Deep Dive: Transparency and Truth in GCISD, 8 Truths

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We’re sorry in advance for how long this is, but here are eight new points to consider. 

It’s time for the board majority to be transparent about their goals. 

  • If they believe the public wants to rewind to the 80s and 90s and get a basic education just so they can limit costs, they should say that. 
  • If they think parents should be responsible for paying for extracurriculars and not taxpayers, they should say that. 
  • If they want to support privatization through vouchers and charter schools, they should say that. 
  • If they want to run students away from GCISD so they can consolidate campuses to give a property tax cut to people who already got what they needed out of GCISD, they should say that. 

Why are they not saying that? Because our community supports GCISD and we know how important it is to our cities and property values to restore the reputation of GCISD and voters would never knowingly elect trustees who admitted to these truths.

8 truths about GCISD you need to know before you vote May 6

1. Academic Decline: The decline in GCISD’s recent student STAAR scores is largely due to the changing nature of education throughout the world during an unprecedented pandemic and was not an exclusively GCISD issue. The State did not give school districts autonomy in managing their own districts and disallowed any extension of online or hybrid learning. We know from colleges that hybrid in-person/remote learning would have allowed students in quarantine to keep up from home and still be counted present. GCISD had the technology available for interested students, but instead, those students had to miss weeks of instruction.

In addition, demographic information from TEA shows huge shifts in GCISD’s enrolled students in dyslexia, special education, gifted & talented over the past 10 years. Our Title I enrollment decreased, while our Economically Disadvantaged students remained about the same percentage. GCISD now receives less federal money to serve our students with some of the greatest needs. The added pressures of the pandemic only compounded that impact.

>> Curious about the related STAAR scores for our district and the misleading assessment that 1/3 of our students are failing the STAAR? >>

Read The Truth About GCISD Students’ Performance on STAAR Test

2. Programs: It’s false of our New School Board Majority to say “it doesn’t cost more to challenge our students”. Differentiated learning does require specialized and tiered rigor (on-level, advanced, accelerated, STEM, ASPIRE), which in turn require more class sections and likely more teachers. GCISD’s ability to meet all levels of learners combined with our variety of interest areas is attractive to home buyers, because parents know students are most challenged when they are in an environment for which they are uniquely suited. But the New School Board Majority is now standardizing GCISD’s education offerings and focusing just on core content and test scores.

Follow up question: 

  • Is the NSBM planning to max out class size? That leads to reducing and constraining flexibility in the schedule, which leads to less specialized programs, less variables to support and ultimately less opportunities for students to excel in their differentiated strengths.

An example of this reduced flexibility by our New School Board Majority: Despite claims that nothing is at risk of being cut, this week the high school principals announced that they were eliminating Block Scheduling, which gives kids an academic advantage in college admissions. Parents got an email without the Board of Trustees offering discussion or explanation. What will be cut next? ASPIRE? STEM at Colleyville Heritage? Will CHHS get back GT sections of AP classes? Answer: We don’t know what’s next on the chopping block — but we do know it’s not acceptable to assume all kids in the same grade can learn on the same level in all subjects.  We should not expect our teachers to appropriately challenge a packed room of students on varying levels, just so the New School Board Majority can report they are streamlining costs. Our New School Board Majority gloats that they’re getting back to basics, and that it’s just common budgeting sense to have all kids on the same instructional level and learn at the same pace. Except we all know kids aren’t cookie cutter, and GCISD knows it, too! Or has, in the past.

2021-22 Staff Information (TAPR) GRAPEVINE-COLLEYVILLE ISD (220906) – TARRANT COUNTY

Source: TEA School Performance Reports

For reference, this chart from TEA shows how our district supports several programs, meeting the needs of all different kinds of learners.

3. Block Schedule: A “Straight Eight” school day of eight 45-minute periods that meet daily offers the same number of instructional minutes as a Block Schedule of 90-minute periods that meet every other day. GCISD has tried Straight Eight before and switched back to Block Schedule within two years. The drawbacks to the Straight Eight schedule are many. 

