By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – Crockett Independent School District (CISD) began classes this year Wednesday, Aug. 10. Amid new regulations for school security, conditions at the schools were notably tighter. Visitors again this year must check in with a valid identification and be checked in and out with a special visitor’s badge. Doors are secured and access to the school only allowed through the front door. Classrooms themselves are locked, and teachers and staff use keycards to move around the campus. They communicate with each other with walkie-talkies and keep in constant contact.
As the first day got underway, students seemed not to be effected by all of this. They bustled through hallways between classes. Some came by the office to check schedules. Freshmen had the normal questions as they began to navigate the high school.
Outside the office of high school Principal Deborah Revels, backpacks donated for the students were lined up ready to be given out. Revels was meeting with her staff going over the first day which she said was a big success.
“It’s going great, everyone came to school and ready to learn,” Revels said. “We have not had any distractions today. There were a couple of glitches, but nothing we couldn’t handle.”
High School Counselor Jenifer West was pleased that things were going to plan.
“I haven’t had anybody come by my office who was lost or couldn’t find their room,” West noted. “It’s going smoothly. All the new teachers have received all of the orientation and they know what to do.”
Meanwhile in the halls, high school senior Ryan Arvizu realized that the last year of school brings unique challenges. Top of his class, Arvizu discovered a new passion during his high school years.
“I have a pretty big fascination with agriculture,” Arvizu explained. “I wasn’t really involved in agriculture until my freshman year and I got into FFA and it opened a lot of doors for me and it’s something I want to pursue in the future. The first day is going amazing, but it is a real eye opener. You start to realize it’s the last year and you want to make the best of it.”
Fellow senior and basketball star Tocarra Johnson was confident beginning her last year, but also said she knew it was time to get plans made for the future.
“I feel like it’s going to be a good year and good things are coming,” Johnson said. “It will probably hit me towards the end of this first semester. And I will realize everything I need to be doing. I am a big procrastinator. So it will hit me later. Today is only the first day so I am letting the rest blow over for now. I want to enjoy the first day back.”
At the Crockett Elementary School the same security conditions apply as the children are moved through the halls to lunch and back. Keeping pace and walking on that straight line can be tough – at any age.
For many students, the return to school can be educational and fun – but also a needed safety net and refuge for some families. No matter what, at the school there will be safety, caring teachers, air conditioning and three good meals a day.
Dr. Mecheal Abbs – a Crockett native and long time educator – is the first-year principal of Crockett Elementary School. He has specialized in detecting and helping students who are falling behind to catch up – and the earlier in their student career the better.
Dr. Abbs explained the first days of the new school year will be dedicated in large part to getting the children used to the campus itself and moving around inside it.
“They are practicing these routines and procedures,” Dr. Abbs explained. “We’ll do this for the next week and a half to two weeks. Every movement that they have they will be practicing. We are lucky we have the time to practice these things before we go into the structure.
Abbs is passionate about helping the students. He explained how the school must compliment the work of parents.
“The parents send the best they have to us,” Dr. Abbs said. “They have to rely on us to take care of their children. When you talk about education, that’s more than just teaching them the basics. We have to also be that extra extension of the family. Communication is big. Everyone is either getting out of a situation, in the middle of a situation, or about to go into a situation. It’s the same with our kids.”
The district has begun a new program called NIET, or National Institute for Excellence in Teaching which has led to the hiring of “master” teachers. The program is used to evaluate teachers on their performance in the classroom and how this translates into better communication with – and results for the students.
Jordan Heersink was excited to start her first year as a master teacher in the elementary school.
“I work with the teachers in and out of the classrooms to give them new strategies,” Heersink said. “We analyze their student work and help the teachers to improve their quality. We had nine days of specialized training this summer. We evaluate the teachers like a principal would, and we have a conference before and after the class to work on the teachers being more effective.”
Crockett ISD Superintendent John Emerich has launched a reboot to the CISD webpage which is now much more user friendly. The district has launched an app for students and parents. All district events are displayed, along with cafeteria menus, and customizable options. The app is available for both iPhone and Android.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at email@example.com