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Community and Student Engagement

Each week, an RISD campus program or department is featured in an article in The Rockdale Reporter.  You can view the past articles here.

Recent Posts

2017 Jan 25: February is CTE Awareness Month

It is very difficult to believe that we are in the last week of January, progress reports will be going out this week, and the month of February is upon us. February is a very important month for several reasons, but to our Career and Technology Education Director, Ms. Sari McCoy, next month is extra special. This week Ms. McCoy has plenty to brag about in her department at Rockdale ISD.

          February is Career and Technology Education (CTE) awareness month! Rockdale ISD’s CTE program is growing quickly and enrollment increases every year. We are excited about the future of all of our CTE students in RISD. Here are some fun facts about our program:

  • RHS has 7 CTE faculty
  • 94% of our high school students are in CTE programs
  • We offer 17 industry certifications
  • We offer 11 programs of study within the nationally recognized 16 career clusters
    • Agricultural Mechanics
    • Animal Science
    • Animal Science – Veterinary Medicine
    • Agricultural Science
    • Architecture and Construction
    • Arts, Audio/Video Telecommunications
    • Business Management & Administration
    • Health Science
    • Horticulture
    • Information Technology
    • Manufacturing


          So often we hear the words “College and Career Ready” for student preparation throughout education. Here in RISD, we prepare all students to be academically strong and career minded. We want all students to have the academic knowledge, the technical skill, and the employability, or soft skills, necessary for success in college, civic service, and the workforce.

          Research shows that 85% of graduates stay in their communities. Therefore, RISD is truly preparing the future workforce for our Rockdale community. In the CTE programs, we partner with businesses to meet their individual needs and develop the students to be the type of employees each organization desires. If you have not already, please give me a call so that we can customize our student training for success in your organization.

          Thank you to the entire community of Rockdale for your generous support and partnerships. Together we can make the future bright for our students and for Rockdale!

2017 Jan 18: RES receives library grant

The process of applying for grant funding is very challenging and, in most cases, very time consuming. So, when one of our campuses is rewarded by being chosen as a recipient, it is time to celebrate. This week Rockdale Elementary School Principal Ms. Elesha Eoff has some big news regarding a grant awarded to her campus.

We have exciting news at Rockdale Elementary School!  Our school received a $3,000 grant from the best-selling author, James Patterson, to support our library.  Cari Veit, Library Media Specialist, says she plans to use the money to expand the library’s non-fiction selection, as well as early reader books.   In addition, Scholastic Reading Club will match each dollar of Patterson’s donation with “Bonus Points” that can be used to acquire books and other materials for classrooms.  Rockdale Elementary School was selected among thousands of applicants, and one of only seven Texas schools selected to receive this grant.  

In the first-ever partnership of its kind, Patterson joined forces with Scholastic Reading Club to administer funding applications to their network of 62,000 schools and 800,000 teachers. Schools entering were asked to share the story of their school library, including past efforts to make improvements and “great ideas to help create a brighter future”.  Patterson personally read and selected the winning recipients of the grants.  Based on past winners, school libraries across the country have been using this funding to purchase new books, add bookshelves, make improvements to their catalog systems, and expand their programming.  Since the grant program’s launch in 2015, Mr. Patterson has personally donated $3.5 million to school libraries nationwide.

“We have just come out of the most divisive presidential election in history---and among all the issues that captivated voters, education was not one of them.  It was hardly discussed,” says Patterson. “Nearly half of the American populations reads at or below a basic level, and we need to address that problem to foster an informed future electorate.  I’ve made it my mission to underscore the vital role reading plays in children’s lives, and the need to sustain school libraries is at the heart of that mission.”

We all know that reading is important at any age, and at Rockdale Elementary, we make it one of our top priorities.  This grant will help to put more books into the hands of our students, and we are so excited to offer them an even greater selection of books.  Not only do we want our children to learn to read, but also to develop a life-long love of reading.  Rockdale Elementary School would like to say a special thank you to Mrs. Veit for applying for this grant.  Our students will benefit from the time and effort that she put into building a better library for our campus.   

2017 Jan 11: The Power of Praise

Positive reinforcement can have a profound impact on whoever receives it. We all need assurances that we are doing a good job or making progress toward a goal, however in some cases, the only feedback given is negative.... This week Ms. Kelly Blair, Rockdale Junior High Principal, has a new approach on her campus to insure students & teachers receive the positive reinforcement they need to help motivate success.

            Have you ever wanted to play hookie?  Have you ever just felt like you weren’t up for the whole “work thing”?  Of course, who hasn’t?  Anyone that says they haven’t felt that at one point or another, would be lying.  But most of us are able to fight temptation and get the job done.  So what stops us from giving in?  For some people, it’s about the money. For some, it’s the social aspect, and for others, it’s about the recognition of a job well done.  Everyone in the workforce has something that intrinsically motivates them to be productive at work each day.  

