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Board Members Weigh Year-End Academic Reports

Board Members Weigh Year-End Academic Reports

Educators report on Improvement Required campuses, CTE and STAAR performance



Carl Bishop

Career Education Center teacher Carl Bishop (in stripes) helps his students examine an animal heart in one of his labs. Mr. Bishop trains students who want to be certified nursing assistants, or CNAs. Most of his students will test for the CNA certification when they complete his coursework.






Principals from three campuses who have been lugging around the remedial label “Improvement Required” all year updated board members June 12 on how academic performance has improved on their campuses, even though the official scores that validate their reports won’t be released until tomorrow.

Three of the four campus leaders said they were “cautiously optimistic” that the IR label will be removed this year.

The reports, which also included the progress and changes at a fourth campus, came in Tuesday’s noon board work session.

The Texas Education Agency is releasing official STAAR scores later this week and releasing them to everyone all at the same time -- including to school administrators and parents. “We usually have scores by now,” said WFISD Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths, who was supposed to direct the full report scheduled for the meeting.

Without scores, principals or a representative from the District’s four IR campuses – Hirschi High School, Booker T. Washington Elementary, Franklin Elementary and Kirby Middle School -- presented to board members the statistics they did have to reflect the intense work they have all invested this year in improvement.

Hirschi High School

Hirschi Principal Doug Albus said three struggling areas – English scores, special education scores and 9th grade EOC scores – contributed to putting Hirschi in Improvement Required status.

During the year, Hirschi focused on its High Reliability School Training, readiness standards, strong professional learning communities with support from Curriculum Specialist Shera Rasmussen, and new scheduling and teacher assignments to boost student performance in the three problem areas.

In English performance, it appeared that English 2 classes had met all goals, while English 1 met some goals during the year. Both showed “significant growth.” By year’s end, 39 percent of key students were approaching their goals, 81 percent met growth goals, and all had shown growth.

Among Special Education students, the District used Systematic Inclusion Scheduling and 9th grade teaming to improve scores. By year’s end, English 1 students had met their goals; those in English 2 had not.

Mr. Albus said 70 percent of the school’s 9th graders come into Hirschi performing below grade level. “It’s quite an undertaking for us,” he said. However, after using the strategies, “everything increased” though not all goals were met specifically, he said. “We increased in approaches (the goal), meets (the goal) and masters (the goal),” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic that we will get out of School Improvement.”

That sentiment was echoed by Mr. Griffiths.

Booker T. Washington Elementary

This East Side school was firing on all cylinders this year, a fact that board members celebrated and complimented Principal Mark Davis on. For his school, key scores were already in, and he reported that 95 percent of 5th graders had passed the math STAAR test and 68 percent of 5th graders had passed the reading STAAR test.

He decoded a chart full of information that illustrated progress in all subject areas. Teachers like Lisa Krumpler break the information down even more for the children, he said, so they can take ownership of their scores and build their motivation to do well.

Even though most students are expected to be reading by third grade, most don’t at Booker T., he said. However, the new Scientific Learning remedial reading program that targets brain growth started this year in kindergarten to change that dismal statistic, he said.

In all, 63 students improved a total of 500 reading levels, with many jumping five or six in the year.

Also, Booker T. first-graders ranked 4th in the District on their math assessments. Office referrals were also down 28 percent from the previous school year and 65 percent lower than the 2015-2016 school year. Discipline referrals were also lower this year in every month except the very last one – many markedly lower.

“It seems like a flywheel is going over there. I can’t thank you enough,” said board member Bob Payton to Mr. Davis.

“That’s just fantastic,” said board president Dale Harvey.

“I want to give the glory to God. It’s been a long journey, and we’re tired,” said Mr. Davis with a smile.

“He’s at the door every morning. He greets every child by name,” said board member Mike Rucker.

Mr. Griffith confirmed Davis’ report and said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Booker T. Washington – after three years under the cloud of Improvement Required status – will be removed from it this year.

Ben Franklin Elementary

Franklin Principal Angie Betts insisted that it would be “one and done” with her campus in IR status, hopeful that the one year they had spent adjusting academic strategies would be enough to pull the campus up to state standards.

“We had a big shift in leadership this year,” she said, showing a chart that detailed room-by-room visits to help teachers and keep them accountable. Walkthrough/observation data showed, in some cases, triple the attention of the past year. “We had faces in rooms daily.”

Discipline data showed significant reductions every month.

Her campus also focused heavily on reading levels. By year’s end, benchmark scores showed Franklin third-graders outperforming the District – 70 percent passing compared to the District’s 60 percent. “We’re proud of those reading levels,” said Mrs. Betts.

