Trustee wants change in perception of public schools
Trustees of the Fredericksburg Independent School District have made strides in offering new education initiatives. Now they hope to do the same with public perception for parents who may choose to send their children to private school.
Trustees and administrators talked public perception and promotion at the Monday night board meeting held at the FISD administration building.
Celina Estrada Thomas, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, went over highlights of the 2017-2018 District Improvement Plan, noting population changes and demographic trends to trustees. (Details from that 50-page report will be discussed in a future issue of this newspaper.)
“One of the things that bothered me is that the percentage of economically disadvantage students is 74 percent at the primary school, 58 percent at the elementary school, and then when we get to the high school, it’s 36 percent,” trustee Dave Campbell said. “What I’m hearing from people is that the perception of the high school is outstanding. The perception of the primary, especially from parents who send their kids to private school, is that it’s not good enough — that St. Mary’s is better.
“Dual language is one of the programs that is addressing that, but what else are we doing to combat that perception?” he asked.
“Dual language is one slice of that pie,” Estrada Thomas said. “I’m a firm believer that when kids are excited and engaged, that changes the perception. With the STEM-based project learning, there is some excitement there. This project-based learning plants the seeds and makes the kids want to get in there and learn about it.”
School board president Kerinne Herber said her children were excited by the project-based learning at school.
“We need to do a better job of letting other parents know what the students are doing, and maybe I should have told other parents who may choose St. Mary’s,” she said.
“I have no problem with a parent choosing another school, but when they choose a school because the perception is ours isn’t good enough, I have a problem with that,” Campbell added.
“We need to do a better job of promoting the good things we are doing,” Estrada Thomas said. “Shannon Wyndam has done a terrific job at the middle school and is taking kids to a TED Talk. And just think how much they’ll gain in that type of learning environment.”
“Do you think attitude is about our local schools or do you think it’s public schools in general since some of these people in the media who have been giving public schools a bad rap for the past few years?” asked trustee Dale Geistweidt.
Bryan Lehne said he thought many parents chose St. Mary’s due to a legacy of parents, and even grandparents, having gone there.
“I just think our elementary school is better than what I am hearing,” he said. “I like what I see at our elementary. The more we offer that makes us stand out, the better.”
“Most people have never set foot on our campuses,” Wright said.
“We have to be our own self-promoters,” Estrada Thomas said.
Supt. Eric Wright made a brief report after the long meeting, saying construction on the primary campus gymnasium was due to be completed Tuesday. He showed a drone video of remaining construction at FHS, which includes drainage, landscaping and canopy work.
Assistant superintendents reported they are preparing for lockdown drills (dates to be announced), and an annual financial audit, which begins next week and goes through the week of Nov. 20.
Assistant superintendent for personnel Donnie Finn said there are still three bus driver openings, a grounds position and a help desk position. The district is expecting 19 new substitute teachers.
Trustees also heard a report from Primary campus principal Delesa Styles, who brought in teachers for a slideshow of classroom work with the children, ages three through first grade.
Enrollment at the campus increased 40 percent with the addition of first-grade students, who moved from the elementary campus to make room for a growing population.
Staff and students alike have dealt with the final construction on new buildings. The gymnasium and cafeteria are slated to be completed soon.
Teachers presenting information on dual language, technology and other classroom teaching methods included Cheryl Flink, Sandra Jacoby, Allison Durst, Lilly Guzman, Stephanie Whitworth, Lisa Toepperwein and Norma Castaneda.