As I write this in the fall of 2018, student performance is amazingly robust and accomplished. When evaluating where we stand, our district looks in part for measurements coming from objective external entities. In August of this year, the Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath came to our district to hold a press conference for the express purpose of lauding our academic performance. He stated that our accountability results (measured by test scores, graduation rates, and college/career readiness standards) were “abnormally high” and that our district “is a model of high performance”. He went on to state that of the 116 largest school districts in Texas, we have achieved the 3rd highest score in the state – and that the accomplishment is especially noteworthy because we have the highest percentage of economically disadvantaged students among the best performing districts. He noted that we scored a 99 out of 100 with regard to “closing the gaps” among student sub-populations on the relevant achievement measures.
These results confirm earlier ratings by other organizations. For example, the Houston-area “Children at Risk” organization also confers ratings on the Houston area districts. In 2018, the Houston Chronicle reports that Pearland ISD has the highest combination of As and Bs among its campuses of any substantially sized districts in the area.
TXSmartSchools is a reporting entity originally established by the Texas Comptroller. Their purpose is to measure academic performance as compared to spending levels. We are, once again, a Five Star District for very high student achievement and very low per-pupil spending. Out of over 1,000 school districts in Texas, there are less than a dozen that consistently receives this Five Star rating, year to year.
Not all stellar results fit nicely into test scores or other quantitative measurements. But it is clear that our Athletic, Fine Arts, and Career and Technology programs have few equals. Huge levels of participation and many trophies tell only part of the story.
I do not pretend that our district is without significant challenges in the days ahead. Antiquated state funding formulas keep our district from receiving its equitable share. We keep pace with area teacher salaries but our district is frozen (by law) into the TRS Health Insurance plan, whose benefits are eroding each year. Those fortunate districts not compelled to participate in that plan offer better benefits at a lower cost. Only the legislature can solve these issues. If the legislature ever becomes as generous about funding as they are about establishing new regulations, the entire state will benefit.
In this, my 27th year as a Superintendent, top priorities have significantly shifted across the state and nation. Safety and security have become the most critical priority. Within that very large responsibility, our district has taken significant steps. A successful $220 million dollar bond election in 2016 included a host of security/safety upgrades including bullet-resistant security vestibules at all campuses, additional fencing, and other methods of hardening our facilities. Our school board has made mental health a top funding priority adding counselors and special education personnel to our ranks this school year. And, we continue to be blessed with outstanding local law enforcement through School Resource Officers of the Pearland Police Department assigned to our campuses.
I have served as superintendent in three very different school districts. These include an extremely low wealth district, a wealthy (“Robin Hood”) district and for the last seven years in Pearland ISD. I would say that no district better represents America than right here. Our district is so incredibly diverse that students come to us speaking 64 different languages this year. Given the accomplishments, a handful of which are noted above, I am so grateful and proud to serve here. God has truly blessed this district for many years and I beseech his continued favor in the days to come!