Waco ISD launches anonymous tips app for students to report bullying, threats

The STOPit mobile and desktop app empowers students to stand up against bullying.

By Joshua Wucher

As part of Waco ISD’s continual effort to ensure students have a safe learning environment at school, the district is introducing a new safety app that enables anonymous reporting of bullying, dangerous situations and other potentially dangerous activity.

STOPit is an online and app-based system that enables students, parents, teachers and others to safely and anonymously report anything of concern to school officials – from cyberbullying to threats of violence or self-harm.

“There’s always a stigma around tattling or snitching, which makes it harder for students to feel comfortable enough to speak up,” said Dr. Rachelle Warren, assistant superintendent for student services and support. “Bullies are empowered by a culture of silence, so we hope the STOPit tool will empower students and give them a new way to stand up for themselves and others.”

Once the STOPit mobile app is downloaded, users can anonymously submit an incident report consisting of an image, video and/or text. Administrators can then respond to the incident and get help to the student in need. The app also allows for anonymous two-way communication between students and administrators. While a user may choose to provide identifying information, the district will not be able to identify an anonymous submitter. 

Funding for the platform is being provided through the Stop School Violence Act by a Department of Justice grant awarded to ESC Region 12 last October. 

“We are grateful to Region 12 for providing us the opportunity to utilize this very valuable tool,” said Dr. Susan Kincannon, superintendent. “Providing a safe way for students to report any harm or if they feel in danger is just another layer of protection for their well-being. While STOPit won’t replace the relationships that we want staff to build with our students, we hope the app will encourage them to feel safer reporting bullying or other concerns and not fear retaliation.” 

More information and resources including videos and FAQs can be found online at wacoisd.org/STOPit.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco ISD joins new, innovative Holdsworth Center leadership collaborative

By Joshua Wucher

Kincannon, Gutierrez, and Cornblum will participate in the program’s inaugural cohort, along with 13 districts from across the state, to strengthen principal pipeline.

Waco ISD is partnering with The Holdsworth Center, an Austin-based nonprofit, to strengthen its bench of future principals through a new, 18-month program called the Holdsworth Leadership Collaborative. 

Waco ISD is among the first 14 districts across the state invited to take part in the program, which the center’s materials describe as an effort to “build internal leadership capacity, with the end goal of having a strong bench of leaders ready to step into school leader positions when they arise. 

Josie Gutierrez (l-r), Susan Kincannon, and Deena Cornblum of Waco ISD participate in Holdsworth Leadership Collaborative.

“We are excited and feel blessed to be one of the few districts across the state working on school leadership development with the Holdsworth Center,” Dr. Susan Kincannon, superintendent, said. “This new program will be a pivotal part in how we build supportive systems and structures that can sustain a school leadership pipeline. Ultimately, this will help our district retain great teams to serve our kids.” 

Over the 18-month program, Kincannon, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Josie Gutierrez and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Deena Cornblum will attend learning sessions at The Holdsworth Center’s Campus on Lake Austin. They will learn best practices from organizations inside and outside of education that have built high-performing talent management systems and then work to define what great leadership looks like in Waco ISD.

“Because principals influence the working conditions and skill level of every teacher in the building, they have a huge – and often unseen ­– impact on students in the classroom,” Dr. Lindsay Whorton, president of The Holdsworth Center, said. “Waco ISD recognizes this and is committed to ensuring its students benefit from outstanding leadership.”

Founded by H-E-B Chairman Charles Butt in 2017, the center’s mission is to improve the quality of public education by supporting and developing educational leaders. The 14 districts participating in the Holdsworth Leadership Collaborative are Corpus Christi ISD and Mission and Los Fresnos CISDs in South Texas; Conroe, Tomball, Pasadena and La Porte ISDs in Southeast Texas; Eanes, Temple, Waco and College Station ISDs and San Marcos CISD in Central Texas; and Irving and Plano ISDs in North Texas. 

