Teacher Salary Scale Adjustment or Merit pay?

Response to the News-Journals “Cut and Paste” Dallas Morning News Editorial on the proposed $5,000 pay increase for a specific block of teachers, printed 1-30-19.


The good news is preliminary budgets show that Texas lawmakers in the House and Senate want to make good on their promises to send billions of dollars more to public school districts in the state this session.

The state’s 5 million-plus students won’t have the best shot at success without the state making a bigger financial contribution, one that also lessens the burden on local taxpayers. The House budget includes $9 billion more, the Senate’s about $6 billion.

But we worry about the Senate’s proposal to spend $3.7 billion to give every teacher a $5,000 across-the-board raise. We’d be the first to say that keeping and attracting good teachers is the linchpin to student success. But the goal here should be to offer incentives that can get the best possible teachers in front of classrooms.

It’s very curious to me that the statements, “keeping and attracting good teachers is the linchpin to student success” and “But the goal here should be to offer incentives that can get the best possible teachers in front of classrooms” can be included in the same paragraph. These two goals have nothing to do with each other.

The concept of merit pay is not a new idea, nor one that has not been introduced into the campus setting before. It does not fit with the overriding main purpose of our profession, “providing a quality education to all children in Texas”. The real proposal being promoted here is paying the “good teachers” more money while encouraging the “bad teachers to exit the profession. For the legislature and some of the leading advocates for this process, it accomplishes two unstated goals. First, it ensures that the state will not have to pay more money into education for salaries. The “merit pay” awarded to the “good teachers” will be offset by the revolving door of first year teachers that will be replacing those that exit the profession. Those that exit will not be the “bad teachers” as described by proponents, but rather the true professionals that see the decay in the goal of teaching all students the best they can. Those that continue to “rise up the ladder” will be those that have successful strategies and are unwilling to share for fear of losing the extra compensation. That is not a prediction, it is history that I feel very strongly will repeat itself if and when this process is implemented.

In professional settings that are not tied to sales and commission pay, employees better themselves and increase their compensation based on their ability to perform AND their willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. That is in place in the public schools and it is a method of advancement for our educational community

The way to keep and attract good teachers is to pay them a wage commensurate with the degree and training they hold. The $5,000 investment would be a step towards making that more of a reality. This is not an “across the board raise.” It specifically leaves out librarians, counselors and nurses that have salaries tied to the teacher pay scale. It is not money tied to the state’s minimum pay scale. Therefore the legislature can (and will) cut off the funding in the next biennium and create an expectation that local districts will need to maintain the higher pay. Increasing the minimum pay scale by $5,000 would be a commitment that can be seen as support for attracting and keeping quality teachers in the classroom.

You can’t achieve the goal of getting the best possible teachers in front of the classroom if you can’t hire the number of teachers needed to fully staff the school! If it is just unacceptable for a journalist to think teachers need an increase in base pay, maybe they can support the idea of putting the $3.7 billion in the Foundation School Program (FSP) and allow the seven to nine locally elected officials make the discussions as to how the funds should be expended. Local Control of Local Schools, now that’s a novel idea!


We’ve long favored a merit-pay system based on performance. Dallas ISD has proved it can pay big dividends. The district’s once-controversial Teacher Excellence Initiative has proved it can help keep the vast majority of our most effective teachers working in our schools and, on average, give them the biggest raises. Tying money to performance works. Meanwhile, most of the teachers the district is losing are those who’ve shown poor performance under the system. We welcome those departures.

This entire paragraph is a DISD press release material that is not applicable to our East Texas schools. DISD has over 150 elementary schools and has gone to great efforts to promote the excellent performance of a hand full of campuses. They are quick to point out that ONE campus outperformed an elementary school in Highland Park ISD. There is no mention of the effect moving teachers had on the campuses vacated nor is there any mention of the fact that Dr. Hinojosa publically acknowledged that DISD cannot maintain this merit pay program without the state taking over the cost. There is no evidence that tying performance to pay “works” as stated above. The “performance” standard referenced is the STAAR/EOC testing program required by the State of Texas. To be clear, this required assessment system is not used and/or recognized as relevant by any post-secondary institutions, the US Military, any workforce organizations and it over tests Texas students even as compared to the US Department of Educations requirements.


More important, TEI and the district’s Accelerating Campus Excellence plan, which teams the best teachers with students who need them most, have been instrumental in dramatically reducing the number of Dallas ISD campuses rated “improvement required” by the state.

As an East Texas Newspaper, I would think it important to promote ideas and programs that fit your readership. The programs used as examples of excellence in this editorial cannot be duplicated in this region. Speaking for my district at White Oak, I already have the very best elementary teachers in my district teaching at the highest need elementary campus in my district. (I only have one elementary campus as opposed to DISD’s near 150 elementary campuses) The vast majority of our districts are in the same position. The vast majority of our campuses and district are not rated IR and should not be cast into that light by a copy and paste editorial.


