Cara Cooke The past school year, Kilgore ISD Superintendent Cara Cooke often compared the district to a mule that has fallen down a deep well - the animal's owner sees no solution but to bury the beast which then climbs out, using the mounds of dirt to lift itself progressively higher.
"Just like that mule, KISD has had some challenges this year," she
told guests at the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce's July Biz- Connect Luncheon at Kilgore Intermediate School Tuesday.
Some of those seeds have borne fruit, such as capital projects and student enrichment; others, test scores in particular, Cooke
said, have more growth ahead.
The 2013-2014 school year opened with the completion of Kilgore ISD's new campuses - opening them "and working through the traffic flow problems with community assistance," Cooke said - followed by renovations to Kilgore Intermediate School and Chandler Elementary "to feature state of the art technology and safety features that, unfortunately, are so very, very important in this state and time."
KISD invested additional funds in new technology and strove to implement the gadgetry effectively, part of "a new initiative of internal transformation" during a school year that saw 100 transfer students join the district while staffers launched "an enhanced K-12 curriculum that includes a very high level of rigor," Cooke
"We have put in place interventions and enrichments for all of our students.
We have added more career tech courses into our high school program, and we are continuing to build a better partnership with Kilgore College
so we can offer more dual credit courses for our students."
The school placed in the Top 10 of the 2014 UIL Lone Star Cup, based on achievements in athletic and academic programs, Cooke
Seniors earned more than $1 million in awards and 89 percent were accepted into colleges across the country.
At the same time, KISD partnered with community entities, such as Hearts Anonymous and the Backpack Program "which provides aid to our students and our families with some of their basic needs of life."
Plowing the field, the first crops have been realized, Cooke
said, laying groundwork for the 2014-2015 school year that must continue to be cultivated.
The district is in the early stages of a facilities study for the vacated Maude Laird Middle School
and Kilgore Heights campuses while at the same time exploring upgrade options for the high school campus, to bring it into the 21st century while maintaining its heritage and the historical elements of its construction.
Notably, KISD is continuing its investigation of career technical education, including the development of a separate Early College High School in coordination with Kilgore College - attempts for a planning grant were unsuccessful the past year, Cooke added, "but that has not deterred us from continuing to have those conversations and plan and move forward in how to make this dream a reality."
Responding to a question from the audience, Cooke
allowed the district's preliminary glimpse of standardized test results puts in the district "in an average range" statewide.
It's the middle of the road, and "That's definitely not where we want to be," she
With below average scores for certain student populations compared to high scoring areas (such as the high school's 95 percent return in U.S. History), "You do know when you start turning a ship around it takes a while … I'm confident that we're heading in the right direction.
We've plowed that field very well, but we currently are sitting at about an average area."
After revamping instruction and procedures the past year, more retooling is ahead.
"We've made some changes in personnel and some different things that needed to be done to ensure that next year we will see progress," Cooke
In the scores, "We're kind of all over the place right now.
"There's so many things that are going on and so many ideas we have as we move forward," Cooke