What You Should Know About White Oak ISD

White Oak Independent School District just completed another successful year. The term “successful” has different meanings to different people but in this case, I am referring to the success of our students in multiple categories of school business. Throughout the year, the accomplishments of our students are well chronicled in the print and broadcast media. The purpose of this publication will be to inform the stakeholders of the district about the processes and planning involved in creating this environment of success. The district’s students, faculty, staff, leadership team and trustees are all involved in a collaborative effort to create what is White Oak ISD. The instructional mission of this district is to transform the classroom into a quality, this century educational experience. The vision for moving forward in that mission is to provide our students with a multitude of educational opportunities to develop their talents in innovative and collaborative experiences at every grade level.

First, it is very important for you to know this district has a well thought out plan of curriculum and instruction. Our faculty and staff work diligently to align the curriculum to the required state standards and ensure that there are no gaps in the instruction of our students. This process is monitored by the Board of Trustees on an annual basis to ensure a continued focus on the instructional Mission and Vision of the district. Our students are well prepared for the next grade level and/or the educational expectations placed on them when they leave the district as graduates. Students that pursue post secondary educational goals will find those goals difficult to achieve. If that were not the case, then the money spent on that level of education would be wasted. You should know that the education your students are receiving at White Oak ISD is the result of a very intentional process.

You should also know that the instructional strategies in place at White Oak are well defined and based on mountains of research to determine the best way to prepare our students for the world they will live in. It is not the focus of the district to prepare students to enter the workforce of the past. That is not the world our students are going to live, work and contribute to. A growing number of our faculty and staff are embracing the Professional Learning Communities model of planning for the instruction of our students. Working as a team to meet the individual needs of our students as opposed to working in isolation relying on just one’s own experience and knowledge. The collaborative working process is also important to our students. We are using a Project Based Learning (PBL) method of incorporating higher level thinking skills and deductive reasoning skills. We are increasing the inclusion of technology to enhance the educational experience in many subject areas. Technology is not the focus of instruction but it is a vital tool in the overall learning process. You should know that White Oak ISD has Professional Educators in place to provide the most current and effective instructional practices currently available.

Response to Intervention (RTI) is the process used in White Oak ISD to monitor, plan for and meet the individual needs of every student in the district. As students are identified with specific learning disabilities, this process allows us to increase the focus on the students needs, individualize instruction and create an environment that will allow those students to succeed. This is a process that takes place with individual students at every grade level. You should know that the educational process at White Oak ISD is not mass-produced or one size fits all at any level.

The most visible areas of success at White Oak ISD have to do with our student’s performances in extra-curricular activities. The district takes great pride in providing our students with a platform to pursue their passions, polish competitive skills and measure their abilities against those from other school districts. In the areas of Academics, Athletics, Fine Arts and FFA, our students excel. This level of success is well known around the state of Texas. White Oak ISD has been ranked in the top 10 of the UIL Lone Star Cup for the past 5 years. There are two things you should know about the success of this district. First, it has not and will not take place at the expense of the academic readiness of any student in the district. This district has its priorities in the proper order. Second, this kind of overall success cannot take place in a district that is not dedicated to the needs of the students. Our student’s put out the best effort they can in every aspect of this districts performance because they know they are cared for by all involved.

This is just an overview of all the important and meaningful pieces that make White Oak ISD one to the best school districts in the state. We have just under 180 employees and operate on a budget of $11 million. We are responsible for the most precious commodity in this community, our children. Education is a labor-intensive business. We are not perfect corporately and/or individually. We are and will continue to be good stewards of your students and your tax dollars. The district is not a factory trying to meet a production schedule nor are we necessarily looking to squeeze every minute out of the day with activities. This is a school; an institution of learning that requires reflection and diversification in the learning process. The pace of learning is as varied as the students we teach. Time has to be factored in to meet those needs.

The last and most important thing you should know is that I, nor anyone that works at White Oak ISD, does so without keeping the students as the absolute center of every decision made in this district every day. That includes the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and leadership team of the district. The work being done here is very important. The work being done here is planned and very intentional in nature. The trust of this community in the work being done and the people doing the work is vital to the continued success of this district.

