Superintendents talk state of the schools

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 8/18/22

As students return to local schools this week, security, managing district growth and filling teacher and staff vacancies are on the minds of many. Three local superintendents shared their perspectives at an Aug. 10 luncheon sponsored by the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce.

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Superintendents talk state of the schools

Posted

As students return to local schools this week, security, managing district growth and filling teacher and staff vacancies are on the minds of many. Three local superintendents shared their perspectives at an Aug. 10 luncheon sponsored by the Katy Area Chamber of Commerce.

Katy ISD Superintendent Ken Gregorski, Royal ISD Superintendent Rick Kershner and Lamar Consolidated ISD Superintendent Roosevelt Nivens spoke at the Embassy Suites, 16435 Katy Fwy.

Royal opened for classes Tuesday. Katy opened for classes Wednesday. Lamar Consolidated will open for classes Monday.

The Texas School Safety Center, headquartered at Texas State University, issued guidance for school safety practices before the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Following the shooting, the Texas Education Agency and the center issued an order requiring districts to review the list and report their compliance with it. Gregorski said Katy already follows that guidance.

But Katy, he said, is making some changes this year. Volunteers are now being asked to register online through an online system called Raptor before reporting to a campus.

“We’re little bit tighter on that,” Gregorski said. “Everything is running through Raptor. We’re getting you to pre-sign-up in advance. One more additional safety measure to ensure all of our volunteers have been screened before we get them around our kids in there. That’s a big push this year. All the other stuff we’ve been doing.”

Kershner said Royal’s goal was to be a destination district that provided a safe learning environment for all students.

Nivens said he appreciated that safety is on everyone’s mind right now.

“I hate that it takes tragedies,” Nivens said. “If you have a child, you know how important that kid is to you. And no parent deserves to get a phone call that says, ‘I know you sent John to school today, but John is not coming home.’ No parent deserves to get that phone call.”

Nivens said one problem with school safety measures is the pushback from critics, some of whom are lawmakers. Such critics feel the school officials are scaring students when conducting the safety drills.

“When school starts, and every day your kids go back to school and you go back to work and you get back into your routine, don’t forget about the importance of school safety,” Nivens said. “Don’t forget about the importance of talking to your children, your nieces and nephews or whomever, your teachers, about safety protocol, about locking doors and not propping open doors and checking visitors’ passes.”

Safety becomes even more important in light of the growing school district populations. Gregorski said Katy expected to welcome back over 90,000 students, with 6,000 new students in the queue just recently.

“Okay, 6,000 still waiting to enroll that just jumped in the queue since July,” Gregorski said. “We’ll see. A few will exit out of there, but most will come and will open doors up to over 11,000 staff. Were one of the biggest employers, or about the biggest employer in the area.”

Kershner said Royal was a small district, but is growing. This year, he said, Royal high school graduated 159 seniors.

“Our incoming freshmen are 238,” Kershner said. “So, Royal is embarking on some growth.”

Kershner said Royal ended its 2022 school year with 2,575 students. As of Aug. 9, he said, the district had 2,702 students.

“I know that doesn’t sound like a lot based on the numbers you just saw from Katy, but that’s quite a bit when you’re talking about 2,500 kids,” Kershner said.

More students in Royal are expected. Kershner said he knew of 10 different subdivisions that are happening or mapped out. One subdivision, he said, will have 7,000 homes, with 2,000 of those in the Royal ISD.

“The Katy side is blowing up,” Kershner said. “Those roofs are going and they’re just pushing a lot of dirt around on our side. It’s fixing to happen on the Royal side, but the developer tells me there should be about 400 homes this time next year and that will be a huge increase for us.”

Gregorski said educators know that the pandemic has caused a disruption in education, and that disruption hasn’t fully healed yet.

“For those of you who are interested and want to see a full accountability update and presentation, that will be at our August board meeting, where will be revealing some scores and how Katy ISD performed on our state assessments, but we’re pretty proud of how we are doing so far and scores are going back up as they were,” Gregorski said.

Finding the teachers to lead the way in improving student performance remains a challenge for school districts. Improving teacher pay is a key, and districts have been giving raises. But Nivens said changing attitudes towards teachers and their work is also important.

“The reason why we have a teacher shortage is because I’m talking to teachers and they are just tired,” Nivens said. “Then you have Amazon down the street who says I will pay you just as much to stay home and work from home. I’ve had teachers in my office and I said, ‘Listen, if you leave in the middle of the year your certificate will be flagged and you won’t be able to teach again.’ And their response to me is, ‘I don’t care. I’m not using it anymore. I’m done.’”

Katy Area Chamber of Commerce, Katy ISD, Royal ISD, Lamar Consolidated ISD, Raise Your Hand Texas

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