We can’t afford to go back to days when teachers got raises just for showing up.

The training, professional development and employment appraisal system currently in place for the improvement and evaluation of classroom teacher performance is more rigorous than that of many, if not all, professions currently in place. I suggest doing some research into the T-TESS evaluation system currently in place across the state. The editor needs to research the topics chosen for publication and make sure the information is credible. To imply that teachers get a raise for “just showing up” is highly insulting and indicates the position of a very uninformed author. The very modest increases given to teachers over a twenty-year period cannot even be called a “cost of living” raise but it does help stave off the effects of inflation. Is this the manner in which the News-Journal promotes the idea of getting the best and brightest to enter into the teaching profession?


Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa told us that — unlike previous years — he’s more optimistic that this session will do more for public schools because GOP leaders Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and new speaker Dennis Bonner have said fixing state funding system is a priority. And it’s encouraging that the budgets from both chambers include property tax relief provisions.

How many times in your personal or professional budgeting experience have you set a goal of putting more revenue in the spending side of your budget while entertaining the goal of substantially cutting the revenue source used to generate that increase? To date, the conversation has been about all the things we are going to do with the new money proposed for education in the House and the Senate. The focus is on the proposed expenditures and not the proposed revenues or how they will be generated. Texas ranks 33rd in per capita tax burden for 2018. (https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-highest-lowest-tax-burden/20494/)

The citizens in 32 states pay a higher tax rate than we do. This mantra of “we need tax relief” is not evidenced by the results of the voters when it comes to funding schools. Tax Rate Elections and Bond Referendums are approved all over the state 90% of the time or more. That is more of an indicator the Texas Voters are very supportive of Texas Public Schools and they are willing to pay for that support.


We share his hope that lawmakers factor in provisions for urban districts that are educating a majority of poor kids. About 90 percent of Dallas ISD’s students are poor but because of its rising property values, the district has become a “recapture” district that has to send millions back to the state.

There is no equity in the Texas Public School funding system without Re-capture. The idea that schools should see great financial gains simply by geographic location is not sustainable. I believe the process can be improved and there can be a certain level of relief based on better ways of determining the dollars needed to fund equity. But short of a statewide income tax, there is no better way to make funds available to equitably fund all districts in a manner that is beneficial to all students. Consumption taxes will not generate the revenue required. The aforementioned state income tax idea will get you tarred and feathered in just about any location in the state. Funding schools through property tax is, from what I can tell, still our best option to serve our students well.


We’ve been at this stage before — good intentions and a promising start ended with Austin not sending enough financial help to the state’s districts. This time, lawmakers can’t let their political battling keep them from doing what’s right for Texas students.

I couldn’t agree more.

We have been here before. During every election cycle and at the start of every legislative session we hear the cries for better support for our Texas Public Schools.

The focus on Public Education in both chambers and the Governor’s office is reason for increased optimism. Optimism that has to be guarded for now and tempered by the knowledge that 140 days can be a long time and much can change when the behind the scenes conversations begin.

Thank you for taking the time to review my thoughts and concerns. With 38 years of service to the students of our Texas Public Schools, I just felt the need to respond to this editorial from an East Texas Educator’s perspective.

Special Called School Board Meeting 3-25-18

The Board of Trustees at White Oak ISD met at 6 pm Monday, March 26,2018. Members in attendance to establish a quorum were David Carr, Eric Swanson, Dr. David Ummel and Colonel Randall Smith. The posted agenda for the meeting contained two action items to be considered by the members.

  • The board took action to approve the payment of $490,255.03 to the district’s Construction Manger, Jackson Construction. It is the second payment for services and work completed and in progress to date. The motion to approve the payment was made by Eric Swanson and seconded by David Ummel. The motion was approved by a vote of four in favor, zero opposed and three members not present.
  • The board also took action to approve Jackson Construction’s presentation for the Guaranteed Maximum Price for the work to be done at the Primary/Intermediate Campus. The motion to approve the GMP of $1,694,560 (presented as option 2) was made by Colonel Randall Smith, seconded by David Ummel. The motion was approved by a vote of four in favor, zero opposed and three not present. Option two includes the completion of all roof replacement work and the installation of all new HVAC Air Handlers. The plan also calls for the use of materials to mitigate the water leaks around the windows until they can be permanently repaired in the summer of 2019.

Discussion concerning the GMP for the Primary/Intermediate included two options for the members of the board to consider. Option 1 included additional scope of work to include the removal of all the insulated siding (walls) and replacing that siding with a new metal stud wall construction including new metal paneling and windows. The need for the replacement of the paneling was determined after the bond election had been approved.

