Rockwall ISD board members take Oath of Office, graduation ceremonies to be mask optional

Rockwall ISD board members take Oath of Office, graduation ceremonies to be mask optional

ROCKWALL, TX (May 18, 2021) The following is a Rockwall ISD press release summarizing last night’s RISD Board of Trustees meeting.

NOTE: Board meeting summaries highlight different agenda items due to limited audience opportunities at Board meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Board meeting videos are available for viewing within 24-hours of the meeting at

Sherry Packer, Frank Conselman and Linda Mitchell Duran Take Oath of Office

Newly elected Board of Trustees took the oath of office at Monday’s monthly meeting. Sherry Packer was voted to the Place 1 position in the May 1 Election, filling the seat left by Chris Cuny, who retired from the Board after 12 years of service.

Frank Conselman was voted to the Place 2 position in the May 1 Election, filling the seat left by the retiring Russ Childers after 12 years of service.

Linda Mitchell Duran was re-elected to serve as Trustee for Place 3.

Return of In-Person Recognition of Student Accomplishments

Outstanding students and student groups were recognized for the following accomplishments by the Board of Trustees:

  • Rockwall-Heath Boys Soccer State Finalist
  • Rockwall High School Boys Gymnastics State Champions
  • Rockwall High School Track State Winners
  • Rockwall High School Sting Choir National Winner
  • Rockwall-Heath and Rockwall High School Cheer National Winners

Dr. Amy Ellis, Chief of Curriculum & Instruction, recognized the academic accomplishments of Rockwall High School, Rockwall-Heath High School, and the Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy for the 2020-2021 school year.

Highlights included the following:

  • A total of 1,038 students participated in the October Preliminary SAT
  • A total of 442 students participated in the Princeton Review Fall PSAT Preparation Sessions offered by the District
  • A total of 1,087 high school junior students participated in the March SAT
  • A total of 253 students participated in the Princeton Review Spring PSAT Preparation Sessions offered by the District
  • US News’ Best High Schools listing ranks Rockwall High School 179 of 1,997 schools in Texas, 52ndin the DFW area, and      1,789 of 24,000 high schools nationally.
  • US News’ Best High Schools listing ranks Rockwall-Heath High School 225 of 1,997 schools in Texas, 73rdin the DFW area, and 2,483 of 24,000 high schools nationally.
  • Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy offers 24 total professional certifications to students. To date, 265 students have earned certifications. We expect that number to increase as many students are still testing through the last day of school.

Graduation 2021

As part of his monthly Superintendent’s Update, Dr. Villarreal announced the District received notification that Globe Life Field is now a mask-recommended venue. As a result of this development and in accordance with the Board of Trustee’s June 1 resolution, the Rockwall-Heath High School and Rockwall High School graduation ceremonies on June 3 will be mask optional for graduates, guests, and staff. Parents of seniors will be sent a communication regarding this change later this week.


2021-2022 School Year Planning Update

Dr. Villarreal thanked the Board of Trustees, teachers and staff, students, and parents for their support and understanding during this challenging year. Moving forward, he provided an update regarding the plan to return to normalcy for the 2021-2022 school year.

The District is pleased that COVID cases are on the decline and the hope is for that trend to continue. Health concerns in public schools are dependent on the health-related circumstances in the community and school districts around the state will be sensitive to guidance from the Texas Education Agency.

Of note, as this school year comes to a close with eight days remaining, student enrollment is currently 17,144 compared to 17,160 this time last year, a difference of 16 students.

In preparation for the new school year, Dr. Villarreal presented a brief update regarding the plan to return to normal school operations in August 2021:

1. Day-to-Day District and School Operations

a. June 1 marks the beginning of optional mask wearing for students and staff,
b. Student desk and cafeteria plexiglass shields will be optional in the 2021-2022 school year,
c. Students will return to eating in designated cafeterias,
d. Rockwall ISD intends to apply for the USDA program that provides free student lunch meals for the 2021-2022 school year and meals will continue to be free for students this summer through the Summer Feeding Program,
e. Maintain enhanced cleaning measures such as daily disinfection as part of a healthy school environment,
f. Visitors and volunteers may visit campuses per campus procedures,
g. District facility rentals and availability for non-district individuals and/or organizations will resume normal scheduling procedures.

2. Safety and Security

a. The District recently completed a security camera upgrade at 12 campuses bringing all campuses to a digital platform.
b. As a reminder, the Student Handbook and Student Code of Conduct will be updated for the new school year as customarily done in the summer and required mask-wearing will be removed to reflect optional mask-wearing per June 1 elimination of required masks.

