The future of Kirby Middle School part 1

Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 4:38 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - “We have all hands on deck, we have the best teachers in front of kids this year,” Wichita Falls ISD Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee said. “Wichita Falls ISD cares about Kirby Middle School. We care about the academic success of these students, of all students, and we have thrown every resource available to make it happen.”

The academic situation at Kirby Middle School is a big focus this year for the district.

After a pause the last two years due to COVID, another failing grade this academic year from the state would make it five in a row for Kirby Middle School, and if that happens, it could impact the entire district.

“Kirby Middle School is worth saving,” Lee said. “We know that if we do not get out in year five, their academic lives here at Kirby is over as far as we know it, so this was all hands on deck. A five-alarm fire. We have to do something now and what we’ve tried in years past hasn’t worked.”

Just like your child’s report card, every district and campus in the state of Texas is graded on an A through F scale. It’s called an accountability standard, and the Texas Education Agency, or TEA will take over the district if the grade remains an F after the 5th year.

In the Spring, students will take STAAR tests. As soon those results come back, the district will know if Kirby Middle School gets that needed passing grade or shows growth. To add to all of this, the TEA is also changing testing standards.

“So we don’t even know all the intricacies of the testing just yet, and we won’t know those until the spring,” Lee said. “It’s kind of a shifting field goal post, if you will.”

If Kirby doesn’t meet standards, the TEA commissioner has two options. The first would be to shut Kirby Middle School down.

“If that happens, we have to find a place to put two thirds of students,” Lee said. “You can’t just put them in another building and say we moved them.”

However, there would be some time to plan.

“Let’s say Kirby doesn’t meet academic progress,” Lee said. “You would have one year to plan, a calendar year of planning, to go ‘okay, here’s where we put our students and staff.’ So it isn’t like it’s just shut down and get out.”

The second option would be to take over the district by removing the board of trustees, and putting a board of managers in place made up of community members. This would mean all policies, procedures, and hiring would go through the state.

Even being a new superintendent, the state is not giving Lee any leeway.

“I spoke with the commissioner via Zoom and said ‘hey, can I have a little more time, all we’re asking for is time,’ and he declined that,” Lee said. “So, what will happen with me will depend on the conservator that he appoints over the board of managers, and so it just depends. My position would be in jeopardy.”

Now again, while the testing is done in Spring, they won’t get the official results back until late August of 2023.

“So we’ve got a long ways to wait after they take the test and wonder what does it look like,” Lee said. “We’ll just be on pins and needles.”

And while they’re not ignoring the possibilities, Lee said that’s not their focus. Instead, it’s on a plan called “failure is not an option.”

“The only way to show meaningful growth is by outstanding teaching, that’s it,” Lee said. “Programs don’t work. You can program it do death, but at the end of the day you have to have the best people in front of your most needing and challenging students.”

You can check out part two of the future of Kirby Middle School by clicking here.