            So, what makes education any different?  Unfortunately, we are unable to provide our students with a paycheck at the end of a grading cycle and our teachers certainly aren’t planning to get rich teaching.  We are, however, asking them to put in 8 hours of hard work, 5 days a week.  While the social part of school is appealing, that time is limited during the school day.  So what can we do at RJH to motivate our staff and students each day?  

          At Rockdale Junior High, we have implemented a number of ways to reinforce positive behavior with our students.  One of the most significant events we’ve implemented is recognizing students through an awards assembly each six weeks.  Students are recognized for perfect attendance, earning all A’s, earning A’s and B’s, or by being nominated by a teacher as the STAR student. While many awards focus on academic excellence, the STAR student award is different. All students are eligible, regardless of attendance or academics.  Each teacher nominates their STAR student for anything from participation to improved behavior.  STAR students receive a personalized note from their teacher on the back of their certificate.  By recognizing students each grading cycle, we are able to highlight and acknowledge the positive things being accomplished by our students.  Students are also motivated continuously throughout the year and receive a fresh start each marking period. The awards assemblies also allow parents to be involved in the celebration of their student’s success.   

            We are proud of our students’ accomplishments.  Our teachers are the ones who deserve all the praise.  Each month, staff members nominate and vote for one of their peers for “staff member of the month”.  During our monthly faculty meeting, one teacher and one paraprofessional is recognized and presented with a certificate in front of their peers.  Additionally, our teachers and administration submit “shout outs” throughout the week to recognize their peers.  Each Friday, these “shout outs” are sent out to the staff recognizing their efforts for the week.  Another way that our staff is recognized among their peers is through regular Learning Walks.  During this time, groups of teachers go into classrooms and conduct observations of other staff members.  This allows for professional dialogue, reflection, learning opportunities, and celebration of fellow teachers.

            While these small tokens of appreciation may seem insignificant to some, to others it provides fulfillment that monetary compensation never could.  Rockdale Junior High staff and students are “Ready to Teach and Ready to Learn!”

2016 Dec 21: Christmas Roundup - RISD's Contribution

During this time, we reflect on all of the blessings we have been given throughout the year, and for most of us, we end the year with the Love, Joy and Excitement that the Christmas Season brings. However, there are those in our community, for many various reasons, who struggle this time of year, and aren’t able to afford the expense of additional food, toys or presents for their families.  The Rockdale Christmas Roundup, an annual community tradition, has been able to provide at least some relief for a number of families that need a helping hand.

This year, as in many prior years, students and staff members from all four Rockdale ISD campuses had the opportunity to volunteer or donate funds during our annual Rockdale Christmas Roundup.

The Rockdale Elementary School students participated in a contest and donated cans of Corn, Green Beans and Chicken. The collections began the first week of November with a competition for the most cans collected by a class on the elementary campus. This year the winning class was Mrs. Pounders 2nd Grade class with 108 cans.

The Rockdale Intermediate School’s Student Council collected over $300.00 dollars in cash for the Christmas Roundup. Also, the campus collected boxes of Cocoa Mix, boxes of Jello, boxes of Mac & Cheese and canned Chicken.

The Rockdale Junior High campus also was involved in collecting food items. The junior high campus collected bags of Pinto Beans, bags of Rice and containers of Oatmeal.

Rockdale High School Peer Assistance Leaders (PALs) and Life Skills classes assisted with sorting, boxing and loading at the KC Hall. RHS classes collected Canned Chicken, Cereals, Cornbread Mix, and Cocoa Mix.

Along with the students, a number of Rockdale ISD Staff Members volunteered throughout the days of Christmas Roundup, and helped  make it a huge success again this year. The Rockdale ISD Staff also donated over $1,300 dollars in cash, and new this year, the proceeds and food donations from the Rockdale PTO and Rockdale ISD’s version of “Polar Express” were donated to the Christmas Roundup. A number of canned goods were collected along with $383.00. The total cash donated by the staff and students from Rockdale ISD totaled over $2000.00.

This time of year is always very special for the staff and students of Rockdale ISD as we enjoy some extended time with our families. Our Winter Break begins on December 19th and ends on December 30th, 2016. On Monday January 2nd staff members will be back at work for a Staff Development Day, and on Tuesday January 3rd staff members will report for a Work Day. Students will return to regular classes on Wednesday January 4th, 2017.