3. Counseling

a. One additional counselor at Rockwall High School, one additional counselor at Rockwall-Heath High School, bringing the total number of counselors to seven for each of the two high school campuses. Due to the number of students, Cain Middle School will also have an additional counselor added to their staff.
b. Student orientation sessions will be provided for all students returning to campus. Orientation sessions will focus on 2021-2022 campus procedures and, more importantly, helping our students understand positive opportunities for academic support and/or academic assistance anytime they are struggling in academics and/or concerns requiring counselor support. Welcoming our incoming freshmen will be a priority.
c. The Student Services Department will work with campus leadership and campus counselors to develop training for teachers to assist in supporting students.
d. To help our parents support their children, the Student Services Team will re-launch our monthly in-person lunch and learn sessions. These hour-long sessions will provide resources for parents to support their children at home.

4. Garcia Elementary School Opening

a. Garcia Gators mascot and logo,
b. Construction is on time and trending on budget,
c. Projected to serve 486 students beginning the first day of school, and
d. Hiring of staff is currently underway, led by Principal Steven Pesek.

5. ESSER 3 Federal Stimulus Planning

a. The State of Texas recently released $11.2 billion in federal stimulus funds designated to help public schools address student learning loss and costs incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rockwall ISD is projected to receive approximately $7.4 million in funds.
b. Planning for the appropriate and most impactful use of these funds is ongoing. The following are possible uses:

i. Hiring of additional high school counselors and a Cain Middle School as mentioned previously
ii. Enhanced instructional support throughout the school year for opportunities such as small group instruction
iii. Reimbursement of additional costs associated with the pandemic

Sharon Shannon Elementary School Principal and Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Named                                                             

The Board of Trustees approved the appointment of the Sharon Shannon Elementary School principal and the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the 2020-2021 school year.

Kelsey Bowles named new principal of Sharon Shannon Elementary School

Mrs. Kelsey Bowles comes to Rockwall ISD and Sharon Shannon Elementary School with thirteen years of experience in public education, including three years as the Principal of Floyd Elementary School in Mesquite ISD. In addition to her campus principal experience, she has also served as an Assistant Principal at Henrie Elementary, Assistant Principal at Berry Middle School, and Administrative Intern at Terry Middle School. Mrs. Bowles also has five years of experience as a Science Teacher, Department Chair, and Curriculum Writer. She earned a Master of Education in Educational Administration from Texas A & M Commerce and a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Arlington. Mrs. Bowles is currently attending Texas A & M Commerce where she has completed all course requirements for her Doctorate in Educational Administration and is anticipated to complete her dissertation by Spring of 2022.

Mrs. Bowles’ professional experiences and accomplishments include:

  • Elementary and secondary campus leadership experience;
  • Successful implementation of Campus-Wide Professional Learning Communities (PLCs);
  • Completion of the House Bill 3 Texas Reading Academy and campus facilitation of the Science of Teaching Reading methods and strategies;
  • Member of TEPSA (Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association);
  • Principal Participant in Deloitte Courageous Principals Training; and
  • Extensive experience in Effective Schools Framework leadership. 

Dr. Megan Gist named Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Dr. Megan Gist joins the District administrative team with 23 years of experience in public education, including nine years as a principal in Rockwall ISD. Most recently, she opened Linda Lyon Elementary School, as principal, in the fall of 2017.  She has also served as principal of Cain Middle School and Doris Cullins-Lake Pointe Elementary School.  Dr. Gist has served as an assistant principal in Wylie ISD for five years and a classroom teacher for nine years in Rockwall ISD, Paris ISD, and in Louisiana.  She earned a Doctorate of Educational Administration from Texas A&M-Commerce, a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from Texas A&M-Commerce, and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Northwestern State University.

Dr. Gist’s professional experiences and accomplishments include:

  • 2021 CLASS Alumni Award, Texas A&M University-Commerce for her research and contributions to the education field;
  • Extensive experience leading the PLC process, building strong teams, and leading campuses in earning multiple distinctions;
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education Summer Institute;
  • Member of Texas Principal Institute;
  • Member and Facilitator of the Texas Principal Institute Design Team;
  • Raise Your Hand Texas Principal Symposium Participant;
  • Publication: “Helping New Teachers Keep Their Joy: Beginning Teacher Perceptions of Campus and District Onboarding,” Journal of Texas Women School Executives, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2021;
  • Member of Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA); and
  • Presenter at numerous local, state, and national conferences.

Submitted press release by Rockwall ISD, edited for publication in Blue Ribbon News. 

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