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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

2015 Nov 11: Afterschool Programs at RISD

In prior weeks I have mentioned the importance of our afterschool program at Rockdale ISD. This week Sandy Robbins, iTigers Coordinator at Rockdale Intermediate School, has information that again verifies my take on this very successful program going on at each of our campuses.

The iTigers ACE programs, (Afterschool Centers on Education), have been very busy this year on each of the campuses, striving to make a difference. The Teachers have been diligent in the daily afterschool tutorials and enrichment activities offered to students. English Language Learning classes were offered at the High School and the Elementary. iFit classes, for parents, have started on Monday and Wednesday nights at the High School. We have had “Lights On After School” showcasing activities from all four campus and we have begun a Parent Night, held on the first Monday of each month. Even with all this, we have much more planned before the RISD Holiday Break.

Please mark your calendars and come join us in these upcoming events:

  • Nov 17, Tuesday - The High School will hold a Clothing Swap/Give-away, all day long in room E 120. All RISD students and families are welcome.
  • Nov 17, 18 and 19 – The annual Pumpkin Pie Event will be happening in the Intermediate Cafeteria. Intermediate iTiger parents are invited to come and make pumpkin pies with their student each day from 4:30-5:30pm. Our goal is to make and donate 100 Pumpkin Pies to the Thanksgiving Outreach Program, which is hosted by a variety of community churches and organizations here in Rockdale.  
  • Nov 19, Thursday – a Thanksgiving Pot Luck will be held at the High School for all iTigers parents and students from all campuses. iTigers will provide the Turkey and Dressing, attending families are asked to bring a covered side-dish and enjoy a fabulous Thanksgiving meal. The meal begins at 5:40pm and goes to 6:30pm.
  • Dec 5, Saturday - iTigers will be offering free Christmas activities for all children at Christmas Down Town. We will be located by the Train Depot from 1pm – 4pm. Please come by and have some Holiday Fun!
  • Dec 7, Monday – Parent Night. The guest speaker will be Courtney Paulsen, from Little River. The Jr. High Commons will be the meeting place and the topic will be Depression. Dinner will be supplied, along with drawings for prizes.

We hope that you will join us at our upcoming events. If you have any questions, please contact one of your iTigers ACE Coordinators:

Denise Doss, High School (512) 430-6013

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

Valarie Willingham, Elementary (512) 430-0737

Sandy Robbins, Intermediate (512) 430-6226

2015 Nov 4: Balancing High School and Life

The life of a high school student can be very complicated and stressful especially in the world we live in today. Rockdale High School Principal Tiffany Commerford has some helpful tips for high school students who have multiple responsibilities.

I visited with a junior this past week that told me high school is not fun. I asked the student what they meant “not fun” and the student said, “I work 20+ hours a week, I play a sport, have church activities, club meetings, and lots of homework”. My principal answer was, you sound overbooked. I know that wasn’t what the student needed to hear at the time, so I shared some strategies for trying to balance scheduling and maybe add a little fun.

Not only can high school be stressful, but playing a sport and having a job as well can double or triple that stress. High school students are very busy people. Many students choose to play two or more sports per year, and have a job on top of it. For adults, it is easy to think that students can handle a lot of responsibilities, but what they don’t understand is that students have many duties. Homework, studying, practices and jobs can be hard to balance, but with the right advice, it can become so much easier.

The best advice for balancing school and work is to have good communication between your parents, coaches, and managers. If your manager knows that you are playing a sport prior to you getting hired, they will be more understanding about you needing days off, and they can help work around your schedule.

Knowing when your practices and games are also helps. If you write a list or keep a calendar of all the things you have going on in a week, you can figure out when the best time to complete school work is. Also, it is okay if you need a day off. If there is a day that you don’t have a practice and game, don’t feel obligated to go into work. Take that day off from work ahead of time, as soon as you know you’re free from sports, and just take a break. It can get very stressful at times without balance, so make sure that you allow yourself breaks or “free days” every week to just relax and wind down from all the commotion.

Another piece of advice I shared, is, make sure you’re still taking care of yourself. It is very important to make sure you are eating right and getting enough sleep each night. Though not all nights allow an early bedtime, take advantage of those that do. If you get a good night of sleep each night, it will make it a lot easier to function the next day.

Lastly, make sure you still have time for friends, family, and school events. High school is a great time to make memories that will last you a lifetime. There are so many opportunities to take advantage of, so don’t miss out.