 On behalf of the Rockdale ISD Staff and Students, I would like to take this opportunity and Wish the Community of Rockdale a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

2016 Dec 14: RISD's Polar Express 2016

This time of year can be very exciting for all ages at Rockdale ISD, but it has to be the most exciting for our Rockdale Elementary students with all of the new things they experience for the first time. This year the Rockdale ISD’s version of the classic tale “Polar Express” had a new twist that not only involved the elementary and intermediate campuses, but also Rockdale High School.

The event was held on the high school campus, and thanks to the collaboration of each campus and of course the Rockdale PTO, our Rockdale ISD Polar Express had another outstanding turn out on December 6, 2016.  The Polar Express is an opportunity to highlight literacy and bring teachers, students and parents together to celebrate education and the Christmas Season. 

Students, teachers and parents enjoyed hot cocoa and cookies and visited with Santa before heading to activities in various locations around the school. Each grade level featured an educational Christmas-themed activity.

Parental involvement is always important on all campuses, and at Rockdale ISD we strive to incorporate a close bond with the parents of our students.  Good reading skills are the key to success in all subject areas, and the Polar Express event is a great way to motivate and encourage younger students to develop effective reading habits.

All year long there are a few simple things parents can do to help your child become a better reader. Below are a few important tips for parents to use that can help their child in developing these important skills and/or habits:

  • Read to and with your child for 30 minutes every day.
  • If your child has a developmental delay, your child may find reading frustrating. Record yourself reading or record your child reading and allow them to listen while they look at the book.
  • Help your child to see that reading is important.
  • Set up a reading area in your home.
  • Give your children writing materials.
  • Talk with your children as you do daily activities together.

          Again, Rockdale’s version of the widely popular Polar Express was a huge success this year, and we would like to extend our most sincere appreciation to the Rockdale PTO and all of the volunteers that made this event so special. Proceeds from this event provided food and cash donations to help support the Rockdale Christmas Roundup.  

           On behalf of all the students and staff at Rockdale ISD & Rockdale PTO I would like to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

2016 Dec 7: RHS and Community Service Benefits

The students of Rockdale ISD have been providing Community Service in various ways for many years. This week RHS Principal Tiffany Commerford has a number of benefits for providing this important service for our community.

Benefits of Volunteerism in High School

          High school is the perfect time to volunteer. Although it may seem difficult to find the time to volunteer some time toward a cause that offers no monetary payment in return, the benefits students gain from the experience may end up being worth more than what they make working a part-time job. Whether they are a freshman or senior, it’s never too late to look into volunteer opportunities – although if you’d like to use your community service experience as leverage on a college application, the sooner the better! Here are some benefits of volunteerism in high school:

Impress Admissions Colleges

          There are a lot of high school students applying to college with impressive academic records. The GPAs and standardized test scores start to matter less especially when you’re applying to the more selective schools that include cut-offs when it comes to their admissions requirements. You’re then up against thousands of applicants with those same academic credentials. How do you stand out? What you choose to do outside of the classroom matters, whether that’s play sports, work a part-time job, or volunteer your time in the community. Volunteerism is a great way to show admissions officials that you not only care about the community, but are able to manage your time well enough to balance a volunteer job with your other commitments.

Get Involved Outside of School

          Getting involved in some volunteer work may lead you to meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise, especially if your community service takes place off of school grounds. Lots of high school students focus on extracurricular activities related to their schools – the sports, music, and clubs that make time management an art. There’s a lot of value in getting involved outside of your school, though. The more people you meet, especially while doing something worthwhile like volunteering, the more contacts you’ll have when you’re ready to move on from high school and apply to colleges, internships, and even jobs after you graduate from a college.

Earn Scholarships

          You may already know community service scholarships are one of the more common scholarship categories out there. Those awards are by no means reserved for college students. In fact, there are more community service scholarships available to high school students looking for funding to help pay for that first year on campus. If you have a history of volunteerism, make sure you consider that in both your scholarship search and scholarship application process. Admissions officials aren’t the only people you can impress with that kind of experience.

          At Rockdale High School many of our clubs and organizations require community service for membership or to hold office but we also offer Silver Cord of Service for our seniors that volunteer 50 or more hours their senior year.  Student can volunteer on campus, in the community, or with their church.  Volunteer opportunities are posted on our campus website and the rotunda at the school.  So during this season of giving please donate hesitate to ask an RHS student to volunteer and remind them of all of the benefits.


2016 Nov 30: iTigers Afterschool Opportunities

The Rockdale ISD iTigers after school program continues to provide quality tutorial and enrichment programs on each of our campuses. This week Mrs. Sandy Robbins iTigers Rockdale Intermediate School Coordinator has an update on the highlights of her program this fall that also includes a community service benefit.

The iTigers/ACE, (Afterschool Centers on Education), program is well into our first year of the three year grant. Programs at each of the campuses have been working hard to make a difference with their students.

