Whitney ISD board discusses ACE program, school activities

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

December 21, 2022

The Whitney ISD Board of Trustees met in a regular session Monday, December 12 and heard a report on the Afterschool Centers on Education (ACE) Program.

Cynthia Ries provided an update on the ACE program, which is available for pre-kindergarten through fifth graders. ACE is funded across the nation and provides daycare, a place to go for homework help and fun, and after-school activities.

This is ACE’s fourth year to be in Whitney, and Ries said that the program has grown substantially since it was first instituted. When the program started, it was only offered to intermediate school students and has since expanded to serve elementary school students as well. Ries said that during her first year, attendance ranged from 45 to 50 participants at most, and since then, participation has doubled, with a recent total being 102 attendees.

This summer was the first year that ACE offered summer school field trip activities for children. Those who attended ACE during the summer dabbled in cooking, sewing, robotics and using solar energy to cook s’mores. The students had a cake competition, which allowed them to use their knowledge of measurements and their creativity.

Ries said, “Every week, we said ‘What did you learn?’ Because you give them a skill, then you have them do something, and then you have them reflect on it, and that is the biggest part of everything is the reflection part of it.” She is often able to notice personal and intellectual growth in students during one-on-one interactions with them.

The ACE staff also created STEM lessons, catered to both boys and girls so that all of the students would feel encouraged and welcomed to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Speaking on the girls’ STEM lessons, Ries said, “Every month we get to meet with women who have been in NASA, engineers. They’re all women who have reached the top of their careers, so the girls are learning a lot.”

As part of the boys’ STEM lesson, ACE bought grills, provided the boys with tool bags and let the boys put the grills together. They later barbecued on the grills, making their own sauces and naming their sauces. Ries witnessed students grow more independent and confident in themselves after assembling the grill.

She also shared other student success stories of how students benefit from ACE, noting that they gain social skills and other helpful tools that will help them apply knowledge they learn in the classroom in the real world.
Ries said, “You can only go to ACE if you go to school, and we also have a rule that if you’re in ISS (in-school suspension) you can’t come.” This rule motivates students to attend school and be on their best behavior.
Following the presentation and later the superintendent’s recommendation to continue the program, the board approved the MOU with Region 12 ACE program for 2023-2028.

The School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) supplied a recommendation for the health curriculum. A member of SHAC stated that the committee held two meetings about the health classes’ curriculum and reviewed the lessons with the education specialist. The SHAC member said, “It meets the demands and the skills. The biggest thing with school health is that it talks about basic biology.” The health course’s subject matter will include topics of date-rape, sexting, family violence, rape, ‘No Means No,’ and the importance of abstinence. The curriculum intends to address the problems of today in a factual way.

The SHAC member said, “I do believe that the best teacher to teach this is Sheri Hayes. She is a great sounding board for students. She is excellent with kids.”

The board approved the SHAC recommendation for the health curriculum.

During administrator reports, Elementary School Principal Amber Seely said, “We went to UIL and had a few kids place in writing and storytelling… They were all so well behaved and represented Whitney very well.” Thursday, December 15 the elementary school was set to have its family reading and math night, and kindergarten had an upcoming Christmas carol performance planned.

Intermediate School Principal Laya Philipp said that December has been a spirited month at the intermediate school as well, with various holiday characters visiting the campus to spread holiday cheer. The intermediate school UIL teams saw success, with multiple first and second place finishes.

Middle School Principal Kendra Hensley congratulated the WMS one act play group for achieving fourth place at its competition, with numerous cast and crew awards. She announced that from the UIL academic competition, middle schoolers brought home 42 individual placings and 12 team placings, earning fourth place for the campus overall.

Hensley said that the middle school band took 30 students to Groesbeck to compete for East Region Honor Band; seven of those students earned a spot on the symphonic band, and eight earned a spot on the concert band, with three honorable mentions.

Principal Leech shared the high school’s testing schedule and gave an update on a work-study program that is in the works. She explained that Whitney’s German Dance Club has fans that compliment their performances and one who travels to see the dancers perform. Choir students were set to perform in new uniforms in a concert planned for Thursday, December 15.

Selected as WISD’s final staff member of the month for the year of 2022 was Stephanie Carmona, who has taught kindergarten at Whitney Elementary for the past two years.

In Principal Amber Seely’s nomination statement, she expressed that Carmona has a natural gift for working with young children, and her sweet disposition makes her a wonderful kindergarten teacher.

“Mrs. Carmona has amazed us with her ability to problem solve and find ways to reach our students’ academic and social needs. It is hard to believe she is only in her second year as an educator. She shows characteristics of a veteran teacher. We are blessed to have her on campus. Mrs. Carmona has such a kind heart. She would jump in and help whenever needed,” Seely wrote. “She takes the time to do the little things that help improve the campus culture. She volunteers to be a part of many campus committees, organizes field trips and manages and orders supplies for her grade level. She has been an amazing addition to our team.”

The superintendent announced the resignation of April McKinney, and after the board returned from closed session, the members approved a new guardian for the district, and they also approved two new employees, an athletic trainer and a high school librarian.

The board will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, January 9.

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