2015 Oct 26: Junior High Focus-Academics

There are a number of successful extra-curricular activities and programs on each of our Rockdale ISD campuses, but this week the focus is academics. April Eschberger, Rockdale Junior High Principal, has information regarding Math and ELA classes on her campus.

Fall has fallen upon us at Rockdale Junior High. Football and volleyball are coming to an end in just a few short weeks. I would like to take just a few moments to talk about academics and homework for junior high school students. The sixth and seventh grade students have all been doing the Math Fluency program each day. This program was started at the Intermediate School last year and saw great achievements in math skills with students. Wanting to continue in this achievement success the program was implemented in the junior high in mid-September. This program consists of a daily homework on a specific math skill. The homework in turned into the student’s math class the next day and takes a quiz of this same skill. When the student masters this skill, he or she will move on to the next skill. Each night students will have a short math fluency assignment, so please be sure your child completes the paper.

In English classes, students have been challenged to compete in a 40 Book Challenge. This requires students to read 40 books during the school year. There must be books read in various genres such as fiction, nonfiction, historical fictions, fantasy, and others. Students meeting the 40 Book Challenge will be rewarded at the end of the school year. Please encourage your child to read books. The more students read the better their vocabulary becomes and the better their writing becomes.

It is important that students complete their assigned homework each evening and be ready t o turn the completed assignment into their class the next day. Often this homework is a preview of the day’s learning. Other times it is a review of the learning that day to provide practice for students to ensure understanding of material. Parents can help junior high students in this endeavor by asking about school, homework, and what they learned that day. They can provide a quiet place to do homework free from distractions, setting aside a specific time each night for homework, praising their efforts, and motivating them to succeed and get good grades. Most importantly check for completion of the homework each night. Thank you to our parents for supporting their child’s success!

2015 Oct 21: RIS Focus: Service

Rockdale Intermediate School has the spotlight this week, and Principal Kathy Pelzel would like to share information about her campus service organization – RIS Student Council.

Rockdale Intermediate School recently inducted our student council officers for the 2015-2016 school year. This organization focuses on on service learning. It is important that all members of society understand the critical need for community service if we want to create a healthy city, state, and nation. Rockdale Intermediate School believes that even our youngest members can accomplish a great deal if given the opportunity. 

RIS students will hold their first service learning event in the coming weeks. Student council members will sell turkey feathers during the month of November to raise money to purchase toys for the Christmas Roundup. The three teachers who have the most feathers at the end of the fundraiser will dress as a turkey for the day. Our students earned approximately $350 for toys last year and we hope to raise even more this year! If you would like to support their efforts, please contact Keely Reisner at RIS for more information. 

Through projects such as this, students are able to participate and succeed in helping others. They work very hard to provide real results that help real people. The satisfaction of helping others through a time of need is a lesson that is not easily forgotten and will pay dividends throughout a person’s lifetime. We are proud of the students’ accomplishments and thank everyone in our community who support the effort through donations that help these children become active and successful citizens of whatever community they live in. 

News from RIS: Our council made an impact during their first year and we are extremely pleased with the participation and leadership of our students.  Our student council officers returned from student council training last week with a trophy to recognize their efforts. Last year, our council submitted an application to the American Students Council Association and was recognized as a Student Council Excellence School. There were only 105 elementary student councils recognized and we were very proud of our students for earning this award. 

2015 Oct 14: RES Pre-Kindergarten Community Tour

Our children are our future, and it is always great to hear about opportunities for them to discover their community and the world around them. This week Sandee Calame has provided us with several examples of how her Pre-Kindergarten students experienced “Rockdale”.

A very wise person once said it takes a village to raise a child, and here at Rockdale Elementary School, we believe whole-heartedly in that sentiment. Rockdale is home to many unique businesses and very friendly community members. Our youngest, most enthusiastic learners here at RES have recently been learning about many of our hometown Rockdale community businesses, government offices, and community helpers. Last week, the Pre-Kindergarten children had the opportunity visit and explore the Rockdale Police Department, the US Post Office, the Lucy Hill Patterson Memorial Library, and Citizens National Bank. At each destination the children were given an exclusive, behind –the-scenes tour of each facility. Highlights of the tour included sitting behind the wheel of a RPD patrol car, mailing their own letters at the Post Office, hearing an exciting story read by the children’s librarian, and going inside the vault at Citizens National Bank. Additionally, our Pre-Kindergarten students were given a first-hand glimpse into the daily operations of each of these community establishments and into the lives of these most valuable community helpers. A wonderful, exciting time was had by all and we look forward to seeing our new friends as we are out and about in our community.

