School board discusses creative energies, COVID sub-committee report

By Aubrey Turner
For the Prosper Press
Holly Ferguson

Prosper ISD School Board met on April 19 for the monthly meeting.  The meeting began with an invocation and the pledges given.  The meeting had 15 members of the community speak in the public comments.  The members of the community spoke about the decision to continue to require masks in the classrooms, employment rights of teachers, and Special Education services.  Enrollment is 19,708 students, over 2,000 more students than April 2020.  Construction updates were given on two new elementary schools.  Both schools are scheduled to be opened in August 2021.  

Emma Reed and Abby Arnold spoke as part of the Superintendent Advisory council.  “We come in a few times a year, meet together, and it is student led,” Reed said.  “We talk about what is going on in the high school, but also try to talk about the middle and elementary schools.  It is amazing being on the council.  No one judges you for what you are wanting to speak about,” Reed said.  Arnold continued, “I feel like the council gives the board a way to hear about what is going on in the school, as well as new ideas.  I like that we have that direct communication with (Superintendent Holly) Ferguson.” 

Forty students make up this council, twenty from each high school.  

Ferguson spoke about the Creative Energies contract with the district.

 “Career and technical education, bilingual education, and special education are tracked and reported by the Federal Government, through the state,” Ferguson said.  “When the government provides the report, the report spans three years, and we are given time to work together to address the issues raised.  We have talked to leadership cohort groups, administration,  and special education teachers.  We worked through many plans and asked what will give us the greatest amount of support for our students.  The Federal Government gave us the guidelines for what type of plan we could use.  This is not Critical Race Theory and this is not a curriculum.  This is a coaching and consulting model for our principals.  The principals hire the staff, and are taking care of the students, connecting with parents, and are sharing the culture of the school with the community.  The Federal Government mandated that we take 15% of our special education budget to address this issue.  It is our job to make sure that this assists all of our students and we are working hard to make sure that is what happens.  Our job as an educator is to make sure that we keep the students in the classroom.  If a student has misbehavior, we will address that, but we will also focus on keeping the children in the classroom whenever we can.  This is the work Dr. McCloud is doing.  This coaching helps our administrators focus on the relationship with the students.  All principals have reported that, after meeting with Dr. McCloud, they are now better able to reflect on their relationships with the students and are better able to ensure that behavior consequences are fair.”

The Covid-19 sub committee reported on their findings as the restrictions in the state were reduced. 

“We found that students have been returning to school, rather than choosing virtual,” Ferguson said. 

“There is great reason to believe that next year (2021-2022) will be mask optional, given the number of vaccinated teachers and the numbers of Covid cases lately,” School Board Member Bill Beavers said.  “This is with the information we have now, although we may have to readdress if there is another outbreak or more information from the TEA.  Teachers need to be able to plan what they will be doing next year.  It allows teachers and families ample opportunity to plan for next year,”  Beavers said. 

While this is a new situation for all schools, PISD plans to still offer virtual learning for students.

“We need to give an indication to families now if we are in agreement for mask optional starting in the fall,” Ferguson said.  “We need to still address what will be the policy for summer school.  It is so important to continue to communicate with the families now so they can make whatever decision is right for their family.”