Prestigious Recognitions, Stellar Accomplishments

Prestigious Recognitions, Stellar Accomplishments

WFISD has plenty to be proud about from the 2017-2018 school year


When the news of teacher, student and district accomplishments trickle in day by day, it’s easy to miss the breadth of the stunning talents powering this high-achieving District. Here’s a look at the many achievements of WFISD in the past year.

WFISD’s schools and programs earned prestigious recognitions:

  • Lamar Elementary was honored as a Capturing Kids Hearts National Showcase School.
  • WFISD is the state’s first district to roll out the Upstart Program, a pre-reading course for 98 Wichita Falls preschoolers and their parents.
  • The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation named WFISD’s Music Education Program the “2018 Best Communities for Music Education” because of its outstanding commitment to music education.
  • Vernon College honored WFISD Superintendent Mike Kuhrt and Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths as “Friends of Vernon College” for the multitude of partnerships established between WFISD and VC.
  • Burgess Elementary earned a “Met Standard” on the state’s 2017 Accountability Ratings, breaking them out of “Improvement Required” status.
  • WFISD’s Cosmetology program more than doubled in size this year and added one instructor to serve the largest program enrollment ever: 120 students. The program is housed at the new Career Education Center, where its larger space allowed the program to expand from its previous cap of 50 students annually.
  • Sheppard Elementary celebrated the receipt of a second $500,000 grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), a civilian agency of the United States Department of Defense that manages all schools for military children. This makes $1 million that Sheppard Elementary has received in the past seven years from the agency. This grant will fund technology for the entire campus, flexible seating, a library media center, robotics, “Maker Spaces,” software licenses and more.
  • WFISD was named a “Google for Education Reference District” for demonstrating excellence and leadership through innovative technology use.
  • Thirteen WFISD schools received Texas Music Educators Association Grants of $800 apiece to pay for music, music equipment, classroom instruments, instructional software and other supplies.


WFISD applauds its many award-winning staff members in 2017-2018:

  • The Texas K-12 Chief Technology Officers Council named WFISD Superintendent Mike Kuhrt Tech Savvy Superintendent of the Year.
  • Wichita Falls High School Principal Christy Nash was commissioned a Yellow Rose of Texas, the highest honor given by the office of Gov. Greg Abbott. It recognizes outstanding Texas women for significant contributions to their communities.
  • Rider High School geoscience teacher Bryce Henderson was one of six outstanding Texas teachers named the OnRamps Instructor of the Year by the Texas OnRamps program at the University of Texas at Austin. The OnRamps program partners with 70 school districts and 350 UT faculty members statewide to provide college-level courses to high school students.
  • WFISD Purchasing Director Alicia Woodard is the only WFISD employee who holds the Registered Texas School Business Administrator Certification from the Texas Association of School Business Officials. This is TASBO’s highest certification for business professions that requires a multi-year effort to earn it.
  • Talented and Gifted teacher Jamie Jo Morgan was one of three High Impact Teacher of the Year Finalists at the Texas Computer Education Association’s Austin conference.
  • Durham School Services, the District’s bus vendor, earned 24 perfect scores from the Texas State Troopers semi-annual inspection visit.
  • Haynes Elementary Principal Lori Apple was named the Assistant Principal of the Year for Region 9 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association for her impact on Burgess Elementary and an earlier assignment at Fowler Elementary.
  • The Red River Chevy Dealer Association recognized Wichita Falls High School LEAP teacher Jordan Carver with $750 as a contest semi-finalist for her work teaching students in the Language Enriched Autism Program (LEAP).
  • WFISD’s annual Retiree Breakfast honored 1,801 years of service to WFISD children.
  • CEC Engineering teacher Jeff Davis was named one of 13 i3CTE Innovative Winners for 2018 for his impressive use of technology.
  • Haynes Northwest Academy teacher Adrian Cargal was honored for her teaching excellence with the Mirabeau B. Lamar Award from the Faith Masonic Lodge Number 1158 and the Fort Worth Scottish Rite. This $2,000 award is given to one teacher annually to acknowledge outstanding classroom performance.
  • Rosendo Ramos, a third-grade teacher at Zundy Elementary, received the 2018 Dorothy Moser Huffman Award for Creative Teaching. The $1,000 award goes to a dedicated, creative third-grade teacher and is presented by the WFISD Foundation.
  • Ben Milam Elementary teacher Donna Burch was voted Texoma’s Best Teacher in the Times Record News’ annual favorites contest. She has taught for 30 years and is the instructional coach for grades K-2.
  • McNiel Middle School LIFE Teacher Jamie Brumley was named ARC’s Educator of the Year. She teaches the LIFE class at McNiel, helping special education students learn life skills.
  • The WFISD Community Relations Team won eight commendations in the Texas Schools Public Relations Association’s Star Awards Celebration, which applauded the District’s marketing and community engagement efforts in 2017.
  • By March 30, 173 WFISD teachers earned their Google Certified Educators Level 1 certification; 103 teachers earned Level 2; 25 teachers earned their Google Certified Trainers badge.
  • Twenty teachers win the prestigious West Teaching Excellence Award, a $100,000 gift at $5,000 per teacher generously provided by the West Foundation.
  • Health/science teacher Carl Bishop was named “Educator of the Year” by the Red River Optimist Club. Bishop trains students at the Career Education Center to be certified nursing assistants.
  • Thirty teachers received IDEA Grants valued at $24,000 from the WFISD Foundation.



