Fred's 4

  • Each month, Superintendent Fred Brent shares four things that focus on inspiration, curiosity, his work and what inspires him. 

    Look for these on the last Thursday of the month in eNews.  

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  • Fred's 4_November 2021 Edition

    Posted by Fred Brent on 11/10/2021

     

    I'M PROUD OF...

    Virtual Learning. When TEA made virtual learning available with specific parameters around student qualifications, our team began working on what that would look like for GISD. To say it was daunting and complicated is an understatement! The team immediately began surveying for interest and asking multiple questions about what structures would be needed in order for us to bring virtual learning to life for the families that needed this opportunity. Ultimately, our team landed on a contracted service that provides the platform and teacher support needed to allow selected students to switch to virtual learning. I'm proud of the hard, innovative work done by so many people in the organization when it would have been easier to say it wasn't worth it. I'm proud that we were able to balance the needs of our virtual students in a way that does not disrupt the instructional setting of our students who are learning in-person. I'm proud of the way our organization is living out our belief to design instruction to meet the needs of all learners.

    I'M CURIOUS ABOUT...

    Organizational Learning. Our vision of being home of the most inspired students served by the most empowered leaders and our mission of inspiring and empowering every learner to lead, grow and serve, are critical drivers of the work we do. The vision and mission, as well as our beliefs, serve as a catalyst for our adult learning. So, what am I curious about?I’m really digging in on understanding the learning needs of our entire organization from the Board - to staff and students. For example, what are the current needs of our teachers and staff during this time? How are they different from the past? What expectations do we have of ourselves and our students as we move forward? What are the indicators of success that provide us with the deepest understanding of student learning and growth? And what are our hopes and dreams for the future of GISD? We are working through these and other questions to help set the direction for the district in the coming years. I hope each of you know that our entire team is working to find the right balance. While we know we must keep moving forward, it is important that we are realistic about the needs of our staff and students as we look to the future, understanding the current conditions and the challenges they present. That work and understanding comes with first exploring these questions.

    I'M WORKING ON...

    Combatting the "Great Exhaustion". There is no doubt that everyone seems to be tired. That truth came to mind for me as I learned about what's being labeled as "The Great Exhaustion." I had a conversation about this idea with a leader that I respect and was intrigued by the concept and wanted to learn more. I've learned that this idea centers on the complete fatigue we're all feeling — physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. During our chat, the leader asked me to rate my levels of fatigue on a scale of 1-5. (With 1 being "on vacation", 3 meaning "May in a normal school year" and 5 representing "tank is empty".) After I rated myself, he asked me to take my average and add one because he did not think I would be realistic about where I am on the scale. So what does participating in this exercise mean to me? I walked away from it feeling strongly that fatigue is real and significant and we need to find ways to care of ourselves and each other. We're all working on so many challenging things, and when we get fatigued we run the risk of breaking down. All of that to say, I'm working on finding and implementing ways we can help each other and take better care of ourselves. I do not have all of the solutions to that, but I am working on how I can help address fatigue for myself and for our organization. Charlie Chaplin said it well, "The six best doctors in the world are sun, rest, exercise, diet, self-respect and friends." I want to encourage you to give yourself permission to see one or more of these six doctors. You deserve it, and those who love you need you to do that for yourself.

     

    I'M INSPIRED BY...

    Bond Election. Well, the Bond results are in and our voters have spoken by casting their vote at the polls. You may already know that our community approved propositions A and B, which present tremendous opportunities for our students, staff and community. Unfortunately, the Fine Arts and Athletics propositions did not pass. We will be assessing the election results and working towards solutions to address the needs of those programs.

    I'm inspired by the almost year-long efforts of men and women who do not work for GISD yet worked tirelessly to advocate for the instructional future of our district. I'm also inspired by the work of our GISD leaders who worked incredibly hard to prepare for the Bond and tell the story of GISD. These men and women put a ton of effort into each proposition and did all we could ask of them — THANK YOU! Bond elections are a critical part of the Texas school finance system and are structured in a way that requires voters to determine the facilities and programs, and the quality of both, that we provide for our students and community. Elections are an important part of public education. It could be argued that one of our greatest reasons for existence is to educate a public that is prepared to be civically engaged in our democracy. So, I'm inspired by the group of community members who worked to secure our future and I'm inspired by the opportunities this Bond will create for our students and staff. To all of you who voted, thank you!

