Brenham is known for more than bluebonnets and Blue Bell; we're also home to the first public school district established in the great state of Texas. We've been leading the way in public education since 1875! Join the Cub Nation Station each Wednesday as staff members and students share what's new in the Brenham Independent School District. It's a great day to be a Brenham Cub!
Q. Tell us a little bit about what’s going on at Brenham Junior High School.
A. Our theme this year is “One Small Step Today…One Giant Leap Tomorrow!” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Thanks to our staff, students, and parents, we’ve had an amazing start to the year. We appreciate the effort our students are making to follow the rules by being in dress code, wearing IDs, and being wonderful students! We also appreciate the support of our Bush’s Chicken fundraiser which raised $14,783 for field trips and other student activities.
Q. What are your goals as you enter your sixth year at Brenham Junior High School?
A. I strive to create a team environment at BJHS so our staff and students are excited about what we are doing as a campus. I want our students to regard the time they spent with us as the best educational experience they have ever had. I also want to ensure our students are being educated in a safe, positive, loving environment, and that they are prepared not only for success on state assessments but also for the academic rigor of high school and college.
Q. What programs are in place at BJHS to assist students?
A. We recently had the first Saturday school of the year for students having attendance issues or academic issues. We will offer two Saturday schools per month until the end of the school year. We have also been using Edgenuity, an online program to address the four core disciplines. Additionally, we use Reading Plus as a tool for reading improvement. We also plan to bring in some of our AVID students to help the Saturday school students with binder and agenda organization.
Q. Tell us about the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program.
AVID is in its third year on our campus, and we base everything we do on the four domains of AVID: Systems, Instruction, Leadership, and Culture. We are an AVID certified campus and our goal is to become an elite AVID National Demonstration School. All BJHS students have an organized binder and agenda, and every department works on having focused note-taking in their classes. As a campus, we have two seventh grade AVID elective classes and two eighth grade AVID elective classes, but all of our students know that AVID reaches into EVERY classroom and impacts them academically. Our AVID elective teacher Jenny Schaer continues to push our AVID students to achieve the highest goals!
Q. What upcoming events do you have occurring at BJH?
A. We have a “pink out” themed pep rally on October 21 at 2:30 p.m. in our gym with a girls vs. boys competition. The Brenham High School band will also be joining us for this pep rally. Red Ribbon Week will be celebrated October 21-25, and we will also be wearing orange in support of Unity Day on October 23 for bullying prevention. Football, volleyball and cross country are all well into their seasons and basketball will be starting the next few weeks.
Q. There has been some discussion lately regarding the handling of students with negative lunch accounts. What is Brenham ISD doing to address this?
A. An automated phone call is placed each night to the phone number on record when a student has a negative meal account balance. A student with no money is allowed to charge up to three days’ worth of meals (3 breakfasts, 3 lunches) to give the household time to make a payment on the child’s account. Once the grace period is exhausted, the student receives a complete alternate meal consisting of a cheese sandwich entrée plus fruit, vegetable, and choice of milk and condiments free of charge. If a student receives four alternate meals, the household is personally contacted by the child nutrition department to identify their needs and connect them to assistance where possible.
Q. Speaking of assistance, how can someone from the community help alleviate debt on student accounts?
A. The Brenham ISD Child Nutrition Department has a donor account from which transfers can be made to pay off negative balances. Donations can be made to this account by contacting the child nutrition office at 979-277-3750.
Q. As a parent, how can I see what my child’s account balance is and what my child has been spending their money on?
A. You can create an EZSchoolPay account from the link on the Brenham ISD child nutrition website. This will allow you to see your child’s balance at any time. By clicking on your listed child, you can also see a report of all their transactions for the last month.
Q. Is there a charge to set up EZSchoolPay?
A. No, there is no charge to set up an account in EZSchoolPay. An EZSchoolPay account can be set up without entering any credit card information at all. Parents can also create an account for their child with no credit card associated with the account. The child can then download the EZSchoolPay app on their phone and log in to view the meal account balance at any time.
