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2011-12 STARS Teachers Honored

Ten Richardson ISD teachers were honored recently as the 2011-12 STARS (Superior Teaching Achievements in RISD) teachers of the year.

Selection committee members, Dr. Waggoner and representatives of the RISD Excellence in Education Foundation surprised the winners with classroom visits on March 23.

The RISD Excellence in Education Foundation, the district's non-profit foundation working directly for all RISD students and staff, administered the selection and recognition of this year's STARS teachers. Students and colleagues cheered as the teachers were surprised at their schools with flowers, balloons and an oversized check for $1,000.

STARS winners were nominated by their schools and will be honored at the Excellence in Education Foundation Gala on April 13, and the REA/Board of Trustees Banquet on May 17. Special thanks to M&A Technology for sponsoring the STARS program.

Congratulations to all the winners, who represent some of this year's best teachers in a district known for excellent educators.

Alisa Bettega
Merriman Park Elementary – 3rd Grade
Carol Davies
Richardson North Junior High – Spanish
Kathryn Fisher
Richardson High School – AP Calculus/AVID 3/Peer Mediators
Kyle Griffis
Forest Meadow Junior High – Texas History/TAP Mentor Teacher
Katy Phinney
Skyview Elementary – Pre-Kindergarten
Alison Reams
Richardson West Junior High – 7th Grade Math

Ashley Rich
Moss Haven Elementary – 5th Grade

Rachel San Jose
Forestridge Elementary – 3rd Grade
Karen Wilson
Parkhill Junior High – 8th Grade Science

Hunter Wood
Lake Highlands High School – AP English/English III/Debate


RISD Retains Highest Bond Ratings Among Texas School Districts

Rating agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's have again granted RISD the highest stand-alone bond ratings of any school district in Texas. The AAA rating from Moody's and the AA+ rating from S&P are shared by just three other districts in the state – Highland Park ISD, Houston ISD and Austin ISD.

RISD's bond rating was reaffirmed in March 2012. Much like a consumer's credit score, high ratings save taxpayer dollars in the form of reduced interest rate on debt issued in the form of bonds.

Thew district's high ratings are a result of conservative financial management philosophy and practices, combine with ongoing community support of bond programs.


Summer 2012 Bond Construction Projects Planned

The second group of construction projects funded by the voter-approved 2011 bond package is planned for this year. In May 2011, the RISD community approved a $170 million bond package to finance capital projects and equipment over a five-year cycle from 2011 to 2015.

There will be a total of 84 projects on 35 campuses this year. Construction on some of the projects has already begun, but most are expected to start at the end of the 2011-12 school year. Projects are anticipated to be completed by the first day of classes on Aug. 27, 2012.

The projects will replace and renovate equipment, roofs, athletic facilities, fine arts facilities and utility systems that have reached the end of their useful life. Projects at two campuses will create new classroom space in response to enrollment growth.

Projects include:

  • Partial and full roof replacements at several campuses
  • Renovations at Wildcat-Ram Stadium and Eagle-Mustang Stadium visitors' restrooms
  • Track renovations at all four high schools
  • Tennis court surface renovation at each high school
  • HVAC system replacement and renovation at several campuses
  • Chiller replacements at several campuses
  • Electrical system, plumbing and other utility system replacement at several campuses
  • Renovation of the auditorium at Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet and fine arts renovations at several campuses
  • Playground replacement at Dobie, Dover, Northrich and Northwood Hills elementary schools

For more details on the 2011 bond program, please visit the RISD Bond Program page at


Moss Haven Elementary Dedicates School Garden

Moss Haven Elementary and members of the community recently helped to dedicate a new farm at the campus. Students dug into their classes' plots as they learned about science, their school's history and the outdoors by growing herbs and vegetables.

The Moss Haven Farm is a partnership with the American Heart Association's Teaching Gardens program and is one of 118 across the country. The program teaches students about healthy eating and organic gardening with the hope of creating healthy habits early in life.

The Moss Haven PTA, Whole Foods and the Heart Association contributed to the project. Parents and community members helped to build the raised beds, and they are working with RISD's Facility Services Department to build a 1,000-gallon galvanized steel water tower to provide the garden an environmentally friendly water supply. In addition, through the Heart Association partnership, the garden plots use a system that reduces the need for watering during hot, dry months.

Parents also built an outdoor learning area with tree stumps to provide students a comfortable outdoor classroom. The school is also seeking gardening supplies such as wheelbarrows and rakes. Email to contribute.

