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].

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 names Gutierrez deputy superintendent

She brings more than two decades of experience in educational leadership to the role.

By Josh Wucher

Waco ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon has selected Dr. Josie Gutierrez as deputy superintendent starting in August. Gutierrez is now Waco ISD’s assistant superintendent for human resources. Prior to that, she was a consultant on educational leadership and held senior leadership positions in some of the largest school districts in Texas.

Josie Gutierrez

“We were fortunate to recruit someone with Josie’s experience to lead our human resources department,” Kincannon said. “In that role, she has worked closely with principals for the past two years supporting them as they recruit, develop and retain great teams to serve our kids. In her new role, Josie will work even more closely with our campus leaders to give them the support they need to make a difference for our students.”

As deputy superintendent, Gutierrez will provide leadership and direction for all Waco ISD schools, working closely with principals to ensure that their priorities are aligned with the district’s strategic plan. In addition to serving as the district’s senior administrator in the superintendent’s absence, she will oversee major projects that involve multiple departments.

Gutierrez is also one of three Waco ISD leaders who have been tapped to participate in the inaugural cohort of The Holdsworth Center’s school leadership pipeline program. The center’s materials describe the 18-month program 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.”

Gutierrez previously served as the chief of schools officer in Spring ISD, an assistant superintendent for school leadership in Dallas ISD, and as district steward and director of school leadership in Fort Worth ISD. Her consulting work has taken her across the country in support of the University of Virginia Partnership for Leadership in Education Program and the Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership among other projects.

“I’ve worked in school districts across the state and around the country, but this community’s willingness to invest in making sure that every student has access to a great education stands out,” Gutierrez said. “That commitment became evident to me this past spring during the long-range facilities planning process. More than 60 parents, educators and community members spent five months studying our facilities needs. Their recommendations focused on addressing the all too dramatic differences in the condition of our school buildings in order to provide more equitable and modern facilities for our students – especially our middle school and high school students.”

Gutierrez has a doctorate and a master’s degree in education administration from the University of North Texas. Her undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University is in education. She holds current principal and superintendent certifications.

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The community advisory committee recommended that the district replace Waco High, G.W. Carver Middle, Tennyson Middle and Kendrick Elementary with new schools built in the same locations as those existing campuses. The committee also recommended renovating South Waco Elementary. Waco ISD’s school board is currently reviewing the committee’s recommendations and could decide as early as next month whether to seek voter approval to issue bonds to fund the projects.

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].

Waco ISD names new principal for South Waco Elementary

By Josh Wucher

South Waco Elementary School is welcoming Lauren Frasure as its newest principal. Frasure is currently an assistant principal at Cesar Chavez Middle School, where she has worked for nine years. 

Lauren Frasure

“I’m looking forward to continuing the rich history established at South Waco,” Frasure said. “I am eager to help our staff be the best versions of themselves in order to help our Spartans grow academically, socially, and emotionally in the coming school years.”

Frasure has served in a number of roles at Cesar Chavez including teacher, instructional specialist, dean, and assistant principal. She taught sixth-grade math in Killeen ISD before joining Waco ISD.

“While at Cesar Chavez, Lauren has spent almost a decade building relationships with students who attended South Waco Elementary,” Dr. Susan Kincannon, Waco ISD superintendent said. “These strong connections, along with the knowledge and skills that she has developed to analyze student achievement data and coach for effective instruction, will serve Lauren well as she leads the South Waco Elementary campus.”

Frasure received a bachelor of science in education with a specialization in middle school mathematics from Baylor University and a master’s degree in education from Lamar University. Recently, she was part of the inaugural group of Waco ISD’s Academy for Aspiring School Leaders, a professional development program launched in February to recruit, train, support and retain high-quality leaders.

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].