Book Signing with Former Zilker Teacher

Patricia Hardwick, former 4th grade teacher at Zilker, is also an artist.  She is the illustrator of a new children’s book, Music of the Butterfly:  A Story of Hope.  See the attached flyer for information regarding an upcoming book signing opportunity at BookPeople on Friday, January 6, 2017, at 7 p.m.  Congratulations, Mrs. Hardwick!

Flyer for BookPeople Signing

So Very Thankful

Dear Zilker Families,

This is my ninth year as the principal of Zilker, and at this time every year I want so much to express the gratefulness that I have in my heart for each and every one of our Panthers and their families, teachers, and others who work at Zilker.  I always try to think of some new and somehow inspirational way to state this, but I can never find just the right words–the words that might adequately convey my deeply felt emotions about this special place and everyone who is part of our school community.

Two simple words do always come to me though:  Thank you.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve in this capacity.  Thank you for your support and kindness throughout the year.  Thank you for sending your children–your most precious treasures–to us and for allowing us to teach them.  Thank you for being partners with our teachers to do all that we can to meet your children’s needs.  Thank you for all that you do for our students and teachers.

My hope for you this week–this whole week of Thanksgiving!–is that you will have, do, and be all that you need and want.  Simple pleasures with your children, time to play with them and to talk to them, and just enjoying being with them–take advantage of every available moment.  They will grow and get older so much more quickly than you can even know.  That ol’ “time thing” seems to accelerate more and more with the passing years, so enjoy this time that you have with your children now.  Have no regrets later.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy times!  Enjoy the week, and we’ll see you again soon–7:35 a.m. on Monday, November 28!

With sincere thankfulness,

Randy Thomson, Principal



Dear Zilker Families,

This past week proved to be quite the political and patriotic roller coaster ride for many of us.  Emotions ran high–at times, even some confusion persisted.  It is not always an easy task to determine just what to say or do in some cases when historical and important events occur.  With younger students, this can be especially complicated.  Fortunately, we have some amazing folks at Zilker who work with and for you and your children.  One such person is Patrick Aziz, our assistant principal.  Mr. Aziz taught kindergarten for nine years and then 3rd grade for one year here at Zilker.  He is now in his third year as assistant principal.  All three of his children also attend school here in Zilkerland:  kindergarten, 3rd grade, and 5th grade.

When he first saw me on Wednesday morning, November 9, he asked if I wanted to make the announcements that day.  I declined, stating that Wednesdays are his days, so he should do them as usual.  He pushed a bit further, asking if I was sure I had no special message to share.  Honestly, I was not sure just what to say, so I again asked him to go ahead with our routine plans for Wednesday.  If you happened to be at school that morning, I hope you paid attention to what transpired when Mr. Aziz began the morning announcements.  He was inspiring, considerate, respectful, and inclusive of all in his remarks.  I realized that I had made the right decision in encouraging him to take the reigns for Wednesday morning announcements.

Others have also expressed their appreciation of Mr. Aziz’s insightfulness and eloquence on the morning of November 9, 2016.  Here, then, is the printed text of his remarks.  Read them.  Appreciate them.  Know that we have such fine people working with our Panthers and families and teachers.

Thank you so much, Patrick.  With appreciation and admiration…

Randy Thomson, Principal


As I usually do our morning announcements on Wednesdays, it’s my opportunity to address all of our campus on this historic morning for our country.

I want to acknowledge that the country has voted for our new President, and it appears today that Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States, come January. We wish him and every one of our country’s leaders the very best in the next four years, and that the virtues of wisdom, courage, and empathy guide them as they work for our nation.

I also want to acknowledge that many in our school community are disappointed with the outcome of this election. At Zilker, over 90 percent of students voted for another choice for president, in our mock election. At the same time, though, some of our students are happy and excited at this outcome. This is how it is all over the country right now, after such an unusual election season.

So what does this mean for us?

First of all, it means that this is a great moment to remember that here at Zilker, we all belong. We are all in a safe and loving community. And we have some beautiful guidelines to help us as we continue to build a wonderful school community together. It’s aspirational–but Zilker panthers truly are respectful, responsible, and kind to one another. It’s these qualities that make us good citizens of our school, and of our country.

So please, as we unpack the meaning of this election today for ourselves and each other, keep in mind how we can really be thoughtful and respectful as we share with one another our thoughts and feelings. And remember, it’s up to each one of us to build the most beautiful school community and country that we can imagine.

Thank you so much for your kindness and thoughtfulness as we come together this day and every day.

