Our Schools

2019-2020 District Blog

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Even though school is not in session, members of Mansfield ISD Student Nutrition Services are making sure children still have access to nutritious meals and snacks.

The Healthy Summer Meals for Kids program allows any child 18 years and younger to receive a free breakfast and lunch. MISD started participating in the federally-funded program five years ago because staff members thought it would be a great help to the community.

“Summer is a very expensive time for families. I know that first hand as a mom of four,” explained Rita Denton, director of student services at MISD. “Kids are using a lot of energy. They’re running and playing extra hard, so to have that nourishment through the day is crucial.”

The free nutritious meals include protein, grains, fruit, vegetables and milk. All children must select a fruit and/or vegetable, and all meals must be eaten on site. Adult meals are also available for purchase.

This year, MISD has seen its most successful year, serving more than 73,000 summer meals to families to date. Parents like Chelsea Camp said the program has been a relief while her children are at home.

“We are really thankful for the summer feeding program,” said Camp. “It’s helped us save on our grocery budget, which we’ve been very happy about.”

The Healthy Summer Meals for Kids program runs until Aug. 2. There is no application or income verification required.

Denton said she sees great things for the future of the program, including some options to make the program more mobile.

“How great would it be if a food truck, a Mansfield ISD Student Nutrition food truck, rolled in to a park location and had free meals for kids!” she said.

Eight MISD campuses and the Mansfield Public Library served as free feeding sites for the summer. View the remaining dates and meal times here. The summer menu items are listed here.

Although it may look a little messy now, the construction going on across the district is a good sign that MISD Bond 2017 is making great progress.

Mansfield ISD voters passed a $275 million bond package in May 2017 to address district growth, equity, safety and aging infrastructure across the district. Development of the bond proposal involved an almost two-year, in-depth process of information gathering, research and community input.

Nearly every school and district facility benefited from the bond package, and three new schools will be built.

“The three biggies of this bond are Brenda Norwood Elementary School, Alma Martinez Intermediate School and Charlene McKinzey Middle School,” said Dr. Paul Cash, executive director of facilities and operations. “The design phase is complete, ground has been broken and walls are going up at the middle school as we speak.”

The new schools are expected to open by fall 2020, barring no additional weather delays.

Some of the completed projects under the bond package include an expansion of Ben Barber Innovation Academy to add more classrooms and a large space for orchestra classes. A major overhaul of elementary school playgrounds and the addition of playgrounds at every intermediate school is also almost finished.

Right now, the major renovations are happening at the high school level. Mansfield, Lake Ridge, Legacy, Summit and Timberview high schools will have a new multipurpose athletics complex on their sites.

For Mansfield High School and Summit High School, construction is also being done in the inside of the campuses. Mansfield High is getting a new kitchen and cafeteria area. The work at Summit High School will add new air conditioning units to every classroom, provide a better cafeteria area that allows for more nature lighting, and create a new entryway for the campus.

Construction crews at The Phoenix Academy, MISD’s alternative school, are working on a new entryway as well.

“I do want to say thank you to everyone who supported the bond because we as a school district couldn’t function without the support of the community and the voters,” said Dr. Cash.

Cash added that every penny of the bond package has been used for its intended purpose.

For a look at all the projects and construction timelines for MISD Bond 2017, visit the bond’s website.

No matter the level of expertise a child has in a sport, the Mansfield ISD Athletics Department hosted several camps this summer to take those skills to the next level.

The MISD athletic camps covered a vast array of sports, including baseball, soccer, football and diving. For some of the camps, no prior experience was necessary.

“Diving camp is an introduction to the sport of diving,” said Andy Serie, MISD diving coach. “It’s designed to bring kids in, teach them some of the introductory basics of the sport and to see if they’re interested in continuing on into some of the other programs we offer.”

There were nine diving camps held during the summer for students ages 6-18 at the MISD Natatorium, but diving lessons are held throughout the year.

“Our main focus are the skills and progressions of diving, but we also want them to have fun,” Serie continued.

