By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – Woodville ISD Board of Trustees approved signing two memorandums of understanding with Stephen F. Austin State University and Lamar Institute of Technology at its Monday night meeting.
The MOUs indicate the district’s interest in a program, which although “still in its infantile stages,” according to WISD superintendent Glen Conner, shows promise of being an immense asset to the district’s student population.
“This could be the best thing that’s happened to us in the 12 or 13 years I’ve been here [as superintendent],” Conner said.
According to Conner, the project involves an academy-type situation with the two higher learning institutions partnering with schools in Tyler, Jasper and Newton counties. At present, the plan is to offer classes out of the former Angelina College teaching center in Jasper.
The method of instruction will be different than the dual-credit courses currently offered at WISD, Conner said. The situation proposed through the SFASU/LIT agreement will offer “a true college atmosphere,” he said, with face-to-face instructors.
Aside from helping high school students to better prepare for college, the program will make it possible for them to obtain associates degrees in a variety of disciplines ranging from health career pathways to welding.
Conner said representatives from the TLL Temple Foundation are helping with the planning stages and could possibly fund it.
He said all that WISD would be responsible to provide are the students for the program and “a shared vision of doing better for our kids.”
Custodial service nixed
The Board killed an agenda item that proposed using a third-party custodial service for the district. Representatives from Houston-based McLemore Building Maintenance were at the meeting to make a presentation about their firm.
The representatives gave specifics on hiring practices, training procedures and examples of some of the institutions they service. District business manager Cody Jarrott said the option of awarding a contract to a third-party service is something the administration has been considering for a while with the retirement of custodial director Bernard Collins.
Jarrott said he believed it to be the best option as opposed to hiring one person. He cited the fact that the firm does custodial work on a large scale in school districts as well as colleges and businesses.
McLemore would hire a project manager, and custodial employees in the district would become employees of McLemore, according to a representative.
Currently there are 30 custodial employees in the district. McLemore projections show that number would likely be cut in half, if they were awarded the contract.
Board member Richard Shaw said the proposal contained “a lot of information we’ve been hit with.”
“This is a big change that affects a lot of people,” he said.
Another board member, Josh McClure, stated concern for employees who would potentially be cut. “I am very, very concerned about every district employee and the families affected,” he said.
Conner said the employees have been aware for some time that changes are on the horizon. “We wouldn’t be doing this if we were satisfied with what we have currently,” he said.
Shaw suggested another meeting to examine the information closer, but board president Jimmy Tucker said “If we wait 30 days, it doesn’t change the fact that half of [existing custodial staff members] are leaving.”
Tucker asked if anyone had a motion to put forth for the contract’s approval. Bryan Shirley motioned for the approval, but no second was provided.
“Teachers of the Year” recognized
The Board recognized teachers from each one of the WISD campuses for the “Teacher of the Year” awards. Tracy Wilson, from the elementary campus; Melanie Spivey from Woodville Intermediate; Marsha Watts from the middle school and Earl Bryan from Woodville High School were given the honors.
Board members along with administration from the different WISD campuses gave praise to each of the educators for their passion and abilities. Bryan, a science teacher, was also named WISD’s “Teacher of the Year” at the annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet last weekend.
During his monthly report, Conner gave some updates on the district-wide renovations taking place. He said the lighting replacement, on all WISD campuses, is 80% complete.
The HVAC work on the WHS campus is progressing, as well, with workers on site four days out of the week and working on Saturdays.
Conner voiced support on a bill before the Texas House of Representatives. House Bill 3, which was unveiled by Rep. Dan Huberty, a Houston Republican serving as chairman of the House Public Education Committee, proposes $9 billion toward increasing funding per student. The bill would also lower property tax rates by four cents.
Conner called it the best proposal he has seen in 38 years as an educator.
“I honestly feel like they are going to do something with school finance reform this year,” he said.