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Kirby Middle School Principal Reports 'Great Things' at IR Campus

Kirby Middle School Principal Reports ‘Great Things’ at IR Campus

100 walk-throughs provide observation, feedback for teachers at the Improvement Required campus

 Kirby Level 1

The Kirby Middle School administrative team gathers around Principal Shannon Cunningham (on the screen) to announce the school's most recent achievement: They attained the Marzano High Reliability Schools Level 1 Certification. The designation certifies that the school operates a safe, supportive culture.


At Kirby Middle School, Principal Shannon Cunningham is rolling out an aggressive, enthusiastic improvement plan that she explained in detail to WFISD board members in Tuesday’s Special Session.

She highlighted her most impressive accomplishment: Her school achieved the Marzano High Reliability Schools Level 1 Certification this year under her leadership. The label attests to the school’s safe, supportive environment. “Marzano said we made it,” she said. “It was a nice attaboy.”

The Level 1 Certification is just one of many accomplishments that she is celebrating with her faculty and staff, she said. Celebrations are becoming more frequent at the school, which is mired in the state’s remedial IR designation but is reversing course and heading to more successful outcomes.

The holidays were a chance for the school’s staff members and organizations to shine. PIE Partners, Kirby’s parent-teacher organization and the school staff all stepped up with activities designed to help students and their families, which buoyed morale.

One of Mrs. Cunningham’s goals is to rebrand the middle school with a more positive image. To do it, she said she makes it her goal to submit one or two stories each week to WFISD’s weekly e-newsletter, District in Pictures, to project Kirby’s academic achievements and changing culture.

Administrative teams have done 100 walk-throughs at the school, accomplishing full observations on every teacher. “We see lots of district personnel on our campus, and that’s a good thing, because there’s lots of feedback,” she said.

The walk-through data uncovers instructional weaknesses, which prompt the writing of an Instructional Strategy of the Week, aimed at helping teachers.

Though discipline referrals have increased, it’s a good sign, she said, since it means staff are addressing the children’s problem behaviors. Ironically, increased discipline referrals typically lead to increased student achievement. “It’s for our benefit,” she said. The school is also tracking tardy slips.

Also underway: Staff are recording positive behavior referrals and handing out Golden Tickets that students can enter into a special school raffle. “We are trying to do things to balance the discipline referrals,” said Mrs. Cunningham.

Attendance at the school is down – partly due to illnesses -- but attendance records are now on display, and all students and staff know the school is aiming for 97 percent attendance.

The school serves 80 special education students and 72 English Language Learners. “We want everyone to have what they need,” she said.

Tracking test data is key to tracking the school’s upswing, she said. Curriculum-based assessments (CBAs) given in October showed growth from last year and from test to test. “It’s pretty exciting to see the growth,” said Mrs. Cunningham. “Eighth-grade social studies seriously rocked it.”

Going forward, Mrs. Cunningham said Kirby’s staff and teachers are focused on earning the Marzano High Reliability Schools Level 2 designation, which designates effective teaching in every classroom. Teachers have several effective instructional techniques in place – exit tickets, spiraling – to move that direction.

Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths confirmed the good progress being made at Kirby. “They’ve done a fantastic job,” he said.


 Review of Teacher Transfer Policy

Debby Patterson, executive director of school administration, and Cyndy Kohl, human resources director, reviewed the history of the District’s transfer practices of campus personnel for board members.

To provide stability for children, teachers who accept a position at a school are required to stay three years before asking for a transfer to another campus, said Ms. Patterson.

The policy was established one year ago, said Mrs. Kohl.

The policy does not interfere with promotions, she said.


Financial Reports as of Dec. 31, 2018

Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod presented the year-to-date financial and investment reports to board members through Dec. 31, 2018, or 33.3 percent of the fiscal year.

The report lists the revenue and functional expenditures for the General Fund, Food Service, and Debt Service Fund and compares that to the same month for 2017-2018.

As of December of last year, the District collected 46.58 percent of projected revenues, compared to 44.31 percent for 2018-2019. Expenditures for 2018-2019 were 31.13 percent of budget, compared to 33.53 percent for 2017-2018.

For the General Fund, revenues were 47.07 percent last year compared to 45.97 percent this year. Expenditures were 33.65 percent last year compared to 32.45 percent this year.

For the Food Service Fund, revenues were 30.62 percent last year compared to 39.09 percent this year. Expenditures were 36.66 percent last year compared to 38.17 percent this year.

For the Debt Service Fund, revenues were 45.28 percent last year compared to 45.40 percent this year. Expenditures were 0.02 percent last year compared to 0.02 percent this year.

Mr. Sherrod noted a jump in Food Service Revenue and decreased Food Service expenditures, adding that the Chartwells Supper Program was progressing nicely. The District participates in a federally-funded program to serve supper Monday through Friday after school at eight of its campuses.

In a 7-0 vote, board members approved budget amendments proposed to the 2018-2019 budgets, as submitted by Mr. Sherrod. All were inter-functional budget transfers, along with $162,321.08 to pay for board-approved band uniforms for Hirschi High School ($99,950.72) and Wichita Falls High School ($62,370.36).


Preliminary Budget Discussion for 2019-2020

Mr. Sherrod estimated that the ending fund balance at the end of the last fiscal year of $23,091,385 would decrease to $20,475,013 by the end of this fiscal year.

However, all projections about the next budget are preliminary, he said, because of the many issues that will be decided this spring by the Texas Legislature. Legislators will decide on possible teacher pay increases – possibly from $3,000 to $5,000 per teacher – and will tackle allotments, property taxes, and possibly do away with the Cost of Education Index.

WFISD stands to receive a $2.8 million increase in funding based on current year property values if the legislature makes no changes.

Mr. Sherrod emphasized that the District budgets conservatively, counting a fraction of its SHARS reimbursement revenue for Medicaid-eligible services in its budget, and figuring income on only a 98 percent tax collection rate instead of the actual 100 to 101 percent actual rate.

“We start conservatively,” agreed Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.

Fortunately for the school district, the Legislature has declared the twin issues of property tax and school finance as Emergency Issues, which allows legislators to tackle them earlier in the session than they might be addressed ordinarily – and before school districts across the state draw up their budgets for the next fiscal year.

WFISD’s fiscal year begins July 1; a budget must be approved by June 30.

If the Legislature changes anything after that date, the District may have to approve an amended budget, with changes that could be significant.

Board members may be forced to sweep up the left-over inequities of the legislature’s dealings, said Mr. Kuhrt. For example, the bills before the legislature grant raises to teachers, but not to librarians, counselors, nurses, or diagnosticians – many of whom have master’s degrees in order to work in their specialty fields. “Do we adjust that?” asked Mr. Kuhrt. The board would have to decide what funding source they would use to equalize pay and where to find the 7.1 percent in extra funding that any pay raise will require the District to contribute in the form of retirement contributions.

Because of this, WFISD has no recommendation at this time for salary increases for any of its staff.

Applicant Pool

In a 7-0 vote, board members approved the certified applicant pool, hiring four teachers with 11 years of total experience, and an Education Center employee with a speech language pathologist (SLP) license.

A resolution relating to commencement activities that was listed in the board agenda was not addressed in this meeting.