At the Rockdale intermediate School, teachers have been diligently working to provide high quality afterschool tutorials and enrichment activities to our students.  Tutorials are offered for English Language Arts and Math. Students then have an option to stay and enjoy enrichment activities. Enrichment classes include: Baking, Gardening, Computers, Board Games, Sports, Walking with Pedometers, Legos and Construction, and Morning computer/homework Library time. 

The annual RIS iTiger Pumpkin Pie Baking event was very successful again this year!  The students in the afterschool program made 65 pumpkin pies.  The Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before Thanksgiving, 95 students, with the help of twelve teachers, spent the enrichment hour learning to make crust and pie filling. Students learned to follow a recipe and made these pies from scratch. The pies were then donated to the Thanksgiving Outreach Program which was hosted by a variety of community churches and organizations here in Rockdale.   

This year at RIS, our iTigers/ACE program is expanding to include all activities that are carried out after school: UIL, Student Council, Alcoa Grant, Rotary and more to come.  Students that are participating in programs and activities under the iTiger/ACE umbrella are offered an afterschool snack, can attend the enrichment hour, and use the bus for transportation home.  We hope this change will benefit both students and families.

There are four components of the iTigers/ACE grant: Academic Support, Enrichment, College and Career, and Family Engagement.  To satisfy the Family Engagement or “Parent” portion of the grant, each of the schools have weekly parent activities either at the campus or district level. During the 2017 spring semester, all campuses will work together to offer weekly iTiger parent fitness classes and parent English language learner classes.  Please watch for more information to come on this.  Also in the spring semester, be on the look-out for information concerning iTiger opportunities for parents to enroll in certified career or skill classes. We think this will be a great opportunity for our parents. 

Please mark your calendars: iTigers/Ace will be finishing the 2016 Fall Semester on December 8th.  We will start up again after the holiday break, on January 9, 2017.

If you have any questions, please contact one of your iTigers/ACE Coordinator:

Elementary, Valarie Willingham  (512) 430-6144

Intermediate, Sandy Robbins  (512) 430-6226

Jr. High School, Leesa Perez  (512) 430-6072

High School, Kristin Jakubik  (512) 430-6013

2016 Nov 16: Learning Opportunities at RES

Student learning is what schools are all about, and allowing students the opportunity to learn in various ways can help to motivate and keep learning interesting. Ms. Alesha Eoff, Rockdale Elementary Principal, and her elementary staff continue to explore different ways to captivate and motivate our elementary students. 


At Rockdale Elementary School, we are dedicated to creating learning opportunities for each and every student.  This six weeks, our faculty has engaged, challenged, and motivated our students through multiple learning experiences.  Our staff has worked to provide engaging lessons for our students through hands-on activities, and real world application.

In Pre-Kindergarten, each day is a wonderful new learning experience filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and fun.  So far this Fall, our little learners have participated in a multitude of activities to help them grow and develop physically, socially/emotionally, and academically.  We’d like to share some of these opportunities with you.  In October, our students were afforded the opportunity to experience the Rockdale Fair first-hand as we toured the fairground and exhibits guided by FFA students from RHS.  The Pre-K students even hosted our own Rockin’ Pre-K Rodeo with stick-horse barrel racing, herding balloon cattle and sheep, roping rocking horses, and an old-fashioned hoedown.

          Our students held our own election with a real voting booth and ballots.  Our Snack-Time Electiongave them the choice of voting for popcorn or popsicles.  After casting their secret ballot, the votes were tallied and popsicles won the election.  As a grade-level family, we created a large pictograph charting the results.  A lively discussion followed as the students discussed the graph and interpreted the results.  

          Coming up on November 22nd at 1:30pm in the Cafeteria, each Pre-K student will shine in their respective roles as they present our annual Thanksgiving Extravaganza.  There will be a little singing, a little dancing, and a whole lot of fun!  We hope you can come out and enjoy the show. We’d also like to thank our awesome parents for their continued support and encouragement.  As you can see, Pre-Kindergarten at Rockdale Elementary School is a terrific place to be!

Our Kindergarten students participated in some fun activities in October.  They went to the “Pumpkin Patch” where they were able to enjoy picking pumpkins, stuffing a scarecrow, and they had hay bale races.  They also participated in fun fall learning rotations in the classroom.  Students were able to help carve a pumpkin, learn facts about spiders, and retell a story with props. The students will be celebrating the customs and traditions of Thanksgiving by having a feast.  

