February 28, 2012
PRIDE OF PURPOSE, PRIDE OF PLACE
Superintendent Harold Cowley of Yantis ISD is a 2012 Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero for his extraordinary leadership and dedication to the safety and well-being of the children and teachers in Yantis, TX.
Superintendent Cowley is highly qualified to be chief administrator of a modern school system because of a special combination of his values as well as his technical knowledge and skills.
Cowley’s background includes being a chemist and then a vocational agriculture teacher before moving into roles in the central office. He became an elementary principal, then an assistant superintendent of finance, then superintendent for two different districts before retiring after 35 years. After an extended retirement, he got called to provide leadership to Yantis ISD.
Before accepting the Superintendent position in 2005, he took two days to go through the schools and gave the school board two pages of necessary improvements. Since then he has been a resource and mentor to the school community, maintaining high standards with ongoing inspections, surveillance and problem prevention.
The benefit of his approach is the admiration and respect of his staff and community as well as an increase in attendance and reduction in staff turnover. The current attendance rate is 97%. In the past the school had a 40% staff turnover rate. He lost no teachers last year.
Cowley was nominated by Agriculture Teacher Alicia Moore.
“Talking about Healthy Schools seems like something that should be a ‘no brainer’ yet many schools are just not that safe. Our ideas for a healthy school come straight from the top of our District.
Our Superintendent, Harold Cowley, leads by example. Since I came to the district 3 years ago, we lost one of our maintenance men and I became asbestos coordinator and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) coordinator.
Even though I had a broken foot, Mr. Cowley immediately arranged for me to go the appropriate training to make sure our campus stayed safe for our students. We are a safer district due to the many steps he has taken.
He makes sure staff in all key positions are trained. He oversees many of the checklists for building maintenance and code compliance. He personally checks on everything from the condition of the school bus tires to the fire extinguishers. Superintendent Cowley brings in people to check our campus on a regular basis. Our school participates in a national tractor safety program. Faculty receive monthly IPM newsletters. Yantis gets perfect scores in the health department’s pest management inspection report.
For these reasons and many more, I nominate Harold Cowley, Yantis ISD Superintendent as our 2012 Healthy Schools Hero. Without a doubt, his sense of responsibility, inspirational leadership, and exemplary persistence and courage protects children from school hazards and unhealthy school conditions in Yantis, Texas.”
What is special about Yantis?
According to Superintendent Cowley, Yantis ISD is an "outstanding community" because of the high quality of school personnel and the sense of pride people have in their community and their school system.
Yantis is a small diverse community of 375 students. Although 62% of the students are economically disadvantaged, Yantis is a property-wealthy school district that sends local tax revenues back to the state to share with other districts.
Yantis is a community where people care for each other, supporting each other when there is a death in a family even if they don’t know the person. There is a coat fund and a fund that helps buy glasses for students. Someone donated money so every student could buy shoes. Last year every kid got a free breakfast and lunch not only to teach good nutrition but Cowley believes that “you can’t learn if your stomach hurts” and “if kids feel good they feel good about themselves.” People who can’t afford a ticket to home games get a “golden pass.”
Cowley champions school quality, safety and security.
Cowley believes that “An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.” He knows, “if a community is proud of the school, you take care of your school.”
His safety concerns included updating the alarm system and making sure all buildings meet the fire code. He put the gas lines and meters outside. Although the state requires a pressure check only every two years, he gets a certified plumber to come in to check the pressure regularly.
"I wouldn't want my kid on an unsafe bus."
Cowley checks the bus tires frequently and inspects the school buses once a month. The district is always ready for the Department of Transportation’s rigid inspection. Twice a year buses get deep cleaned. They pop the cushions, wiping and disinfecting the buses from top to bottom.
Restrooms and classrooms are cleaned every night, especially, doors and desks, by a staggered day and night crew of four men. Every filter in the HVAC system is changed every three months. The schools conduct monthly fire drills that include staging an "obstructed way" so students learn to take alternative way out. They also do tornado disaster drills and locked down drills. Cowley’s focus on continuous improvement includes seeking cost savings through updates in energy efficiency.
Cowley remembers how students in the 1950s were taught highly technical skills in seven separate vocations. They developed confidence and pride attending shows and contests.
Today, he is proud that Yantis ISD has more technology than any school district in Texas, regardless of size. Every room is equipped with smart boards and ceiling projectors. Students have access to a wide array of learning programs and virtual field trips. Juniors and Seniors can take college classes. The district has three robotics teams.
Quality Science: Teaching Safely and Teaching Safety
Cowley is especially proud of the safe science classrooms. The chemistry classes in the junior and senior high have separate prep rooms and secure chemical storage rooms.
“I have had the privilege of working with Mr. Cowley for 7 years,” writes Michael Alphin, Yantis High School Principal and Science Teacher. “Mr. Cowley has always supported the science department and teachers.
He supports purchasing any safety equipment that we need to maintain a safe and effective laboratory. When the new middle school was being designed, he collaborated with the science teachers to build a laboratory and classroom equipped with all the proper safety equipment such as eyewash and shower stations and emergency shutoff switches to the laboratory. All chemicals are kept in the chemical store room. Flammables are in flammable cabinets and acids in the acid cabinets. The new middle school laboratory was built with a very spacious prep room and then an attached chemical closet. Teaching proper safety techniques ensures that our science students in Yantis ISD have the best learning experience possible in the safest environment.”
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