A Message from the Superintendent

 dr ward

Archived Messages

Vernon ISD Teacher Retention Video

The future Vernon Elementary School

The Vernon High School Addition

Vernon Community,

While Spring Break was rejuvenating and focused on rest, I also burned quite a bit of rubber on the highway by attending Vernon softball and baseball games (Vernon), state team tennis championships (Waco), and by supporting three of our female athletes at the state powerlifting championships (Frisco). The break did provide me an opportunity to recharge and refocus, setting a positive example for the school community on the importance of work-life balance. With a commitment to both personal well-being and school spirit, I am ready to continue guiding this district towards successes in academics, athletics and in culture.

I have a saying that has seemingly taken wings in this district and is one I now hear people saying back to me: “We are on offense……all the time.” A perfect example of this mindset is the fact that the current spring focus is indeed on finishing the current year strong, but is also on setting ourselves up well for next year. The key to strong schools and school districts in today’s public education world is assembling a world-class staff and maintaining those teachers. Being offensive minded, we learned of all of our staff needs for next year in late February, posted those jobs before we left for Spring Break and plan on conducting interviews in April and May.

State-of-the-Art School

Moving our students into Vernon Elementary, made possible by the financial support of the $33 million school bond passed in November 2021, last fall should mark a significant milestone for our school district and this community. This new facility not only represents a commitment to providing a modern and innovative learning environment for our elementary students but also symbolizes the community's investment in the education and future of our children.

I well realize not all school district leaders can turn to their community and ask for resources to build a new, state-of-the-art elementary school. As a result of the community’s value and emphasis on restoring this great district, Vernon is now home to very likely the very best elementary school in this entire region.

Central Not Done Yet

As we celebrate the opening of our elementary state-of-the-art school building, we were also excited a few months ago to announce the vacated Central Elementary building, once the heart of our community's educational landscape, was in the process of being re-purposed to continue to serve this community. Recognizing the pressing need for quality early childhood education and care in our community, the school district took a bold and visionary step by converting part of the old building into a learning center for infants to 4-year-olds. This is also what I would consider maintaining an offensive mindset.

This decision not only repurposes a historic building with deep community roots, but also addresses a critical need in our community – the need for accessible and high-quality early childhood education. By transforming the aging structure into a vibrant learning center, the district will not only be preserving the legacy of the building but also extending its impact by nurturing the youngest members of our community which will be key to ensuring the academic health of Vernon’s youth and a positive future for Vernon ISD.

The establishment of this learning center will create a nurturing and stimulating environment for young children, providing them with a strong foundation for future academic success. Additionally, it will offer much-needed support to working families, empowering parents to pursue their careers knowing their children are in a safe and enriching educational setting.

This initiative exemplifies the district's holistic approach to education, recognizing that learning begins long before a child enters formal schooling. By investing in early childhood education and leveraging existing resources to meet the needs of the community, the district is not only enriching the lives of our youngest learners, but also strengthening the fabric of our community.

The Misconception

I have indeed heard the rumblings of some members of this community who feel as if they were misled by the district with the information provided in determining a new elementary school was needed. It is important to address and correct any misconceptions surrounding the decision to repurpose this school building. The shift in the building's use is not due to dishonesty or misinformation but rather a thoughtful and strategic response to changing educational needs within the community.

Specifically, the city has lost four local daycare centers just this year alone. The decision was made after careful consideration of various factors, including the evolving learning standards and best practices in early childhood education, which indicate the facility is better suited to serve this specific age group as opposed to all of the district’s 2nd and 3rd graders.

By aligning the building's use with recommended learning standards for infants to 4-year-olds, the district is demonstrating a commitment to providing high-quality education that meets the unique developmental needs of young children. This decision reflects a proactive approach to education, focusing on creating an environment tailored to the specific requirements of early learners.

Recalling a prior conversation with the district’s curriculum director: “There is a place for the Vernon infant and toddler whose parent can afford to pay for an appropriate place for early learning. There exist government funding programs exclusively for the Vernon parent who does not have the resources to support their infant or toddler”, but as the VISD curriculum director appropriately noted to me months ago, for our middle-class parents, “there are limited options in both affordability and qualifying centers.”

To be clear this decision is driven by a desire to best serve the needs of all students, both now and in the future. That pursuit, in itself, should put any dissent of this plan to rest and the use of Central to rest. It is important to address and correct any misconceptions surrounding the decision to repurpose a school building for infants to 4-year-olds. It is important for the community to understand that this move is driven by a desire to best serve the needs of all students, both now and in the future.

By embracing this shift and understanding the rationale behind it, we can work together to create a stronger, more inclusive educational environment for all students.

While the resource itself – Central Elementary – no longer met the 21st century demands and adjusted standards required to educate elementary kids, particularly due to room sizes, small hallways, appropriate classroom lighting, and very limited natural light opportunities, the push to build a new elementary was so much more than just taking an aging building out of cycle. One big argument for closing both Shive and Central was the consolidation of staff, allowing us to operate with lowered staff costs.

The school board and myself were faced with the thought of allowing the Central facility to sit at its current site to more rapidly deteriorate with no plan for use or we could create an unintended opportunity of the November 2021 bond and use the vacated building to serve a critically important district and community need. I encourage all of you to embrace this shift and understand the rationale behind it, we can work together to create a stronger, more inclusive educational environment for all students.

As we witness the transformation of a school building into a beacon of early childhood education, we are reminded of the power of education to shape lives and build stronger, more vibrant communities. This momentous undertaking underscores the district's commitment to innovation, community engagement, and the belief that every child deserves a bright and promising future.

 Dr. Kermit Ward
Vernon ISD Superintendent