CCISD holds annual State of the District luncheon
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Hundreds of community members showed up to the annual Copperas Cove Independent School District State of the District community-wide luncheon Wednesday morning.
Guest speakers included Col. Hank Perry, Fort Hood Garrison Commander, who spoke about the partnerships between Fort Hood and CCISD through the Adopt-a-School program, which has 11 campuses adopted by 10 Units from Fort Hood.
Khris Vasquez, of the Copperas Cove Walmart, gave the business partnership address and shared how they have partnered with Copperas Cove Junior High as part of the district’s Partners in Education since January 1. Vasquez accepted the Stand Up for Public Education Award on behalf of Walmart, joining several other organizations and businesses on stage who were also recipients.
Superintendent Joe Burns shared about the different campuses in the district during his State of the District Address.
“Campuses have been doing a great, great job working with our young people, making a difference for those young people, helping young people realize their full potential,” Burns said.
Burns highlighted the efforts of Lady Dawgs Volleyball Coach Cari Lowery, whose team has never not had a winning season and of the CCHS DECA club, which is under the advisement of Charlotte Heinze and is sending 22 students to the DECA International Competition in Florida this year.
At the elementary campus level, Fairview/Jewell Elementary collected 2,400 pounds of food for a food drive. Burns shared that this campus is one of the highest poverty campuses and that some of the students’ families will be utilizing the same food pantry their student’s school donated to.
Martin Walker Elementary Student Council earned National Honor Council and has more than 280 students involved in 17 after-school clubs, while Clements/Parsons Elementary won first place in this year’s Fort Hood Recycle Bowl and now has a therapy dog on campus for students to interact with.
For Hettie Halstead Elementary, one of the district’s smallest campuses, Burns praised their efforts with the Student to Student Mentoring program and their Step team.
“Campuses are working really really hard at making learning meaningful for kids and so when I share my comments today and the powerpoint, I want you to know that everything that we do is targeted at making kids believe in themselves and then demonstrate that belief with a successful educational opportunity,” Burns said.
For the 2018-2019 school year, there are 8,256 students enrolled, which is an increase of 141 compared to last year.
Burns mentioned the new subdivisions being built on the north side of town as a reason for this increase.
“I want you to know that your board is working diligently to think about facilities and what those facilities look like and how do we meet the needs of kids in the future,” Burns said. “How do we maximize what we’ve got to ensure that every kid gets an equitable opportunity at a great education?”
Not only did all CCISD campuses earned the highest academic rating possible by the state, the district itself earned a B-rating from the state in the first year that the state graded districts on a letter scale.
Burns said that the rating is a “B working on an A” and that there is room for improvement.
Five campuses earned Academic Distinctions. Copperas Cove Junior High earned one in Science. Clements/Parsons Elementary earned one in ELA Reading, Mathematics, Science, Postsecondary Readiness and Comparative Closing the Gaps. Hettie Halstead Elementary earned an Academic Distinction in Mathematics, Comparative Academic Growth, Postsecondary Readiness and Comparative Closing the Gaps. Martin Walker Elementary earned an Academic Distinction in Mathematics, Science, Postsecondary Readiness and Comparative Closing the Gaps. Williams/Ledger Elementary earned one in Science.
Burns also discussed the district’s financial integrity rating, which was a perfect score of 100 in 2018. Since the inception of the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST), CCISD has never earned less than a Superior rating, Burns said.
“Taxpayers and citizens, that means your money is being well spent,” Burns said. “It’s being spent appropriately. There’s no activity that shouldn’t be taking place and we’re squeezing every penny out of every dollar that we get.”
Burns shared facts about the Transportation and Child Nutrition Departments. The Transportation Department transports 5,470 students on over 155 bus routes, while the Child Nutrition Department feeds over a million meals a year. This doesn’t include the summer feeding program which serves an additional 18,000 meals every summer, Burns said. Approximately 60 percent of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
Burns also shared that while Copperas Cove is known for its athletics, the bulk of what the district does is classroom work.
CCISD implemented Phase I of School Redesign in 2018, beginning on secondary campuses like the junior highs and CCHS.
The biggest change is that students went from following a Block schedule, alternating four periods every other day, to a seven-period day. This is the most efficient model, Burns said.
This change was coupled with professional development for teachers called Integrated Professional Learning (IPL). Burns said this allows the district to provide time for teachers to sit down and figure out what is going well.
While teachers are in planning, other staff are repurposed and go into the classroom and provide extension and support to the teacher’s lessons or provide new learning.
Students can earn their food handler’s licence or learn emergency First Aid and CPR or financial literacy, Burns said.
This is implemented in 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades with the plan to implement in the 10th grade next year as part of Phase II.
At Copperas Cove Junior High, they have embraced the Redesign, Burns said. They have an outdoor education classroom, where kids are learning archery and can then advance to the competition level if possible. There is also a gardening program and a cooking lab.
Phase II of School Redesign also includes implementing a modified block for upperclassmen so the juniors and seniors can take full advantage of the opportunities at Central Texas College, such as through the Early College Program, where the district partners with CTC and pays for the students’ classes.
The high school also offers the ASVAB test for those wishing to enter into the military.
Burns also revealed that CCISD will start recognizing on Senior Night those who choose to go into the military service or reserve and will recognize those students at graduation with a red, white and blue honor cord to represent their decision to enter into the service.
“We want everybody to know that there is dignity in all work,” Burns said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re chasing an academic degree, whether you’re chasing a vocational degree, whether you’re going home to be a mama or a daddy, you’re entering military service. As long as you’re not going to jail, we’re proud of you.”
Burns said the district wants to make sure students understand there are a lot of ways to succeed
“Failure is not final,” Burns said. “It is not final and it is not fatal. We want you to succeed though.”
Another thing the district is implementing is the addition of a Licensed Professional Counselor who can oversee interns.
Burns said he sees kids in a state of anxiety, frustration and depression and have a sense of hopelessness.
“I will tell you that there is this sense that exists in some of our kids that the world is not a good place for them, and that’s sad,” Burns said. “It is sad to think that our young people would have this sense of pervasive hopelessness in their life.”
The district will intervene in this matter, Burns said.
“If we can’t get their minds right, we can’t fill it with what needs to be there,” Burns said. “It’s just like if we can’t fill their little tummies, they’re not interested in learning.”
Burns touched on the Tax Ratification Election, which had a 71 percent passing rate and allowed the district to gain $4.1 million. He thanked everyone for their support and understanding of what the board of trustees was doing.
Burns also shared words of appreciation for the community partners, including the many organizations who provide new shoes, winter coats, dictionaries, books and more for the students of CCISD. He called Copperas Cove a “servant-hearted community.”
“Folks, the little things that you do are being recorded somewhere,” Burns said. “You may never know the little life that you change, the heart that you touch, or the kid that gets turned around because somebody finally believes in him or her.”
He shared a story of a student who graduated from Crossroads High School in January after so many struggles and reminded the audience that they need to remember how precious the kids in the community are because of whose image they are created in.
“The problems we see in society and with our kids are not because people were being great parents and our community was being supportive,” Burns said. “Somewhere and somehow that kid has fallen through a crack, so our job and our effort has got to be to create a safety net so tight, so broad and so strong that we don’t lose a single one.”