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GISD on the Rise


Elementary, Early Learning Center nearing Completion

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Independent School District Board of Trustees met in a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 22 in a session highlighted by several, positive presentations.

As the meeting got underway, Grapeland ISD Superintendent Don Jackson asked Berry and Clay Site Superintendent Justin Valdez to provide an update on the progress of the new elementary school construction.

“I am on the last push of finishing touch-ups and the interior to get the job done. I’m glad to have the opportunity to help finish up working on this project,” he said.

Valdez replaced Jack Finkle as the site superintendent when Finkle took another position in late-June.

“We are a couple of weeks out from getting our final fire inspection. Once we get that, the final finishes can be applied,” he explained.

Asked about the exterior, Valdez said the company had started the backfill earlier in the day. Once that process was concluded, he explained the next step would be to place hydro-mulch in the bare areas.

“As far as landscaping and irrigation, I haven’t been told that we are doing that,” he said.

Jackson said the district would be taking care of that part of the construction.

Board member Allen Cheatham added, “I toured the elementary with Justin and Don last Thursday morning and it looks very nice.”

“Since you’ve been there,” Valdez said to Cheatham, “We’ve done a lot more touch-up and we have a lot more base installed. At this point the classrooms are ready for furniture. We just have minor touch-up paint and a few ceiling tiles to replace from other installations.”

Board President James Martin added the furniture providers had been on site earlier in the day and said it would take them three days to unload, unpack and build the furniture.

“They are already putting the furniture in the rooms,” Martin said.

The next presentation was given by James Germany with DK Haney concerning repairs to the lighting, scoreboard and sound system at the football stadium caused by hail damage in the late spring.

“To give you an idea of where the insurance is at, they’re kind of dragging around,” Germany said.

He provided the board with a quote of $253,200 for the football field lighting, a quote of $7,601 to fix the football scoreboard and $8,106 for the replacement of the sound system. Germany also provided a quote to fix the baseball/softball field lighting for $283,200.

“Their (insurance company) original quote to us was $1.1 million. They sent us a check for $900,000, but like James said, we don’t know what it’s for,” Jackson said.

Following an executive session, after all agenda items had been covered, the board accepted the quotes to fix the lighting, scoreboard and sound system at Sandie Stadium.

As the meeting continued, Child Care Center Administrator Christie Hill gave an update on the progress at the Early Learning Center (ELC).

“We have 34 children currently enrolled. Our goal was to have 40 by Aug. 1 so we only need six more in two weeks. We currently have seven employees. I have an intergroup teacher and an aide, a toddler room teacher and an aide, a teacher for two-year-olds, a teacher for three-year olds and a floater. That floater will float around and help give breaks in the classroom,” she said.

Hill said the ELC “… had received our state license to operate the center, two weeks ago. If you’ve been in the center, you’ll see it hanging about half-way down the hall. We are licensed for 105 children and that is our total capacity.”

She added parent orientation would be on Aug. 1 at 6 pm at the ELC. A community open house and ribbon cutting will be on Friday, Aug. 2 at 6 pm. while the grand opening will be Monday, Aug. 5 at 6:45 am.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to serve our children here in Grapeland and I’m excited to be a part of the staff,” Hill said.

Once Hill concluded, Jackson provided his superintendent’s report.

“We are fully staffed. We are excited about that. We lost some good people but we gained some good people. I think we have about 18 new members. We’re excited about the people we’ve hired,” he said.

“Kudos to our teachers, staff and administrators,” he continued. “Our preliminary district accountability score is a ‘B.’ It has not been made public yet. I don’t want to celebrate too much because it’s not final, but we look good right now with that ‘B.’ We got a ‘D’ last year. Give all the credit to our teachers and administrators for doing such a great job with our kids. It was a total team effort.”

In other matters brought before the GISD Board of Trustees:

  • The 2019-2020 budget planning dates of Aug. 8, Aug. 19 and Aug. 29 were set.
  • The board voted to maintain the DAEP contract with Crockett ISD.
  • The board approved the employee handbook for the 2019-2020 school year.
  • The trustees gave their approval to the 2019-2020 compensation plan related to the passage of House Bill 3 (covered in a separate article).
  • Consent agenda items were approved.
  • The resignations of Anthony DeCello, Cameron Besetzney and Tracy Cooper were accepted.
  • The board approved the hiring of: Woodrow Jones as Behavior Specialist overseeing In School Suspension and Truancy; Cody Pierce as a teacher/head baseball coach; and Robert Payne as a teacher/head girls’ basketball coach.


Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.