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Tennyson student named a finalist in national STEM competition

Guerra-Sanchez is one of 30 finalists in the Broadcom MASTERS, a premier middle school competition for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

By Joshua Wucher

Gabriela Guerra-Sanchez, a student in the ATLAS Academy at Tennyson Middle School, is among 30 finalists who will be competing for over $100,000 in awards and prizes in the Broadcom MASTERS middle school competition. Guerra-Sanchez was named a Top 30 finalist after advancing from the Top 300 MASTERS competition earlier this month. Participants in the Top 300 competition were selected from tens of thousands of regional and state science and engineering fair participants nationwide.

Gabriela Guerra-Sanchez (second from right) is honored by Waco ISD at the September board meeting. Superindent Susan Kincannon (left) and Leslie Cannon, Tennyson Middle School teacher-librarian, were among those who honored the student’s achievement in STEM research.

The MASTERS program, founded by the Society for Science, seeks to inspire young scientists, engineers, and innovators who will solve the grand challenges of the future. Each of the 30 finalists will participate in team challenges in addition to being judged on their science research project during a virtual competition in October. 

“Gabriela is a creative, out-of-the-box thinker who worked incredibly hard to execute an amazing project. As an educator, I want my students to engage and enjoy learning and to help them realize the dream to pursue careers in STEM is attainable,” said Leslie Cannon, Tennyson Middle School teacher-librarian, who herself was among 66 stellar educators from across the country recently selected for the society’s Advocate program, which provides teachers training, stipends, and year-round support to mentor underrepresented students in entering science research competitions like Broadcom MASTERS. 

Guerra-Sanchez’s winning project, titled “Can You Hear That? What Do You See?”, explores how different styles of background music can affect the way people see art. She collected data from survey responses from students who listened to music and then viewed an original abstract painting that she created. 

“We are so proud of Gabriela for this outstanding accomplishment and excited to have her represent Waco ISD and Tennyson Middle School at the national level,” said Dr. Susan Kincannon, superintendent. “Her project represents the high level of critical thinking and learning happening in our schools. And teachers like Ms. Cannon are doing a tremendous job supporting students like Gabriela who aspire to become scientists, engineers and innovators.”

Additionally, Broadcom MASTERS is awarding each Top 30 finalist’s campus with $1,000 to use toward STEM activities and providing their science teacher with a one-year classroom subscription to Science News magazine.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Lopez named new Waco ISD assistant superintendent for human resources

By Joshua Wucher

Waco ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon announced today that she has selected Daniel Lopez as the district’s next assistant superintendent for human resources. In this role, Dr. Lopez will lead the strategic planning and implementation of human resource programs, including professional and auxiliary staffing, wage and salary administration, performance appraisal, and employee relations and retention initiatives, such as the teacher incentive allotment and opportunity culture.                                                                  

Dr. Daniel Lopez

“It’s a privilege to have been selected to lead the department that focuses on taking care of our team members,” Lopez said. “I’m excited to join the Waco ISD family in its effort to develop leaders and support multiple pathways for educators to advance their careers in the district. I look forward to building relationships, learning about strengths and opportunities, and cultivating a collaborative culture.”

Lopez has 25 years of experience in education where he started as a paraprofessional and then a bilingual educator. Since 2019, he has served as the executive director of human resources in Denton ISD. Prior to that role he served as Denton ISD’s area superintendent of academic programs, an executive director of student support services in Spring ISD and an assistant director of student services in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD.

“Daniel is a dynamic bilingual educator with over 20 years of experience in the classroom, as a campus leader, and as a human resource professional,” Dr. Kincannon said. “He understands that recruiting and retaining top talent is critical to achieving our mission and ensuring staff can focus on providing our students with an exceptional educational experience that truly meets their needs.”

Lopez received a doctorate in professional leadership from the University of Houston, a master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. He also spent over seven years as an elementary school principal in Spring, Conroe, and Goose Creek ISDs. 

Dr. Josie Hernandez-Gutierrez, who previously served as the assistant superintendent for human resources, was named as the district’s deputy superintendent in July.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco ISD board appoints Iazzetti to fill vacancy in District 5

Iazzetti will replace Sykes who was first elected to the board in 1999.

