WISD board discusses security, Baker Field plan and drug tests

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

June 30, 2022

In a regular meeting of the Whitney ISD Board of Trustees held Monday, June 20, the board discussed district security information, Whitney Wildcat Football League’s plans for the Baker Field restrooms and concession stands and an amendment to the random drug testing policy.

Superintendent John McCullough said that he recently attended a meeting at TSTC in Waco, where state officials discussed the shooting in Uvalde. Superintendent McCullough said, “They talked about how the legislature will be looking at things in January, and there will be some other mandates that we’re going to have to consider when we get through with all of this. What we’ve talked about is holding off on our district police force until we find out exactly what mandates are going to be put in place.”

He continued, “We’ve already talked to Chief (Chris) Bentley. He does have a SRO (School Resource Officer) in place and ready for us to use this coming school year, so we will have an SRO in place. Right now until we know exactly what is going to be required, we want to put our thoughts about our own police department on hold for just a second until we get more information.”

The district will have all safety drills scheduled and on the school calendar before the start of the school year. County superintendents, the sheriff and judges agreed to meet Thursday, June 23, to evaluate and weigh options for security precautions.

Another agenda item during the meeting was discussion about the plan of action for the restrooms and concession stands at Baker Field. Nicole Corson, member of Whitney Wildcat Football League (WWFL), thanked the board for reconsidering the demolition and presented the plan.

Corson said, “Basically it just comes down to good, open communication between WWFL and Mr. McCullough and his maintenance team.” Corson, who said Baker Field is utilized three to four times per week, provided contact information for leaders of WWFL. In the future, for any repairs that need to be made, WWFL will fill out a work order and submit it to McCullough and his maintenance team.

WWFL will get approval on anything that is going to be changed at the facility and will notify the school of any type of spray, fertilizer or chemicals being used so that a sign can be put up, letting people who walk the track know that chemicals have been sprayed.

In case of an emergency, WWFL will assess the damage, notify WISD of any type of vandalism, make a police report with the city and submit a work order to repair the damage.

WWFL will ensure all locks and door handles are in working condition and locked at all times. The league will provide WISD keys for the concession and bathroom areas.

Ray Mabry, WISD board president, expressed gratitude to the WWFL for speaking up so that the school could come to an agreement that benefited everyone involved. Mabry said, “It’s a beautiful thing. I’m so proud of y’all for doing this because this is something that works for the whole community.”

The board amended the high school’s policy on random student drug testing to eliminate the rule of expulsion after testing positive for drugs three times and to decrease the number of days students are suspended in certain cases.

Under the new policy, a student’s first positive drug test will result in 15 days of suspension, which is the same number of days of suspension as before the amendment. The second offense will be changed from 60 days of suspension to 45 days of suspension. The third offense will be changed from expulsion to one calendar year of suspension.

Under the new policy, after the fourth positive drug test, students will be suspended for one year, and then they can apply for being reinstated in the school if they follow the necessary procedures.

The high school holds seven rounds of drug tests in a year, with a minimum of 25 students being randomly chosen for each round. In addition to the 25 students who are randomly chosen, the old policy stated that students who test positive once must continue to test during every drug testing round for the rest of their high school career; the amended policy states that if students test positive once, they will continue to test for every drug testing round that follows for one calendar year.

Superintendent McCullough said the reason for decreasing suspension time and eliminating the ‘three strikes you’re out’ expulsion rule is that he and High School Principal Amy Leech want the students who test positive three times to still feel hopeful about an opportunity to return to school.

Principal Leech said, “Our purpose was that, say a freshman tests positive three times their freshman year [under the old policy]. They have nothing to work towards. Kids go through rough patches in life, and we are in it for the kids. Of course we want a drug-free campus, and we want our kids to be drug free, but we’ve got to think about our purpose for doing this. It’s not to be punitive. It’s to help our kiddos.”

She added that since WHS began random drug testing, the school has gained awareness of resources that could help students with addictions. Klaras Center For Families- Heart of Texas Region MHMR has a drug program that WHS can direct students to.

Another change approved by the board was the district compensation package for 2022-2023. The district is working to improve the salary of Whitney school employees to be more competitive with neighboring schools.

Superintendent McCullough said, “Mrs. Haley (assistant superintendent) and I looked at a lot of these and tried to come up with a plan to help improve the compensation for employees. We moved the starting teacher salary to $40,000. It was $38,000. We moved on down and added at least $500 to every step. On administrators’ pay scale, that stayed the same, except for adding intermediate and elementary assistant principals, which were new this year.”

Also under the 2022-2023 district compensation plan, the minimum increase for paraprofessionals is $2,247; the minimum increase on office secretaries and office personnel pay scale was $2,555; the minimum increase on the salary of food service workers was $3,507, and for maintenance department employees, the minimum increase was $3,840. Board members expressed that they hope to discuss retention stipends as well as additional increases to employee wages when figuring the next budget.

The board voted to continue the dual credit partnership agreement with Hill College. Superintendent McCullough said, “It’s a great opportunity for our students to be able to do this. They do not have to leave campus. They can do this on our campus and do it online. It has been a very beneficial thing for our students and our school.”

Principal Leech reported that this year two students have gained an associate’s degree under the dual credit partnership.

In Elementary School Principal Amber Seely’s presentation of the elementary data scores, she reported positive takeaways from each grade level. She said students made good strides, and many grew in their abilities by the end of the year.

The board approved a property bid of $8,500 for the property of 36022 Cedar Ridge Drive in Whitney. This amount was above the minimum bid, and the property was struck off to the district in January 2022. The trustees also approved the appraisal calendar for 2022-2023, the JRBT contract for the 2022-2023 internal audit and the budget calendar for 2022-2023. The budget will be set Monday, August 29.

The trustees approved the 2022-2023 accelerated testing dates. Accelerated tests allow students to request a test, then if they score at a certain level, the school can give them class credit in the subject that they tested in, which would make them exempt from taking that class. The accelerated testing dates for the 2022-2023 are August 29-September 9, November 28-December 9, February 20-March 3 and June 5-June 16.

The board will next meet at 6 p.m. Monday, August 8.

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