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Webb Middle School
February 6, 2007
To the Webb Middle School Community:
First, I want to thank all of you for participating in the two, very productive Public Meetings that were held recently to discuss the future of Webb Middle School. The input we received from parents, teachers, students, and residents of the neighborhood proved most valuable. Your commitment to ensuring the best education possible for Webb students should be applauded.
Second, I wanted to advise you that, last night, I presented to the Board of Trustees a recommendation that incoming seventh and eighth grade students continue to attend Webb Middle School for the 2007-2008 school year, beginning next August. Those incoming sixth graders who previously were assigned to attend Webb next year, would begin their middle school experience at special Sixth Grade Centers at Dobie or Pearce, or in a few instances at Lamar, beginning next August.
As I informed the Webb school community back in December, please be mindful that Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley, who has placed a state intervention team at Webb this year to observe student achievement, could still direct the Austin School District to close the campus because of low performance in the past. However, I am very hopeful that Commissioner Neeley will agree with the changes I have proposed for Webb, and will allow the District to proceed.
This proposal for Webb and its students tracks closely with the two-year transition that is now successfully underway at Porter Middle School in South Austin, which next year will house the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders.
A similar two-year transformation will allow for a well-deserved celebration of Webb's vital history and many contributions to the North Austin community. It allows eighth graders to complete their middle school experience at Webb, while moving rising sixth graders immediately to a new, rewarding middle school environment. The District's Facility Use and Boundary Task Force is developing recommendations about which students will attend each of the three middle schools in the area.
The transformation that I envision for Webb, Dobie and Pearce, plus the opening of the new Garcia Middle School in August, will lay the foundation for all Austin middle schools in the future. They are the BEST Schools:
Belief in our students
Among the BEST Practices that we will implement at Dobie and Pearce next year is a Sixth Grade Cluster, providing a separate wing or floor of the campus to the sixth grade students. In addition, clusters will provide for a dedicated Sixth Grade team of teachers and other staff, allowing for an inviting, supportive and safe environment. Sixth graders would still have access to elective courses such as band and foreign languages.
Another BEST Practice that we will implement is Summer Literacy & Mathematics Academies, to provide students with a "head start" on the rigors they will face on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge & Skills tests in 2008. You can find additional information about all of our BEST Practices, including Advisory Classes, Leadership Development, and College Exploration, on the District's Website at WWW.AUSTINISD.ORG.
One final BEST Practice that I want to stress here is our plan for Parent and Community Connections. There will be Parent Meetings at each school this Spring to build new relationships with families and the schools their children will be attending. Throughout the year, you will be kept informed of the academic status of each campus, and the strategies that students, teachers, parents, and community members are using to support student performance at these schools.
As for the future of Webb, I want to again assure you that it will not be closing its doors to the St. John Neighborhood. Instead, beginning in 2008-2009, it will be transformed into a Young Men's Leadership Academy, or an English Language Learner Academy, or other attractive options that will continue to serve the students of Austin.
As many of you have already done, you may send your comments and suggestions to the District Website at WWW.AUSTINISD.ORG. In addition, we have activated a bilingual telephone comment line that you can call. That number is 414-9600. There are also two additional opportunities for you to express to the Board of Trustees your thoughts on this proposed transformation of the Webb campus. That's during the Citizens Communication portion of the Regular Board Meetings on Monday, February 12, and Monday, February 26.
The Administration looks forward to receiving ongoing feedback from the Webb community, our Board of Trustees, and the Texas Education Agency, as we continue to explore all of the options for best addressing the needs of Webb students.
I thank you for your continued involvement, as we proceed with the transformation of Webb, and as we create new BEST Practices that will make the Middle School years even more productive and rewarding for our students.
Pascal D. Forgione, Jr., Ph.D.
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