Option 1 was not selected by the board or recommended by Superintendent Michael Gilbert due to the extra cost ($1.1 million) and lack of time to complete the work before the start of the 2018/2019 school year. Here are the talking points discussed before the vote on a GMP:

  • The inclusion of the wall and window project cannot be completed before the start of next school year. Delaying the start of school and/or trying to complete construction with students in the building is not safe.
  • Postponing the replacement of the panels and windows will allow Huckabee, Jackson and the district time to fully research the best long term solution to the water intrusion problem and will give an appropriate amount of time to complete the work without disrupting the instructional day.
  • Approval of Option 2 will not put the district in a position to go over the budget for the total project. The targeted construction budget was set at $13,167,643. This is the money to be spent directly on the projects listed on the bond proposal. With Option 2 in place, the construction budget is set at $13,862,643. That is $695,000 (11.4%) above the target budget but well within the overall budget of the project including contingency funds that are in place for the contractor and the district. This scope of work will not cause the district to use general fund balance dollars to complete the project.
  • All projects approved by the voters of White Oak ISD will be completed and will be within the scope of the $19,005,000 budget. With the approval of Option 2 at the Primary/Intermediate campus, all projects (district wide) will be complete by the end of August 2018 with the exception of the window replacement. That project will be completed in the summer of 2019 due to time constraints and additional scope that needs to be fully researched. Replacing the windows without addressing the failing panels would be extremely irresponsible and not in the best interest of the taxpayers.

I hope this information is helpful in clearing up any confusion in the community. Unfortunately, inaccurate information has been released that is at best, misleading and intentionally deceiving at worst. The district has been completely transparent in our efforts to communicate accurate information.

Any attempts to report that the board is not going to complete projects due to going over budget in another area of the bond project is false and should not be taken seriously. The Board of Trustees and I have worked for many years to build and maintain a level of public trust in our efforts to make the best decisions possible to provide a safe, relevant and challenging educational experience for all the students. It is our hope that you can see that level of commitment and support the efforts of this leadership team.

Response to the New-Journal on District of Innovation Schools

To the editor of the News-Journal and staff that report on White Oak ISD:

In response to Sunday’s article on District’s of Innovation and today’s editorial on the same subject, I want you to know how deeply offended I am personally and professionally at the complete lack of research and/or interest in providing the truth with regard to the opportunity provided to Texas Public School Districts. It appears to be the norm in today’s media that you will expect the worst in people. I suspect it is a concerted effort to sell news papers, which in fact, is your goal.

Your reporting and subsequent editorial response to the rise of DOI plan districts is incomplete at best. You did not report on the 7 areas that could not be addressed in the plan:

  • District Governance
  • Curriculum
  • State Assessment
  • State Accountability
  • School Finance
  • Federal Requirements
  • State law outside the Education Code

These areas are intact and every school district and public charter school are subject to and adhere to the law as written. There is no “attempt” to circumvent the law and/or create an educational environment that is not in the best interest of our students.  In fact, the latitude provided by the DOI process allows the local school district to craft an educational experience that is most effective in the effort to provide our students with opportunities to succeed. If you had actually read the DOI Plan for White Oak ISD, you would see that every concern you “express” in your writings, has been considered and explained to our stakeholders.

  • In each area addressed, we include the reasoning behind the decision and the benefit to our students.
  • Our plan includes the complete timeline and process of how the DOI document was created
  • Our plan include the names of the committee members involved in the process
  • There is no financial impact in this plan. Teacher contracts/salaries are specifically addressed in an effort to confirm the district’s commitment to our employees
  • Our plan shows (through the timeline) the total involvement and transparency of the process with regard to the Board of Trustees.

The closing comment of your editorial states that the taxpayers should be informed that the district’s graduation rates and scores on standardized test have not suffered. That has always been information available to the public and there is nothing in this process that would prompt any notion of an attempt to change. I would add that the scores a district receives on an assessment given one day per year, is and always has been a very poor indicator of success.

Your assertions concerning academic scholarships and benchmarks are to be monitored has no real correlation with the quality of instruction. The idea that the state is to “approve” the plan is counter productive to the purpose of the law. The local district is to have local control of the decisions made within a specific set of guidelines.

There is no evidence to indicate the measure approved at White Oak ISD will, in any way, cause a decline in the quality of the education provided to our students. But even if it did, it is the responsibility of the locally elected Board of Trustees to ensure the quality of that education is restored, not the state and certainly not the local newspaper.

After reading the article in the paper last Sunday and this editorial today, I am convinced that you have not read the locally developed, Board of Trustees approved plan that is in place at White Oak ISD. I will make sure a copy of our plan and the actual requirements in effect for the development of that plan are delivered, in person, to your offices today. I feel the necessity of making sure you are at least afforded the opportunity to make informed decisions concerning the opinions you share with this community.

