By CHERIL VERNON
Westwood Independent School District Board of Trustees heard plans for improvement at both the campus and district level from school administrators during their regular school board meeting Tuesday at Westwood High School.
Principals from the primary campus to the high school spoke respectively about items on their campus improvement plans including STAAR readiness, professional development training, technology and recruiting, and retaining quality employees.
Topping the list on Westwood Primary School's campus plan was additional writing instruction and opportunities for students to raise scores on state tests, increasing English as a Second Language (ESL) intervention and working to get more teachers ESL certified, according to Principal Sonya Brown.
Other items on the primary's improvement plan included recruiting and maintaining quality employees and creating and maintaining a technology-rich environment. For instance, Brown said the teachers are using two iPads as a pilot program, in addition to its Netbooks.
Westwood Elementary School's campus improvement plan also included more STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) test preparation; professional development training; immersing technology in the curriculum; and providing a safe, orderly school environment, according to Principal Breanna Jones. The addition of security cameras and the upgraded safety plan have helped provide for this, though Jones noted a need to have the playground updated.
Westwood Junior High School's campus improvement plan included improving the outward appearance of the school, including the area between the gym and the cafeteria, according to Principal Donald Ressler. Several construction projects, such as for the school entrance, canopy and sidewalks, are ongoing.
Westwood High School's campus improvement plan includes transitioning the curriculum toward career paths — an aim underscored by House Bill 5 — while keeping the same rigor for college-bound students, according to Principal Kyle Lock.
Lock discussed Westwood's 2014-15 high school course catalogue as it related to House Bill 5, which has required schools across Texas to change courses and graduation plans to some degree.
“We want to have a strong foundation to better prepare students for today's job market,” Lock said. “We want to develop career paths while maintaining the college preparation and dual-credit program that provides a bridge from high school level to college. We want career paths that put the student at the at the top of the job market.”
Because schools have yet to receive a final plan for House Bill 5 changes, Lock said the idea at this point is to “keep it simple.”
“We want to build a solid foundation, and as they tell us more, then we will be able to adjust what we have in place,” Lock said.
Other items on the high school plan included quality professional development — especially in English and writing — with the possibility of adding another English teacher to the faculty to trim the number of students per class.
Lock said he wants to continue the commitment to hire highly qualified personnel and reduce the teacher turnover rate.
The campus holds a fish camp for incoming freshmen, as well as a Meet the Teacher night at the beginning of the school year. Lock said he would like to add a WHS showcase event so parents can see what pathways (class courses) students can choose from when starting their high school career.
Additionally, the high school plan included purchasing calculators (which the school recently was able to do) as well as continuing to provide tablets and software apps for education. Lock stressed the need for training on the tablets — not only for teachers but for the students as well.
Lock then discussed the importance of recognizing students on the “A” honor roll and mentioned that the campus holds a college workshop on financial aid and SAT/ACT preparation.
Other items that made the high school's improvement plan included maintaining budget expenses and pushing students to think at a higher level.
“We need to make them analyze things and really challenge them to to reach for a higher level of thinking,” Lock said.
WISD Director of Curriculum/Federal Programs Cindy Christian gave the district improvement plan report, which included providing staff development, increasing the number of highly qualified teachers from 99 to 100 percent, incorporating more writing for students at all campuses, doing more to recognize the staff and considering the implementation of a volunteer system.
During a discussion for preparations for the 2014-15 budget, WISD Superintendent Dr. Ed Lyman discussed how the possible influx of students to the district next year may affect the budget. Lyman is estimating that it could be possible to have 200 more students in the district by Christmas 2014 due to the job openings made available from Sanderson Farms.
In other business, the board:
• RECOGNIZED student representatives to the board: Jerry Gomez and Catherine Guillotte
• RECOGNIZED students and teachers of the month
• RECOGNIZED WISD's tennis teams
• HEARD recommendations from the Personnel Advisory Committee, which had met March 26. The committee offered several ideas and suggestions to improve the school district. The board of trustees were provided with a list of their suggestions. Many of the ideas involved enforcement of the school dress code for students.
• RATIFIED purchase of sewer easement from Exploration Products Co.
• APPROVED the agenda
• APPROVED the consent agenda which included minutes of the March 17 regular school board meeting; March Tax Report and Quarterly Financial Report; first reading and adoption of Policy Update 99; first reading of Graduation Policy EIF (Local); certification of instructional materials; and fund-raisers.
• CERTIFIED WISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Don Rice as a representative to the Education Service Center 7 Regional Advisory Committee.
Following closed session, the board approved hiring, accepting resignations and leave requests for professional and non-professional personnel. The names of those approved were not available as of press time.