WFISD Had Many ‘Firsts’ in 2017-2018:

  • WFISD opened the Career Education Center, a $35 million, 123,000 square foot facility designed to build workforce-ready students in 26 career programs. This is the District’s first new high school facility in 50 years and reflects the community’s support of its 2015 bond.
  • New teacher pay was raised to a new high of $43,200.
  • WFISD introduced remedial reading program Scientific Learning into kindergarten classrooms and to specific struggling readers across the District. After only five to six weeks of use, students showed an average gain of five months reading growth. At Crockett Elementary from August 2017 to May 23, 2018, kindergarten reading scores rose from the 28th percentile to the 44th The number of “struggling students” dropped from 38 to 14. The number of “proficient readers” rose from 1 to 14. “Advanced readers” increased from 0 to 5 students.
  • WFISD launched its first-ever plumbing class under the direction of master plumber Danny Cozby. He is preparing students to earn their plumbing apprenticeship license, which requires 2,000 hours, and then their Class D Water License through the City, which will open the door to be hired directly out of high school by the City of Wichita Falls in its water plant.
  • Fain Elementary incorporated project-based learning into every grade of its curriculum this year. Students of all ages, from pre-K 4-year-olds to fifth-graders, participated in the Project-Based Learning Showcase, making presentations on their grade’s special theme.
  • WFISD launched its new strategic plan with the help of Engage 2 Learn, a company that will come alongside the District to help craft goals and strategies for the five years.
  • Rider High School pioneered Pineapple Charts, an in-house professional development program. Teachers voluntarily scheduled their specialty class sessions onto a calendar with an open invitation to the building’s teachers to visit and learn.
  • Booker T. Washington Elementary was the first WFISD school to serve locally grown produce arranged by Chartwells.
  • Career Education Center Architecture students launched the District’s first home-build project.
  • WFISD hosted its first District-wide Spelling Bee. Barwise 6th grader Ben Kemp won the Bee and progressed to the national competition in Washington, D.C.
  • This year, WFISD created TAG, an all-new program for its 240 gifted students. The District dedicated the entire Carrigan building to house the program that drew on the teaching expertise of award-winning teachers Jamie Jo Morgan and Allen Glenn. Mrs. Morgan was a finalist this year for the global nonprofit Texas Computer Education Association’s (TCEA) Educator Award. This prolific teacher published an article titled, “How One Teacher Used Gamification Before She Knew What It Was” on the website. Furniture company KI tapped her to write a blog for them. The company is so enamored with Mrs. Morgan that she was also invited to give a TED-style talk in February on education at the company’s international sales convention.
  • A Ben Milam Elementary dyslexia teacher Amy Janjgava and Jefferson Instructional Media Specialist Kristan Neeb hosted the first #CoffeeEdu, an event to encourage teachers to collaborate and innovate.
  • Career Education Center students, who are operating for the first time this year out of a new greenhouse, hosted their first plant sale. All plants were grown by students.
  • McNiel Middle School sent its first robotics team to Houston to compete in the Harris County Ecobot Challenge. The McNiel team received the Green Leaf Award, signifying a score high enough to place in the Top 25 percent of teams competing. Out of 170 participating, McNiel placed in the Top 10.
  • For the first time this year, WFISD’s foreign language program in the high schools adopted the online i-Lit program for its English Language Learners. This scaffolds learning for children at all ability levels and saves teachers the herculean task of creating a flurry of daily lesson plans to match the varied needs of students in the same classroom.
  • Rider High School started WFISD’s first chartered American Chemical Society Chemistry Club. Its 48 members will perform lab experiments that go beyond those presented in chemistry classes.
  • This was the first time a robot went to class for a Rider High School homebound student. During the spring semester, “Evie” wheeled into Riley Pruit’s classes and positioned itself among the other students to give Riley a digital presence, even though she was at home. The student’s face was projected live on the robot’s TV-like screen. From her home, she can move the robot and turn it to face the teacher of students and, through it, ask questions and participate.
  • McNiel Middle School started a Garden Club.
  • The first-ever Read 2 Learn Book Fair raised money for its reading program.
  • WFISD advanced its use of 3D printing from fifth-grade through high school. Talented and Gifted students designed and printed cabinet knobs for their classroom; Engineering students in Jeffrey Davis’ class tackled sophisticated 3D modeling, imaging and diagram software program, then 3D-printed Apple watch charging bases.
  • In its first full year of publication, the e-newsletter District in Pictures featured 622 stories about teachers, students and District accomplishments and won a Gold Star for excellence in the Texas Schools Public Relations Association’s Star Awards Celebration.



