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Opening the Doors to our Schools, Culture

Opening the Doors to our Schools, Culture
Posted on 11/16/2016

One of the first things I noticed when I came to Leander ISD is the same thing many students, parents, educators and community members comment on about our district: our culture. Our culture is noticeable, you can feel it, and that is not the case for many other schools and districts. While it feels like a natural byproduct, something that has arisen organically, it is more likely the result of purposeful planning, collaboration, research and communication.

But what does that mean, “school culture”? School culture is typically defined as the persona of the school, the sum total of the behaviors, beliefs, relationships, attitudes and norms of its students, staff and parents; it has to do with the degree to which the campus supports a physically and emotionally safe environment, one of diversity, inclusion, engagement and challenge. Culture is a part of our focus on the “whole child” and the understanding that a child’s experience in our schools extends beyond how he or she performs on a test.

While each of our campuses creates its own culture, there are several things we do at the district level to help support and communicate this culture. At convocation, the Welcome Back event for all of our staff to kick off the school year, we introduced the theme “Why I’m Here” and the corresponding hashtag #myLISD. It gave staff an opportunity for introspection, to examine their reasons for working in the district, the road that brought them here and the impact of their role. It was inspiring to hear so many describe, not “ending up” in LISD, but seeking out a career here and working tirelessly with their teams to make a difference in the lives of those they serve. The theme even spread beyond convocation as some schools have created display cases featuring “Why I’m Here” stories from students and staff.

Also new this year is our LISD School Spotlights initiative, produced by our district communications team. They visit a different school each week to collect stories, photos and videos of students and staff, as well as a brief history of the school and an interview with its principal. The result is a glimpse into student life and the vibrant culture at each of our schools. Our schools are known for innovative teaching and collaborative learning—and the home to many incredible people—and that has created a real sense of pride for their communities. But these stories have not always spread beyond its community. Through School Spotlights, we can shed light, so to speak, on the great things going on in every corner and every school throughout our district, and celebrate them as a wider community. By sharing our stories and weaving this tapestry across our great district, we can help shore up the strong culture that makes us unique.

We hope you have also had a chance to read the latest issue of The Compass, a joint publication launched this summer between LISD and Hill Country News, and produced at no cost thanks to advertising by local businesses. The quarterly magazine allows us to share more in-depth stories coming out of our district and share the keystones of our cultural identity. For those who have not had the chance to visit a school since you were a student, The Compass also allows a peek into just how much schools have evolved—now inviting, open places of collaboration, hands-on learning and integrated technology.

Thank you to each of you who has contributed to making our culture something that instills pride, creates a shared sense of purpose and ensures each student has a place to belong. I would invite each of you to learn more about our culture, our schools and the incredible things we are doing together by visiting www.leanderisd.org to view past School Spotlights and issues of The Compass.