Happy New Year! Those of us in the business of educating young minds have the unique opportunity to celebrate twice — once at the start of a new year, the second as we begin a new year of school. Some of us create resolutions and goals for both — myself included.

Many of our teachers utilize the tradition of New Year’s resolutions in challenging their students to write some of their own. This is an effective and engaging classroom activity as our scholars utilize higher level thinking skills, creativity and self-evaluation — along with their writing skills. 

Some of the resolutions posted in the halls outside of second grade classrooms at C.C. Cooke and Gerard are ones I think we all might consider: be kind every day, read every day, share, be a good friend, learn more — and be better at handwriting. 

January also gives us the opportunity to thank and honor a special group of volunteers as we observe School Board Recognition Month. We are very grateful for our CISD board of trustees which includes Elizabeth Childress, president; Teddy Martyniuk, vice president; Dr. Jason Tennison, secretary; June Bates, Wendell Dempsey, John Finnell and Stu Madison. Our trustees are dedicated advocates for children, in providing a strong foundation in which all students can learn and succeed. Please join with us and take a moment to thank these public school servants for all they do for kids — and visit www.c-isd.com and watch our video to see what CISD students think about our school board. 

I want to give you an update on the work of the CISD Facility Advisory Committee, which presented a recommendation to trustees at their Jan. 19 meeting. This 24-member committee of parents, community representatives, teachers and staff have spent the past few months studying and assessing our campuses and facilities, including needs to be addressed before we implement new grade level alignments. 

Their recommendation, which includes a no tax rate increase bond referendum to be brought to voters in May, details major renovations at Wheat Middle School, and also Smith Middle School, for future use as an intermediate campus, along with upgrades for instructional and district technology. The FAC also included improvements to the stage and auditorium of the Don Smith Performing Arts Center and the construction of a Student Activity Center at Cleburne High School in their proposal to Trustees. 

Our school board will be discussing this recommendation in a workshop set for 6 p.m. Feb. 8. Members of the FAC donated more than 500 hours of personal time, during evening sessions, to provide our trustees with valuable stakeholder thought, opinion and direction, including a revised and extended District Long-Range Facilities Plan originally established by the 2016 Citizens’ Bond Committee.

The completion of these two important tasks will provide Trustees with clarity and guidance in determining possible next steps in addressing existing and new facilities and capital improvements for CISD students. 

A chronicle of the role and process of the Facility Advisory Committee is posted on the CISD website and includes information, data and presentations members received, along with videos of each meeting session. Please take the time to visit the FAC webpage to learn more.

As we begin 2021, and the second semester of the school year, I want to thank you for continuing to keep our students, teachers and schools in your thoughts and prayers. I am so grateful to our teachers, staff and principals who have gone beyond the extra mile for students and learning. 

As schools across the state and nation reopened last fall following the interruption of face-to-face learning due to COVID, we were told that “pivot” would be the watchword as we continued to navigate the unexpected and often uncontrollable waters of the pandemic. 

I believe “commitment,” “selflessness” and “teamwork” are the true descriptors of what has gone on at every CISD campus as our educators have put aside their conference times to cover a class for a fellow teacher who has been quarantined due to their exposure to a positive case. We have also seen campus administrators, learning specialists, curriculum coordinators, even a CISD assistant superintendent cover a class for an hour, an afternoon or an entire day, when our usually more than adequate substitute teacher pool was drained dry. COVID has had a definite impact in that area, as many of our faithful subs are retired teachers, who are not comfortable in the classroom setting at this time.

We are so grateful for our CISD frontline, who have shown all of us they will do anything for the benefit of kids. They have made the difference — and stood in the gap — in doing whatever it takes to keep our campuses open in meeting not only the educational needs of students, but also their social and emotional needs. 

With, hopefully, healthier days ahead, we continue to prevail, progress and keep our eyes on the prize — our students and their education. It’s going to be a busy second semester, and we are grateful for every day as it unfolds. This week will be especially exciting as we celebrate the achievements of a group of Cleburne High School senior student-athletes who will be signing letters of intent to continue their playing careers at the college level. We will also welcome elementary and middle school Spelling Bee Champions for the Area 24 contest we are hosting. And, it will be School Counselor Appreciation Week. 

Again, happy 2021! It’s going to be another great year to be a Cleburne Yellow Jacket!

Superintendent Kyle Heath has been the administrative leader of Cleburne ISD since 2014 and has more than 30 years of service in education as a secondary teacher, campus principal and district administrator. He can be reached at kheath@c-isd.com.

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