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 trustees approve $10,000 retention bonuses for teachers

Custodians and cafeteria workers will receive a $1,000 incentive for hard-to-fill positions.

By Josh Wucher

During Thursday night’s school board meeting, Waco ISD trustees unanimously approved a multi-year plan to pay classroom teachers $10,000 in retention. The district will use $8.1 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant to fund the bonuses over the next three school years.

Dr. Susan Kincannon

“Considering the shortage of certified teachers throughout the State of Texas, it’s essential that we show our appreciation and encourage our best and brightest to stay in Waco ISD,” Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon said. “Getting our teachers in place, providing our students with stability is really important right now and we want our students to succeed.”

The retention bonuses are structured in tiered payments depending on teacher start dates. For teachers beginning this August, a total retention bonus of $10,000 will be divided into three payouts across December 2022, December 2023 and September 2024; for new hires starting August 2022, $5,000 will be divided into two payouts across December 2023 and September 2024; and new hires starting August 2023 will receive a one-time payment of $2,500 in September 2024. 

“Our educators placed themselves on the front lines during this pandemic, and we have the funds to show that not only do we value our teachers, we want them to stay with us,” Board President Angela Tekell said. “These retention bonuses reflect the Board’s and district’s ongoing commitment to staying competitive in recruiting and retaining hardworking educators who are passionate about addressing our students’ academic and social emotional needs.”

The Board also approved an additional $500,500 in ESSER funding for retention bonuses for custodians and cafeteria workers. There will be three total payouts based on the employee’s years of service with the district: 0-4 years – $500; 5-9 years – $750; and 10+ years – $1000. The three payout dates are December of 2022 and 2023 and September of 2024. 

“We average about 12-15 custodial vacancies and 35-40 cafeteria worker vacancies at any given time during the school year,” Kincannon said. “Though these positions are hard to fill, they are incredibly rewarding jobs for people who care about our kids and want to make a difference.”

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].

Being involved in Waco community is rewarding for Angela Tekell

Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Gabby Sherwood

When attorney Angela Tekell was offered jobs in Austin and Houston, Tekell said it didn’t take her long to realize her family had a good life in Waco and that it felt like home. Tekell said being involved in the community and spending her free time riding her bicycle has made her time in Waco fulfilling. 

Angela Tekell

As Waco ISD Board of Trustees president, Tekell works closely with the Waco ISD superintendent to help set the agendas and move the mission and vision of the school district forward.

“I believe my role has a very positive and significant impact,” Tekell said. “In the past, we have suffered from a culture of low expectations. I believe it’s unacceptable and as the president of the board I am in a unique position to push expectations even higher.” 

Along with volunteering her time in the school district, Tekell has been involved in St Alban’s Episcopal Church, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and the Junior League of Waco. Tekell said at one point she was on 10 different boards but has gotten “better at saying no” as she’s gotten older. 

Tekell said one of the most influential volunteer opportunities for her was being president of the Junior League. Its mission is to promote women leadership and community service. 

“The opportunity to be with other professional women really made a positive impact on my life,” Tekell said. “It influenced a lot of the choices I’ve made.” 

Tekell said finding a way to get involved in Waco is important and is not only rewarding but helps build up the community. 

“There’s a lot of opportunities to find something you’re really interested in and there’s no better way to meet people,” Tekell said. “I do know it makes living here much more fulfilling when you get to know the people who shape what kind of community we have.” 

Whenever she isn’t volunteering or working in her community, Tekell said she most enjoys riding her bicycle in Cameron Park on the mountain bike trails almost every weekend. 

“I ride my bike a lot. I have four bikes,” Tekell said. “Lately I’ve been gravel biking up in Clifton. There’s a lot of beautiful country there, a lot of wildlife, no cars. That’s my favorite thing to do.” 

After Tekell studied law at Baylor University, she decided to stay in Waco and has now lived here for 37 years. Waco is a very unique place to live, full of friendly and welcoming people, Tekell said. 

“My experience at the law school was the most influential,” Tekell said. “I think it does a really good job emphasizing the importance of leadership in the community and public service.” 

Tekell said her most memorable experience living in Waco and being on the Waco ISD Board was being invited by former president George W. Bush to mountain bike at his ranch in McLennan County in 2019. 

“The first thing he said after greeting me was ‘I just want to thank you for your service to our community,’” Tekell said. “I was very appreciative that he took the time to extend an invitation and then to express his gratitude. If not for living in Waco and serving in that capacity, I would have never gotten that opportunity.” 

Gabby Sherwood is a freshman journalism major at Baylor University from Austin.

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].