Coppell—When Coppell ISD superintendent Brad Hunt and Dallas College North Lake president Christa Slejko discussed education issues at the Coppell Arts Center auditorium on May 6, the longtime educators quickly agreed it has been a trying but triumphant year.
The annual State of Education gathering hosted by the Coppell Chamber of Commerce highlighted the educational opportunities offered in Coppell from pre-school to community college, provided a review of the year and a preview of next fall.
Formatted as a dual interview session, Hunt and Slejko sat facing one another on the auditorium stage. Slejko opened with questions about CISD’s year. The second half of the program had Hunt asking Slejko about the newly renamed Dallas College North Lake.
“There were so many things people said we wouldn’t be able do and couldn’t do, and we have done them and we are doing them. That’s a real testament not only to our phenomenal kids but to our educators,” Hunt said. “We heard feedback on what worked and what didn’t work last year when we first dealt with virtual learning and the pandemic. We took that feedback and made this year better. Next year will be even better.”
Hunt said CISD is ending the school year with a roughly 50-50 split between virtual and in-person instruction, although some campuses are around 80 percent in-person. He acknowledged the teacher technological learning curve and workload has been taxing, and he is hoping that having 100 percent in-person attendance next year will alleviate that.
Even with its challenges, CISD was able to give its students “about as normal a year as we could,” said Hunt, whose comments were accompanied by a video that showed students doing theater, dance, percussion and band performances.
“We know a well-rounded education is key to building a 21st century workforce,” Gerry Miller, CISD coordinator of fine arts, said in the video. “Students who participate in the arts are more prepared to succeed in careers and contribute to the economy. Access to arts education improves their overall academic performance leading to 11 and a half percent increase in college enrollment immediately following graduation.”
The big news at North Lake is the unprecedented move of consolidating the seven separate DCCCD colleges into one. Slejko said the new “One College” plan better serves students, because it gives them access to more classes in more locations. Dropped is the requirement for a student to earn at least 25 percent of their credits from one institution.
“The most important thing was getting rid of all those Cs,” Slejko joked. “Now it is a little bit easier to say. It’s better for students, and much better for our business partners. We want to be seamless and have easy transitions for students. If we have students who want to go to multiple campuses, it was really difficult to jump from Brookhaven to North Lake or El Centro. That won’t be an issue now.”
Slejko also announced the offering of a new Bachelor’s Degree program in Early Childhood Education and the hiring of over 200 success coaches to help students as they progress toward their degrees.
“The plan is for these coaches to follow students through their entire journey,” Slejko said. “Any aspect of getting into school, succeeding in school, getting resources, academic, nonacademic, and provide little nudges. Especially as they get into college. It’s time to register. Finals are coming up. That will be a part of the success coach model as well. We feel it will be a huge advantage for our kids.”
Both Slejko and Hunt talked about expanded efforts in social and emotional learning as more students grapple with mental health issues.
“We have to make sure our kids are plugged in with us, and we are plugged in with them,” said Hunt, who added CISD will have additional crisis counselors to work closely with students and families.
North Lake expanded its tele-counseling system manned by professional counselors.
“This isn’t just about academics. This is life stuff,” Slejko said. “It is critical that we get the counselors connected, so people can talk to them.”
During the State of Education, college scholarships were presented to recipients Isabella Zeff, Jasmine Tbaba and Maggie Castronova of Coppell High School, and Jasmine Brown of New Tech High School.