Board discusses Baker Field plans, hears presentation on police force

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

May 19, 2022

In a regular meeting of the Whitney ISD Board of Trustees held Monday, May 9, the board discussed the demolition of facilities at Baker Field, heard a presentation on the possibility of a school police force and congratulated the German Club and Royelles Drill Team for their accomplishments.

In the public forum, two community members made comments regarding the possible demolition of the concession stand and bathrooms at Baker Field. The district had discussed plans to demolish the restrooms and concession stands in June due to repeated vandalism.

Nicole Corson, member of Whitney Wildcat Football League, said WWFL was given the privilege to use Baker Field about four years ago. She said WWFL paid to repair the one vandalism situation she was aware of as well as the bathroom pipes that broke during the winter freeze.

Corson said, “We paid the cost out of our own pockets, so those are areas that we utilize and maintain. We just ask you to reconsider and leave the concession as well as the bathrooms available to our use on the home side. I think it is something that is important to our littlest Wildcats and our future athletes.”

Scott Estill of the Whitney Booster Club said that he was concerned when he learned that there were no bathrooms onsite at field day, and children had to make it from the field to the gym to use the restroom.

“I just feel like as a district, we can do better for our kids. They’re going to continue to use this track for PE and for field day. I think we need to make a commitment to put a working bathroom up there. I just feel like as a community, we need to step up and do that for our kids,” Estill said.

Superintendent John McCullough reported after the meeting that he was scheduled to meet with WWFL to work on a plan that will be best for WWFL and WISD.

WISD is considering establishing its own district police force and will discuss the matter in the June meeting. Bob Kruse, principal of Whitney’s alternative school, presented the information.

School resource officers were first brought in to Whitney in 2017. Since that time, the district has been through four different SROs, three of which were hired this year. Kruse has consulted with multiple law enforcement officials, including Chief Chris Bentley, on the best way to enhance the law enforcement at WISD. He called the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement for a consultation and had not received a response by the time of the meeting.

In order to start a district police department, an application must be submitted and approved by Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE). TCOLE has a list of 10 requirements that WISD must have to establish its own police force, and the WISD police force must create its own policy and procedure manual that regulates how the officers will operate in the school. It must detail policies on use of force, vehicle chases and search and seizure. The examples of these handbooks Kruse has seen were comprehensive documents of over 100 pages.

Whitney Police Department is currently working on getting accredited as a best practices organization. Part of the accreditation process includes TCOLE approving all of WPD’s policies and procedures. Kruse said the district could utilize Whitney Police Department’s TCOLE approved policies and procedures as a resource when they are writing their own document.

Board members expressed that they would like to see feedback from administrators stating that they believe creating a district police force would be in the school’s best interest. The board wants to ensure that Whitney administrators would rather spend district funds on a police force than hiring more teachers or paraprofessionals.

The board concluded that members would continue to discuss the matter, and the superintendent would work on getting a resolution prepared for the June meeting.

High school Principal Amy Leech recognized special guests at the meeting, including the WHS German Club and the WHS Royelles Drill Team. Lisa Mays, German instructor and coach of the German Folk Dance Team, recognized the dancers for winning first place at the Texas State German Contest (TSGC) for the third year in a row. She introduced the captains: Jack Lee, Lilly Cundiff and Manny Herrera. Mays said it is not just the German dancers who deserve recognition but also those who competed in the German contest.
She said, “We had 34 people compete, and our lowest state win was seventh place. Everyone got top 10. It’s a very impressive group, and I’m blessed to be here with them.”

Angel Durham and Stephanie Robison, directors of the Royelles Drill Team, announced that the team of 11 competed against groups of up to 25 girls and won platinum sweepstakes, which means they received a score of 95 or higher out of a possible 100 points on every routine they performed. The team also won the congeniality award for having the best sportsmanship of the day.

