted on YouTube. Graduation photos are also available on the district’s Facebook page.

I hope this academic milestone propels each student to future success and community service.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Give a Memorial Day Salute
to Honor Our Fallen Americans

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have given their lives in our nation’s wars. Since 1868, this holiday reminds us to honor those who paid the ultimate cost in defense of our country.

On Monday at 3 p.m., please join in the National Moment of Remembrance. Established by Congress in 2000, this resolution asks for all Americans to “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.’” The moment is an act of national unity in which all Americans, alone or with family and friends, honor our fallen veterans.

As we attend graduation festivities, spend time with our families or just relax this Memorial Day weekend, please take time to salute these special men and women. Pay tribute to those who make our freedoms possible.

Monday, May 20, 2013

“Our Best for West” Aid from
One Texas District to Another

Today marks one month since the town of West suffered an explosion that destroyed much of the community—including three of its four school buildings. As part of our district’s KARES initiative, we would like to show our kindness, empathy and service to the West community—particularly the students and school employees, through an MISD fundraising effort to benefit West ISD.

Next week, May 20-24, all MISD schools will be collecting donations of cash or checks to benefit West ISD.  Sources tell us that the greatest need is for funds rather than supplies.

Interested in giving to this worthy cause? School secretaries on all Mesquite ISD campuses will be collecting cash and change. If you want to write a check, please make it payable to MISD with Our Best to West on the memo line. At the fundraising campaign’s end, the grand total of funds collected will be delivered to West ISD.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Agnew Middle School Chosen for Program
through New George W. Bush Institute

Agnew Middle School  is one of eight middle schools chosen by The George W. Bush Institute to participate in the Middle School Matters Institute. The institute, designed to improve school outcomes in the middle grades (grades 6-8), leverages the best available research and practices to support student improvement.
Some of the program features include:
·      Targeted support through the first Middle School Matters Institute Summer Conference in Austin. Agnew’s leadership will attend development sessions with researchers and practitioners.
·      Help in developing an implementation plan tailored to Agnew’s strengths and areas of growth.
·      Continued support efforts with researchers throughout the year.

We are proud Agnew was one of the lucky eight chosen from 44 applicant schools of varying sizes from across the country. We look forward to great things to come from this consortium of great minds and best practices.