     

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  • Fred's4_October 2021 Edition

    Posted by Fred Brent on 10/1/2021

     

    I'M PROUD OF...

    Our Campus Principals. I learned in my own days as a campus principal that the principalship is full of excitement and challenges. (I must say too, though, that my days as a principal were some of the most rewarding years of my career.) I've known for the last year and a half that our principals are facing times and leadership challenges that were beyond anything that any of us that aren't principals can imagine. They brought that to a whole extra level these last few weeks. There hasn't been a day that I haven't been impressed by and proud of the ways GISD principals are leading their schools and our district. In fact, this incredible team of men and women have carried our district on their shoulders these first weeks of school. They navigated the challenges of serving families and staff with the intention of keeping our schools open and our school communities safe while being caring, empathetic, wise, open, and studentcentered. I couldn't be more proud.

    I'M CURIOUS ABOUT...

     

    Leading Off the Map. I've been reading a book called Canoeing the Mountains. It's the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition and how they navigated the unexpected. If you're not familiar with the story, this team expected to canoe their way to the Pacific Ocean once they reached the headwaters of the Columbia River. However, they encountered the Rocky Mountains instead..... thus the title, Canoeing the Mountains. These men were forced to "lead off the map." The terrain had changed but they still needed to move forward. This book on leadership uses their experience to speak to the importance of adapting to the situation without losing sight of your goal... something the authors call "adaptive capacity." I hope you can see how this story is of significant to me as we Canoe the Mountains of 2021-2022. We spent the summer preparing for a year without knowing the "delta variant" would arrive on the scene and impact our plans. We were preparing for a year that was full of growth and new opportunities. Well, growth and new opportunities are still within our reach; it just looks a little different. So how can I lead off the map? I'll keep reading this book and will continue reflecting on how I can adapt to the challenges ahead. I'm hopeful you will be patient with me as we navigate the mountains!

    I'M WORKING ON...

    Me! Each year I set leadership goals and this year is no different. As I reflect on last year, consider where we are today and look to the future of GISD, I often ask "what does the organization need most from me?" And while I will set multiple goals, each time I work on this project, I walk away thinking about balance! Sure, I will set leadership goals on topics like connectivity and vulnerability and areas I know I can get better, but I'm realizing the need to pursue and encourage a sense of balance. For example, we all know that this year has presented new challenges, again, and that has been a little overwhelming. And some of us, for good reason, are experiencing even more stress and uncertainty than we grew accustomed to (and thought were behind us!) last year. In short, I believe the challenges of COVID have worn on people as a whole. So I am working to focus more on love, patience and understanding. There are many great forces in this world; however, I believe none are stronger than love. I know that my family and the people I serve beside need me to find more balance in the way I spend my time and the way I work. I am learning that I need to "seek first to understand and then be understood." As I work on my goals, I am hopeful that I am able to be more of what my family and my team need me to be.

     

    I'M INSPIRED BY...

    All Hands on Deck. The degree of commitment to one another and to our kids during these past two months is inspiring. All of GISD, every department, and every team has stepped up with the "all hands on deck" attitude in an effort to keep our schools open and each other safe. From mechanics driving buses because we are short drivers to learning design coaches covering classes because there aren't enough subs, people across our district are stepping up and helping out wherever and whenever it's needed. There is no doubt this year has presented many challenges, and I'm inspired by the work or our campus teams and departments. Not long ago, I attended a staff appreciation event at one of our high school events. There were teachers sitting together, laughing, talking and watching students compete. Recently, I watched our campus and department leaders gather to tackle the significant challenge of determining whether or not we can offer virtual learning and was impressed by their willingness to get their minds around such complex work. I've seen people serving lunches and working cafeteria duty, which is beyond the scope of their role, but their team needed the help. So what I want you to know is simple — You inspire me. You keep working to keep schools open, and you are doing it together. This has been a challenging two months of school, but your commitment is inspiring.

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  • Fred's 4_May 2021 Edition

    Posted by Fred Brent on 5/1/2021

    Freds4HeaderMay2021

    I'M PROUD OF...