I have shared this message with the Board of Trustees, my colleagues, staff members and Legislators. It is my hope that many of them will also see that the accusations and insinuations presented in this editorial are not representative of the public school leaders in East Texas and will be just as disappointed as I am with the decision to publish this opinion.

Respectfully submitted

Public School Finance and the 300 Square Mile Penalty

In an attempt to clarify the needs of White Oak ISD and make some sense of two funding practices of the State of Texas, I have looked at the long standing financial penalty assessed to school districts with less than 1,600 students and less than 300 square miles of land area in the district. This Small School Penalty (SSP) has been in place for more than thirty years, as best I can determine, and is designed to “encourage” small land area/student population districts to consolidate with neighboring districts. There is no consideration for the identity of these school districts with the community they serve and/or the economic impact of moving to a centralized, consolidated location.

The second factor I considered in this effort to find relief for WOISD was the reality that funds are tight and adding to the state budget is not likely to take place in the upcoming 85th Legislative session. There needs to be a method of relief for the state in order to consider removing the penalty addressed in the previous paragraph. My attention turned to a temporary tax relief measure that has remained in affect ten years after it was first implemented, Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR). This relief was provided to school districts that were not taxing at the highest rate allowed by the state at the time of tax rate compression in 2005. The thought was to provide some tax relief for those districts until they were able to increase their local tax rate to make up the difference. Ten years later, many have not made the tax rate adjustment and incorporated the ASATR funds into the budget-building process as sustainable revenue.


Now for the comparison of the two funding practices:

  • 462 school districts in the state are assessed the SSP and 174 districts receive ASATR funds as of the 15/16 school year
  • 116 of the 174 ASATR districts are also being assessed the SSP. ASATR lost revenue will be completely restored or offset by increases from the removal of SSP
  • The loss of revenue for districts to the SSP was $244 million in the last school year and the revenue received by the ASATR districts was $235 million in 2015 and $340 million in 2016
  • Removing the SSP and repealing ASATR will result in a fiscal note impact that is revenue neutral to a net gain of almost $100 million dollars depending on the year used in the comparison


At the state level, it is beneficial to more districts (462 to 174) to remove ASATR and the SSP. This move will also have a positive effect on the state budget by as much as $100 million per year. It is a given that ASATR funding is not sustainable and was not designed to be sustainable. There are some concerns that the Legislative Budget Board will attach a larger fiscal note to the removal of the SSP due to an increase in the average funds per student in state aid. I’m not sure how that is possible, especially if the moneys are being redirected and not added to the budget. It is my belief that the redirecting of these funds will benefit more school districts and will correct an arbitrary decision made more than thirty years ago.

In an effort to bring this closer to home, I want to share the impact on the school districts in House District 7 and Senate District 1.


House District 7:

  • 11 school districts
  • 8 districts subject to the SSP
  • 1 school district receives ASATR (Sabine ISD received $128,336 in 2015 but would receive $509,991 without SSP)
  • 4 school districts not subject to SSP and do not receive ASATR
  • Annual revenue increase for schools in HD 7 = $4.1 million dollars


Senate District 1:

  • 95 school districts
  • 60 districts assessed the SSP
  • 23 districts receive ASATR (16 of the 23 are also assessed the SSP)
  • 7 of 95 school districts would not receive any relief from the loss of ASATR funding
  • 12 of 95 have neither ASATR or the assessed SSP
  • Loss of ASATR funds = $11.9 million in 2015 dollars
  • Gain from repeal of SSP = $37.5 million annually
  • Increase in School revenue for SD 1 = $25.6 million annually


In the last legislative session, the repeal of the Small School Penalty was introduced in the House through HB 645 by Ashby and in the Senate through SB 324 by Nichols. I am asking that you review this information and partner with these legislators to make a positive change for the school districts in your respective legislative districts. There will be districts that do not see an increase in funding as a result of this change. I would ask that you look at the tax rates in those districts over the last ten years and compare those taxing efforts to the tax rates of schools like White Oak ISD. Many school districts, like White Oak, have not only had to tax at the highest rate allowed by the state but have also had to go to the voter for approval of a TRE to increase taxes to the level of $1.17 in order to maintain the ability to provide for the education of our students.

As I stated earlier in this document, I see the need to stay away from solutions that grow the state’s budget. The same lean times that are affecting White Oak ISD are affecting all of Texas. I believe that many of us that have looked at this solution see an opportunity to help close to 50% of the Public Schools in the state without growing the budget. I also feel that the revenue remedies used by non-ASATR districts can be applied to the districts that are affected by the absence of these funds. To be clear, ASATR funding was designed to go away and I am simply proposing that you look at alternative uses for those funds within the Texas Public Schools Finance System. The deadline for ending ASATR funding is September 1, 2017.

