District looks back on another successful year

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Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox looks back on another amazing year of accomplishments and progress for Longview Schools in 2019...

District looks back on another successful year

Mon Jan 6, 2020

With the start of a New Year, I cannot help but look back on the previous year. There were so many amazing accomplishments by our students, staff, and entire district in 2019, I could fill up an entire edition of The Longview Voice. But in the interest of time, I'll just hit a few of the highlights...
 

Governor praises LISD innovation

During his State of the State Address on Feb. 5th in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott lauded Longview ISD for finding educational pathways for every student, as well as Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox's initiative to reward educator's for helping students grow and reach their full potential.

Gov. Abbott mentioned Longview ISD among five school systems statewide in which “every student graduates with more than just a diploma. They will graduate with the tools they need to excel in college or a career.”

Longview ISD was one of four districts recognized and the only district from East Texas.
Gov. Abbott grew up in Longview during his elementary school years, attending school in Longview ISD, before moving to the Dallas area in middle school.
 

Famous alum comes home

Matthew McConaughey stopped by the Texas Capitol on March 6th to congratulate his former high school’s football team.

The Academy Award winner and 1988 Longview High grad joined the Longview Lobos as they were honored in the House and Senate for winning the 2018 Class 6A Division State Championship in December, capping a perfect 16-0 season.

A few months later Mr. McConaughey was the commencement speaker for the Class of 2019.
McConaughey credited his many career achievements to always remaining grounded in who he is, and what he values most in life.

“Thirty-one years ago, I was you, a graduating Longview Lobo,” he said. “The most important reason for my success, and I believe what will be the most important thing for your success, the one thing that we all have that should never be for sale, the thing that we give the most of and should protect with our life, that thing is our heart.”
 

Free lunch, breakfast for elementary

Elementary students now receive free breakfast and lunch from the cafeteria thanks to the federal Community Eligibility Provision [CEP] program.

The LISD Board of Trustees approved the measure April 15, 2019 during their regular meeting.

A part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Community Eligibility Provision allows qualifying schools that serve populations with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch.

LISD Director of Child Nutrition Phyllis Dozier said the program benefits students and parents as well as the entire district.
 

Duke honors middle schoolers

Middle school students Alec Germanwala, Joseph Hough, John Lenhart, Divya Nirmal, Dominic Pistone, Namita Reddy, Allison Reed, Aman Saridena, Ian Still, Gizela Terrones, and Fatoumata Traore all earned state recognition for their scores on college entrance exams. These ten students were among the top 25 percent of Duke University’s annual 16-state talent search in 2019.

Not only that, but Longview ISD Director of Instruction Beth Bassett said two students also received national recognition.

2019 Duke Identification Program scholars earning Grand Recognition are Aman Saridena and Dominic Pistone.

"Basically what that means is these middle school students scored better than 90 percent of college-bound juniors and seniors taking the SAT or ACT tests," she said. "That's really quite remarkable."
 

College degrees before high school?

May 7th there was a reception held for the 55 Longview High School seniors with dual-credit hours and those receiving their associates degree, and on May 10th the 36 Early College Kilgore College graduates walked across the stage in Kilgore.

"These students have worked so hard during their time at LHS and Kilgore College and they deserve to be celebrated," said James Brewer, Longview High School principal.
Two students had perfect 4.00 GPA's: Laura Martinez and Kimberly Diez. Six were inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society for two year schools: Martinez, Diez, Monica Lozano, Tania Piedra, Prisila Reyes, and Natalie Serrato.

In just the 2018-2019 school year there were 523 Longview High students taking dual-credit classes, and 263 of those were seniors. A total of 6,531 semester credit hours were earned, averaging more than 12 hours per year each!
 

Poll finds high ratings for LISD education

Respondents to a district survey gave high marks for the quality of education students receive at Longview Independent School District.

LISD Community Relations held an online survey from June 17th through July 12, asking local residents and stakeholders to rate the district in a variety of categories on a "star scale," from one to five stars.

Of the 389 respondents: 43 percent gave LISD five stars, with 22 percent giving four stars, and 25 percent giving three stars. Seven percent gave LISD two stars, with three percent giving just one star.

Respondents were also given the opportunity to rate other aspects of the district, from the administration and board of trustees, to departments like Transportation, Finance, Human Resources, as well as how area residents rate local sources of LISD information and even the Community Relations Department itself.
 

Trustees OK lowering taxes

Longview ISD Board of Trustees approved a proposed decrease on the property tax rate for homeowners during a regular meeting on Monday, July 15.

The proposal would see the price will decrease from $1.513 per $100 valuation for 2018-19 to $1.443 per $100 valuation for the 2019-20 school year.

“One of the good things that the legislature did through House Bill 3 is they were able to compress the tax rate for homeowners (in Texas) and that they were able to increase the basic allotment so that the school district is able to actually receive more state revenue,” said Chief Financial Officer Joey Jones. “The teachers, counselors and librarians will also receive a higher wage.”
 

$8.2 million in raises for staff

Longview ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved an aggressive pay increase for teachers during their regular meeting Monday, August 12 at the district administration building.

The measure includes sweeping revisions to the pay structure for district staff, totaling more than $8 million. Upon approval of the 2019-2020 budget on Aug. 28, average teacher salary for Longview ISD will stand among the highest in the East Texas region.

