Paris ISD follows a district-wide motto that “students don’t care what you know unless they know that you care.” With this in mind, Capturing Kids’ Hearts was implemented district-wide and teachers and staff learned processes to increase students’ connectedness with both peers and adults on campus. They learned how to create a classroom environment where students are excited to enter and learn every day. Capturing Kids’ Hearts has won national awards for Aikin and Justiss elementary schools for two years in a row.
Every campus in the district has a care closet that provides clothing and personal hygiene items for students in need. The district now provides free breakfast and lunch every school day to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision, assuring all children are provided nutritional meals. The district also provides summer feeding to not only our students but also to students in our neighboring districts. Over 18,000 meals are served between the end of May and the middle of August. Many students did not have access to our campus libraries during the summer months. A summer reading program was implemented last year and students in the district are served in their neighborhoods through our “Cats on the Prowl” mobile library.
Many programs started at Paris ISD are now considered standard practice in other school districts. Paris ISD was one of the first school districts in Region 8 to apply for the District of Innovation and to hire a behavioral specialist. The district established a police department in the summer of 2013 and continues to expand its programs. We now have a department of veteran officers with improved campus security on every campus, including front-locked entrances with school check-in at all campuses, increased cameras, Nightlock door barrier systems for every classroom in the district and a number of police vehicles.
A significant improvement came when Travis High School of Choice opened, keeping many potential drop-outs in school. The campus offers flexible scheduling which is more conducive to the needs of students who struggle with a traditional high school schedule. Since the doors opened in 2014-15, 155 students who might otherwise have not completed their public school education have graduated.
Paris ISD is one of 61 districts in the state of Texas that earned the 2018 Postsecondary Readiness distinction, and Paris High School earned seven of seven possible distinctions. Since 2013, the district has received 78 distinction designations and every campus has Met Standard every year. Students’ SAT and ACT scores continue to be higher than average, and the number of our students taking these tests is increasing. Paris High School was named one of the top high schools in Texas and the nation for the second year in a row by U.S. News and World Report receiving the Silver Medal.
Student enrollment has steadily increased. For the second year in a row, our student enrollment is above 3,800. The last time enrollment was this high was 10 years ago. Student growth over the last few years is far in excess of the growth of Paris and Lamar County. We can attribute this significant increase to the leadership of the district and to the efforts of our teachers, who provide world class instruction each day.
A strong effort is placed on spending money only when it directly benefits students. In recent years, the district built a new Career and Technology Education building, purchased 15 brand new buses, replaced the roof on one of our largest schools, upgraded our football field and track, constructed new tennis courts, upgraded the baseball field and made significant repairs and renovations on campuses. All of this has been done without raising taxes or placing additional burdens on our taxpayers. Because of our strong fund balance and all the indicators combined, we have received the highest (superior) under the Schools Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST).
Paris ISD student achievement has risen, student enrollment has grown, and Paris has been consistently recognized as one of the top-performing districts in the state. The district is blessed to have strong campus principals who hire great teachers, who are passionate about teaching their students. While future challenges are certain to arise, and while the future of public education issues in Texas will likely change, PISD is in a great position. We are financially sound, we have great facilities, we have a dedicated staff and we have strong partnerships with families and local employers. All of these things work together to provide optimal opportunity for our students.