Dr. Niven delivers State of Red Oak ISD address during annual community breakfast

RED OAK — With a resilient and adaptive staff, student body and community, Red Oak ISD is moving forward with plans to continue to encourage students to succeed in new ways, superintendent Dr. Scott Niven told those gathered for the annual Community Breakfast on Thursday.

As Red Oak ISD continues to grow its student population, district staff are working to ensure students receive the best education for the world they will face when they graduate, Niven said. Part of doing that includes creating new ways for students to learn, he explained.

“We don’t just have a change, we have a revolution going on,” he said. “We have started to rethink everything we do.”

This year, the sixth grade center tried out a more flexible classroom model with moveable furniture, white board desks and changing where the “front” of the classroom might be each day as needed, Niven said. Teachers worked not only with large classroom groups but smaller groups as students were encouraged to work together and problem solve like they would in the workforce. Technology is also being integrated into the classroom to provide new opportunities to expand and interact, he said.

“Today, there are so many opportunities to learn, we want to make sure everything we do is flexible to allow for that,” Niven said.

The school board has decided to invest in bringing many of those flexible learning tools to the other district campuses during the summer by investing some of the district’s fund balance money, he said.

The elementary school libraries have also been shifted, he said. While they still house books, the spaces have become collaborative areas called Learning Commons for students to explore and work together, he said.

But nothing will replace the value of a good teacher to guide, inspire and instruct students, he said.

Meanwhile, the Donald T. Shields Elementary School campus that suffered a direct hit by an EF-3 tornado in December is undergoing repairs and will be ready to reopen for the next school year, he said.

“On Dec. 26, I got one of the worst calls a superintendent can get. The only thing worse would have been if there had been students inside,” he said.

The communities’ support was overwhelming as 700 volunteers turned up at 7 a.m. the following Monday to begin the process of moving Shields to its new temporary home, Niven said. Students started school a week later in a new school with new school supplies thanks to volunteers and generous donations.

“It was an amazing outpouring. I was in awe,” he said.

Even though the school was badly damaged, he was grateful to see that the walls in areas where students would have taken shelter were still intact after the storm, Niven said. There would have been some injuries and the children would have been scared, but if students had been in the school when the tornado struck, they would have been safe, he said.

Many areas of the damaged campus were stripped to the studs to remove water damage and were re-engineered to solve previous construction issues, he said. The contractor who build the Shields campus has stepped up to help the district pay for repairs and with the district’s insurance policy, the school will be restored with almost no cost to the district, Niven said.

“When it is done, it will basically be a new school,” he said.

As the district moves forward on all fronts, the focus will remain on doing what is best for the students and the community, Niven said.

“That is what decisions are based on in Red Oak ISD,” he said.


Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.