In addition to the various summer sports camps the district hosts, two-hour strength and conditioning sessions are being held for middle and high school athletes. MISD student-athletes are able to participate in these sessions at no cost.

“We’re going to give you the conditioning so you don’t break down, and we’re going to give you strength that’s the foundation of power, speed and agility,” said Shane Trotter, Mansfield High School’s strength and conditioning coordinator. “But the most important benefit is injury reduction.”

The classes are on Monday through Thursday at the student-athlete’s home campus. The last day for those sessions will be July 27.

District officials said it is a great way to prepare students for their sport of choice.

“We look forward to how this hard work is going to pay off for all our student-athletes next season,” said Tammy Lusinger, MISD assistant athletics director. “This is why Mansfield ISD is a great place to live, learn, teach and compete.”

MISD offers a well-balanced, comprehensive athletic program consisting of five high school and six middle schools. Find out more information about MISD Athletics here.

Members of the Mansfield ISD Transportation Department already knew it, but now they have the awards to prove it—their mechanics are some of the best in the state.

In their first time competing at the Texas Association of Bus Technicians (TASBT) state competition, MISD master mechanics Joshua Hert and Kenneth Reaves took home the first and third place prize, respectively.

The competition consisted of a written exam and a portion in which technicians were timed as they diagnosed three separate broken-down buses.

Hert said he was ready for the competition, but he never imagined that he’d actually win.

“I was happy, excited, shocked,” he explained. “I really didn't know what to think because I didn't expect to come in first place.”

David Walker, director of transportation for the district, said one of his goals since coming to the district in 2018 has been for his employees to attend more professional development opportunities. So when his fleet manager asked if the mechanics could participate in the TASBT contest, it was a no brainer.

Walker said taking home two of the top three prizes is a major deal.

“We made a statement, and I think it's cool,” Walker said. “We all know that the district has incredible things going on. The district is stellar. There are parts to make it stellar, and we're one of those parts.”

The director said there are a lot of accomplishments from his department that the public may not know. For example, MISD is a Texas Department of Public Safety demonstration location, and the district's shop consistency receives the Blue Seal of Excellence from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

Hert will move on to compete at the national competition for bus technicians. He said he's studying his ASE materials to prepare for it.

Reaves will serve as the alternate at nationals. He noted that being able to place at such a contest is a testament to the district as a whole.

“I never got these opportunities anywhere else that I’ve worked,” said Reaves. “Being able to better my skills, and even win and award for it, just tells you how great this district is.”

The Mansfield ISD Transportation Department services 15,000 students per school year using about 280 buses. Fourteen mechanics are on staff for the department.

For more information about MISD Transportation, visit its webpage.

“It’s not the disability. It’s ability.”

Those are the words that retired Sgt. 1st Class Dana Bowman lives by.

Bowman was a member of the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army's official aerial parachute demonstration team. In 1994, he suffered a mid-air collision with one of his teammates. The teammate did not survive, and Bowman lost both of his legs as a result.

Despite that setback, Bowman never gave up on his dream. He went into rehab and worked even harder to continue his army career.

“I became the first double amputee to re-enlist back into the United States military; and now, it’s given me an opportunity to travel around to go to speak a message of hope,” he said.

Bowman shared that encouraging message to the employees of Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary School on Aug. 8. Staff members said it helped changed their perspective.

“It just showed that all of us have a disability that we are working towards becoming an ability,” said Kimberly Webb, the school’s math specialist. “Your disability doesn’t define you.”

Being able to push through during the hard times is a lesson that staff members said they will instill into their students as well.

“All of our students come to school with different baggage or different things affecting them in life,” said Principal Darrell LeJeune. “But our teachers, I wanted them to know that they can put a positive light on everything for our students to lift them up and motivate them to do the best that they can do at our school.”

LeJeune plans to invite Bowman back on his campus around Veterans Day to speak to the students. He said his story fits perfectly into MISD’s Vision 2020 value of resiliency.

Walking through the lunch lines on Thursday, third-grader Mason Williams was very familiar with an item that the cafeteria workers were allowing the students to sample.