  • First, teachers’ daily planning periods will not perfectly align with other teachers in their academic subject or department. It’s possible two Algebra teachers in the same building won’t ever meet unless it’s during their personal time. 
  • Second, the only way to “offer more” through a Straight Eight schedule is to extend the double-blocked courses (Athletics, Fine Arts or Career & Technical Education) into before or after school time. Would GCISD compensate teachers for that time that is usually built into the school day? 
  • Third, changing to Straight Eight requires a review of all students who have extended time on assignments or tests with 504 plans or IEPs (8% of district or 1,152 students). How do they fit in their extracurriculars and their class work, and have the right support (including paraprofessionals) to be successful? There simply will not be enough classroom time to allow those students to finish, which will cause more before and after school time for those students, as well. Typically, those students have been supported by paraprofessionals, a staffing category GCISD underpays and is at most risk for remaining unfilled. If a student whose IEP allows them extra time, will they have enough time before and after school to finish work in multiple classes each day? We are concerned the Straight Eight plan could keep our students with 504 plans out of extracurriculars entirely.

4. Curriculum: We’ll say it slowly: GCISD. Has. Always. Had. A. Curriculum. The district has maintained a written curriculum for its core content areas for a long time. It’s false to mix up “curriculum,” “lesson plans,” and “teaching resources.” GCISD has always had a curriculum. It was just different for different student programs and levels. 

The district has adopted comprehensive instructional materials for every content area on the schedule set forth by the state. Our old curriculum from 10 years ago used a print textbook and followed it in order, regardless of how well it addressed the standards or demonstrated a logical progression of learning. For about 2 years, GCISD has used the TEKS Resource System from the State of Texas, which weaves the state’s teaching guide into GCISD’s curriculum documents. GCISD has renewed its contract for the TEKS instructional materials in math, science, social studies, and English. The “new reading curriculum” that the New School Board Majority recently purchased is not curriculum; it is materials (books) used by some populations of students. 

5. Finances: Let’s start with the New School Board Majority’s decision –“26 high school teachers that leave will not be replaced.” What if those teachers have a special skill set? Will we force a teacher without appropriate background to teach that class?

If you have attended past school board meetings you have witnessed Human Resources reports where staffing studies are discussed. So, the fact is this was NOT the first study. The facts we should be hearing about are if the latest audit took into account the unique nature of GCISD and our special programs. There is no evidence to support this.

Follow up questions:

  • Did it account for the highly skilled staff that support these programs? It’s unclear if the audit results were even helpful. To “absorb” 26 teaching positions and say elsewhere that class sizes will be lowered without losing academic offerings is insulting, and definitely not factual. 
  • How many teachers can we find to teach Multivariable Calculus to high schoolers? (Currently, zero; those students are teaching themselves.) What about AP Research and AP Seminar?
  • How many teachers are licensed to work with our special needs students?

Before the attack on public schools brought on by partisan politics during the pandemic, our teacher retention rate was exceptional, and every opening attracted tons of applicants. What we are experiencing now is not normal. In a quest to appease their anti-public school supporters, the New School Board Majority announced a (fake) balanced budget, implemented a tax cut, continued to tie the hands of teachers, administration, and support staff and make their lives more difficult when they could have been focusing purely on learning gaps.  

The nature of public school finances and budgeting doesn’t support a “fluid” budget. When you have set costs, you can’t pretend like they don’t exist and then modify them monthly.

If you know Gas costs $400 a month for your family, you can’t budget $50 and call it balanced when you know you have to add to it every month! Why do you think our longtime Chief Financial Officer left? Did she know the task being asked of her was impossible? Was she being asked to present a budget that violated her duty to the district?

6. Teacher Attrition & Teacher Pay: Since our school district was taken over by the New School Board Majority in May 2022, we have seen a dramatic increase in turnover. So much so that it is now being considered “normal!” The turnover in positions in ‘20-’21 and ‘21-’22 is not the same as we saw pre-takeover. WFAA reported that resignations/retirements were 40% higher this year. It is indicative of a shift in culture in GCISD. 

Regarding pay, past School Boards ALSO voted to approve multiple teacher pay raises and attempted to close gaps in pay relative to other districts.

