From the desk of Dr. Kirk Lewis

Updates from the Superintendent

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A Lesson Indelibly Learned

The two boys had a history of feuds, fusses and fights between them. In the calm of the moment before class started and while the teacher was in the hallway, an insult was hurled, followed a nanosecond later by one desk and then another. The two young men were at it again. Punches were being thrown as the rest of us scattered to get away from the flailing fists and flying books, pens and desks tossed aside in the heat of battle.  While startling in its intensity, it was no surprise that another fight had broken out between them. 

Before any of us could scramble through the mess to separate them, Doyle Watts, our U. S. Government teacher ran into the room, quickly assessed the situation and charged through the spectators and the mess to pull the two boys apart. Mr. Watts was an incredibly laid back teacher. In four years of high school, I had never seen him lose it. At that moment, his face flushed in anger. He pulled the boys out of the room and toward the office, a far more impressive display of outrage than the fight itself.

As he got to the door with each boy deflecting blame toward the other, Mr. Watts stopped and glared at them, pushing them rather roughly, I thought, into two nearby desks that somehow remained upright in the fight.

Suddenly, he began asking us the rest of us who had started the fight and why we had done nothing to stop it. He threatened the class to tell no one about the fight, especially not the principal. Mr. Watts confessed that he had been written up for his classroom management and would hold us responsible if he lost his job over this. Before the next 30 minutes were finished, he had us scared to death and in complete legal mode. Those who saw nothing were sent out of the classroom of potential jurors. Actual witnesses were sequestered. “Attorneys” were appointed to represent the students involved in the fight. For the next week, we engaged in a civics lesson to end all civics lessons.

At the end of the week, the jurors, some of them in tears, had determined guilt. They rendered a verdict and made a decision on who would be punished and how severely.

As you might guess, the fight was staged, the entire week an unforgettable lesson in government for a group of kids who had never seen the inside of a courtroom. The actors in his play, the two boys who were in the fight, deserved an Oscar for their performance and Mr. Watts deserved Teacher of the Year. I learned more about the legal process and trial by jury through this staged activity (approved by the principal) than I would have ever learned from reading the chapter and listening to a lecture.

I doubt that we could get away with such shenanigans today with cell phone cameras, texting, Facebook and media hype. While creativity like this might get some unwarranted attention these days, I know that our classrooms today are full of amazing teachers that find creative ways to teach and inspire our students, as did Mr. Watts.

This is National Teacher Appreciation Week. I wanted to take a quick moment to thank Mr. Watts, who taught me U.S. Government 41 years ago in that small Texas Panhandle community. A special thanks also to the 3,638 teachers who work their magic each day in Pasadena ISD on behalf of our students. You are simply the best at what you do.

(Just in case you’re interested. I served as an attorney four decades ago. My client lost. It was an inglorious and short-lived legal career.)

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Lessons Learned

For many adults, our fondest memories of high school tend to revolve around the activities in which we were involved and the scores of relationships developed with friends and teachers along the way.  I know students today feel the same way. Students who choose to disconnect miss out on so much, not only while in school, but afterwards when the truths we learned through those activities and relationships became life lessons.

That is one reason why I enjoy attending events like the Pasadena ISD Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet or the various high school Hall of Honor receptions. When I get a chance to visit with alumni of any of our schools, I usually hear stories about how a coach, teacher or custodian said and did things that taught them how to live.

At the recent Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet we heard Gawain Guy, one of Dobie’s track stars in the 1980s, talk about the life lessons learned from his coach and fellow Hall of Fame inductee, John Blake, lessons that still influence him today.  As important as it is to teach the academics, we know we also teach by example…in the way we live and act. It is a glorious and grave responsibility.


Special thanks to the community for supporting the Pasadena ISD Athletic Hall of Fame and attending this special event. Thanks to the inductees who stand as examples of success, commitment and dedication and who share such profound words of wisdom with the students who attend the ceremony.

When our students connect with their schools through their participation in school activities, they learn lessons that last a lifetime. How grateful we are when these same individuals take the time to share those positive messages with today’s students! Thanks also to all the great teachers and staff in Pasadena ISD who are teaching the same life lessons to today’s students.


Educator’s Mt. Rushmore

It rankles deep in the core of me when I hear a politician say that America’s public schools are failing. It is a broadly-stroked, thinly-veiled statement made for political gain that marginalizes the amazing work of teachers in every school across this country. We spend too much time denigrating the work of our educators, making their jobs more difficult through all the federal and state mandates that take time away from teaching and learning.

I thought this week about the presidents immortalized in granite at Mt. Rushmore. If I had my own South Dakota mountain, I’d carve the faces of four educators who impacted my life in such a strong way.

First, you’d see Ms. Wallace, a 3rd grade teacher who gathered fragments of my self-esteem and drew confidence from the inner soul of an insecure and shy boy. Second, Mr. Satterwhite, a junior school administrator who, with a sad shake of his head, let me know my behavior as a leader on campus had failed to meet his expectations; that  he held me to a higher standard because of who he thought I could become. Thirdly, Ms. Falk, a senior English teacher who would not accept second-rate work…ever…and repeatedly handed back an assignment until I had satisfied her expectations. Finally, Mr. Watts, a government teacher who taught me to look deeper, think harder and accept nothing at face value.

America’s schools are not perfect. Because of teachers and principals like those on my Mt. Rushmore, they are better than most alternatives for most students. I’m grateful to a Pasadena ISD community that recognizes the contributions of its outstanding educators.

Who’s on your educator’s Mt. Rushmore? Respond to this blog and let us know.

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Principals Have Impact

A principal is making his rounds of the school when he hears a commotion coming from one of the classrooms. He rushes in and spots one young man, taller than the others, who seems to be making the most noise.

He takes the young man by the hand, leads him into the hall telling him to wait there for the principal to return. Back in the classroom, the principal restores order and lectures the class about the importance of good behavior.

‘Now,’ he says, ‘are there any questions?’

One girl stands up timidly. ‘Please,’ she asks, ‘may we have our teacher back?’

That principal made an impact. Our principals impact our students everyday by leading them to learn the tools necessary for living productively in a global society.

Principals are charged with managing the discipline, instruction, physical operation, and staff of our campuses. It is a job that is not defined by the clock.

A principal’s day often begins before sunrise, opening the campus and checking the facility. Every day principals visit classrooms, judge student competitions, monitor the lunchroom, meet with parents, encourage first year teachers and guide students to make good choices.

October is National Principal’s month and I would like to extend this into our community.

We have amazing principals. Take a moment to let them know they are appreciated. Thank them for the impact of their leadership, love and support.