    Our Seniors hold a special place in my heart for a few reasons... they are theultimate reflection of our organization’s work, and I know how special the Senior year is for boththe student and their family. The class of 2021 is one I will always remember because on May 13,2020, they were sent home as Juniors for Spring Break and, to quote a line from Hamilton, their“world was ’turned upside down.” I’m proud of them for adjusting to a new school experience,being patient as this year looked so different from a “typical” Senior experience, and for stayingthe course. I can’t wait to celebrate them at Graduation!

    I'M CURIOUS ABOUT...

     

    I’m curious about the impact COVID-19 will have on future studentlearning, what we will learn from it and what adjustments we will make to meet those needs. I’mcurious about the length of time these impacts will linger. I’m also curious about the potential forunexpected effects of the pandemic on our students, families, and district. While there are still a lot

    of uncertainties about the pandemic’s impact on our work, I do know that our teams are working tocreate an incredible in-person learning experience for our summer semester and that we will beintentional about creatively meeting students’ needs.

     

    I'M WORKING ON...

    Next Year! I know that everyone is curious about next year - and especially about whether or notthe district will require face masks, maintain similar safety protocols, conduct contact tracing, andrequire quarantine for affected students and staff. Our team is working on it! We’re havingconversations, studying data points and reviewing available guidance. It is my intention to give youclarity on this before the start of summer break.

    I'M INSPIRED BY...

    A Student, A Teacher, Some Building, and A Connection. I attended an event at GHS earlier thismonth where a senior shared his experience during the pandemic that really inspired me. He wasnew to Georgetown, and when he arrived from Austin he didn’t know anyone. He had a love forengineering and “building things” so he found his way to the Eagle Innovation Center, where heeventually met Mr. Thomas and began working on projects. This student shared that when he spokewith friends in his former district he felt sad for them because they “weren’t getting to do anythingin their high school buildings.” He worried about his buddies but loved telling his story about all ofthe projects he was working on. The young man highlighted the importance of Mr. Thomas in hislife, and said that Mr. Thomas’ time and relationship really helped him find belonging at his newschool and allowed him to explore learning in a way he never imagined. My summary doesn’t dojustice to his story, but witnessing his message reminded me of the great responsibility we have toconnect kids to learning through positive relationships and experiences. I am convinced that greatwork is happening on all of our high school campuses. This specific experience didn’t just make meproud of the work we do... it also inspired me to keep pressing on, through this challenging time, forour students.

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  • Fred's 4_March 2021 Edition

    Posted by Fred Brent on 3/22/2021

     fred's four

    I'M PROUD OF...

    Officer Hall and the Cornerstones. (Sounds like a band, right?) As you know, in GISD we believe that public education is a foundation of this community. The Chamber of Commerce recognizes this in its celebration of the four cornerstones: Public Education, Public Safety, Healthcare and Economic Development. I am proud that our community is intentional about these cornerstones, and we recently saw a great example in the noble actions of Georgetown Police Officer Shannon Hall. I have had the pleasure of watching Officer Hall work as an SRO in our district for several years. She is an amazing reflection of our partnership with Georgetown PD and she is an incredible protector of our students. Recently, Officer Hall was recognized by the Georgetown Fire Department for her effort to save the life of a 4-month-old baby through CPR. I am so thankful for her and for the work she does. I am proud to know her, and I am proud to serve a community that collaborates by the Cornerstones of this community. I am proud of Officer Hall, the example she sets, and the reflection she is of our partnerships throughout this great community.

    I'M CURIOUS ABOUT...

    Telling Our Learning Story. I recently participated in a Board Workshop that revealed the first version of a data dashboard we've been working on for a long time. What I loved about this work is that it created a true reflection of student learning using multiple measures. I love that teacher assessments are highlighted as one of the measures. While this dashboard was specific to 3rd grade literacy and numeracy, I believe it was a great representation of the intentional efforts that all of our teachers, principals and staff have placed on student growth.
     
    My belief is that, as we grow in the PLC process while implementing curriculum and assessment
    systems, this dashboard allows GISD to have an incredible reflection tool that celebrates the work of our teachers. I'm curious to see how the multiple measures approach is able to capture the progress of students who may not score as well on traditional standardized tests. I wonder what other ways we can use this dashboard to tell the whole story of learning and progress in GISD. While I am curious about where this journey leads us, early indicators tell me that this tool has a lot of potential.

