Six-Pack of GISD excellence: Programs (and students) Worth Getting to Know

THE 5TH ANNUAL GISD STATE OF THE DISTRICT PROVED THAT EDUCATION IN GEORGETOWN IS INNOVATIVE, HOLISTIC,
AND BETTER THAN EVER

At the 5th Annual State of the District February 7, Superintendent Dr. Fred Brent said, with a laugh, “I have never come into a community where so many people welcomed me with a very warm ‘Hey, don’t mess it up buddy.’ But the passion people have when they talk about this community has never left me.” 

He said his mission today is the same as when he started; to continue the 2013 mission plan created in collaboration with more than 300 community members. Following are some of the programs that demonstrate the excellence and innovation our ISD is working diligently to achieve. 

THE DISTRICT

The district will soon have a third high school on land recently purchased near D.B. Wood Rd. Our ISD is the largest employer in town, and the Board of Trustees and Education Foundation challenged the administration to give away more money. This year they provided $100 gift cards to new teachers, and just before Christmas break, provided teacher retention bonuses.

The Trustees also committed to fund the district’s PSAT/ SAT testing, which increased participation by 150 and 500 percent respectively, and reflects a growth in graduation rates. “No student will be denied the opportunity to pursue college,” Dr. Brent says, “because education is a long-term process. We are building qualities and attributes that will serve our children in the future; the ability to problem-solve and work on a team—that’s what employers want.”  

Dr. Brent also touched on State Accountability grades.  “We received an overall B, and a few schools had a D or F. We don’t want anyone to have that grade, but we also have to find the right balance. We ask ourselves how we can improve grades without compromising emotional learning. We don’t want higher scores at the expense of the whole child or programs that create them.” 

He explained there are many measures of good health. “True accountability is more about the hopes and dreams of your children, and the evidence you want to see from us; and doing the heavy transformational work. We appreciate your patience with us as we determine what true accountability looks like. Here are the things Georgetown cares about…they go side-by-side.” 

COSMETOLOGY

When the Texas Education Agency announced they might cut cosmetology programs for the sake of students they believed wouldn’t achieve sustainable salaries, Georgetown resident and SportClips CEO Gordon Logan stepped right in. 

In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Logan donated $50,000 in supplies and equipment to the cosmetology lab at East View High School. Today there are 40 students who will be ready for licensing and full-time work upon graduation, and there is a waiting list to get into the program. The lab at East View High School is also open to Georgetown HS students who are bused in. 

In Texas, more than 300 stylists employed at SportClips were licensed through high school programs. Mr. Logan wrote in a 2019 op-ed; “They entered their career debt-free and became self-supporting, tax-paying citizens immediately after high school.”

Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, Logan argues, because many stylists work part-time while they’re attending college or raising a family, and many receive tips outside of what’s reported.

The program does come with costs for students; the licensing exam is $25 and students supply their own $400 kit to take classes. Thanks to the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, funds are available for students who cannot afford the kit.

Georgetown ISD leaders say the classes will provide a pathway both to a career and to a stable income throughout college.

UIL MATH

Elizabeth is in 8th grade at Benold Middle School and a six-time Number Sense district champion. It is an academic event for “mental math” in which all of the calculations must be done in the student’s head, and he or she may only write the answer. Students can be on this team beginning in 3rd grade and the assessment tests are grade-appropriate. Competitions consist of 80 questions and students get as many done as they can in the time given. Elizabeth says no one ever gets them all. 

Competitors prepare by learning myriad tricks to find solutions quickly, and practice like any other team. “Math has always come easy to me, I find it intuitive. Right now I’m taking Algebra 2 in a separate class. A lot of things in my life I think of in terms of math. It has always been kind of easy and is just something I love to do. I’m not sure what I want to do but, with math, there are so many exciting options to pick from.” 

If you think your student might be ready for Number Sense, you can download a practice test at UILTexas.org. 

LANGUAGE IMMERSION

Axel (8) and Ella (9) are learning to be equally comfortable speaking English or Spanish. The district now has five elementary campuses that do not just teach vocabulary and grammar, but a two-way immersion.

On the table are Ella’s journals; one entirely in English, the other in Spanish. Teachers Janna Jackson and Martha Mercadante say students receive instruction in English and Spanish, exclusively, every other day. This prepares students to become bilingual and even provides for better academic achievement in later years. “One of the benefits,” Martha says, “is having native speakers of both in the classroom. They are learning cognitive language skills—writing and speaking to each other, rather than just memorizing words.” 

VETERINARY ASSISTANTS

The Veterinary Assistant Program is a three-part component of the Animal Science pathway. In just its second year, enrollment and interest has increased exponentially, and Ag Science teacher Zach Brown says he expects that growth to continue. “The only limitations are the resources available, but given the feedback we’ve received from students and local veterinarians they intern with, I believe we will be able to leverage resources in the future to add more classes.” 

Seniors explained the Dirty Dog Days arm of the program at the event. Students check in as many as six (teachers’) dogs for a day of grooming, clipping, trimming, sac expression, and dental cleaning. It is a true clinic environment, including health checks and scheduled visits for walks and exercise, and even an invoice for services at the end of the day. 

The program provides credit toward graduation but also allows students to work toward their Veterinary Assistant Certification, which includes a test and 500 hours of practicum. Zach provides the first 200 in the classroom, then students intern in local vet clinics to document the remainder, and be ready to work upon graduation. 

Students may also compete in the FFA Veterinary Science competition. They identify instruments, parasites, breeds, and are tested on practical skills. The 2020 skills included restraining small animals to find a jugular vein.  

Zach says he has received very positive reviews from his students at Zoot, Koy, and Georgetown Vet Hospital; “It’s a good problem to have, but we have to look for more clinics outside of Georgetown because each can only accommodate one or two interns at a time. They love having the help and teaching the students; it’s a win for everyone.” 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Georgetown seniors Camryn Whitman and Dakota Matlock are officers in the Criminal Justice Club. They hosted a Ted Talk highlighting requirements and successes of the club. It is a student-run organization, with supportive advisors who are also the Criminal Justice CTE teachers. Club members learn and practice simplified scenarios of what they might experience in the criminal justice system. Dakota said, “I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father, who was a police officer and he was my hero growing up. This group is also a second family for me.” 

Camryn agrees, “Not everyone comes from a justice background, but more so than any family history, the club impacts all of us as pre-professionals and leaders.” 

The club competes in events related to domestic disturbances, misdemeanor and felony traffic stops. Last year the team placed 2nd in the state in the Criminal Justice Quiz Bowl and 3rd for Leadership Quiz Bowl. They have already qualified for four state events in 2020. 

Camryn plans to major in criminology on a pre-Law path and eventually attend law school. “I was raised in the courthouse and I have family who have always been—on the good side—in the justice system. I also want to study writing and rhetoric because communication is a critical piece of law enforcement and justice. I’m already writing a book for my Capstone project.” 

All of these programs are part of GISD, but you can support teacher and student excellence, and more innovations in education. Donate at GISDedFound.org

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