It may be the smallest school district in the “Brush Country”, but recent success in academics and athletics are just a few of the reasons some believe the district is at an all time high when it comes to student population. Second year Superintendent Dave Underwood was all smiles, as he discussed recent success as well as a vision for the future for the school district. With a contract extension given until 2015, Underwood is confident their district will continue to grow and achieve at a high level.
Meet McMullen County I.S.D. Super- intendent- The Mason native arrived at McMullen County I.S.D. over a year and a half ago as he replaced longtime superintendent Frank Franklin who had been the back bone of this district for 28 years.
Underwood has taken the district under his wing, and has enjoyed his time in the district thus far. He is in the middle of his second year at McMullen I.S.D. as he arrived after serving Priddy I.S.D. for two years. Underwood brought with him his wife Kim, who is also a teacher at McMullen County I.S.D. along with their two daughters O’Brien and Bronwyn.
“I think one thing that helps our district succeed is we have our focus on the children. Our administration and our school board works together to provide our teachers with what is necessary to give these kids a great education,” stated Dave Underwood.
During the Jan. 12th regular scheduled school board meeting, the board showed confidence in Underwood as they gave him an extension until 2015 along with a 4.5% raise which brought his yearly salary up to $103,900 annually.
“I think it was a great evaluation. The board and I have a great working relationship and I am very pleased with the progress we are making,” added Underwood.
McMullen Co. I.S.D. School Board President Walt Franklin had the following to say about Underwood.
“We have worked very well with Dave. He really communicates well with the board and has fit in well in our community. He goes out and works hard in the community and our entire board I feel, is pleased with where our district is right now,” stated Mr. Franklin.
A district on the move
McMullen County I.S.D. has seen a lot of growth over the past few years. Area residents would assume the growth would be credited to the Eagle Ford Shale, but according to school officials, that is not true.
Attendance has continued to rise, as it currently stands at 221 students, up 21 since the beginning of the school year. The enrollment for 2010-11 was 165.
“We actually only have 10-or less students who are here as a direct result of the oil field. Don’t get me wrong, we have children who have always resided whose parents work in the industry, but only about 10 which are a result of their families moving here,” stated Underwood.
The school district was the lone “exemplary rated” school district in the area last school year, which was another token of the academic success in the district. Aside from strong academics, traditionally strong FFA and agriculture programs along with successful athletic programs are to credit for the growth.
Out of the 221 students, only 128 of them reside in McMullen County I.S.D. The rest are made up of: Three Rivers I.S.D. (30), Cotulla I.S.D. (28), Jourdanton I.S.D. (17), Pleasanton I.S.D. (12) along with George West I.S.D. (2) and Freer I.S.D. (2).
“When I talk with parents, they credit our overall image as a reason they bring their children here from other districts. They not only credit our outstanding academics, but also our athletic and Ag programs. We have a compassion for our children and our teachers do a great job with showing that to the students,” stated Underwood.
According to Board President Walt Franklin, he concurred with Underwood on why the district has grown.
“People are happy with our academics. I know our high school offers a lot of dual credit courses. I had two sons who when they graduated, were sophomores when they entered college. I really think we will continue to grow and we want to sustain the growth,” stated Franklin.
Growing pains- With the sustained growth, comes the pains of growing and that is where looking into the future counts the most.
One of the issues hitting the school district now is transportation. Right now, McMullen County I.S.D. is looking to see what their needs are.
“We have over 100 kids riding our buses a day out of the 221. We have three buses, which are between 1-5 years old, three which are 6-10 years old, and five that are over 10-years old. We also have two that are for traveling only and a few back-ups,” stated Underwood when asked about his transportation department.
Underwood noted that since some of their district competitions are 3-4 hour bus trips, they need to make sure their transportation is well above par.
Another positive that transfer students have on the district, is it allows the district to keep more of their revenue.
“Right now our recapture rate is at about 54%. Anytime we have transfer students in the district, we are allowed to keep more of the funds. I think in the past it was a misconception that transfer students took away money from our local tax base, but in fact we get to keep more of the money,” stated Underwood in reference to the district being a Chapter-41 school district.
