Principal’s Blog

by | Jul 31, 2019

October Opportunities To Connect


Stories Of Courage, Connection, Compassion, Integrity, And Resiliency – October 1, 2019

Stories Of Courage, Connection, Compassion, Integrity, And Resiliency - October 1, 2019

So I have never begged y’all to come to an event … however …

Please please please come to this very important event on October 1, 2019. We will start at 6pm in the cafeteria and then move to Faulkner Hall where we will bring our school wide values of courage, compassion, connection, integrity, and resiliency to life.

Our ask aside from attending is to bring something tangible (e.g. a photo, an artifact, a written story, a poem) that you are willing to leave behind that tells the story of how your family modeled or used one of our values.

The event will end at 7:30pm – again I am respectfully requesting your presence.

I will send an evite out to get a sense of how many people to plan for – we will have light refreshments served by our brightest Comets!

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Donuts With David – October 16, 2019 (Morning And Evening Sessions)

Donuts With David - October 16, 2019 (Morning And Evening Sessions)

“Donuts With David” is an informal event with no agenda. You are invited for an informal chat at 8am and again at 6pm.

There will be donuts!!!



Spooky Game Night – October 25, 2019

Spooky Game Night - October 25, 2019

Save the date for Spooky Game Night on Thursday, October 25th from 6pm – 8pm, hosted by the Bernice Kiker Elementary PTA!

This festive night will include activities for the whole family: bingo, musical chairs, big bubba, and lots of board games. Pizza will be served and desserts will be sold by 5th grade students with proceeds from the bake sale benefiting Caritas.

Get ready to have some Halloween fun! Be sure to wear your Halloween costume!


“Roar For Hunter” The Hunter 5K – October 26, 2019

Please make every effort you can to join myself and dozens and dozens Kiker Comets to celebrate and honor Hunter Henderson and his family.

This will be our first event for our first ever Bernice Kiker Running/Fitness Club.

I have a lot to say about this event and the meaning of it … I will however save my comments for a singular correspondence so the message does not get lost in other announcements.

Just know this is a very important event for a lot of people for a lot of reasons.

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I wanted to extend a warm welcome from all of our Bernice Kiker Elementary Comets. I hope you and your family are enjoying the start 2019-2020 school year. It was quite an exciting summer and our time has been filled with innovative and creative ideas, all of which are designed to throw away the box.

Our focus this year is simple – relationships. It is known and it is clear that meaningful learning cannot occur without a positive relationship. These relationships will be developed throughout the year in an effort to create the best possible learning environment for your children.

In companion with our focus on relationships we will, throughout the school year, celebrate our stories together. We will tell our stories of courage, compassion, integrity, resilience, and connection. We will create a connection that is unbreakable, a connection that is built upon our common experiences together.

You and your children are what’s right with Bernice Kiker Elementary. It is an honor and a privilege to serve your children and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow together as a community. We are always here for you in any capacity, do not hesitate to reach out and contact the school if you need assistance or have input.



Wooooooohoooo WAY TO GO COMETS!

I am very proud to once again announce Texas Education Agency’s accountability results for the 2018-2019 school. These results are determined by a number of factors with our STAAR performance weighted heavily. The results are a clear statement regarding your hard work at home, the hard work of your children, and the hard work of our teachers and staff.

The ratings are being reported in a new manner this year with each school receiving a 0-100 score and a letter grade. Bernice Kiker Elementary earned more points than any other elementary school in the Austin Independent School District. In fact, our score of 97% was greater than every single school in the district aside from Ann Richards School for Young Women who earned a 98% rating. I completed a cursory examination of schools across central Texas and thus far no other elementary school in central Texas exceeded our rating. We are proud to be an ‘A School.’

Our test scores are only one piece of the puzzle that is Bernice Kiker Elementary, however it is how we are rated, and we did an amazing job. Please take the time today to congratulate your children and tomorrow give our amazing staff the accolades they so deserve.

The Austin Independent School District earned a very strong B (89%) rating. Clearly Austin is a great place to live and to learn.



In order to make sense of our very large organization and provide an opportunity for our staff members to form deep and genuine relationships with our students we are creating two administrative/counselor teams. Each “team” is responsible for supporting the students in their assigned grade levels. They will support all parent and student related items including student discipline, ARD meetings, CST Meetings, the ELL process, 504 meetings, Gifted and Talented items, Special Education items, and guidance lessons.

Team #1 – Ms. Kelly Meyer (Assistant Principal) and Ms. Randy Fraser (Counselor) and their 19-20 assignments:

· First Grade
· Second Grade
· Third Grade

Team #2 – Ms. Bridget Farr (Assistant Principal), Ms. Alma Chapa Moore (Assistant Principal), and Ms. Kathryn Bankston (Counselor) and their 19-20 assignments:

· Kindergarten
· Fourth Grade
· Fifth Grade

To the end of forming those deep relationships these teams will loop with their students throughout their school career. For example, next year Team 1 will support second grade, third grade, and fourth grade while Team 2 will support kindergarten, first grade, and fifth grade. This looping will continue in a continuous and congruent cycle. The principal is always willing and available to meet in any of the team’s processes and meetings and support any family that is in need.