RES First Graders have been busy learning their new "Fry" word lists!  At parent conferences, we explained the new program of sight word recognition that all students are learning at R.E.S. The students are challenged to read the word, and students are recognized each time they complete a list. First grade is responsible for the first one hundred fifty words.  The Fry words help our students improve their reading skills, so that they become more fluent readers.  Our students have also begun the Accelerated Reader program which helps with their reading skills.  Twenty–one students met their reading goals and they were treated to a popcorn party for their efforts. Each six weeks the students that reach their individual reading goal will be recognized with a special treat and their name will be posted outside of the library. 

In our Social Studies, First Grade has been learning about being a good citizen and the qualities a good citizen displays.  During the election, First Grade had an opportunity to "vote" for their favorite cookie!  Ballots were cast and then tabulated, and chocolate chip cookies were declared the winner! Science has kept our First Graders busy with units on weather, energy, rocks and soil.  Each student brought in a "special" rock to describe and share. We have been recording many of our observations in our Science Notebooks like real scientists!  

The Second graders at RES have been busy learning new skills and concepts and engaging in many different, fun activities.  Second grade is the first year that students get the opportunity to participate in academic UIL activities.  They will attend a UIL competition in Lexington on Dec. 8th along with students from the Intermediate School.  Students have been working very hard, with the help of their coaches, to prepare for Creative Writing, Storytelling, Spelling, Chess Puzzles, and Mathematics. Creative Writers will look at a collection of pictures and create an original story from at least one of the given pictures.  Students are graded on creativity and grammar.  Storytellers are read a brief story and then they are expected to retell the story in their own words before a group of judges using expression and inflection of voice. Speller contestants are given a list of spelling words to study and are tested over the given words. Chess Puzzles involves students being able to anticipate the appropriate chess moves based on the situation given.  Mathematics students will complete three timed sections- addition, subtraction, and story problems.

Our Second Grade students have also started tryouts and practices for our annual Christmas Variety Show.  It will be on Dec. 14th at 1:30 in the RES cafeteria.  Students will be performing dance routines, singing Christmas carols and sharing Christmas facts and customs with the audience. The students put on a great show and we would love to have you join us next month!

The whole elementary attended our Veteran’s Day assembly at the high school.  Our students made patriotic hats to wear and they sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, and “Fifty Nifty United States” to honor those who have served our country.  The students have been learning about patriotism, respecting our country, and appreciating those who have fought to keep us free.  Our flags waved proudly, and our voices sang loudly as we honored our veterans in the ceremony. 

We encourage all parents to attend the upcoming Thanksgiving meal, Thanksgiving Extravaganza and our Christmas Program.  We look forward to seeing you! 

2016 Nov 9: "Restoring" Rockdale Jr High Discipline

        The adolescent years can be a challenge for junior high students, parents and teachers. An effective school has all the right ingredients to ease the stress and negative feelings during this time of change. This week Ms. Kelly Blair, RJH Principal, has a new approach to solving issues that involve student behavior and discipline on the junior high campus.

          The first few weeks of a new school year are often referred to as “the honeymoon”.  Students are adjusting to a new environment with new teachers, new classrooms, and new classmates.  The entire staff and student body are, quite simply, on their best behavior.  Despite our best efforts to educate students on appropriate behavior and interaction with others, conflict is inevitable.   In most cases, when conflict arises, there are disciplinary measures taken that include a standard set of consequences for those involved.   Each offense has a consequence based upon the severity and intent of the act.  You would find similar practices in every school district nationwide.  It is important for students to understand that their choices have consequences, both good and bad.  However, do consequences change behavior? 

          Our campus is currently piloting a “restorative discipline” approach alongside traditional discipline.  The primary purpose of restorative discipline is to educate students on how to interact appropriately and guide them through conflict resolution.  One approach that we’ve found to be effective is the “restorative circle”.  Through this process, students are gathered and seated in a circle with a facilitator who guides conversations to address harm.  Each student is given the opportunity to engage in conversation specific to the incident.  This type of restorative practice is effective in building mutual respect and providing alterative response in peer conflict.  What we have found is when students are able to talk through conflict, they are more likely to repair relationships, reflect on their own behavior, and take responsibility for their actions. 

          One of the most essential components of an effective educator is the ability to build meaningful relationships with their students.  When students feel valued, respected, and cared for, they are more successful both academically and socially.  The restorative discipline model supports and builds that relationship among staff and students and fosters a mutually respectful environment.  We are hopeful that students will become proactive in conflict resolution and make choices that influence and shape positive school climate.  At the end of the day, happy kids become successful students which result in productive citizens in our community!

2016 Nov 2: Rockdale Intermediate School's Gallery of Champions

Community and school partnerships are extremely valuable for all campuses at Rockdale ISD, and this week we are excited to share another program that involves our school district and our community. Mrs. Kathy Pelzel, Principal of Rockdale Intermediate School, has the pleasure of introducing you this new student recognition program on her campus.