As you engage in conversations about the district, it is my hope that this information will be helpful. The teaching staff at White Oak ISD is the finest I have ever been associated with in my 34 years of service to the Texas Public Schools. They are the tip of the spear in this districts effort to provide a quality, this century education for our students. This is a group of people that deserve a great deal of credit and support from the community for the work done each and every year.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve this community and this school district as Superintendent of Schools. Thank you for your time and consideration as you read through this document.

District Response To Allegations Against WOISD Staff Member

Over the past week and a half, White Oak ISD has been cooperating with the White Oak Police Department in an investigation of a WOISD Staff member. Allegations have been made that this individual was involved in an inappropriate electronic messaging conversation.

The issue was first brought to the attention of school personnel and quickly turned over to law enforcement officers due to the nature of the allegations. White Oak PD has interviewed several individuals and is looking at information that will be used to determine the next steps to be taken in this process.

It is and will continue to be the position of the district that there will be no confirmation of anyone involved in this stage of the investigative process. The district has taken steps to ensure the safety of all students and will continue to monitor the investigation as it develops. It is not our intent to hinder and/or interfere with the police investigation in any way.

It has been reported to me by both print and television news media that calls have been made to the press offering names and information about the case. These same outlets have requested that I confirm details that are not appropriate for this stage of the investigation. As stated earlier, the safety and security of the students at White Oak ISD is and will continue to be the highest priority of this district. Our students are safe and the instructional day continues, as it should. What we will not be a part of is the premature condemnation of any employee of the district. Meeting a deadline for a story or getting the word out first is not a concern of the district. When facts are in place to indicate further action is required, the district will act accordingly. Along those same lines, if the facts do not support the allegations, releasing the name would be terribly irresponsible.

I want to assure all stakeholders in the White Oak Independent School District that this situation is being handled with the utmost level of concern and urgency required. The safety and well being of our students drives all decisions being made in this process and finally, the level of transparency (or lack thereof) is consistent with the responsible handling of all parts of this investigative process.

Speaking on behalf of the district leadership team and the Board of Trustees, We value the trust you place in us each day as we work to provide a first class, this century learning experience for your students. Speaking for myself, I want to assure you that your trust is not misplaced. We will work this process to it’s conclusion and take, or not take action accordingly.

Senate Bill 893 and White Oak ISD What would be the impact?

Senate Bill 893, co-authored by Senator Seliger and Senator Campbell, is creating quite a bit of conversation across the state about changes in teacher pay. When the bill was released, everyone quickly focused an the verbiage about the removal of the minimum pay scale for teachers and a starting pay not to go below $2,750 per month, which is the current minimum pay for a teacher at state step 0.

Do not be concerned with the minimum pay language in this bill. White Oak ISD eliminated the state minimum pay scale years ago when we adopted a pay scale that pays above state base. Only 11 school districts in the state still pay minimum scale. There will be zero school districts in the state that will operate without a pay scale that acknowledges years of service, including White Oak ISD. I do not know if SB 893 will pass the house and/or come out of conference committee to be presented for the Governor’s signature. I do know that White Oak ISD will have a pay scale that remains very similar to the one currently in place. I do know that none of our teachers will experience a decrease in pay based on any part of this piece of legislation.

The true “issue” of this bill is in the language about value added portions of the teacher appraisal process. This language is intended to promote the use of student’s assessments in the teacher appraisal process. I have been and will continue to be opposed to this data for the purpose of determining the job performance of an educator. If required by statute to implement some form of this process, we will use multiple assessments and rely heavily on locally developed assessments to ensure that our faculty gets credit for the outstanding efforts applied each day in meeting the needs of our students. I am open to the idea of rewarding outstanding educators. I have not seen the system that will do that in an acceptable manner as of yet.

Finally, when you are reading the posts on Facebook, tweets and comments in all media outlets, examine the level of trust implied by those contributing to the conversation. In my nearly eight years at White Oak ISD as Superintendent, the students, faculty, staff and leadership team have always been my highest priority. Programs are not preferred over people in White Oak ISD. That set of priorities will not change due to the passing of a piece of legislation. The strength of this district is in the people of this district. I know that and your Board of Trustees knows that as well. Slighting our personnel to put money in the bank has not been, is not and will not be the priority of anyone in leadership at White Oak ISD.

