Special to The Messenger
GRAPELAND – Happy New Year to our students, staff and parents. We are looking forward to 2020 and what it holds for our school district. Presently, our enrollment is 614 students. Our student numbers average 43 students per grade level. Yes, we are now considered Class 2A Division I and we look forward to the challenges that await in the classrooms, on the courts and fields.
We were blessed to hire 19 excellent additions to our staff for the 2019-2020 school year. They have brought their energy, efforts, expertise and enthusiasm to our district and are making a difference in the lives of our students.
Our district is also so very blessed to offer child care services to our staff and community for the first time. Christie Hill has joined us and brought her 20 plus years of experience in childcare leadership. She has also hired nine childcare experts to teach and train our 51 young people in the way that they should go. We have room to grow and look forward to serving even more infants and toddlers who will become future Sandies.
We are super excited that our school board has taken the initiative to prioritize salary improvements and is really focused on helping us recruit and retain great teachers for our students. Our board of trustee’s focus on mental health allowed us to hire a counselor at the secondary schools.
Katie Doughty, with the help of our new Director of Student Services Cindy Huff, has already been instrumental in providing services and problem solving with our students. I want to assure our parents that your students have staff members in place to support and encourage them.
As I look back over the first semester, it was a blessing to fill in as Interim secondary principal and go back to the frontlines of education. There is no doubt in my mind that the principal of a school sets the tone for the performance, programs and principles of a school.
I was reminded just how difficult this job is and I have been reminded that our best systematic intentions sometimes become secondary to what comes up and has to be assessed and addressed. Terry Ward, our Athletic Director, will take the reins at our Secondary School for the remainder of the year.
Then, we will welcome Joey Mason who is presently the principal at Palestine JH. We feel that we have found a great fit for Grapeland with someone who will take us to the next level of effectiveness and be a firm but fair communicator with students, staff, parents and the community of Grapeland.
The success of our Ag program and athletic programs is widely published and we are proud to call ourselves The Home of Champions. Our FFA program continues to shine and produce great results and ambitions under the legendary leadership of Gary Graham and Shellee Goolsby.
At the same time, our athletic programs are thriving under the new leadership of Coach Terry Ward, highlighted by a great playoff run from our football team. We certainly believe that tradition does not graduate and that the future is bright for our FFA and athletic programs.
I must also add that we have found the man to rebuild our Band Program in Moises Santos. He will lead us back to the Promised Land for band.
Presently, both the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams look like forces to be reckoned with and we anticipate deep playoff runs for them also.
I have saved the absolute best for last. It is with great pride that I strut through the halls of Grapeland Elementary School. This new building is the culmination of the hard work of many GISD stakeholders. It is a beautiful building that defines the value of education in Grapeland. Let me take a moment to say thank you again to our great community for making a life-long investment in the lives of our children. The town of Grapeland is a special place which is full of special people who exude high expectations and a have a commitment to be supportive of our schools.
In conclusion, I know that our toughest test lies – without a doubt – in academically preparing our students for life’s challenges after high school. Currently, we have systems and frameworks in place that will produce more college-ready and career-ready students. We have a plan that will establish student accountability which will make State accountability a traditional celebration of success.
Let me assure you, we are not overlooking our weaknesses. We are not satisfied with our Accountability rating of an F at the Elementary. Our leadership team of Principal Cassie Satterwhite, Asst. Principal Amanda Kincade, along with the daily assistance of Asst. Supt. Ginger Arbuckle are working together with the awesome teaching staff at GES to make sure we have a bounce back year in a school which perennially had satisfactory performance. We would like to let our parents and guardians know that we will be asking our tested students to commit to after school tutoring during portions of the spring semester to insure that they are properly prepared for accountability challenges.
Oh, here is some important information for our elementary students … your playground will be ready and available on Monday, January 6th when you return.
Finally, our administration systems in Grapeland ISD will daily involve practicing observation, giving feedback, making plans, and absorbing professional development which will enhance our student and staff culture.
We have weekly meetings as a leadership team with the goal of making sure that we practice what we preach. Our plan is simple when it comes to accountability. We have gone from a D score to a B score and we are committed to defining and defeating our weaknesses in pursuit of an A. All is well in Grapeland ISD due to the high expectations that our School Board has for our personnel and performance. We are looking forward to 2020. #bringiton