Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox looks back on another amazing year of accomplishments and progress for Longview Schools in 2020... 

District looks back on another successful year

Mon Jan 4, 2021

Dr-James-Wilcox-2020-MUGSHOTBy Dr. James Wilcox
Superintendent of Schools

With the start of a New Year, I cannot help but look back on the previous year and everything that's occurred.

Despite innumerate, historically unprecedented challenges, there were so many amazing accomplishments by our students, staff, and the entire district in 2020, that I could fill up an entire edition of The Longview Voice just listing them one by one! 

But in the interest of time, I'll just hit a few of the highlights...
 

zSpace brings ‘virtual reality’

The technology of the future is arriving at Longview ISD campuses and training is already underway at Longview High, South Ward, Ned E. Williams, Hudson PEP, Judson, and Foster.

Kevin-Dougherty-z-SpaceWhile select districts across the United States have acquired zSpace technology to some extent, Kevin Dougherty, zSpace Senior Director of Sales, said no school district in the nation though has seen as big of a rollout as Longview ISD.

"The training that LISD teachers received is the first train-the-trainers seminar that was district-specific," he said.

Longview ISD students will be able to get a more hands-on experience than would normally be possible. Something that might be cost-prohibitive, such as taking apart a vehicle's engine, to the downright impossible, seeing the moon up close and being able to break it down into its various layers, can all be done with zSpace’s computers combining elements of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to create lifelike experiences that are immersive and interactive.
 

Ali Worsham named 'Tech of the Year'

Ali-Worsham-mugshotLongview ISD’s very own Ali Worsham received the Instructional Technology Specialist of the Year award on Feb. 4, during the annual Texas Computer Education Association Conference in Austin.

“I didn’t really think I would win, but it was an honor to be nominated,” Worsham said. “It’s nice to be recognized for the work I’ve done for the district.”

The ITSY award honors those who work in technology planning and curriculum integration and recognizes the significant contribution these educators made toward successful technology use in schools. Worsham earned her award for her work with her change to the PD delivery to Tech Fest.

With the new format, it was made possible to secure a day of training for each level: elementary, middle, and high school, where the ITS staff offered numerous sessions for teachers to choose their own interest sessions throughout the day.

“I was a struggling student and I like to create opportunities for our students,” Worsham said. “I really like the resources that LISD has to offer our students.”
 

LISD ahead of legislation with 'bleed' kits

Gregg-Abbott-headshotLongview ISD has been ahead of the curve when it comes to taking care of students and faculty in scenarios where bleeding may need to be stopped thanks to a commitment to putting a Stop the Bleed kit in every classroom in the district.

Signed into law on June 15, 2019, by Gov. Greg Abbott, House Bill 496 requires all Texas schools to install bleeding control kits. Thanks to some donated Stop the Bleed kits from the Longview Fire Department during the 2018-19 school year, LISD has been moving towards putting a kit in every classroom.

This commitment far outdoes H.B. 496 as the bill only requires campuses to have the kits but not in every classroom.

Dennis-Williams-mugshot“We’re ahead of the curb. We were already training people and putting kits in classrooms before H.B. 469 came out,” said Mr. Dennis Williams, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative and Pupil Services.

“The whole premise behind Stop the Bleed is in school shootings and anything else. Most of the challenges have come from injuries to the leg or arm and because they cannot get assistance immediately, they bleed to death.”

Currently every nurses’ office and 1/3 of the classrooms have the bleed kits, with the goal currently being getting the other 2/3 within the next two years.
 

Trustees approve new charter partners

Longview Independent School District board members agreed to enter a charter partnership with two non-profit organizations during a virtual meeting Monday, April 13th.

Trustees authorized the administration to negotiate and sign performance contracts with Texas Council for International Studies (TCIS), and Longview Educates and Prospers (LEAP).

Dr-James-ColemanChief Innovation Officer Dr. Craig Coleman explained that TCIS will operate the Hudson PEP, Ned E. Williams, South Ward, Foster, Judson, and Longview High School campuses, while LEAP will operate Longview Early Graduation High School, Longview High School’s Career and Technical Education (CATE) program, and East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy.

This stands to be the second time Longview ISD moved in this direction since the passage of Senate Bill 1882 in as many years — the first being the partnership with East Texas Advanced Academies prior to the 2019-2020 school year.

LISD schools currently in the ETAA network include East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, as well as the Bramlette, Everhart, Johnston-McQueen, Ware, and Forest Park campuses.

