The community of Gainesville thrives on history and tradition, and this week our community is welcoming back our alumni for Homecoming Week. At Gainesville Independent School District, we encourage all of our students to participate in showing school spirit and celebrating throughout the week. The Gainesville High School Student Council has set the stage with a “Stay Toon’d” theme, which drives the celebrations for the week. The community is invited to join us at the annual Homecoming parade and pep rally on Wednesday, Sept. 11, in downtown Gainesville. The parade will travel west on California and finish at the courthouse square. Stick around and enjoy the community pep rally on the east side of the courthouse immediately following the parade.  

The homecoming football game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and we encourage all of our Leopard fans to pack the stands and wear red to support the team. The homecoming court will take the field at halftime, when the underclassmen court will be recognized and the 2019 GHS King and Queen will be crowned. Congratulations to all of the nominees as we know you will all represent GHS with pride.

We have tremendous Leopard pride already running through our campuses. Every year, Gainesville ISD steps up as a pacesetter company for the Cooke County United Way fundraising campaign. On Tuesday, September 3, GISD district and campus leaders took the stage and we proudly displayed a fundraising total of $19,328! Our staff were extremely generous with contributions and because of their pride in the community and desire to help our students and families, we collected $3,500 more than ever before. Wow! 

As a district, we strive to be involved in the community in many facets and as the leader of this district, I would be doing GISD a disservice if I didn’t reach out for guidance and feedback from our district stakeholders when it comes to making vital district decisions. I need to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. One way that I reach out for direct input is through the Superintendent Advisory Council, consisting of a selected group of junior high and high school students. We will meet several times throughout the year to discuss hot topics regarding their respective campuses and the district as a whole. 

The Parent Advisory Committee is another group that also is called together multiple times throughout the year. This group is not hand selected, but is open to anyone in the community regardless of relationship with the school. We value the voice of any stakeholder who is truly invested in the community of Gainesville and our school system. Last year, the PAC worked together on the district calendar and the student dress code, among many other topics. My goal this year is to have 100 parents and community members join me for the first PAC meeting of the year, which will be 5:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30 in the board room at 800 S. Morris St.

One of the topics of discussion with the SAC and PAC this year will be in regards to our facilities. As our campus enrollment continues to grow, we need to look at what we can do to better accommodate the growth that is currently taking place as well as looking into future growth in the coming years. Our current district enrollment numbers fluctuate daily, but are currently sitting at 3,114 students, averaging 229 per grade in K-12 with the smallest class enrollment of 206 and the largest at 279. Gainesville High School’s enrollment has reached 925 students. Due to the increased amount of CTE courses and diverse graduation pathways we offer our students, the growing student population causes some concerns with our ability to offer the appropriate classroom learning environments for all of these diverse class offerings.

As a result of aging buildings and the continuous growth of Gainesville as a whole, the board of trustees has reached out to Eikon Consulting to conduct a thorough assessment of all of our district facilities, and they are nearing completion of the second phase of this project. The findings of these reports will be shared via board meeting, Parent Advisory Meeting and during my yearly State of the District address with our civic organizations. This information will play a critical role in shaping the future of GISD.

In addition to the facilities assessment, a demographic study is currently in progress as well. Templeton Demographics has begun the process of evaluating the current growth trends that we are experiencing in Gainesville as well as projected growth for the next five to 10 years. This report will be completed in the fall semester and will then be presented to the board of trustees. This information, along with the facilities assessment, will drive future recommendations aimed at improving the learning experience for all of our GISD students.  

The 2019-2020 school year is off to an amazing start. We are now in week five and teaching and learning is in full throttle. We have made positive gains from last year to present, but still have work to do. We openly invite our parents and Gainesville community to be a part of our transformation. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Co., stated “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” We would like to thank our community stakeholders, civic organizations, area businesses and local clergy for their undivided support and encouragement.

DesMontes L. Stewart is superintendent of Gainesville Independent School District and has been in education for 20 years.

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