Q. It’s almost National School Lunch Week. What is Brenham ISD doing to celebrate this week?
A. This year’s National School Lunch Week is October 14-18. The superhero theme will focus on “Saving the Day with a Healthy School Lunch.” We will start each day with morning announcements to promote our super healthy food group of the day and at lunch, we will serve a variety of menu choices with special attention to the daily featured food group. These featured groups offer menu items that are essential to help support memory and provide vitamins such as vitamin C, provide protein for muscle development and strength, provide fiber for digestive health and B vitamins, plus calcium for bone building. Of course, no celebration is complete without a treat, so also this week, we will also offer a special super treat with lunch meals!
Q. Brenham Middle School has implemented a “house system.” What is that and what is the goal?
A. Our house system divides the entire staff and student body into “houses” that compete against each other. The goal is to build a community of learners and a sense of belonging through teamwork and friendly competition. We have house meetings twice per six weeks to discuss how we can become a more successful team by demonstrating character, growing academically and being responsible. Each house is led by a staff house leader and elected student leaders.
Q. How many houses do you have at BMS and how did you determine who would be in each house?
A. The students were randomly divided into seven different houses. Each house is represented by a character trait, a color, and a symbol. The names of the houses are actually the character trait in a different language. Each house is made up of an even number of fifth and sixth graders, as well as 10 to 11 staff members. Students learned what house they were in by opening an envelope with their student ID and a colored lanyard that matched their house.
Q. How do the houses compete against each other?
A. Students can earn points for their house daily by earning character cards. Staff members hand out character cards to students who are caught demonstrating good character. On a weekly basis, students earn a point for their house for getting their planner signed by a parent. Every six weeks, students gain points for passing grades, attendance and behavior.
Q. How often are winners announced and what can the houses earn with their points?
A. Each Tuesday, we do a house update over the announcements. Those announcements sometimes include a special reward for the house that earned the most points for a particular initiative such as signed planners, wearing their ID’s, or earning the most character cards. Once per six weeks, we have a House Pep Rally. All of the students and staff gather in the gym wearing their house colors. We announce the house winner for the six weeks, do some fun games among representatives from the houses and recognize individuals who earned the most points for their house. We also do a house reward each six weeks for the house that is in the lead.
Q. With the first six weeks behind you, what do you feel is the biggest benefit of the house system?
A. Our students feel like they’re a part of something. They get high fives from staff members in their houses, sit together at lunch on designated days, and enjoy being part of a family. As house leaders, we check on our students who are struggling academically or having behavior concerns. We hold them accountable in a positive way. Also, we incorporate community service projects, like raising money for local organizations, to encourage students to participate in competitions while teaching the importance of giving back to the community.
Q. We hear the fall course catalog is out. What courses are you offering this semester?
A. The Brenham Community Education fall course catalog has been published and we invite you to come learn with us. We are currently offering: Nature Expressions, Macra-Made, Halloween Makeup Workshop, Cookie Decorating, Pumpkin Painting - No Carve Solution, Pretty Pumpkin Carving, Sewing Classes for Beginners, Mason Jar Terrariums, Thanksgiving Centerpiece Workshop, Christmas Wreath Workshop, Pot-in-a-Pot Garden Art, Painting Holiday Ornaments and several monthly fitness courses. Whether you’re looking to get in shape, learn something new, or enjoy an activity with your friends, we have a course for you!
Q. How does someone become a Community Education instructor?
A. Becoming an instructor is simple! Classes are flexible and custom-designed by YOU! Instructors set their own schedule and class fees, and keep 80% of the fee. All you need is an idea - we handle the rest! Just visit our website at brenhamcommunityed.com and select the Teach a Course link to submit a course proposal online or call me at 979-277-3895 ext. 2171.
Q. Tell us about the Advanced Career Training options you offer online.
A. These programs prepare students for a career and are designed to provide job training and/or advancement opportunities. They also lead to industry-recognized certifications. You can start these career training programs anytime and work at a pace that suits your individual style. You'll have access to all the lessons and assignments from day one, and many of these programs can be completed in less than six months. You'll get all the materials and instructor assistance you need to have a truly comprehensive learning experience.
Q. Where can the community go to get more information about Brenham Community Education?
A. Brenham Community Education is an important part of the district’s involvement in the community and can open doors for students and instructors alike. Visit brenhamcommunityed.com or call 979-277-3895 to discover new areas of interest, pursue passions, and achieve new knowledge and skills. We also invite you to come see us at 1301 South Market Street here in Brenham.
