Superintendents talk about districts' accomplishments, challenges
Put Early ISD superintendent Dr. Dewayne Wilkins and Bangs superintendent Dr. Josh Martin in the same room in late August, and there’s sure to be talk of an upcoming Friday night football game.
“We do have a game with those guys over there this Friday,” Martin said, drawing laughter at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at the Brownwood Country Club.
Martin, Wilkins and Brownwood superintendent Dr. Joe Young spoke at the luncheon, talking up their districts and highlighting accomplishments including improvements in test scores, and the challenges from COVID.
Neither Martin nor Wilkins predicted the outcome of the Aug. 27 clash between Early and Bangs. And Martin was clearly speaking tongue-in-cheek when he said he and Wilkins liked each other when they first arrived at their respective districts last year. Now, not so much, Martin claimed.
“That was one of the things that really pulled us out last year,” Martin said, referring to the Bangs-Early game in 2020. “Everybody’s worried, this and that and the other … but by gosh, you line up a stand full of people to go play Early, and the communities come together, and it’s a big deal.”
'The classroom matters'
Martin said he, Wilkins and Young “all three represent great communities and as a county, we’re accomplishing things a lot of counties in Texas don’t get to do.”
Martin said there is “a a lot we learned from COVID, a lot of ways we could do things better. We kind of took the classroom for granted. I think what people don’t realize is how much the classroom matters.
"COVID’s taught us that kids don’t come to school for math class. My daughter doesn’t leave the door every morning and say ‘I can’t wait to go to reading today.’ She remembers her teachers. She says ‘I can’t wait to see Miss Smith. I can’t wait to see Mr. so-and-so.’"
People are missing the boat "when they're arguing … regardless of your political affiliation, Bangs ISD is always going to think about kids," Martin said. "And so is Early, and so is Brownwood. We’re not bickering about adult decisions. Bangs is going to be a kid-first district. I always tell our staff, we’re in a kid business, not an adult business.”
Early ISD’s Wilkins: ‘small town values’
“Everybody wants to know about challenges — COVID, the challenges that public schools faced,” Wilkins said. “We made it. We made it through a year of it.
“The things that we have on our hands right now is transitions. Things are changing rapidly. We all get into the superintendent world to lead schools, to better the education, to guide children, and no one ever told us that COVID would be part of that.”
Wilkins said he, Martin and Young have “small town values. Early ISD is small town. We’re going to lead it as a small town. The big thing is, we want to maintain the values in our communities. We want to maintain community values with our kids.”
Wilkins also addressed the issue of teacher shortages.
“Yes there are teacher shortages,” Wilkins said. ”And when teachers leave, those spots have to be filled. We have to take care of kids. So when Coach Price said ‘hey, I’m short a coach, you mind putting back on your coaching hat?’ I said ‘I’ve got to do it.’
“So I’m putting on my coaching hat to help them through the year. So yes, I am coaching varsity football this year. That’s just what we do in education. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teacher, you’re an aide, you’re a principal, you’re a superintendent, whatever it is, we’re going to do what we’ve got to do to take care of kids.”
Brownwood ISD’s Young: ‘we all serve kids’
“As those gentlemen said, we have a great, great, great school system here in Brown County,” Young said. "It’s just divided up into different districts and do a few different things based on the people that we have to serve, and we all serve kids. And we all do it very well.”
Referring to pay increases Brownwood teachers are receiving this school year, Young said, “the average teacher is going to receive $5,050 more this year than what they received last year and our school board has made a commitment to continue that.”
Young also said Brownwood ISD employees are receiving four bonuses spread throughout the school year. Each bonus will represent 1 percent of the employee’s salary, Young said.
Substitute teacher pay has been increased to $100 per day, and $140 per day “if you’re certified and retired,” Young said.
Substitute teachers are important because "we don't just placeholders in those spots," Young said. "When teachers are out, we need things to continue because we've only got 172 days on our calendar."
Young said the district is expanding the drone program that began last year from a semester to a full year. The expanded program will include 3D mapping, Young said.
Young gave a summary of a plan that is being considered for a the 2022-’23 school year called “Project Neighborhood.”
Under the plan, three campuses — East, Northwest and Woodland Heights elementary schools — would contain Head Start through fifth grade, and Coggin School would contain Head Start through sixth grade, Young said.
He said the district is in the process of gathering community input.
“It’s something we’re going to investigate for the entire year, and if it’s something that we decide as a community that we want to do, it would create four elementary neighborhood schools,” Young said.
The current school alignment “impacts their instruction and the continuity for the teachers,” Young said.