Board Agrees to Employ SRO
By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – It was a busy night for the Grapeland Independent School District Board of Trustees when they met on Thursday evening, June 23 as the board took several steps in preparing for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.
One of the major actions undertaken by the board was the hiring of Aimee Johnson as the new Grapeland High School Principal.
Johnson was an assistant principal at Palestine ISD before accepting the position with GISD. She also served as the dual-credit coordinator at Palestine High School. Prior to working in Palestine, Johnson was employed by Elkhart ISD, where she coached volleyball and tennis, along with her teaching duties.
Her principal’s certification is from Lamar University while she holds a Master’s Degree in Library Science from Sam Houston State University. Johnson’s undergraduate degree is from Stephen F. Austin State University and she taught for several years at Westwood Elementary.
“We are excited to have someone of her caliber available,” Grapeland ISD Superintendent Don Jackson said. “I feel she will be a strong presence for our students as well as a great role model. I believe she is someone who will come in and help us establish accountability for both students as well as staff.”
The superintendent added, “I’m excited to have Mrs. Johnson join us at GISD. She has been in education for a number of years and will bring a great deal of experience to Grapeland High School.”
Concerning the campus administrators, Jackson explained Johnson will be the GHS Principal while Channin Spisak will serve as the principal at the Junior High. Cassie Satterwhite will remain as the Grapeland Elementary Principal. The assistant principal at both GHS and GJHS will be Amanda Kincade.
Jackson said Kincade is moving over from GES and said, “I am excited about the relationships she (Kincade) built with the kids and parents while she was at the elementary school. She will now come over and be our assistant principal, mostly in charge of discipline.”
Moving to the area of accountability, Jackson said, “We were super excited about our preliminary scores. The preliminary scores at the elementary school show a great improvement. The high school has maintained its level of excellence. They have scored well on their end-of-course tests. The junior high fell off just a bit so we have some room for improvement in the next year.”
As the meeting continued, the GISD Board of Trustees voted to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Grapeland to hire a School Resource Officer (SRO).
“Next fall,” Jackson said, “we will have our own SRO who will be our district police officer. They will be housed at the high school but will have a presence on all campuses.”
Some of the duties will be: to coordinate the district safety plan; student interventions; relationship building; and being a presence at school events, whether at home or on the road.
The school will assume part of the responsibility for the SRO’s salary while the city will also assume part of the salary.
“I would like to give kudos to Grapeland Police Chief Richard Lewis and Grapeland Mayor Mitchell Woody for allowing us to have this MOU – this cooperation – between the two entities to do something to help make our schools a safer place to be,” Jackson said.
Last, but not least, the superintendent said, the SRO will lead the district’s Guardian Plan which is where certain staff members are allowed to carry a concealed weapon on campus.
“All of this is in response to what happened in Uvalde and across the state and nation. I believe all schools will put school safety and security at the top of the list. I know in our professional development plan for our students and the staff returning in August, it is at the top of our list – how we will operate our schools in a safer manner,” he said.
Another area covered in the Thursday meeting concerned the use of cell phones by students.
“Cell phones have been quite a distraction. Our District Improvement Committee is meeting to see how and what we can do to remove this distraction. You can look for a tighter accountability when it comes to cell phone usage. As far as any technology device that may distract students from their learning, we are collaborating now on a plan that will be released at the beginning of July about how we will deal with cell phones on campus. It is a good possibility students will be allowed to have cell phones for safety reasons, but the cell phone will be required to be off and out of sight during the school day,” he said.
Dress code matters were also addressed by the board, but final decisions were not made as of press time. Jackson recommended parents hold off on school shopping until the finished documents are published in early July.
The superintendent went on to say the board will be addressing staff compensation in July in an effort to possibly improve the plan currently in place.
“Our board is dedicated to taking a closer look at our salary schedules in order to make sure we are doing all that we can to make sure they are compensated in a way that shows our appreciation in a way for what they are trying to do for us,” he said.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.