What an amazing start to a new school year! While many back-to-school news reports focus on teacher vacancies and declining enrollments, we are nearly fully staffed and have already met student enrollment growth projections. Wylie ISD earned an “A” status and ranks highest in student performance among school districts with more than 10,000 students. From budgets and buses to basketball and biology, we follow statistics to measure growth and accelerate performance based on school board goals that drive our plans for success. Working together, we are making BIG gains and are growing students the Wylie Way.
One important board goal is to instill ethical and community values in our students. Trustees understand that social skills and strong character are essential to student achievement. As I begin year 12 as superintendent, I am proud to say that, although student enrollment has grown significantly, discipline referrals have actually reduced based on pre-COVID-19 statistics. This is exciting news, for less discipline means more time for learning.
That’s not to say that COVID-19 didn’t have a major impact on student discipline referrals. It did. Last year, we experienced increased discipline referrals as students returned to school from their remote experiences that, in many cases, diminished their social skills and increased discipline referrals as they reentered a social experience. But, when comparing enrollment figures to discipline referrals, percentages are down. This is one indicator in helping us to know that we are closing COVID-19 gaps and are moving our students and our district in the right direction.
Our priority this year is to “get back to normal” and help our students, our teachers, our staff members, and our community members to feel like we are moving away from what we have known to be our reality since the onset of the pandemic. We are well on our way to accomplishing this. With this return to normal, we will pay close attention to social and emotional needs from the remnants of COVID-19. This will include a return to focusing on the dress code and an introduction of all secondary students wearing identification badges as a recommended safety measure from our district’s Safety & Security committee. These decisions will help to ensure that Wylie ISD is staying true to its mission of holding high standards while also working to support the need to maintain consistent processes and procedures.
Another Wylie ISD board goal is to “prepare students for a successful life beyond high school.” Part of that success is their ability to be contributing citizens who are socially and emotionally prepared to handle goal-setting, self-management, social savviness, self-awareness, and responsible decision-making. Learning and implementing these skills from kindergarten to senior year uniquely positions our Wylie students to practice during a critical time of their development. With years of implementation, these skills will be foundational components of their socialization and emotional management. Our pilot program aims to build classroom and campus community by building relationships and repairing harm when necessary.
Our campuses that have implemented leveraging relationship skills have seen a decline in students being sent to the office as teachers feel better equipped to handle certain classroom behavior. We are so proud of these efforts and the difference they are making for our students.
In addition to these goals, the Wylie ISD Board of Trustees created priorities for the upcoming 88th Texas Legislature, which will begin in January. These priorities regard requiring educator preparation programs and alternative certification programs to include instruction in behavior management and relationship building. Beyond these requirements, the priorities request that the legislature provide funding sources to leverage healthy relationships, behavior intervention strategies, and counseling services.
By maximizing teaching and learning through the minimization of student discipline issues, we trust that this will increase the hope, well-being, and engagement of students and make the job of educating them a bit less challenging and more meaningful. After all, when students come to school in Wylie ISD, we want them to grow in their capacity to effectively manage conflict and find healthy solutions to problems.
We also provide annual summer training that is available to all teachers on behavior basics, such as de-escalation. Students will benefit from skill-building lessons in areas such as understanding emotions, setting and achieving goals, showing empathy for others, and establishing and maintaining positive relationships. Administrators also receive professional development that teaches them how to identify and approach a student who exhibits signs of psychological distress as well as appropriate responses and intervention options.
Our Student Services department provides quarterly behavior support meetings for administrators, coaching for both teachers and administrators, and works closely with the district’s technology team to ensure consistency in discipline coding as this allows us to find patterns and trends across the district to address. All of these efforts work solely to provide the best possible educational experience for our students.
Folks have expressed different types of concerns regarding student discipline, ranging from feelings that rules are not being enforced to our code of conduct being too harsh. We appreciate your feedback. It helps shape our processes and procedures. You can also help us by supporting our dress code and discipline management plan and by volunteering to help shape rules, policies, and procedures. Here are two committees we could use your help on:
- Dress Code Committee (more information coming soon)
- Districtwide Educational Improvement Council (nominations close Sept. 2)
As always, thank you for all you do to support our kids and our classrooms. From every measurable statistic, Wylie ISD remains one of the elite school districts in Texas. Your investment in our schools and in our kids remains one of the most important components of preparing our kids for a prosperous life beyond high school, the Wylie Way!