Changing Education

Herald file photo - Renee Cook, a curriculum instruction specialist at Richard Cavazos Elementary School in Nolanville, helps Felisity Natel, a fourth-grader, find her seat on the first day of school Aug. 24 in the lunch room.

By Rebecca LaFlure

Killeen Daily Herald

Education resources greatly expanded in Central Texas this year, from the creation of a new university to breaking ground on a $23 million college nursing facility.

The Killeen Independent School District gained new leadership, opened new schools while closing one, and received an unexpected surge in students.

Coming into the new year, officials predict KISD's student body will continue to grow and are taking steps to improve its academically unacceptable rating at Harker Heights High School.

Texas A&M University-Central Texas

After two decades of careful planning and significant setbacks, Texas A&M University-Central Texas became a reality this year. It's been dubbed the second-largest economic development to occur in the region only behind the establishment of Fort Hood.

Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill into law in May that will fund construction of a Texas A&M campus in Killeen. It was the final step in the transition of Tarleton State University-Central Texas into Texas A&M-Central Texas. Officials expect to break ground on a new campus, located at the intersection of state highways 195 and 201, in fall 2010.

A 13-member committee has begun searching for a new campus leader after Interim President Garry Ross resigned unexpectedly in November.

According to a 2006 economic impact study by the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, enrollment of 2,500 full-time students would bring an additional $37 million to the area and would create an estimated 677 jobs. With an enrollment of 6,500 full-time students, the economic impact would increase to $106 million annually, and about 2,000 jobs would be created.

KISD gets unexpected enrollment boost

Despite an anticipated enrollment decline, KISD received 2,000 more students than expected this school year.

In September, KISD officials announced its student enrollment hit 39,609 students, an 848-student increase compared with last year. The student body boost surprised district officials, who had predicted an enrollment decline of 1,240 students.

The district reassigned 35 teachers to different schools and hired 33 more teachers. In May, the KISD board approved a reduction of 142 teaching positions because of a projected enrollment decline. KISD officials expect the growth to continue next school year.

HHHS rated academically unacceptable

KISD's campus accountability ratings improved overall this year, according to data released by the state. But it wasn't all good news.

Harker Heights High School's rating dropped to academically unacceptable this year for the first time in its history. Superintendent Robert Muller said HHHS received the low rating because of a significant decrease in its high school completion rate for economically disadvantaged students. KISD officials appealed the TEA rating but TEA denied the appeal. Muller said that under just the academic performance measures, the school would be a recognized campus.

New district leaders

Board members named Robert Muller superintendent of KISD in March, after a five-month stint as interim superintendent. He signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $215,000.

Muller is responsible for more than 39,000 students, 5,500 employees and a $350 million annual budget.

The board selected Bobby Ott to be deputy superintendent in May. Ott previously served for three years as deputy superintendent of nearby Copperas Cove ISD. CCISD is still searching for Ott's replacement.

Lampasas ISD also shifted leaders this year. Brant Myers resigned as superintendent of LISD in February, citing he wanted to move his children closer to their grandparents in West Texas, and accepted a job offer as superintendent of Jim Ned Consolidated Independent School District in Tuscola. In May Randy Hoyer took the reins as superintendent of LISD.

Three new schools open, one closes

Three local schools opened their doors for the first time this fall. Charles Patterson Middle School and Richard E. Cavazos Elementary School opened in KISD.

Charles Patterson replaced Fairway Middle School, which closed in May after more than five decades of service.

Taylor Creek Elementary School opened in Lampasas ISD, adding a third elementary school for the rural district.

CTC breaks ground on new nursing building

Central Texas College officials broke ground on a new, 85,000-square-foot nursing facility in July, designed to alleviate the state's growing shortage of nurses.

The two-story structure – scheduled to open for classes in spring 2011 – would double the square footage the CTC nursing program has now. The cost is an estimated $23 million. The space will be shared with Texas A&M University-Central Texas and Metroplex Hospital.

Contact Rebecca LaFlure at or (254) 501-7548.

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