Being two of the original team to usher in George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa, Gerardo Ramirez and Amy Hoxie say they are thrilled to be working together once more as principal and dean of students, respectively.
New Tech, which Ramirez predicted will have 350 students next year and 23 classroom teachers, emphasizes project-based learning where students learn more by doing than textbooks. Ramirez and Hoxie were asked back to NTO in February following teacher concerns about scheduling.
New Tech Principal Tina Lopez was going to be reassigned to another position within the district. New Tech counselor, Clelia Carrillo, was placed on paid administrative leave, but brought back to campus.
Ramirez is in his seventh year with Ector County Independent School District and his fifth year as an administrator. He was an assistant principal Permian High School before returning to New Tech.
Starting in 2011, Hoxie said taught math at NTO for three years before becoming an assistant principal at Odessa High School for nearly three years starting in 2014.
“I started at Permian at the beginning of the school year and then I came back home in February. I really enjoyed my time at Permian. I learned a lot from the administrators there. … ,” Ramirez said.
He noted that Permian was a lot larger than New Tech, but he enjoyed the culture.
“It was just for seven months, but it kind of felt like two years’ worth of growth being there,” Ramirez said.
Hoxie said it was a no brainer to come back to New Tech.
“It was an instant ‘yes.’ I had so much fun here. I really enjoyed my time here. I love what NTO is all about. Project-based based learning is my passion. I didn’t even have to think about it. I just immediately said yes and then we worked out all the details later,” Hoxie said.
Hoxie added that the whole time she was gone, she kept in contact with Ramirez. She said they used to joke about how great it would be if one of them became principal and the other dean of students.
“We have a great friendship between the two of us; a very good, professional working relationship,” Hoxie said.
Like Hoxie, Ramirez said New Tech feels like home and he believes strongly in project-based learning, the school’s culture, its core values of trust, respect and responsibility and college and career readiness.
“It just feels right. It feels natural. Our learners have been very supportive. Our staff has been very supportive and our parents have also been very supportive of everything,” Ramirez said.
He added that the benefit of project-based learning is the hands-on experience.
“Learners actually create a product that contributes to their community in some form or another. I also believe that project-based learning forces collaboration. It forces students to think. It forces students to create. To me, I believe project-based learning is good for every kid,” Ramirez said.
He added that it does require a lot of work and dedication for the students and the teachers as there is much planning involved.
“But it’s really taking the state standards, taking the TEKS, and making it real; making it relevant,” Ramirez said.
TEKS stands for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills – state standards for what students should know and be able to do.
“The world’s changed a lot,” Ramirez said. “Kids don’t necessarily learn sitting there reading a textbook, doing a worksheet. They need purpose. They need space. They need the time. They need the resources. Why not take advantage of today’s technology? Why not take advantage of today’s methods?”
He added that the school offers standard courses such as math, science, social studies and English, but adds classes like rocketry, robotics and digital media. Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) also is offered to freshmen and the campus is one of the district’s locations career and technical education courses such as culinary arts.
“Then we have the senior internship capstone class … which is very unique and very different. They have to make sure they get into a field that they’re interested in. They have to make sure that they contribute to an organization. I always see the senior internship capstone class as like the bowtie at the end of their NTO experience. It’s for them to show what they’ve learned and who they are. It’s one of my favorite things about New Tech and it’s actually a common thing that all New Tech schools do,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said the focus for New Tech next year will be on the school’s culture that will set the tone for everyone.
“Our core values – trust, respect and responsibility, is a part of that. Another goal is strengthening our adult learning. Our teachers actually meet every single week and we focus on their practice, on their craft, on developing projects that are relevant projects, that are meaningful (and) making sure that they have what they need to complete and run successful projects,” he said.
The third goal for next year is to increase parental involvement.
“We have a PTA that started actually in February. It’s going strong and so they’re planning summer events and they’re looking at events for next year,” Ramirez said.
He added that New Tech already has a strong foundation so there’s no need to reinvent, just aim to evolve to the next level. The 2015-16 Texas Academic Performance Report from the Texas Education Agency shows higher state test scores than the rest of the district and state.
Ramirez said New Tech’s freshman and sophomore classes tend to be bigger classes because students may decide after a year or two that they want a more traditional high school experience with football and pep rallies.
“But when it comes to losing them because they’re dropouts, that’s not very common here,” Ramirez said.
As dean of students, Hoxie said she wears a lot of hats because New Tech is a smaller campus than the comprehensive high schools.
“I pretty much cover all the assistant principal responsibilities, so I do testing and textbooks and discipline and attendance, special populations, ESL and special ed,” Hoxie said.
Ramirez said she also is the instructional services director and Hoxie said she will serve lunches this summer.
Hoxie said having fewer students, helps, but she still has to meet the same requirements and expectations as the other schools.
Ramirez, a native of Odessa, earned a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in biology and a master’s in educational leadership from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.
Hoxie is from Houston. She started college at UT Austin and finished at UTPB with a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies and a master’s in bilingual ESL, which stands for English as a second language.
“We both have goals for the school and I think that together we can reach them, but also we have a really great team … of facilitators that are the on the same page with us, as well, so I think it’s not just the both of us it’s the entire staff – even our custodians,” Hoxie said.
Both said they make a good team.
“I think it’s good we’re from different places because he knows more of the culture in the Odessa area and I tend to think a little bit differently than he does,” Hoxie said. “It’s a really good balance between the two of us, so I maybe will push him to grow a little bit in his thinking and he kind of reels me back in and says we’re in Odessa.”