Texas Association of Community Schools and Vouchers

TACS requested that member schools prepare a one page letter with information about the district and the services provided to our students. This information will be complied and presented to legislators as they consider possible voucher bill in both chambers. White Oak’s response is as follows;

White Oak ISD

Pride, Tradition and Educational Excellence!


The White Oak Independent School District is located in East Texas about halfway between Dallas and Shreveport. We provide an educational home to just over 1400 students, Pre-K through 12th grade. WOISD provides a quality “this century” education with an emphasis on one instructional strategy: The Transformation of Instruction in the Classroom.

Instructionally, White Oak ISD provides our faculty and staff with up-to-date training to enhance the classroom experience for all students. The district has been recognized by TEA as a “Power On Texas” school for excellence in the embedding of technology into the learning process. We are one of 23 school districts selected by TEA as members of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium, dedicated to leading the way to a 21st Century Education. Teachers are trained in Project Based Learning (PBL) allowing our students to learn in a collaborative environment where student voice and choice are encouraged. Our purpose is to focus on a learner centered educational environment for all students.

White Oak ISD has a long-standing tradition of excellence in UIL Academic Competition. Our high school has earned the honor of District Champions in UIL Academics 50 of the last 53 years. WOISD was Academic State Champions in 2012 and Over-all State 2-A Lone Star Cup Champions in 2012. We are currently the three time defending State Champion in Journalism.

White Oak High School has an enrollment of just over 400 students. We have well over 80 percent of our student body involved in extra-curricular activities. Our award winning Marching Band marches right at 200 members and we are still consistently successful in all UIL Athletic competitions. In the last five years we have been State Champions in Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis and Track. We have also qualified for the UIL playoffs in every team sport during that time with Baseball and Cross Country qualifying for State. Our football team was a State Semi-Finalist in 2013.

The message I am attempting convey is that students at White Oak ISD are exposed to the latest in research-based instructional strategies. They are afforded the opportunity to be a well-rounded student/athlete/citizen while attending our schools. We are good (excellent) stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars and see no reason to remove funding from our district to provide tax dollars for private/for profit educational institutions. Please support White Oak ISD and the Texas Public Schools and vote “no” to any form of voucher legislation presented for your approval.

Public Comments

I want everyone to know that I have read each comment posted on this site. The decision to leave comments open was not arbitrary nor unintended. To each of you that have taken the time to express your views, thank you.
The comment section will be turned off at this time.

Michael Gilbert, Superintendent
White Oak ISD

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and White Oak ISD

Recently, I have been contacted by two concerned residents of White Oak ISD and legal counsel from the Freedom From Religion Foundation concerning the use of scripture in the “Thought for the Day” at the high school.

The residents were offended at the use of scripture, demanding that it be stopped and calling for disciplinary action against Mr. Noll. I am fully aware of the practice at the high school and will not pursue any action against our High School Principal or any other member of our faculty/staff concerning this issue.

The letter from the FFRF is not the first received by the district. They contacted us in the fall with concerns about the practices at our football games. I have responded in  accordance with their stated concerns and we have moved on.

Let me be clear, this is an attempt to draw us into a contest of words for the sole purpose of giving the FFRF a large amount of free press/recognition that they and their very few members (1,200 in Texas) do not deserve. This group and others like it, are wanting us to provide them with negative quotes to use in the promotion of their agenda. We can and will make the adjustments needed to ensure our students experience a morally sound, positive character based education. There are a multitude of options to provide our students, faculty and staff the opportunity to express their First Amendment Rights as provided for in the United States Constitution. Let me also be clear that we have not (in my opinion) violated anyone’s rights and/or subjected anyone to undue stress. Bible studies and scriptures are allowed in schools. The requirement is that the material be presented in a neutral manner. It is my position that we met that standard with the morning announcements.

My recommended response to the FFRF is, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I will be praying for you and your staff daily.”

Finally, as a Christian Brother, it will not promote the values we hold so dear to assail those that disagree with the Gospel. We will state our case. We will make sure our rights are just as protected as anyone else that lives in this great country. We will continue to provide for all the needs of our students and we will do so while traveling the High Road. Don’t get drawn into a game of words that has no “winner”.

Please do not waste your time and effort on these few detractors.