The partnerships are governed by a 2017 state law called Senate Bill 1882 that provides extra funding to traditional public school districts that contract with outside entities such as charter networks, non-profits, and universities to run their schools as an in-district charter.

For more information about the Longview ISD public school charter program please visit LISD.org/charters, call the LISD Department of Innovation at 903-381-2200, or visit the TEA website: TxPartnerships.org.
 

Board maneuvers in response to pandemic

Longview Independent School District trustees approved aggressive measures to support teachers and campus staff in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic during a special-called meeting Wednesday, April 29th.

Dr-James-HockenberryDr. James Hockenberry, Assistant Superintendent of District Services, said provisions allows Longview ISD to seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The board also approved submitting a waiver request to the TEA for Missed School Day/Instructional Continuity While Closed due to COVID-19 closures.

In addition, trustees approved another waiver for appraisal of educators, principals, and administrators for the 2019-20 school year.

Dr. Hockenberry explained that campus closures began March 16th "and will continue through the end of the 2019-20 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This closure prevents appraisal requirements in state statute from being met."
 

Poll finds strong ratings from public

Respondents to a district survey gave high marks for the COVID-19 pandemic response, as well as for the quality of education students receive at Longview Independent School District.

Matthew-Prosser-mugshot-2020Created by LISD Communications Director Mr. Matthew Prosser, results were presented to board members during the July 13 regular meeting.

"Our goal for this survey was to give our board members a snapshot of public sentiment as we continue to prepare for the coming school year," he said.

The online survey went from from June 9th through July 10th, asking students, staff, and families to rate the district in a variety of categories on a "star scale," from one to five stars.

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 prefer to receive information about Longview ISD, and even the Community Relations Department itself.

The three surveys received a combined 828 total responses, with the parent survey receiving 468 responses, the staff survey receiving 289 responses, and the student survey receiving 71 responses.
 

Rep. Jay Dean hosts virtual meet at LISD

State Rep. Jay Dean (R-Longview) was at Longview Independent School District's administration building Wednesday, July 22, hosting an open forum with superintendents and board members from area school districts.

We appreciate Rep. Dean for being such a tremendous supporter and advocate for public education in Texas by hearing and trying to address the various concerns and questions facing schools during this difficult time! As we continue to move forward, we hope to have more of these kinds of conversations with our state and local elected officials.

The meeting covered the Texas Education Agency’s recent suggestions, as well as possible plans to reopening schools for 2020-2021.

“I know this isn’t easy and it’s taking a whole lot of effort on the part of you and your staff, but we want to commend you for the work you’re all doing,” Rep. Dean said.
 

Trustees lower property tax rate

Longview ISD Board of Trustees approved the proposed 2020-21 property tax rate during their special meeting Wednesday, July 29th.

The proposal would see the tax rate decrease from $1.443 per $100 valuation for 2019-20 to $1.4394 per $100 valuation for the 2020-21 school year.

LISD Chief Financial Officer Mr. Joey Jones said since the implementation of House Bill 3 the district has cut property taxes from $1.513 per $100 valuation (during the 2018-19 fiscal year) to the 2020-21 proposed rate of $1.4394 per $100 valuation.
 

Board OKs raises for teachers

Trustees approved an aggressive pay structure adjustments following the market value recommendations from the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Pay System Maintenance Review, during their regular meeting Monday, Aug. 10th.

Presented to the board by Dr. James Hockenberry, Assistant Superintendent of District Services, the measure calls for an increase of 3 percent of midpoint. The increase amounts to over $1 million total for teachers and staff.

LISD trustees chose from three different models suggested by TASB, of various ranges.

With this measure approved, Dr. Hockenberry said Longview ISD would maintain and likely increase its status as employing the highest-paid teacher scale in the East Texas area. The district average is the highest of any public school system in the region.

"These are extremely challenging times for everyone, and public schools in Texas are asking teachers to go above and beyond during these challenging times with many providing multiple instructional approaches simultaneously," he said. "As a district, we feel it is critically important to show how highly Longview ISD values our teachers and staff."
 

District develops new 'gaming' program

The video game industry has become a multibillion dollar industry in recent years, and Longview ISD is developing a partnership with some corporate heavyweights to give our students the inside track.

Board members approved partnering with Microsoft, Texas-based video game developer Gearbox Software, and Texas Southern University in adopting the GBX Creative Computing Curriculum during a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 26th.

Mrs-Shalona-Mc-CraryThe program, designed by the Frisco-based video game studio, incorporates International Baccalaureate (IB), Science Technology Engineering & Math (STEAM), and Project-Based Learning (PBL).

