A Texas superintendent navigates opportunities through a multimedia partnership.
GUEST COLUMN | by David Vroonland
Located in Wolfforth, Texas, Frenship Independent School District (ISD) is a suburban school district of Lubbock. With a student population nearing 9,000 this year and a growth rate of 400-450 students annually, Frenship ISD is a vibrant, future-focused community. While we are very diverse, with many different cultures and a low social economic rate of about 36 percent, a common trait aligns our community: our focus on achievement. In everything we do, we are, in the words of our vision statement, “Seeking Perfection to Capture Excellence.”
Many students always believed they would pursue one career field, but after viewing the videos, they began to realize how many different career opportunities existed and were rethinking their choices.
With the passage of Texas House Bill 5 (HB 5) during the most recent legislative session in Texas, a significant opportunity was presented to public schools, which enables us to alter the direction of our children’s education. This bill created a variety of graduation pathways for our students and moved us away from a one-size-fits-all graduation plan that was not meeting the needs of our students. Called “endorsements,” these pathways are in STEM, Business and Industry, Public Service, Arts and Humanities, and Multidisciplinary.
However, a challenge was created by these new graduation plans. We needed to figure out how to prepare students to choose an endorsement area before entering ninth grade. While students can change their endorsements or even take more than one endorsement for graduation, we still wanted to be certain students were making informed decisions that not only met their passions for their future, but also were grounded in real career opportunities.
As superintendent of Frenship ISD, I wanted a plan that would include student access to information about career opportunities within endorsement areas. I wanted the student to be able to see this in a 21st Century way, and I wanted parents to be able to collaborate with their children as they looked at choosing the proper endorsement(s).
While many districts were going to rely upon counselors to tell students and families about the endorsements, our concern was that this process would not provide enough information. While counselors could provide definitions as to what the endorsement areas were and the classes to select, what would likely be missing, due to knowledge and time, is how choosing that endorsement area would fit the passion of the child and what future career opportunities could arise from the endorsements. While we have great faith in our counselors, this would simply be too much to ask of them. We needed something different!
It was good fortune that brought CEV Multimedia to our district. I had shared our concerns with some local citizens, including then Texas State Senator Robert Duncan (now Texas Tech University Chancellor) who had been in contact with the company. Chancellor Duncan arranged a meeting with a team from Frenship ISD and a team representing the company that would prove to be very important to the children of our district.
Meeting with the team, it was quickly apparent that our mission and their mission were the same. They didn’t simply try to sell us a product, but rather they worked with us to design a system of videos aligned within the various endorsements that students could access at school and at home with their parents. These online videos are structured in such a manner that is interesting to the children, informative enough to help them choose an endorsement for high school, and presented students and parents with career opportunities they were not aware existed.
In our first year of implementation, we found the videos to be extremely helpful to our students and families. Many students indicated that they always believed they would pursue one career field, but after viewing the videos, they began to realize how many different career opportunities existed and were rethinking their choices. This was exactly the outcome we hoped for.
As we consider the future use of these videos, we are going to begin to present them in grades six and seven, so that the students will have more opportunity to examine career opportunities in relationship to the endorsement areas for graduation. By doing this, we believe that our students will be better informed as they choose their endorsement pathways.
Because of the ever-changing future landscape our children will encounter, it is my sincere belief that a continued evolution of the videos and our relationship with their company will be of great importance to the children and families of Frenship ISD.
David Vroonland, Ph.D., is the superintendent at Frenship ISD, a position he’s held since 2009. He previously served as the Allen ISD assistant superintendent for three years, a position in which he oversaw future growth, accountability, administrator and counselor development, operations, grievances, and security. He also served as Allen High School house principal and opened Erickson Middle School as its inaugural principal.