Q. You also handle all of the centralized new student registration for Brenham ISD. What do parents need to know about registering their child?
A. New student registration is held Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Brenham Community Education building. Registration packets can be found on our district website under the Parent Information tab. Parents of new students will need to provide the following documents, along with the registration packet, upon registration: Proof of district residency, child’s birth certificate and social security card, photo ID of parent/guardian and current immunization records.
Q. Tell us about Pride Academy and DAEP.
A. Pride Academy educates students who are at risk of dropping out of school or having a difficult time learning in a traditional school setting. At Pride Academy, students are instructed using a non-traditional school day. Students can attend school for four hours a day using the TEA approved Optional Flexible School Day Program. The Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) is a culturally diverse program implemented to nurture and foster the necessary knowledge and skills students need to be socially and academically independent. Students at DAEP can reflect on choices they have made, while feeling empowered not to repeat those same mistakes, using the restorative discipline model.
Q. What are the criteria for enrolling in Pride Academy?
A. To be an eligible candidate for Pride Academy, a student must be at risk of dropping out of school for various reasons. A student must be a junior with at least 17 credits and have passed two of the End of Course exams. Also, the student must have a recommendation from their grade level counselor. The student and parent will be interviewed by a committee that will determine the student’s acceptance into Pride Academy.
Q. Can you tell us what kind of student opportunities Pride Academy provides for its students?
A. Students are given various opportunities to learn about technical programs, junior colleges, community colleges, test prep and entrance examinations, and grants that can help them with their education after high school.
Q. What is your campus culture like?
A. Our campus culture is great! I couldn’t ask for a better team! The students are excited, the teachers are excited, and the community is excited about the positive things going on at Pride Academy. The BISD theme this year is Great Things Happen Here, and we think we are the perfect example of that!
Q. Do you have any programs to motivate students to be successful?
Yes, we have mentoring programs from the Prairie View A&M Social Work Action Club and the Blinn College Distinguished Gentleman’s Club. Both of these organizations provide excellent support of both the DAEP and Pride Academy students.
Q. What is the FFA?
A. FFA is a nationwide youth organization that aims to build premier leadership, personal growth, and career success, through a classroom environment and supervised agricultural experiences. FFA is designed to grow leaders, build communication, and strengthen agriculture.
Q. What achievements can you obtain within FFA?
A. Some of the awards within the Brenham FFA Chapter include Star Greenhand, Top Seitz Fruit and Meat Seller, and Tophand. There are also state and national level degrees you can earn which include Greenhand Degree, Chapter Degree, Lonestar Degree, Discovery Degree, and the American FFA Degree, as well as the opportunity for many scholarships.
Q. How do you become an FFA member?
A. In order to become an FFA member, you must be enrolled in an agriculture class, fill out a membership form, and pay a $25 membership dues, which also gets you an FFA shirt.
Q. What are some opportunities FFA offers its members?
A. FFA has a wide range of activities personalized for many interests. Supervised Ag Experiences (SAEs), allow students to get hands-on experiences in agriculture, such as raising an animal, doing an agri-science fair project, or entrepreneurship. Leadership Developments Events (LDEs) are focused on developing leadership skills through public speaking and problem-solving. Finally, Career Development events (CDEs) provide a variety of events based on student interests. Some of these include Livestock Judging, Entomology, Wildlife, Dairy Judging, Vet Med, Agronomy, and Forages.
Q. What’s going on in Brenham FFA now?
A. Members are preparing for the Washington County Fair, which will take place on September 13-21. Our current service projects include a soda tab collection for the Ronald McDonald Foundation and our September meeting will include a trash pickup for our Adopt-A-Highway on FM 2935. We have also been hard at work preparing for leadership development contests which will begin in October. We want to remind students that we are still accepting members through September.
Q. What are some goals that Alton Elementary will be working toward this year?
A. Our focus will remain on helping students grow academically, socially and emotionally while also growing a community of readers. We know that readers are leaders! Although we are pleased that we met the state’s standards for our accountability rating, we are always looking for ways to improve. We want to make Alton Elementary School a place where people are beating down the doors to attend!