"By 2022, experts forecast the gaming industry will produce $196 billion in revenue," said Ms. Shalona McCray, District STEAM & Community Engagement Coordinator. "It's no wonder then that tech giants like Apple and Google are trying to cash in by launching gaming streaming services"

The approval will allow Gearbox Software pilot their video game design and production program on Foster, Judson, and Longview High campuses.

Aaron-Thibault“We are teaching students the ins and outs of working with The Unreal Engine, the same software that powers ‘Fortnite,’" said Mr. Aaron Thibault, Gearbox Software Vice President of Strategic Operations.

"This program introduces students to the core creative computing skills that are employed in the videogame industry to design and develop the most popular games in the world.”
 

Top teachers receive TIA bonus

An elite group of Longview ISD educators receive a significant increase to their paycheck, thanks to a new state program that rewards high-achieving teachers for classroom excellence.

Longview ISD teachers can make up to $32,000 more per year under the new state program.
Passed by the Texas Legislature, House Bill 3 created the Teacher Incentive Allotment program with the primary goal of ensuring that the state’s top teachers have a realistic pathway to a $100,000 annual salary.

The official designations are Recognized, Exemplary, and Master. Once earned, these designations remain valid for a period of five years from issuance.

Fifty-four Longview ISD teachers received designations, spanning eleven campuses, and earning allotments totaling over $650,000.

Designees received the first round of bonus payments in their December paycheck.
 

Longview ISD accepts over 500 transfers

The Longview Independent School District Board of Trustees approved accepting more than 500 non-resident students seeking transfer into the district, during their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 14th.

Of the 502 students accepted into Longview ISD, 395 (or 78 percent) cited the educational opportunities at Longview ISD as their primary reason for transferring.

The transfers come from in and around the Longview area, as well as from other East Texas communities like Tyler, Pittsburg, Henderson, and even as far away as Nacogdoches.

It's a testament to the quality education being provided by our excellent staff, our exceptional academic offerings, and the reputation of our students' achievements, that these families are choosing to enroll their students in Longview ISD. These aren't move-ins — though we certainly get quite a few of those each year — but these are residents of other communities, who are willing to drive to Longview for their children to attend our schools. That's a big deal.

Innovative 'dashboard' for COVID cases

The Longview ISD Community Relations Department has developed a COVID-19 "dashboard" to show up-to-date information on the latest lab-confirmed cases in the district. The dashboard is available at the district's COVID-19 page at: lisd.org/COVID.

"The dashboard shows active cases as well as recoveries for all Longview ISD students and staff," said district spokesman Mr. Francisco Rojas.

Rojas said the dashboard will be updated twice daily at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., "and sometimes throughout the day, as new information becomes available."

"The dashboard breaks down student and staff cases by campus, and includes a separate section for other non-campus staffers such as maintenance, transportation, or administration," he said.

As required by the Texas Education Agency, notification of a lab-positive COVID-19 case will be sent to staff, students, and families. A positive case indicates that the individual has been tested and received a report verifying an acute infection of the COVID-19 virus.

Students earn national honors from Duke

Students from Foster and Judson middle schools earned state recognition for their scores on college entrance exams. These students are among the top 25 percent of Duke University’s annual 16-state talent search.

Beth-Bassett-mugshotNot only that, but Longview ISD Director of Instruction Mrs. Beth Bassett said four students also received national recognition.

"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."

2020 Duke Identification Program scholars earning Grand Recognition are James Angus, Taylen Johnson, Mason Lundy, and Jacky Wang.

Longview ISD students earning State Recognition are: Bly Caraway, Grant Carlile, Benji Cox, Bao Dang, Diego D'Arbell, Samuel Felipe, Riley Gonzalez, Juan Gurrola, Kennedy Hatcher, William Hilton, Avery Lambright, Jackson Land, Carlisle Land, Julz Norman, Madison Sandoval, Addison Soape, and Lanie Weber.

The Duke University Talent Identification Program is a nonprofit organization that helps academically talented students access the extent of their abilities by allowing above grade level testing and recognition of their achievements. The program’s seventh-grade talent search is the entry point for the program’s resources.

Students can qualify by scoring at or above the 95th percentile on state testing or scoring at least 125 on an IQ test.
 

Board thanks Welge and Mack, welcomes Miller

11162020-new-board-1Longview ISD Board of Trustees thanked departing member Mrs. Ava Welge and welcomed newly-elected Place 2 representative Mr. Brett Miller, during their Nov. 16th regular meeting.

