From the desk of Dr. Kirk Lewis

Updates from the Superintendent


Life’s Options

For the past decade major business leaders and authors suggested that America needed a college educated work force to maintain our competitive balance internationally. They pushed hard. That major initiative overlooked the diverse and necessary fields required for a booming economy that only require career certifications and associate degrees.  Thankfully, the national vision and conversation recently expanded to include all post-secondary learning. I believe that broader philosophy fits the needs of our community better than more restrictive approach.

Children certainly need a vision that some level of college attendance or career preparation (workforce certificates) is necessary to secure a better future for themselves and their families. In the past our district started too late in the education process talking to our students about their futures.

No longer is that the case.

This week is College Week in Pasadena ISD. College and career discussions were the norm this week, as they have been for several years, from pre-kindergarten classes through high school. At every grade level this week you saw college t-shirts being worn and logos hanging from every classroom door. Our College Night involved well over 1,000 students and more than 100 colleges, giving our high school kids a chance to explore their options.  Our renewed emphasis is working. In 2002, only 46 percent of our students attended college at any level. That number surpassed 60% last year.

My years at Texas Tech were among the best years of my life in terms of what I learned and the friends I made…including the woman I met and have been married to for almost 37 years. What I learned in my graduate studies at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and Lamar University served me well. I want that same experience for our students who want it.

It is our hope that Pasadena ISD students will graduate high school with a clearer dream of the direction life will take them through the job certifications they earn or the bachelors and doctorate degrees they will hang on their walls in the years to come.

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The Heart of the Community

I believe one can tell the strength of a community’s heartbeat by the way it supports its schools. If that’s true, the Pasadena ISD community is as healthy as a marathon runner. I find multiple evidence for my diagnosis. Consider the number of business partnerships, the financial donations to school programs, HOSTS volunteers, career and technical internships offered by area businesses. The community’s involvement in our schools touches almost every area.

There may be no more compelling evidence of our community’s support of its schools than the continued growth of the McDonald’s Texas Invitational Basketball Tournament.  For the past decade, the City of Pasadena, the Chamber of Commerce, the Pasadena school district, Deer Park ISD and a growing number of businesses in the area have joined with more than 400 volunteers to host the tournament. Teams and visitors from across the state get a chance to feel first-hand the hospitality of the Pasadena community and experience all that is good about living in our community. Now, the boys and girls championship games are broadcast on the Internet and on national television Saturday. The entire nation sees what we see every day. Pasadena is a vibrant community with great businesses, great schools and great people.

While it is a wonderful way to promote our community, the tournament will raise close to $200,000 this year. Those funds will flow through Pasadena and Deer Park education foundations toward mini-grants for teachers in both districts. Each mini-grant improves the academic opportunities of students throughout our community. Stronger schools and stronger students build stronger communities. If that doesn’t get your heart racing, nothing will.

Thank you to all the tournament sponsors and volunteers who make this great event happen. Hope to see you at the games this weekend.

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Excessive Testing

I completed my doctorate in 2008. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to Lamar University that its doctoral program focused on written research papers rather than tests to assess my knowledge. More than a quarter century has passed since I last took a test. The prospect of facing a high stakes test for graduation would have been daunting.

That’s why I understand why students and their parents across Texas are saying “enough is enough” to the number of high stakes tests our students endure during their years in public schools. The Pasadena ISD Board of Trustees joined a host of other school districts around the state in a joint resolution to echo the displeasure expressed by parents about the oppressive nature of high stakes testing. When the Texas Legislature convenes in January, we expect a great deal of discussion about reducing the number of tests given and easing the pressure facing our students and our teachers.

The tests were born out of a need for rigorous accountability. I believe in school and district accountability. Standardized tests and teacher developed assessments are necessary to assess how much our students have learned during a year and to diagnose the effectiveness of what we teach and how we teach it. However, I also know you don’t need to test every student every year to determine if the schools are educating our students.

It’s my hope the Texas Legislature will amend the state assessment program to keep a rigorous accountability system while restoring some time into the school year for the sheer joy of learning.

I know our legislators would appreciate hearing from you.