Michael E. Gilbert
Superintendent of Schools
White Oak ISD

What’s wrong with Texas youth today?

As a High School Geography Teacher, that was the question I started each class with the very first day of school. The immediate level of disgust, the eye rolling and the moans were almost always the same. Students were somewhat excited about the start of a new year and their teacher is about to pour a bucket of cold water all over them just to ruin their day. I never waited for an answer to that question, I answered it for them:

The problem with Texas Youth today is that you are Texas Youth today and it’s your turn to be judged unworthy.

Using this introduction, I would then proceed to tell students that there has never been a generation of young people that were ever deemed worthy of adult praise. We (adults) always see the necessity of pointing out all of our children’s faults and reminding them of all the great things we did when we were their age (as we remember it).
Now we have legislators and business leaders joining the band wagon of all the reasons the State of Texas is doomed to fail because of an uneducated, unmotivated and undisciplined work force that is being turned out of our Texas Public Schools. Just like in the 50’s, 60”s, 70’s and so on, the adult population always laments over the doomed status of the state/nation when these guys take over and run the place!
Let me put in my two cents on this conversation with the following points of interest:
• Today’s students are the most educated and assessed students in the history of this state. In fact, they are much smarter and have been held to a much higher standard of achievement that any of us ever dreamed of. That is true in number of courses required to graduate high school, the level of instruction required within those academic areas and in the advanced courses required to receive a diploma with distinctions.
• The students of today are work force ready. Anyone who continues to bemoan the lack of skills in our students does not give credit to the fact that our state wide gross domestic productivity has increased at a level much greater than that of the nation with our students in the workplace.
• Through great effort on the part of educators and some in the legislature, we can target the interest of our students and the skills required of our local job market to provided an education is rigorous, relevant and beneficial to the local economy as well as giving students the foundation they need to be even more college and career ready when they leave high school.
Our students are, as a whole, amazing! They are more generous with their time than any before. They are not ashamed to proclaim and live their faith and they are at the start of one of the greatest cultural shifts this country has ever seen. The cultural shift that technology, social media and global connectivity will bring to each of their lives is just now starting to give us a glimpse of things to come. As educators, we have to consider and create an education system that will equip them for that world. We have to provide a learning environment filled with this century practices and look to new ideas for the delivery of instruction that is focused on the learner, not the educator. It’s not that change is on the way, change is here and we need to embrace the needs of our students with an understanding that the Industrial Education Model is not best for today’s learner. What are some considerations as we create the new vision for Texas Public Schools?

• Those that would have you believe our schools are failing because of the results and low expectations of STAAR/EOC do not tell you that this assessment system is irrelevant in the evaluation of the total performance of a school district. STAAR/EOC is not recognized by any college of university as an indicator of success for post-secondary education. The assessments are aligned with a curriculum that is much greater in scope and volume than can ever be assessed on a single test in the 4-hour time limit.
• Educators have been “labeled” as anti-test supporters and nothing could be further from the truth. We believe assessments should be used as a diagnostic tool to enhance student’s strengths and reveal areas of concern with regard to the learning standards.
• We do not believe a test given in 4 hours on one day per subject matter can be used to determine the effectiveness of a teacher, a campus and/or an entire district.
• Campus and District Accountability Rating Systems based on the one time test process are no more than “Real Estate Ratings” used to promote one school district over another when there are no common factors in the comparison.
• The current accountability system is seen as a deterrent to the process of education to the vast majority of school districts. So much so that well over 800 Texas Public School Districts officially adopted a resolution stating their opposition.
• The current Industrial Model of instruction is not going to meet the need of today’s learners and it will not create an environment of success going forward.
• Poverty is the true enemy of education. A new vision for education must account for the needs of all students. We hear from certain distracters that “throwing money” at schools is not the answer. None of us in the profession are asking for a toss. We are articulating an expectation of equity that allows the children, schools and districts with high poverty rates to level the playing field and fight the problem at it’s source.