By Josh Wucher

Following interviews in closed session Tuesday, Aug. 31, the Waco ISD Board of Trustees voted to appoint Emily Iazzetti to represent Trustee District 5, which includes the neighborhoods between Richland Mall and the lake as well as some areas near Baylor University. Iazzetti was appointed to serve until next May when voters will elect a trustee to a new three-year term.

Emily Iazzetti

The mother of two students at Lake Air Montessori, Iazzetti is passionate about Waco ISD. She has led the PTA at her children’s school, helped plan the Waco ISD Education Foundation’s annual fundraising event, supported the Waco ISD Women’s Empowerment Summits held in partnership with the Junior League of Waco, and served on the advisory committee for the district’s gifted and talented program. More recently, she was a member of the community advisory committee that studied the district’s facilities needs and recommended replacing four existing schools with new buildings. A former television news anchor, Iazzetti is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University.

In her letter to the board, Iazzetti wrote: “I am interested in serving on the board, because I believe we are all responsible for the success of our schools. … I have appreciated the work this board has done to increase teacher retention, and I would like to be part of the team laying the groundwork for continued improvement.”

The board received letters from four voters who live in Trustee District 5 and interviewed two of them during tonight’s closed session.

“Being a school board member is a volunteer position,” said Angela Tekell, board president. “It was inspiring to hear from people who want to give their time and their talents in service to our kids at this critical moment for Waco ISD. I am looking forward to the perspective that Iazzetti will bring to the board and know that she will be a voice for the families in our community.”

Iazzetti will be sworn in at the board’s next meeting on Sept. 9.

The vacancy that Iazzetti was appointed to fill was created by the resignation of Allen Sykes last month. He was first elected to the school board in 1999 and was the board’s longest serving member. In his resignation letter, Sykes told trustees that other commitments were “making it increasingly difficult to allocate sufficient effort to fulfill the requirements entrusted to me.”

Iazzetti joins the board just weeks after its members voted unanimously to ask voters to consider a $355 million bond package to replace Waco High, G.W. Carver Middle, Tennyson Middle and Kendrick Elementary with new schools built in the same location as the existing campuses. If approved in November, the bond program is projected to increase the district’s tax rate by 10 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. For the average homeowner in Waco ISD, that is approximately $117.62 per year or $9.80 per month.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

What families & employees are saying about requiring masks in Waco ISD

By Josh Wucher

Last week, Waco ISD Superintendent Susan Kincannon announced that face masks would be required inside all schools and other district buildings starting today (Monday, Aug. 30). The following are some of the responses that the district has received from families and employees:

Tracy N., Dean Highland Elementary School parent:  “As a parent and healthcare worker, I appreciate this very much. Thank you for keeping my family safe, and I’ll do the same for yours.”

Brittany R., Mountainview Elementary School parent:  “It is so comforting knowing I can drop my child off at school knowing she is being protected by those I entrust her to every day. Every child deserves access to a safe and healthy learning environment, and you all have made the courageous decision to provide that here in Waco!”

Erin S., Hillcrest PDS parent:  “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking this step to protect our children, families, and community!”

Megan W., Cedar Ridge Elementary School parent:  “We know navigating the legal, ethical, and political environments has not been easy this past year, but as new Waco ISD parents last year, we felt we could steadfastly rely on information and decisions you and the Waco ISD Board made and implemented.  We greatly appreciate the mask requirement and look forward to another great year!”

Emma P., Waco High School teacher:  “THANK YOU, thank you, thank you for protecting the teachers and students alike by instituting this mask order.  It will go a long way in helping stop the spread of this disease!”

LouAnna A., Waco High School employee:  “Thank you so much for doing this!!! We sure want to be with our students in the safest way possible. Thank you!”

Marilissa Y., Bell’s Hill Elementary teacher:  “I’m sure this decision was not an easy one. Thank you for making it. I know you are doing the right thing. I applaud you for caring about our students. This is the best way we can protect those that can’t be vaccinated yet.”

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco ISD provides plan for safely welcoming back students for in-person learning

Superintendent strongly encourages wearing masks in district buildings and getting vaccinated.

