The future of Kirby Middle School part 2

Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 9:52 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - “Failure isn’t an option, the only option is to succeed,” Wichita Falls ISD Superintendent Donny Lee said.

Kirby Middle School remains the top priority for the Wichita Falls ISD. After four years of being an improvement required or F-rated school, the pressure is on to get STAAR test scores up this spring. We looked at what would happen if they didn’t succeed in part one of this series. This time, we’re diving into the district’s all-hands-on-deck approach in part two of the future of Kirby.

“We’re not looking at what if we fail,” Lee said. “We’re focusing on what can we do to improve academic performance for all of our students. What resources do we need to give them, how can we give students the best academic possibilities, so we’ve devised a plan and we’re moving forward with that and it’s already begun.”

That plan brought eight new teachers to the middle school. Four of them are specialists that were serving the entire district but are now back in the classroom.

“Our reading specialist is teaching reading, went back to a classroom teacher,” Lee said. “Our math specialists are teaching math. The only way to show meaningful growth is by outstanding teaching, that’s it. 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.”

The other four new teachers are also some of the best. They have come to Kirby from other schools.

“Great teachers can go anywhere, but when you’re at a campus and you’re already a great teacher there and you’re in your usual routine, what’s going to make you want to come to a campus that might close in a year,” Lee said.

Lee said that’s why the district offered a $10,000 incentive when they opened the application pool. It’s money that came from state COVID relief funds, called ESSER funds, meant for areas of learning loss.

“Even with that $10K stipend, the application pool was thin,” Lee said. “So, you have to do something when the perception is it’s a tough campus, it’s hard academically. When it’s been in IR for years, it doesn’t exactly speak to come here and teach.”

He adds no jobs were lost. Teachers who were in the roles filled were moved to other campuses. Now, another big part of the district’s plan is the social-emotional side.

“We partnered with New Jerusalem, which is a local church, and they are going to be doing a lot of mentorships for our kids,” Lee said. “So they’ll be coming in at lunch, going out to the community, going to do home visits, speaking with parents.”

“It’s going to take all of us,” Lee said. “It ain’t just going to be our office, it can’t just be the principal. It’s got to be the parents, the students, the teachers, the community, the churches, everybody working together.”

This plan is something Lee feels confident about, and he said being new to the district serves as an advantage.

“I don’t have any ties to Wichita Falls ISD,” Lee said. “You don’t have to necessarily worry about ‘what will other people think about it.’ You just come in and you do what’s best for kids, and what’s best for kids is to get the best teachers in front of them. Absolutely, that’s an advantage for me because otherwise politics start playing into that, and so I want the best for every kid regardless of what people think about it.”

While it’s all hands on deck for the district, Lee wants the community to know this is not something they can do alone.

“We want your help, we want your partnership,” Lee said. “We want you to come read to our kids, tutor to our kids, eat lunch with our kids, come visit the school and realize how amazing this campus is. We’ve got good teachers here, we’ve got great students here, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to save Kirby Middle School this year.”

They’ve made it really easy to do that. If you’re not able to go to the school, you can find Kirby’s Amazon wish list by clicking here.

It will be full of snacks and even little toys for the kids and serve as an incentive as the Kirby Hounds give it all they’ve got to pass their biggest test yet.

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