WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The future looks bright for the Wichita Falls Independent School District, but reaching that future doesn’t come without its hurdles for the district’s Board of Trustees.

The board met on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, in a special session, where its three newest members weighed in on how to address those hurdles.

Dr. Donny Lee, Superintendent of WFISD, said the newest members of the school board bring a unique perspective to the table.

“We have a former principal with Sandy Camp, so she’ll be able to bring a perspective that has the best interest of teachers and principals in mind,” Dr. Lee said. “We’ve also got Susan Grisel who has been an outstanding volunteer throughout the district.”

Dr. Lee said Grisel offers the perspective of parents and volunteers within WFISD.

“And of course, we’ve got our newest member, Jim Johnson, who is a banker, so he’ll bring a finance perspective,” Dr. Lee said.

Dr. Lee said the newest additions to the WFISD Board of Trustees will contribute in ways that move the district forward.

“We’ve got three very unique perspectives that along with the other four gives a very diverse board for perspective and thought,” Dr. Lee said.

Dr. Lee said progress has been made with the district’s finances, but there’s still a long road ahead.

“How can we be fiscally responsible and good stewards of taxpayer money? That’s what we talk about every meeting,” Dr. Lee said. “That is what you would call a long-distance race and not a sprint. We’re making some very good progress to be financially sound not only next year but into the future.”

Proposed Three-Tier Start and End Time

One money-saving measure the board discussed at Tuesday’s meeting was a three-tier start and end time system for the district. Associate Superintendent Dr. Peter Griffiths said this system is a necessity due to some of the big changes coming to the district in the coming school years.

“With the two new high schools and eventually the plan is two middle schools, about 80 to 90 percent of our students will be bus eligible,” Dr. Griffiths said. “Once you do that, then you increase the number of busses, the number of routes that’s necessary.”

According to Dr. Griffiths, keeping the district on a two-tier system would require up to 25 new routes, 17 new school busses, and the staff to maintain those new routes and busses. Changing to a three-tier system would save the district millions of dollars annually.

Another key factor in the need for changes in the current system involve recently announced closures to WFISD elementary schools that will make attendance zones previously not eligible for busses eligible.

Dr. Griffiths said it would be ideal to rip the ubiquitous bandaid off since this change will be necessary, and go ahead and start the new start times before Legacy High School and Memorial High School open in 2024.

“If we go ahead and start doing that now, let’s get the systems in place, let’s get all the bugs out, that will help us out down the road,” Dr. Griffiths said.

One option that was presented involves high schools going from 7:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., elementary schools going from 8:10 a.m. until 3:40 p.m., and middle schools starting at 8:50 a.m. and releasing at 4:20 p.m. However, board members suggested starting middle school early, at 7:30 a.m., and high school later, at 8:50 a.m.

Dr. Griffiths noted that a start time change involving elementary school starting first isn’t very likely, as it was attempted several years ago and met with public outcry. In the end, no solution will make every family in a district that serves 12,000 students happy.

But today was just a discussion, with some changes already suggested. Dr. Griffiths said he plans to take the board’s feedback into consideration before any action is taken.

“The biggest thing is, you know what time? Who starts first? Is it elementary, middle school, or high school? We’re not going to make everyone happy,” Dr. Griffiths said.

Scotland Park Elementary Nurse Recognized

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Scotland Park Elementary Schools nurse Mary Rodriguez, LVN, was recognized for the “outstanding job she did by providing emergent care to a Scotland Park student in December 2022.

According to district officials, a Scotland Park student had a traumatic event that could have resulted in the permanent loss of an appendage if not for the care provided by Rodriguez.

Rodriguez went as far as continuing to help the student after they were admitted to the hospital, due to the family’s language barrier.

District officials said due to Rodriguez’s swift medical action and commitment to advocating for this student on behalf of the family, the student has made a full recovery and has resumed attendance at Scottland Park.

Stacey Wood, Director of Nursing at WFISD, said Rodriguez is just one example of the many nurses within the district that goes above and beyond.

“Our district nurses are truly unsung heroes who prioritize the health and safety of students and staff and selflessly serve our community,” Wood said. “It’s not just a job. It’s a calling, and one we are passionate about.”

Assisting Kirby Middle School Educators

Another hurdle needing more immediate action involves Kirby Middle School and its student’s struggling test scores. One solution proposed at Tuesday’s meeting was a coaching-based program called Engage2Learn.

WFISD’s Executive Director of School Administration Debbie Dipprey said the program is personalized to the teacher. Rather than just blowing up what a teacher may already be doing that is successful, Engage2Learn is custom-made for that educator.

Dipprey said Kirby Middle School is a campus like no other in the district, thanks to its teachers.

“One of the things that sets that campus apart is the willingness of the staff to go above and beyond for students,” Dipprey said. “In my view, we are paying back some of that effort by providing them this one-on-one coaching.”

According to Dipprey, Engage2Learn has produced incredible results in other districts in Texas, particularly in Abilene, a district very similar to WFISD.

Dipprey said she’s confident the program will have a lasting impact on Kirby and could be a catalyst for district-wide improvement.

“I think the success we anticipate at Kirby, we will have campuses clamoring to participate in the future,” Dipprey said.

Update on Legacy and Memorial High Schools

On the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting was a progress update on the ongoing construction of Legacy High School on Henry S. Grace Freeway, and Memorial High School on Kell Freeway.

David Potter, the architect overseeing the construction of the new schools since the very beginning, gave another positive report to the board.

“We’re very thrilled with the progress we’ve made,” Potter said in October’s meeting. “We’re on schedule, we’re still on budget, so we’re very happy with the process.”

Dr. Lee echoed Potter’s optimism, and he said he can’t wait for the 2024 school year when Legacy and Memorial are officially introduced to the city of Wichita Falls.

“Not only are they on track, they’re also on budget,” Dr. Lee said. “We’re seeing a lot of excitement from the community, and we can’t wait to get them open.”

WFISD has a constant feed from on-site cameras at both build locations, which can be accessed by using the buttons below.