By Nancy Whitney
Wylie ISD presented their State of the School address to chamber luncheon attendees last week. The address, given by Superintendent David Vinson, was held at the FBC event center.
Vinson kicked off his speech saying, “Wylie ISD stands out in STAAR scores where other districts have fallen behind.”
“This means that our kids are in the only school district in the state of Texas, to show growth on the STAAR,” Vinson said. “Our kids aren’t just thinking on their grade level they are taking their knowledge and going the next level.”
Wylie takes their academics very seriously and ranks among the highest in the state on the STAAR, SAT and ACT. The district, based on TEA standards, holds a 99 percent net retention rate.
School district personnel met with Sen. Estes and Sen. Taylor’s offices recently on the topic of math.
“Last year, the state implemented the most rigorous math standards in our state, probably nationally, that has ever been implemented,” Vinson said. “These new standards sometimes doubled the information students were previously required to learn.”
At the senator’s suggestion, district representatives talked to the State Board of Education where they presented their findings. The state board looked at various districts statewide and found similar concerns. Wylie ISD requested the state board not count STAAR scores this year as part of their accountability and requested a more comprehensive staff development-teaching plan be established for the teachers.
In April, the state suspended accountability for the entire state of Texas and asked that Wylie ISD establish a staff development plan that will help train every math teacher in the state of Texas, grades three to 8, on how to implement the new standards.
Meanwhile growth in the district has steadily climbed with 2,000 students added in the last four years.
To date, Wylie ISD has approximately 1,700 to 2,000 students at both Wylie High School and Wylie East, The three junior high campuses house about 800 students per school, while the three intermediate schools have approximately 900 students per school. Each of the 11 elementary campuses has almost 600 students per school.
“Our growth is a significant feature of our school district,” he said. “Thankfully the public passed the bond, in record order that allowed us to do some new construction.”
The districts newest elementary, George W. Bush Elementary, will open in the fall of 2016.
The district chose to add on to the existing junior high and intermediate schools versus adding additional schools, saving several million dollars and preventing families from relocating schools.
New opportunities for the 2015-’16 school year include tennis at the junior high schools and an orchestra program. The 544, a restaurant at Wylie High School run by the culinary students, will be opening in January 2016.
Core ethical values, Vinson said, is the “sham-wow” of what the district has to offer.
“When I got here a bunch of community members got together and said ‘we need to not just make our students smarter we need to make them good’ and so we set off on an opportunity to create what we call a set of core ethical values that we are going to live by in our district,” he said. “We call it ‘The Wylie Way’. I wanted us to be that community that knows every person when they are walking down Main Street, and build friendships and partnerships with Mayor Hogue, our communities and churches. That is the place I want to raise my family.”
The four core values for The Wylie Way are; Respect and Responsibility, Caring and Giving, Grit and Preparation and Gratitude and Celebration.
The district’s goal is to raise good citizens and discipline at the high school has been cut in half.
“We wanted our kids to be able to start their college or career experience while at high school, helping them build that tread on the tires when they leave the district, helping them decide where they want to go,” Vinson said. “We asked every student in Wylie ISD to declare a college or career experience major so when they start high school they know what they are going to do and have a plan to get there.”
He said it has made a giant difference. According to numbers Vinson received from Jeannie Stone, district CFO, there are 900 students in healthcare fields, 400 students in education, 260 students in agriculture, 214 welders, 410 kids pursuing engineering, 560 law and public safety majors plus many more.
The program gives students the opportunity to see what they like but also what they don’t, helping the student and their family save time and money during the college years.
In 2014, Wylie college-bound students earned more than $3 million in scholarships.
“Wylie ISD and The Wylie Way is about achievement,” he said. “It isn’t about trying, it is about doing. It isn’t about where we are, it is about where we are going. It is about having students on the pathway, with essential pathways helping them be who they want to be in a safe environment so they can flourish and grow.”