    I'M WORKING ON...

    Leadership Goals. Last year our district and campus leaders began formally setting leadership goals and receiving ongoing coaching on those goals. As I was setting my own goals at that time, I participated in a feedback process that helped me identify areas in which I most need to grow. Two specific areas that I chose to focus my goals were: celebrating the success of others and listening to differing opinions. This past year has certainly been a good time to work on those areas! I've definitely been challenged to be more attentive to the needs of others. I know, too, that listening to differing opinions is helping me to grow in empathy. As we look ahead to the future, I will keep working on listening - with an empathetic ear - to better understand where others are and how I can best walk beside them. I know that I have much to learn and I want to keep growing. Each day, I want to be better than I was the day before. Thank you for your patience with me in that pursuit. 

    I'M INSPIRED BY...

    Team GISD, and especially the empathy and grit I saw from Team GISD during the Winter Storm last month. I was inspired by the selfless work I saw by so many. Members of our team, from both campuses and district departments, were checking on others, working incredibly hard to solve problems, and finding ways to serve GISD kids and families. There were many times during those 12 days that I witnessed people putting the comfort and well being of others ahead of their own. These people aren't the kind of people seeking recognition, but I'm glad that many across the district were able see their service and commitment. We often hear "team" and there are many cliches around "team"... I've got to say that the men and women of GISD displayed a depth of teamwork in a really challenging time that I've never observed before as a district leader. I am truly inspired.
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  • Fred's 4_October 2020 Edition

    Posted by Fred Brent on 10/28/2020

    GHS and EVHS marching bands

    I'M PROUD OF...

    Georgetown IS for hosting its own UIL Marching Band Competition! It is obvious that public schools have faced obstacles in their efforts to create "normal" student experiences, and marching band has been a difficult one for many districts to figure out. As a result of the pandemic, our UIL region has canceled marching band competitions. However, the GISD Fine Arts team has created a way and managed protocols to the degree that both of our marching bands are competing... and the UIL committee has elected to allow our district to host our very own regional competition. Once again, our team has adapted and found a way to create great learning experiences for kids. I'm proud of the team for their determination in finding a way for our students to have this experience, and I'm especially excited that our seniors will be able to participate.

    I'M CURIOUS ABOUT...

    The best way to collect student, teacher and parent voice on their experiences so far this school year. We, as a district, want to be able to celebrate what's working and create solutions for the things in our system that are barriers... and always in a way that is supportive and values the hard work we have all done so far. We want to be agile enough to address concerns and offer good solutions. On October 19, we welcomed 1,200 students back to campus. In many ways, it felt like a 3rd first day of school. With each new step, we want to stay in tune to the needs of our students, staff and families. Basically, I'm curious about what's going well and what are some things we can try to adjust so we can best meet the needs of those we serve.

    I'M WORKING ON...

    My learning. One thing we know about the past 8 months is that things have changed at a more rapid pace than normal. With that thought, I know that our student experience is becoming more personalized in the delivery and consumption of instruction and learning. While I do not know exactly where all of this leads, I do know that these recent experiences and disruptions have revealed the need to continue evolving toward a more personalized and competency based system. I enjoyed my time learning more with others around the district this week at Aurora's virtual symposium. I know I have a lot more to learn about competency based and personalized learning, and I'm looking forward to that journey.

     

    I'M INSPIRED BY...

    The commitment of our people to lead our work. A random set of circumstances led me to a recent spontaneous visit to Wagner Middle School, and I left there inspired. I entered the design lab where an academic team and the campus principal were having a PLC meeting. They were doing incredible work! I saw a teacher whom I've know for several years leading a discussion. I took a moment to pause and think as I watched her present. With all of the challenges in front of our campuses, this teacher was determined to not let COVID deter her commitment to creating great experiences for her students and the collaboration it takes to make this work special.

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  • Fred's 4_September 2020 Edition

    Posted by Fred Brent on 9/25/2020

    freds four

     

    I'M PROUD OF...