By Susan Kincannon

As we prepare for the start of the 2021-2022 school year and COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state, I know that you have questions about how Waco ISD will work to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading in our schools and other facilities.

There is no doubt that this year will look different from last year – and not just because all of our students will be learning in person this year. In May and again last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued executive orders prohibiting school districts from requiring anyone to wear a mask. Last week, the Texas Education Agency issued new public health rules, which prevent school districts from requiring students in close contact with someone who tested positive to quarantine, leaving the decision of whether or not to quarantine up to each student’s parents/guardians.

In response to the latest guidance provided by the Texas Education Agency, Waco ISD will do the following:

· Encourage the wearing of masks in all district buildings,

· Encourage employees and students to get vaccinated when eligible,

· Conduct contact tracing,

· Notify parents/guardians if their child is considered a close contact for a positive case of COVID-19,

· Notify faculty and staff if they are considered a close contact for a positive case of COVID-19,

· Update the district’s COVID-19 Dashboard at wacoisd.org/dashboard,

· Continue the use of rapid testing for students and staff,

· Provide assignments to students who are unable to attend school after testing positive for COVID-19 or whose parents/guardians opt for them to quarantine after being identified as a close contact, and

· Monitor the attendance and achievement of students adjusting plans as needed.

In May, I announced that all students would return to in-person learning for the upcoming school year. In part, this was a recognition that the state waivers that allowed us to offer remote instruction last year had expired. Moreover, though, my decision was based on the evidence that our students do better when they are physically present in the classroom. There were significant differences between in-person and remote students in grades, attendance, engagement and other measures of student success. Our families saw it too, and by the end of the last school year, many students who had started out the year learning remotely returned to the classroom.

Students who are absent this year because they have tested positive or who choose to quarantine after being identified as close contacts will receive excused absences. Just like before the pandemic, teachers will send home assignments, and students will be expected to keep up with their work while they are out.

Right now, only about 3% of students between the ages of 12 and 17 in McLennan County have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and of course, students younger than 12 are not yet eligible to get vaccinated. There are two things that you can do to protect our students who haven’t been vaccinated, yourself and everyone else around you.

First, if you are eligible to get vaccinated but haven’t done so yet, make a plan to get vaccinated. We’ll be hosting our annual Family Fest from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. this Saturday at University High and Waco High, and free COVID-19 vaccinations (as well as required school immunizations) will be available at both locations. You can pre-register for Saturday’s clinics at covidwaco.com. Click on the red ‘Schedule Your Appointment’ button.

If those times/locations aren’t convenient for you, you can sign up for other vaccination clinics online at covidwaco.com, through local pharmacies, or by contacting your primary care provider. Waco ISD will also continue to host frequent vaccination clinics.

Next, wear a face covering in shared spaces inside our schools and other buildings. While not required, wearing a face mask around other people remains one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect them and yourself. We’ll continue to provide face masks for employees and students. 

Reading this message, you might be disappointed that we’re still dealing with COVID-19 as we get ready to start a new school year. I am disappointed about that too, but I’m also incredibly excited about the new school year. This is an incredible community, and together, we’ll make this an incredible year for our kids. We are Waco ISD.

Susan Kincannon, Ed.D., is superintendent of Waco ISD.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Indian Spring welcomes G.W. Carver students, staff displaced by fire

G.W. Carver principal says that campus will “heal and thrive together.”

By Josh Wucher

After an early morning fire, students and staff from G.W. Carver Middle School are learning that they will move to Indian Spring Middle School until a new G.W. Carver campus is built. In the days ahead, Waco ISD and Transformation Waco will work through the details of the move to make sure that both schools have everything they need for the start of a new school year next month.

The Indian Spring campus has space for more than 900 students but is projected to enroll just over 500 students for the 2021-2022 school year. Meanwhile, G.W. Carver is projected to enroll about 460 students for 2021-2022. Both campuses are operated by Transformation Waco as part of an in-district charter partnership with Waco ISD.

