Three local school superintendents gave their yearly report to the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce Wednesday at the Safari Texas Ranch during the chamber’s 11th annual State of the Schools luncheon.
More than 500 people packed into the facility to hear Thomas Randle of Lamar CISD, Charles Dupre of Fort Bend ISD, and Robert Bostic of Stafford MSD talk about the accomplishments and plans for their respective districts.
The following are summaries from each report:
Thomas Randle, Lamar CISD
With 33,500 students, 4,900 employees, and a budget of $295 million, “We’re the number seventh fastest growing school district in the state of Texas,” Randle said. “We added over 1,000 students this past year.”
“By 2022 we’re projected to have over 44,000 students. By 2027, over 55,000 students in Lamar CISD. We have over 41,000 new homes in the next decade that’s going to be built in our school district. We’re going to need 12 new elementary schools over the next decade. If you’re in the construction business, stay close! There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Randle said that since 2003, voters have approved more than $1.3 billion in bonds, with the most recent being $445 million last year. Plans are under way for construction of High School No. 6, Middle School No. 6, three elementary schools, an alternative learning center, plus facility and technology upgrades and new buses. He said the new high school will be built in the booming area around Brazos Town Center.
He said the district is a 5 Star school district and they are striving to model character traits at all levels.
He said they will not ignore or rationalize data to maintain the comfort of the status quo. The district is engaged in strategic planning sessions and is conducting a listening tour to hear from residents. He addressed school safety and noted they are installing locks on classroom doors that will allow them to be locked from the inside. They are also utilizing Social Sentinel, an online service that probes social media sites for potentials threas.
Randle also proudly noted that Jackson Elementary, which has been flooded the last three years, was named a national Blue Ribbon School.
“There is no excuse for anybody for accomplishing those goals,” he said, noting their example.
Fort Bend ISD
“In Fort Bend this year we broke the 76,000-student mark. We have those students speaking more than 95 languages in our community,” Dupre said, adding they maintain 79 facilities and have a staff of more than 11,000 individuals.
He began by introducing several students and teachers and touting their various accomplishments and other awards won by the district.
“We’re a team and we want to be a team. That’s what we’re about at Fort Bend, because it takes a lot of people and a solid, well cultured team to drive 28,000 miles a day on our school buses. We also clean over 12 million square feet daily with our custodians, and we serve over 53,000 meals each day,” he said.
He noted that last year the district received 134 designated distinctions from the Texas Education Agency. “What that means is our schools are outperforming other schools like them in the state,” he said.
Dupre touted the district’s 94 percent graduation rate and noted a significant increase in the number of students taking Advance Placement classes.
“Those are advanced courses our students take with challenging tests to earn college credit,” he said. “We’ve increased participation in that program and the number of students taking and passing them by over 27 percent in the last five years.”
He also said there has been a 400 percent increase in dual credit classes with Wharton County Junior College and Houston Community College.
“That means they’re (students) leaving us ready to go,” he said.
Dupre said growth continues to be an issue with the district.
“By 2027 Fort Bend ISD is expected to be fully developed – they call it built out – and we expect at that time we will have a little over 85,000 students in Fort Bend ISD,” he said.
“This year we opened the district’s 15th middle school, Ronald Thornton Middle School,” he said, noting that next fall the James Reece Technical Center will open. They also recently broke ground on Elementary 51, which is expected to open next year.
Dupre also took advantage of having several state Legislators in the room to talk about funding in the upcoming legislative session.
“We work to fulfill the expectations of our state constitution. Sometimes that means we have to convince our own elected officials that they need to do things that honor the integrity of the constitution as well,” he said. “For us that means we need the resources, it means we need to have systems in place to deliver that free public education. That means we don’t need vouchers, we don’t need charter schools, we need our state schools and our state to support public education because our kids are counting on us.”
He said the three superintendents are in agreement when it comes to school safety and security.
“We can’t run schools if our kids are not safe and they don’t feel safe,” he said. “We want every student to feel included and safe and a part of our community. Because if they don’t feel that way there’s a risk they might harm themselves or others. That’s what the research shows us.”
Dupre also took advantage of his audience to pitch the bond election set for Nov. 6.
“Inform yourself about this bond. It’s the largest in Fort Bend history, $992.6 million. About half of it goes to new construction,” he said, adding that it would also be used to expand facilities, improve security, and upgrade technology.
“Our tax rate has been very stable. We expect to increase the tax rate by three pennies, but you can see we reduced the tax rate three years ago,” he said. “In the worst case it will be one penny higher than it was in 2016.”
“We’re a three-quarters of a billion dollar corporate entity, but in the end, everything we do, is from the heart,” he concluded. “It’s about the students.”
Robert Bostic, Stafford MSD
Although Stafford is much smaller and unique compared to its neighboring districts, Bostic was proud of the quality of education provided by the SMSD.
“We’re the only municipal school district in the state of Texas,” he said.
Comparatively, the district is just over seven square miles in size.
“In that seven and a half square miles we are surrounded by some of the largest school districts in the state and I would say even in the nation, which makes it really, really competitive in order to get resources, in order to get teachers, in order to keep technical folks that come in and out of our schools,” he said. “Stafford is 3,700 kids and about 500 employees and some of the best people in America that you’ve ever met.”
Bostic talked about the district’s record bond issue of $62 million approved last year. Although that may be small by the standard of the other districts, there are only 18,000 residents in Stafford.
“What makes Stafford really happen are people,” he said. “That’s what makes it happen. Our teachers are rock stars and our staff are rock stars.”
Being a small district means everybody does more than one job.
“Everybody, including the superintendent, does two, three, six, eight, 10 things,” he said.
Observing that the district scored a B on the state’s controversial grading system, Bostic said they will do better.
“We go a B, so what? We’re going to raise that, too,” he said. “No one comes to school and says, hey, let me give you my second or third best.”
He talked about their philosophy of Keep it 100.
“Some people would say 97 percent of our kids did well. At least 3 percent of those kids didn’t do well. But those 3 percent are 100 percent of somebody’s child,” he said.
“We want 100 percent of our third-graders to read on or above grade level, no excuses. We want 100 percent of our seventh-graders to take the ACT. We want 100 percent of our eighth-graders to take the PSAT. That’s what we want. We want 100 percent of our 10th graders to take the SAT or TSI. Finally in 12th grade, we want 100 percent of our kids to be able to graduate college or career ready.”
Bostic gave the example of Stafford High School’s principal being a Stafford graduate 20 years ago.
“Our goal is that our students and staff are ready to lead boldly in the world of tomorrow,” he said.