WISD campuses see rise in enrollment numbers

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

September 22, 2022

The Whitney ISD Board of Trustees held a regular meeting Monday, September 12, to hear administrator reports, approve property bids and review other monthly business.

According to Superintendent John McCullough, the district’s enrollment is at 1,509, which is the highest it has been in about five years. The enrollment was at 1,505 in 2019, and it decreased in 2020 and the following year.

High School Principal Amy Leech reported that Whitney High School’s enrollment was at 444. She said the underclassman class sizes are larger, with 132 for the freshman class and 125 for the sophomore class. Leech said, “Our attendance rate is back in a good place right now. We still have some work to do on attendance, but it is stronger than it has been in several years at the start of the year.”

Middle School Principal Kendra Hensley has also noticed an increase in enrollment and attendance, when compared to the beginning of the year last year. She said, “We’ve had a good start. We also have seen numbers up. Our total enrollment was 343 when I did the report. The eighth grade class is huge. Those students make up the biggest population with 125 of them. Our attendance was at 99%.”

Another administrator who discussed the rise in enrollment was Intermediate School Principal Layna Philipp, who said the intermediate school has 341 students enrolled. Philipp said, “It’s a new campus for me as a new principal. It’s been good getting to know all my parents and students and kiddos. I’m opening the campus back up to parents. I’ve had lots of great feedback from that.” She shared that there was an upcoming family-night book fair Tuesday, September 13.

Principal Philipp said, “We also instituted a positive office referral, so now not only will kids be sent to our offices for disciplinary reasons, but also for good things, and we talk about that daily. Every day we read names out over the intercom during announcements and talk about why these students are being recognized, for being responsible, respectful and reliable Wildcats.”

Another positive addition to the intermediate school, Philipp spoke on implementing Capturing Kids’ Hearts, which is a character-based curriculum that emphasizes social-emotional wellbeing, relationship-driven campus culture and student connectedness. Philipp stated that veteran teachers have given positive feedback on the changes the program is helping them make to their classrooms.

According to Principal Hensley, Capturing Kids Hearts has been well received by both new and veteran teachers at the middle school. Other activities at the middle school are sign-ups for UIL academic events and one-act play auditions. Hensley said,“We have been already looking at last year’s STAAR data, and believe it or not we’ve had some unit tests, so we have that data in PLCs (professional learning communities) to look at this week.”
Also during administrator reports, Elementary School Principal Amber Seely gave a big thank you to Russell Gauer and his crew for the redesigning and reconstruction that took place this summer. Seely said, “We’ve got some classrooms divided. Our kids are loving the new Wildcat Clubhouse, and the new security from the window is nice.” The window Seely was referring to is a safety feature that is new to Whitney Elementary School this year. The structural addition permits visitors to enter a small enclosed entrance space in the school building but prevents them from entering the hallway without clearance from office staff personnel.

Principal Leech announced that this is a busy time at the high school, with homecoming nominations, class officer elections, UIL academics meetings and one-act play auditions. Leech said, “I think our school spirit has been growing back each year, and our pep rallies these past two weeks have been really good. Classes have been loud. They’ve been having fun. It is great to see the kids get back into the spirit days. That’s what it’s all about, them enjoying being there.”

David Haynes Jr., athletic director and head football coach, echoed Principal Leech’s words. “I’m very excited about the athletic program. The student body, like Mrs. Leech said, the pep rallies have been awesome. They’re cheering. I got hit in the face with a pie last week. I’ll take it every week if it gets us a W,” Haynes said.

He praised the students in junior high athletics and stated that the junior high cross country runners have been running amazing. High school cross country athletes have shown improvement as well.

Haynes admired the way the middle school and high school volleyball programs have been running and congratulated the varsity volleyball team for opening district with a win.
As far as football goes, Haynes said he has seen growth in the JV athletes’ abilities, and he was looking forward to the varsity game against West that Friday. Haynes said, “I’m proud of our varsity boys. They’re really engaged, and I’d like to say they’re taking on my personality. They’re really pushing it on the football field.”

In other news, Melissa Marbut, director of assessment and accountability, announced that the tests students take in preparation for standardized tests will be taken through Cambium Assessment this year, rather than using tests that were created within the district. Cambium is the company that produces the online STAAR tests students will be taking this year, so taking a test through this program will allow students to familiarize themselves with the platform.

Melody Haley, assistant superintendent, said one of her focuses recently has been safety and security. The Texas Education Agency required districts to submit a survey, which was completed and turned in on time. Now the district is working on the second part of the TEA requirements, which is the emergency operations plan, active threat annex and active shooter annex. That plan will be due Wednesday, October 12. Also in October, the district’s audit will begin to be prepared.

The board approved four property bids for White Bluff properties. The bids were in the amounts of $3,265 for White Bluff section 35 lot 17, $3,265 for White Bluff section 35 lot 18, $9,100 for White Bluff section 24 lot 92, $3,600 for White Bluff section 39 lot 39 and the highest bid for White Bluff section 24 lot 132, which was $3,650.

The board approved the Region 12 2022-2023 SSA and Cooperative Contract, which allows the district to get discounted rates on business software, curriculum and unlimited training.

The board nominated Jason Sneed, board secretary, as the delegate for the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), although the Whitney Board of Trustees will not attend the TASB convention in San Antonio this year.

WISD’s staff member of the month for the month of September is Wendy Kaska, Whitney Intermediate P.E. paraprofessional.

McCullough read the nomination statement written by Principal Philipp: “I would like to nominate Wendy Kaska for WISD staff member of the month. She has been an integral part of our campus this year and has stepped up these past few weeks to support our office when the campus secretary was out. She helped with registration, records, enrollment, class lists, campus and building maintenance, teacher requests and other things that came at the beginning of the school year. As a new principal on a new campus, I appreciate her being willing to step up and fill in. She is flexible, and her spunky personality is contagious.”

The Whitney ISD Board of Trustees will meet again 6 p.m. Monday, October 17.

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