It is not enough to just point out what is not working. There has to be an alternative, a better plan to work towards in becoming an education system that focuses on this century learning styles and needs. There are several groups working on “what’s next” for Texas Public Schools. The “New Vision” is out there and there are school districts deeply committed to the work of making this century learning a reality. Search the web for the following and you will see communities and district leaders that are making a difference in this process. Look for Texas High Performing Schools Consortium and Creating a New Vision for Public Education on the web. White Oak ISD is a proud member of the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium and the New Visioning Cohort for Region 7. A Google search of “Mission: School Transformation” will provide you with a wealth of information about what we are working towards and what we are promoting as an alternative to the current instructional and assessment model.
To finish where I started, there is not a problem with Texas Youth today! Their future is bright and the possibilities/opportunities for them to experience success are on the rise. It is an exciting time to be in the business of educating students in the Texas Public School System. It will not be easy to change a culture that has been in place for more than a century, but it will happen. There is no doubt that the Texas Public School System is going to change. I hope that those of you reading this will look at the work of the Consortium and the Visioning Institute and join in the effort to transform our schools into models for best practices of learning for the 21st century.

To learn more about the New Vision for Public Schools and Mission see: School Transformation

A Mile Wide and One Inch Deep

Many of us in Texas Public Education have tried to spread the message that the required curriculum in Texas (TEKS) is long on what is covered and very shallow on what is allowed to be truly taught in depth. Mrs. Mary Ann Whitaker, Superintendent at Hudson ISD, published the following article that does a great job of explaining the problem we face. This example is for 5 subjects in 8th grade but the story rings true Pre-K through 12.

Mile Wide – Inch Deep

Texas has created mile wide/inch deep curriculum standards for all subjects, prekindergarten – grade 12. Teachers are mandated by law to teach the state curriculum standards, students are assessed annually on mastery of these standards using the STAAR testing system. There are 3 types of standards per subject:
• Readiness Standards– Essential for success in the current grade or course
• Process Standards– Represent strategies and structures to access learning and provides a way for students to demonstrate understanding/knowledge
Mile-wide standards for students entering 8th grade:
• Social Studies: 36 readiness, 56 supporting, 8 process standards
• Science: 15 readiness, 35 supporting 13 process standards
• Math: 13 readiness, 27 supporting, 7 process standards
• Reading: 13 readiness, 4 supporting, 3 process standards (2 genres)
• Writing: 8 readiness, 10 supporting, 2 process, (6 genres)
• Total standards for 5 subjects: 258 (85 readiness, 132 supporting, 33 process, 8 genres)
These numbers may not seem too overwhelming at first glance; however, the following is an example of one 8th grade readiness standard, with 7 levels of specificity:
8.15.D – Analyze how the U.S. Constitution reflects:
• Principles of limited government
• Republicanism
• Checks and balances
• Federalism
• Separation of powers
• Popular sovereignty
• Individual rights.
The 8 process skills are applied to each of those levels of specificity:
• Primary and secondary sources
• Sequencing, categorizing identifying cause and effect
• Graphs, charts, timelines, maps
• Point of view from historical context
• Point of view on social studies issues or events
• Use appropriate mathematical skills
• Geographic distributions/patterns
• Social studies terminology
From this 1 readiness standard, 56 different questions could be asked on the STAAR Exam. To cover a “mile” of readiness standards, one can easily see the limited time available to offer in-depth teaching/learning opportunities for our students. There are 35 additional social studies readiness standards and 56 supporting standards that must be presented within the 145 days prior to the STAAR administration. Classroom reality means the teacher must cover a comparable standard every 1.45 days!
This is not unique to 8th grade. A student entering first grade, age 6, is expected to master 211 standards in 5 subjects:
• Social Studies: 14 readiness, 27 supporting, 10 process standards
• Science: 7 readiness, 13 supporting, 13 process standards
• Math: 5 readiness, 15 supporting, 7 process standards
• Reading: 12 readiness, 16 supporting, (6 genres), 40 process standards
• Writing: 8 readiness, 9 supporting, (4 genres), 5 process standards
Due to the number of standards for each of the tested subjects, Pearson’s Testing, under the direction of the Texas Education Agency, will select approximately 30% of the standards to be tested each year. Teachers begin each school year attempting to address 100% of these mile-wide standards, praying they have focused attention on the standards that will be targeted on the “state exams”! Exams that will determine the success or failure of students, teachers, campuses, districts! It is time we bring reason back to a system that is no longer reasonable or attainable.

Thank you Mary Ann for taking the time to put this in a perspective that shows the need for change!