          Rockdale Intermediate began a new tradition last week by inducting the first round of knights into the Gallery of Champions. The term “knight” in medieval times meant “servant”. It referred to an armored soldier who served as protector of a kingdom. In modern times, it is used as a term of recognition of merit or service an inherently infers the honorific of “Sir” to the recipient. Everyone is familiar with characters known as knights and this immediately invokes mental imagery of chivalry, service, and honor for students.

          The Early Act First Knight program (EAFK), funded through the Rockdale Rotary Club, made it’s first stop at RIS to honor students who exemplify the virtue of respect. When we use the term respect, we use it in a multifaceted manner. This includes good conduct, self respect, respecting one’s peers, teachers, and learning environment. Knights take their education seriously and strive to be good learners.

          Teachers and administrators don appropriate garb for the ceremony of bestowing knighthood on champions. The teacher who has made the selection first reads a passage identifying the characteristics of the prospective champion to the student body who are in attendance. After reading the accolade, the newly appointed knight’s name is revealed and the student comes before the group to receive the honor. The honoree puts on a knight’s robe and sits in the gallery of champions where he or she is joined by more knights as they are announced by their teachers in succession.

          The program has been a huge success so far. Students are thrilled to receive the honor and everyone enjoys the festivities of the event. The program provides us an opportunity to recognize students who are working to put forth their best effort each day while identifying to all students specific examples of exactly what behaviors and habits merited the honor. We fully expect many students to work harder and focus more going forward in hopes of being knighted along with their peers.

          We are grateful to the Rockdale Rotary Club and everyone involved in the process for providing us with the means to engage our students through positive reinforcement of behaviors and traits that all students need to be successful. We look forward to having this ceremony regularly. We have many deserving students and expect to have many more. It was great fun and a huge success.

2016 Oct 26: Higher Education FAFSA Changes

It is never too early to prepare for higher education no matter what your child’s age may be. Financial aid is a very important consideration for all parents and the sooner the better. This week Ms. Tiffany Commerford, RHS Principal, has some very important things to think about as it applies to the FAFSA, so parents pay close attention due to some recent changes.

         If you plan to go to college next year, you need to know about two changes to the nationwide financial aid form.   The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that every U.S. college student needs to fill out in order to be eligible for any need-based financial aid. That includes federal grants and loans, scholarships from the state and school, as well as college work-study jobs.

Here's what's new:

Change #1: You can now submit the FAFSA as early as October 1, rather than January 1. This isn't the deadline, but it's best to get the form in early because some aid awards are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Change #2: The FAFSA asks for financial information reported on your federal tax return. Now, you can base your answers on your return from the previous year. This new policy is referred to as "prior-prior year" and should make it easier to answer the questions. You'll be able to use your 2015 federal tax returns this year, and you won't have to go back and update your form next spring when you file taxes again.

These changes aim to make the whole financial aid process a bit easier for you, but it remains a tedious and sometimes confusing task. Here are some tips:

Where do I start? Go to If this is your first time filling out the form, you'll have to create an FSA ID. This basically acts as your user name and password for each year you apply -- so don't forget it.

What documents will I need? Yours and your parents' Social Security numbers, driver's licenses, federal tax returns, W-2 forms, and current bank and investment statements.

Does applying cost any money? No, it's free. Don't get tricked into paying for a service that helps you fill out the form.

My family is middle class. Should I still apply? Yes. There's no income cap. And if you don't apply, you won't be able to get any financial aid. You can use the White House College Scorecard or the online calculator that each college must post on its website to get an idea of how much financial aid you might receive.

What is the deadline? There can be multiple deadlines. To receive federal grants and loans, you must submit the FAFSA by June 1, 2017. But colleges and states might have earlier deadlines -- and you could miss out on their money if you wait to apply. The deadlines are listed on their websites.

I filled out the FAFSA last year. Do I have to do it again? Yes. You have to resubmit the FAFSA with updated financial information each year you're going to college.

My parents are divorced. Do I list both of their incomes? No. The parent you live with the most is the one you'll report financial information about. If that parent is remarried, you must include his or her income, too.

When do I find out how much money I'll get? Your financial aid award letter will be sent to you from the college or listed on your college website portal (where you view your schedule and billing). This usually comes in the spring, after you've been accepted.

         If you have questions about financial aid and the process for applying the counselors and administrators are available to help or you can attend one of our College Readiness Nights at Rockdale High School.

2016 Oct 19: iTigers Afterschool Program Rocks!

Rockdale ISD’s After School Program Rocks

            iTigers on all RISD campuses offers tutorials, homework help, college and career readiness, and parent and family involvement opportunities.  Student activities are available before and after school throughout the week.  Adult activities are going on at different sites and family events are held at each campus throughout the school year.  Service learning and community involvement are significant components of our iTigers programming. This week Valarie Willingham has more information about iTigers and an exciting event at the end of this month. 

