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from public input: stakeholders widely believe that the district’s facilities – especially its high schools – are outdated.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.
Darrell Coleman, Patterson Family of Dealerships
Ben Hoover, City of Wichita Falls
Teresa Pontius Caves, Wichita Falls Community Foundation
Gonzalo Robles, Café Con Leche
Nicholas Schreiber, SLA Architects
Dr. Shelley Sweatt, Priddy Foundation
Michael Olaya, Dexter Learning
Allen Flack, MD, United Regional Health Care System
Jed Grisel, Texoma ENT & Allergy
Dr. James Johnston, Midwestern State University
Nancy Marks, Midwestern State University
Kristi Faulkner, United Regional Health Care System
David Cook, Boley-Featherston Insurance
Steve Wood, Bundy, Young, Sims & Potter, Inc.
Phyllis Cowling, United Regional Health Care System
Michael Wenk, SAFB Airmen Family Readiness Center School Liaison
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