More follow-up questions:

  • Is the New School Board Majority committed to adding $5 million to the budget annually? Or are they calling for a balanced budget that requires cutting teaching positions in addition to the administrative positions and support personnel that have already been cut?
  • Have we asked our teachers if a 4% raise is worth the toxic environment that the new board majority has created? Is it worth losing block scheduling? Losing Programs of Choice? Losing our bench of administrative staff and paraprofessionals? Being forced to teach multiple students on varying levels in the same class? Being forced to accept teaching classes outside of their expertise or resign? 

7. Strategic Plan: Of course GCISD has a strategic plan. A plan that developed award-winning programs, and created an award-winning work environment. A plan that prioritizes public education for all learners. 

LEAD 2021 and LEAD 2.0 involved dozens of community volunteers, parents, teachers and students and led to Dr. Ryan getting 2018 Superintendent of the Year, our Board getting Board of the Year,  the development of STEM, AVID, ASPIRE, iUniversity Prep, Collegiate Academy, TECC Center, tuition based pre-K programs, and 1:1 device rollout. Those programs improved standings in Advanced Placement, Dual Credit, and Lone Star Cup, increased identification of students with dyslexia, etc. and allowed students to excel in areas that are most important to them. That was not by accident!  

The “Top 100 Places to Work in DFW” award was a very important indicator of how happy employees were in GCISD and is now being falsely called a “fake award that the district paid for!” The only thing the Dallas Morning News charges for is a detailed copy of the survey results, upon request, after the winners were announced. Read the details from the Dallas Morning News. GCISD used the free survey but did not pay to see the survey results. It is completely misleading for a GCISD Trustee to say in a public meeting that it was an award we paid for, when in fact, GCISD is no longer a recipient of the award due to tanked ratings submitted by the 1800 employees who took the workplace culture survey.

Speaking of strategy, it doesn’t seem strategic of the State of Texas or of the GCISD New School Board Majority to underfund our schools and court private schools to take over. State-level decisions contribute to local funding. We need pro-public education trustees to influence our State Legislators. It doesn’t seem innovative for the New School Board Majority to spend a year writing and implementing a new Board policy requiring Board approval (really) to reorder a lost library book. It doesn’t seem strategic or thoughtful that the New School Board Majority didn’t mention it was cutting Programs of Choice and eliminating block scheduling at their board meeting less than 48 hours prior.

8. Innovation: It is not innovative for a trustee to further divide the community by referring to “my side” and make the speaker rounds bragging about the destruction of GCISD and how the board majority has purposely not advocated for the entire GCISD population as a whole. It is not innovative to give everyone the same standard education by eliminating programs students find meaningful. That is the factory school model we fought to replace over a decade ago when faced with declining enrollment. Our Special Programs saved us from having to close campuses. Our Special Programs brought new families into GCISD. If we allow trustees to get elected who are pushing us backwards, our students will never be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. It is not innovative to force our students into daily “speed dating” running through eight 45-minute classes a day.

Follow up questions:

  • If it’s true that bussing will still be offered, how will those kids get to one campus and back without missing half of class? Interestingly, it might have been more innovative to actually consider a 4-day a week schedule, or a hybrid schedule like colleges offer. Seeking input from stakeholders on the dozens of options in between block scheduling and 8-period days would have at least demonstrated innovation through community involvement. 

It’s also not innovative to falsely claim not to cut important Special Programs but then make changes that so severely harm them they eventually lose support.

Follow up questions:

  • When students decide they can’t realistically change campus under the 45-minute class schedule, will they then eliminate bussing for lack of interest?
  • When kids have to pick between extracurriculars and extra electives, will they start removing classes with low participation? And add another fact, currently, our district is maxed out in our ability to seat kids in CTE classes.
  • When the board majority claims they are looking to “benefit everyone” does that include people that learn, look, or think differently from them? Their track record to date proves that isn’t the case. 

Elect candidates who put excellence over extremism

If you’ve read this far, you are probably tired. We are so, so, so tired of spending our time rebutting the stretttttchhhhhedddd facts shared by the New School Board Majority and those that have run for previous elections backed by the same extremists. But we are doing this to get out the truth. We can take back GCISD in the May 6th school board election if we help our neighbors see the truth and choose candidates who will stand up against the extremist New School Board Majority. We must band together and elect candidates who are committed to Excellence, Independence, and Respect in GCISD.

>> Want to know who is running for GCISD School Board in 2023? >> Click here!

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