“I want to reassure everyone that while we’re coping with the loss of our historic campus, we’ll press forward,” said Dr. Isaac Carrier, principal at Carver. “Panthers take care of each other, and Panthers take care of our business day in and day out. G.W. Carver Middle School is more than a building. It’s the people, and it’s the legacy that they carry with them each day. We will heal and thrive together. This coming school year will be different than we expected, but it can and will still be a great year.”

Indian Spring Principal Joseph Alexander said: “Our campus has plenty of space for both Bulldogs and Panthers. While we share the sadness that comes with the loss of a historic school building, we want our neighbors to know that they are welcome here. The team at Indian Spring Middle School will work every day to make sure that everyone has a great school year.”

Staff from the two campuses, Transformation Waco, and Waco ISD will continue working through the logistics of the move. Additional information will be shared with families and employees as it becomes available.

In the meantime, Transformation Waco and Waco ISD are working to arrange counseling services for Carver students and employees, as well as community members, who would like to talk with someone about the fire. Counseling services will be available on Wednesday, July 28, and Thursday, July 29, 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Estella Maxey Place Apartments (1809 J J Flewellen Road, Waco).

G.W. Carver families can visit Indian Spring, as well as any Waco ISD campus this week for assistance registering their children for the 2021-2022 school year. Registration help will also be available at Carver Baptist Park on Thursday, July 29 and Friday, July 30 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Online registration is also available at wacoisd.org/register.    

“Please know that our minds and hearts are with our Carver family and the East Waco community, as we process the loss from this morning’s fire,” said Dr. Robin McDurham, Transformation Waco’s chief executive officer. “While we haven’t worked out all of the details yet, we know that G.W. Carver students will have a welcoming place to learn at Indian Spring. They’ll have safe transportation to and from the school, and nutritious and delicious school meals will be waiting for them.”

Anyone interested in helping can donate gift cards to Transformation Waco to assist teachers and staff with replacing classroom supplies and other materials that were lost in the fire. Physical gift cards from Walmart, Target or H-E-B, can be mailed to or dropped off at Transformation Waco’s office (3005 Edna Ave., Waco, TX, 76708). Electronic gift cards can also be emailed to [email protected].

“We are especially grateful for the incredible work of the Waco Fire Department as well as the other first responders who were on the scene this morning,” said Dr. Susan Kincannon, Waco ISD’s superintendent. “During the pandemic, I’ve seen our district come together and support one another in extraordinary ways. I have no doubt that we can overcome any challenges created by this fire and keep doing what it takes to take care of our students and employees.”

The first day of the 2021-2022 school year in Waco ISD is Aug. 23. All students will be learning in-person this year.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Longest serving member of Waco ISD board to step down

Anyone interested in being appointed to fill the vacancy is encouraged to submit a letter of interest.

By Josh Wucher

During the July 22 meeting of the Waco ISD Board of Trustees, Allen Sykes announced that he plans to resign as a school board member as soon as his replacement is sworn into office. Sykes represents Waco ISD Trustee District 5, which includes the neighborhoods between Richland Mall and the lake as well as some areas near Baylor University. He was first elected to the board in 1999 and is the longest serving of the district’s current board members.

Allen Sykes

In a letter to fellow board members, Sykes wrote that the timing of his resignation was “based on other commitments making it increasingly difficult to allocate sufficient effort to fulfill the requirements entrusted to me.” He also noted his gratitude to the voters who elected him to represent them and his hope that making the announcement now will allow others who wish to serve the community to consider this opportunity.

Reflecting on 22 years of service, Sykes noted that the district has changed in meaningful ways since he was first elected. Among the changes that he highlighted was the construction of University High and the improvement of other campuses made possible by voter approval of a $172.5 million bond package in 2008.

Sykes’ announcement comes as the board is considering asking voters for approval of a $376.1 million bond package. Earlier this year, a community advisory committee recommended that the board consider replacing Waco High, G.W. Carver Middle, Tennyson Middle and Kendrick Elementary with new schools built in the same location as the existing campuses. The board will decide whether to call a bond election for November at their next meeting on Aug. 12.

