Exciting changes coming to Jal Schools

By John Earp

At the meeting of the Jal School Board May 20th, Mr. Buddy Little, who will be the incoming high school principal for the 2024-2025 school year, gave a presentation about next year’s schedule. He said, “Basically, we wanted to give all of our students lots of opportunities.” He mentioned remediation plans, including especially remediation especially for math and reading, with the aim being to get students back to grade-level reading and math skills. Students statewide are still behind in these crucial skills since the COVID lockdowns. “Read 180” and “Math 180” are the remedial course names, with every student being in Math 180. Little also mentioned that the high school will have a big emphasis on career technical education.

Junior high athletics will be moved to first period, with 7th and 8th graders who participate in sports practicing in the mornings. “Let’s say a football player is in football season. He and the varsity coach and assistant varsity coaches will be down there. Typically, if they are in playing sports, they will start practice at 7:30 a.m.” He mentioned that during basketball season, “We were having to come into practice at 6:00 because we were having to share the gym with junior high cheerleading and everything else. Kids weren’t getting home until 8:30, but then we also want to be academic. So, that’s a pretty high expectation on a kid to come home at 8:30 and then we want you to study. It doesn’t happen. So, this is going to alleviate that and eliminate that problem in the afternoon with gym space.” Little stated that every single athlete will get their weightlifting in before lunch, which he said was important for their physical recovery prior to afternoon practice.

Football players will go to football practice during their athletics period, while if they are a basketball player who doesn’t play football, they will go with basketball coaches who will take them for fundamental basketball skills preparing them for basketball season.

Theatre class will be a new feature at Jal High School next year, according to Mr. Little. Another new addition to the high school will be a professional chef (Bethany Ragland) who has been hired to head up the culinary classes. “She wants to graduate kids that are prepared to go out and be chef when they graduate. That’s her goal. She’s never taught. We’ll see what happens. She does actually have a culinary degree, but she doesn’t have the educational side, but CES has a program called LEAP (Leading Educators through Alternative Pathways) that they can get into and they can get all that work done in a year. Mr. Richard will be working hard with her as far as mentoring her and making sure that she understands the educational side of it. Mr. Snider mentioned that Emmy Lujan will be doing the LEAP program for elementary, where he will be teaching physical education.

Mr. Little also mentioned a Mr. Willmon who will be teaching three periods in the elementary school. Willmon is a retiring superintendent coming from Ropes Independent School District in Texas. Mr. Little stated he has complete confidence in Mr. Willmon’s ability to teach all levels of elementary and secondary math. Another teacher, Mr. Victor Soliz, will be teaching Algebra 1 and Geometry. Mr. Soliz’s wife, Martha, will be teaching Spanish and ELL (English Language Learners) classes next year.

Pauline Gonzales will be the new junior high math teacher, and will be an assistant coach in girls’ basketball as well as assistant coach for the softball team. Ricky Peacock will teach physical education and football and health. He is coming out of retirement after four or five years. He was formerly the head football coach at Nazareth and Panhandle, TX, “with a phenomenal record.” Incoming head football coach says Peacock can call the offense as good as anybody he’s been around in Texas, and “he likes to throw the ball a lot.” Peacock was specifically asked for by Mr. Satterwhite, who is the incoming head football coach for the Panthers. Lesielie Galindo will be a new special education teacher at the high school. Mr. Hess will be teaching English and Theatre. Little says he sees the Robotics Program coming back strong. Mr. Ross will become Industrial Arts teacher. A Digital Journalism class will be another new addition next year, reporting things and putting it out on the internet.

Superintendent Snider said, “One of our desired outcomes is to produce more kids with a two-year college degree when they graduate. It’s our version of early college. Early college is in a lot of larger high schools, but we can do our own version.” Little said, “There’s multiple opportunities for kids, we’ve just got to make sure we’re getting after it.” Snider mentioned the work done by Mr. Loftis, Mr. Little, Mr. Little, Ms. Owen and Ms. Fabela, who all worked hard to put this program together. Board President Jim Gooss said, “That’s something the board has really pushed for over the last year or so, to expand and exactly the way you’ve [laid it out].”