It was one of the recipes he submitted to be part of Mansfield ISD’s “Chew, Chew: I Tried Something New” initiative.

“My dish was Mason’s Magic Beans,” the Nancy Neal Elementary School student explained. “My mother and nana helped me with it. I love barbecue, and what’s barbecue without beans?”

“Chew, Chew: I Tried Something New” is a monthly promotion that allows elementary school students to sample unique dishes during lunch.

This year, students were asked to submit their own recipes for the promotion in hopes that their dish will be shared with the entire district.

“The contest criteria was based on originality, the amount of ingredients in the recipe and something that we could create in the cafeteria,” said Jenny Parham, assistant director of operations for MISD Student Nutrition Services.

After the students submitted their recipes, the district’s menu-planning team reviewed them to select the top five recipes—one recipe for each month in the fall.

Williams said he was excited to kick off the year with his beans.

“When I won, I felt really good about myself, and I want to thank my mom and my nana,” he said.

The beans were served at every MISD elementary school. Those who tried it said it was tasty.

“They were delicious,” said Kelsee Hudson, third-grade teacher at Neal Elementary. “I noticed it had a little jalapeño in it, and I’m a big fan of jalapeños, so it was really good.”

Parham said the contest will continue in September to get student recipes for the spring months. Learn more about MISD Student Nutrition Services here.

Preparing children for the next stage of life is the goal at Mansfield ISD. That’s why counselors at Asa E. Low, Jr. Intermediate School began making College Colors Community Picnic an annual tradition.

On the school day closest to National College Colors Day, which is the Friday before Labor Day, Low Intermediate School parents are invited to bring lunch and hang out with their child in a tailgate-like atmosphere with plenty of games to enjoy. 

Information on different higher education institutions was on display throughout the area for students and parents to inquire more about. Event organizers said it’s a way to expose fifth- and sixth-graders to different college, careers and military pathways at an early age.

“There are some things we can prepare them for in fifth and sixth grade that they’ll be able to put into place when they get to high school,” said Brandi Bates, the school’s sixth-grade counselor. “They’ll have a little bit of knowledge of what they would like to do in the future and the opportunities that are available for them.”

A representative from the U.S. Air Force was on hand as well to provide more insight to the students and allow them to ask more about the military.

“Not only is it a great career, but it kind of gives them exposure to see the world,” said 2nd Lt. Jennifer Hohenberger. “We have a lot of cool job opportunities.”

Bates said parental involvement was a major piece of the picnic. She it's important for parents to be part of a child's education and keep the lines of communication open.

“We want our parents here. We want to let them know that we have open doors. We want them to support us because we support what they’re doing with their student, so it’s a collaboration. It takes a village,” said Bates.

The school’s picnic is in its third year. Everyone in attendance is encouraged to show their school pride by wearing a favorite college shirt or school spirit shirt.

Three Mansfield ISD staff members are in the process of receiving their teaching certification for free.

The growth opportunity is part of the Frances Brownlie Para to Professional Scholarship Program. Under the program, a qualified paraprofessional with a bachelor's degree who wants to become a certified teacher can do so by taking classes through Tarleton State University.

The program is paid for by the MISD Education Foundation, which received private donations to make the scholarship possible.

“It was the brainchild of Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas,” explained Lynn Wilkie, executive director of the Mansfield ISD Education Foundation. “He really wanted to get a program to help our paraprofessionals continue their education. We’re very grateful to our donors for making this vision come to life.”

Those enrolled in the program said it is a life-changing endeavor that they would not have been able to do otherwise.

“The usual requirement for becoming a teacher is to take off a semester to do your student teaching, and you don’t get paid,” said Alicia Boen, special education co-education teacher at Cross Timbers Intermediate School. “Being a single mom, I never would have been able to do that.”

Participants undergo an application process in order to get the opportunity to be certified in special education, math, science or bilingual education. The students are also given mentors and field supervisors for extra support and encouragement.

“It feels fantastic. It feels like you’re supported in your growth, and it feels like you’re a part of this big team, and everybody helps you,” said Karina Ardizzi, a teacher’s aide at Judy K. Miller Elementary School.