“The bond election being considered at this time will have major impact on the Waco community, and I am in complete support of the broad scope as determined by the tireless work of the Community Advisory Committee,” Sykes wrote. “Under Dr. [Susan] Kincannon’s leadership, the district is well positioned to dramatically improve student performance with facilities aligned to promote achievement through well planned and designed learning environments.”

Board President Angela Tekell announced that the board will discuss filling the vacancy created by Sykes’ resignation at their meeting on Aug. 12. Sykes’ current term ends in May 2022, and the board can appoint a replacement to serve through the end of the term, call a special election to fill the vacancy until that time, or leave the vacancy unfilled until May 2022 when voters will elect someone to a new three-year term representing District 5.

Anyone interested in being appointed to fill the vacancy is encouraged to submit a letter of interest describing their qualifications and why they want to serve on the board to the board president no later than Aug. 23. Letters can be delivered to the Waco ISD Administration Building, 501 Franklin Ave, Waco, TX 76701. They can also be emailed to [email protected].

To be eligible to fill the vacancy, an individual must be registered to vote, be a resident of the state of Texas for at least one year, and be a resident of District 5 for at least six months. A map of the trustee districts can be found online at wacoisd.org/trusteedistricts

“Allen has been a thoughtful voice for our students and employees for more than two decades,” Dr. Susan Kincannon, superintendent, said. “He has a remarkable legacy of service on this board and in our community. While Allen may be stepping down from the board later this year, I have no doubt that he will continue to make a difference in the lives of our students.”

A senior vice president at Extraco Banks, Sykes is a CPA by training. He also serves as the secretary of the McLennan County Appraisal District Board of Directors and a member of the Waco ISD Education Foundation Board of Directors. His wife, Jane, retired from Waco ISD earlier this year after 35 years as a teacher at Tennyson Middle and Parkdale Elementary. They have two adult sons, who are Waco High graduates.

Joshua Wucher is Waco ISD’s executive director for communications.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Waco ISD selects Saxenian as next Waco High principal

She has served as an assistant principal and dean at the campus for 21 years.

By Kyle DeBeer

Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon announced Friday, July 16, that she has selected Lisa Saxenian as the next principal of Waco High School. For more than two decades, Saxenian has helped lead the campus as its dean of academies and an assistant principal.

“A generation of Waco High families know Lisa as someone who has made a difference in their students’ lives,” Kincannon said. “Her commitment to the campus, its students and our community is unmatched, and I am confident that she is the right person to lead Waco High forward.”

Lisa Saxenian

Saxenian joined Waco ISD as a Spanish teacher in 1986 and became the assistant principal of Lake Air Middle in 1996. She moved to Waco High in 2000 to serve as one of the campus’s assistant principals and became the school’s dean of academies in 2016. Saxenian was honored as the Region 12 Secondary Teacher of the Year in 1992 and as the Region 12 Assistant Principal of the Year in 2006.

Saxenian knows the Waco High building inside and out. In addition to serving as an administrator there for 21 years, she is a 1980 graduate of Richfield High, as the campus was known before Waco ISD consolidated high schools in 1986.

“Waco High is home for me in more ways than one,” Saxenian said. “As both a Richfield Ram and a Lion, I’ve seen the pride that our community has in this school. There is a team of educators here that goes to work everyday committed to helping kids excel, and I am honored to have the opportunity to lead them in service to our students.”

Saxenian becomes principal at a momentous time for the campus. Earlier this year, a community advisory committee recommended that Waco ISD replace the existing Waco High building with a new campus at the same location. The school board is currently weighing whether to ask voters to approve issuing bonds to fund the construction of a new Waco High and other facilities. That decision could come as soon as next month.

“Education has changed since Waco High was built in 1961,” Saxenian said. “Regardless of where they live or which high school they are zoned to attend, every student in our district deserves the same educational opportunities, including a modern learning environment.”

Saxenian succeeds James Stewart, who became the principal of Waco High in 2019. Stewart will become the dean of academies at University High.

Kyle DeBeer is chief of staff of Waco ISD.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].