            Come celebrate Lights on After School with RISD iTigers!  This event will take place Tuesday, October 25th at the Rockdale Junior High School commons from 5:45 pm – 6:45 pm and all iTiger students and their families are invited.  We will have fun for all age groups! Lights on After School is a nationwide celebration of after school programs, like iTigers.   As always, our activities are free to our iTigers students and their families.  Some of our activities will include:

  • A Halloween Costume Contest
  • Halloween Arts and Crafts
  • Health Screenings for Adults
  • Math Snack Mix Activity
  • Reading Corner
  • Cookie Decorating
  • Make Your Own Spirit Buttons
  • And Many More!!!

            In addition to our students, we want to see you!  Check out our Facebook page for details of upcoming events and ongoing activities.

Please help us get the information out by “liking” and “sharing” the iTigers Facebook page.

            We are excited to announce that every Tuesday evening, our campuses will provide new parent involvement opportunities. Please contact the site coordinator at your student’s campus for more information.

  • RES iTigers Coordinator – Valarie Willingham – 512.430.6144
  • RIS iTigers Coordinator – Sandy Robbins – 512.430.6226
  • RJH iTigers Coordinator – Leesa Perez – 512.430.6072
  • RHS iTigers Coordinator – Kristin Jakubik – 512.430.6013

2016 Oct 12: Rockdale Elementary Academics

At Rockdale Elementary School we are dedicated to creating learning opportunities for each and every student.  Our staff is committed to providing a learning environment which equips students with skills to help them to flourish and be successful.  We believe that we are responsible for the academic, social, emotional and physical well-being and development of the children in our care.  Our goal is to develop the whole child and enable them to become more independent as they grow. 

Our teachers have worked diligently to strengthen their academic focus this school year.  Several of our teachers attended a Professional Learning Communities conference this summer.  The main emphasis of this conference was to gain the knowledge and skills required to develop quality Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) in our elementary.  We have implemented what we learned at the conference, and are looking closely at individual student achievement.  We are focusing on what we want the students to learn (the curriculum) and how we assess that they have learned the desired curriculum.  We are not only planning interventions for those students that haven’t met those expectations, but also developing extension activities for those students who have met the expectations.  We are working to develop goals and strategies to meet the needs of all students by looking closely at the achievement of each individual child. 

Not only are we looking at student achievement, but also we are working to develop the child socially, emotionally, and physically.  We have incorporated a “Thoughtful Thursday” into our weekly routine.  This is a brief character lesson for the students on manners, being polite, using kind words, doing good deeds, and developing qualities like trustworthiness and honesty.  The students are greeting each other and their teachers, saying “please” and “thank you”, speaking and responding in kind ways, and have even started recording these words and deeds in classroom graphs to try to do more kind things than they did the week before.  After reading Carol McCloud’s, “Have You Filled A Bucket Today?”, a book about saying and doing kind things for others, several classrooms created their own buckets so that they could keep track of these behaviors.  Our itigers Winning Culture Group created a beautiful “Fill the Bucket” visual in our hallway to allow and encourage polite behaviors throughout our school. 

Another program that we have just begun to help our students physically is our annual “HOOPS FOR HEARTS”.  Hoops for Hearts benefits the American Heart Association.  The students make a pledge to either drink more water, exercise more, cut their salt, eat more vegetables, or be more active.  This fundraising event runs for three weeks, and last year Rockdale Elementary raised over $9,000!  We want our students to make healthy choices for their bodies, and this program raises money for the American Heart Association while encouraging healthy behavior. 

Academics, social and emotional well-being, and physical fitness are all integral parts that make up the overall education of our students at Rockdale Elementary School.  We encourage the partnership between home and school, and do all that we can to ensure the strength of this partnership. We encourage parents to volunteer, attend school activities, join PTO, and keep in close communication with their child’s teacher.  Our teachers and staff are committed to educate the whole child, and help all students be successful.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions, or if we can help your child in any way. 

