“What a Year at Elkhart I.S.D.”
By Ray DeSpain, Ed. D.
It is truly amazing to look back over the past year and highlight all of the things Elkhart’s students and staff accomplished in 2013. Thanks to a great deal of work by all of our students and staff members, Elkhart I.S.D. has been able to maintain full compliance status as set forth by the Texas Education Agency in all accreditation areas. Not only have these ratings remained at a very high level, we have excelled in many other areas as well.
We are in the “people” business. We are very fortunate to have great kids to work with, and we have a staff that is dedicated to providing all they can for these young people. While we have hurdles to overcome every day, we know that we can reach our goals by adhering to our three guiding principles of class, character, and commitment. We ask each student and each staff member daily to prepare and perform to the best of his or her ability, and we accept no excuses. Elkhart is very fortunate to have a very highly qualified, dedicated staff of professionals and support personnel who do a great job daily for our young people. As just one of many examples, Tana Herring was recognized as the “Elementary Principal of the Year” by her professional organization this past year.
First and foremost, we are here for academics. For three consecutive years, the Elkhart High School graduating classes have achieved a 100% graduation rate (which includes successful completion of all required course work and passing all mandated state Exit Level standardized exams). Valedictorian Allison Badgett and Salutatorian Luis Banuelos both received academic and leadership scholarships to attend Texas A&M. We are confident that our vertical curriculum alignment process, academic departmentalization, diversified instruction by our outstanding faculty, and tutorial programs have contributed to these successes. Our High School Academic and Literary UIL teams dominated the District Meet. Allison and Ross Badgett qualified for the State Cross-X Debate Tournament. Allison was a State Champion in three events (Mathematics, Literary Criticism, and Calculator Applications). Allison, Cindy Mays, Britanee Smith, and Anna Clark comprised the State Champion Literary Criticism team. Both our Junior High and Elementary teams won District competitions as well. Standardized test and proficiency test scores remain at a very high level at the Elementary and Intermediate campuses as well.
Our athletic teams have achieved great successes also. Second-year Head Football Coach Sam Wells led our Varsity team to a 7-3 record and Elkhart’s first playoff appearance since 2004. Jeffrey Wilson set a number of school rushing records, and was named All-State at running back. The Lady Elk Volleyball team had an outstanding season, finishing with a record of 28-11, and claimed the Bi-District Championship for the second consecutive year. The Boys Basketball team also made the playoffs for the first time in several years. New Girls Head Basketball Coach Cori Smith has a very young team, and she is building for the future by starting programs in the third grade. The newly-formed Power Lifting teams, led by Junior Cody Defore and Senior Roderick Arcineaux, won several meets. The Lady Elk Cross Country and Track teams once again dominated every meet they entered, including the District meet. Anna Clark and Paige Fillmore both advanced to the State Track meet. The Boy’s Track team finished second in the District, and advanced fourteen athletes to the Area meet. John Adair’s Baseball team barely missed advancing to the State Tournament for a second consecutive year, and have won an incredible 105 games over the course of the past four seasons. Four former Elks (Cam Newton, Jacob Cheatham, Jordan White, and Levi Smith) have gone on to play college baseball. Great things are in store for the Lady Elk Softball team this spring, as they return the vast majority of their starters. We also look for our Tennis and Golf teams to be much improved this Spring. I have also been very impressed with the attention paid and support shown to all of our Sub-Varsity and Junior High teams by both our coaching staff and community.
Several people have commented to me that school spirit is at an all-time high. Kudos are in order to cheerleader sponsors Christine Bedre, Jaymie Hudnall, Christy Ives, Chantel Luce. Fifty-two girls now make up our Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Junior High cheerleading squads.
The Fine Arts programs at Elkhart are second to none. The Big Red Band, led by Wes Canaday, excelled in both Marching and Concert and Sight Reading competitions, consistently receiving Superior (Division I) ratings from judges. Several of our students were named to All-Area Bands, led by Megan Weber and Christian Sardina. Several of our students also received First Division ratings at Solo and Ensemble competition. Marcus Washington placed at State on the French Horn. Elkhart is very fortunate to have top-shelf Art programs at all campuses, and Kathy Marlowe, Amanda Molandes, and Pat Rainey do an excellent job at their respective campuses instructing these kiddos. Art student Luis Banuelos qualified for the State Art Contest, and Allison Sheridan posted a perfect score at the VASE competition. Theater instructor Clee Quizenberry works with both our Middle School and High School drama students, and produces outstanding community productions as well as UIL One Act Plays.
Elkhart’s FFA program, led by Lance Thomas and Thomas Dixon, has doubled its number of members and participation in competitions. Several students are already busy preparing projects and raising animals for the Anderson County Show. Bull rider Trey Thomas headlines our Rodeo team, and placed at the State Rodeo finals. We have also instituted Introductory Vocational Agriculture classes at our Middle School.
Vera Reece and her student staff have once again produced an outstanding yearbook. The 2013 Elkhorn is a great keepsake for our students and staff members.
Both our High School and Junior High campuses have very active Academic Honor Societies, Student Councils, and Art Honor Society clubs. Several of our “incentive” programs, such as the “Elite Elks” at the Middle School, have proven to be very beneficial as well.
Our Elementary and Intermediate campuses participate in several programs and projects throughout the year as well. “Character Counts” and the Drug Awareness and Resistance Education (DARE) programs have proven to be very beneficial for our younger students, as well as our Self-Esteem and Anti-Bullying programs. Funds raised from fun projects such as the Christmas Store and Fall Fest go toward incentives and awards for our kiddos. Elkhart ISD provides for “Career Days” at all campuses, as well as Science Fair programs at each level.
We are in our third year in the beautiful new High School. Next up facility wise is the construction of a new entrance to the “main campus” facilities. The project will include: renovating and upgrading the storm and drainage systems; construction of 138 new parking spaces, adding a new horseshoe-shaped single lane bus drive; constructing covered canopies, re-landscaping the entire entrance and main campus area; adding a new electronic marquee; relocating and upgrading the electrical, gas, water, and sewer lines; and renovation of the exterior of the buildings facing Highway 294. When the project is completed, I am confident that we will have a much safer, more efficient, and nicer looking “first impression” for our school facilities.
On the technology front, we continue to strive to stay on the leading edge. We currently have over 900 computer units available to our staff and students, along with several state-of-the-art projection systems. Our software programs and video enhancement systems have all been upgraded. The District’s website (www.elkhartisd.org) provides all students, parents, and community members with updated information as well as required postings, publications, and items of interest.
Financially, the District is in “Excellent” shape according to this year’s audit report. Due to the high percentage rate of tax collections, as well as all staff members being very fiscally conservative spending-wise, the District’s cash flow and fund balance are both very solid.
We know that our many accomplishments would not be possible without the support of our TEAM of parents, guardians, businesses, community members, and site-based leadership members. The positive input, encouragement, and assistance from these stakeholders are invaluable. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, administration, and staff of Elkhart I.S.D., I sincerely appreciate the effort of every individual, and I look forward daily to providing the very best education and experiences for the young people of Elkhart. Come see us some time – you’ll be impressed!