Michael Vergara Published: January 24, 2020

Options and Innovations Propels a Texas District From “D” grade to “B”

Part 2 of 2 from the series on district transitions

District Profile:
District: Manor, TX, Independent School District
Student Population:

• Primary populations: Hispanic/Latino: 65%+; African American: 20%+; White: 17%+

• Enrollment: 9,463 Pre-K-12

• Economically disadvantaged: 79%

• New students annually: 600-1,000

After Superintendent Royce Avery assumed leadership of the struggling Manor Independent School District three years ago, he wasted no time in helping the education community craft a vision for the future. With a focus on three areas: Fine Arts, New Tech, and the rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program, the district moved swiftly forward with a range of new academic choices for its students and families. Part 1 of this series details the journey to date.

In Part 2, we look at the impact on the Manor community, how students, educators and parents feel about the district’s improvement efforts, and Dr. Avery’s tips for other superintendents.

Impact on the District and Community

When Superintendent Avery assumed leadership of the district, parent engagement and communication with the school community and the broader local community became another priority. Today, regular educator surveys and the online Let’s Talk parent engagement tool have streamlined the process of allowing all stakeholders to provide ongoing input. Parent concerns are also addressed in a timely manner through regular phone and email communication. “Parents appreciate that the school is responsive,” says Avery.

About the success of the IB program, which includes one elementary school earning an “A” rating and a second, formerly low-performing elementary school nearing a “B,” Avery says the program has impacted the district culture by reassuring both students and parents that Manor learners have what it takes. “Putting kids at the forefront of a global perspective has changed parent and teacher views. The mindset now is that students have the ability and can perform when expectations are high,” he says. 

Manor’s move out of low performance status from a “D” to a “B” grade was an exciting outcome for everyone, says Avery. “We pushed the educators hard, but it paid off. We didn’t know it would return such a big dividend.”

As MindPlay noted in an earlier post, Manor was proud to boast of their achievement in a local billboard entitled, “Making our Way to Greatness.”  “If you don’t tell your story, somebody else will tell it in a negative way,” says the innovative superintendent.

Stakeholder Voices Showcased

To further broadcast the success of their approach, the district crafted a moving video, Making Our Way to Greatness, that showcases the voices of district educators, parents and students. Among the feedback from these stakeholders are testimonials on how the IB program has inspired student confidence, allowed learners to get ahead by graduating high school with an Associates of Art (AA) degree, and instilled character and discipline in students through the music, choir, art, and dancing Fine Arts programs. In the New Tech area, learners report new skills in robotics, broadcasting, coding and other technologies, but also in coping and cooperative learning.

Tips for Other Superintendents

For other superintendents who may be up against similar challenges to those faced by Dr. Avery upon his arrival at Manor ISD, Avery says hope is key.  “I’m a very hopeful kind of person. The school district will embrace change if you stick to your vision and overcome the challenges.”

Another key, he says, is to let data guide the way, and be able to make adjustments as you proceed. “For instance, we learned not to wait to share successes. When we have our regular meeting of principals or other school leaders, they need to talk to each other.”

Lastly, he says, innovation is central. “It provides opportunities for leadership and for new ideas. Innovation is everyone’s friend.”

Read Part 1

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