To view stories about the Moss Haven Farm, please click the following links:

Channel 11
D Magazine
Lake Highlands Advocate

AT&T Announces Expansion of Educational Program

A $250 million nationwide grant from AT&T and a partnership with Junior Achievement will allow Richardson High School and Berkner High School students to continue to learn from professionals in the telecommunications field.

AT&T recently announced the expansion of the AT&T Aspire program, including an announcement at RHS. AT&T executives, Superintendent Dr. Kay Waggoner, Junior Achievement leaders and members of the Richardson City Council attended. Students also explained the importance of the Aspire program to their education.

Through Aspire, Junior Achievement has created a job shadow program, which allows students to work with mentors who are AT&T employees. The newly announced donation from AT&T will allow Junior Achievement to continue and possibly expand the reach of the program.

Berkner, Pearce Teams Win Medals At State Academic Decathlon

Berkner and Pearce high school Academic Decathlon teams took home several medals at the recent state competitions.

In the Medium School Division, Pearce finished 6th out of 25 schools, winning five individual and one team medal, for 3rd place in Super Quiz Relay.

Congratulations to individual winners:
Joseph Tessmer – 1st place in Scholastic Math, 1st place in Scholastic Science and 5th place Overall in Scholastic with a $750 scholarship
Sarah Rigall – 3rd place in Scholastic Math
Matt Stephens – 3rd place in Varsity Music and 2nd place in Varsity Art

Team members include Haley Bivins, Joseph Tessmer, Devin McCune, Matthew Stephens, Katie McGowan, Mingru Liu, Lauren Rosene, Rosary Wang and Sarah Rigall. They are coached by Dr. Carol Whatley and Carol Hewitt.

In the Large School Division, Berkner won two individual medals and one team medal, 2nd in Super Quiz Relay, against 40 schools.

Congratulations to individual winners:
Elena Najjab – 2nd place in Honors Speech
Luke Nicholson – 3rd place Honors Speech
In addition, Peter Gregson came in 4th place in Super Quiz individual.

Team members include Elena Najjab, Yabsera Groum, James Lee, Annie Chou, Micheal Knapp, Eric Knapp, Peter Gregson, Roberto Caballero and Luke Nicholson. They are coached by Dean Webb and Tanya Gregson.

RHS Robotics Team Wins State Championship

The RHS robotics team will advance to the SkillsUSA National Championships in June after winning the state competition last week in Corpus Christi. Congratulations to juniors Ben Wernsman and Wayne Winski for their win.

To view a video about the SkillsUSA program, please click here.


Canyon Creek raises $4,000 for American Heart Association

Canyon Creek Elementary students recently contributed $4,000 to the American Heart Association. They participated in either Hoops for Heart or Jump Rope for Heart, raising money while learning about how to prevent heart disease.


Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet Students Study Earth Science

First grade students at Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet learned about rocks, sand and silt by rotating through a variety of earth science centers outdoors.

Students sorted rocks based on different properties, such as size, shape, color and texture. They then graphed the results. Rocks were also placed in water, filtered through different screens and rubbed together to create dust. Finally, students applied that knowledge to make clay beads. It was an engaging and hands-on way to make earth science applicable for 1st graders.


Lake Highlands JH A-Team Breakfast

Ninety-nine students were recently honored at the Lake Highlands Junior High A-Team breakfast. To receive this recognition, students had to achieve an average grade of 90 or above in each of their core subjects. Many proud parents also attended to share breakfast and awards with their children.


light it up blue for autism

Monday, April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and April is Autism Awareness Month. To help raise awareness about Autism, please join Richardson High School, Bowie Elementary and others in the RISD Community by wearing blue on Monday, April 2.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but research and knowledge in the area continues to expand. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that 1 in 88 children in the US has autism. Chances are you or someone you know has been touched by autism in a very personal way. The United States recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community.

Light It Up Blue is an autism awareness effort of the organization Autism Speaks. For more information, please visit


High school highlights

Berkner High School
Berkner Boys' Soccer Team Wins District Championship
As Rams' senior night was in full force, the BHS boys' soccer team knew they would clinch the district in the final game of the season. Facing Sunset High School, the Rams got an early start and never looked back, winning 6-0 and clinching the district championship.

Jack Wolf, Mohammad Elashi, Josue Gonzalez, Aaron Singleton and Adan Salazar scored the goals as Taylor Tokerud, Eric Rangel and the defense kept the clean sheet. Coach Juan Beracochea and his coaching staff are looking forward to the playoffs, beginning with Naaman Forest on April 3.