2016 Oct 5: Tiger E.Y.E.S. Mentor Program

The Rockdale ISD School-Based Mentor Program is designed to organize additional assistance for many of our at-risk students. This program ENGAGES our YOUTH and ENCOURAGES their SUCCESS (E.Y.E.S.). We have a number of goals for our program and they are as follows:


  • Provide positive role models for students
  • Foster relationships between adult members of the community with youth that help students become successful learners
  • Give youth an adult they can depend on for guidance and assistance
  • Build self-esteem in students that will help lead them to success
  • Help students excel academically and make strides toward accomplishing their aspirations


          Mentors are individuals who possess certain qualities that are needed when working with at-risk students. Some of these qualities are listed below:


  • Like to work with youth
  • Have a strong desire to help students be successful in school
  • Effective listener without passing judgement
  • Able to see solutions and opportunities in situations as well as barriers
  • Effective Mentors are able to make sense of student issues and help them come up with sensible solutions
  • Able to empathize with student struggles
  • Willingness to dedicate time and energy each week to mentor a student and set a positive example
  • Commitment to spend time with mentee and be involved in the schools


          By being a consistent adult presence in a young person’s life mentors can offer advice, share life their experiences, and help a young person navigate challenges. Youth who meet regularly with their mentors are: 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking. (Public/Private Ventures study of Big Brothers Big Sisters)


          Young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are: 81% more likely to participate regularly in sports or extracurricular activities than those who do not. (The Mentoring Effect, 2014)

A study showed that the strongest benefit from mentoring, and most consistent across risk groups, was a reduction in depressive symptoms.


          Mentoring promotes positive social attitudes and relationships. Mentored youth tend to trust their parents more and communicate better with them. One study estimates that the human potential lost as a result of the educational achievement gap is the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession. (Mentoring: At the crossroads of education, business and community, 2015) By preparing young people for college and careers, mentoring helps develop the future workplace talent pool. Mentors can also prepare their mentees for professional careers and assist with their workplace skills by:

  • Helping set career goals and taking the steps to realize them.
  • Using personal contacts to help young people network with industry professionals, find internships, and locate possible jobs.
  • Introduce young people to resources and organizations they may not be familiar with.
  • Skills for seeking a job, interviewing for a job, and keeping a job.


          The number of ways mentoring can help a young person are as varied as the people involved in each program. While the lists and statistics can be impressive, personal stories can be even more impressive. The opportunity for community members in Rockdale to touch the lives of our students who struggle to be successful can be a very rewarding experience. But more importantly, the benefits gained by a mentee can be a life changing experience.


          The targeted campuses for the Rockdale ISD Tiger E.Y.E.S. program will be the Rockdale Intermediate School (Grades 3 thru 5) and the Rockdale Junior High School (Grades 6 thru 8). If you would like to receive more information regarding this dynamic new program, please contact April Eschberger, Grants and Compliance Manager at (512)430-6000 – or Allen Sanders, Community Relations Director at (512)430-6112 – Tiger E.Y.E.S. applications are available on the Rockdale ISD website @





2016 Sept 28: RJH Programs

Speaking from the experience of being a former junior high administrator, I understand how hard dealing with change can be for junior high students. This week Kelly Blair, Rockdale Junior High Principal, has information regarding various ways she and her staff are working to assist students with this issue.

          Junior High can be one of the most difficult transitions for students.  Some students are coming from the elementary level and experiencing multiple teachers for the first time while others are simply adjusting to secondary education and the added responsibilities that come along with that.  The pressures of junior high include everything from greater academic expectations, social pressures, and of course, “fitting in”. 

          One of our goals this year is to provide all students with as many opportunities as possible to get involved with their campus, take ownership of their education, and find intrinsic motivation.  Rockdale Junior High has worked very hard to evaluate our student strengths, weaknesses, and needs in order to provide these opportunities.  Listed below are only a few of the opportunities that our campus is providing along with a brief explanation of each one:

SUCCEED Elective Class

Before moving into high school, all junior high students will have taken the SUCCEED elective class which mirrors the AVID elective class at the high school.  This program provides daily guidance on organizational skills, peer tutoring, leadership skills, team building activities, and provides students with college readiness skills. 



Academic Intervention Schedule

Early intervention is critical to academic success!  Rockdale Junior High is now offering intervention before, during, and after school.  Every Tuesday and Thursday, our campus works on a modified schedule to incorporate a 30 minute “flex” time called Tiger Time.  Teachers select students in need of additional support each six weeks and those who are not selected, are exposed to the SUCCEED curriculum in more depth.  A tutorial matrix will be sent home with report cards and parents are encouraged to sit with their child to create a schedule for them to obtain academic support based on their needs.

Student Recognition

Each six weeks, Rockdale Junior High will hold an awards assembly in which students will be recognized for excellence in the following areas: Perfect Attendance, A Honor Roll, A/B Honor Roll, Conduct Excellence, and STAR Student.  Each teacher will select 1 student as their ‘STAR Student’ in their particular subject.  Parents are encourage to attend.  The first awards assembly is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4th.

Clubs on Campus

Rockdale Junior High has restructured and added a few clubs/events to include more students in extra-curricular activities as well as having a voice on campus.  Some of these include: 6th Grade Spirit Club, Photo Club, Principal Luncheon, NJHS, STUCO, and the LEO club.