Thank you for your time and any consideration you may give to the solutions presented in this document. I would also like to thank you for your willingness to serve the citizens of House District 7 and Senate District 1. I look forward to working with you to support, promote and celebrate the work being done by over 680,000 public school employees that serve almost 5.3 million public school students in the great state of Texas.









Texas Public Schools Accountability and Assessment (There is a better way)


Today is Monday, February 20, 2017. There are, as of last count, 523 Texas Public School Districts that have passed a resolution calling for the removal of the A-F campus and district accountability rating system set to go live in 2018. Locally elected school board members representing 2.8 million school children in Texas approved the resolutions. This is not a random incident where a certain school district or region is upset with their scores. The call to end this before it starts is state wide and born of the realization that we are going backwards in the effort to hold school district educators and students accountable for the improvement of the learning process at the LOCAL LEVEL.

I am not writing to rehash this argument. The data and the will of the people in a representative form of government have made their wishes very clearly heard. I am interested in giving you my opinion of what would be a better way to achieve the goal of providing a quality, relevant and challenging this century learning experience for the students of the state of Texas.

I look at this as a three-piece issue. First, how can the state hold pubic schools accountable for teaching the state mandated curriculum, following the requirements of the Texas Education Code and meeting the needs of all students? Second, How do you identify and intervene with school district and/or campuses that do not meet the state standards as defined in the current Met Standard/Improvement Required model? Third, how does the state differentiate between the schools that Met Standard? (There seems to be a need to rank schools as to which one is “best” in the area. Educators refer to that as a Real Estate Rating.) I believe that we can define a process that meets these requirements that is not punitive and set to create a negative perception of schools that should not be labeled as “failing” schools.

Let’s take a look at accountability for meeting the expectation of the state in curriculum and the education code. I maintain that the current system is the best method for measuring compliance. Make no mistake this is a compliance issue. As a district or campus, you are either doing this as required by the state or you are not. This is not the area to determine who is better at following the rules. Leave the system in place that is here now and we can have further discussions about the frequency of student assessment, who/what should be tested and how that weighs in compared to other variables in the district. The current system represents the best role for the state to take in the process of monitoring Locally Controlled, Locally Governed Independent School Districts in the state of Texas.

What happens when a school district is determined to be an Improvement Required School District? This is the point where the door opens wide for the state to come in and monitor, review and even oversee efforts to bring the district above the mark that is determined to meet the needs of their students. This too, is a system that is in place and, for the most part, functions well for school improvement. There can and should be some adjustment in this process. One of the most important would be a level of consistency from the state in the setting of expectations for achieving a Met Standard rating. Many times legislation is passed and the requirements are retroactive. This penalizes schools for not meeting a requirement that was not in place at the time being accessed. For example, setting a requirement for graduation plans during the 2013 Legislative Session and holding schools accountable to that standard for the graduates of 2012. (Actually happened) We can help districts that are struggling and if improvement is not realized over a period of time, there will need to be a method of direct/disruptive intervention that can be applied.

The third piece of this issue is where local community leaders/educators and legislators are at the greatest impasse. The desire (need) of the legislator to rate districts and pit them against each other is not beneficial to the learning process for students. It’s a great tool for a real estate agent that wants to sell more properties in a certain location based on the location of the “best schools”. There are two solutions to this issue in my opinion.

  • Let the local school district determine the criteria to be used to set their district apart. The community and student engagement reports will allow locally elected officials to hold district educators accountable for those priority items that best meet the needs of the local students. This tool is in place and being used by every school district in the state as mandated by House Bill 5 and Texas Education Code 39.0545. Details about this tools and examples of White Oak ISD’s documents can be found at this link: http://www.woisd.net/curriculum-federal-programs/ It is a true step towards returning the control of district to the locally elected officials tasked with that responsibility. This is a living document that sets the direction and priorities for the district and holds school leaders accountable to the local community through a rubric of well defined, measurable goals that align with state standards.
  • The state can continue to award/assign measures of distinction for the performance of districts as reported through the Public Information Management System (PEIMS) data including state mandated assessments. School districts can determine how much emphasis they want to place on the state distinctions as compared to the locally developed priorities.

This two-piece process is the “new” idea in this thought process. It allows local leaders to be more involved and more accountable for the decisions being made in the educational future of the students in their local schools. Combined with the Met Standard/Improvement Required Accountability that is currently in place, it allows local district to pursue excellence in a manner most beneficial to them without being released from a strong level of accountability to the state to meet all legal obligations as a Texas Public School District.

This represents an idea that allows the state to be actively involved in the learning process for Texas Public School Children without heavy-handed oversight that does not give consideration to the whole picture of a quality learning experience for students. It is a proposal that requires the use of the existing assessment process and adding a detailed, measurable local assessment instrument to allow for locally developed priorities to be included. There will be no mixing of these systems. They will build on each other. The State assessment is the foundation of what is required. The Community and Student Engagement Ratings will be the measure of excellence pursued at the local level. The state’s input by measures of distinction can be weighted in a manner best determined by the local district.