Board members each, in turn, expressed sincere appreciation for Mrs. Welge's service to the district and leadership.

Mrs. Welge spoke from the dais, wishing her successor well, and thanking the community for entrusting her with making decisions on behalf of the public since being elected in 2017. Place 4 incumbent Mrs. Ginia Northcutt was unopposed and will serve another three-year term on the board. Board members administered the oath of office to Mrs. Northcutt and Mr. Miller, before reorganizing officers for the coming term.

Officers for the LISD trustees will be Mrs. Shan Bauer, board president; Mr. Michael Tubb, vice president; Mr. Ted Beard, secretary; and Mr. Brett Miller, vice secretary.

At the outset of the meeting, Place 3 board member Dr. Chris Mack announced his resignation from the board. Each board member also took turns sharing their appreciation for Dr. Mack's long years of service to the district.

First elected to the board in 1993, Dr. Mack has served in various capacities, including as president. Chris and his wife Lisha are the parents of a daughter who graduated from Longview High in 2019.

The current Board of Trustees for Longview ISD is now Mr. Michael Tubb (Place 1), Mr. Brett Miller (Place 2), Mrs. Ginia Northcutt (Place 4), Mrs. Shan Bauer (Place 5), Mr. Ted Beard (Place 6), and Dr. Troy Simmons (Place 7).
 

District selected for testing program

Longview ISD is one of eight school districts across the state that will participate in a COVID-19 rapid testing pilot program for staffers and students.

The district worked with Gov. Greg Abbott’s office, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to develop a plan for training, gather and train staff, and then began testing as soon as possible. The testing started with Longview ISD staff members, but eventually included district students.

No students are tested without parental consent.

Longview ISD continues to remain in contact with state and local authorities in this endeavor. We will continue to re-evaluate the state of the district on a daily basis, and any information released is subject to change.
 

Teachers earn $2.8 million bonuses

Longview ISD is awarding more than $2.8 million in incentive pay for achieving teachers, with a few of the very highest-performing teachers projected to receive more than $30,000 extra in their December paychecks!

The goal of starting the program was to maintain Longview ISD's most successful and effective teachers in the regular classroom.

Dr. James Hockenberry, LISD Assistant Superintendent of District Services, explained that the district utilizes LISD's aggressive local pay structures as well as the Longview Incentive For Teachers (LIFT) program, and the Texas Education Agency’s Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) funding sources to make this possible for our hard-working education professionals.

TIA/LIFT distribution came in "lump sum" disbursement beginning on Dec. 17th.

Longview ISD was ahead of the curve back in 2011, when trustees voted to implement a performance pay system for middle school reading and math teachers. Designed to help close the achievement gap between low socio-economic and middle-income students, today the LIFT Pay for Performance Program includes three award models, and has proven instrumental in retaining high-quality educators.

The temporary LIFT model calculations, due to the lack of STAAR testing during the spring semester of the 2019-2020 year (as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic), will follow the Texas Education Agency’s TIA formula using a combination of weighted 2017-2020 academic data to determine teacher "levels," with award distinction funds using a three-year average for the campuses and district for years 2017-2019 Designations. The designation award is determined by the employee's place of employment at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 year.

Incentive pay for Longview ISD teachers has increased dramatically since the $350,000 awarded in 2014-15, just five years ago.
 

Business Office receives top financial rating

Once again, Longview ISD has earned the state's highest grade of "superior" in fiscal responsibility, representing over a decade of consecutive years the district has been so honored.

Mr. Joey Jones, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, told trustees that Longview ISD received an "A" on its financial rating with a score of 96, among the highest in the East Texas region, during their regular meeting Monday, Dec. 14th.

"We strive to be accountable not only for student learning but to do so with cost-effective measures to make the most of our taxpayers' dollars," he said.

The Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) was created by the Legislature in 2001 and was designed to encourage public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.

Since the creation of the program, Longview ISD has received a superior rating almost every single year.
 

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 elsewhere, but every single one of those stories were covered this past year in The Longview Voice and through our various social media channels.

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 going above and beyond in a complicated 2020, and my prayers are with you for an excellent 2021!

It's a great time to be a Lobo!

Wilcox-Rockin-L

Dr. James Wilcox has served as Superintendent of Schools for Longview ISD since 2007. During his tenure, student enrollment and test scores have continued an upward trend, while the district has continued to expand its academic and extracurricular offerings. LISD is widely recognized as one of the most innovative school districts in the state.