WISD approves improvement plans, hears report on audit

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

November 25, 2022

The Whitney Independent School District Board of Trustees held a regular meeting Monday, November 14, to approve district and campus improvement plans and to review the 2021-2022 district audit.

With a purpose of guiding the district and campus staff in the improvement of student performance, the district and campus improvement plans are developed, reviewed and revised annually, and they work to support state goals and objectives. The areas of improvement WISD plans to prioritize are: staffing, social-emotional health, special education academics and improvement in reading and math.

There are currently 22 teachers who are teaching on the District of Innovation Plan and four teachers who are in the alternative education program. Laura Hunt, director of curriculum and instruction, said that there are mentorship programs in place to help the teachers who are not certified in the content area they are teaching. She said that the teachers in the DOI programs are qualified to teach but are just missing one of the test requirements to teach in their area.

Middle School Principal Kendra Hensley explained, “Some of the ones who are counted on the DOI are not certified in the content they’re teaching in necessarily, but they’ve been teaching 20 years in a different area. They’re not all brand new teachers. Some of them just need to take a test for their content area.”

Another component of the district improvement plan is assisting students with social-emotional health. To promote social emotional learning (SEL), the district has created an SEL position and has continued to implement Capturing Kids’ Hearts, which is a curriculum that emphasizes emotional wellbeing, relationship-driven campus culture and student connectedness. All the administrators addressed the different ways that teachers on their campuses are working to integrate social emotional academic development into students’ daily routines.

Intermediate School Principal Layna Philipp said, “We’ve had our positive office referrals, trying to focus on the positive, behavior management coaching for the entire campus. We have a lot of new teachers who do struggle with the behavior management piece. It’s so true that you can’t get to the academics if you can’t manage the behavior.”

Philipp continued, “We are working with Process Champions for Capturing Kids’ Hearts. It is a team of teachers on the campus that exhibit all of the good qualities of being positive and proactive. Then they get together and coach other teachers.” Both Philipp and Hensley expressed that it is beneficial for teachers to coach each other on behavior management and SEL rather than just receiving feedback from their administrators.

The board approved the district and campus improvement plans as presented.

Cody Fitch, business manager for WISD, presented the 2021-2022 district audit, completed by Jaynes, Reitmeier, Boyd and Therrell. Fitch stood in for a representative of JRBT, who couldn’t make it to the meeting. The district was issued a clean, unmodified opinion, which is the highest rating that an entity can receive.
Fitch reported that the district’s revenues were underestimated by $600,000, and its expenditures were overestimated by $900,000.

“Overall we were conservative with those numbers, and we were in the green when it comes to both expenditures and revenue. Looking at the general fund balance, last year it increased by $700,000. This year it increased by $1 million in the current year. That is the highest fund balance we’ve had over this five year period.” Fitch said.

No material weaknesses in internal controls over financial reporting were found, and no matters of material non-compliance were reported. The board approved the audit as presented.

Melody Haley, assistant superintendent, presented an overview of the school Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). The district’s FIRST score was 94 out of 100, which is in the superior achievement status.

The district had perfect scores in every category except two, test 11, which assessed whether enrollment has increased more than 7% since 2017, and test 12, which evaluates whether the property value is sufficient to support future debt payments.

During administrator reports, Middle School Principal Kendra Hensley reported that 43 students made the A honor roll for the second six weeks, 116 students made the A-B honor roll and 88 students had perfect attendance. She also said that three middle school students will have their art entered into the Fort Worth Stock Show.

High School Principal Amy Leech announced that the school’s robotics team had its first competition recently and ranked 15 out of 25 teams. Leech said, “There is a lot going on, but we’ve been doing a lot of celebrating because we’ve had some good things going on in the athletic realm, and we just try to celebrate across the campus.”

The board approved a property bid of $4,361.62 for White Bluff section 41 lot 59, which represented the minimum bid at the time of the sheriff’s sale.

WISD’s staff member of the month for the month of November is Scarlette Baker, high school special education teacher and girls volleyball and powerlifting coach. In Principal Leech’s nomination statement, Leech wrote that Baker uses her teaching and coaching roles to create a positive environment for students, and she is always willing to go the extra mile.

Leech wrote, “Scarlette is such a caring soul, and her loving demeanor has made her a perfect fit for working with our life skills students. Scarlette recently earned her special education certification. She has quickly transformed our life skills class into a student-centered learning environment where she meets the individual needs of each student with patience and love… Many people don’t realize the physical and emotional demands that teaching special needs students entails. Scarlette not only nourishes her students’ academic needs, but she also handles their emotional and physical outbursts with patience and love as well as attending to their medical, personal and hygiene needs. She steps in as a mother figure to teach and love these students, who require constant care and supervision. She also mentors and trains her paraprofessionals to care for students and teach alongside her. This creates a positive learning experience for each student and adult in her classroom.”

The Whitney ISD Board of Trustees will meet again Monday, December 12.

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