The school is even hosting a summer reading club every Tuesday night at the campus this summer. The most recent Tuesday meeting drew 36 families. “We’re proud of that,” she said.

When Mrs. Betts compared the same students’ scores in fourth grade math and reading tests to their scores in 5th grade, the growth was obvious: 49 percent passing math had bumped up to 72 percent passing; 72 percent passing reading had risen to 83 passing. She is anxiously awaiting the latest STAAR test results, as are her teachers, she said.

Kirby Middle School

Concerns remain at Kirby Middle School, which just completed Year 2 in Improvement Required status.

The campus saw an increase in office referrals while implementing new campus wide procedures.

New principal Shannon Cunningham moved to Kirby from her position as Assistant Principal at Rider and has already taken two special trainings to ready her for her new role. The District also hired a new assistant principal from Oklahoma who has many years of experience. Also new to Kirby: Scotland Park Assistant Principal Tristan Brown moves to Kirby to serve as the new Behavior Coordinator.

The school will continue with successfully implemented programs, including Capturing Kids Hearts and High Reliability Schools. The school will bring in one new program that has been successful elsewhere: Seidlitz 7 Steps.

“I share your concerns,” said board member Elizabeth Yeager. “These are good changes. Can we continue to see reports for all and for campuses that are slipping?”

Superintendent Mike Kuhrt said his new favorite quote is, “Persistence of effort will yield persistence of effect.”


New Accountability System

Mr. Griffiths gave a brief presentation of the 2018 accountability system and its three “domains.”

He said he felt confident in the District’s ability to excel in Domain 1, which uses a specific formula to create a score that reflects a District’s general ability to approach, meet and master state goals. He also feels confident in excelling in Domain 2, which shows the growth of each individual student. It is Domain 3, which focuses on “closing the gap” and federal guidelines, that is our “biggest concern,” he said.

Domain 3 tracks how each sub-population meets its own goals, and, interestingly, there are different benchmarks for each subpopulation that have been set by the state. For example, the expectations for white males will differ from those of black males or Hispanic males or Asian males.

In all preliminary STAAR Scores for Algebra 1 middle school/high school or for high school, WFISD showed growth. “All went up, none went down,” said Mr. Griffiths. “That’s quite a feat.”

With the new accountability system, he plans to continue building Digital Data Walls, which enable District educators to visualize progress and problems and have “critical conversations,” he said.

The District will also start measuring how students approach, meet and master goals.

The District will “continue stressing growth,” he said, especially in the middle schools. “We will also review our approach to English Language Arts across the District.” Despite doing ELA tutorials, scores have not improved enough to make them worth it.

Mr. Griffiths told board members that all STAAR results would be in by Friday.


Career and Technical Education Certification Summary

Educators in the Career and Technical Education field measure their success by how many students earn professional certifications that reflect expertise in their career. So far, WFISD has targeted 35 different types of certifications. In the past year, students on four campuses – the Career Education Center and in CTE classes at the three high school campuses -- earned 750 certifications, according to a report by Michelle Wood, CTE director.

A current CTE controversy is the lack of consensus on which certifications are the most valuable, with the state creating its list and local educators valuing others that seem to best prepare WFISD students for local employment. There is also a list of certifications associated with the Perkins Grant, which differs from the state’s list.

For example, a student who earns a Floral Design certification or an Adobe InDesign certification for computer skills receive no credit from the state for the accomplishment. “The state says it’s a waste of time to get a floral certification,” said Mrs. Wood.

WFISD also values the OSHA 10 certification, and CPR and Food Handlers’ licenses, which receive no state credit either.

“We’re writing letters to get it changed,” said Mrs. Wood.

Students who earn certifications are mostly doing it as they attend classes at the Career Education Center, though students at all the high school campuses are earning certifications also.

She said there were many lessons learned in the past year, which was the inaugural year for the District’s Career Education Center, which opened quickly in August 2018. Many students are still testing for certifications this summer because of getting late starts on pursuing them, particularly the cosmetology, pharmacy and CNA students.

Last year, one CTE teacher taught three new courses. This year, teachers will be more familiar with their material. They will also be looking for the most meaningful industry-recognized certifications. Advisory committees have yielded ideas on this as Mrs. Wood has asked industry professionals in the community, “What do you need?” and “What do we provide?” and “Do they match?”

Mrs. Wood pointed to the substantial jump in certifications since the 2015-2016 school year, when career classes began to be emphasized in the high schools ahead of the building of the Career Education Center.