Q. The new school year brought some changes that parents need to know about. What are some changes that you would like everyone to be aware of?
A. First, I want to thank our parents for their cooperation as we made some changes to our master schedule and dismissal procedures. Our biggest change involved implementing new procedures for our car riders to eliminate crossing traffic during loading to ensure student safety at all times. We will continue our morning huddle from 7:45-7:55 each morning and are excited that the STEAM program has expanded, allowing first, second, and third grades to visit the STEAM class twice per week. Our kindergartners and fourth graders will continue to visit the STEAM club once per six weeks.
Q. What suggestions do you give parents to help their children succeed in school?
A. The biggest suggestion I can make is to get involved and stay involved. We have a wonderful Parent Teacher Organization that provides many ways parents can serve our school and our students. We’re also kicking off our Watch D.O.G.S. program with a launch event at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 3. I also encourage parents to communicate often. Our campus uses Class Dojo to keep an open line of communication with parents and to keep them engaged in their child’s learning experience.
Q. What events are coming up at Alton Elementary?
A. Our fall fundraiser will be kicking off soon and will run until September 25. Students will receive a lanyard and collectible keychain for their first box sold, and prizes for additional boxes. These funds are used to provide activities for students and staff throughout the year. We also invite all of our parents to attend curriculum night on Thursday, September 12 at 5:30 p.m. to get more information about what your child will be learning this year.
Q. What else do you want parents and our community to know going into this school year?
A. We are all excited to be back and we thank everyone for a smooth start to the year. We are already working hard and heading in the right direction to keep moving forward and focus on getting better every day. Our theme this year is “Another Day in Paradise” and our staff are all working to ensure teaching and learning feel like paradise at #AlohaAlton!
Q: Brenham ISD provides a variety of ways for parents to connect with schools. What are the best ways for parents to stay informed?
A: Our district website, www.brenhamisd.net, is a great place to start. Each school also has a campus website that can be accessed from the district homepage. Additionally, we offer a mobile app that can be found in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Brenham ISD is also active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Follow us at @BrenhamISD!
Q: Many Brenham ISD staff members consistently go above and beyond the call of duty. Is there some way for parents to recognize those outstanding individuals?
A: Absolutely! Brenham ISD offers the Cub Compliment program as a way for anyone in our district or community to recognize staff members who exceed expectations. Anyone can nominate any Brenham ISD staff member to receive this honor. Recipients get a letter signed by Dr. Jackson with a description of the nomination and a certificate for a treat from the school cafeteria. You can access the nomination form on the district website at www.brenhamisd.net under Departments > Communications.
Q: Brenham ISD is starting a podcast this year. Where can we get more information or subscribe to the podcast?
A: Brenham ISD has had two wonderful radio shows for years, the BISD Round Table which airs on KWHI at 9:00 a.m. on Thursdays and the BISD Today Show which airs on 94.1 Lite FM at 8:45 a.m. on Saturdays. The new podcast, Cub Nation Station, will feature this content, as well as special interviews with students, board members and staff members. The podcast will be available on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and Spotify.
Q: Tell us about the community services department housed at the Brenham Community Education building.
A: Georgiane Gessner is the Community Services Associate in charge of new student registration and the Brenham Community Education program. Contact Georgiane at email@example.com or 979-277-3895 x2171 if you have a student entering Brenham ISD or would like to take or teach a class! Karem Chandler is the F.A.M.E. (Families Actively and Meaningfully Engaged) Parent Liaison. Karem can help parents sign up for parent portal, assist with parent-teacher conferences, and answer questions about academic programs. Contact Karem at firstname.lastname@example.org or 979-277-3895 x2175.
Q: What is the Cub Connection newsletter and how do parents sign up to receive it?
A: The Cub Connection newsletter is a monthly email publication that is automatically delivered to parents through our broadcast system, School Messenger. The newsletter includes events, district information and spotlight stories. Contact the campus registrar to ensure you have a current email address on file in order to receive the Cub Connection newsletter or find the archives at www.brenhamisd.net under Departments > Communications.