    Teacher flexibility! While I often try to make this more specific to one person or one specific event, I feel compelled to share the pride I have in our teachers and principals for their commitment to creating teaching scenarios that are kid driven. We have so many teachers balancing in person and remote learning. While there is no way I can assume I know how difficult this must be, I do know this... teachers have made tough decisions, and those decisions landed on the learning needs of kids. I’m proud of this commitment. I’m proud of the flexibility they’ve shown, and I’m thankful that they are doing this for kids. Hearing stories about the demands of teaching in person and remote causes me to reflect on this journey, the tough decisions and the new work that had to be created... and I am flooded with pride because I know that on the other side of their struggles and commitment, there are students being loved and served in selfless ways. And to me, that is the true heart of a teacher.

    I'M CURIOUS ABOUT...

    Finding “balance between the work COVID brings and the work we began before we were in a pandemic. I keep asking how we navigate our current situation with COVID without losing sight of all the great things we had started prior to COVID. I can only imagine that you, like me, keep wondering when things will be back to “normal.” Perhaps some things never will be like they were, and maybe it’s my desire to see us in buildings focusing on the great work you are doing without being worried about our basic well being. I’m curious about finding the balance of dealing with today while focusing on the future, maintaining direction and acting strategically. I don’t know if this makes sense to you, but this is a strong, basic wondering that I wrestle with each day... navigating the present and securing your safety while securing our future as a learning organization.

    I'M WORKING ON...

    Navigating state and local bureaucracies... legislative mandates from last year are still in effect. We have had to re-create school and we have spent a lot of money with the promise of “reimbursement.” Well, securing reimbursements and navigating legislative mandates during this time has been interesting, to say the least. Getting this year started has been the most critical work and I know we still have a lot of work to do to improve how we support you. I’m currently focused on seeking financial reimbursements for money spent on COVID and meeting legislative mandates that include student performance goals and policy compliance, and doing that in a way that aligns with the Vision, Mission and Beliefs of our district.

    I'M INSPIRED BY...

    I should explain the picture at the top of this page... This sunset is the day after Hurricane Laura passed through Louisiana and East Texas. I was able to get to my parents home in East Texas the evening of the storm. After securing the house and riding it out with my parents, the cleanup of debris began. That evening, we took this picture... It inspires me. After every storm, there will be a sunset, and it’s up to us to slow down and absorb that moment. That inspiration reminds me of the storm we are in with COVID and the personal storms many of you may be experiencing.

    I am also inspired by the storm faced by two specific individuals in GISD. They have been dealing with the loss of a loved one during this pandemic. Both of them were, and still are, overwhelmingly loved and supported by their campus and district family. To be aware of their storm and to see them persevering and doing incredible work for kids is inspiring. We cannot assume to know the difficulties faced by individuals in our GISD family, and we may not ever know the extent of the challenges faced by our colleagues. But I am inspired by the love, teamwork and support for one another that you, GISD, has given and shown to one another. It inspires me and humbles me. I will keep looking for the sunset after this storm, and I pray that each of you will find it as well.

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  • Fred's 4_June 2020 Edition

    Posted by Fred Brent on 6/11/2020 5:00:00 PM

     Fred's 4 Blog Image header of fireworks over the football stadium and Fred' 4 text as the title

    I'M PROUD OF...

    ..the way that men and women in GISD have navigated the challenges presented to us this spring: by being adaptable, flexible, and agile. Those three words mean a lot to me, as I’ve always believed that they represent qualities that any public education system has to embrace if it’s going to remain the foundation of its community. For a school district to be what a community needs them to be, they need to evolve into learning organizations that are able to adapt to the challenges facing them, flexible enough to adjust the services provided and how they are delivered, and agile enough to do all of this quickly and effectively. I am so proud of the way you have embraced and modeled adaptability, flexibility, and agility over and over again during the last few months!

    I'M CURIOUS ABOUT...

    ...the impact of COVID-19 on our students and the best way to go about determining that impact. I know we’ll have a lot to learn about their needs. What’s the best way to assess what learning progress was made or lost? How will we assess the social emotional needs of our students? How can we give each student a customized experience that reflects their unique needs? How can we assess and customize in a way that reflects the beliefs of our district?

    I'M WORKING ON...