Certification totals hovered around 850 in 2015 and have dropped to the mid-700s in the last two years, but that’s because WFISD is no longer counting all the CPR licenses earned and emphasizing more career-type certifications. “We’re not padding numbers,” said Mrs. Wood. “The emphasis has changed to what kids need, not just (what can they earn) to look good.”

Next year, the CEC will be offering several new things: The Medical Lab Assistant Certification, SolidWorks Certification for robotics, Autodesk certification, and certifications associated with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) for plumbing and electrical students.


Engage 2 Learn

More than 280 community members participated in the Engage2Learn strategic design meetings held at the Education Center in May. This strategic partnership between WFISD and Engage2Learn is helping craft a new set of goals and priorities for the District that community members will support.

Communications Officer Ashley Thomas presented a report to board members Tuesday on its progress.

Engage2Learn had already conducted focus groups, education summits open to the public, and an online survey. In the next phase, teams spent a total of five days – and used the 1,700 responses from its survey – to craft the WFISD Strategic Design Framework. The document lists carefully worded beliefs and other summaries, such as “learner outcomes” and “learner profile.” It lists the District’s new goals and the specific results expected as a result of the goals being met.

It all hinged on the agreed-upon Call to Action: All WFISD learners are resilient problem-solvers equipped and excited to create and contribute to a successful future.

The Call to Action supports the District’s belief in high expectations, unwavering support, community involvement, lifelong learning, an appreciation for diversity, and the importance of adequate resources and safety.

The agreed-upon “ideal learner” demonstrates the following skills: he adapts, communicates, exhibits a growth mindset, plans, prioritizes, shows empathy, collaborates, thinks critically, problem-solves, innovates, creates and expresses curiosity.

WFISD will be committing itself to five goals: to maximize human potential through high expectations, to provide meaningful, relevant learning experiences to develop creative problem-solvers, to foster ownership and increase engagement among students, to develop systems to identify and meet students’ physical, emotional and social needs, and to increase students’ awareness and involvement in the community.

“We are developing a community-based accountability system,” said Mr. Kuhrt. “It counts 50 percent of our District letter grade.” A good grade here can be beneficial because it can offset lower grades in other areas, he said.

Community members enjoyed the process, said Ms. Thomas. “Many want to stay involved and be ambassadors for the District,” she said. She will plan various ways to keep the group together for continued collaboration.

“The collaborative nature of this process was very important for this community,” said Mr. Harvey.

On Monday, board members will be asked to approve the framework document that lists all aspects of the plan.

WFHS Theater Room

The administration at Wichita Falls High School requested that a special room at the school be named for Terry and Juanita Huff.  They would like Room 142, a theater classroom, to become the Huff Theater.

Mr. Huff was a WFHS graduate (Class of 1960), as was his son, Skot. The entire family has been involved with WFHS arts and athletic programs for many years. After Mr. Huff died in October 2017, Mrs. Huff continued helping the theater class and recently provided new curtains.

“They helped refurbish and redesign the classroom and now it is state-of-the-art,” said presenter Debbie Dipprey.

In other business:


Resale Property Bids

Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod asked board members to approve the resale bid for 803 Webster Street. An interested party has offered $700 for the property, which no longer has any structure on it.


Financial Reports

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to approve financial reports as of April 30, 2018, eight months into the fiscal year.  As of April 2017, the District had collected 73.52 percent of projected revenues, as compared to 78.22 percent for this budget year. Expenditures for 2016-2017 were 63.07 percent of the budget, as compared to 67.81 percent for this year.

For the General Fund, revenues were 74.88 percent last year, compared to 77.28 percent this year. Expenditures were 64.81 percent last year compared to 66.62 percent this year.

For the Food Service Fund, revenues were 75.74 percent last year compared to 62.41 percent this year. Expenditures were 61.32 percent last year compared to 69.83 percent this year.

For the Debt Service Fund, revenues were 100.20 percent last year compared to 99.03 percent this year. Expenditures were 78.39 percent last year, compared to 79.02 percent this year.


May 2018 Budget Amendments

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved 14 budget amendments submitted by Mr. Sherrod. They ranged  from a high of $192,569 for the Risk Management Property Insurance Increase to a low of $15 for Sheppard Elementary postage needs. The amendments included $3,530 to pay for Scripps Spelling Bee Travel for the WFISD contestant and $8,000 in Camp Read2Learn expenses. Some amendments paid for stipends that aren’t paid until year’s end after a teacher has completed the assigned work. Other stipends paid at year’s end hadn’t been budgeted but now have been fit into next year’s budget, said Mr. Sherrod.


