Sunday, February 5, 2006



  'A Great Day in Panther Country!'
Mabank Officials Pleased to be Back in Class 3A
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK-Big smiles were the order of the day Thursday, after Mabank Independent School District officials found out the school district dropped from Class 4A to Class 3A in the biennial UIL realignment.
"It's a great day in the land of the Panther! We're looking forward to competing with schools whose enrollments are more like ours. Now we can compare apples to apples," MISD Superintendent Dr. Russell Marshall said.
It gets better - the realignment puts Mabank, Kemp and Eustace into the same district (13-3A), along with Crandall and Kaufman.
"That's going to help with our travel times for our players and coaches," Athletic Director Jimmy Cantrell said. "It's also going to help with the people in the community, being all right here together. Even Kaufman and Crandall aren't that far off."
Shorter travel times for fans means the likelihood of bigger gate receipts for every sport - mom and dad won't have to make an hour-long trek to visit Corsicana or Red Oak, for example - and long-standing rivalries, such as the annual Kemp-Mabank game, will also have playoff implications.
"I've still got a little emptiness that we didn't make the (football) playoffs in 4A," Cantrell said.
The Panthers did see some playoff success during this past four-year stint in 4A - the boys basketball team went to the playoffs in the '03-04 season and the '04-05 season, while the girls basketball team won district unbeaten in the '03-04 season.
"Now, we've got to get the job done in 3A," Cantrell said. "We lost to two 3A teams last fall, Kaufman and Brownsboro, remember. Our kids have got to be ready to play."

Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Mabank High School Panthers run through their off-season football drills with greater enthusiasm Thursday, after learning the realignment news. 


Trustees Discuss Super Search
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP-The search has officially begun for a new superintendent.
A special meeting Thursday saw a familiar face in an unfamiliar role as Kemp Independent School District trustees consulted with Arrow Educational Services, Inc.
Consultant with the search firm, Dr. Russell Marshall visited with Kemp trustees in closed session to discuss names for an interim superintendent for the district.
Marshall is also the superintendent of Mabank ISD.
Following the closed session, Marshall laid out the strategy process.
Going for an interim superintendent first, will allow the board to catch its breath as it hunts for a new person to lead the district, Marshall explained.
Then the search strategy will be simple, he said.
The trustees will start by creating a profile.
"We will make a list and through you and the feed back you get from employees will create the characteristics of what you are looking for," Marshall explained.
After developing a time line and setting the date for interviews, the process of bringing in applicants will begin.
"It will always be your search. We are looking for the right fit, and the interviews will be identical for every candidate for fairness sake," he said.
"When it's all said and done we will announce one name only," Marshall said.
"There's a lot you have to offer. You are going to be fine," he added.
In other business, trustees:
* heard the report from Business Professionals of America sponsor Barbara McFaul on the students' recent area competition.
McFaul said 12 of her students will be taking a trip to Lubbock for the state competition.
The cost is approximately $5,900. 
Trustees congratulated the students and approved the appropriate measures needed.
* approved district goals as presented.
* discussed the upcoming trustee election.
The district is considering a contract with Kaufman County to run the election for the district at an estimated cost of $1,000, based on the number of other districts that contract for services..
The normal cost of an election for the KISD is $1,200.
* approved the first reading of a list of board policies as presented.
Administrative assistant Kim Johnson said one policy concerns the conflict of interest issue. A diskette explaining details will be provided by TEA for all trustees to view. 


Advisory Program Helps Parents Stay Informed on MHS Student Progress
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

SEVEN POINTS-Results of the first semester of a new advisory program at Mabank High School have been "overwhelmingly positive," Kiwanis of Cedar Creek Lake members heard.
Under the advisory program, each professional employee at Mabank High School becomes responsible for keeping up with the progress of 13 students, MHS Principal Tommy Wallis told Kiwanis members during their weekly luncheon session Wednesday.
Parents of students in the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent of any given class are already contacted by school officials at least occasionally, but parents of students in the middle 60 percent rarely are contacted at all, Wallis said.
"As a high school principal, I find that unacceptable," he said.
Under the advisory program, each professional employee should be contacting the family of each of their 13 students at least once every three weeks. That way, the parents of each of the 900-plus students in school should be contacted.
During those contacts, the advisor can review the student's progress in each class with the parents, Wallis explained.
Advisors will follow the progress of these 13 students all the way through school, grades 9-12.
"As a parent, you get one phone call, and hear both the positive and the negative," he said. "The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The parents just love it."
Wallis said he had a senior's mother bump into him in the hallway the other day, and the mom told him the advisor's call was the first time she had been contacted by a school official during the entire 12 years her child had been attending school.
The obvious implication is that student was one of the 60 percent of kids who "fall through the cracks," Wallis said.
"When you have more than 800 students on a campus, kids can get lost in the shuffle," he said.
Initially, teachers were very leery of the program, thinking they were going to have to contact these 13 students in addition to calling parents of each failing student, Wallis said.
However, by contacting just those 13 students, the teachers found they actually could reach more parents, he said.
Not all parents can be contacted, because some don't have telephones, but at least 70 percent more parents are being contacted than before, he pointed out.
Many parents told advisors they didn't know who to contact to get a question answered, but with the advisory program, each parent can make a personal contact with a professional, who can refer them to the person they need to speak to, Wallis explained.
"For years, we teachers had to set priorities, and just contact the parents of the kids in trouble," English teacher Joanna Slaton told the gathering.
"Now, for the first time, I have the opportunity to be positive with students," she said.
Parents are overloaded, too, she added. Many of them work in the Dallas area, and don't get home until 7 p.m. or later, giving them little time to do more than just eat, shower and check in with their children.
At the elementary level, it's usually easier to get parents involved, but it's particularly difficult in high school, partly due to parents realizing they will have to cut the apron strings sometime in the near future.
"This is where the advisory system helps," she said
As a parent of a teenaged daughter, Slaton said the advisory program "allows us to be an advocate and a go-between" during discussions with students and parents.
"This (program) allows me to be student-centered, rather than subject-centered," she said. "You get to be a 'mother hen' to a group of students. There's been bumps in the road, but it's been very positive for me as a teacher."
A recent survey found half the responding teachers really liked the program and half didn't care for it, Wallis said.
"But 100 percent felt it was fantastic for the kids," he added.
Those 13 kids meet with their advisor regularly, and during those advisory sessions, kids learn some things that just aren't regularly taught anymore, such as character education - how to be polite and courteous, for example.
"Today, the advisors will be talking about goal-setting," he said. "Right before the prom, the topic will be good decision-making, because each year around prom time, some students make bad decisions."
At the beginning of the year, the topic was learning styles, because boys and girls learn differently, he noted.
"Each student has the opportunity to give their opinions on how things are going to their advisor, and they, in turn, let me know," Wallis said.
"I feel very strongly that we're reaching every child who should be reached," he said. "That's our job."
Club president Shannon Steakley said she had been getting her teacher advisor calls, adding it had helped her.
Wallis said anyone with a question or a suggestion about the program could contact him at the high school, (903) 887-9333.
"We're open to good ideas," he said.