Chief Financial Officer Joey Jones said part of the rationale for the plan is to "improve market competitiveness of salaries for existing staffers, as well as for potential employees who are being recruited to the district."

Under the new plan, base salary for teachers with zero years of experience increased from $40,280 to $47,200. Base salary for teachers with five years of experience increased from $42,280 to $49,280. Base salary for teachers with ten years of experience increased from $44,680 to $51,680.

For teachers with 25 years of experience, the base salary increased from $51,120 to $58,520.
 

Campuses earn state distinctions

Longview ISD schools earned 40 total distinctions on accountability ratings, according to the Texas Education Agency. An increase from the 34 distinctions earned a year ago, and one of the highest number of distinctions for any school in East Texas.

Board members were given a presentation on the preliminary TEA report from Latitia Wilson, LISD Director of Research, Planning, and Accountability during the Aug. 12 regular meeting. Longview ISD received the final numbers Aug. 15th.

While not every campus managed a perfect score, Wilson highlighted a number of campuses that showed exponential growth and improvement across various measures.

None of LISD's campuses scored lower than a C on their overall rating, Wilson said, adding that "we know that we still have work to do."

"We had two campuses that received an overall rating of A and one that just missed an A rating by .1 of a point," she said. "Our future goal is for all of our campuses to receive an overall rating of A."
 

Ted Beard elected VP for state board

Longview ISD Place 6 trustee Ted Beard was appointed as vice president of the Texas Association of School Boards on Oct. 11th.

“I’m going to continue to advocate for quality, accessible public education that’s properly funded for all of the school districts, not just in Region VII but for the entire state of Texas,” he said. “I am blessed to bring a perspective from the greater Longview community and the entire Region VII service area.”

LISD Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox praised Beard's appointment, crediting his "tireless advocacy on behalf of students and their families."

"Ted is an excellent choice for first vice president," he said. "For duration of his time on the LISD Board of Trustees he has proven himself to be a strong defender and advocate of public education in Texas. I am certain he will continue to be so in his new role on the TASB board."
 

Grad rate ranked 9th in nation

The 2016-17 school year saw a national rise for the percentage of seniors graduating on time from high school. At 85%, this was a 1% increase from the previous year and a 5% five years prior to that. Longview then has something to be proud of as the graduation rate for 2016-17 was 94.1%, securing a spot within the top 10.

As reported by USA Today on Oct. 18th, Longview came in 9th place in the country, beating out several other Texas cities that made the top 50, including Tyler (91.9%, 39th place) and Texarkana (92.3%, 30th place). The only city within the state to outdo Longview was Wichita Falls (96.7%, 1st place).

James Brewer, Principal of Longview High School, said he is not surprised by the ranking, "but doesn't mean we're going to rest on our laurels."

"Any time you're able to see where you measure up with other areas, it's helpful, but ultimately that's not our priority," he said. "Yes, we are encouraged by the progress we're making — and will continue to build upon that success — but what's more important to us than any ranking, is how we are constantly finding the best ways to help our students and staff achieve the maximum level of success."
 

Band wins 70th straight First Division

The Longview High School Lobo Band earned a First Division rating from the entire judging panel to bring home its 70th consecutive SUPERIOR University Interscholastic League marching contest rating.

With the top honor, the Big Green Marching Machine maintains the state record for consecutive superior ratings in a state contest. LHS has been ranked First Division since the inception of the UIL.

Director of Bands Rhonda Daniel praised the discipline, perseverance, and hard work her young people demonstrated Oct. 19th at the regional competition in Homer Bryce Stadium, on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University.

"I couldn’t be more proud of how our students performed. We had high expectations for them, including challenging music and a complex drill design, and they rose to the occasion," she said. "The Lobo Band has a long-standing tradition of working hard and doing whatever it takes to put a quality performance on the field, leaving no doubt in any judge’s mind that we are first division."
 

Teachers awarded $2 million bonus

Longview ISD awarded more than $2.4 million in incentive pay for achieving teachers, with a few of the very highest-performing teachers receiving nearly $20,000 in their December paychecks.

During their regular meeting on Dec. 16th the LISD Board of Trustees approved a $2 million-plus budget amendment as part of Longview Incentive for Teachers (LIFT) pay for performance, around eight times more than the $350,000 total amount paid out to staffers in 2014-15, the first year of the program.

"We're thrilled with the excellent progress all our teachers and staff are making with students across the entire district," said board president Ginia Northcutt. "It's also wonderful to be able to reward those campuses that achieve state distinctions in helping students meet and exceed goals."

Longtime LISD board member Dr. Chris Mack agreed.

"Our students perform better, our teachers make more money," he said. "It's as simple as that."
 

There’s still MUCH more to come!

Whew! That might seem like a lot, but it's actually just a sampling of the many great things happening at Longview ISD. Most of which you might not hear about in various local media outlets, but every single one of those stories were covered this past year in The Longview Voice.

Longview ISD continues to be the best school district east of Interstate 45, and it's all because of our people: our students, our staff, our parents, and our many community partners.

Thank you all for a wonderful 2019, and my prayers are with you for an even better 2020!

It's a great time to be a Lobo!

 
 Dr. James Wilcox is Superintendent of Schools for Longview ISD. During his tenure enrollment and test scores have continued an upward trend, and LISD has continued to expand its academic and extracurricular offerings.