Tag Archives: Farmersville ISD

A sign of the times … eek!

If ever there was a sign that exemplified the era in which we live, it well might be this one, a picture of which I snapped at Lovelady High School in Princeton, Texas.

I am 73 years of age and the message on this sign — about armed security personnel using “whatever force necessary” to protect teachers, students and staff at Princeton Independent School District — is one I never envisioned seeing when I was coming of age.

Or, for that matter, when my sons were coming of age in Beaumont, Texas.

The spasm of gun violence in schools has prompted Princeton ISD to hire armed guards at all its campuses. The security personnel all are firearms-trained; some are retired police officers. Farmersville ISD, just seven miles east of Princeton, has a full-time police force with Texas-certified police officers on duty on its campuses.

This is what we have come to in this country. We must warn visitors to our schools that armed guards are on duty and will do whatever it takes to protect human life against loons with guns.

Amazing … simply amazing.

You want a sign of these troubled times? There it is, folks.

Farmersville ISD: ahead of curve

I am chuckling just a little as I watch the news reports of North Texas school districts considering and then approving new school calendars resulting in four-day school weeks.

Why, they just can’t believe how cool it is to give teachers an extra day off from the rigors of the classroom; it enables the districts to attract quality educators who are enamored of the four-day school week idea. Hey, not to mention the children loving the extra day off each week from school.

Well, I’ve been covering a local school district that implemented a four-day school week during the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmersville Independent School District liked it so much the school board recently approved a policy that stays with the new calendar. I see no signs of the school district turning back.

Just recently I spoke with an FISD administrator about all the hoopla surrounding other districts’ decision to follow Farmersville’s lead. She joked that it’s nice to be ahead of the curve. Indeed, the four-day week has worked well for Farmersville, as it has been able to do the very things that other districts aim to do for themselves.

I am equally impressed that a school district with which I have become familiar can hold itself up as a model for progressive education.


Arming teachers? No thanks!

Let’s discuss for a brief moment the issue of gun violence in schools … shall we?

The Keller Independent School District over yonder in Tarrant County has just voted 4-3 to train teachers on how to use firearms and then allow them to pack the pistols into their classrooms.

Oh, my. How can I say this properly? Well … that’s a bad idea. Period.

I get that there remains considerable public support for arming teachers, allowing them to take “whatever measures are necessary” to stop a lunatic from killing people inside the school walls. I remain terribly concerned, though, about the level of training that Keller ISD is going to provide for its teachers and whether there’s a fool-proof way to ensure that teachers don’t shoot someone other than the lunatic by mistake.

Where I live, in Princeton, the independent school district has employed armed marshals. They are former law enforcement officers with considerable training and expertise on how to handle potential emergencies. The marshals will join the existing staff of “resource officers” employed by the Princeton Police Department in keeping our district’s schools safe. Every campus will be covered by heavily trained personnel who know what to do when trouble erupts.

Just down the highway, about seven miles east of Princeton, the Farmersville ISD has a staff of sworn police officers led by a Texas law enforcement-certified chief of police. All the officers in the Farmersville school system, by the way, are certified by the state law enforcement authority. They, too, are well-equipped and trained to respond correctly in case of emergency. Every Farmersville ISD campus has such an officer on duty.

Quite obviously, no one wants a teacher to pull a gun out of his or her desk drawer and start firing at a wacko. I just have this nagging fear that a young college grad entering a classroom as a teacher would be petrified at having to respond to a violent outbreak.


These kids have come a long way

I got treated to a demonstration this morning that, to be brutally blunt, simply blew my mind.

Our Farmersville Rotary Club met today at the Farmersville Independent School District’s Engineering Lab, which is a repurposed grocery store site that Farmersville ISD outfitted to become a state-of-the-art technical learning center for students.

Suffice to say that these young people are doing things and conducting experiments that are eons removed from the days when I was attending shop class and learning how to operate a lathe.

FISD’s Engineering Lab features high-tech robotics and electronics that go so far over my noggin I cannot even begin to explain it. One demonstration, provided by a Farmersville High School student, featured machines that picked up discs and tossed them into mini-basketball hoops; you got more points if the discs landed inside the hoops, rather than just on the tray under the basket.

I could not believe my eyes.

The center — which opened this school year — is run by a young teacher, Marcus Edwards, who the FISD Superintendent Micheal French said was “anointed” to lead this effort for the school system. The students compete in international competitions, known as “The Worlds.” First-year FHS principal David Warren said the competition, held this year in Dallas, actually included students from overseas. The Farmersville students more than held their own while competing against students Europe and Asia.

I want to share this bit of good news with you here as my way of saying that our young folks are doing just fine as they learn the technical –and technological — skills they will need to succeed in life.