Upon completion of the Para to Professional program, the staff members will be considered for the next available teaching position in their specialization. They’ll also be only three to four classes away from getting a master’s degree in education.

“Our district really does care about every one of its employees, whether it’s from the lowest one on the totem pole to the highest one in the district,” said Pauline Quinones, a teacher’s aide at Mary Orr Intermediate School. “They’re trying to help us grow as people, as teachers, as professionals. It means a lot to me and makes me want to be a part of this district even more.”

Wilkie said the MISD Education Foundation is mostly known for the grants it gives to classrooms, but now the organization is able to reach out to help staff members through the Para to Professional program. View more details about the applicant requirements here.

Students at Danny Jones Middle School received quite the shock when they saw a very familiar face walking down the hallway on Monday.

Actress and singer Selena Gomez made a stop at her former school in the late afternoon to say hi to different classrooms and reconnect with past teachers.

The 27-year-old is filming a documentary about her childhood and hometown memories. She was passing by the area and decided to pop into the school.

“This trip, I wanted to take my best friend Courtney and also some of my people from my label just to show them where I grew up and how proud I am of where I’m from,” Gomez explained. “Some of my teachers I got to see again, and they were part of my life for so long.”

Teachers who had Gomez as a seventh-grader remember her as being kind, quiet and humble. Her coach at the time recalled when Gomez told her she was going to withdraw to move to Florida.

“She said, ‘Oh I’m just going to be in a little Disney film,’” said Stephani Gray, head girls basketball coach at Lake Ridge High School. “And I said, ‘Oh. Okay.’ Because sometimes middle school kids kind of exaggerate.”

Gray said Gomez’s name later scrolled by in the credits of a Disney movie, and she was excited to see that Gomez had accomplished her dream.

From the Disney television shows and movie roles, Gomez’s career took off. She has earned numerous awards throughout her career, including an American Music Award, an MTV Video Music Award, a People's Choice Award and multiple Teen Choice Awards.

Although her popularity continues to skyrocket, Gomez said it’s always good to come back home.

“I honestly didn’t know it’d go as well as it did,” she said, “I didn’t know I’d get to come and be a part of this, so I’m really happy.”

The Grand Prairie native said that Mansfield ISD has grown so much since she attended schools here. She said it was surreal to be back in the building and gave students some lasting advice.

“What I would tell them is that it’s really hard, but it’s worth it. I wasn’t a straight-A student by all means, but I think it’s really important, and I think it’s also important to be kind to someone,” Gomez said. “Just encourage them in their school work and know that anything is possible for them.”

What began as a single dot on a piece of paper has turned into a worldwide movement to celebrate creativity, courage and collaboration.

International Dot Day was brought to life 10 years ago when a teacher introduced his class to Peter H. Reynolds’ book “The Dot.”

It’s a story about a girl who tells her art teacher that she can’t draw, so she just puts a dot on a piece of paper. Instead of the art teacher getting upset with her, he inspires the student and changes her mindset.

“He said, ‘Wow! This is amazing. Sign it,” said Kristen Hendrix, librarian at Annette Perry Elementary School. “From there, her confidence begins to grow, and she wants to keep doing bigger and better things.

Each year around Sept. 15, more than 15 million people from around the globe participate in Dot Day to encourage students to re-discover the power and potential of creativity in all they do.

Perry Elementary School is one of the several Mansfield ISD elementary schools that uses this day to remind students to leave their mark.

“In library, we are reading the book. We also have a Dot Day song that we are singing. Each grade level has a Dot Day poster that they are designing their own dot,” Hendrix explained.

The children and staff members at Perry Elementary School were also encouraged to wear dots in observance of the day.

“You can make your own dot shirt like I did, so that’s pretty cool,” said third-grader Alex Dahman.

Students had the opportunity to embrace their talents through creative mediums. Hendrix said the goal is to inspire the students to embrace their individuality and persevere.

“I hope to accomplish that the students get a little more confidence, and they take away with the understanding that all you have to do is try. When you just try, you can make amazing things happen.”