    ...the New Big 3:  Calendar, School Day and Safety Precautions. You’ve probably got questions about what those look like for 2020-2021. I do, too! We are launching teams to research and collaborate about these three big ideas and work to make plans to implement what’s best for Georgetown ISD. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we’re working on it, and we’re committed to keeping you informed.

    I'M INSPIRED BY...

    ...one of our seniors who wanted to visit with me about the field of education.  She invited me to a Google Hangout where, among other things, she shared her aspirations to serve in public education and advocate for schools’ evolution to what they can and should be. She was clear about how much she has loved her teachers and school, and she values the role they’ve played in forming her passions and goals. It’s people like you, Team GISD, who inspired this young lady! Since that visit, I continue to think about the legacy educators leave. So many of us were inspired by an educator ourselves, and to hear of a GISD student that is committed to impacting public schools and the education system as a whole on behalf of future generations left me inspired.

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  • Fred's 4_February 2020 Edition

    Posted by Fred Brent on 2/27/2020 5:00:00 PM

    News Anchors from the Purl News Network are seated in front of a green screen.

    SOMETHING I'M PROUD OF

    Last week I was invited to be a guest on the Puma News Network (PNN) at Purl Elementary School. I had no idea what that would entail, but I was excited to participate and here’s what I experienced... Students from diverse backgrounds and skillsets worked with Mrs. Cooper on their section of Puma News. Each student was excited about their role and entered the process with confidence. In one segment I was “bamboozled” into eating a “dead-fish” jelly bean. It tasted awful, and I’m thankful that the student beside me did not complain when I nearly knocked him over getting to the trash can to dispose of that dreadful thing! I also had the chance to wear a hairnet, talk about the lunch menu and discuss a few things about me in the process. It was fun, and also confirmed the great things happening in GISD classrooms every day!

    That experience at Purl was a moment of pride for me. I’m proud of our district and teachers for securing the resources to make programs like Puma News happen. I’m proud of our students for learning new skills and finding their way through the Learner Profile. I’m proud of the fact that our campuses have taken something like this and quickly made it their own. I’m proud of the relationships I witnessed between our teachers and students. I’m proud to be in Georgetown where every campus, every day, is making a difference through diverse experiences.

    SOMETHING I’M CURIOUS ABOUT

    I’m curious about the growth of our district and how we can act strategically to embrace this growth while honoring the things of our past that make this district and community a place we love to call home. How do we keep honoring our history and the values that built Georgetown? How do we evolve with an ever-changing population with ever-changing needs? I’m curious how we can do all of this while honoring our Vision, Mission and Beliefs as we pursue academic success and learner profile development.

    SOMETHING I’M WORKING ON

    True Accountability. While we must address the expectations of our State accountability system, we in GISD believe there is so much more to our students and staff than that system can capture. Since 2017, GISD has been participating in the Texas Public Accountability Consortium (TPAC). We are finally at a place to start building out the first aspects of Community Based Accountability, or what has become known as True Accountability. True Accountability supports a deeper dive into the work being done in our schools and allows greater insight into the things we know matter... things beyond one test. For example: social-emotional learning, learner profile attributes and other attributes our community cares about.  We want to allow for community voice in the things we are accountable for. Yes, State Accountability has a place in all of this. However, I hope you will see that our district is so much more. That story deserves to be told through deeper accountability. I hope you will help us navigate the future of this work. You will be hearing more in the future.

    SOMETHING THAT INSPIRED ME

    In January, I walked into the end of a Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) introduction that was taking place in the Boardroom at Hammerlun. As teachers were leaving, I started talking to three elementary teachers about TBRI and other general things. As the conversation progressed, one of the teachers, Amber Arnold,  shared her good news: She was in the process of adopting two amazing little girls and could not be more excited. The next day she shared a picture of her and the girls. The joy on their faces was priceless. I left that conversation feeling inspired by her, her commitment to kids in the classroom and kids outside of the classroom, so much that she has provided a loving home for two little girls that I hope someday will realize how fortunate they are. We have amazing people in GISD — men and women who care about kids and extend themselves, selflessly, to share love and goodwill. In a follow-up with Amber, I learned that a significant next step has been moved up to March 1 for this adoption. So... Congratulations to Amber and her expanded family!
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