Katy ISD continues to grow digital citizenship education efforts

With school back in session for the 2016-17 academic year, Katy ISD officials continue to emphasize digital citizenship as an essential complement to its core programs, said Jay Sonnenburg, digital learning manager for the district.

Sonnenburg said in addition to hosting a digital citizenship day in October and various digital              citizenship events throughout the year, KISD participates in Common Sense Media’s K-12 digital citizenship curriculum.

The eight-category curriculum provides resources for students, parents and teachers and supplements Common Sense’s mission of educating those same groups on appropriate technology usage and online safety, said Louisa Sullivan, the company’s education community manager.

“We’re all about ensuring that students have the tools they need to thrive in today’s 21st century,” Sullivan said.

One key element to Common Sense’s business model is certifying educators, schools and school districts, she said. Founded in 2012, the certification program has grown rapidly and now has certified educators in all 50 states and 21 countries, she said.

In order to become Common Sense certified, educators and schools must fulfill various criteria. Educators must—among many requirements—register with the organization, partake in curriculum training, educate parents and meet minimum digital citizenship instruction hours with students.

Schools must meet several of the same requirements in addition to creating a unique digital citizenship plan, providing professional development opportunities and completing a teacher worksheet that specifies which educators taught digital citizenship lessons.

KISD began with nine certified schools in its inaugural 2014-15 school year and has grown to 16 certified schools in 2015-16.

Sonnenburg said KISD’s next goal will be to become certified as a district by Common Sense. Certification requires at least half of a district’s schools are certified individually and that the district meets a variety of other components related to student instruction, professional development and parent outreach.

“It’s really challenging for a district our size, though,” he said.

Sonnenburg and Sullivan said parental knowledge of questionable applications and websites and awareness of their children’s online activities are critical to keeping students safe.

In addition to advocating peer-to-peer precautions, Sonnenburg said it is crucial for educators to maintain a professional presence when interacting with students online. His advice comes in light of allegations against a Katy High School art teacher, Robert Milton, who was arrested July 29 for allegedly engaging in an improper relationship with a student, according to a police report filed by the KISD Police Department. The alleged relationship, police officials said, reportedly began via Instagram contact between the two.

“I think the biggest thing that teachers have to know is to keep personal [accounts] personal and business [accounts] business,” Sonnenburg said.

Sonnenburg and Sullivan agreed it is important to understand the risks associated with digital media. But, they both said technology is a fundamental part of the educational experience.

“We’re doing a huge disservice to our community if we don’t incorporate technology into our daily lives; into our education,” Sonnenburg said. “Our kids need to understand how to operate in that world,” he said. “We highly support integrating technology into the classroom.”

Katy ISD continues to grow digital citizenship education efforts


The estimated number of active COVID-19 cases in Harris County has surpassed 50,000, reaching 51,362 as of the most recent data Jan. 20, according to the Harris County Public Health Department. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: Active cases top 50,000

See the latest trends on COVID-19 in Harris County.

Katy ISD officials said they hope to maintain a balanced budget in the 2021-22 school year—one that includes offering competitive compensation, opening Haskett Junior High and prioritizing student safety. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Despite COVID-19, Katy ISD anticipates balanced budget for coming school year

Though the overall effect that the coronavirus pandemic will have on Katy ISD remains unknown, district officials said they hope to pass a balanced budget for the 2021-22 school year.

In addition to vaccine hubs, there are also smaller community vaccine providers throughout Texas, such as pharmacies, that may also have the vaccine available. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
EXPLAINED: When, where and how Texans can receive the COVID-19 vaccine

As Texas is still in the early stages of rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, many Texans are still unsure about, where, when and how they can get inoculated.

The barbecue eatery is the second Killen's Restaurant Group venture to launch in The Woodlands area. (Courtesy Killen's Barbecue)
Killen's Barbecue opens in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Owned by Cameron and Tracie Tabrizi, the store offers healthy, pre-packaged, grab-and-go meals. (Courtesy Balanced Foods)
Balanced Foods comes to Katy

Owned by Cameron and Tracie Tabrizi, the store offers healthy, pre-packaged, grab-and-go meals.

Feeding Texas hosted a Jan. 19 webinar to discuss legislative highlights for the 87th Texas Legislature. (Screenshot courtesy Feeding Texas)
Food insecurity in Texas' 87th Legislature: Hunger relief organization Feeding Texas to propose legislation addressing hunger

Hunger relief organization Feeding Texas hosted a webinar Jan. 19 to discuss increasing funding and accessibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the 87th legislative session.

If approved, the Lake Houston Dredging and Maintenance District could take on all future dredging in Lake Houston. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
To-be-filed bill could fund dredging in Lake Houston by charging additional surface water fee

The conservation and reclamation district would have the power to take out bonds to fund projects. The bonds would be paid through a fee charged to utility providers who purchase surface water from Lake Houston.

COVID-19 vaccines
DATA: Texas has vaccinated about 9% of estimated Phase 1 recipients

Over 1.1 million individuals from the Phase 1 population, which is estimated to include 13.5 million individuals total, have received at least one dose.

Bob Popinski, policy director of Raise Your Hand Texas, shared the organization's top education priorities for the ongoing legislative session. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
‘What does virtual learning and remote learning look like moving forward?': Raise Your Hand Texas policy director talks legislative priorities

Bob Popinski is the director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, an Austin-based organization committed to improving public education. He spoke with Community Impact Newspaper in late December about the 87th legislative session, which began Jan. 12.

The Katy High School Tigers beat the Cedar Hill Longhorns on Jan. 16, earning the school's ninth UIL 61 championship title. (Courtesy Dana Congleton Koger)
GALLERY: Katy High School football fans celebrate Tigers’ championship win

For the ninth time in school history, players, parents, friends and fans of the Katy High School Tigers are celebrating in a big way.

As the city of Katy navigated the effects of the pandemic, changes in 2020 included budget cuts and revenue shortfalls; however, 2020 also brought lower property tax rates and an increase of more than $300 million in the city’s appraised value. (Laura Aebi/Community Impact Newspaper)
Katy discusses growth, hurdles of 2020 at annual State of the City event

As the city of Katy navigated the effects of the pandemic, changes in 2020 included budget cuts and revenue shortfalls; however, 2020 also brought lower property tax rates and an increase of more than $300 million in the city’s appraised value.

Bayou City Art Festival Downtown is scheduled to return in person in October. (Courtesy Katya Horner/Bayou City Art Festival)
Bayou City Art Festival scheduled for in-person return in October

The Memorial Park version of the festival will be celebrated through alternative virtual and smaller in-person events.