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Crash course in accountability ahead for Wilmer-Hutchins ISD

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press
WILMER-HUTCHINS - The newly-hired superintendent of schools for the troubled Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District was up all night after hearing he had been selected for the job.

'After I received the call, I was so excited about this opportunity, I wasn't able to get much sleep,' said Harvey Rayson, a former Longview administrator and doctoral student at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Rayson, who expects to complete his doctorate in August, said academic excellence can and will be achieved in the struggling district.

'If we continue to do the same things, we will continue to get the same results,' said Rayson. 'Accountability begins with the person at the helm.'

Rayson chose a nautical analogy for his speech at a press conference held March 28, and began by saying the district had already sailed through some rough waters. 'The worst times are behind us,' he said. 'The challenge facing us is to sail toward academic excellence, finishing the year on a positive note and planning for a banner year in 2001/2002.'

Mapping out his plan for improvement, Rayson said the initial focus would be on teachers, providing training and then applying accountability standards.

'Then we will focus on the superstructure,' Rayson continued. 'We will evaluate the administration, and if we need to make adjustments, they will be made. We will all be held to the same benchmark - academic excellence.'

Rayson said his first goal is for WHISD to achieve recognized status in a very short period of time.

Janet Durham, a district parent, wanted to clarify the point. 'So you are stating to us that the academics in our school will be gradually pulled up?' she asked.

'I don't believe I said gradually,' came Rayson's answer. 'That's a promise.'

Durham was not satisfied. 'We have heard promises before,' she said. 'My concern is the children.'

'It's my goal to take you to heights you've never reached before,' said Rayson. 'Before we can become exemplary, we have to become recognized. When I took over in Longview, in 18 months we moved up.'

Rayson also indicated TAAS scores were not the end goal. 'I suggest students that simply prepare for TAAS will not be prepared for Texas A&M, Yale, Harvard. My goal is to see that every student, if he avails himself of that opportunity, will have the same opportunity that my son had in my high school. We have to prepare those kids for jobs that don't exist today.'

'Are you willing to meet with students so we can work on the needs of students instead of the wants of the adults?' asked another parent.

'I'm not afraid of rolling up my sleeves,' said Rayson, indicating he had been active in mentoring of Hispanic students in the Longview district.

'If I have a problem, can I come to you?' asked Durham. 'I don't have to go around the back yard?'

Rayson promised an open-door policy, and backed it up by walking around the room after the close of the meeting gathering names and telephone numbers from parents. He also indicated the district's financial accounts, a topic of continuing controversy, would be open for review and discussion.

The board chose Rayson over the other finalist, Loraine ISD Superintendent David Lewein, by a vote of five to one. Trustee Willie Harwell cast the dissenting vote. Trustee Lunita White, who did not vote because she was late in arriving at the meeting, also said she opposed the hiring of Rayson.

Rayson said he would move forward as enthusiastically as if the vote had been unanimous.

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