SAN BENITO — For the most part, 2019 seems to have been a fruitful year for this school district.
From receiving numerous awards and conducting renovations to having many college-bound students receive thousands of dollars in scholarships, there were many wins for San Benito CISD.
As the Greyhounds prepare to enter their 2020 school year, we take a look back at some of their top achievements.
Based on prior scores, San Benito CISD showed signs of improvement in their Texas Education Agency Accountability Rating.
Every year Texas school districts are rated based on three areas — student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps.
For the 2018-2019 school year, the district received an 85, which translates into a “B” rating.
In the 2016-2017 school year, San Benito CISD received a 74.
“Huge increases across the board,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nate Carman said. “I think things are going in the right direction.”
Starting in February, former seniors Omar Gonzalez, Nicholas De La Fuente, Luis Andrade and James Teran participated in the district’s first Special Education Welding Program.
Under the instruction of welding educator Raul Robles, the seniors received a welding certificate after completing 10 weeks of coursework and hands-on training.
“My goal is to have more kids join the program so we can make a difference in the lives of more students,” Special Services Director Ernesto Manriquez said. “This is an awesome experience.”
The implementation of new ideas didn’t only occur during the school year.
The district’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department launched its first summer camp in June.
During the three-week camp, students received hands-on experience and project-based learning in one of 11 course programs, which included law, medical, welding, business, small animal, audio/visual production, photography, cosmetology, auto collision, construction trades and drafting/engineering.
CTE Director Rolando Guerra said the program aims to help students gain experience with different pathways the school district offers to help them decide which career they would like to pursue.
“When students transition from eighth to ninth grade, they have to decide which career pathway they want to follow and which classes they want to take,” he explained. “So this camp gives them a taste of what the CTE program offers and what certifications they can receive through our programs.”
Beginning this school year, elementary students with an interest in fine arts and environmental science were able to attend schools dedicated to these subject areas.
Ed Downs Elementary School turned into a Fine Arts Academy and Sullivan Elementary became an Environmental Science Academy.
The Fine Arts Academy emphasizes art, theater, dance and video production.
“There are so many studies out there that tell us the arts is where the students are learning at the highest level of rigor,” Principal Manuela Lopez explained. “So, we know this will make a huge impact academically, but not only academically. It will help nurture the social, emotional student as well.”
According to district representatives, the academy’s academic schedule remains consistent with other schools, and the school’s afterschool program has extended days.
Some aspects of the fine arts academy’s instructional plan include background and study based on art, student emphasis of art and career exploration.
The vision for the Environmental Science Academy is to foster an interest in environmental issues and explore all aspects of the earth’s physical and biological environments.
“We want to teach the kids to love science, learn about the environment and love the world around them,” Principal Diana Atkinson said.
The Environmental Science Academy aims to feature activities and amenities such as rainwater harvesting, a butterfly garden, a greenhouse, composting stations, a hatchery, traditional gardening, aquaponics and the initiation of a farmer’s market where fruits and vegetables from the garden can be sold.
Planned units of study for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade will include forestry and agriculture, petrology, oceanography and marine science, atmospheric and planetary science, zoology and ecology.