Q. Tell us about Brenham ISD’s new Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability.
A. We are so excited to have Sarah Cook join our central office team! Sarah began her educational career with Brenham ISD in 2004 as an instructional aide, and went on to serve as a sixth-grade science teacher, a CSI teacher, and most recently a content specialist for science and social studies. Sarah earned a bachelor's degree in forensic chemistry from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Education from Lamar University with a focus on teacher leadership. She enjoys working with students and teachers, as well as researching data trends and instructional teaching practices to improve student achievement.
Q. Each year the school district celebrates its history as the first public school district in Texas. Tell us about Brenham ISD’s rich history.
A. Brenham ISD was established following a bill passed on March 25, 1875 during the 14th Legislature. The first day of classes for Brenham Public Schools was September 6, 1875 and the session lasted forty weeks. Classes were conducted in the old Key Home on the site of the Sacred Heart Convent, with a monthly rental of $50 until the city purchased the property on October 22, 1877 for $2500. A new two story brick building was constructed during 1878 at a cost of $10,000.
Q. The district recently received accountability ratings from the state. How did the district perform?
A. We are proud to announce that the district earned a “B” rating from the Texas Education Agency. Overall the district’s score increased by 8 points, moving from a 79 in the 2017-2018 school year to an 87 for the 2018-2019 school year. Brenham ISD campuses also earned a total of 12 distinction designations. Brenham ISD has seen an increase in the number of students who leave the district ready for college, career, or the military. Additionally, students continue to excel in the area of mathematics and gains are being made in literacy at the secondary levels, as well.
Q. What are some of the areas of focus for the district this year?
A. Our areas of focus include literacy in all grades, closing achievement gaps, and overall student growth. We have turnaround support in place for our areas of need and the district has allocated targeted resources to ensure growth moving forward. We’re also investing heavily in our teacher development program to attract and retain quality instructional staff.
Q. What do parents need to know about teaching and learning in Brenham ISD?
A. Our teachers work hard to plan and deliver quality instruction to meet the diverse needs of your children. We plan all of our instruction based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which are the state standards for what students should know and be able to do. Our staff members attend regular professional development and strive to ensure our students are prepared for successful careers in fields that are constantly developing.
Q. School is underway and the Brenham ISD has a new theme this year. Tell us about “Great Things Happen Here.”
A. Each year we aim to choose a theme that showcases how our district and community work together to ensure our schools and students are successful. From academics and athletics to fine arts and extracurriculars, great things are happening in Brenham ISD each and every day. We are grateful to our dedicated staff members and community partners who build greatness in each of our students to help them reach their maximum potential.
Q. Can you share some Brenham ISD statistics to remind our listeners about the makeup of Brenham ISD?
A. Brenham ISD educates just over 5,000 students with an operating budget of approximately 51 million dollars. We are proud to share that we had 349 graduates in 2019 and the Brenham High School celebrates a 96% graduation rate, which is well above the state average. We are also celebrating that our starting teacher salary was increased this year to $46,000 which puts us above the average for our market.
Q. There were many summer projects happening all over the district. What were some of the biggest undertakings?
A. Two of our biggest summer projects were the construction of new stairwells at the Brenham High School and the completion of the Deb Tackett Memorial Library at the Brenham Early Childhood Learning Center. Many thanks to Assistant Superintendent of Operations Paul Aschenbeck and our Brenham ISD maintenance department for supporting both of these efforts. Great things are happening at our facilities!
Q. The 144th Brenham ISD anniversary celebration is coming up. Tell us about this year’s event and honorees.
A. Brenham ISD is proud of its history and accomplishments, and as the oldest public school system in the state, we will soon be celebrating our 144th Anniversary and honoring the 2019 Brenham ISD Distinguished Alumni: Charles Ellison, Class of 1972; Atwood Kenjura, Class of 1963; Ron Parker, Class of 1972; and Kay Lyn Schwartz, Class of 1980. This year’s celebration is at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, September 6 at the Blinn College Student Center. Individuals may contact Jackie at the Brenham ISD Central Office at 979-277-3700 for tickets to this event.
Q. What do parents need to know going into this new school year?
A. We’ve all been diligently working to ensure that this will be the best year ever. Brenham ISD will remain laser focused on our mission of educating the hearts and minds of our students in a safe and nurturing environment. We ask that parents support our efforts by acting as ambassadors for our public schools and maintaining an open communication with our district. Great things happen when we all work together for the success of our children!