School security: No. 1

We live in an era that is bordering on insanity, given that public school systems are having to clear the decks to ensure that the children and educators in their charge are safe from gun-packing madmen.

I am privileged to cover a public school system in North Texas that, to my way of thinking, is approaching this matter rationally and with all due diligence.

Farmersville Independent School District employs a full-time police force to keep its four campuses safe. They have a chief of police, Steve Wade, who is a seasoned, state-certified police officer. The men and women under his command are certified as well.

The school district recently went hunting for what they called “hall monitors” who would help lend extra sets of eyes and ears on student activity at the high school, the intermediate school, the junior high and the elementary school. The police department fell short of the applicants it needed to hire the monitors.

So, what did the district’s top cop do? He hired two more certified officers to join his force, which now will comprise five officers plus the chief. The officers are good ones, too. One of them is moving from the Farmersville Police Department to the school district force. She was named officer of the year for Farmersville PD in 2021. The other officer is retired from Garland PD, where he served — and this really is an attention-getter — as commander of the department’s Special Weapons and Tactics unit. Yep, Farmersville ISD’s department has a SWAT commander in its midst.

The school district has made a commitment to protect its students, faculty and staff with sworn law enforcement professionals and have decided that it will not arm its teachers. Superintendent Micheal French made that point abundantly clear to me, that Farmersville will not put guns in the hands of teachers.

In case of trouble the district is going to entrust the professionals it has on its payroll to protect and defend the precious children and the educators who teach them.

This is the world in which we are living. I applaud the school district for keeping its wits about it as it seeks rational solutions to quell this epidemic of violence.


Time of My Life, Part 57: Back to the future?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Election Day always was a big event for those of us who covered politics, policy and sought to keep government accountable for their actions on behalf of the public.

At newspapers where I worked in Oregon and in the Golden Triangle and the Texas Panhandle, they would roll out pizzas for reporters and editors working diligently to collect election returns and prepare them for delivery to our readers.

Well, I get to rejoin the fun again this weekend … albeit in quite a different capacity.

I am no longer employed by newspapers. I work as a freelancer for a weekly newspaper in Collin County, Texas. The folks for whom I work asked me to cover three contests in Farmersville, which is where I work mostly; it’s about seven miles east of where I live in Princeton.

The Farmersville City Council has one contested race on the ballot; the Farmersville Independent School District features three contested races this year. Most of the interest in the community, though, likely rests with the Farmersville ISD’s decision to ask residents to pay for a $65 million bond issue to upgrade all of the campuses in the district. The election will occur on Saturday.

The bond issue would do a number of things for FISD. It would double the high school capacity from 600 to 1,200 students; it would add classrooms to the junior high and intermediate school and would provide upgrades to Tatum Elementary School. FISD officials have noted that they do not think they got greedy with their request, but merely are seeking to keep pace with the enormous growth that’s occurring in the district.

Yeah, it’s a big deal. I’ll let you in on a secret: I want the bond issue to pass, although I pledge to cover the story straight down the middle when I report it for the Farmersville Times. My blog entitles me to speak my mind. So I just did.

This is fun stuff, man. I do enjoy covering local elections at any level. I have gotten to know the community where I work on a part-time basis. I have become acquainted with business owners, residents and elected officials at City Hall and at the school district. I have sought to build their trust in me to be fair and accurate.

I won’t be eating any pizza on Election Night. That’s all right. Just getting back into the election-coverage game is good enough for me.

Farmersville ISD going it alone in superintendent search

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This blog post was published originally on the KETR-FM website, KETR.org.

Farmersville Independent School District trustees have decided to take a leap of faith.

They are placing their faith in their own ability to find, screen and select a superintendent of schools for the district.

I wish them all the luck in the world as they march down this trail.

Superintendent Jeff Adams announced in October his intention to retire from a job that pays him more than $200,000 annually. He runs a district with 1,500 students attending classes on four campuses. He will leave office as soon as the district finds a new superintendent, which he hopes will be before the end of the academic year.

As he told trustees the other evening during a board meeting, “You don’t to be stuck with me for another year.” He plans to stick around long enough to help his replacement settle into his or her new job

The norm for school boards is to hire a “head-hunter” firm to do the search. Farmersville ISD chose to go it alone, to solicit applications, get rid of the also rans initially, winnow the field down to a more manageable number. They intend to conduct two rounds of interviews, perform home visits with the semi-finalists and then announce a lone finalist for the top administrative job no later than March 5.

It’s a tall order. All the trustees have day jobs or are retired from their careers.

Board President Tony Gray told me that one of the trustees’ concerns about hiring a consultant was that many times the consulting firm “already has someone in mind” when they start the search. Perhaps I should have reminded him that communities often have the very same perception when local boards conduct such searches themselves. I didn’t go there.