The Austin Independent School District’s Wellness Policy, which is attached, states that no birthday treats may be distributed to students until AFTER the bell rings for the last scheduled class. Bernice Kiker Elementary will always do its due diligence in following district policies.

To that end, we are asking for your continued support of the discontinuation of a long-standing tradition at Bernice Kiker Elementary and at many other elementary schools across our district. Our teachers and the Bernice Kiker Elementary Campus Advisory Council have all reached consensus in support of our policy. Birthday treats (edible and non-edible) or other “goodies” of any kind at school are no longer allowed.

​We will continue to recognize our students’ birthdays on Friday morning during assembly and individual teachers will still celebrate our Comets on their special day.

Classrooms are also asked to follow the wellness policy when having celebrations. Work with your teacher and room parent to ensure compliance.



As most of you know the school district is completing a large project creating a secure vestibule in our front foyer. We have created additional layers of secure doors by which you can only enter by supplying your identification. The additional layers will be a little cumbersome to begin with however soon it will feel like it has always been there – safety and security is priority number one.

Because of our large student population, we are always looking for ways to streamline our drop-off and pick-up procedures as well as ensure the safety of your children. Our enrollment is currently at approximately 1125 students. You will see more robust changes prior to the start of the 2020 – 2021 school year when we see a decrease in the number of students we serve.

Here is a reminder of our procedures:

All non-Austin Independent School District employees must enter through the front door creating a single point of entry for adults. You will be directed to the front doors. We worked through this last year so this is not a new thing.

All back gates will be locked eliminating the opportunity for parents to drop children directly off in the portable classrooms and/or enter through a door other than the front doors. The appropriate staff members (administration, professional staff, and custodial staff) will have the keys/codes to access the locks. As a part of our new security package these gates will be coded and only staff will have access to those codes.

Fifth grade students will report directly to Faulkner Hall where staff members will be on hand to provide appropriate levels of supervision. Parents are more than welcome to walk their fifth graders to Faulkner Hall. All traffic to Faulkner Hall needs to utilize the two doors closest to the courtyard.

Bus riders, bike riders using the east bike rack, and PPCD students will continue to use the southeast door adjacent to the cafeteria. These doors will be supervised by an administrator or designee.

Clubhouse Cadets will be able to continue to use the gate closest to their portable.

All other students will use the front doors and these doors will also be supervised by an administrator.

Our doors will open 5 minutes earlier, at 7:10 a.m. to provide families with a larger window of opportunity to drop their children at school.

Students in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, and fourth grade will report to the cafeteria. Teachers will come greet their classes at 7:30 a.m. and they will walk their students to their rooms after our morning announcements. Classes will have designated spots to wait and the cafeteria will be well supervised by administration and other staff members. Parents are welcome to wait with their children in the cafeteria.

At 7:40 a.m. all parents must exit the campus or sign in as visitors.

At 7:40 a.m. the pledges and announcements will occur over the intercom. Our tradition has been to have students lead us in the pledge and announcements and that will continue. During assembly we will also continue the tradition of recognizing our Comets with birthdays.

Stay in the RIGHT lane until after the crosswalk

As you enter the drive students should start collecting their things and parents start saying their well wishes for the day

Keep moving forward – LEAVE NO GAPS

Once the flow of traffic stops, it’s time for students to quickly get out of the car on the sidewalk/passenger side

Drivers do not park and get out of the car in the drive

As traffic flows and drivers approach the crosswalk please use signal light to communicate with the teacher in the crosswalk if you will be using the left or right lane to eventually exit the front drive up ahead.



Stay in the RIGHT lane until you have all of your children in the vehicle.

Keep moving forward – LEAVE NO GAPS – even before students are dismissed – NO GAPS!

Drivers do not park and get out of the car in the drive – this is a fire lane you should not leave your car unattended.

Fifth grade safety patrol and special area teachers will come to your passenger side window to ask who they can get for you – dismissal sheets with names and teacher names on it are helpful.

Students will quickly get in the car on the sidewalk/passenger side.

Once you have your children in the car you may enter the left lane to exit (even if exiting right.)



It is attached to this newsletter and posted on our website.


One final note about traffic.

It is rough.

It is a product of an area that has grown and grown and grown over the last 27 years. The earlier you come to school the better. The amount traffic between 7:10am and 7:25am is dramatically different than it is after 7:25am. Carpooling is a great way to help as is walking and biking.

As our veterans know the first week of school is always more hectic so you must use patience and grace with the school staff and yourselves.