Whose definition of change are we using?

Thursday, August 28th, Judge John Dietz upheld the ruling finding the current funding system, developed by the Texas State Legislature and used to determine the funding per student in Texas, to be unconstitutional. This ruling comes at the end of a long legal process that involved over 600 school districts bringing a lawsuit against the state. The purpose was to force the members of the Texas State Legislature to do by court ruling, what they should have done by sense of duty to the students of this state: Fund the education of the Texas Public Schools in an equitable and adequate manner.
The court battle is not over. The willingness of the legislature to take up this issue without court order remains to be seen. But the level of resistance to the idea of overhauling the funding system for public schools, quite frankly, defies all logic! Look at the statements made by elected officials and lobbyists and try to determine what the real bottom line is in this process.
From Friday’s Longview News Journal:
What people are saying?
“Today’s decision is the sole decision of one judge in Travis County. The final say will come from the Supreme Court.” — Senator Dan Patrick
In other words, there is no interest in doing anything until forced by the highest court in the state. Having any initiative to solve this problem because it is a problem is not a consideration? The problem is real. The responsibility belongs to the Legislature; why wait to be sued to do what you are tasked by the constitution and the voters to do? Act now and do so in such a way that the students are the beneficiaries, not the special interests groups.
“Our obligation is to improve education for our children rather than just doubling down on an outdated education system constructed decades ago.” — Attorney General Greg Abbott
What outdated system is he referring to? The one crafted by HB 5 that totally redefines the process by which a high school student pursues a diploma? Maybe it is the implementation of best practices in classroom instruction like Project Based Learning/Inquiry Driven Instruction? Maybe he is talking about the focus schools have on a Response to Intervention process that is designed to provide opportunities for every student to be successful and drills down to meet the needs of each learner at his/her appropriate skill level? Is it the use of Professional Learning Communities so that teachers do not have to work in isolation and students benefit from the best practices of the community? Make no mistake, these things are happening in White Oak ISD and in thousands of schools across the state! What is outdated is the argument of the “Failing Schools” crowd that has a true purpose of redirecting public school funds to for profit vendors.
“Simply throwing more money at our education system doesn’t make it better without finding a way to deliver education in an efficient and effective manner.” — Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business
The only problem Mr. Hammond has with throwing money is the direction of the toss! As the CEO of the Texas Association of Business, it is his job to point money to his constituents. The existence of our Independent Public Schools and the large budget in place to support them is the target of his argument. He interest in efficiency or effectiveness is not evidenced by his continued support for Pearson Education and the High Stakes Testing machine (money, time, effort allotted to a one day/one size fits all test) that is in place across the state.
These gentlemen and others who stand in opposition to new, equitable funding statewide are not looking for “a change” in the Texas Public School System and the manner in which it is funded; they are looking for “their change” in the process. The efforts of school districts across the state have been hampered over and over again by legislators and lobbyists that would not get enough of the credit or profit from the changes schools have developed.
There is a bright side! On the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) Website, there is a link to Mission: School Transformation. (http://www.transformtexas.org/) This site references the Visioning Document for positive change in schools and gives you an idea of the large number of schools and districts that are involved the work of transforming instruction in our classrooms. This site celebrates the work of thousands of teachers and highlights the work being done to affect change. If you are interested in seeing what real change could look like, visit TASA’s website. New Visioning groups are in place in every service center region and work closely with their local representatives to find real solutions that benefit our students. Leaders like, Representative Jimmie Don Aycock and State Board of Education Member Thomas Ratliff are working with educators to better the system. Locally, Senator Kevin Eltife and Representative David Simpson stepped up to support the Texas High Performance School Consortium in our efforts to find a new, and better way to “do school”.
Across the state of Texas, schools have changed and for the better. We are not perfect but we are working to do the best we can with the resources made available to us. It is a shame that some would prefer to demonize those of us in the arena for wanting more in order to do more. The Texas Public Schools are not failing. Visionary leaders are working all over the state to ensure that your children, our future leaders, are getting the best “this century” education possible. Encourage your state representatives to take up the cause and develop the funding system now, without a court order, because it is the right thing to do for our students that are in school today and for those still to come. There are Senators and House Members that are ready to do the work and ready to make a difference. Hearing from their constituents (you) will matter.