September 2020 Newsletter

Dear Vanguard Families,

What a fantastic start we have had to the 2020-2021 school year! We are thrilled to be reconnecting, whether in person or virtually, and seeing the growth and potential in your students.

Our theme this year is from Brene’ Brown’s work on vulnerability, love, and belonging:

Be You, Be Seen, Belong’

COVID-19 has thrown all of us a curve ball, leaving many people feeling isolated, unconnected, and lonely. At Vanguard, we work intentionally to combat those feelings. We want our students to know that we care, we appreciate who they are, and that they matter. We work to support students in building and in sustaining friendships and having people that they can connect with for the good times and the bad.

My hope and prayer for all of our students, staff, and you as parents and guardians is a year full of meaningful connection and sense of belonging. We look forward to watching them grow socially, emotionally, and academically and, as always, thank you for sharing your children with us!

Becky Hodnett

Dates to Remember
Monday, 9/7
– Labor Day (No School)
Tuesday, 9/10
– Parent Support Group
Saturday, 9/12, 9:00-5:00
– SAMA Training
Thursday, 9/24
– Parent Education Session via Zoom
Friday, 9/25
– Staff Development Day (No School)
October 5 – 9 
– Fall Break (No School)
Wednesday, 10/14
Thursday, 10/15
– Student Picture Day
Monday, 10/19
– Staff Development Day (No School)
Saturday, 10/24
– Trunk or Treat (Tentative)
Thursday, 10/29
– End of 1st Quarter (No School)
Friday, 10/30
– Parent/Teacher Conference Day
New Students & Staff Members
We want to welcome our new students and families to Vanguard!
Calista B.
Ian H.
Joey J.
Molly M.
Micah R.
Noah R.
Zane W.

We are pleased to welcome several new staff members!

Ashere’ Thigpen recently joined Vanguard as Director of Education. She comes with over a decade’s worth of experience in various educational setting, from classroom teacher, instructional specialist, and other leadership roles in public school and private industry. She has a Master of Education in Curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas-Arlington and Educational Leadership from the University of North Texas. Ashere’ holds a Principal and Kinder-8th grade Generalist teaching certificate in the state of Texas.

Ashere’s qualifications showcase success crafting and implementing comprehensive curricula and lesson plans that align with state standards and sufficiently meet student needs. She enjoys working with, learning from, and motivating talented team members and utilizing educational best practices to resolve complex problems and exceed all expectations. She is highly regarded as an out-of-the-box thinker committed to continuously improving training materials, courses, and resources to optimize student outcomes and achievement.

Other highlights from Ashere’s career demonstrate her ability to immediately contribute to Vanguard’s growing success. Ashere’ earned recognition as Campus Teacher of the Year in Plano ISD in 2016 and won a Diversity in Leadership Award from Plano in 2017. She was also selected as a demonstration classroom and event speaker to represent Nepris, a platform that connects educators and learners with a network of industry professionals. Ashere’ enthusiasm for education is evident in all she has accomplished.

Ashere’ lives in Plano and has a middle school daughter. She is following in her mother’s shoes, who is a retired schoolteacher.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet Ashere’, she would love to hear from you and discuss your student’s academic needs!

Betsy Leal joins us as a new middle school teacher this year. Betsy graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos with a Bachelor in Science in Interdisciplinary Studies and a minor in Psychology. She is a certified EC-12 Special Education teacher, as well as being certified in ESL. Betsy has worked in education since graduating from college in 2007. She has taught drop-out recovery and in self-contained Functional Academics and Structured Teach classrooms, and has also been an Instructional Design Facilitator and a Director of First Impressions. Building relationships are Betsy’s favorite part of her job and she is looking forward to partnering with Vanguard families to foster happy, confident students.

Elizabeth Cernosek has worked with the Ignite program for the last year and just transitioned into the Ignite Student Enrichment Coordinator position. Elizabeth is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and holds a Bachelors of Science in Therapeutic Recreation from Texas State University in San Marcos. She has also completed the Registered Behavior Technician training and hopes to complete a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis in the near future.

Prior to joining Vanguard, Elizabeth worked in the inpatient psychiatric hospital setting for four years where she implemented recreation interventions and initiatives with children, adolescents, adults, and military personnel with mental health and behavioral disabilities. She worked for two years as a zipline instructor where she incorporated the outdoors as a wonderful recreational tool with numerous mental, behavioral, and emotional benefits.

In her down time, Elizabeth enjoys hiking, spending time with her family, and going on walks with her husband Johnny and dog Ryder.