Currently, one of the projects at hand for M.C.I.S.D. is to upgrade their HVAC system at the elementary campus which has been in place for 28-years.
“We went out for bids last school year, but they all came back very high. The board rejected all of the bids. Currently we are accepting sealed bids and the board is hoping to make this project a reality soon. This will be paid for with “Qualified School Construction Bond Money,” Underwood stated.
The district also purchased A+ Software which will be used for not only credit recovery, but as an enrichment type program which will be web based which will allow students to also utilize it at home.
Construction a possibility
When you add growth and a few aged facilities the conversation of construction within the district has arisen.
“Right now there are a few areas that we are concerned with which include a maintenance facility and the possibility of an agriculture facility for our AG students. Security has also been an issue in our district with the non-stop traffic traveling on Highway-16. Our high school is so close to the road and all it would take is one truck driving off the road, to cause a terrible accident,” stated Underwood.
According to Dave Underwood, the McMullen County Sheriff’s Department has done a good job at making sure traffic flow is going the speed limit.
Aside from those mentioned above, a few other things they could look at will include aging school housing as well as covering the basketball courts that were recently constructed next to their new playground. School officials are also concerned with the current bus pick-up for students, which is located right off of Highway 16. They want to look at other options that would make it safer for the students.
The final issue Underwood is looking at involves possibly connecting campuses, which would help keep the district secure.
“Student safety and security is always at the top of any school district’s list. With the increased traffic through Tilden, anyone could just walk into the district. We want to continue to ensure our students are safe,” added Underwood.
McMullen Sheriff’s Department
The McMullen County Sheriff’s Department is working hard to try and help out with the traffic situation.
:We have more deputies working for us now, than we have in a long time. The truck traffic has gone crazy. To be blunt, they have no concern for the traffic law or how they drive. We have been writing tickets left and right to try and keep things as safe as we can,” stated Chief Deputy, William Ainsworth.
According to Ainsworth, with five full time deputies and one part deputy on staff, they have been able to cover the school zone a lot more than in previous years.
“We do our best to try and keep the school area safe,” added Ainsworth who has been a part of the force since 2005.
A Facilities Committee of about 12 community members was selected thanks to input from the school district.
“We allowed administration and teachers to nominate community members to be selected to our facilities committee. We also have committees on both campuses who will have a role in deciding what they feel are the construction needs of the district. We want as many people to have their hand in this as possible. We want it to be a true team effort,” stated Underwood.
According to Superintendent Dave Underwood, the district is hoping between the different committees, that the “Community Facility Committee will bring a recommendation to the school board by the March 5th meeting. This could include any, all or totally different plans as mentioned above.
McMullen County I.S.D. bought a 6-acre piece of land, which is located across the street directly to the right of the school (when looking at it from Highway 16).
Other board action- During their Jan. 12th meeting, other news action included: They hired Collman-Horton to be the new auditor service for the district. The former company they used: Paul Peller out of Corpus has recently retired.
They also accepted two donations in the amount of $10,000, which helped with the construction of their playground along with a $150.00 donation from Memories on Main out of Pleasanton. The board also updated their district goals.
The board also approved the senior class of 16- as they will take their trip to the Bahamas. They have been raising money for this class since middle school according to Mr. Underwood.
Current McMullen I.S.D. Numbers- Currently the school district owns nine homes, five of which are rented by staff and three which are rented to community members. They also have forty employees which include twenty full time teachers, one part time teacher, three cafeteria workers, a superintendent and a district principal, one nurse, nine office personnel including business professionals, secretaries, etc, as well as five maintenance and custodial who also drive busses aside from two who are solely bus drivers.
Moving forward- As you can see, the small district of McMullen County may be the smallest in the area, but they have plenty of exciting things happening in their district. With a great superintendent, dedicated staff and kids with clear visions, they are ready for whatever the future may hold.