I had several meetings to discover how our local school district provides for the education of our children. These meetings provided some impressive results, some which I shared previously. Previous articles exposed the unexpected educational opportunities provided by the Sabine Area Career Center (SACC) and my first visit with Dr. Glen Pearson, Superintendent, HISD.
Dr. Pearson had invited me to return to visit the laboratories and suggested that I visit with Dr. Lana Comeaux, Executive Director at SACC and possibly a school board member before we met again. On Thursday, April 21, I met again with Dr. Pearson and Dr. Comeaux that involved a tour of the new high school campus focused on the laboratories and the Special Education Center. I was accompanied by the Science Consultant for the Harris County Department of Education, Lisa Felske, who is my daughter and was here for an Easter visit.
“WOW” would be a one word description of the visit. We were accompanied by Marc Griffin, high school Principal on the tour. The laboratories are the most modern that I have ever seen in a high school. The facility design that separates the labs from the classrooms is the most proficient I have ever seen. I managed testing labs at Lockheed for several years and the safety features and storage of chemicals was outstanding. My daughter was extremely surprised to see that the lab designs provided adequate space between work stations that is unusual in her assessment of labs in over 50 school districts in the Houston metropolitan area.
One of the subjects we had discussed in our first meeting was discipline. The news is rampant in exposing factual cases of discipline nationwide. Mr. Pearson stated that discipline was under control at HISD and the tour and observations proved that true.
We also visited the communications control center and the available computer terminals in every classroom. We also had observed the “smart boards” in the labs that are state-of-the-art teaching tools in each classroom. With over 600 computers and the technical support, communications operations at HISD are outstanding.
The visit to the Special Education area was an eye opener for someone who finished high school in 1947. Anyone with even moderate special needs would not be permitted to attend public schools in my time. The visit with the teachers, nurses and observing actual methods used to help these students was awesome. I will tell you what DR. Pearson whispered to me during the visit, “When I think I have a bad day, I come visit this area. It helps me realize how fortunate I am and motivates me to stop feeling sorry for myself”. I may have reworded the actual message, but it would do the same for me.
Another rewarding fact, out of the 137 students enrolled this semester in SACC courses, 69 are from Hemphill High School. I also wish a special thanks to everyone we met that were very professional in answering questions and explaining their facilities and responsibilities. Everyone I met sincerely demonstrated that they have the student’s education as their number one objective. Special congratulations to Sherrill Hobbs for winning the Buddy Low award this year. Montez McNaughten, that I know well, who won the award last year, gave Hemphill ISD two in a row.
Unfortunately I did not have a chance to visit with Dr. Chad Moody, the newest member of the school Board. Hopefully we can meet in the future.
Now I have a message to the parents and everyone who pays school taxes to the Hemphill ISD. We are very fortunate to have one of the lowest tax rates in Texas, so no one needs to question the fact that we have modern educational opportunities for the children. I am keenly aware that there is no way to pass a bond issue or raise any taxes in Sabine county. I have been here nearly 20 years and watched several fail. The opportunities that are provided for both our students and parents to acquire free college credit courses with the SACC are not available statewide. Another fact is that all of the new facilities have been provided without increased taxes or debt. This takes professional leadership.
All of these operations have succeeded because I observed teamwork with a dedicated group of teachers and administrators. I had never met Dr. Pearson before my April 7th visit. For those who are unaware, he will retire again after this semester and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for his service. I now have a new friend who I could possibly end up in a boat fishing with soon. Thanks Dr. Pearson and I hope your replacement will keep your “team” together.