Sunday Sitdown



By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

The Messenger continues its Sunday Sitdown reports where we speak with our local pastors, educators, local businesspeople, students and interesting people of all walks of life in Houston County. To see the full video interview, click on the link below to see the video on our Facebook page. The Messenger would like to thank Cutshaw Chevrolet in Grapeland for sponsoring this week’s edition.


What is the current situation with COVID and its lingering effects?

“Those were such hard times and it’s really incredible what our teachers and administrators were able to pull off for our kids. I am glad to say a lot of that is in our rearview mirror – as far as day to day we are very much back to normal. We have kept in place a lot of the sanitizing practices and hand washing that came out of COVID. We were able to use some of our ESSER funds from COVID to improve our air quality and been able to install LED systems in order to kill bacteria and hopefully mitigate the spread of all viruses. Obviously, we saw a lot of regression in students. The state put out House Bill 4545 and our administration and teachers have done an amazing job of taking that and running with it and making sure our kids are getting those remediation hours they’re required to take. I am really hopeful the legislators tweak that a little bit, because the initiative is good, but it’s quite an undertaking. I am glad, however, our kids are are making the progress that we’d like to see out of that initiative.”

What progress has been made regarding school security?

“Last summer, our school board and I started the conversation about opening our own police department. After Uvalde and so many terrible things school districts are having to think about, we really wanted to consider that as an option for us. Our Sheriff’s Department is wonderful but the reality is, we are 13 miles from law enforcement. So we started pursuing that option and in September, we completed our application with TCOLE and that was approved in October. So Lovelady officially has our own police department. We hired a police chief. And Chief Merchant has been a really great asset to our school district.”

How does Lovelady achieve UIL, sports and other successes being a smaller school?

“I would start by saying our staff – we have incredible people who work here. They are such dedicated and selfless people. It’s not abnormal on a daily basis to see someone doing something that’s well outside of their job description because we have a mindset of, ‘Do whatever it takes!’ We also have such a wonderful school board. From the beginning of my start here at Lovelady, they have just worked as a team. And the parent and community involvement here is phenomenal. It was ‘Texas Week’ and we had a Texas lunch and filled that cafeteria with parents. If we have an issue with a student, the parents show up. Last Saturday we had our calf show and our local businesses came out and supported the kids purchasing and supporting them. That parent-community involvement is a large piece of what makes our school successful. I would also tell you the culture here – having gone to school here and my boys going to school here – we just have a culture of a winning mindset.”

What is the current position of Lovelady ISD regarding a four-day school week?

“Certainly the four-day weeks have been a hot topic across the state and many school districts have moved into that. It is something we have considered and I took on the challenge to look into it. I really wanted to look at districts like us and look at their student performance. We have to consider Lovelady is the second largest per-square-mile district in our county next to Kennard. So we’ve got long bus routes and long days. The four-day calendar means you’ve got to extend your days. We met with the staff and, my hope was, to come up with something that was a win-win option. We understand we’ve got to present a calendar that’s competitive. We have a teacher shortage and we understand that, so the calendar style that we presented does have a lot more four day weeks in it. We are hoping this is an option that is going to be best for kids but help us be competitive in attracting teachers.”

Where do you see Lovelady ISD in three to five years from now?

“We will still be competitive. We will still be working hard. We will still be working to make a difference in our great community. Our school is our community so I would see us remaining successful. One of the things we are doing is trying to improve our career and technology program. I would hope in the next three to five years we may be offering some additional programs in that area, too.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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