The El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) wants every student to graduate as a knowledgeable and engaged citizen, ready to innovate and drive the area’s robust, bicultural economy. Superintendent Juan Cabrera recognized that for students to reach their potential and face a post-secondary life with the knowledge, skills and competencies to be successful in college or career paths, the EPISD schools needed more than incremental improvements — the entire district needed to commit to a comprehensive approach that put learners firmly at the center.
In 2016, El Paso opened six New Tech middle and high schools. Each school has a specific theme and serves a diverse student population. While the work in EPISD is early, changes are evident in school culture and engagement across the schools.
In 2017, El Paso ISD opened the Young Women’s STEAM Research and Preparatory Academy and Grizzly New Tech at Guillen Middle School.
We invite you to read the stories and blogs from the NTN schools in El Paso.
Transforming Border Learning Experiences: New Tech Network in El Paso
By Emily Liebtag and Tom Vander Ark
Mauricio Olague grew up in the Bowie High School neighborhood just east of downtown El Paso and just north of the border. After two decades of teaching and service as a community artist, Olague reluctantly joined a project to form a new academy at Bowie High which serves 1,400 Hispanic students nearly all of whom live in or near poverty and learned Spanish as their first language.
Skeptical at first, Olague heard about teaching integrated projects at Oso New Tech at Bowie High and decided to give it a try. He teaches a unique art and biology mash up and loves the new challenge of team teaching. As a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, he sees this high engagement approach motivating students and preparing them for what lies ahead.
El Paso ISD’s District of Innovation Year Kicks Off
First-day jitters and smiles filled the hallways of the campuses that welcomed back students to start the 2016-17 school year — the first for EPISD as a Texas District of Innovation.
The El Paso Independent School District was the second district in the state — and the only in El Paso — to receive the designation of Texas District of Innovation during the summer. The distinction will mean that EPISD will have much more local control over the way students learn and teachers carry out their lessons.
As a District of Innovation, EPISD will set the pace for forward-thinking and future-ready instruction. During the first day of school, however, the focus was on welcoming back the students and starting the year off right.
Imagine our surprise when one day the New Tech Network (NTN) website was flooded with dozens of emails asking about the New Tech school model and requests to conduct interviews with “whoever works at New Tech”.
We receive frequent inquiries regarding project-based learning, creating a collaborative school culture and interest in visiting a New Tech school. These requests were decidedly different as all of the questions were about Our New Tech Story.
The mystery was solved with this specific inquiry:
“I am working on a project titled Our New Tech Story. We are partnering with Cobra Tech Academy to create a media campaign highlighting our schools. I am 11 years old and in the sixth grade. One of my project requirements is to conduct an interview. I would like to interview a member of the New Tech Network. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.”I
In high functioning schools and systems, leaders play four important roles: governance, operations, community building and change leadership. As El Paso superintendent Juan Cabrera and I discussed in a recent post, each of these roles can feel like a full-time job.
Just maintaining the status quo (governance and operations) are complex and politically charged roles. Mobilizing collective community action to better supports youth and families can be an enormous lift–and school leaders almost always have a role in making it happen.
But it’s the changemaker role where there is a big opportunity for contribution. Building an improvement and innovation agenda is complex work. It combines technical solutions (proven methods applied to known situations) and adaptive solutions (designed approaches often including new tools). This is the stuff they didn’t teach you in graduate school (at least not most of them) but it’s where you can really make a difference for your community.
By Juan Cabrera, Superintendent of the El Paso Independent School District
Powerful goals supported over time–it’s a simple formula but it works. The challenging part is sticking to those goals.
Four years ago we set nine goals for the El Paso Independent School District. Trustees and district leaders revisit those goals every month–we look for better ways to support our students, teachers, and our nine goals.
It’s working. With a lot of community support, we’ve made progress on all of our goals.