Catching Up with Craft

Catching Up with Craft

Catching Up with Craft is written by Superintendent John M. Craft and is sent to Northside ISD staff every Monday to keep them updated on local and state education issues.


I hope you all enjoyed the extended weekend as we celebrated Memorial Day. It remains important to always remember those who paid the ultimate price to ensure the freedoms we all enjoy across this great Nation. It remains important that we never forget our fallen heroes. I find this edition of Catching Up with Craft bittersweet, as we embark upon the final week of the school year. It is hard to believe we are just days away from graduating approximately 7,000 Seniors and adjourning for the Summer Break. Even though I have been on the job for almost 2 months now, it seems like just yesterday I was still trying to figure out the difference between Loop 410 and 1604. Thank you again for your patience and for welcoming our family with open arms.

As we prepare to close this year, this will be the final installment of Catching Up with Craft until we return in August. Please hold the celebrations, as I will be working on new and improved material over the summer for the 2023-2024 school year.

The past week was quite possibly one of the busiest we have ever experienced. I started the week at Nichols Elementary with a morning newscast interview. Ms. Elizabeth Chau introduced me to four amazingly talented students, Nicholas, Heather, Natalia, and Amelia. We had a great time discussing the future of Northside ISD and the challenges associated with artificial intelligence and maintaining the integrity of academia as a result of this revolutionary technology. Ms. Chau was kind enough to share the link to the MBC interview. Thanks again to Nicholas and the Mustang Broadcast Channel for interviewing me at 7:00 A.M. Monday morning! Stay Curious and Gooooo Mustangs!

Dr. Craft's Interview with MBC


Dr. Craft with MBC

My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting many of our Community Members last Monday evening. We greatly appreciate the Board of Trustees for their support and hospitality and thank you to all those who came out to the Community Welcome Reception. I would like to really express my gratitude to our students for their amazing artwork as well. I will be sure to follow up with our students at Steubing Elementary to ensure the “yellow equipment” is either repaired or replaced.

We hosted our second Student Voice listening session with our soon to be graduates from the following schools: John Jay, Jay SEA, Holmes, NSITE, Warren, CCA, Stevens, and Health Careers. I feel safe in saying our students are phenomenal. I know our Trustees and I really enjoyed learning from our Seniors. We can always look for ways to continuously improve and much of this process entails slowing down and actively listening to our key shareholders. Thanks again to our students for their willingness to spend their lunch hour with us and we wish them the absolute best of luck as they prepare to enter the next chapter of their lives.

Dr. Craft with Student Voice

We met with the Board of Trustees Tuesday night. We had the opportunity to recognize many of our outstanding students at the Northside Activity Center. It was very impressive to see just how talented and successful our students have been this year. We also had the opportunity to discuss a preliminary compensation package inclusive of a 3% General Pay Increase or GPI (raise) as well as a retention payment to be disbursed at the end of September to all returning employees. We will be bringing both initiatives back for Board’s consideration on June 13. We are also working diligently to ensure Health Insurance premiums remain flat, without significant plan changes. Our intent is to also provide a “no-cost” plan for employees as a result of migrating to a self-funded Health Insurance Plan.

We have remained very engaged with the 88th Legislative Session, which wraps up this week. Unfortunately, we do not foresee an increase to the Basic Allotment as a result of any new school finance legislation, thus we are being forced to build the next year’s budget using current law and funding formulas. We remain cautiously optimistic that we will receive a much-needed funding increase for Public Education so that we can work to take care of our hard-working staff. More to follow on this important matter.

It was a pleasure to meet with our Campus Athletic Coordinators and Assistant Coordinators bright and early Wednesday morning. I am thankful that I didn’t have to follow 10- year Veteran, Navy Seal, and Clark High School graduate Keith Darr. In all sincerity, it was great to visit with our coaches. Northside ISD has developed a phenomenal program, “Beyond the Game,” as a result of Stan Laing’s programmatic vision, and our student-athletes are benefitting tremendously as a result. Congratulations again on a tremendous year NISD Coaches! I look forward to the future success of all of our athletic programs. I had a blast visiting May Elementary School on Wednesday as well. I was welcomed by Ms. Kerr, Reading Specialist, Ms. Cantu, and Ms. Rodriguez, and of course their amazing students. We read a book about “risk-taking” and having the confidence to try new things. The students asked some really intuitive questions and I will never forget our amazing photo. The students were asked to say “cheese on three.” So of course,1 2 3…and they responded in perfect unison “CHEESE on THREE.” It was classic and still makes me laugh. Thank you again for the smiles and awesome experience.