Another exciting experience the Pre-Kindergarten children were recently afforded was a visit from the EMS personnel at American Medical Response. They showed the children their medical equipment and gave them a look inside the ambulance to help allay any fears they may of had about riding in an ambulance. Finally, the students explored the RVFD fire engine with several volunteer firemen on scene to demonstrate how to handle an emergency situation.

On behalf of the teachers and students at Rockdale Elementary School, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude for these exciting experiences, fun stickers, piggy banks, golden dollars, bookmarks, and fire safety materials that were given to each child. Our children are blessed to live in this community and Rockdale truly is a great place to live, work, and raise a family!

2015 Oct 7: RISD's Career and Technology Education (CTE) Program

Rockdale ISD has completed our 1st Six-weeks of school, and honestly it has flown by with students and staff working hard to expand their minds and horizons. One program that has had a tremendous impact already this school year is our CTE program. Sari McCoy, our CTE Director, has more information to share this week regarding this successful program at RISD.

Annually, Career and Technology Education (CTE) expands in both the State of Texas and locally in Rockdale ISD. According to the Career and Technology Association of Texas (CTAT), “77% of all high school students take at least one CTE course, and one in four students take three or more courses in a single program area.” Here in Rockdale, 89% of our students are enrolled in a CTE course.

There are 16 Federal Career Clusters which provide a framework for programs of study in secondary and post-secondary education. Rockdale ISD is proud to offer courses in 11 of the 16 clusters.

These clusters are:

  • Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources
  • Architecture & Construction
  • Arts, A/V Technology, & Communications
  • Business, Management, & Administration
  • Finance
  • Health Science
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing, Sales, & Service
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math
CTAT reports that “according to the data from the Texas Education Agency, students who take two or more CTE courses have lower drop out rates, higher graduation rates, better attendance rates, and higher scores on standardized exams than students who take one or no CTE courses.”

It is the determination of RISD’s CTE program to prepare students for academic success in post-secondary institutions and to train them in the essential ‘soft skills’ needed for the 21st Century workforce. Rick Stephens, the Senior Vice President of HR for The Boeing Corporation, said, “We hire for hard skills. We fire for soft skills.” In RISD, we fill our CTE student’s toolbox with both the hard and soft skills they need for their future achievements.

As previously mentioned, RISD expands their CTE program every year. One of the fundamental drivers of this expansion is our partnerships with community businesses and organizations. We need you!

If you currently collaborate with RISD CTE, we are deeply grateful. If you do not, please take this opportunity to consider establishing a profitable relationship with the RISD CTE program. It is our desire to offer students real-world experiences in all businesses and industries. Through this partnership, you significantly contribute to our training which ensures that we are developing the 21st Century employee that you desire for your organization. 

For more information, please contact Sari McCoy, Director of Career and Technology Education. It’s a great day to be a Tiger!

2015 Sept 30: RISD's Afterschool Program

We are very fortunate to have an afterschool program for our students on each of the Rockdale ISD campuses. Mrs. Valarie Willingham, the iTigers Coordinator at Rockdale Elementary School, has a important information she would like to share with you regarding this dynamic program in Rockdale ISD.

Rockdale ISD has been a part of the 21st Century Grant for Afterschool Program. Locally we call it the iTigers program. This program targets tutoring, enrichment, college and career, and parent involvement. We are indeed fortunate to have the program at all 4 campuses in Rockdale for our students. We also provide a late bus for those students needing transportation. The coordinators of the program are Valerie Willingham at the Elementary School, Sandy Robbins at the Intermediate School, Leesa Perez at the Junior High and Denice Doss at the High School.

