Trustees approve curriculum for new gaming program

STOCK PHOTO - Teen students using computers

The Longview ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved curriculum plans for new grant-funded gaming and multimedia programs, during their regular meeting Monday, April 22.

Board members received a presentation from Ms. Rewa Conner, LISD Gaming Coordinator, about the proposed Gaming Development & Digital Multimedia Art Pathway courses for Bailey Elementary, Forest Park Middle, and Longview Early Graduation High.

"The courses requested for approval are: (Level 1) Video Game Design, (Level 2) Game Programming and Design, (Level 3) Web Game Development, and (Level 4) Career Preparation I or Student to Industry Connection," Conner said.

For the Gaming Development & Digital Multimedia Art Pathway courses to be placed on LISD campus course schedules, the courses must be approved by the LISD Board of Trustees for campus use.

The program is made possible due to a Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Dr. Craig Coleman, LISD Chief Innovation Officer, explained that the five-year $16.25 million What I Need (WIN) Project grant will fund targeted magnet programs that transform three campuses into whole-school gaming science and digital arts magnets: Bailey Elementary, Forest Park Middle School, and a new "Gaming Science and Digital Arts High School" housed at the Early Graduation campus.

The grant aims to prevent minority group isolation by attracting a diverse mix of students to the magnet programs. It will support innovative real-world project-based learning, data science, and digital arts education.

Some examples include elementary students learning math and science by designing video games, middle schoolers blogging about gaming experiences to hone writing skills, and high schoolers earning industry certifications or internships with local technology companies. Two intervention programs, Peer Assisted Learning Strategies tutoring and a high school mentoring program, will also be implemented.

The six core goals are reducing minority isolation; boosting academic achievement; promoting innovative teaching; strengthening career-readiness; engaging the community; and ensuring equitable rigorous coursework access.

By making learning hands-on and relevant, the diverse magnet programs aim to prevent further Hispanic and low-income student isolation while serving all families with engaging options.

The board later unanimously approved expenditures up to $150,000 for miscellaneous classroom furniture with the grant funds. 

Board policy requires approval for purchases over $50,000.

"In order to meet the goals and objectives of the grant, there are some furniture purchases needed to provide collaborative and theme-based options for students as well as to support the new program," added Mr. Scott Fisher, LISD Magnet Grant Director.

For more information about this program contact the Longview ISD Office of Innovation at 903-381-2251.

UPDATE: Wellness Pointe Clinic 

Later, Mr. Chad Jones, CEO of Wellness Pointe, spoke about the current state and future plans for the student-staff clinic at Longview High School. 

Back in January, the board approved a new on-campus health clinic operated by Wellness Pointe and funded by a $350,000 federal grant

Mr. Jones said the clinic has received the required authorizations and is in the final credentialing stages. 

Currently, four Longview students and 26 community members are under the care of the clinic's two licensed professional counselors, with two more counselors anticipated by summer.

Lack of space is a major barrier, with the clinic operating temporarily out of one office, said Mr. Jones. 

"Clinic construction is on hold pending outcome of bond election to determine best location," he added.

Other challenges include medical provider recruitment delayed until adequate space is available, and the need for better communication with school staff. Wellness Pointe has allocated a coordinator to facilitate this.

A significant portion of the grant funds remain unspent in year one, with a request planned to carry over those funds to year two when staffing will allow fuller utilization.

Looking ahead, Mr. Jones said Wellness Pointe is "evaluating substance use counseling services" tailored to student needs, and a nurse is being hired for care coordination with the district. 

"Exploring counseling rotations at middle schools and processes for sharing student information with parental consent are also priorities," he added. 

Superintendent's Report

During the Superintendent's Report portion of the meeting, Dr. James Wilcox and the board recognized several student achievements.

National Merit Finalists and LHS seniors Dominic Pistone and Aman Saridena, along with Commended Scholars Shreemayi Undavalli and Lonoehu Wacasey were honored.

Longview ISD students who achieved high honors in the Middle School Scholars program (formerly the Duke Scholars program) were also celebrated. Middle school UIL academic teams, One-Act Play casts, and the top 10 district science fair projects were recognized for their accomplishments.

Judson Middle School, which once again earned the prestigious "Texas School to Watch" designation from the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform and the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals, was highlighted. 

The Longview ISD Education Foundation made a presentation, awarding commemorative plaza bricks to the 2023-24 Teachers of the Year: Ms. Stephanie Jones from Johnston-McQueen Elementary as Elementary Teacher of the Year and Mrs. Schrundagale Griffith from Foster Middle School as Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Kay Ray, Executive Director of the LISD Foundation, also provided an update on the 2024 grants program.

Reports were provided on LISD's public charter school partners as well as data from the Office of Innovation, encompassing visitor management system statistics, student attendance rates, disciplinary information, and academic performance metrics.

Trustees received the District Services Report from Dr. James Hockenberry, presentations about a community loan program opportunity, and plans for purchasing new Smartboards across the district.

Longview ISD's strategic planning process with consultants from Civic Solutions Group was also discussed.

District Donations

Board members unanimously approved the following donations:

  • $30,000 from Longview Lobos Football Booster Club to purchase supplies and equipment; 
  • $2,500 from Origin Bank of Longview to the LISD Athletic Department Fund;
  • $1,500 from Summerhill Publishing (Thrifty Nickel) for The Longview Voice Scholarship Fund;
  • $1,000 from The Church at Lake Cherokee to assist with student needs at Bailey Elementary; 
  • $500 from East Texas Professional Credit Union to Longview FFA for their Community Service; and 
  • $75 from an anonymous donor to Longview High School's CATE program for the Cosmetology Activity account. 

In other business...

During the course of the meeting, the LISD Board of Trustees also: 

  • APPROVED the Minutes and Time Use Tracker for the March 18, 2024 Regular Meeting/Public Hearing and March 25, 2024 Special Meeting;
  • APPROVED certifying the Superintendent to the Regional Advisory Committee Region VII ESC 2024-25
  • APPROVED International Baccalaureate training for district teachers and administrators in June 2024;
  • ACCEPTED the 2023-24 2nd Quarter Investment Report;
  • ACCEPTED the financial statements as of March 2024; and
  • APPROVED Budget Amendment No. 8.

For more info

Trustees usually meet in the boardroom of the LISD Education Support Center (1301 E. Young Street), but often set special-called meetings at various locations around the district. The next regular meeting is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. May 13, 2024.

For more information about the Longview ISD Board of Trustees please click here.