I am pleased to announce that class placements are officially out of the office and speeding towards the United States Post Office. I anticipate deliveries on Monday. This has been a labor of love. A heartfelt thank you to everyone that has been a part of this exhaustive process. These lists have been vetted by every teacher on campus, all administrative personnel, our office staff, and our guidance department. We created balanced lists that should set all children and teachers up for a great school year.

As I indicated in March, I will not entertain change requests. If we missed something that you communicated to us through the official channels (aka the yellow sheets) then please let me know via email and I will address it immediately, beyond that these rosters are final.



It is with great excitement that I welcome the following new staff members to Bernice Kiker Elementary School. The quality of these educators is truly second to none and I am very proud to serve alongside such outstanding people.

Bridget Farr – Assistant Principal

Bridget Farr is an author, actor, and educator. She has been an elementary and middle school teacher her entire career, most recently in the sixth grade humanities program at Lively (formerly Fulmore) Middle School. She has a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and is thrilled to be back in an elementary school as an assistant principal. Bridget is also an actor and producer with several local theater companies. Her debut novel, Pavi Sharma’s Guide to Going Home comes out in September. Bernice Kiker Elementary shares Bridget with Cunningham Elementary School.

Shara Van Huss-Willis – Reading Specialist / Gifted and Talented Teacher

Shara Van Huss-Willis is a native Texan who began her journey as an educator in 1997 as an AmeriCorps Literacy First Volunteer. She has worked in a variety of educational settings, at a variety of grade levels, both public and private, including a specialized center in Boulder, Colorado for clients with Dyslexia and ADHD. Shara is excited to join Bernice Kiker Elementary this year, as a teacher and parent, and looks forwarding to contributing to this exciting community.

Bart McMahon – Physical Education

Bart McMahon moved to Austin a year ago from Arizona with his wife and two daughters. He grew up in Australia and now calls Austin his home. Prior to joining Bernice Kiker Elementary, he spent the past eleven years working with youth, collegiate, professional athletes, and our nation’s veterans as a physical therapist.

Valerie Barr – Second Grade

Valerie grew up in Friendswood, Texas and graduated from Texas State University with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Valerie previously taught third grade at Bauerschlag Elementary in Clear Creek ISD. She is very excited to get this year started.

Rachel English – Second Grade

Rachel has a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education from The University of Alabama, and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from The University of Houston. This is her seventh year teaching, and her fifth year in second grade. When she is not at school, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their three children Sam, Jack, and Emily.

Jamie Novack – Second Grade

Jamie graduated with an education degree from Texas A&M University, Gig’em! This will be her third year as an elementary teacher and she has taught both second and third grade in Fort Worth, Texas.

Abby Shoppa – Third Grade

Abby Shoppa graduated from University of Texas at San Antonio with a degree in Business Management, and after a career in real estate investments she has decided to pursue her true passion of teaching. Abby has spent time over the last two years on the Kiker campus as a substitute teacher, student teacher, and as a 2nd grade long-term sub. She is looking forward to working at an exemplary school and is committed to helping students become successful

Lauren Miller – Fourth Grade

Lauren has spent the last eight years teaching middle school language arts in Eanes ISD. She is originally from Des Moines, Iowa, but loves living in Austin with her husband, one-year-old daughter, and their two dogs. Exploring the outdoors, reading, and enjoying local restaurants are some of her favorite activities outside of school.

Kathryn McLaughlin – Fourth Grade

Kathryn graduated with honors from The University of Oklahoma with a degree in Human Relations. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing yoga, cooking savory cuisine, and doing agility with her Miniature Schnauzer. She is not new to Bernice Kiker Elementary, Kathryn filled a long-term sub position for Jennifer Blake in second grade at the end of the 2018 – 2019 school year.



The following existing Bernice Kiker Elementary teachers have moved to different grade levels:

Stefanie Torres from fourth grade to third grade.
Shawn Whitehouse from fourth grade to fifth grade.



We have streamlined the number of departmentalized teams considerably. The following teachers are paired together as departmentalized teams:

Third and Fourth Grade Combined – SBLC
Jennifer Mangels and Jewellyn Forrest

Fourth Grade
Laura Wooster and Kim Reiman
Rhonda Vasquez and Kathryn McLoughlin

Fifth Grade
Chris Bryson and Shawn Whitehouse
Teresa Hall and Marian Martin*
Jessica Boone and Micah Linnell *

* Please note that Teresa Hall will be teaching math to all four homerooms and Micah Linnell will be teaching science to all four homerooms. Marian Martin will be teaching reading to her homeroom and Ms. Hall’s while Jessica Boone will be teaching reading to her homeroom and Mr. Linnell’s.



Please note everything was completed with the use of sanitized machines – this will make total sense when you open your placement letters. Please be aware of the contents of your envelope as each piece is essential to find out your class placement.

If you like you can use this playlist as background music as you complete the required task.

Parent and Community Engagement

STAAR and Survey Results

Year In Review