New Tech principal needs votes to attend South by Southwest - Odessa American: Education

New Tech principal needs votes to attend South by Southwest

By Ruth Campbell rcampbell@oaoa.com | Posted: Friday, August 16, 2019 6:37 pm

George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa Principal Gerardo Ramirez needs virtual votes to participate in a panel at the South by Southwest education conference March 9 through March 12 in Austin.

The session is called “Disrupting Opportunity Gaps with Deeper Learning.” If it gets enough votes, it would include Ramirez, Jim May, chief schools officer for the New Tech Network, Cynthia Ontiveros, a principal at the Young Women’s STEAM Research and Preparatory Academy in El Paso ISD, and Meredith Pappas, principal of Memorial Early College High School in Comal ISD.

The process is now in the panel picking stage.

“The public voting accounts are about 30 percent of the decision making process,” Ramirez said.

Then it goes to various committees. The public voting lasts through Aug. 23.

“So they’re looking at these different proposals that are given, then look at public votes and then they make a decision. So the final decision, we’ll hear in about mid-October,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said May approached him about participating on the panel.

“Jim May was our very first New Tech network coach. He was very much a big part of what we were doing at NTO — everything from how we were going to start school, the design of the school establishing norms as a staff, getting students acclimated to an environment that’s as different as New Tech. … He’s been with the New Tech network since then and now he’s the chief schools officer with the New Tech network,” Ramirez said.

When May asks him something, Ramirez said the answer is always yes. He added that he was surprised, but excited at the same time about the prospect.

“… I was selected to represent Ector County, so it’s almost a case study of different districts in Texas New Tech network schools and what we are doing to assist students with deeper learning and how to bridge the gaps that they’re coming with educationally,” Ramirez said.

“A lot of times we educate kids right early on. They have primary education, middle school education and by high school we have kids that are really excelling or need a lot of support and help. So what kind of modes of instruction, strategies, have these different schools from three different districts in Texas used to help bridge that gap to help make sure they graduate, to make sure that they have what they need to be successful for college and career,” Ramirez said.

If the panel gets enough votes, they will get to present their work. With the title of the discussion being “Disrupting Opportunity Gaps with Deeper Learning,” Ramirez and his fellow panelists will be able to share their school’s story.

Asked how they fill those gaps, Ramirez said he thinks step one is knowing the students, building professional relationships with them and knowing where they’re coming from.

“I would say No. 2 is knowing our data, so what is our economically disadvantaged population and who are they? Who are our students coming in with learning difficulties; what is their student assessment data from third grade and on because we do serve all six middle schools,” Ramirez said.

Students come to NTO from all six middle schools in Ector County ISD and other schools, as well.

“Then third, it’s really our primary mode of instruction — the project-based learning, hands-on engagement, technology integration, more of that student leadership in the classroom and the teacher serving more as the facilitator,” Ramirez said. “Then the students really being the learners are the ones that are in the learning, so I would say those are the three that came to mind for me.”

He added that he feels the approach has been successful. Students have emerged lively, talkative, and engaged.

“Those who have moved on to college and career, even our graduates now will talk about our school culture of trust, respect and responsibility. Even aside instructionally from project-based learning, the campus culture has been pretty powerful. We have students who are currently with us or who have graduated with us that are problem solvers. They’re not afraid to present. They know their way around technology. I think the school has really prepared them to kind of think outside the box …” Ramirez said.

He added that it’s an honor to have a chance to represent ECISD in Austin.

“I’m very proud to work for ECISD. I’m very proud to be our principal here of New Tech Odessa. I think our district is definitely headed in the right direction. I think right now we have a community that’s really rallying behind us and supporting what we’re doing in our schools …,” Ramirez said.

South by Southwest officials could not be reached for comment, but its website said this will be the 10th year for the conference. The 2019 conference had a total attendance of 12,927 with 8,274 registrants and 4,653 public attendees.

There were 1,202 speakers and 492 sessions, the site said.