–Patrick Aziz, Assistant Principal

Some Back-to-School Information & Reminders

Dear Zilker Families,

Thank you to all who attended our primary grades’ Back-to-School Night on Thursday, September 1.  I’m sure you enjoyed your time with your children’s teachers.  Don’t forget that our intermediate grades’ night is this coming Thursday, September 8, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.  We hope to see you then!

We are off to a tremendously successful start of this school year.  Thank you for helping these first two weeks to be such smooth and easy ones.  It’s been great.  For those of you who are new to Zilker, here is a little information–some things about which we always ask for your help and cooperation.  For those of you who have been at Zilker in past years, just a few reminders.

1) Do not ever park in or use the parking lot off of Bluebonnet Lane near the library between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. unless you are eligible to use one of the handicapped parking spaces.  This lot is for faculty/staff parking only.  It is not a student drop-off or pick-up area.  This is a little thing that makes a big difference.  Help keep our Panthers safe and our faculty/staff happy!

2) Do not bring your dogs to school–not at arrival, not at dismissal, not to special events and activities on campus.  It is district policy that only service dogs, seeing eye dogs, therapy dogs, etc. are allowed on school campuses–inside or out.  In the past, we have actually had children and at least one teacher who were bitten by dogs brought to school on leashes by families.  One was even being held by its owner.  These were dogs with no history of being vicious or of biting.  Our canine friends sometimes behave differently when around strangers or large groups than they might otherwise.  I am a real “dog person” myself, so I do understand the appeal of bringing your pets to school.  Thank you, though, for understanding and for cooperating.

3) Do not bring treats for birthdays or other events–edible or otherwise–to school for sharing during the school day.  We will be posting a more detailed letter outlining our reasons for this in the near future.  In the meantime, we appreciate your cooperation with this school policy, too.  If you want to arrange an after-school time on our playground or park–away from our classrooms–to share a treat of some kind, you may do so after 2:57 p.m.  Please do not ask our teachers to be responsible for distributing information or for supervising this in any way.  Greatly appreciated!

We hope you are having a wonderful 3-day Labor Day weekend!  We’ll see you bright and early on Tuesday morning!

With pride and gratitude,

Randy Thomson, Principal


Protected: 2016-17 Class Lists

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Back-to-School Information!

Dear Zilker Families,

Are you ready for another phenomenal school year in Zilkerland!  School starts one week from this coming Monday–August 22–so start practicing getting to bed early and getting up early!  Our faculty, staff, and administration are all anxious to see you again or to meet you for the first time!

You already knew about a few faculty/staff changes before the last school year ended–people leaving/people coming.  One resignation that occurred over the summer was that of Ms. Saucedo, bilingual 2nd grade teacher.  Ms. Saucedo is pursuing a career in another field, and we wish her the best.  The 2nd grade vacancy was filled by Mr. McNitt, our bilingual kindergarten teacher; and Ms. McCumber, another K teacher, will now be our bilingual teacher at that grade level.  You probably remember quite a few other grade level changes among our faculty as well.

We have five new teachers and two new teaching assistants joining our team:

Kindergarten… Michelle White

1st Grade… Maelia Ramirez

2nd Grade… Alison Balic

3rd Grade… Emily Day

5th Grade… Madison Phillips

TA… Nicole Anderson

TA… Matt Ficke

In addition, our traveling special areas teachers this year will be coming from Patton.  One of these teachers will be at Zilker each day for the first three periods only.  They are:

Music… Arthur Martinez

Art… Jackie Hall

PE… Matthew Blando

You will get to know more about all of our new faculty/staff members as the year progresses.  Join me in welcoming them all!

Some upcoming dates and events to put on your calendars:

* Friday, August 19… “Meet Your Teacher” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Bring school supplies, see the classrooms, and say hi to our teachers.  This is a casual come-and-go event–no program, no presentation, just a meet-n-greet.

* Monday, August 22… First Day of School!  Be sure students are at school by 7:35 a.m. so classes may begin promptly at 7:45 when the “tardy bell” sounds.  School doors open at 7 a.m. daily, and all students will gather in the cafeteria this year if they arrive before 7:35.  Note that 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students will not go to the gym this year.  Those arriving at 7:35 a.m. and later will go directly to their classrooms.

* Thursday, September 1… Back-to-School Night for PK, K, 1st, & 2nd–6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

* Thursday, September 8… Back-to-School Night for 3rd, 4th, & 5th–6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

* Friday, September 16… PTA’s diez y seis Picnic & Fiesta–6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Be sure to sign up to get the ZEN (Zilker Elementary News).  This is our best way to communicate with you.  Don’t miss out!  Also, please join our PTA!  Really.  Our Parent-Teacher Association does SO MUCH for our Panthers, teachers, and families.  Thank you for joining and for supporting all of their tremendous efforts for our school.

