GALVESTON, TEXAS – April 26, 2023 – In November 2021, after months of meetings, Galveston community members recommended to GISD’s Board of Trustees a new middle school alignment in an effort to unify students within their grade levels and designate specific campuses to grade-level specific initiatives.
The Board approved, and in 2022 the three middle schools - then Collegiate, Central, and Austin - were reorganized into a 5th-grade campus that now exists at Weis, a 6th-grade campus at Austin, and a combined 7th and 8th-grade campus at Central.
It was clear from the beginning that the shift would require a lot of planning, implementation, and hard work. However, it has always been the district’s vision that positive outcomes would result with time.
That summer, efforts supporting the shift began. 600 red crates rolled through the hallways as 77 teachers packed their rooms to move to a new campus. Dress codes were expanded, three new building principals were named, and each campus’s teaching staff bonded before the school year began during professional development efforts.
In August 2022, the newly constituted campuses opened.
Weis won a “campus redesign” grant which gave the staff blended learning support and assisted in rebranding the school back to the owl mascot it had years before.
Artist Boat partnered with Austin to expand its environmental science focus and build curriculum specific to the 6th-grade level.
Crews that were present throughout the summer at Central renovated spaces for special needs students, created a new STEM lab, repaired a theater stage, and expanded the facilities for athletics to include a dedicated athletic trainer and two new sports: cross country and soccer.
Not since the late 1960s have Galveston students and staff members experienced so much change at once. Yet both, overall, have shown great resilience.
From the start of this school year through March, student attendance has risen at every grade level.
On middle-of-the-year growth testing, more students scored at expected “Meets” or “Masters” scoring for their grade level in math in grades 5, 6, and 8, and 7th grade remained steady from a year ago.
While interim TEA reading scores are still below state averages, they have improved this year in every grade level. In biology and algebra, students continue to excel and exceed both regional and state-wide expectations.
Noticeable changes can be observed outside of the classrooms, too.
Christian Towers attended Collegiate before the realignment took place. Now a 7th-grader at Central, he says the new athletic opportunities are what he likes the most. He reported with a smile that he’s already placed first in shotput during only his first year of track. He also plays on the football team.
Addison Applegate, an 8th-grade student at Central, has experienced change as well. “It’s been good because kids are trying to communicate with others more,” she said. “It’s helped me learn how to make friends within my grade level and to be independent.”
“I think the realignment has been a positive change for the students,” Austin Counselor Juliana Wilkins said. “It is a learning experience and took some time to get used to this year, but I think now students have created friendships that otherwise they would not have been able to.”
“I also feel like it helps close the gaps with our underserved communities, having the opportunities to be able to take advanced courses and other activities that might not have been offered. This is a time when students are learning to grow as a cohort. This allows the community to also come together and see how this new generation of students are learning to break barriers and begin to accept one another in a way that has not been seen in quite a few years,” Wilkins added.
Even after all this, more change is on the way. Texas has mandated all students take the newly designed STAAR 2.0 online with an additional 13 question types never before seen on state-wide standardized testing. Writing is now required on every test except math, and campuses will not receive accountability scores until late summer 2023.
The community will be able to witness more physical changes taking place this summer, such as Central’s roof replacement and plumbing upgrades, and crews present at Weis to add a new life skills room with a kitchen and laundry components, two new offices, a special education room, and a speech/dyslexia room.
It would be reasonable to expect a period of adjustment, as it has been clear to all involved that this would be no easy undertaking. A number of challenges have surfaced along the way – some that still need attention, continuing analysis, and evolving implementation. Academic growth and student behavior remain top focuses.
But if the past eight months are any indication, Galveston’s students and staff will adapt and thrive, proof of the grit islanders are incomparably famous for.
“The realignment has been a breath of fresh air for me personally, but mindset is everything,” Central Tor Site Coordinator Cynthia Phillips said. “I think we have had to pivot and understand that this first year we would be making needlepoint moves. We are reinventing a new path for many of our students, parents, and teachers. It is a positive change, and we are gradually becoming better at who we are. The best is yet to come ...”