Stephanie Schultz
August 2008

Driving by Gullett Elementary School, Allandale residents may notice some changes. With the school year about to begin, Gullett principle Janie Ruiz agreed to sit down for a question and answer session to let the neighborhood know about what’s been going on over the summer and what will soon be happening as the Geckos kick off a new school year.

Q: What will the enrollment be this year?
JR. Enrollment is projected to be around 477 students.

Q: Will there be any new faces on the Gullett faculty?
JR: We will see new faces around campus with added faculty and staff. Anne Jarriel is our new part-time computer lab assistant, We’ll introduce Bright Bayour and Connie Clemons as our new special education teacher assistants. Kris Dunham is joining the staff as our new art teacher. Denise Wertz will be our new intermediate life skills teacher because Bonnie O’Reilly moved into our newly established “special education communication teacher” position. Katherine Laxton is our new part-time math/reading specialist.
We also have some changes that will take place on campus. Nikki Murphy, who was our part-time reading specialist/special education teacher, is now teaching first grade. Betty Sissom will take over as our part-time reading specialist. She’ll also do some special education and administrative work.

As of this interview, I’m in the process of staffing our PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) teacher and one more special education teacher assistant position. There is also a 1/16 position on the Gullett campus for three special areas teachers. Last year, we shared those staff members with Reilly Elementary. This year, they will come from Casis Elementary.

Q: What are you going to do with those two new portables?
JR: One portable will house the Regional Day School for the Deaf (a 2-year-old program). We offered to do this when we asked for the portable. Part of this program is housed at Brentwood; the other part will be at Gullett. This portable will share space with Bonnie O’Reilly and Sally Blacksmith, the AISD speech therapist.

The second portable will house Katherine Laxton, our part-time math/reading specialist as well as the literacy library on one side. Six part-time people who serve the campus will share the other side. This will include our adaptive art instructor, Trish Chapa, our music therapy specialist, Kristen Smith, adaptive PE instructor Jan Hahn, and the three part-time people from Cassis.
The adaptive and part-time essential area people used the portable space next to the PPCD class this past year. We will be offering Extend-A-Care Daycare (for 3, 4 and 5-year olds). Those people will move to the new portable so the daycare is next to the PPCD for inclusion purposes.

Q: Is the school getting too crowded?
JR: The school is not crowded. We have plenty of space to serve children and are fortunate to a few little extra spaces to help out. We added portables because we added programs. We only added one more class this year – a first grade so we’ll have five first grade teachers. All four teachers are returning, plus Nikki Murphy who I mentioned previously. Her location out in one of the portables didn’t change – we just shifted the literacy library over to another portable side and her room now becomes a first grade room.

Q: Did you make any other significant changes to the school over the summer?
JR: The only other significant change to the school this summer will be the completion of the window replacement project. This project was initiated many years ago – well before my time. Most of the wings were done except for the fourth and fifth grade, which will be completed this year. Also, there will be new sidewalks connecting the new portables and several of the portables will be restabilized (due to ground shifting) and receive new metal ramps.

Q: Do you still have animals on campus?
JR: We’ll always have animals on campus. As always, I’m looking forward to the “oldies” returning with the students and probably meeting some new ones as students and families make suggestions.

Q: How did Gullett do on the TAKS tests this past year?
JR: I can offer our preliminary TAKS results. The final results are not officially released until fall 2008 and might be a bit different. We are SO proud of the students and thank all the parents, teachers, and support people (outside tutors, grandparents, etc.) for their continued efforts to help all our students succeed on this state assessment.

3rd Grade
Reading – 100% passing, 82% commended
Math – 100%, passing, 61% commended

4th Grade
Reading – 96% passing, 57% commended
Math – 95% passing, 49% commended
Writing – 95% passing, 61% commended

5th Grade
Reading – 96% passing, 49% commended
Math – 90% passing, 51% commended
Science – 90% passing, 54% commended

According to these scores, our campus rating would be “exemplary” for the second straight year. However, that’s not officially broadcasted until fall, usually around October.

Q: Are their any major events that will take place in August and September?
JR: Our August and September calendar have several important events, thus far:

August 18 – Teachers report back to campus for staff development and planning/prep for opening school
August 20 – 9: to 10:30 a.m. Kinder play date at kindergarten playground
August 21 – 6 to 8 p.m.: Back-to-school skate party at Skateland
August 22 – 11 a.m. to12:30 p.m.: Meet the Teacher Day
August 23 – 9 a.m. to noon: Spruce up Gullett Gardening Day
August 25 – First Day of School!!
August 26 – 8:15 a.m.: Kinder parents meet at Thunderbird Café
August 27 – 7 to 8 p.m.: Homeroom parent orientation in library
September 1 – School holiday
September 18 – 6 to 8:30 p.m., Back-to-School Night

I’m SURE we’ll see more events planned for September. These are all that are on the calendar so far though.

Q: Will classes go until June again this year?
JR: The AISD 08-09 calendar can be found on the AISD home page and it shows students last day as June 3, 2009, and teachers ending on June 4, 2009.