Many of you know about iTigers at Rockdale ISD. You might have a student who attends our tutorials, after school activities, or before school tutorials. Maybe you yourself have attended some iTigers parent activities like our ELL classes or our workout classes. No? Well surely you have seen iTigers offering children’s activities at community events. The iTigers program touches so many not only in our schools, but in our community as well. We are excited to share a few upcoming events for students, the community, and parents.

iTigers will be holding our Annual Lights On After School Celebration for all campuses on October 5th from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm at the Junior High School. There will be fun activities for kids, a presentation for parents on Building Self Esteem in your students, and we will have a Battle of the Bell door prize at the end of the event. Hotdogs and drinks will be provided. As always, all parts of this event are free for iTigers families.

iTigers holds ELL (English Language Learner) Classes at the Elementary School on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

iTigers also has a parent workout class starting soon. Please talk to your iTigers ACE Site Coordinator at your students’ campus for more information.

2015 Sept 23: RHS AVID Program

Life after a student graduates from high school can be a challenge for most if not all students. Ms. Tiffany Commerford has information this week about a new program designed to help lessen the anxiety and stress of the many challenges students face in high school,and after they get their diplomas.

Education of the 21st century is filled with a complex equation of buzzwords and phrases. Among them: “college and career readiness”, but preparing students for life after high school isn’t a new idea.

A San Diego-based nonprofit organization, Advancement via Individual Determination, or AVID, has been doing that since 1980. Its preparedness program has grown to more than 800,000 students in 5,000 schools and 43 colleges and this year we have started it at Rockdale High School.

AVID is an instructional tool box that teaches students the techniques of how to write, ask questions, collaborate, use reading to learn content, and organization with notes, tests, quizzes, schoolwork, and time. AVID works with teachers to teach students how to set goals and become problem solvers whoset strategies that they can use in high school and later in life.

Locally, AVID is offered as an elective to ninth graders and is used as a class to help them navigate high school and begin making plans for post-secondary.The practices taught, such as Cornell Note taking system, are tried-and true and the cornerstone of AVID. Having an organized set of notes that follows a certain format allows students to distinguish between big ideas and concepts and the details that support those big ideas and concepts. Students are then able to transfer the information from short-term to long-term memory.Cornell Notes works on teaching students the strategy of 10-24-7 with their notes, which means spend 10 minutes highlighting important information, after 24 hours write questions about the notes, and 7 days later summarize notes and review notes.

College and career readiness has become an emphasis in schools because today’s careers often require higher education, whether it’s a traditional degree, technical training, or certificate program. The world of work is changing sorapidly it’s becoming more critical for students to think not only college and job how will they prepare for another career, five years later.

AVID provides academic support by teaching study skills, organizational skills, and communication. AVID students must keep binders and planners, which are checked regularly but the really big thing AVID does is teaches students the tools they need to become lifelong learners. At Rockdale High School we continue to work on ways to make our students’ college and career ready and successful in all they do!

2015 Sept 16: RJH Lunch & Learn

Every year Rockdale ISD looks for new innovative ways to provide information to our students, and this year is no different. Rockdale Junior High Principal Mrs. April Eschberger has a new and effective approach to inform her students about various careers during their lunch time.

The new school year is off to a quick, but great start. One of the new additions to the junior high school this year is the Lunch and Learn. This program will allow students to be exposed to various careers and college information. Each month a guest speaker will be coming to the junior high during both lunch periods. The journalism students will be creating the school flyers and the student tickets to attend. Thirty students will be able to sign up to attend the program. Students will bring their lunch to the room and eat as they listen to the speaker. Our goal is to be able to provide ten different speakers that will talk about various careers or aspects of college. Students will be able to attend those Lunch and Learns that interest them.

Our first speaker will be Dr. Dee Ellis on September 30. Dr. Ellis is the state veterinarian and will be speaking to students about veterinary medicine and careers in agriculture. Students interested in these careers will sign-up to attend the lunch. The October speaker will be Dewayne Garrett from KBTX speaking to students about news and sports broadcasting in addition to advertising careers. The November speaker will be Trey Pearson from TSTC (Texas State Technical College). Mr. Pearson will inform students about the application process at TSTC, the programs available to students including welding and HVAC. The speaker for December will be Courtney Paulsen from Little River Healthcare who will provide information to students on medical and health science careers. These speakers will round out our first semester


of school. The second semester will continue to provide additional career and college information. The junior high is looking forward to exposing our students to careers and preparing them for high school and their futures. We are excited to offer our first Lunch and Learn in two weeks and hope that our students will benefit from the program.