The purpose of this document is to answer the question of, “If you are against A-F, what do you support in its place?” I propose this is a better system that gives both the state and the local school district a strong level of responsibility for the successful learning experience for our Texas Public School Students. The biggest obstacle to the success of this or any collaborative plan between community members, educators (also included as community members) and legislators is the lack of trust that exists between local communities and their legislators in Austin. The idea that we don’t have a plan, that we are simply opposed to accountability and assessment is completely false and unwarranted. Educators, like myself, have been and are dedicated to the success of our students. It is a difficult job. It is an endless and relentless process to pursue excellence in education. It is made much more difficult when the very people put in place to support your efforts seem to do everything they can to paint your students, schools and colleagues as failures. Our profession is stronger, more skilled and more focused on student success that at any time in my 36 years in this business. I do not see our students as failures and I do not fear the future of this state with the students of the Texas Public Schools at the controls. I do ask that you consider this draft of a new accountability system and look for ways to work together with local school district leaders to continue to provide for a bright future in the sate of Texas.



White Oak ISD Bond Referendum 2017

School Board Calls May Bond Election

Proposition Addresses Aging Facilities and Evolving Learning Environments

The White Oak ISD Board of Trustees voted to accept the Facilities Planning Committee’s recommendation to call for a $19,005,000 bond package addressing the district’s aging facilities and adapting to evolving learning environments.

Development of the bond proposal involved an in-depth process of information gathering, research, deliberation and community input. Over the past year, a district-wide facilities assessment was completed, and in October 2016, the Facilities Planning Committee (FPC) was formed.

The FPC was comprised of individuals from the community who represent the diversity and multifaceted interests within White Oak ISD, including parents, grandparents and non-parents, teachers and district staff, community leaders, business owners and more. On February 6, the committee made its recommendation to the Board of Trustees to call for a bond election. All presentations and meeting notes can be found at www.WhiteOakISDFPC.com.

The proposed projects include:

  • Roofing replacement at all campuses
  • Water intrusion repair (Window replacement at Primary & Intermediate campus)
  • Air Handler replacement at the Primary & Intermediate and Middle School campuses
  • Refunding of existing debt used for energy efficiency projects
  • Middle School science lab renovations and elevator addition
  • New Field House
  • New High School science lab wing addition and repurposing of existing science classrooms

In addition to the projects included in the May 2017 bond package, the FPC also prioritized the remaining projects into a Long Range Plan to guide the district in the future. More information regarding the proposed bond package and a list of items in the Long Range Plan will be added to the district’s website: www.WOISD.net.

If approved, the estimated maximum tax impact of the total bond proposal is anticipated to be 37.8 cents for a total tax rate of $1.6255. WOISD property taxes for citizens age 65 or older would not be affected by the bond election as long as a homestead and over 65-exemption application have been filed with the local appraisal district and no significant improvements are made to the homestead.

White Oak ISD residents will have the opportunity to vote on the bond referendum beginning with Early Voting on April 24-May 2 and Election Day, Saturday, May 6.




The Iron of White Oak ISD

Proverbs 27:17 reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I hold that scripture dear because it is very descriptive of my professional career as an educator and, I believe, very descriptive of the public education community as a whole. Over the past thirty-five years, I have been extremely blessed to work with many of the very best that this world has to offer. Educators that have a true sense of working towards something much larger and more important than self and focusing their attention on providing an outstanding educational experience for the students in their charge.

White Oak ISD is no exception to this standard. Each year, we are compelled to honor those of us that are retiring/finishing their careers at White Oak ISD. This year we honored four members of the district’s Leadership Team. Each of these educators left an indelible positive mark on the students, faculty, staff and community of White Oak ISD. Each of these educators is very deserving of some level of rest and more importantly gratitude from the community they served.


  • Kevin McKay served the district for more than 10 years as a teacher and Middle School Assistant Principal. His dedication to all students and especially those with special needs is a gift that White Oak Middle School received on a regular basis for more than 10 years.
  • Michael Gras served the district for over 15 years as Director of Technology. Many people in the White Oak community would not Mr. Gras and the outstanding work he did to build and maintain a digital network designed to enhance student learning. He is an educator first and a “tech guy” second. He focused on what can be done to help teachers and students, not what can be done to “protect” the network.
  • Ronnie Hinkle began his career at White Oak as a teacher/coach and spent the last 18 years serving as principal of the Middle School. I think the best way I can describe Ronnie’s 18 years as principal is to say, we were blessed to have God’s man squarely placed were he can do good work for thousands of our young people.
  • Dan Noll served over 20 years as the principal of White Oak High School. His passion for students and his love for all things White Oak are second to none! There is not enough time or ample words to describe how many ways our students have benefited from the God inspired leadership of Dan Noll.

