Waco: WISD superintendent confronts teacher turnover, low ratings

Dr. Frank Graves, Dean of Workforce & Public Service at McLennan Community College, moderates a live, call-in Q&A Tuesday night with Dr. Kincannon, the Superintendent of the Waco Independent School District. (Courtesy photo)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The superintendent of the Waco Independent School District opened up the phone lines to explain how the district is tackling several problems facing the district.

Dr. Susan Kincannon hosted a live, interactive streaming conversation with the Waco community Tuesday night where people could dial-in, or dial-up, to ask her questions about the future of the district.

"I'm looking forward to establishing a culture of support for our schools, I want every student to be successful," said Supt. Kincannon. "We're focused on implementing curriculum initiatives, making sure that our students graduate from high school, and providing them with a fantastic experience while they're in school and opportunities to figure out who they are as young people so that when they leave us, they launch and get to go out and do whatever they want to do as an adult."

Kincannon fielded questions for almost an hour from parents, grandparents, teachers and even students who called in with specific concerns ranging from teacher retention to the district's state report card.

"We want to emphasize that our students are much more than a single test given on a single day," said Kincannon. "It's a very big challenge for us as a school district because we do need to get off of those lists with the Texas Agency, but we want to make sure that our kids get so much more than an education that's focused primarily on testing."

As a whole, the Texas Education Agency's current grade for Waco ISD is a "B", however, almost half of the district's 22 campuses earned "D" and "F" ratings for the 2018-2019 school year.

"I'm extremely concerned about the ratings of schools," said Kincannon.
"We're going to be pushing and increasing some expectations around teaching to improve those ratings." she said.

Kincannon told Tuesday night's listeners, the district is looking at ways to provide more stability for teachers and do a better job with new-teacher orientation, providing mentors, paying attention to what they say and understanding their needs.

"We're looking to provide them with the resources and support that they need to successful, and to be happy, and to keep them in Waco ISD," said Kincannon.

WISD has a teacher turnover rate of 25.9%, higher than the state average of 16.9%, according to TEA's Texas Academic Performance Report.

"We are going out and conducting some interviews all across the district to ask new teachers what we can do to better serve them so that they stay in Waco ISD," said Kincannon.

Kincannon, who the WISD board of trustees hired in August following the unexpected resignation of Marcus Nelson following a misdemeanor drug charge, said she's focused her first months with the district working on improvements in student achievement and instruction, unveiling a district improvement plan in November.

"The stability of the school district and the success of our students in terms of student achievement relies on our ability to maintain our quality staff, especially in our teaching force," said Kincannon.

The superintendent says they're doing a salary and staffing study to make sure they're being equitable to teachers and campuses across the board, plus, they'll be writing a new curriculum for teacher's this summer.

"We have been working with our leadership and our curriculum and instruction staff to deliver a data-driven instructional model where we really help teachers to look at those state standards and to analyze student work and come up with a plan to provide instruction to help the students be successful on the assessments," said Kincannon.

However, while they're working on giving teachers more, new, and better tools, Kincannon says, they're also going to be challenging teachers and setting higher expectations.

"This is a heavy lift for our school district," said Kincannon. "We have a lot of work to do."