A word from Victoria I.S.D. Supt. Quintin Shepherd

Closing Thoughts: State of the Victoria I.S.D.

The following article was submitted by Supt. Quintin Shepherd of the Victoria I.S.D.

This week Victoria ISD presented at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon. We present annually as an opportunity to update our Chamber partners about the good things happening in VISD. The presentation is meant to be informative for the audience and we pack as much information as possible into a very short window of time. We can never get to everything, so we try to focus on two or three key areas for us. In the past few years, we have focused heavily on the state of finances for the district, because that has been a concern for us, and we recognized the need to improve our overall standing. When I began in 2018, our fund balance at year-end was $11.8 Million. That was a dangerously low amount for a district of our size, and it put a great strain on our community. After four years of restructuring from top to bottom (including cutting nearly 30% of central office administration. To be clear, we started at a percentage lower than the state average and reduced from there), I am proud to say our financial standing has improved dramatically and the state of our finances is exceptional. Our fund balance stands at $37.5 Million, which is the recommended level the state suggests for Victoria ISD and helps us achieve a perfect score on our financial integrity rating. Perfect score, in case you missed it the first time. I only presented two slides on finances. Mostly, I focused on the fact that every single audit and rating organization (state, federal, and local) finds us to be superior and without any areas of concern. This year I focused almost exclusively on student learning pathways, student achievement, student learning challenges coming out of COVID, Advanced Placement, Dual Credit, Dual Enrollment, and graduation rates. I also focused a bit on communications since we have launched the first-ever VISD mobile app, re-designed and launched the website, have started a YouTube channel, enhanced our monthly administration report, and launched a communications e-newsletter, which is still the very best way to get accurate information about the district.

One of the things I spoke about at length during the student achievement portion of the presentation is our work within Career and Technical Education (CTE). We have a total of 11 Career Clusters represented in our CTE program list: Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Architecture and Construction; Arts, Audio/Video Technology and Communications; Business Marketing and Finance; Education and Training; Health Science; Human Services; Law and Public Service; and Manufacturing; STEM; and Transportation, Distribution and Logistics. From those 11 Career Clusters, we offer 18 programs of study. These all represent different pathways for our students through high school as they find their “&”. Of those 18 programs, we offer 59 CTE courses! That is variety. I am sure you are wondering if more courses mean more students served, and the answer is yes. If we look at our historic student enrollment by cluster, we are up in nearly every area. As an example,in 2017 we had 138 students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) CTE courses. In 2022, we serve 425 students. We would be very grateful if you could help us spread the message that in the past five years, we have increased the number of students taking STEM-related coursework by 208%! This type of growth is virtually unheard of, anywhere in the state. I am very much aware of a negative narrative within our community about VISD schools, but it is simply untrue when we look at the data. Our kids are amazing, and our teachers are superheroes. We are forever grateful to the many community partners who have helped us build this out.

Remember, this is just one pathway through high school. We also have P-TECH pathways, Advanced Placement pathways, Dual Credit Pathways, and Dual enrollment pathways. In case you are wondering, we have more students enrolled in Dual Credit and Dual Enrollment than at any time in the history of the district! These students are earning college credit as they move through high school, saving our parents a tremendous amount of future tuition costs. From last year to this year alone, we have increased enrollment in these programs by 24.7%. More kids are in both dual credit and dual enrollment. More kids, learning more is not just a catchphrase for us. It is simply how we do business.

One last point of pride. When I arrived in the district in 2018, we tested 272 students for our gifted and talented program. We served a total of 580 students in our programs at that time. We currently serve 755 students in the program and tested 1,290 this year! We have increased our identified gifted and talented student population by 30%. When we say we want kids to find their genius in our strategic plan, we truly mean it.

All these pathways are great options for our kids, their parents, and our community as we strive to have 100% of our students walk across the graduation stage with their “&”. Speaking of graduation, we outperform the state by 5.6%. For our homeless students, we outperform the state by 10.7%! Our homeless students graduate at a higher rate than the average graduation rate for the State of Texas. That’s something to brag about. We are closing the gap and raising the bar at the same time, and with great success.

Did I mention that we have been in a pandemic for the past two years and have faced the most difficult period in education that any of us can ever remember? Systems around the state and nation find themselves in disarray and throughout all the chaos the VISD is strong and growing stronger. I just wish more people knew the truth about our schools, and I’d love for you to be a partner in helping me spread this go