2015 Sept 09: RISD Food Services

This week I would like to highlight a very important program on all of Rockdale ISD’s campuses, Food Service. I know most, if not every parent or community member can recall eating at the school cafeteria. Standing in line, getting their card punched and the divided tray with their mini milk carton are memories that stay with us. Like many other school programs, food service has had many changes over the years. RISD is very pleased with our food service management company, Southwest Food Service that prepares nutritious meals for our students every school day. Trevor Lee, Director of Dining Services has a very important and useful announcement regarding a new program parents can access to gain more information about their child’snutrition at school.

SFE (Southwest Food Service Excellence) is excited to introduce the My School Menus™ to your school district. My School Menus™ allows you to quickly and easily access daily menus, nutrient fact labels, meal prices, and allergens. A nutrient calculator and allergen filter ensures that all students, parents, and teachers have a healthy meal option everyday! It will also enable you to plan meals in advance, which can assist in counting calories/points. Additionally, by having access to our online menus, we believe it will help you make healthier choices, as you will have access to nutrition information for the school meal programs right at your fingertips.

It is important to SFE that you have access to the best nutrition because we care about your health. We are excited about My School Menus™ which enables parents, students, and teachers to make healthy food choices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!

Parents of the Rockdale School District can access this service by going to your district’s food service page at SFE looks forward to working together to utilize this app as one more tool to provide your students and community with the best nutrition possible. If you have trouble accessing My School Menus™ or have questions, contact Trevor Lee at (512) 430-6098 or via email at

2015 Sept 02: Communicate with your Child

Our world is in constant change with various innovations that were unheard of 20 years ago. But, one thing that hasn’t changed is our need for effective communication with our children. This week Sandee Calame, our Rockdale Elementary Principal, would like to provide some thought provoking questions that parents can ask their children to achieve more thoughtful responses when they come home from school.

How many times have you asked your child, “What did you learn in school today?” Quite often they utter a word or mumble an incoherent sentence.Here are a few ideas from Terry Heick: When were you most creative today? What does a successful day at school look like to you? How else could you have learned what the teacher taught? How do your teachers show they care? What do you know, and how do you know it? When did you surprise yourself today?What would you like to know more about? What is the most important thing you learned today? Tell me one chance you took today, and how it ended up. What is one thing you learned from a book? What is one thing you learned from a friend? What is one thing you learned from a teacher? Tell me your favorite moment at school today. What did you improve today? Did you experience anything at school that motivates you to make a difference in the world?

Talking with your child is great for oral language and helps your child with their thinking and learning. Even when you think your child is not listening they hear more than you think. Good luck!

2015 Aug 26: RISD's CTE Program

Rockdale ISD has started in full swing, and our students and staff are learning names, schedules and routines during our first week back in school. This year Sari McCoy, who joined RISD last Spring, will be the Director of Career and Technology Education working mainly on the high school campus. At this time, Ms. McCoy would like to share some very exciting information regarding an outstanding new program at Rockdale High School.

What a great start to the 2015 – 2016 school year! We are so excited to have students return to school this week. Our buildings do not seem complete without the voices and faces that fill our classrooms and hallways. It is an exciting year for Rockdale ISD. Each year, our gains are made in strides and we could not accomplish what we do without the talented Rockdale ISD staff, dedicated Tiger families, and the endless support of our community.

This year, Rockdale High School introduces a new Career and Technology course strand for students who are interested in Healthcare. The Health Science Technology courses offer students an intimate look into the careers of healthcare providers. Over a course of 4 years, the students will explore the history of medicine, the various disciplines of medicine, observe patient care delivery in a clinical setting, and earn a certification that propels them into their post-secondary journey.

We would like to thank the Little River Healthcare System for their partnership and support as we enhance our Health Science program. They have generously donated equipment and supplies which enables us to train students with actual items utilized in the clinical setting. We are grateful for Little River’s expertise and guidance as we prepare students for a successful career in the healthcare industry.

Equipped with medical terminology, the knowledge of body systems and functions, and an understanding of disease processes, students will graduate from Rockdale High School with a quality foundation as they pursue a degree in healthcare.

As with all Career and Technology course strands, it is our goal to prepare Rockdale ISD students for success, in post-secondary education and in the 21st Century Workforce, through real-world academic, industry, and leadership training. As the Director of Career and Technology, it is my privilege to collaborate with our community business leaders to ensure the highest level of career preparation is offered to our students. In Rockdale ISD, we challenge and inspire our students to achieve their goals. In return, they change the world.

It’s a GREAT day to be a TIGER!