Thursday night we celebrated with our Service Award Recipients and Retirees. We recognized employees for their years of service and those retiring from service at Brandeis High School. All combined, we recognized right at  13,000 years of service to Northside children. We have  526 employees being recognized at their schools or departments for reaching the 10-year milestone who will be receiving their silver pins from their principals or directors in ceremonies across the District. We provided the pins to our 20-year, 30-year, 35-year, 40-year, and 45-year service award recipients and it was a great celebration. Again, I would like to congratulate our recipients on their milestones and thank you for your dedication and continued service to our children. The group who received their pins represented 6,600 years of service to Northside ISD. And of course, Congratulations are in order to our retirees who represented 6,033 years of service to NISD and over 7,245 years to education in general. Great job and may the next chapter be filled with happiness and blessings!

Two of our students representing C.A.S.T. Teach at Stevens High School tackled one of our most pressing challenges we are faced with today. Our students and staff social and emotional health is continuously a focus of our efforts and two Freshmen tackled this important initiative with a solution-oriented mindset through the integration of wellness rooms. Ana Pater and Jasper Pearson answered the driving question: How can having a Wellness Room help with emotional stability in students? In a library full of District and campus administrators, Ana and Jasper did a fantastic job presenting their model wellness room and schematic design. I applaud their efforts and intentionality, and we look forward to them entering the education profession in the near future!

Model of a wellness room

It was great briefly visiting Lewis Elementary and learning more about their Gifted and Talented Program through their GT Showcase. Ms. Aranda, GT Teacher/Coordinator is doing amazing things for her students. The accomplishment of doubling the Lewis GT student population this year is amazing in itself. Principal Kendra Merrell and the Lewis staff are to be commended for their great work in serving students. Thanks again to Ms. Aranda and great job!

The Nellie Reddix Center in Northside ISD held its annual “Transition Celebration” to mark the beginning of adult life for 52 students who are transitioning from an educational setting into a work setting. The students recognized were 20 to 21 years of age and received training for employment and independent living through partnerships with local businesses and the amazing  Reddix faculty. The students also give back to their community by volunteering at a number of agencies including Meals on Wheels, animal shelters, and assisted living facilities. The Reddix Transition celebration was not only an emotional accomplishment for both the students and their families, but it really gave all in attendance hope for the future. What an amazing group of students and Thanks again to Ms. Fields and the amazing Reddix staff! I remain inspired!

Legislative Update

The 88th legislative session ends without a school finance bill being passed. While HB 100 went to the conference committee, the conferees could not come to an agreement regarding Vouchers/Education Savings Accounts and meaningful school finance legislation. On Saturday, Chairman Ken King, author of HB 100, announced that the bill would not be passed out of the House. When HB 100 returned to the House from the Senate it had a universal ESA/voucher program attached to it. "In a good faith effort, the House continued to negotiate with the Senate," wrote King in his statement, "but in the end, the Senate would not negotiate at all. It was a universal ESA or nothing. I am truly sorry HB 100 did not pass, but in the end, I believe students, teachers, and schools are better off with current law than they would be if we accept what the Senate is offering."

As a result, we anticipate school finance legislation and ESA’s and Vouchers to be brought back in a Special Session this summer. Please stay tuned. We will remain actively engaged with our Legislators throughout a Special Session to ensure our students and staff remain the priority.

I hope you have a wonderful week and please enjoy your much-deserved Summer Break. We will see you all very soon (August) if not sooner. We are looking forward to celebrating at Convocation and please stay safe and cool until we meet again. As always, thank you for your tremendous work this school year!

John M. Craft
Superintendent of Schools 
Northside Independent School District