Gabrielle Grant is from Atlanta, Georgia but has lived in Texas for over eighteen years. After graduating from Mansfield High School, she attended Texas State University in San Marcos where she majored in Political Science and minored in Diversity Studies. She is continuing her passion for education by pursuing her teaching certification. Gabrielle has a passion for working with children and adults who have physical and mental health challenges. It gives her immense joy to help others reach their academic and personal goals. Gabrielle joins our lower school team as a Teacher Assistant,where she continues to follow her zeal to assist students in reaching the pinnacle of their educational stature.

Kevin Goodnight is not new to Vanguard but he has transitioned to a new role as our Director of Family Services and Training. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Texas Tech University, a Master’s Degree in Psychology specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis, and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience as he’s been working with children with developmental disabilities or autism for over twenty years. If you are looking for a higher level of care, please reach out to Kevin ([email protected]) to learn more about the services he provides.

Mari Ordonez may be familiar to many of you as she completed her counseling internship at Vanguard last year. She transitioned to our full-time lower school counselor ​position this school year and we couldn’t be happier ​to have her as part of our team. Mari graduated with one Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and another in Psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas. She also has a Master’s Degree in Counseling with child and adolescent specialization from Southern Methodist University.

School Happenings

Drop-Off and Pick-Up Times
As a reminder, drop-off and pick-up times for lower school and middle/high school are below.

Lower School: 8:00 am and 2:45 pm
Middle/High School: 8:15 am and 3:00 pm

Picture Day

We have our photographer scheduled to take individual student pictures on Thursday, October 15th. Please mark your calendars!

FACTS/Renweb Attendance Alert
In order to help keep parents informed of their student’s participation in classes (especially for VPS@Home learners), we are sending FACTS/Renweb emails any time their student has an unexcused absence (UA) from a class. This policy went into effect this week so please be on the lookout for any alerts.

Student Medications
Please remember to review and update your student’s medications within the FACTS Family Portal on a regular basis. We want to ensure that our student files remain up-to-date at all times. You can edit existing medications and add new ones on the Portal by going to Web Forms, then Family Demographic Form, and then Student Medical Form.

Acknowledgment Forms
If you have not already done so, please return the following forms:
1) Acknowledgement That You Have Received Our Privacy Notice
2) Consent for Release of Information and On-Site Therapy
If you have any questions or need another copy of these forms, please contact [email protected] or [email protected]. Thank you!

Wednesday Folders
Remember that each Wednesday your student should arrive home with a folder that contains important information, work, and news. Please read, sign, and return the folders on Thursdays. If you do not receive the folder, please reach out to your student’s homeroom teacher. For remote learners, electronic versions will be sent home to parents/guardians.

Social Media Policy
We have updated our staff policy around use of social media with students and families. Staff can communicate via email and phone calls with families but are restricted from engaging with currently enrolled students or families through social media platforms. We wanted to let you know in advance in case you notice staff members disappearing from your social media feeds.

Student Updates
If you would like a succinct update encompassing current academic, social-emotional, and behavioral levels for your child, please contact their counselor via email. The update will be sent home within one week. Please notethese updates are for outside providers such as physicians or therapists who are providing support for your child. Continue to communicate with your child’s teacher(s) and counselor for routine updates.

Lower School (Mari Ordonez): [email protected]
Middle School (Steven Barnett): [email protected]
High School (Julie Dyer): [email protected]
     Launch (Patti Pickering): [email protected]

Robotics Team
The Vanguard Victors are gearing up once again to compete in the annual BEST Robotics event. It will be a little different this year, with most or all of the competition’s events moved online. The team will work together to design, build, and program a robot that will move around and perform specific tasks. It will be an 8 week program instead of the usual 6 and will begin on September 19th.

The Houses of Vanguard

This year’s theme is Racing to Success  and is based on demonstrating the 5 Pillars of Vanguard: compassion, independence, integrity, resilience, and service.   

As we do every year, the students are divided into 4 houses representing our compass points: North, South, East, and West. House points are accumulated throughout each quarter and will be awarded for:

  1. Wearing your house shirt on Friday (or the last day of the week)
  2. Attending Vanguard events outside of school hours
  3. Outstanding academic achievement, behavior, or random acts of kindness
  4. Parents/Guardians who attend the parent education Zoom meetings
  5. Community service projects that are pre-approved

Virtual Learners are included as well!

The 1st quarter House winner will be announced on November 2nd and prizes will be awarded! As of Friday, 8/28, the results are as follows:

  • South/Purple – 490 points
  • North/Blue – 514 points
  • West/Orange – 190 points
  • East/Red – 360 points

If your student needs a house shirt, please request a t-shirt order form from Lauren Campos at [email protected].

