Reporter: Ellie Mahan
October 27, 2022
Board hears monthly administrative reports…
The Whitney ISD Board of Trustees held a regular meeting Monday, October 17 and approved a new school resource officer (SRO) agreement with the City of Whitney. Administrators also provided updates on campus activities.
This year’s SRO agreement is different from last year’s because the SRO will work mostly during school hours and during some sporting events. In past agreements, the SRO worked for the City of Whitney during the summer or during other periods when school was not in session. Due to this change, the district will be covering the complete expense necessary to fund the SRO position.
Officer Chris Chadwick is the district’s school resource officer. He recently attended a week-long SRO school in Royse City. Officer Chadwick said, “I’ve been a police officer since 2011. I’ve been in Whitney since 2014. I was in the Marine Corps for 11 good years. I am happy to be here. I’m glad I was picked for this job.”
During the meeting, Superintendent John McCullough read a letter that Elementary School Principal Amber Seely wrote following the recent false report of a shooting, which caused the school to go into lockdown.
Seely wrote, “September was a very emotional month at the elementary. So many different emotions flooded over me as I drove home September 13. I was thankful that everyone made it safely home to their families. Sadness filled my heart for those in the building, especially their children who were with them and had to witness something they would not soon forget.”
She wrote, “I chose this month to celebrate our Wildcat family. Every situation leads to a choice. You can choose to focus on the negative, letting it control your thoughts and outlook, or you can find the light and outshine the darkness. We chose to find the light and celebrate what went right.”
She continued, “We witnessed law enforcement agencies rush to our aid. School board members showed up and helped us clean up and provided emotional support. A local business opened their doors and provided comfort. District staff managed the scene and provided strength so that we could work through our fears and anxieties. A community member took the time to say a prayer with us. Our staff chose to find joy, joy that we are blessed to be a part of one of the most influential professions.”
Staff members were granted a day off the day after the incident to take care of their personal needs, but Seely was not surprised when everyone showed up for work the next day.
She wrote, “They wanted to take care of their students because they knew that some of them would be anxious due to the presence of law enforcement and broken windows. Our front porch was filled with smiling faces the next morning. Our students know there are people who care for and love them. It is evident in their confidence when entering the building that we have built strong relationships with our students.”
During administrator reports, Principal Seely said that the elementary school’s first nine weeks recently came to an end and that the students were counting down the days until they get to wear their costumes to school in celebration of Halloween. The elementary school children are also excited about earning popcorn parties or popsicles through a positive behavior system.
Principal Layna Philipp reported that the intermediate is experiencing enrollment increases, with 341 students enrolled at the campus and more than 110 students in each grade level.
Philipp discussed discipline in the intermediate school, stating, “My expectation is that just as we teach reading, science and math, we also teach behavior… As we work through physical altercations or conflict, we will teach them videos, reflection and conversations, but they still have consequences. I’m excited to see how that works out. We have a high rate of referrals right now, but it is being addressed. We are partnering with the families and the kiddos, so I am excited to have a better report in November about that.”
Middle school Principal Kendra Hensley said that participants in UIL academics and one-act play are hard at work practicing for their competition in December. The middle school is also forming a student council this year, and students will vote for officers soon.
Hensley shared that the middle school had its first “club day,” which allowed teachers to teach something that was not in the curriculum that they are passionate about or that they think would be helpful for students to learn. Hensley said, “They loved it. Some kids learned how to crochet. They learned photography, gardening, dog training, all sorts of things.”
Hensley reported that 133 students made the A-B honor roll and 51 made the A honor roll. In other news, the PTO is hosting a Fall Formal at the middle school level.
The high school will have a Halloween dance, planned by the student council, Saturday, October 29. Principal Amy Leech said that the student council has been more active recently. She said, “They just hosted what was called ‘Operation Beautiful’ where we had No Makeup Monday, and they covered all the mirrors with positive notes around the school.” She said that the student council is using their 20-minute study-hall period that is built into their school day to brainstorm initiatives that the council could take on, such as a vaping awareness week and a slam poet visiting the school.
Leech said, “I like that our student council is active again. We also did voter registration. If you’re not aware, the high school principal is deemed a voter registrar, so we do voter registration in the fall and spring each year.” She said that several students registered, and a representative of Hill County attended and helped by answering any questions students had.
The high school started giving perfect attendance rewards, and over 100 students had perfect attendance during the first six weeks. The rewards were laminated certificates for a free cookie, an opportunity to eat lunch outside one day and a free tardy pass.
According to Melissa Marbut, director of assessment and accountability, the time limits for STAAR tests have been eliminated. Students can take up until the last bell of the day to finish their test Laura Hunt, director of curriculum and instruction, provided an update on the district’s English As A Second Language (ESL) program. The district currently has roughly 100 students in its ESL program. Designated to serve in the ESL program, the district has 18 elementary school teachers, eight intermediate school teachers, two middle school teachers and four high school teachers.
The district is working toward more middle school teachers joining the ESL program and offers a stipend for staff members who are certified. The training that teachers take to prepare them for the ESL certification test is free, and the district reimburses teachers for the expense of taking the ESL certification test.
Whitney’s ESL program has two models, a content-based model for pre-k, first and second grade and a pull-out model for grades kindergarten and 3-12. In a pull-out model, students receive ESL support in their language arts class by a certified ESL language arts teacher. The content-based model involves the teacher integrating ESL teachings into all content areas.
The board approved the ERATE infrastructure upgrade by Weaver Technologies. This change will give the technology department the ability to upgrade technology equipment that is about 10 years old. The cost for this project was included in the budget that the board approved this school year.
Kristy Smith, director of technology, said,“This will give us the ability to be connected from high school, all the way over to elementary via fiber… It is [currently] an older single-mode fiber. This is going to upgrade that to multi-mode. With the upgrade and the upgrade of our wifi, this gives us the backbone to be better, to be faster, and to be prepared for our testing.” Smith is hopeful that the upgrade will be complete before STAAR testing this year.
In public comments, community member Joe Corson expressed concern about one of the departments’ heating and air conditioning systems that have not been in working condition in the past. He also said he would like increased lighting on Whitney school campuses, for teachers leaving work in the evenings and students leaving after-school activities.
The board considered a property bid for 1203 Ridge Court, which is near the lake. The board did not accept the bid in the amount of $5,000. The minimum bid on the property at the time of the sale was $29,863.89, and the property was valued at $88,240.
The board approved the wellness policy assessment for 2022. After meeting in closed session, the board members returned to open session and approved a new guardian and a new teacher for hire.
The superintendent reported that enrollment in the district is up to 1,525.
In honor of October being Principal Appreciation Month, Superintendent McCullough presented each principal with a gift and thanked them for the job they do every day.
Nominated for Whitney ISD’s staff member of the month for October was Wayland Thomas, who is part of the Whitney ISD Maintenance Department. Superintendent McCullough read the nomination statement, which was written by Russell Gauer, director of operations. The superintendent read, “Wayland is a very important part of our maintenance team, and he also drives a bus for our district. No matter the task, he is always going to pitch in and accomplish the job. He has very good solutions to each problem he faces and never hesitates to help others whenever they need assistance. His knowledge of electrical repair and construction is a financial asset for our district. We are very fortunate to have him as a part of our maintenance team.”
Thomas responded, “I just want to say that we’re all blessed to work with who we work with, and as far as I’m concerned we’re all employees of the month.”
The WISD board will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting Monday, November 19.