Finally… if you still have not registered your child for school, you need to do this.  Go to and create a parent account in the cloud.  Get that done so there will be no problems on that first day of school!

I’m sure there is more, but all for now.  Thank you for reading this long letter.  We’ll see you soon!

Your Grateful and Proud Principal,

Randy Thomson


Important note from Mr Aziz

Dear Zilker Community,
We are sharing the deeply sad news that Ms. Shannon Ciccarelli, mother of Zilker students Brice, Ireland, and Bailey (now in high school), passed away on June 24th. Their father died a few years before. Our hearts and our prayers are with these children and their family at this time.

Her sister-in-law set up a donation fund, to help with expenses and to benefit the children.
As well, according to the obituary, the family encourages donations designated to Texas Organ Sharing Alliance in memory of Shannon Ciccarelli.

D. Patrick Aziz


Be sure to put these on your calendars for the coming school year.  Don't miss out!  Spread the word!  Tell your friends and neighbors!

CLASS LISTS POSTED ON FRONT DOORS…   Thursday, August 18–4 p.m.   

MEET YOUR TEACHER…                                 Friday, August 19–11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL…                                Monday, August 22–7:45 a.m. to 2:57 p.m.*

BACK-TO-SCHOOl NIGHT (PK, K, 1st, & 2nd)… Thursday, September 1–6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

LABOR DAY HOLIDAY (No School)…                  Monday, September 5

BACK-TO-SCHOOL NIGHT (3rd, 4th, & 5th)…      Thursday, September 8–6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

* Note the new dismissal time for AISD–2:57 p.m. for elementary students (K – 5th); PK will dismiss at 2:12 p.m.

2016-17 Staffing Update

Dear Zilker Families,

First of all… THANK YOU all for another outstanding school year in Zilkerland!  I hope you are already enjoying your summer vacation–you know how quickly it will pass!  After completing my eighth year as the Zilker principal, my 20th year as a principal, my 35th year in Austin ISD, and my 40th year in public education in Texas, I can still say with all sincerity and appreciation:  "I am the luckiest man in Austin ISD!"  Thank you for allowing me to serve as the principal of this wonderful school.  I never take it–and you–for granted.

I believe I have shared most of our staffing news for the coming year with just a few exceptions.  There were some late developments, so here they are:

1) James Supak, PE teacher, accepted a position in Round Rock ISD.  He needed to be closer to his home and his family farm due to family obligations, and we wish him well in his new adventure.  I know he will do an amazing job there just as he did in Zilkerland, and we wish him the best!

2) Ashley Cohn will be our new PE teacher!  Ms. Cohn was a teaching assistant, a kindergarten teacher, and then a 1st grade teacher prior to her planned move to 3rd grade for the coming school year.  Her major in college was in kinesiology, and her dream has long been to be an elementary PE teacher.  When our position became available, she made her case and earned it as her own.  We look forward to her energy, enthusiasm, exuberance, and excitement to be reflected in our new PE program.  Congratulation, Ms. Cohn!

3) Maelia Ramirez will join our faculty as our new bilingual 1st grade teacher.  Ms. Ramirez comes to us from McAllen ISD where she has taught 4th grade and kindergarten.  It was through an exhaustive search that we found Ms. Ramirez, and we are confident that she is "the right one" for some of our youngest Panthers.  Welcome to Zilkerland, Ms. Ramirez!

4) We have recommended someone for our 5th grade science position, but she is from Illinois and still has a few other "hoops" to jump through with Human Resources and the State; so I'll wait to introduce you to her until everything is a bit more definitive.  She has a test or two to pass to be eligible to teach in Texas, but we are, of course, confident that this will be no problem.  Stay tuned.

5) We now have a 3rd grade vacancy due to Ms. Cohn's move to PE, but we believe we have also found the teacher we hope to recommend for this position as well.  After "dotting a few more i's" and "crossing a few more t's," we'll share more about this in the near future, too. 

That is all for now.  I hope there are no summer surprises, and we will be left fully staffed before long.  Thank you for welcoming our new teachers and for congratulating and supporting those returning teachers in new positions for the coming year.  Have a safe, fun, happy, and enjoyable summer!  We'll see you in August if not before!


Randall W. (Randy) Thomson


See the attached for information regarding our upcoming “Kinder Kamp” on Wednesday, May 18.  We hope to see all incoming kindergarten students along with an adult family member!  Contact the school office if you have any questions.  Thanks!

Kinder Kamp 2016