Below are the House assignments:

North House – Blue
Aiden M
Arya U
Charlie H
Cole W
Ryan S
David M
Dylan S
Elliot R
Gabe C
Jacob G
Joseph J
Josh H
Justin W
Karan K
Logan V
Michael R
Miles H
Natalie S
Owen P
Reed B
Samuel M
Valeria C
Vaughn S
Beth K
Dave W
Gabrielle G
Sabrina G
Veronica N
South House – Purple
Barron B
Camden W
Connor N
David F
Eli W
Elijah A
Hudson I
Hunter S
Jackson S
Jake Y
Jeremiah H
John B
Stacey L
Lauren H
Micah R
Miles B
Molly M
Nicholas R
Noah R
Noah R
Samuel M
Simon B
Amy Rangel
Charity G
Devin W
Tanya G
East House – Red
Alex R
Ashley P
Bennett B
Carter C
David L
Ethan M
Fred G
Jack D
Jacob P
Jessica W
Keshav D
Logan H
Luke T
Mason M
Mason H
Oliver B
Peter V
Reese W
Zane W
Ryan L
Zachary A
Harry D
Laura S
Mikey P
Scott L
Stephanie J
West House – Orange
Aidan R
Allen B
Andrew G
Calista B
Calvin H
Caroline W
Coco T
Ella F
Grant L
Ian H
Jackson L
Jackson H
Jacob H
Kris H
Mark A
Mateo J
Matthew A
Michael G
Nico D
Zachary R
Beth T
Betsy L
Chris C
Jeremy P
Upcoming Events

Event Cancellations/Modifications
Due to COVID safety precautions, we have cancelled or modified a few of our previously scheduled events. These updates have been made on our calendar located on the website. We will continue to monitor events as the year progresses and will keep families updated of any additional changes.

September 15th – Grandparent’s/Special Friend Day has been cancelled.

October 24th – Trunk-or-Treat tentatively remains on our calendar as an outdoor event; we will send more details as this date gets closer.

December 16th – Our Fine Arts Festival has been cancelled; however, we plan to celebrate our students’ artwork and creative talents in a slideshow or other virtual method.


The PSAT will be administered to college-prep sophomores and juniors on Wednesday, October 14th beginning at 9:00 a.m. Please contact Julie Dyer at [email protected] if you want to confirm your student’s participation for the PSAT.

SAMA Training
SAMA (Satori Aggression Management Alternatives) is a method used to diffuse anxious or hostile behavior and to provide safe and appropriate protection and containment when an individual is a danger to self or others. The Vanguard Staff and many Vanguard families have been trained in SAMA.

Our next training class is scheduled for Saturday, September 12th, from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. All families are welcome and encouraged to join! Reserve your spot by texting Frank Farino at 214-770-1518. The cost is $100 per person.

Counselor Corner

Parent Education Classes
Join our new Parent Education series as we launch into a year of Social Emotional Learning. Parents will learn the same social emotional concepts and language their students are learning daily. We strongly encourage parents and caregivers to use these opportunities to learn and grow alongside your child. The classes will be led by Kevin Goodnight via Zoom and are scheduled for Tuesday/Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm. Invitations will be sent out the week prior.

The first class scheduled for Thursday, September 24th (date change) is titled Vanguard 101 and will focus on “the how and why of what we do at Vanguard”. It will provide foundational language and knowledge to dive into the Vanguard culture and community.

Additional dates and topics are below:

  • October 20 – Building a Solid Foundation: Safe Relationships and Emotional-Awareness
  • November 17, 19 – Not Impossible: Emotional Regulation/Personal Responsibility
  • January 26, 28 – Fighting Fair: Conflict Resolution/Character Development
  • February 23, 25 – The Power of a Different Perspective: Perspective Taking/Respect for Others
  • March 16, 18 – Empathy and Compassion for All: Social Responsibility
  • April 27, 29 – I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Effective Communication
  • June 22, 24 – Being Transformed Through Relationships: Relationship Building

Parent Support Group
We are excited to announce the expansion of our Parent and Family Services. In addition to our monthly Parent Education Classes, we are now offering a monthly Parent Support Group which will also take place on Thursday evenings at 6:30 pm via Zoom. This new support group will give parents a safe place to build community, ask questions, and have honest conversation about the challenges of parenthood. Please keep an eye out for an invitation to join for the dates shown below!

  • September 10th
  • October 15th
  • November 12th
  • December 10th
  • January 14th
  • February 11th
  • March 4th
  • April 15th
  • May 13th
  • June 10th
  • July 15th


Labor Day – No School
Monday, September 7th

Parent Support Group
Tuesday, September 10th

Parent Education Session
Tuesday, September 22nd

Staff Development Day
Friday, September 25th

Vanguard Preparatory School

4240 Sigma Road Dallas, TX 75244 | phone: 972.404.1616 | fax: 972.404.1641

Accredited By Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - AdvancED | TEA Approved

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