This week’s Principal’s Newsletter is being sent out early to remind everyone that there is no school on Friday, February 16th or Monday, February 19th. Teachers will be participating in a full day professional development on Restorative Practices as part of our series on Culturally Responsive Teaching. Monday is a conference day for our staff, but there will not be required conferences for all students.
Tickets are going quickly for this years Lee Live! We are excited for this year’s amazing auction and to dance the night away to everyone’s favorite hits from the 80’s. This year Lee Live is taking place at 6:30 pm Saturday, March 3rd at Saengerrunde Hall – 1607 San Jacinto Blvd. Get your tickets here: https://www.lee-elementary.org/lee-live-2018/ before they are gone!
Congratulations to our talented 5th graders and their teachers on an awesome first run of the African American Heritage Program. It was a fantastic performance and served as a wonderful learning opportunity for all of our Roadrunners. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our staff who put in the tremendous work to bring these programs together for our students each month. The programs are something that we are asked about by returning Roadrunners, young and old. They regularly tell us about how the Lee programs strengthened their self confidence and solidified their love of the performing arts. Thanks to all who make our programs possible.
Next Thursday we will have a special PTA budget input meeting at 8:00am to discuss budget priorities for this year. Please join us for this first installment of the budget input meetings. That afternoon we will host our monthly CAC meeting in the auditorium. We will hear from Joey Crumley from Campus and District Accountability about CAC roles and bylaws as well as Andrew Miller, project manager for AISD, who will be discussing upcoming summer construction projects and plans for next year.
I wanted to pass along an invitation from our friends at Gullett Elementary who will be hosting Dr. Kyla Haimovitz on Monday, February 19 from 6:30-8:00 in the Cafeteria. Dr. Haimovitz, a world renowned Stanford psychologist, has studied how a parent’s views about success and failure can influence their child’s achievement. She will be sharing what tools parents can use to help children achieve through a special blend of passion and perseverance she calls “grit.” Dr. Haimovitz has generously agreed to bring this important talk to Gullett following her UT visit earlier in the day and will be introduced by Carol Dweck, author of Mindset. We appreciate the invitation from Gullett and hope you’ll be able to attend this special event.
As we absorb the news of yet another school shooting, I wanted to take a moment to share some information about ongoing precautions that are in place here at Lee. Lockdown drills take place twice per semester to prepare for intruders to the building. Tornado drills take place along the same schedule and we hold fire drills on a monthly basis. For all crisis situations we operate under our Emergency Operations Plan. The EOP was rewritten in my first year to better address the safety of our students and is updated on a regular basis. AISD has initiated some new precautionary steps in light of recent events. As always, if you have any questions, concerns or information that you feel would be helpful, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time.
Lastly, I wanted to leave you with the second installment of our We Are Lee series. This collaboration with Lee parent and writer, Clayton Maxwell seeks to highlight different members of our school community and what they bring to our school.
You may know that Gloria Perez runs the Lee Aftercare program. But did you know that she also she manages six different budgets at Lee; steps in for the nurses to bandage kids’ scrapes and check for concussion; finds the subs when our teachers call in sick; and lends a hand in anything Trisha and Erica at the front desk might need? Oh, and she looks out for kids having a hard time and gives them some extra attention. Like many educators at our school, Gloria Perez wears many hats and looks good in all of them. And after she signs off at Lee, she focuses on her own studies; Ms. Perez is currently pursuing a degree in Education at Huston-Tillotson College.
I wanted to ask Ms. Perez more about the African American History Month bulletin board currently in our hallway, something she put a huge amount of thought and time into. She has a lot to say about it, about being Latina, about how much she appreciates Lee–what follows below is only a fraction of our conversation. But if you’d like to hear more, ask Ms. Perez! And happily, when we get our expanded front office, she will no longer be tucked away in a corner of the nurse’s office, so you won’t have to hang out in the concentrated germ zone to see her during school hours.
We Are Lee: Could you tell me more about making the African American History Month bulletin board?
Ms. Perez: Mr. Martinez and I had collaborated before on the Hispanic Heritage bulletin board, so he drew the fist for me this time since I cannot draw… A couple of friends said, ‘Do you think that’s a problem that a fist is associated with Black Lives Matter?’ And I said,’ I want it to be associated with that.’ Because it’s a symbol not only for African Americans but for all Latinos, too. We are in this together. I didn’t grow up in an affluent home so what’s going on with the Trump Administration is really affecting me because I receive financial aid… Being a student at Huston-Tillotson has inspired me because I have a lot of African American friends there, so I asked them to help me with the bulletin board idea and they said, ‘Let’s stray away from the black people everyone talks about.’
WAL: That’s cool that it was such a collaborative effort.
Ms. Perez: Yes, so I took a diversity class and told the teacher what I was working on and she suggested that I try to find ways to connect it with the kids. So I asked myself, ‘What are inventions that kids use today?’ I started researching and found out that the Super Soaker was actually invented by an African American person. Whoa, mind blown. And his name is Lonnie. And I thought that was hilarious because you don’t ever hear that name. And also an engineer at IBM is why we have color display on our screens. So when kids hear about African American History month, I want them to hear new things, not just about MLK and Maya Angelou. For example, who knew that an African American inventor is the one who made light bulbs more efficient? He was working with Edison, but you only hear about Edison in the textbooks.
WAL: That’s amazing that all of that is up on the bulletin board. What are you focusing on at Huston-Tillotson?
Ms. Perez: I’m learning how to connect kids in ways that would intrigue them. I’m studying education because I want to be a teacher and an inspiration to kids like me. I’ve come across kids who say, ‘I’m too poor to go to school. I’m too stupid.’ And I say, ‘Friend, I was too poor, too. I was struggling. I moved out when I was 17. But if I can do it, you can do it, too.’ When I taught at Widen we had some 6th grade girls who thought like that and I said, ‘Let me lay it down for you; this is how you can get a leg up. You need to start studying now and stop focusing on boys.’ Cause as a minority woman, you have to get an education to show them that not only do you have the credentials, but you have the experience….I’ve always been able to hold jobs, get promoted, I’ve never not been a supervisor. It’s my personality.
WAL: Why do you think you are like that?
Ms. Perez: I learned my work ethic from my grandpa and my dad. My Dad never did things for me that I could do for myself.
WAL: Where did you grow up?
Ms. Perez: In East Austin– my dad just sold the house about 5 years ago. I loved it there. I lived on Chicon and Willow and would sit on the roof and look at the skyline all the time. We were the only two-story house so I had a great view.
WAL: You told me the other day that you identify strongly as a Latina. That made an impression on my son Harry, who asked me what that meant. Could you just elaborate a little more on what that means to you?
Ms. Perez: I saw this video once of a girl talking about what it means to be Hispanic in this day and age and she said, ‘First of all, stop calling me Hispanic.’ And I loved that. So I started researching, and found out that ‘Hispanic’ really is a word the U.S. came up with for census purposes. But Latino people outside of the U.S. don’t say that. But Hispanic was the only word I knew growing up…I thought it was the word for people like me of Mexican descent but who didn’t speak Spanish. Latina is what I relate to because it encompasses more, all of these different regions and countries. I have Mexican roots; I also have a great grandfather who is Native American… Latina encompasses everything not just this one region. If I can opt out of checking the ‘Hispanic’ box I do.
Thanks to Ms. Perez for all she does here at Lee and for sharing her story with us.
Have a wonderful President’s Day Weekend,
Russell Lee Elementary School