WFISD Celebrates Its Amazing Students in 2017-2018:

  • Rider High School senior Caleigh Studer, WFISD’s lone 2018 National Merit Scholar, was named a candidate in the 2018 United States Presidential Scholars Program based on her academic achievements, which included a perfect score on her ACT test.
  • Rider High School student Jallen Lane Arocho, 15, became America’s youngest – and the world’s third youngest-- to earn the A+ Comp Tia certification, the industry standard for entry-level computer technicians. In June 2018, he became the youngest in the world to pass a second certification exam ahead of his 16th birthday on June 16, 2018.
  • Rider High School freshman Brooke Thompson, both artist and dancer, created the billboard used to promote the Wichita Falls Ballet Theater performance in which she also performed.
  • McNiel Middle School 7th grader Emmanuel Carrillo placed first in the Western Elite Qualifiers Championship Boxing Tournament held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, qualifying him for the US Elite Nationals in December 2018. He has his eyes set on the 2024 Summer Olympics. Currently he boxes in the intermediate division for 13- and 14-year-olds.
  • Rider High School senior Leah Schrass received the American Chemical Society ChemClub’s Outstanding Young Woman in Chemistry Award. She posted the highest AP Chemistry exam score in the district for a female student.
  • Career Education Center student Erik Syck competed in the Information Technology Services competition at SkillsUSA and won State Champion. He progressed to nationals competition in the 2018 summer.
  • Texas is a big state but that didn’t deter Barwise Middle School 6th grader Chaitanya Reddy. He competed at the state level in 5A Number Sense, where he won second place.
  • Hirschi High School student Sonya Ganeshram, founder of coding club Tech for Teens, hosted the group’s second annual Hack-a-thon May 19 for students in grades 4-8. An evangelist for coding, she started a Tuesday coding class that meets at Midwestern State University, then started a club that meets at McNiel Middle School taught by one of her first students. Another off-shoot club meets at Kirby Middle School.
  • Four WFISD students won top honors at the TAME State Competition. Wichita Falls High School’s Daniel Portillo won the Texas Board of Professional Engineers Innovation Award; Hirschi’s Williams Nzeh-Biko won the Judges’ Choice Award for Innovative Switcher; McNiel’s Emily Spurgers took 1st place in the Engineering Design Challenge; McNiel’s Sai Chada took 1st place in 6th grade math.
  • This year, 320 students completed Google’s badge program.
  • WFISD Crime Stoppers students won the most awards – four – of any program in Texas at the annual Crime Stoppers convention.
  • Rider High School UIL Literary Criticism team member Kerri Lu won first place – best in Texas! – in her individual competition.
  • McNiel Middle School 7th grader Lenia Lange placed first in the state American Gymnastic Association Elite Program. She is considered Pre-Elite. She aspires to represent the United States in international competition.
  • The Hirschi High School Huskies varsity football team was presented the 2016 Sportsmanship Award in August 2017 by the North Texas Football Officials Association. This is the one and only award of its kind given out all year by the organization, which honored the prior entire 10-week season, not just one game.
  • A former Kirby Middle School student is now a Stanford University sophomore and businessman. Nathan Kong returned to Kirby hallways to introduce his latest app, DIVR Edu, which uses virtual reality to educate students. He donated 100 virtual reality headsets to Kirby. Mr. Kong, who was a student at Kirby from 2011 to 2013, raised $120,000 in grants to co-found his company and has created 12 apps in categories of earth, life and physical science for grades 6-8.
  • McNiel Middle School 7th grader Jalynn Bristow was the grand prize winner in the Save Texas History Essay Contest. She won the $500 grand prize for her essay on the importance of the Kell House in Wichita Falls.


