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Quarterly Report of Improvement Required Campuses Reflects Action, Progress

Quarterly Report of 'Improvement Required' Campuses Reflects Action, Progress

Positive change is underway at Kirby Middle School, Cunningham Elementary

Jeff Davis   

Engineering teacher and District Advisory Committee Chair Jeff Davis presents his committee's performance objectives to board members in the Nov. 6, 2018 special session.


When a visiting program official came to the Kirby Middle School campus, he walked its halls and observed instruction in classrooms. Then he told Principal Shannon Cunningham that the difference was “night and day” improvement compared to his visit last year.

The school, which remains in the state’s “Improvement Required” status again this year, is overhauling its culture at the same time it is embedding new programs into each classroom.

Mrs. Cunningham gave a report to board members at a special session Tuesday on Kirby’s progress this year. She said teachers have been immersed in training for Seidlitz (a program focused on English Language Learners), Capturing Kids Hearts (a program that promotes relational connections to children), and High Reliability Schools program (a five-level hierarchy of proactive steps to ensure success). Twenty core teachers have also received training in Advanced Academics; another 19 teachers went through ASOT instruction.

Mrs. Cunningham said it’s also a year of “data tracking mode on the regular” and “data in their face.” Teachers are working with data from various tests and posting students’ progress in hallways so all can track their own progress. She is even posting attendance statistics for students -- and teachers -- as they stretch for a 97 percent attendance rate, up from the current 96.46 percent.

She is tracking the number of students who fall into three categories: Those who approach mastery, meet mastery and master concepts. In nearly all cases, she is seeing growth from last year’s data to this year’s performances.  “If we can get every kid to make one year of growth, we will get out of Improvement Required,” she said.

This is a year of “building the boat,” she said. Everyone is busy rolling up his sleeves at this stage of the year to make necessary changes.


Cunningham Elementary

Cunningham Elementary, like Kirby, was rated “Improvement Required” by the state, but its situation is completely different, said Cunningham Principal Ashley Davis.

The Cunningham situation revolves around a paperwork technicality that divides the elementary schools into – on paper – two campuses: The 115 campus and the 108 campus. Until recently, Cunningham’s Special Education Center (Campus 115), which educates the school’s highest needs students, has been considered by the state as a campus that must also be rated by its STAAR performance data. By ranking it that way, Cunningham students’ scores at the Special Education Center put the facility in “Improvement Required” status, requiring a long list of remedial steps required by administrators. However, such steps are inappropriate for the Special Education Center as it currently functions with its high needs students.

Mrs. Davis told board members that she is enacting a two-step plan.  First, all special needs students in the LIFE program who take the STAAR test have been—on paper only – moved from the Campus 115 to Campus 108, joined in with the typical elementary Cunningham population. Mrs. Davis applied for a waiver, requesting an exception to the “IR” ranking for the Special Needs Center.

Because the District cannot close an “IR” campus, all 3-year-olds will also be – on paper -- moved to the Campus 108 next year in preparation for closing down the Campus 115. In December, Mrs. Davis will learn if the state has accepted its waiver.

Meanwhile, Cunningham teachers have been trained on Seidlitz. Region 9 Education Service Center is also working with the campus on inclusion strategies and data tracking.


Performance Objectives

Board members are required by board policy to approve district and campus performance objectives every year.

Jeff Davis, chair for the District Advisory Committee and a WFISD engineering teacher, presented to board members the performance objectives created by a 24-member committee.

Objectives centered around four key state-mandated goals:

  • Goal 1: Recruit, retain and support teachers and principals
  • Goal 2: Build a foundation of literacy and numeracy
  • Goal 3: Connect high school to career and college
  • Goal 4: Improve low-performing schools

This year’s objectives reflect a higher standard of performance, tracking and increasing the number of students who meet state goals versus those who “approach” the meeting of the goals. In light of aiming at the higher “meets goals” standard, Davis and his committee set specific performance objectives for reading, math and science improvement at 1 to 3 percent higher than last year.

The District is also aiming to increase teacher retention from 84.3 percent in 2017-2018 to 85 percent in 2018-2019.

Board members asked for raw numbers to accompany the percentage increases for Monday’s board meeting.


Financial Services

Board members are expected to approve the Resale bid for two properties that were previously struck off the tax rolls to the City of Wichita Falls. The property located at 1406 Mitchell Street was struck off at $3,448 but has an offer now for $175; the property at 904 Stratford Ave. was struck off the tax rolls at $6,934 but now has an offer for $500.


October 2018 Budget Amendments

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved budget amendments to the 2018-2019 budget as recommended by Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod. The 16 inter-functional budget transfers in the General Operating Fund came from 13 schools/programs. The transfers made no change to budget totals.


Memorial Stadium Project Change Order Request

In a 7-0 vote, board members approved a Change Order Request to repair the damaged stair riser concrete at Memorial Stadium. The defect was found at the northeast corner of the stadium.  The change order will require Trinity Hughes Construction to add 25 additional work days; the repair will cost $37,594.05.


Architect and Engineering Services

In a 7-0 vote, board members accepted the ranking of architect and engineer services for the District’s “in house” architecture and engineering services submitted by Tim Sherrod. The District contacted 27 firms and 8 responded to the District’s request. Board members approved the District’s request to move forward with interviewing two firms: Bundy, Young, Sims & Potter, located in Wichita Falls, and Eikon Consulting Group, located in Sanger, Texas.


TEA Waiver Application for Expedited and General State Waiver for Staff Development

In a 7-0 vote, board members approved the District’s request to submit an application that will expedite a state waiver to reduce instructional days for the 2019-2020 school year.

The state now requires the waiver before a school district team can create its school calendar. Debby Patterson, executive director for school administration, said her calendar committee will hold its first meeting for the 2020 calendar this week.

This waiver provides for a maximum of 2,100 minutes that can be subtracted from instruction and used for professional development.


TASB Recommended Policy Changes

When the TASB Legal Services reviewed WFISD policies, officials recommended changes to the wording in three policies.

  • They asked the District to remove language from BED (LOCAL) that says a person must exhaust administrative processes prior to giving public comment if they have a complaint.
  • They asked the District to adjust policies DBA and DK by eliminating the provision in the District’s Innovation Plan that exempts certification requirements for hard-to-find bilingual teachers.
  • They recommended that the District adjust policy EIC so that its weighted grading system is based on difficulty for the course content as applied to all students and not based upon accommodations made for certain students because of their individual limitations.


WFISD-Initiated Localized Update

Administrators will now receive their budgets in July, prior to the beginning of the school year, which will make funds easier to spend. The new move is a result of a Feb. 19, 2018 board decision to change the fiscal year from Sept. 1 through August 31 to July 1 through June 30. The change better aligns the fiscal year with the actual school year, making it simpler for campus staff to spend their budgets for current year students with current year money.


Personnel Report

Human Resources Director Cyndy Kohl reported one professional retirement, three professional resignations, and nine support resignations.

In a 7-0 vote, board members approved the proposed applicant pool, hiring four new high school teachers with a total of 10 years of experience.