The 2019-2020 school year is upon us. We hope that all of our staff, students and their families have enjoyed the summer and are ready to embark upon a new year. On Aug. 14, our doors will open to more than 3,000 students who are one day closer to becoming a proud Gainesville High School graduate.

In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, we have already felt the presence of our students throughout the district. Cross country teams have run many miles in morning practices, trying to beat the Texas summer heat. The cheerleaders are perfecting their routines for the numerous pep rallies and football games that are just around the corner. The marching band has been hard at work, practicing for hours on the marching grid and escaping the sun and heat in their afternoon workouts in the multipurpose facility and band hall. On Aug. 5, the football teams took the field for the first time, working hard into the night to prepare for the upcoming season. Not only has volleyball been practicing, but the Lady Leopards have already competed in the first several games of the season. The community is invited to come out and help us celebrate these hard working students at Meet the Leopards on Aug. 17.

On Aug. 8, students and parents from Head Start all the way to junior high were officially welcomed into the schools for Meet the Teacher night. Parking lots were crowded and halls were bustling as eager students came to meet their new teachers. There were lots of hugs, excitement, and many even stopped by previous teachers’ rooms to visit. Beginning in fifth grade, our students begin to work with a different teacher for each subject area and in sixth grade are exposed to electives such as theater, band, choir and art. Entering junior high opens up a whole new level of change, as athletics, cheerleading and honors classes are added to the mix of opportunities for students. Gainesville Junior High also offers Spanish, a high school credit, beginning in seventh grade and pre-Advanced Placement classes in eighth grade.

Gainesville High School will hold its Open House/Meet the Teacher on Monday, Aug. 19. Student registration and class selection at high school is more in-depth as incoming freshmen are determining their chosen educational pathway to graduation and returning high school students must continue on their chosen pathway to success. Many of our high school students embrace the opportunity of taking dual credit classes, cosmetology or welding at NCTC. Students with tremendous ambition and drive are even able to earn their college core, associate degree or certifications before high school graduation. We truly believe in “every Leopard, every day” and take pride in each and every one of our students.

In addition to student involvement, our schools also have tremendous opportunities for parents to be involved and engaged in their child’s education. Family engagement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism and restores parents’ confidence in their children’s education. Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills and show improved behavior.

Parent engagement is parents and teachers sharing the responsibility to help the children learn and meet educational goals. In this way, they make a commitment. Parents commit to prioritizing their child’s educational goals and teachers commit to listening and providing a space for collaboration with parents.

As we embark upon the new school year, our challenge to parents and guardians is to be involved in your child’s education. Engage in their learning, communicate with teachers, embrace the education that is taking place and be involved. Regardless of the age of your child, there is a way to be involved, whether it’s PTO, Booster Club, Parent Advisory Committee, Site Based Committee or classroom volunteering. Our doors at GISD are always open for any parent or community member who wants to volunteer in our schools.

DesMontes L. Stewart is superintendent of Gainesville Independent School District and has been in education for 20 years.