Money raised!

  • McNiel Middle School students raised $2,240 for Hospice of Wichita Falls Tree of Lights.
  • Special Olympics “Polar Plunge” raised $8,500.
  • Scotland Park Elementary Student Council sold 673 raffle tickets and raised $168.25 to supply free yearbooks to all students.
  • Rider High School’s National Honor Society raised $14,297.48 in a Pennies for Pets service project by visiting 18,000 homes to complete their annual fundraiser. Since 2004, Rider High School’s NHS has raised more than $162,819 to promote animal welfare.
  • The West Foundation Elementary Student Council raised $600; they donated $300 each to the Humane Society and to Texas Oncology.
  • Crockett Elementary raised $543 in cash and gift cards for Bear Creek Elementary School in Katy ISD, which must rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.
  • Ben Franklin teacher Lexi Law and Hirschi High School teacher Savannah Wheeler raised $1,025 and $2,000 respectively for the “Go Over the Edge for River Bend Nature Center” fundraiser and rappelled down The First Wichita Building (“Big Blue”) in downtown Wichita Falls.


Donations given!

  • Three WFISD schools collected wins in the third quarter “Patterson Gives Back” contest: First-place winner Wichita Falls High School won $2,000 for Google headsets; Top middle school winner Barwise won $2,000 for robotic equipment; Jefferson Elementary received $1,000 to buy adjustable chairs for its Special Education Life Skills class.
  • When “Patterson Gives Back” awarded $15,000 to nine area schools, the gift included awards to five WFISD schools: Hirschi High School, the WFISD High Schools’ High Quality CPR program, Kirby Middle School, Haynes Northwest Academy and Lamar Elementary.
  • Ten Special Education teachers each received $50 Walmart gift cards for classroom needs from Sharp Iron Group.
  • Monty Walker of Walker Business Advisory Services in Wichita Falls sponsored the Career Education Center’s Computer Maintenance Lab for $5,000.
  • Patterson Family of Dealerships sponsored the Career Education Center’s Auto Tech Lab and the Auto Collision Lab, each for $6,000. Their total gift of $12,000 will support the two CEC programs with supplies, equipment, and money for certifications.
  • Zundy Elementary received $1,000 from the Junior League of Wichita Falls to stock math and reading enrichment rooms for children in K-5th
  • Zundy Elementary students received 48 free bicycle helmets from Elbowz Racing.
  • The Texas Business Women twice donated $500 to students at the Career Education Center to help pay student fees for projects and certifications.
  • The District’s homegrown Read 2 Learn remedial reading program won a $4,000 Dollar General Youth Literacy Grant to purchase books for all second-grade students.
  • Local manufacturer Arconic gave $25,000 to equip the Career Education Center’s robotics and engineering classroom with a robotic arm, similar to one used at the Arconic plant, making any student trained on it a good fit for Arconic employment.
  • Ben Franklin Elementary students contributed 2,888 cans for their November food drive.
  • First Christian Church’s “Coats for Kids” program gave 557 winter coats to children on 20 WFISD campuses. Since the program began 19 years ago, the church has given away nearly 10,000 coats to students in need.
  • First-grade students at Fain Elementary raised $1,000 to refurbish Fantasy of Lights displays.
  • Haynes Northwest Academy won Texoma Community Credit Union’s School Spirit Contest, collecting $3,000 to use for a library transformation.