Calendar, administrative reports discussed by board

School Board 1

Photo by David Kapitan
Members of the Wills Point ISD Education Foundation presented the WPISD Board of Trustees a check totaling $13,061.50 to be used for Innovative Teacher Grants. The grants will be presented to district teachers by the education foundation throughout the morning Feb. 23.




The Wills Point ISD Board of Trustees tackled an agenda heavy on reports and updates this week, hearing from administrators regarding a potential contract with Engage 2 Learn to help train the district’s instructional coaches as well as a series of maintenance projects necessary at the middle school campus in the near future.

WPHS Principal Jeff Russell was the first administrator to issue a report on Monday night, providing an update on dual credit courses at his campus.  

“Last year we had 23 students who were enrolled in dual credit classes. This year in the fall we had 48 students that registered for dual credit classes. In the spring, we have 25 right now, but they are enrolled in 53 courses,” explained Russell.

“The financial support going into dual credit classes has played a key role. We’ve had kids that would normally maybe take one class and it had helped them broaden that a little bit to take two or three. We’ve also had kids that might be at risk beside their name who are taking dual credit classes who could not affort them otherwise. That’s really what it comes down to – it’s getting that opportunity for all of the kids. We’ve had some that are being successful with that assistance and help.”

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Accountability Barbie McMath led board members through a series of reports on the monthly action agenda, including a proposed calendar for the 2018-'19 school year and a potential contract with Engage 2 Learn.

In presenting the calendar, McMath explained that a survey was presented to staff members "on preferences in developing the calendar." Using the feedback, two calendars were subsequently created and sent out to staff members for a vote.

Of the two calendars, staff members overwhelmingly supported a calendar with an Aug. 15 start date (a Wednesday).   

Explained McMath, "For a lot of our classes, they are spending the whole first week dealing with schedule changes, routines and procedures, and we feel like starting on a Wednesday will allow us to do some of those housekeeping things and be able to hit the door running that following Monday…I felt like it was good way to get our teachers back into a routine and our kids as well.”

Another benefit of the new school calendar touted by administrators would be a better division of the fall and spring semesters. "Our semesters would end up with 84 days in the first semester and 87 days in the second semester. In the past we've been about 14 to 15 days different from the fall semester and spring semester."

Board members unanimously approved the calendar as presented by administrators before mroving on to a second report from McMath on an agenda item listed as “consider approval of Engage 2 Learn contract.”

McMath explained the district’s overall thinking stating, “First and foremost, this is all part of the same puzzle. The first thing we needed to address was do we have good instructional documents. I think we did that right at end of the very first semester of last year, really looking at how do we support our teachers with good instructional documents. We talked about the fact that they were spending an extraordinary amount of time to deal with scope and sequence. Then we came and said that we had to have instructional coaches. The data will tell you that the best way to implement what you are trying to do when you look at how you go about the best impact on instruction is you've got to have job imbedded training. That job imbedded training takes place in this business through instructional coaches.

“What we are looking at now is taking those instructional coaches and really being able to hone those skills. When you look at many districts, they are going to have a much larger curriculum and instruction staff. What I will tell you is that a lot of those districts that have large staffs have engaged with this company [Engage 2 Learn]. The reason for that is that they have basically taken the lead on instructing instructional coaches. Part of what we are looking at having them do is taking our instructional coaches through a coaches academy but then they will also come and work with our coaches as our coaches coach teachers. This is very much a 'grow your own' model and how you go about growing leaders within your leadership group.”

McMath added that agreeing to a contract with Engage 2 Learn would serve as a “systematic approach” to help improve professional development district-wide.

Board members unanimously approved the 13-month contract with Engage 2 Learn to be paid with grant funding already allocated for professional development.

The action item of the board's agenda closed with discussion of potential improvement projects needed at the middle school campus.

Superintendent Scott Caloss opened discussion on the item recapping the circumstances that had led the district to this point. "Just to review, over the past three years there have been extensive conversations about our facilities. We've developed a committee, we've developed a plan, we've gone out for a bond proposal and that proposal did not pass. Our voters told us that the plan we went out for, they did not like, they did not approve. That means we have to come up with another plan. We need to realize that over the past three years we've done nothing for our middle school campus mainly because of the possibility of moving off of that campus. I think that possibility is gone. We have to move forward with the mindset that we're going to be on that campus in some form or fashion whether we have students on that campus or whether we make it into an administration building...With that, these repairs we feel like need to be made now. That campus has been neglected and we need to do this for our staff and for our students."

Assistant Superintendent Damon Davis followed Caloss' introductory remarks by outlining a series of projects needed at the main building at the middle school campus including: a roof replacement; HVAC replacement and reconfiguration of duct work; replacing the ceiling in the classrooms, the library and offices; replacing the lighting and light fixtures; and flooring with new tile.

A rough estimate of repair costs for the five projects presented by Davis totaled approximately $426,000, with work tentatively scheduled to be conducted during the summer months from early June into late July. Funds necessary to pay for the repair projects will come out of the district’s fund balance.   

Caloss noted, "If you recall when we closed out last year's budget we placed about $600,000 in our fund balance...We are still in pretty good shape once we do this."

Board member Jeff Etheridge weighed in on the discussion noting the campus would still have issues even with the repair project. "My biggest concern is that we are still not addressing the cafeteria. We're going to put this money into this building as old as it is so that tells me being there for a while, we are going to have to address the cafeteria issue which is going to be a lot more money. I would have liked to seen some of the money put towards the cafeteria to improve that process for our kids but I completely understand we have to start somewhere."

Jim Lamb agreed with Etheridge's assessment adding, "We are going to use the building. Regardless of whatever, we are going to use that building. If we decide to keep kids we're going to have to do something with this cafeteria sooner or later - better sooner than anything else. If we are going to surrender it to move admin over there I think this is very reasonable to get that where it needs to be for the kids to be in there. That still leaves us in very good shape in our fund balance. I think this is something that needs to be done because all it is going to do is keep deteriorating."

After further discussion, the board gave adminstrators the green light to go out for bids with plans to come back before the board at the April 9 meeting for further discussion. 

In other business:

-The board approved the appointment of election workers and scheduled ballot positioning for the May 5 election for 1 p.m. Feb. 26.

-The board approved a move for a class size exemption waver due to an influx of students at the fourth grade level.

-Recognitions included members of the WPHS FFA program, WPHS students Dontae Teuton, Claire Hiler Tyler James, Brandon Smith, and staff members Wanda Wise, Jeff Lester, Steffanie James and Liz Smith.

-The next board of trustees meeting will be held March 19 beginning at 7 p.m. at the WPISD Administration Office.





School Board 2

Photo by David Kapitan

Former district administrator and current Wills Point Education Foundation President Debbie Deen gives board of trustees members an update on the progress made by the foundation since its formation in 2017.