This letter is not an attempt to acknowledge all the good done by these leaders. It is an effort, on my part, to say “thank you ‘ one more time to dear friends, fellow educators and true difference makers. They are not finished shaping the lives of those around them, simply moving to a new target rich environment that will benefit from their presence. I want to finish where I started with Proverbs 27:17. I am better, “sharper”, for having been blessed to work with each of these outstanding Professional Educators!

Michael Gilbert

Why question the improved graduation rate of Texas Public Schools?

When given the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of thousands of Texas educators and literally hundreds of thousands of the state’s graduating seniors, the Longview News Journal chooses to assume the numbers are wrong and endorse the idea that school district administrators are being dishonest. Prompted by Texas Association of Business, Bill Hammond: the LNJ editorial in Thursday’s paper (http://www.news-journal.com/news/2015/sep/02/editorial-states-graduation-rate-tale-isnt-the-ful/) describes how 15,000 high school students were listed as “home school” leavers in 2014. The editor finds this number to be inaccurate. This data driven opinion is based on the following excerpt: “One thing we know about high school seniors is that they are not going to switch to home schooling in their last year and miss all those parties and all that attention.” That is not a compelling argument for dismissing the improvement shown by so many in the Texas Public School System. Throwing a number out there for the readers to be shocked at is always a good way to create interest/distrust.

The editor would also have the reader believe that schools take the word of the student that they will be home schooled. At White Oak ISD and many, if not all, public schools, there is a procedure for withdrawing to home school which includes the signature of the parent/guardian stating the student will be home schooled and a requirement to list the curriculum that will be used in this process.

I believe it is important to address this issue in human terms, not just numbers and percentages. Students that leave the district are not just numbers or percentages. They have names and stories that are unique to the individual. There is not an acceptable drop out rate for our public schools. Any of us that set our sites on less than a 100% success rate do a disservice to the students, parents/guardians and taxpayers of the community. The 15,000 students at the center of this discussion chose home school as an option to not be a drop out, according to the data provided by school districts across the state. That number represents 3.8% of the incoming 9th grade students in the 2009 school year to those looking to question the data. That number, 15,000, represents names and faces of young people and parents that, in many cases, found themselves in difficult situations, requiring difficult decisions be made in the moment, with only the information available at the time.   Could some of the students misrepresent their circumstance? Yes. Could some of the parents have allowed their student to make poor choices? Yes. This would be the exception, not the rule.

The positive work being done by students, teachers, and school leaders deserves to be highlighted in the media. There are several places you can go to find good news about the public school system and the dedicated people that serve the needs of students every day. Resources like:

Friends of Texas Public Schools (http://fotps.org/)

Jamie Vollmer (http://www.jamievollmer.com/)

Raise Your Hand Texas (http://www.raiseyourhandtexas.org/)

These three sites are filled with good information about the work of the Texas Public Schools and Public Schools across the country. Cohorts of leaders in the public schools are working tirelessly to transform the education students receive in the classroom everyday. These are the stories we promote and hopefully, the News-Journal will continue to celebrate on the “East Texas” page in their publication.

The editor states that he would rather celebrate the accuracy of the data than the success of the students, which highlights a fundamental difference between teachers and the media. At White Oak ISD and districts all over the state, our choice is to celebrate the success of our students.


Safety, Security and Instruction at White Oak ISD

On January 6, 2013, White Oak ISD hosted a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the safety and security of the students, faculty and staff. This meeting was prompted by, at that time, the latest school shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. The meeting was attended by about 250-275 concerned citizens and the district presented the positive attributes of our school district and community that worked together to form a safe instructional environment for our students.

Without being too repetitive, the discussion covered the training and visibility of our staff whenever our students are in transition, upgrades/purchases of equipment to increase security and the vitally important role our first responders play in the process of keeping our students safe. We had representatives from every first responder agency in attendance from the city and Gregg County level. There was a great deal of conversation about the positive relationship the school district has with these professionals and the rapid response we receive every time one or more of these agencies are called to aid the district.

It is my belief that the meeting was successful in presenting the facts about WOISD’s plan to ensure the safety, security and positive instructional environment for all involved. But the conversation did not stop there. We also assured our stakeholders that we would continue to look for best practices and methods of improving the process for our students. So what has taken place over the last two years to make good on that assurance?

