WISD board appoints member,WMS passes safety inspection

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

January 18, 2023

The Whitney ISD Board of Trustees met at 6 p.m. Monday, January 9 to appoint a new member, congratulate Whitney Middle School for earning a perfect score on its intruder detection inspection completed by the Texas School Safety Center and hear a presentation on benchmark and interim STAAR data.

The board accepted Lyle Eubank’s resignation as vice president of the school board. Charles Buzan was nominated and elected to serve as the new vice president of the board.

Adrian Marino was appointed as a school board member to fill the empty board seat. Marino said, “I’ve been around here for about five years now. I have a freshman, a third grader, and I also have a 6-month-old. I will be dealing with the school for a long time, and I’d like to help with decision making and help discuss these matters in the wisest way possible.” Marino plans to prioritize promoting a brighter future for students in the district, including his children and the children of the people in the community.

The Texas School Safety Center’s intruder detection inspection at the middle school consisted of four parts, and the campus achieved a perfect score because there was no corrective action needed for any of the parts.

For part one of the assessment, intruder detection audit, no corrective action was needed because no access was able to be gained at the campus. For part two of the assessment, exterior door audit, no corrective action was needed because all exterior doors were securely locked and closed, and no doors were propped open. For part three of the assessment, classroom door audit, no corrective action was needed because all interior doors were closed and locked that had students inside when they were checked. For part four of the assessment, weekly door sweeps, no corrective action was needed because the district was able to prove that the doors were checked weekly.

Laura Hunt, director of curriculum and instruction, gave a presentation on the benchmark and interim STAAR data. Both benchmarks and interim STAAR tests are forms of practice tests given to prepare students for their standardized tests at the end of the year. Both tests were online this year.

Benchmarks are district-created assessments that ask questions from DMAC’s assessment bank of items that originated from the curriculum, released STAAR test questions, and district-created items, including question types that will be new to STAAR this year. Benchmarks include only skills that students have learned in the first semester.

On the fifth grade science benchmark, 74% of students hit at least approaches (passing standard), which represents a significantly higher percentage of students reaching the passing standard on the science benchmark than last year’s fifth grade class. “That is including the new item types. We were all a little bit scared of those new item types, but the rigor didn’t go down in any way, so those results are encouraging.”

Interim STAAR tests use the same online platform as STAAR tests. The interim tests cover the entire curriculum for the year, and the results represent the probability of how students will do on STAAR. Hunt presented the comparison between the school district’s test results and Region 12’s interim test results.
In summary, Hunt concluded that in most cases, the district is predicted to perform as well or better than the region on STAAR 2023. She continued, “There are areas of growth throughout that we need to focus on. Third is one that stands out. We know that we are working on that, particularly with math.”

Since this is Whitney’s first year to take this specific type of test, the district is still learning how to interpret the interim STAAR data, as the results the students received were not their score but the probability of how likely they are to score at the “did not meet, approaches, meets and masters” level on the STAAR test. A Zoom meeting was planned with Region 12, to explain to Whitney administrators what to make of the interim STAAR data and how to apply that knowledge in the classroom.

Josh Nowlin, band director, asked the board for approval of a 2023 senior band trip to Colorado. Nowlin said that the facility that the students will be staying in is similar to a summer camp that operates year-round. It holds retreats for youth, adults and big businesses. He assured the board that the seniors will be well-supervised.

Nowlin said, “It won’t cost Whitney ISD any money. It won’t cost you transportation. It won’t cost any instructional time because it all happens during spring break.” The kids will be paying for their trip, through fundraising and a small amount of tuition, according to Nowlin. Currently nine students are signed up to go on the spring break trip. The board approved the 2023 band trip to Colorado.

The superintendent reviewed the Whitney ISD Return to In Person Instruction and Continuity of Service Plan and stated that no changes have been made to the plan since August.

McCullough said, “This is working like we hoped it would. A little bit of data on the fall semester, we only had 88 student cases the entire semester, with the last case being reported in November. Our district attendance for the fall semester was 94.0%, which is considerably better than it was this time last year.”

Assistant Superintendent Melody Haley explained how the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) II and III Funding Plan is being carried out. She said that the majority of ESSER II funds are being dedicated to payroll and supplies.

ESSER II was authorized in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) in December 2020, and Haley believes that the district will be able to make ESSER II funds last for one more year before they are all spent.

The original ESSER III amount that WISD received totaled more than $2.5 million and has been allocated to payroll, services for staff development, supplies, including $1 million that was spent on technology. The district has $288,000 leftover in the ESSER III fund balance.

ESSER II was authorized in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) and signed into law in March 2021. The period of availability extends to September 30, 2024 (with carryover).

During administrator reports, Vicki Reeves, intermediate school vice principal, said that the intermediate school’s “process champions,” which are the leaders of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program, recently put on a staff development workshop for the campus. She also thanked PTO members for their support since they provided snacks for their staff development workshop. The intermediate school teachers have been analyzing interim STAAR data, and Reeves said that she has been personally working with the third grade classes in hopes that she sees an improvement in testing results during the next round of testing.

Middle School Principal Kendra Hensley said her campus also did a restart on the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program and has been determining how to use the results from the STAAR interim tests to figure out what areas students need to grow in.

High School Principal Amy Leech wished the cheerleaders good luck at their competition, which was scheduled for Thursday, January 12, at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Leech said, “Spring season is crazy busy. At the high school, we’ve got our drill team and guard competition season. FFA is getting started with all of their ag shows. We’ve got Hill County Fair coming up.”

Nominated for WISD’s staff member of the month for the month of January is Lauren Girsh, an eighth grade reading language arts teacher. In her nomination statement, Hensley stated that Girsh joined the team last year and quickly established herself as a mentor to other teachers in her grade level and content teams.

Hensley wrote, “Mrs. Girsh has continued to be a leader for our students and staff, serving as reading language arts content leader this year. She is a team player. She serves on our campus, site-based decision making committee as well as our principal leadership team. She embraces the Capturing Kids’ hearts program and serves as a process champion… Her classes are operated through the CKH (Capturing Kids’ Hearts) lens, building mutual relationships and respect, although she holds high expectations for students and those she cares about. Mrs. Girsh is passionate about preparing students for high school, using her background as a high school teacher to guide and direct them. This passion is also evident in the STAAR scores her students achieve and the growth they attain.”

The superintendent announced that Gena Arnold has retired.

After closed session, the board voted to extend McCullough’s contract another year.

Since January marks school board appreciation month, the superintendent presented each board member with a certificate at the meeting, and the board members also received gifts such as cards, gift cards, frames, posters and bracelets, from each of the Whitney campuses.

The Board of Trustees will hold its next meeting Monday, February 13.

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