By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Secondary Schools (High School and Junior High) have a new principal following the Grapeland ISD Board of Trustees meeting held on Monday, March 16.
Associate Principal Katie Doughty was selected for the position following an executive session by the GISD Board Monday evening and on Tuesday, Doughty sat down with The Messenger to discuss her selection.
Doughty has been serving in various roles within the district since she was hired over the summer of 2019. Prior to coming on board with GISD, she served as a math teacher in Waco ISD.
“I was the eighth grade math teacher and team lead at Cesar Chavez Middle School. Initially, I was hired as the elementary counselor here. Then, before we moved, I received a call asking if I would be interested in being the secondary counselor. My background is in secondary teaching so I was excited about that. Before my husband Blake and I arrived here, they called back and asked if it would be okay to combine that with instruction. So, before I got this position, I was the Associate Principal of Instruction and Guidance. I handled secondary instruction, helping teachers helping students, but I was also the secondary counselor,” she said.
Her husband, Blake, is an eighth grade history teacher and the Head Coach of the boys’ basketball program.
Originally, the position was slated to be filled by another applicant but when he rescinded his acceptance of the position, Doughty tossed her hat into the ring.
As far as her background, the newly hired principal said she had been in the field of education for eight years.
“I went to high school at Deer Park. It was a big 6A school. I did my undergraduate work at Austin College in Sherman, where I played softball. I majored in business and graduated a year early. I decided to stay there and do research with one of my professors. After that, I decided education was what I wanted to do,” she explained.
“I went down and taught in the (Houston) Fifth Ward,” Doughty said. “My husband and I went to college together and he also went down to teach and coach in Houston. From there, we’ve been all over. Waco, Frisco, Groesbeck and then we were in Kirbyville for a year.”
She said when the couple left Frisco, her husband had taken the head basketball coach’s position in Riesel.
Doughty laughed as she recalled moving to Riesel.
“We had only been married about three months. I left the big time in Frisco and he drove me to Riesel. There was only one gas station there. He asked, ‘How much do you love me?’ and I said, ‘A lot. Why?’ Sure enough that was where we landed. I taught there with him our first year there and we fell in love (with the small town atmosphere.) He grew up in a small-town – Thorndale – but I didn’t,” she chuckled.
She said she eventually went to teach in Waco but they still lived in the Riesel community. It was the type of community the couple wanted to live in when they decided to have kids, Doughty indicated.
“It’s not for everyone but it’s the type of place we wanted to land. We played Grapeland in either our first or second year there when we were in the playoffs. We had heard of Grapeland before and when the job came open he asked what I thought. At that point, I was ready to move out of the classroom and into a counselor’s role. Sure enough, by God’s plan, a counselor’s position was open here,” Doughty explained.
As the conversation continued and given the uncertain status of schools caused by the Coronavirus, Doughty was asked what her plans for the high school included.
“Right now, we need to make sure the kids’ needs are met, beyond the academics, their social and emotional needs need to be met as well as we can. We need to let them know things are going to be okay and we are here for them. These are uncharted waters. It’s not anything public administrators have learned in a class. I am thankful to have a pretty good network of administrators who are brainstorming. I can tell you what our plans are at 1:10 pm but when we meet again at 2 pm, they might change,” she said.
“Our plan for the high school,” Doughty emphasized, “is to make sure our kids don’t get lost. I think a lot of times we work to close the achievement gap in certain areas of the state. When you have something like this, I think you always are nervous that kids don’t have internet access. Kids have been turned into babysitters for their families because school has been closed. You want everything to be equitable for everyone. What might work for one family might not work for another. Trying to individualize the help for 300 kids at the secondary is kind of our plan right now. It’s fluid. We meet regularly and we are meeting again at 2 pm. We are bringing teachers back tomorrow (Wednesday) for a half-day to explain what is going on and how they can help us.”
She added on Tuesday, administrators ran a bus route to deliver food to those students who had requested it, along with instructional packets.
“The plan is to let the kids know we are still here,” Doughty explained. “We may not be physically in front of you but we want to know what he kids’ needs are. The school is the hub, especially in small towns. The school is the place where kids go to escape things or they go to try and be normal.”
Concerning her educational philosophy, Doughty expressed before you have the higher level of thinking discussed in Bloom’s taxonomy, you must have your basic needs met as described in Maslow’s hierarchy.
“If a kid is focused on where there next meal is coming from, it’s hard for them to focus on their reading assignment. You have to meet kids’ social and emotional needs before you can push them instructionally. Once you do that, the sky is the limit. In 2020, that is the reality we are facing. My philosophy is to get a team together that believes in that same mission,” she said.
Doughty said she would like to inform the parents of Grapeland students she will be “… accessible, approachable and available. I’m around. If you need something, communicate it. We might not be able to get it right away, but we will make a plan that your kid gets what they need. Grapeland secondary schools will be kids first.”
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.