On the evening of Tuesday, March 3, Alvin ISD Trustees, each accompanied by two community members, reported to the Alvin ISD Board Room where Superintendent Dr. Buck Gilcrease greeted them and immediately put them to work. The purpose of the evening was to explore the beliefs that Alvin ISD holds in relation to students, parents, and teachers. The role of campus and district leaders, along with the ongoing involvement of the Board of Trustees and community also became a focal point. The participants were divided into three working groups ranging from 6 – 8 participants. These groups consisted of attorneys, representatives from the oil industry, retired educators, police officers, and business professionals as well as a lone high school senior that had been appointed to the conversation by a Trustee.
Over a light meal prepared by Alvin ISD’s Child Nutrition Department, the willing collaborators were asked to discuss the true meaning and purpose of belief statements. Following the discussion, a brief time of sharing made reference to beliefs as “strongly held convictions”, “standards that provide guidance” and “statements that drive action.” Dr. Gilcrease continued the evening by sharing a story deeply rooted in history. “In AD 180,” began Dr. Gilcrease, “the Church of Rome developed the early form of the Apostle’s creed, which I grew up reciting frequently over the years. Thousands of years later, these words have driven countless actions. From beliefs come actions and that is what our charge is this evening.”
The group was then tasked with identifying the vast components that are included in a school. The extensive list ranged from students and teachers to cafeterias and playgrounds. The follow up assignment was to identify all of the individuals that are directly involved in the educational process. The list included students, parents, teachers, campus leaders, district office, as well as, the school board and community.
With the skillful ability reserved for those with many years at the front of a classroom, Dr. Gilcrease compelled the initially quiet groups into deep discussions focused on what we want students, parents, teachers, and the community to say about our schools. As the professionals began to work, laughter emerged sporadically and furrowed brows gave indication of the considerable attention being given to the thought-provoking question. The Superintendent of Schools further charged the groups to consider what experiences must occur to allow the desired statements to become commonplace and what actions would support those aspirations. The final question was issued as the participants were asked to consider what we must believe to create these experiences in our school community.
As the hour approached 9 p.m., willing participants began to share the culmination of their discussions and ultimately allowed the rest of the group to provide input and refine the initial belief statements.
Alvin Police Captain Chad Fontentot began the group conversation by sharing, “We believe that each student is to be given the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.” Other groups shared statements focused on achieving excellence and helping students attain their goals.
As each belief was shared, Superintendent Gilcrease prodded the group with questions such as, “Do you think that’s what every parent, every community member, and every tax payer desires? If we believe that, how will it impact our budget? What will that do to our resources, facilities, and our maintenance department?” The discussion continued with attention being placed on parental expectations of excellence and the call for teachers to create a safe and engaging learning environment. The group also focused on campus leaders providing a climate of pride and ownership further supported by the belief that central office should provide the foundation to equip staff with resources in a student focused environment.
As the evening neared its end, an extensive discussion emerged about the role of the Board of Trustees. Conversations initially focused on their task of providing resources and evaluating programs. Through the ebb and flow of discussion, the conversation shifted and the group found consensus on the belief that Trustees will focus on engaging the community to foster an environment of excellence focused on each student.
The evening was concluded as Dr. Gilcrease shared the final words and next steps, which will include an opportunity for refinement prior to being formally presented to the Board for Approval, likely at the April Board Meeting. Dr. Gilcrease added, “As we move forward, these beliefs will direct every action and allocation of resources in Alvin ISD.”
As appreciation was being expressed, Alvin ISD Trustee Earl Humbird shared, “I have participated in a number of these [meetings to develop beliefs] over the years, and this has been the best process, largely because of the involvement of the community members.”