The Action Team last met as a group at the CEC (Career Education Center) and discussed ways that the Team can assist WFISD in developing and promoting a plan for modern school facilities. They were joined by Superintendent Kuhrt and WFISD Board member Bob Payton.
Since that time, several new Board members took office and they have outlined their timeline for developing the next bond package to construct new facilities and consolidate existing ones. Here’s the summary:
- The Board agreed that a May 2019 vote was too soon so they opted to put the next bond on the November 2019 ballot
- A public survey was circulated in December 2018 that will provide community feedback on what the public believes is needed
- The Board is currently forming two citizen committees to meet from February to May 2019 to develop the facility plans
- One group will focus on secondary schools and the other group will focus on elementary
- The secondary schools committee will focus on construction of a new high school or schools
- The elementary committee will focus on consolidation of existing facilities and whether new construction is needed in certain areas
- They plan to have a final package ready by the end of May 2019
- The vote is expected to be placed on the November 2019 ballot giving time during the Summer and early Fall for community education about the bond package
This Action Team is unique in that they are following the timeline set forth by the WFISD Board. Their purpose is to promote economic development and educational improvement in the Wichita Falls region by helping in this process. They will have the opportunity to assist WFISD in promoting the chosen plan and educating the public about the benefits of creating modern facilities.
A March meeting is planned to discuss specific ways that the Modern Schools Action Team can benefit this initiative.
Facility upgrades needed in the Wichita Falls Independent School District to boost student experiences, community pride, and external perceptions.
The survey said…
On the online survey administered as part of the public input process, more than 1,300 individuals indicated that they or one of their children had attended a Wichita Falls Independent School District (WFISD) in the past five years. Approximately 62 percent of these individuals agreed with the statement, “Children in this district receive a high-quality education.” But roughly the same proportion – 65 percent – agreed with the statement, “The quality of our public schools inhibit our community’s growth.” These responses may seem contradictory at first, but they are likely a product of a prominent theme to emerge from public input: stakeholders widely believe that the district’s facilities – especially its high schools – are outdated.
Input participants noted that residents and outsiders alike are naturally drawn to comparing Wichita Falls to other communities around North Texas that have made major investments in school facilities in recent years. According to these stakeholders, the fact that Wichita Falls’ facilities are viewed less favorably serves as a major barrier to attracting and retaining residents and businesses. There is also a strong connection between facility quality and student learning. According to the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy Analysis (CEEPA) at Penn State, “school facilities affect health, behavior, engagement, learning, and growth in achievement. Thus, researchers generally conclude that without adequate facilities and resources, it is extremely difficult to serve large numbers of children with complex needs.”
Stakeholders acknowledge that upgrading WFISD’s facilities will require significant investments. The consensus belief among these individuals is that the return on these investments will far outweigh the costs.
CONNECTIONS TO COMMUNITY GOALS
Attract and retain residents and businesses: Stakeholders said modern school facilities are crucial to the community’s ability to attract and retain talent.
Increase prosperity for all residents: A more competitive community would raise standards of living in the long run.
Enhance quality of life and quality of place: Modern school facilities would deliver a significant aesthetic enhancement to the community.
Promote inclusivity and equity: Upgrades would likely impact all students in WFISD.
Improve internal and external perceptions of Wichita Falls: Modern school facilities would increase community pride and help change the image of Wichita Falls among prospective residents.
Conduct a public visioning process to build consensus around a plan for WFISD facility upgrades
• Convene WFISD stakeholders to determine whether existing facilities plans and studies provide a sufficient basis for decision-making; expediently conduct additional research as needed
• Conduct a large-scale public input process to gather community feedback about specific options for WFISD facility upgrades and build consensus around the desired alternative, including the sequencing and timeline of specific actions
• Seek to engage as many WFISD parents as possible – including those attached to SAFB – in the input and consensus-building process to ensure broad-based community support and buy-in for the selected alternative
• Outreach techniques could include public meetings, charrettes, open houses, information kiosks and input exercises at school and other public events, online surveys, advertisements, etc.
• Retain a firm skilled in facilitating processes connected to educational facilities planning or other public infrastructure projects to guide the public outreach process
Launch a community-wide campaign to build support for needed bond initiative
• With a consensus alternative established (see Tactical Recommendation 2.1), create a multi-faceted campaign in favor of passing one or more school bond initiatives that will be required to modernize WFISD facilities
• Engage parents and parent groups in the campaign and seek public endorsements from key stakeholders and partners (e.g. the business community)
• Enlist a wide range of community partners to conduct advocacy work on behalf of the campaign; for 501(c)(3) non-profits that cannot engage in political advocacy, develop specialized messaging that seeks to educate and inform voters on the issues
• Launch a multi-channel advocacy campaign inclusive of a website, social media, op-eds, a speakers bureau, outdoor and traditional media advertisements, etc.; consider retaining an experienced communications firm to develop messaging and provide services such as graphic design
• Evaluate the need to incorporate a special non-profit – e.g. a 501(c)(4) – to coordinate and fund education facilities advocacy efforts
Patterson Family of Dealerships
City of Wichita Falls
Teresa Pontius Caves
Wichita Falls Community Foundation
Café Con Leche
Dr. Shelley Sweatt
Allen Flack, MD
United Regional Health Care System
Dr. James Johnston
Midwestern State University
United Regional Health Care System
Bundy, Young, Sims & Potter, Inc.
United Regional Health Care System
SAFB Airmen Family Readiness Center School Liaison