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New Leadership Hopes to Transform Indian Spring

Jill Ament
Dr. Jenkins stands in the middle of the Indian Spring library

Waco ISD’s Indian Spring Middle School has seen its fair share of struggles over the past few years. 75-percent of the Title 1 Priority School’s staff has been replaced for the 2014-2015 school year. But the school’s new principal is hoping to bring a vision of success to campus.

Dr. John Jenkins has worked with struggling schools in San Antonio and most recently Los Angeles. As the new principal at Indian Spring -- He’s hoping to bring a lot of changes. 

“This is like a diamond in the rough for me," Jenkins said. "I think in a matter of months we’ll have a very different school and product here at Indian Spring.”

And as classes switched periods without incident during the first week of school – Jenkins says some of those changes are already taking place.

“If you could’ve saw what I saw when I came in and took a peek at the campus last season. You wouldn’t have experienced what we just experienced," Jenkins said. "Cause I was pretty much able to talk during the transition.”

For the 2014-2015 school year -- a state mandate required 75-percent of the school’s staff to be replaced. This was after the school’s academic performance fell into the bottom five percentile in the state of Texas. The Texas Education Agency defines Indian Spring as a Title 1 Priority School because of its low performance.  That title also means a majority of the school’s students come from low-income backgrounds. 

Indian Spring also didn’t meet TEA’s accountability rating standards for the second year in a row. Those ratings are determined by STAAR scores. 

Jenkins says putting in place an academic framework called AVID – or Advancement Via Individual Determination – will be one of the initiatives he thinks will help the school make at least a 5-percent performance gain on the STAAR next year. 

“The campus really didn’t have an academic culture that was cohesive," Jenkins said. "Usually when I go into a campus that is struggling, that’s usually one of the first things we’ll pinpoint.”

AVID is a model meant to help students gain post-secondary skills for college or career readiness. Jenkins says letting middle school students have those post-secondary experiences like visiting a college classroom are extremely important.

Jenkins also wants to establish a positive approach to behavior by not just punishing the bad but targeting good behavior.

“Many of the students that we have, they’ve been brought up in a situation or through the schooling process where they’re used to the negative consequences," Jenkins said.

But Jenkins says a lot of what he thinks is lacking at Indian Spring is more parental involvement from the community.  He hopes eventually there will be a parent-teacher-student association on campus.  

Jenkins says there’s definitely a lot to take on this school year. But he’s not letting that discourage him. 

I just wanna get down to crunch time with the kids where we kind of say okay here’s the finish line," Jenkins said. "But right it’s kind of like I gotta slow my jets and say hey, we gotta go through the process.”