Gray said the board hired an outside firm when it hired Adams in 2000.

I want to offer a veiled endorsement of the process that the Farmersville ISD board is taking in its search for a superintendent.

Gray insists that Jeff Adams will play no active role in selecting the next superintendent. He will be available to offer advice and counsel to the board. Indeed, Adams even offered the other evening to “dig up dirt” on potential candidates just to ensure the school district isn’t hit with any unpleasant surprises.

I don’t know enough about the district to make a judgment on the wisdom on the trustees’ decision to conduct this search themselves. They’ll save some money. They need to move quickly. They know the district, its students, its faculty and staff and the political lay of the land.

Furthermore, as Tony Gray said to me, voters elected them to be “leaders.”

They now are going to seek to lead the school district into a new era that will be defined in part by the individual they choose as the next superintendent of schools.

May they choose wisely.

Farmersville ISD enlists its own police force

Blogger’s Note: This blog item was published initially on KETR-FM’s website.

As a new resident of Northeast Texas, I am still climbing a fairly steep learning curve concerning local government agencies.

Such as the Farmersville Independent School District, which sits about 8 miles east of where we live in Princeton. I learned something about Farmersville ISD that I want to share here.

The tiny school district has a full-time police department on duty. Yes, the Farmersville Police Department suits up each day to protect the students, faculty and support staff on all four of the FISD campuses, as well as at its other offices.

Farmersville ISD enrolls slightly more than 1,500 students. They attend all 13 grades, including kindergarten. I was struck by the presence of a police officer in full regalia at a recent school board meeting; then I noticed the patch on his left arm – Farmersville ISD Police Department.

During a brief break while school trustees met in executive session, I introduced myself to the young man in uniform. He is Brian Alford, the chief of police for Farmersville ISD’s police department.

We chatted about school lockdown policy. I asked him about his police background. Alford told me he served previously with the Farmersville Police Department, with the Collin County Sheriff’s Office and was a military police officer for five years in the U.S. Army. The man brings a solid law enforcement record to his post as FISD police chief.

I still am struck by the existence of a full-time police department, paid for with FISD money. Chief Alford said he has four officers working full time for the department. He also wonders why other school districts, such as Princeton ISD, doesn’t employ a full-time police department. Princeton ISD, Alford told me, uses municipal police officers to provide campus security.

Is there a rash of crime on Farmersville ISD’s campuses? I don’t believe that’s the case. Heck, perhaps it’s the existence of a full-time police department that deters troublesome students from acting out in a potentially violent manner.

I mentioned to the chief that I came to North Texas from Amarillo, which also does not have a full-time police force on its school district payroll. Amarillo educates about 33,000 students each year. It, too, uses municipal police officers and Potter County sheriff’s deputies to maintain safety and order on its campuses.

So … I am learning new aspects of our new community all the time. I believe the Farmersville ISD police chief is a conscientious fellow. He is dedicated to protecting and serving his constituents. I will accept the notion that perhaps the presence of the police force deters possible problems on campus. Is it the right formula for every independent school district? That’s up to each of them to decide for themselves.

I thought I had heard it all … then came this

I lost count long ago the number of public government hearings I have covered as a reporter. Over the span of many years in the trenches, I thought I had heard everything there was to say in a public meeting of elected officials and senior public administrators.

Then came what I heard Monday night in little ol’ Farmersville, Texas.

I was attending a school board meeting of the Farmersville Independent School District on behalf of the Farmersville Times, one of the weekly newspapers I work for on a freelance basis. The board convened the meeting, then went into private session to discuss matters exempted from public view by the Texas Open Meetings Act.

The audience left the meeting room. We waited outside. Then the door opened and the board reconvened the open meeting. I returned to my seat, with notebook and pen in hand.

The board and the superintendent began discussing the search for a new superintendent who will succeed the gentleman, Jeff Adams, who will retire at the end of the current year.

Adams went through much of what was discussed in private session. He talked about timetables and assorted aspects of the search for candidates. Then he said, the following: He offered to “dig up dirt” on the applicants if there was any dirt to be found.

I don’t recall flinching or reacting in any visible manner. I didn’t see any such reaction from the school trustees.

However, I have slept on it overnight. I am now a bit startled by what the superintendent offered to do on behalf of the board.

I don’t recall ever hearing a senior government administrator, let alone an elected official, ever make such an offer.

I haven’t discussed this directly with Adams. Nor with any of the trustees. I am left to wonder about the motivation for agreeing to do such a thing, or to saying it in public. The trustees and the superintendent surely knew why I was there and that my note-taking didn’t cease when I heard the superintendent make the “dirt digging” offer.

I won’t pass judgment on the wisdom of the offer. I merely want to assert that I thought I had heard everything … until Monday night.

Kinda strange.