Kari Calcote was the principal of Winters Elementary School until this summer when she became the Director of Curriculum Instruction for the district. The district has several new initiatives that they’ve already started building. Calcote says it’s not just the students who will experience exciting programs this year, “We have started an Engage 2 Learn (E2L), the purpose of which is to come in and coach our teachers on ways to use their technology and how the administration can support teachers. Any initiatives that we start will fall to the wayside without the proper training.”
One new event that the district began last year was the Safety Day. It was a day for the elementary students to learn about safety in an exciting way. There were bicycles given away and every student was fitted for a bicycle helmet. The Winters high school football players helped out by fitting bicycle helmets to each student. TxDOT came out to demonstrate the importance of car seats and seatbelts. The Winters volunteer fire department and North Runnels Hospital participate as well, with Dr. McKinnon giving a presentation to the students. They are in the process of scheduling a Safety Day again for this year.
The school district has the Winters Learning Framework where all of the schools are on the same page when it comes to learning, “It establishes expectations for students and teachers. We want to model the skills that we want to develop.” Calcote says that other programs are being expanded, “We’ve expanded the Early Childhood Development and expanded Head Start so we can serve more 3-year olds than we could previously. We had 36 kids come out of pre-K into kindergarten. They walk into kindergarten with skills and reading ability. We had a Father’s Day in Head Start last year and had wonderful parent participation.”
Another program that they have is Dads of Great Students, “30 dads came in last year and many of them came in on multiple days. We do a background check on all dads who want to participate.”
The elementary and junior high were accepted into the TEA MIZ (Math Innovation Zone), “There are only 7 districts in the entire state participating in this and we are the smallest. This goes hand-in-hand with the Winters Learning Framework. The elementary and junior high are blending learning into MIZ. Also, with the MIZ funding we were able to purchase additional technology pieces for our students as well as online learning programs and safety pieces.”
Calcote says that the district is making time for more planning, “We set aside a district-wide planning day so all of our teachers can get together once every 6 weeks to ensure that our learning is aligned. The goal is to focus on being one united team.”
Winters Junior High School also has some new programs this year. Principal Bryan Green has focused on getting parents more involved, “This year we decided that we were going to call the parents, send letters and hold meetings to get them more involved. I think it started last year with focus groups. We invited the parents and the community to come to those focus groups. We kept the focus groups small and hired someone to come in to those focus groups and facilitate the communication. I think parents understand that between the campuses and administration. There is more continuity. One more thing about the parents is that we invite them to our professional development training so that they can see what we’re doing. The school board has been very supportive and we’re blessed to have them.”
The high school has partnered with Howard College to begin a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program. Currently they have 16 students enrolled in the program that is taught by Mrs. Holmes. They have also hired a dual credit/ACT teacher to come in. Nathan Monroe retired from Abilene Independent School District and ha 28 years as an educator. He also spent 9 years teaching at the ATEMS Academy. Monroe says that the school is making strides in helping students prepare for the ACT and in helping them obtain college credits, “Currently we have 42 dual credit students in close to 100 courses. The majority of those are in the CNA program and college algebra. We’re working with both Cisco College and Howard College.”
The school district is focusing on students as well as educators and making leaps and bounds in helping students prepare for the next phase of life, whether it’s going from pre-K to kindergarten, elementary to junior high and then from junior high to high school. The ACT and college programs likewise help them prepare for life after high school.