Berkner Bandoleras Spend Spring Break In Ireland
The Berkner Bandoleras' spring break trip in Ireland was an amazing experience filled with irreplaceable memories. The girls represented their school and country with extreme poise and pride.

The Bandos felt their celebrity status as they were interviewed at the parade, appeared on TV and in articles and were honored with gifts from Ireland's Lord Mayor himself.


Berkner Debaters Finish Top 10 in State
Berkner debate team members Adam Goin and Dakota Lee both finished among the top ten speakers at the recent UIL state debate tournament.

Adam placed 6th and Dakota placed 10th in the competition and are now busy preparing for the national tournament in June. Berkner wishes them great success.


Richardson High School
RHS AVID Seniors Achieve Million Dollar Goal
With $1.2 million in scholarships and more to come, AVID seniors at Richardson High School have exceeded this year's $1 million goal. Several students are also contending for prestigious national scholarships: Alesha Cooper, Sha'Huni Robinson, Jessica Perez, Ilham Mohammad and Muneerah Jemal are semifinalists for the Dell Scholars Program, while Sabiha Sultana and Alesha Cooper are semifinalists in the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.

All of the 56 seniors in the RHS AVID program have been accepted to 4-year or 2-year colleges and universities, with additional admissions to 4-year universities still pending.


RHS Winter Guard Wins Regional Competition
Congratulations to the RHS Winter Guard, which won its division at the North Texas Colorguard Association regional contest March 10 at McKinney Boyd High School.



State Japanese Speech Competition
RHS students placed at the recent Texas State Japanese Speech Competition in Houston. Francisco Ordaz finished second and Lisa Trieu finished third in the High School Level 3 Free Speech division, while Marlene Campos finished second in the High School Level 4 Free Speech division. Marlene now advances to the national speech competition in May.



Debate Team Wins District 9-5A UIL Championship
For the second consecutive year, the RHS Debate Team won the overall District 9-5A UIL speech and debate championship. Congratulations to RHS Debate Team members who will advance to regionals:

Prescott Osuchukwu – District Champion, LD Debate
Sam Nohra – 3rd place, LD Debate
Precious Osuchukwu – District Champion, Informative Speaking
Abi Chen – 3rd place, Informative Speaking
Berryman Toler – District Champion, Persuasive Speaking
Richard Ralston – 2nd Place, Persuasive Speaking



RHS Wins Sweepstakes Award At District Journalism Contest
RHS won the overall sweepstakes award in the recent District 9-5A Journalism contest. Congratulations to the following individual winners:

Talia Richman – 1st place in Editorial Writing, 1st place in News Writing and 4th place in Feature Writing
Anabeth Kanon – 1st place in Feature Writing
Demir Candas – 4th place in Editorial Writing



RHS Student Wins UIL District Spelling Competition
Congratulations to Thabit Pulak, who won the recent District 9-5A UIL Spelling championship. Thabit will advance to the Regional competition in April.



RHS Selected to Participate in Hands-On STEM Program
RHS has been selected to be a part of the Ten80 Student Racing Challenge, which will add to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum by incorporating project-based learning concepts, career focus and cross-curricular learning.

The Ten80 Student Racing Challenge is a program that partners with NASCAR, Texas Instruments and other sponsors. Students work together using engineering, aerodynamic design, graphic design and other skills to build radio-controlled race cars, which they then use to compete against other teams.

RHS Student's Artwork Selected as 'People's Choice' At DMA Exhibit

Congratulations to RHS senior Kathy Tran for receiving the Young Masters People's Choice Award. Dallas Museum of Art visitors selected Kathy's work, Ministering the Little Girl in Me, as their favorite piece in this year's Young Masters exhibition.

Richardson HS Student Athletic Trainers Bring Awareness for National Athletic Training Month

RHS athletic training students manned a medical station during the annual RHS 5K on March 3. They provided taping, ice bags, and blister and wound care for all who needed medical attention. March is National Athletic Training Month, and this year's theme is "Athletic Trainers Save Lives."

Athletic Trainers are health care professionals who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sports-related illnesses.
RISD employs eight athletic trainers, two at each high school. They work throughout the school year, covering all home sporting events for all teams and multiple junior high events. Not only do they work with their sports teams, but they also help fellow teachers and staff members with sports-related injuries.

Parenting Education Graduation held at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School

The Thurgood Marshall Elementary School Parenting Education class – The Bulldog Boosters – held its first graduation this month. The event was highlighted by the poem "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou read by Principal Dr. Tonia Howard.

