GISD Super: ‘What are the keys to our current and future success?’

“What are the keys to our current and future success?”
There are a lot of factors that come into play for Gladewater ISD, Dr. Sedric Clark told local business leaders Sept. 12 during Gladewater Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly luncheon.
Walk into any GISD school and speak to any student, Clark said, and anticipate a polite ‘Hello,’ ‘Yes, sir’ or ‘Yes, ma’am’ in return.
“We’ve got great kids. We’ve got great employees – I’ve never been in a place in our district where folks aren’t working,” he added. “We’ve got a great board of trustees that’s focused on meeting the needs of our kids and meeting the needs of the people taking care of them.
“We’ve got a great community.”
The district’s in the best position it can be, Clark said, but it certainly does need its community.
“We need you not only to be for us but to be vocal for us,” he said: “Our job is to meet the needs of kids.”
Clark’s been at Gladewater ISD seven years. With 300 employees including 150 teachers, the district’s current enrollment stands at 1,695 – notably, that’s 157 students less than GISD saw a decade back.
“You remember what happened in March of ‘20?” he asked. With the COVID-19 pandemic, “Everything shut down and we truly have not recovered from that in our enrollment.”
Demographically, the student body is listed as 53 percent Caucasian, 21 percent African American, 18 percent Hispanic, 7 percent ‘Two or More Races’ and 1 percent Asian. Among the students enrolled this year, 77 percent are considered ‘Economically Disadvantaged.’
“They didn’t choose to come from a home with low income,” Clark noted, adding that 23 percent of GISD’s students are deemed ‘Highly Mobile’ and “22 percent of our kids are special needs students at some level or another.”
For Fiscal Year 2023-2024, trustees approved a $21 million budget, the sixth consecutive year a balanced budget has been submitted.
“Your tax rate for the school will decrease by 28.25 percent,” he added. “Our folks do a real good job of taking what we have and doing what we need to do with it. We live within our means and do everything we can to remain there.”
Notably, 2022 accountability ratings have not been released, but with new testing and a new calculator, Clark anticipates the district’s results will come in lower despite recent progress among students.
Regardless, “Our teachers and our students will always work as hard as they can. We will always get better,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing for every kid in our district. At the end, when all things are counted, we’re going to look a lot better than we’re looking.
“I’m expecting a decrease, but I’m also expecting an increase when we come back next year. I want to make sure this community’s proud of who we are.”
Especially following the tragedy in Uvalde and mandates from state legislators, the district has an even greater focus on safety, with a School Resource Officer on each of the four campuses.

Dr. Sedric Clark, Gladewater ISD superintendent, addresses attendees at the Gladewater Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Business Luncheon earlier this month.

Meanwhile, “We’re pushing real hard this year for parental and community involvement at a different level,” he said. “School is for kids. Our school system shouldn’t be set up to please the adults there. It should be set up to make sure those kids go through and get everything they need.”
Clark’s grateful for the district’s partnerships; with the Gladewater Education Foundation, for example, and the burgeoning joint venture with Kilgore College, White Oak ISD and Union Grove ISD for career/technical courses and dual credit classes at WOISD’s KC satellite.
“Our goal is to make sure that when every child crosses the graduation line, he or she has a spot, he or she has a place, they know where they’re going for the future.”
The superintendent also highlighted the district’s ‘Grow Your Own’ District Innovation Plan that is cultivating new educators while they pursue their degrees.
“There aren’t many folks going into education right now. We have to create our own teacher pipeline,” he said. “We’ve also in the past five years, given a salary increase to every employee. We’re doing that with a balanced budget with the money we have.”
Overall, he repeated, it comes down to ensure Gladewater’s students have the best education possible.
“Take care of kids, everything else will take care of itself. That’s my belief about a school district.”

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