Our fine schools pushing forward

June 15, 2013

As we move into the summer, I want to recap my first year in GISD and update you on our strategic planning initiative.

First, let me say that my first year in GISD has been amazing.

I have quickly learned that we are so blessed to live in this community and to have the honor to work with great students and a fine staff of dedicated employees who are committed to make our schools the best they can possibly be.

By any measure, our school year was a huge success. We had students compete at the highest levels in academics, athletics and co-curricular activities.

We took two teams to national competitions, several groups to state tournaments and meets, and continue to see our students thrive in all areas. I am so proud of our year, and I truly believe we are just beginning to write the story of GISD.

One of our big initiatives this year was strategic planning. We began with a survey that received over 2,000 responses from parents, students, staff and community members. We then had two education summits where over 200 people were in attendance. We followed that up with a strategic design team that met for many hours formulating our goals, and passed those along to action teams to write more specific action ideas. In the end, our school board adopted this road map for the future of GISD.

NEW INSTRUCTION

Among the “big” ideas that came out of strategic planning were Project Based Learning (PBL) and facility needs. PBL is a new way to look at instruction.

We heard from all our constituents that in addition to learning subject content in school, we want our students to learn other “soft skills” that are hard to measure with tests. Skills like collaboration, critical thinking, presentations and engaging outside sources to supplement learning and make learning “real” were all areas we addressed.

We have a core group of 70 teachers and staff who will receive training this summer and begin implementing PBL in the fall. Our plan is to have all GISD teachers trained in PBL over the next three years. I am very excited about what this will mean for our students. I think you will see and hear about many more success stories as PBL is implemented district-wide.

Facilities were a big topic in our strategic design work. As you can imagine, this is an area where there could be a long laundry list of ideas regarding facilities. At the end of our planning, several big ideas emerged.

First, we want to do what we can to address the safety and security at all campuses. This would involve reworking the entrances at most of our campuses to add another layer of security before someone would have access to areas where our students and staff are located. Other safety measures will also be considered.

FRESHMAN TO GHS

Next, moving Crossland Ninth Grade Center to the GHS property is on the list. We like the concept of the ninth grade center, but having them on the GHS property would certainly provide those students better access to many of the programs they are involved in already and would eliminate the constant bus shuttles back and forth between the two campuses. This would further allow us to better share staff to meet our needs. Crossland is a great building, but it was not designed for high school students, so there is a need to look at options regarding this facility.

A career and tech center was the other big facility idea. We have an amazing career and technical education (CTE) program with many students involved in a wide variety of programs. But, our facilities are mainly classrooms that have been repurposed as CTE classrooms. Providing them a space that is designed for CTE would be a huge benefit to our students and help prepare them for the world after high school.

Finally, we have several other projects that would be much smaller in scope, but would be a great benefit to students. Updating our technology infrastructure, fine arts areas, renovating locker rooms, adding gym space at some elementary schools, and addressing other safety and space issues are all areas to be considered.

As the summer progresses, you will hear more about these processes as we discuss how best to take GISD forward in our pursuit of excellence!

I want to thank all of you for a great first year in Granbury. I could not have asked for a better welcome or a better first year in a new position. I truly believe that by implementing our strategic plan and addressing our facility needs, we will make Granbury an even more attractive place to live and will become recognized as one of the best school districts in Texas!

Dr. Jim Largent is superintendent of Granbury ISD. If you have topics you would like for him to address in future columns, he can be reached at [email protected]

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