Those receiving certificates of completion included: Shomel Thomas, Letha Cleveland, Michelle Brown, Valencia Brannon, Taryn White, Danielle Shaw and Sheila Windred-Weaver.


Spring Valley Parents Complete Parenting Program

Twelve Spring Valley Elementary parents celebrated with their children and their teachers as they graduated from the Parenting Partners Program. The program seeks to improve parental involvement at Spring Valley.

The eight-week program included classes on topics that included positive parenting, creating confident kids, communication that works, deflecting arguments and setting boundaries, discipline difference, what children and teens need to succeed, and parents involved for academic success.

"As a parent, we never feel like we know enough," said Maryvel Avila, who has three children ages 5 to 12. "I did this to be a better mom and to help them in school. This program, it helped a lot."


Psychology Professor Speaks to RHS Parents About Digital Communication

By setting clear guidelines, monitoring technology use and providing models for positive online behavior, parents can help their children navigate an ever-changing world of digital communication, says Dr. Marion Underwood, a psychology professor and an expert in electronic communication by adolescents.

Richardson High School's Anti-Bullying Team and the RHS PTA hosted a lecture and question-and-answer session with Dr. Underwood to help educate parents about ways they can allow their children use digital communication while at the same time protecting them and their peers from potential harm.

Dr. Underwood said that electronic communication can be a useful tool for teenagers to connect with their peers and grow as people. Parents should provide guidelines for children, such as limiting the time they spend online and texting, as well as monitor their communication without being intrusive, she said.

Dr. Underwood is Ashbel Smith Professor of Psychological Sciences at the Center for Children and Families in the UT Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. She is currently leading the BlackBerry Project, a study of adolescents' electronic communication that includes students from RISD and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study began in 2003, when students were 9 years old and continues to track their use of digital communication.

Click here to download Dr. Underwood's presentation, "Helping Adolescents Use Electronic Communication for Good."


Moss Haven Students Learn Hands-On About Civil War

Moss Haven Elementary 5th grade students recently studied the Civil War with a hands-on learning experience that let them see what life during the war was like. It was the third year that teachers Ashley Rich and Kay Winkler have coordinated the project.

Parent volunteers helped to show students what the experience of the war was like from the perspective of a soldier, a battlefield general and women of the 1860s. They also learned about wartime medical care, soldiers' food and the importance of receiving letters from home.


Richardson Youth Leadership Progam Seeking Applicant

The Leadership Richardson Alumni Association and RISD are inviting high school sophomores to participate in the 2012-13 Richardson Youth Leadership program.

Richardson Youth Leadership teaches high school juniors about their community and is designed to develop leadership and teamwork skills. Session topics may include leadership, social and cultural issues, volunteerism, education, city government, business, health care and criminal justice.

The application deadline is March 31. Please click here to download more information and to apply for the program (PDF).


Greenwood Hills is going to "NAIL" the STAAR

Students at Greenwood Hills chose their favorite nail to paint as a reminder to "NAIL the STAAR" with all their knowledge, know-how and confidence. This week was the inaugural testing week of the state's new STAAR assessment, which is replacing the TAKS test.


Recycling Event at Lake Highlands Elementary - March 31

Lake Highlands Elementary, 9501 Ferndale in Dallas, is hosting a Bubb Recycling Event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 31. We will be accepting documents for shredding, electronics in any condition and household items such as clothing, sporting goods, toys and games, books, and musical instruments. No chemicals or furniture can be accepted.

LHE is also collecting non-perishable food items for the Network of Community Ministries.

Plan to stay for lunch, buy Lake Highlands clothing, other goodies and more! Proceeds from the Bubb truck and food sales help send next year's 5th graders to science camp at Sky Ranch. Click here for more information.

RHS Spring Plant Sale! - March 30 and 31

It's time again for the RHS Spring Plant Sale!

Everything is grown in the RHS greenhouse and cared for by students of the Horticulture program. It will take place 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, March 30, and 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, March 31.

Bedding plants are $13-$15 per flat of 18 4-inch containers. Plants include mixed impatiens, begonias, Versa Mix Coleus and lantana. Hanging baskets are $8 and include pothos ivy, Swedish ivy, and green and purple wandering jew. Other plants will be for sale, including pencil cactus and ficus trees.


Learn to Live Green Event - April 14

Learn about healthy living, organic gardening, composting and rain barrel making at Plano's annual "Learn to Live Green" event, co-sponsored by the City of Richardson. The event will take place 10 a.m. 4 p.m. Saturday, April 14 at The Shops at Legacy in Plano, located at the Dallas North Tollway and Legacy Drive.


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