Kylie Davenport is a senior at Rider High School and is the Chronicle's editor-in-chief. Going into her second year on staff, she is nervous but excited...
Q/A with Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee
May 12, 2023
This year, WFISD welcomed Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee into the district. Before coming here, he was the superintendent in Buna, Texas.
This year, Lee has faced many challenges, like bringing two schools out of Improvement Required status. Along with the challenges, Lee has also been in charge of coordination of the new schools.
The Rider Chronicle talked to Dr. Lee about how he has felt about this year and what plans he has for the 2023-24 school year.
Q: What was it like coming to a new town and taking over an entire district?
A: The challenge of leading a new district is exciting to me and I enjoyed the transition from Buna to Wichita Falls.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge during your first year?
A: There have been many challenges, which include getting Kirby and Southern Hills out of Improvement Required status, reducing the budget deficit, finding ways to increase teacher pay and reduce discipline problems across the district.
Q: What has been the greatest success during your first year?
A: A few successes include the amazing progress of Memorial and Legacy High School, the adoption of a new elementary reading curriculum (Amplify) at three schools and having 93 teachers earn the prestigious Teacher Incentive Allotment.
Q: How do you feel this year overall has gone?
A: I honestly feel our team has made some positive progress, but we have a long way to go. We need to pay our teachers more and continue to improve academically across all campuses. WFISD is a large organization, so meaningful and lasting change takes time.
Q: What plans have you already started for next year and how do you plan to ensure they will be enacted?
A: Plans are in place to hire the new high school principals. This should be announced in June. Afterwards, many of the other staff members will be hired. We’ve also started the process of moving staff from Lamar Elementary to Burgess and Booker T. Washington. In addition, Farris will be closed and moved to Haynes Northwest. Once the 22-23 school year ends, our team will be very busy moving boxes and furniture all over the district. This will be a great trial run for the 24-25 school year.
Q: What lesson, if any, have you learned from joining WFISD?
A: I always ask questions, specifically “why” before taking action. It’s important to know why a fence was built before tearing it down. However, I’m never good with the answer “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”.
Q: What has been the most inspiring part of joining WFISD from a different area?
A: Teachers inspire me. I walk into WFISD classrooms multiple times a week and see amazing things taking place. The public perception does not meet reality. WFISD and public schools are thriving and the driving force behind that is our classroom teachers.
Q: How have you worked to provide a different perspective to our district as an outsider coming in?
A: I have the advantage of not being from here, so that helps eliminate personal bias through relationships. I honestly want what’s best for WFISD and work tirelessly to strategize long-term success. It takes a team to be successful and we are making incremental progress. Like Covey says, “Begin With The End In Mind”, so my perspective is always looking towards the future even if that means making some very difficult decisions in the present.
Q: Are there any new policies that will be put in place next year in preparation for the opening of the new high schools?
A: The transfer policy is the biggest one impacting the most people. You must go to the campus that aligns with your attendance zone unless you have extenuating circumstances.
Q: How does the district plan to place teachers at the new high schools and when will the placements be released?
A: The process will begin with the hiring of the two high school principals. Once that process is complete, the other pieces will begin to take shape. I understand that teachers and staff are anxious about the consolidation and want to know where they will teach next year. I would like to know the same thing. However, this is a huge undertaking with several moving parts. Our goal is to ensure the smoothest transition possible for all staff members.