Tyler ISD Superintendent Dr. Marty Crawford vowed the district would correct poorly performing schools and strive only for the highest standards in all aspects of operation as he delivered the 12th annual State of the District speech to the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce lunch on Wednesday.
About 300 people attended the luncheon at Tyler Rose Garden Center, a chamber official said.
Whether it be fiscal stewardship, academic performance, taking care of new or aging facilities or instructional and leadership behavior, the district will strive for high standards, Crawford said.
Academically and instructionally this year, Crawford said the district has operated on the mantra that "tradition will get you beat."
"There are a lot of great traditions in Tyler and East Texas, but there are some things that we have been doing that I frankly consider .. are malpractice. We are no long going to play school in our chronically underperforming schools."
Crawford said there will be a shift in culture to not only believe that all children can learn, but there will be actions to match.
Crawford observed that a lot of times in school districts that have poverty there is an attitude that school is just a safe place for children to come, be loved and provided two meals.
"That can't be what we are all about. It's the teaching and learning part that every kid deserves," Crawford said. "We have a challenge ahead of us, and we have to work on eliminating the achievement gap."
The superintendent noted that Dixie and Boulter schools came off the state's "improvement required" list in the accountability system this year, and a few other schools are close to coming off.
"I hope to come back next year and be able to report to you that we have been able to recover those schools," Crawford said.
Schools that remain on the list are Austin, Bonner, Douglas, Griffin, Jones, Orr, Peete, Ramey and Dogan.
The district has redesigned its central office organizational chart to provide closer oversight of low-performing schools and injected some new leadership, including two new central office administrators and six new principals.
"The changes that were made were to get people in place that are about student achievement and about kids performing academically," Crawford said. "It may take some of our schools a while to get there, but I think we are improving. We are moving the ball down the field … we are moving in the right direction."
Crawford updated community members on operation of the school system in the 15 months since he assumed the district's top administrative post.
He disclosed that the district is at least $5 million under budget in a construction program to build four facilities and renovate two with funds from a 2013 bond issue.
New three-lane tracks may be completed by March at Hogg, Dogan and Hubbard middle schools, Crawford said.
Crawford said he has had hundreds of opportunities to interact with local residents, and the most enjoyable thing has been getting to know students.
The superintendent and school board have been working hard trying to develop what may be a longterm relationship, Crawford said. They have rebooted a successful initiative that was used here several years ago through the Center for Reform of School Systems to change the way leadership of schools is conducted and reform governance, Crawford said.
The superintendent expressed amazement over the support and attention "in the right way" given Tyler public schools by civic leaders, organizations, churches and others.
The district's relationship with local higher education institutions is phenomenal and second to none, Crawford said. He pointed as examples to The University of Texas at Tyler's after-school enrichment program and teacher education, the early college high school program with Tyler Junior College and Texas College student teaching in the schools.
Crawford said he also is excited about a bilingual school administrator development program.
"We understand our demographics in Tyler are changing, and we need bilingual leadership," Crawford said. "I appreciate UT Tyler going forward on that."