Since January 6, 2013, White Oak ISD has invested close to $350,000 in security upgrades, gone through two safety audits that are reviewed at the state level and created a plan with the assistance of new technology to connect teachers, administrators and first responders in real time during a crisis. Listed below are some of the improvements/additions made during the timeline discussed;

  • Almost every exterior door in the district was either replaced or retooled as an exit only door or electronic entry only. This was done to control the flow of traffic into each building and enhance the district’s ability to keep up with who is visiting each campus.
  • Upgraded and increased the number of security cameras at every facility both inside and out. These cameras are high resolution equipped with night vision and digitally recorded by date and time for easy review. The system can be monitored onsite or remotely on a desktop, laptop or tablet computer.
  • New entrance and receiving areas have been and are being installed at the Intermediate, Middle School and High School campuses. This improvement not only creates a safe and controlled visitor entrance area but provides the added benefit of allowing our campus leadership team o focus on instructional matters due to less distractions and interruptions answering “the buzzer” connected to the electronically controlled entrance.
  • The campus entrance areas have been upgraded to laminate glass, which is stronger and more difficult to break through.
  • Beginning in the fall of 2015, the district will activate the CrisisGo app installed on all teacher devices supplied by the district. This app allows teachers, administrators and first responders to access a tremendous amount of useful data during an emergency situation. The application makes student class rosters, parent contacts and communication alerts possible for district staff. First responders are instantly notified when an alert goes out and the app provides them with contact numbers and digital maps of all the district facilities. These are just the highlights of a wide range of features provided by CrisisGo.
  • Additionally, we continue to practice, upgrade and evaluate our safety procedures for intruder, fire, weather and disaster protocols.


It is safe to say the district has not rested on the plans of the past to take care of our students both now and in the future. With that being said, I want to restate something I said at the close of the meeting in 2013. No safety and security plan is perfect and/or fool proof. Evil exists in the world and it exists in White Oak, Texas. It is not my intention to convince you there is no way harm can come to our students, faculty and staff. The purpose of all that we do is to mitigate that possibility to the very best of our ability. The safety of the student population at White Oak ISD is the top priority of the faculty, staff and board members in this district. The safety of over 1400 students and 180 employees is the top priority for me personally and professionally as this great learning institution’s superintendent.

The ultimate purpose of this document is to assure each of you that there is a plan in place at White Oak ISD. The threats that could affect us are discussed, researched and addressed. But most importantly, we do not live or work in a climate of fear. We believe in our students, our staff, our leadership team and first responders, knowing that each of these groups will answer the call when/if a crisis presents itself. Thank you for your time and attention. I am truly blessed to live in this community and work with the outstanding people that make WOISD a very special place.



White Oak ISD Community and Student Engagement Reports 2014/2015


Over the years, I have been very clear about the need for a more accurate method of rating the effectiveness of our Texas Public Schools. The current method of using STAAR/EOC results (one test per subject area on one day of the year) is not a true measure of what is taking place in a district, including White Oak ISD.

House Bill 5 was implemented state wide in 2013 and with that came the requirement for each school district to do a self-evaluation of the district and each campus. The results of these reports are to be posted on the district’s website and submitted to the Texas Education Agency. This was a very positive step towards letting the local district showcase the successes taking place in their schools everyday. White Oak ISD chose to not only post the rating earned by each campus and the district but included the actual report that documents our scores in each domain and performance measure.

There are eight domains to be addressed in the report and each domain will have between 4-10 individual performance measures. The domains are as follows;

  • Fine Arts – 6 performance measures
  • Wellness and Physical Education – 4 performance measures
  • Community and Parent Involvement – 6 performance measures
  • 21st Century Workforce Development – 7 performance measures
  • Second Language Acquisition Program – 7 performance measures
  • Digital Learning Environment – 10 performance measures
  • Educational Programs for Gifted and Talented Students – 7 performance measures
  • Drop Out Prevention – 6 performance measures

Each performance measure inside the domain is rated from unacceptable to exemplary. After this process in complete at the campus level, the district evaluation process takes into account the ratings of each campus to determine the district’s overall accountability rating. For the 2014/2015 School year our ratings are;

  • White Oak Primary – Recognized
  • White Oak Intermediate – Exemplary
  • White Oak Middle School – Recognized
  • White Oak High School – Recognized
  • White Oak ISD – Recognized

As stated earlier, the complete evaluation document for each campus and the district can be found on our website at www.woisd.net. The ratings are located on the district’s main page as well as on each campus page and the curriculum page.

As the years progress, you will be able to access current and previous years information to track the progress of any campus and the district in any of the eight domains listed above. It is my belief that this report, coupled with the results of our STAAR/EOC assessments will give you an accurate picture of the work and successes of our students, faculty, staff and leadership team. It is a true picture of what is taking place in your school district every day.

White Oak ISD is committed to the transformation of the classroom in order to provide the highest quality, relevant education that our students deserve. I hope you find this Community and Student Engagement Report to be both informative and encouraging as to the work that is being done by and on behalf of the students at White Oak ISD.