DeSoto – DeSoto ISD and its Superintendent D’Andre Weaver presented the annual State of the District report during the DeSoto Chamber Luncheon. Members of the governmental, civic and business communities gathered at the DeSoto Civic Center to learn the progress of the district over the last year.
Prior to Weaver’s presentation, the DeSoto High School JROTC led by Col. Russell Hooper posted the colors and recited the pledge and Taylor Dunn, a DHS choir student, sang the National Anthem. The student performances also included the East Middle School Tenor/Bass Choir directed by Jamal Walker.
“We are remembering the past, working in the present and preparing for the future,” began Weaver as he delved into the FOCUS Priorities that currently serves as the internal blueprint for the district staff. FOCUS is an acronym that stands for the key areas of operations – Finance, Organizational Redesign, Campuses and Classrooms, Unity and Systems and Sustainability.
Weaver began with the high-level successes from the finance department, which included the hiring of a new chief financial officer, the improvement of financial transparency and internal controls as well as the receipt of an A-plus rating from FITCH and the removal of the district from credit-watch.
In his discussion on the district’s approach to Organizational Redesign, Weaver shared that the district’s human resources department is also shifting to put a more intense focus on being a resource for staff from onboarding to retirement, to locate and promote internal talent and also begin to recruit more high-quality staff to fill the existing staffing gaps.
District focusing on individuals’ needs
While supporting the needs of the staff, the district is aiming to create a system that is truly innovative and unique and meets the individual needs of the students and the evolving workplace.
“The district is focusing on how we support and prepare our students for the 22nd Century through social-emotional development, career, and industry training and more deeply enriched field and project-based experiences,” said Weaver as he expressed the joy of seeing the excitement of his daughters when they talk about their school experience each day. “We want our students to have those light bulb moments on a daily basis where they connect to the things that they are doing that ignites their passion and inspire them to really want to be someone, a great chef, artist or etc.,” Weaver said.
This new vision for the district is directly connected to what is now happening on the campuses and in the classrooms every day, which is another element of the FOCUS priorities. It guides the district and how the district serves and engages our students.
One new addition to the learning environment is the creation of the Collaborative Learning Cycle, which is the framework by which the teachers receive professional development, instructional training and lesson delivery assessment prior to classroom implementation. This additional concentration is expected to yield an increase in student achievement, allow the mastery of concepts as well as build capacity in our teaching staff.
Weaver also shared that unity is another critical element in the FOCUS plan and vital to the district’s success. Its main goal is to ensure that there is a strong internal culture and external connection throughout the stakeholder community, in light of the district’s difficulties in the previous years.
Looking for meaningful engagement
“We recognize the need to not only heal trauma but to create opportunities for meaningful engagement and dialogue that will lay the groundwork for a foundation of collaboration, open, honest and transparent communication and relationship building among a number of areas in our system,” he said.
“It is about unifying under a common vision and goal, which is an important part of our system.
He shared the progress of district’s Joint Strategic plan in which the district will partner with other major entities, – the cities of DeSoto and Glenn Heights, University of North Texas -Dallas and Methodist Health System- to create a community-based plan that will serve the needs of the students from conception through their adult life. Weaver also expressed a desire to partner with organizations to help support the new direction of the district.
DeSoto ISD is State of District is Focused
DeSoto ISD is amid the development of systematic practices across the organization that will be the framework that remains over time. In the area of systems and sustainability, the final element of the district’s FOCUS plan, Weaver simply started out by saying that the main reason for this aspect of the plan is to ensure that the district does not fall into the same situation again.
“It is the building of a culture in which we grow and develop the adults in our system alongside our students which means we may experience transition as members of our team advance or retire. We want to ensure that their work insights and expertise remain in the system as artifacts and foundations on which we can build as new staff members join our team.”
At the close of the superintendent’s presentation, the DeSoto chamber recognized DeSoto High School top-ten senior Tiffany Kalu as its student of the month. Kalu is a student in the Early College High School Program where she will earn her associate’s degree in May. Along with her academics, Kalu is involved with the DeSoto Eagle Band, the president of the Math Honor Society and treasurer of the Spanish Honor Society. Aside from school, she is a youth elder at DeSoto Presbyterian Church and hopes to pursue a career in chemical engineering with an emphasis on complex materials.