Hays CISD board looks to new superintendent for stronger focus on academic improvement

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The Hays CISD board trustees continued the discussion about the district’s academic flaws and promised to make improvements the main focus moving forward during its board meeting Monday night.

According to Executive Director of Learning and Teaching Yarda Leflet, HCISD received a Met Standard rating on the Texas Education Agency’s 2017 accountability scale and a needs assistance for the 2017 special education determination status. HCISD also had two elementary schools—Hemphill and Science Hall—on the TEA’s Improvement Required list.

HCISD was below the state average scores for reading by 3 percent and 12 percent below the state average in writing. Bilingual students improved across the board in all subjects except for in science and social studies. The school district has a 95.3 percent attendance rate and 88.5 percent graduation rate. HCISD also exceeded the state in ACT and SAT results.

While in certain categories HCISD either exceeded the state average or maintained its previous year’s numbers, trustees Willie Tenorio and Esperanza Orosco expressed concern about the lack of obvious improvement in the ratings.

Tenorio said the district has been too focused on the secondary education, and if it put more emphasis on primary education the whole system would improve.

Orosco said not only is there is not a specific plan in place to address and improve writing scores, but she is also concerned about bilingual and English language learner students’ education.

“We hire so many new-to-profession bilingual teachers; I think it’s impacting our scores as well. We are putting novice teachers in there to teach [when]our population of students have such high need,” Orosco said. “We need experienced teachers, and we need to contain our experienced teachers.”

President Meredith Keller said that improving test scores should be the No. 1 item on the board’s agenda each meeting.

“This is not new information to us. This is the most important thing we do in this district. It needs to be our focus at every agenda item, at every meeting; everything we do needs to be about [improving education,]” Keller said.

After Keller said “no pressure, but pressure” to new superintendent Eric Wright, Wright said “challenge accepted.”

The Hemphill Elementary School Turnaround Plan was pushed to a later February board meeting to allow Wright more time to get involved with the initiative. In an earlier interview Wright said he wants to start targeting students’ education at a foundational level.

“I want to make sure that we have a good blend of balanced literacy and we also implement phonics across the board, so that kids, especially our English language learners, have an opportunity to learn the phonetic base side of things and then also really increase their vocabulary skills,” Wright said.

Readers can view the full presentation and rating comparisons here.

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Starlight Williams
Starlight Williams joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. After graduating Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism and legal studies, Starlight now spends her time covering city government, education and business news in the Buda and Kyle area. When not on the clock, Starlight can be found singing off-key to Broadway show tunes, mourning the decline of manners and watching the latest flick from the wonderful world of Disney.
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