ASPIRE-ing to New Heights
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ASPIRE is a project that aims to raise the level of education and increase the quality of life to Commerce and the surrounding areas and is a collaboration between A&M-Commerce’s College of Education and Human Services, Commerce ISD, and the City of Commerce.
Head of the collaboration is Dean of the College of Education and Human Services Timothy Letzring, Associate Dean of the College of Education and Human Services Dr. Mark Reid, A&M-Commerce President Ray Keck, Commerce ISD Superintendent Charlie Alderman, and Mayor Wyman Williams
The project started when President Keck went to the September Commerce ISD School Board meeting, and he expressed an interest in finding ways to collaborate between the university and the school district. ASPIRE is an acronym for “A School Partnership for Inspiration of Recreation and Education.”
Superintendent Alderman was very interested in finding a way to capitalize on the already many collaborations that happen between the school district and the university, like when the school district allows A&M-Commerce students to student teach at the schools, or when Commerce has their varsity football games at the university football field.
Dr. Reid and Mayor Williams had been talking about trying to get the university faculty involved with the city; so shortly after President Keck met with the school board, Mayor Williams hosted a town hall meeting, where 90 people showed up—this was the first meeting.
Along with being associate dean for the College of Education and Human Services, Dr. Reid is also a father of a student who attends Commerce ISD, as well as a resident of the city of Commerce.
Dr. Reid facilitated that meeting for Mayor Williams, and they “had people use Socrative to tell them what challenges they saw and ideas that the city could address.”
Socrative is an online system that allows people to use their phones, tablets or computers to type in their responses.
Before the planning sessions at the school district, Superintendent Alderman went around to each of the Commerce ISD campuses. At each of the campuses, he spoke with the faculties about the plans for what would later be named the ASPIRE project. Through a survey, Superintendent Alderman had them talk about their biggest challenges, and what was going well so that they could find issues that needed to be addressed, changed, solutions that could help things grow.
There was a meeting held at the central administration building where people came if they wanted to be involved in the planning sessions. About 25 teachers showed up for those series of meetings, and one of the first things that Superintendent Alderman had the teachers to do was to pick the most important topics to continue with.
There were two different sets of meetings, held in the fall semester of 2016, where one set was planning sessions by teachers and administrators at the school district, and another set of meetings where Superintendent Alderman went to local establishments and wanted community input on graduate profiles, as well as the ASPIRE project.
At the meeting with the teachers and administrators, Superintendent Alderman had them come up with topics that they wanted to work on, address through a survey.
In November Mayor Williams, Dr. Reid, Superintendent Alderman, and City Manager for Commerce Darrek Ferrell met and discussed where they were related to the planning of the project, and decided that they needed to bring the university to the table.
“Good planning was going on, but we weren’t quite getting the collaboration piece that we wanted, that [President Keck] asked us to create…we wanted to take advantage of that the best that we could.
“So we realized that we needed to get the university people around the table and immediately Superintendent Alderman suggested that the meetings should be at the university,” Dr. Reid said.
The first meeting at the university was held on Dec. 12, 2016 and about 80 people showed up. There were eight topics, plus a couple more add-on topics, chosen.
“We are trying to raise the level of education for students of all ages, and increasing the quality of life for Commerce and surrounding areas,” he said. “When we got to the meeting, I had topics spread all over the tables for everyone to choose from and talk about. This was the meeting were people got to know each other and form teams.”
The next meeting was held in January of 2017, it was the planning meeting for the 11 presentations that were held on Feb 7, which was the final meeting.
“I think it will be a fun night. I’m sure and confident because of the new leadership because our [university] president, superintendent and mayor are new, within the last year; and all three of them see the value of collaborating, working together, leveraging the resources, and make Commerce an educational icon.
“We are known for education, that’s what we do, we have a legacy as a university, and Commerce ISD needs to be a district that is known for being a premier district in Northeast Texas because of the collaboration with the university.
“Out of ASPIRE I fully expect a robust mentoring programing to come out of this, collaboration on afterschool and summer programs, further developing TBRI collaborations that help us meet the needs of students and families in the Commerce area. I think it will be extremely powerful,” Dr. Reid said.
TBRI stands for Trust Based Related Intervention. It is where educators are working with students who’ve experienced some form of trauma, and it was developed at Texas Christian University. Dr. Reid has hosted TBRI workshops, and Angie Proctor will host the lead workshop for Commerce ISD.
“At the beginning of all this, one thing President Keck said was ‘don’t let resources and personnel hold you back from your collaboration suggestions,’” Dr. Reid said.
“The leaders from the school district, city and university are very much interested in seeing collaboration that will meet the needs of the students, educators and administrators in Commerce ISD and get Commerce to that premier district that it needs to be.”