By Alton Porter
The remarkable success graduating seniors had in obtaining scholarship funds and the noteworthy commencement ceremony held for them were the most significant highlights of the year for Kennard Independent School District, according to Superintendent Malinda Lindsey.
Lindsey, who began serving as superintendent on March 28, told the Courier after a Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, June 9, this year's class of graduating seniors consisted of 13 students, and students in that class hauled in some $458,000 in scholarship funds.
That's a highlight in itself, Lindsey said, adding, another highlight for the year was that the gymnasium where the commencement exercise for the students was held was filled to beyond capacity for the graduation program on Saturday, June 4.
"I think our graduating class of 13 came in with $458,000 in scholarships," Lindsey said. "That's remarkable. "Our valedictorian (Jaclyn Barclay) is going to the University of Texas (UT). We have some registered for Angelina (College). We have some at SFA (Stephen F. Austin State University). So, we're very proud of our kids."
School Counselor Amy Gladden was commended by Board President Tod English and other trustees for the "nice job" she did helping students obtain those scholarships and for the success of the commencement ceremony. She said, the Hazelwood Act helped a great deal in obtaining the scholarships, and it also help that several of the students completed college classes.
Lindsey said she didn't have a headcount of people present at the commencement exercise, but "our gym was packed and our floor was packed. Each graduating senior had 10 chairs (for parents, other family members and friends) on the floor and they were all full. And we had standing room only in our gym. We had a great turnout."
Another highlight of the year was Barclay's performance in winning first place again in the State UIL Spelling and Vocabulary contest at the annual UIL Academic State Meet held at UT-Austin on May 24, Lindsey and other school administrators said.
Barclay had placed first in the event in her freshman and sophomore school years, and finished second in her junior year.
In addition, Lindsey said KISD will continue to take giant steps forward in the future. For example, certified nursing assistant (CNA) and phlebotomy classes will be offered to high school students beginning in the fall. "We have 18 kids enrolled in that," Lindsey said. "That's offered to our juniors and seniors. So, we're excited about that."
In business conducted following an executive session during the meeting, the trustees voted unanimous approval of the resignation of one employee and approval a list of at-will employees for the 2016-17 school year.
The trustees also approved by unanimous votes new performance evaluation systems for teachers and other professional employees submitted by Lindsey. Under the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), there are two new performance evaluation systems applicable to KISD.
They are the Evaluation of Teachers system, commonly referred to as the TASB DNA Local, and the Evaluation of Other Professional Employees system, known as the TASB DNB Local. Lindsey presented both to the trustees, and they approved both.
In non-action items discussed at the meeting, trustees engaged in brief question-and-answer sessions with Lindsey and Athletic Director Chris McClain after Lindsey presented KISD's 2016-17 Employee Handbook and the high school's 2016-17 Athletic Handbook. No major policy or other changes were reported made in the handbooks.
Although the new Athletic Handbook had not yet been posted on the district's website when the Courier went to press Tuesday, the 2015-16 Athletic Handbook was there on the website for viewing by anyone interested in seeing it.
Also, during the Items-for-Information part of the meeting, Lindsey reported on student and community engagement of the district. "Starting in 2013-14, each district is required by House Bill 5 (passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013) to include self-evaluation (of the district and each campus in the area of community and student engagement) based on nine areas," she said.
Those areas include fine arts, wellness and physical education, community and parental involvement (i.e., tutoring programs or participation in community service projects), a 21st Century Workforce Development program, and a second language acquisition program.
In addition, other areas are a digital learning environment, dropout prevention strategies, educational programs for gifted and talented students and a record of district and campus compliance with statutory reporting and policy requirements.
"Each district and campus must rate themselves exemplary, recognized, acceptable or unacceptable, based on criteria (established by a local committee)," Lindsey explained. "And the district (and) elementary and high schools rated themselves acceptable in all areas. We did not rate the district or the campuses in second language acquisition because that's not an area that's applicable to us."
During the Administrative Reports portion of the meeting, Principal Lesa Whaley said there are five students enrolled in summer school for the purpose of retesting – three eight graders and two fifth grade pupils. There were at least five others in those grades who were eligible, but their parents waived their rights, Whaley added.
Gladden reported that there are six students in math camp, and the instructor is meeting with them four days a week, 9 a.m. until noon. In addition, she said eight students are taking Algebra 1 this summer.
In answer to a question from a board member, she said, 18 students were taken to SFA to sit for the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Assessment test.
In addition, she said, "we have a huge group of juniors who have qualified and signed up for our college classes. It's the largest group I've ever seen." She said she believes the amount of money the trustees budgeted for the program is sufficient.