New Fiscal Year Budget Update

Mr. Sherrod submitted to board members a preliminary look at the 2018-2019 revenue projection.

Local and Intermediate revenue for the General Operating Fund is expected to be $44,683,068. State Program revenue is expected to be 60,687,955. Federal program revenue is expected to be $2,972,055, which is down from $4 million previously documented. Then, Mr. Sherrod had included more SHARS revenue. Total income for the 2018-2019 fiscal year is expected to be $108,806,078.


2018-2019 Employer Healthcare Contribution

Mr. Sherrod gave board members an option to change the District’s contribution to employee health care or to do nothing this year, letting the District’s current $393 benefit continue.

Board member Bob Payton had previously requested that board members consider decreasing the employee contribution to $367, the cost of the Employee Only ActiveCare 1-HD Plan, since he said it was not fair for the District to contribute more for an employee who, on his own, chooses a more expensive plan.

This year, premiums rose $16 per month (from $351 to $367) for 2018-2019 Individual Employees Only in the ActiveCare 1-HD plan. WFISD has 579 employees who elect that plan, which costs the District $111,168. The District covers this premium in full.

If board members decide to make no changes to the contribution, then the District would, in effect, absorb the premium increase for the same group of people that Mr. Payton had felt were slighted.

Eventually, board members will have to decide where to cap their contribution, said Mr. Sherrod.

Mr. Payton said he researched how other companies do it and said “everyone bases coverage off the Base Plan, and the co-pay is based on that. I still feel in principle that’s where we need to be.” WFISD got its start paying $393 because that used to be the Base Care Plan for Active Care 2, but most employees have moved to other plans, said Mr. Sherrod.

“Once the base level hits $393, then we will have to decide, ‘Is that sustainable?’ or cap it at some level and not pay 100 percent,” said board member Elizabeth Yeager.

Board member Bill Franklin recommended leaving the District’s contribution at $393.


Charter Bus Service

In a 6-0 vote, board members awarded RFP #18-20 for Charter Bus Services to Xpress Charters, based in Wichita Falls. This company will be used for athletic and fine arts trips that exceed 165 miles one-way, as recommended by Brian Gibson of Durham Services. Non-district tournaments will continue to follow the agreed-upon travel radius of 200 miles with Durham Services.

WFISD did not use charter services last year. But now that Durham has a 10-hour driving restriction, WFISD either needs to pay to send two drivers or pay for a charter bus.

The District has set aside excess funds for playoff trips that may or may not require charter buses. The cost to the budget: $237,500 for athletic and fine arts trips.

This company was more affordable partly because their service originates in Wichita Falls, and buses do not need to be routed here from DeSoto or Austin, as would have been required by the two other competing companies.


Lunch Price Increase

WFISD is required to raise its lunch prices to stay in step with the National School Lunch Program and comply with United States Department of Agriculture rules.

Federal mandate sets the lunch cost at $2.92. WFISD recommends a 10 cent increase for both elementary and secondary students, bringing the price to $2.75 for elementary students and $2.85 for secondary. Another 10-cent price hike will be considered for the 2019-2020 school year.

Proposed lunch prices: Elementary, $2.75; Secondary, $2.85; Adults/staff/visitors breakfast $2.70; Adults/staff/visitors lunch, $3.80.


Capital Improvement Options

WFISD has a list of $3.7 million in facility improvements it still needs to make, and some are more urgent than others, said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.

He recommended prioritizing five projects: $1.4 million in finish work at Memorial Stadium; $300,000 to replace 30-year-old air conditioners; replace a malfunctioning clock and PA system at Rider High School, and update security cameras. The District also needs to keep up its servers and content filters.

“The rest of the items listed are important, but we can begin to prioritize them differently,” he said.

Many of these improvements are best done during the summer months when schools are empty, he said.

Since the fund balance recently decreased from about $26 million to $20 million, Mr. Kuhrt said his priority was not to lower it any further with facility project costs.

Board members expressed agreement with Mr. Kuhrt’s priorities, and will vote on allocation in Monday’s board meeting. “This is how we get ourselves in trouble,” said board member Bill Franklin. “We don’t fix things when they need it, and it gets worse.”


Delegate to 2018 TASB Delegate Assembly

One WFISD board member will be selected to represent the District at the 2018 Delegate Assembly. This event is held in Austin on Sept. 29, 2018. It is held in conjunction with the Texas Association of Superintendent’s Association (TASA) and the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Convention.

Board President Dale Harvey said that he would be in Austin that week and would consider serving as the WFISD representative.