Bill Clough photo.GISD Superintendent supervises a session of the district's Strtegic Planning Committee last Thursday in the district board room.
GOLIAD – Twenty people — 14 women, six men — sitting at five tables on a late Thursday afternoon are trying to define where the Goliad Independent School District (GISD) should be in 15 years.
Among them are parents, teachers, principals, directors of curriculum and maintenance, athletic directors, a sheriff, a city administrator and a pastor.
“When you think about it,” says GISD Superintendent Dave Plymale, “this year’s kindergarten student will belong to the high school class of 2030.”
Preparing the district to meet the challenges of the next 13 years is the target of the Strategic Planning Committee — membership usually around 30 — meeting for the third time.
The group, directed but not necessarily controlled by Plymale, is guided by a 40-page document developed by the Visioning Institute — created by the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Leadership Center — titled “Creating a New Vision for Public Education in Texas.”
The document is nothing less than a Declaration of Independence from what the institute sees is an educational system that is not working.
“The core business of schools is to provide engaging, appropriate experiences for students so that they learn and are able to apply their knowledge in ways that will enrich their lives” the introduction reads. “Unfortunately, the present bureaucratic structure has taken away that focus and replaced it with a system based on compliance, coercion and fear. If proper focus is to be restored, the system must be transformed...”
The planning committee is charged with just that — which is why its lifespan is open ended.
Among its tasks this evening: generating a profile of a GISD high school graduate, defining the role of a teacher and composing a GISD missions statement.
At one table is Roger Whitehead, sitting beside Goliad County Judge Pat Calhoun.
“We need to let students know that it’s all right to fail,” Whitehead says. “Once they fail, they learn how the system works, and they improve.”
Similar conversations were underway at each table.
“What do you see as the role of the teacher?” Plymale asks the group.
Whitehead is quick to answer: “There’s too much emphasis on taking the STAAR test.”
His sentiment matches that of the institution’s document.
“Students become expert test takers but cannot retain or apply what they ‘know’ in a context other than the test environment...creativity, problem solving and teamwork are stifled.”
That teamwork is evident at the various tangles, however.
City Administrator Gilbert Hernandez and Sheriff Kirby Brumby are in deep conversation with Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mona Foust. Plymale walks to the table, joins in the conversation and then reminds the committee to switch to the next topic.
“Don’t forget there’s drinks and pizza,” he adds.
Later, again acting as timekeeper, Plymale says “Five minutes. We’re then going to start sharing.”
Brumby takes the initiative. “We’ll go first.”
Subsequent discussions touch on technology.
“Today’s students believe that anything they see on the internet is true,” someone says.
“To keep students fully engaged, schools must adapt to this new and rapidly changing environment,” the institution’s document notes, noting that schools “must embrace the potential of new technologies and make optimum use of the digital devices and connections that are prevalent today to make learning vibrant and stimulating...”
Significantly, Plymale actively uses a Twitter account. He announced the selection of a new high school principal on Twitter. “But, mostly I use it for professional development,” he says.
Plymale turns to the table where former superintendent Christy Paulsgrove shares a table with Brandon Huber. He is the GISD board president, but on the sign-in sheet simply said “board member.”
“Read your mission statement,” he says.
“Build champions,” Paulsgrove replies.
Plymale then turns to another table. “And yours?”
“Create a collaborative, dynamic and energetic atmosphere to foster learning where students gain the skills necessary to...”
“TOO LONG!” Paulsgrove interrupts.
The room erupts in laughter.
A poignant statement by Goliad High School graduate Zachary Garcia gives pause. “When you are an 18-year-old senior in high school, you still have to raise your hand and ask permission to go to the restroom. A few months later, in college — you’re still 18 — if you need to go to the restroom you just get up and go.”
At the session’s end, five tables have produced documents that Plymale says will be condensed for the next session, Aug. 4.
Huber, who normally defers to Plymale, thanks all those who took the time to attend.
The institution’s independence statement notes “the school district’s role has been relegated to one of compliance, and the local community has been denied the opportunity to make the more important decisions and choices regarding the education of the children and youth who live there.”
Huber, aware that the committee is trying to address that situation, tells the group “You will help to put GISD over the top.”