Durham said, “Everything these girls do is done after school, on weekends. They all put in a lot of time, and we really appreciate the support that we get from the school. It is nice to have a group that people can belong in. Like Lisa Mays was saying, it’s not just the dancing. It’s the bonds, the friendships, the life lessons that they learn while doing these things.”

Durham introduced the team’s officers: Annette Prado-second lieutenant and next year’s captain, Roselyn Villarreal-first lieutenant and a four year veteran, and Eliza Banner-captain and four-year veteran. The Royelles’ officer line won not only a grand championship but also received the ring of champions, which means they beat every officer line in the competition against all sizes of schools.

All of the six Royelles soloists, from freshmen to seniors, earned a division one, which means they scored 90 or higher on their solos. Prado earned a division one score; Villarreal made the top ten out of 45 soloists in the competition, and Banner made the top five and was second soloist overall.

The new school board members, Katie Foster and Amy Hoffman, were sworn in. The board then installed officers for the new term, including Ray Mabry as president, Lyle Eubank as vice president and Jason Sneed as secretary.

The superintendent recognized the two board members who are leaving their positions this year: Bobby Cryns and Brad Brunett. McCullough thanked both men for their years of dedication and commitment to the district.

Cryns, who has been a board member since May 2007, said, “This school district means a lot to me. I will always be a part of this community, and if I can ever help anybody with anything at any time, just let me know. It has been a pleasure.”

Brunett, who has been a board member since May 2008, also said he wanted to continue to serve his community, stating, “I’ve served with a lot of good people over the years, and I’m really proud of what the school has been able to accomplish. It has been a pleasure. I wish everybody well, especially the two incoming board members.”

The board also approved a bid from Longhorn Bus Sales for 2023. The new bus will be a 77 passenger international with seatbelts.

During administrator reports, Principal Amber Seely said she is looking forward to end of the year events at the elementary school, such as the talent show, field day and end-of-the-year awards.

Principal Russell Gauer reported that the intermediate school was taking STAAR tests during the week of the board meeting, so the campus held a STAAR rally to alleviate students’ stress.

Principal Kendra Hensley reported that the online science and social studies STAAR testing ran smoothly, with no major technology issues.

Principal Amy Leech announced that the high school has finished STAAR testing and will begin getting results Monday, May 16. Leech said, “We also have different community members from different businesses from around the area coming in to do mock interviews with our seniors. We work to the very end to help get our seniors prepared for the real world.”

Assistant Superintendent Melody Haley and Superintendent McCullough were happy with the reports of the most recent enrollment numbers, which stated there are 1,484 students enrolled in the district. That is more than the number of students enrolled before the pandemic in 2020, which was 1,471 students.

The board also approved a contract to add Capturing Kids Hearts to WMS and WIS campuses. Capturing Kids Hearts is a character-based curriculum focused on social-emotional wellbeing, relationship-driven campus culture and student connectedness. The program is said to decrease discipline referrals, increase attendance rates and increase test scores. The approved contract includes a leadership blueprint that will entail a two-day training and check-ins throughout the year for the staff of WIS and WMS.

The board met in closed session and transitioned back to open session to approve all the recommended teachers, nurses and paraprofessionals. The district had five new hires: Ethan Becker, LaCinda Carr, Peggy Lidstar, Layna Philipp and Madison Shaffer.

Nominated for WISD’s staff member of the month for May was Mary Corbin, kindergarten teacher.

Superintendent McCullough read the nomination statement that was written by Principal Seely: “Ms. Corbin is an energetic member of our kindergarten team. She provides a loving, engaging atmosphere to her students to explore and learn. Her students can often be found using hands-on manipulatives and working in cooperative groups. Her students are comfortable taking risks and using their creative minds in Ms. Corbin’s class. Her high energy and positive personality bring smiles to both our staff and students. She is a pleasure to work with, and we appreciate her going above and beyond for the students of Whitney Elementary. We are blessed to have her as part of the Whitney Elementary School family.”

The board will meet in its next regular session at 6 p.m. Monday, June 20.

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