Checking in on Frisco ISD schools the old-fashioned way

In Frisco, the wheels on the bus went round and round, but instead of students, the school buses transported senior citizens who visited three Frisco ISD campuses to observe teachers and students at work.

Approximately 40 Frisco ISD residents aged 55 and older took part in the second annual Senior Adult Bus Tour offered by the school district on Tuesday, April 14. The event is one of several FISD has instituted to reach out to members of the community who may no longer have direct contact with schools through their own children.

“If you haven’t been in a school for a while, all you may know is what you see on TV,” said tour leader Audie Adkins, FISD Community Outreach Liaison. “Our teachers and students are doing great things and we want people to see it.”

The group started their tour at Tadlock Elementary, where Principal Kellie Rapp explained various aspects of elementary school life. She also introduced school namesake, retired teacher Polly Tadlock, who is very involved at the school. Barbara Gallegos, longtime Frisco resident, reported that Mrs. Tadlock had taught all five of her children.

Guests enjoyed touring classrooms and observing teachers and students. Grandparent Sandra Hajek was very interested to learn that fourth grade students at Tadlock had the same “tough” spelling words as her grandson, who is a fourth grade student at Boals. She said she enjoys working with her grandson on homework because it “refreshes my memory.”

Several participants gathered around veteran teacher Shannon Keller’s claw foot bathtub, curious as to its purpose. Keller, who taught kindergarten for many years, used the antique tub as a “Reading Pond” to encourage young readers by using tub time as an incentive. Recently moved to fourth grade, Keller was assigned to math and science.

“I didn’t think I would get to bring my tub,” she said, but school leaders encouraged her to keep it in her classroom. She repurposed it as a place for math and science activities. “The fourth graders love it just as much,” she said.

School Board members Renée Ehmke and John Hoxie were both on the tour to field questions. They assured the seniors that teachers, while using FISD’s highly-specialized curriculum, are still allowed to use their creativity in the classroom.

Hoxie commented that teaching and encouraging creativity is very important in the new world of technology and preparing students for the work world. He explained the term STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math, and noted its importance in industry and education.

“Creativity is a big part of that,” he said, sharing examples of recent FISD students who have gone into careers that combine technology and the arts.

A visit to the new Independence High School had several tour guests in awe. The tour was conducted by students who explained their experience of being rezoned from other high schools such as Liberty and Heritage. They were very positive about being included in meetings to help shape the school atmosphere and mascot. The home of the Independence Knights is filled with reminders of the attitudes and traits of knights of old.

In addition to touring the facility and seeing performances by the school’s drill team, the IHS Royals, IHS theatre students, and the school’s award-winning choir, the guests enjoyed lunch provided by catering staff from FISD’s Child Nutrition Department.

The tour ended at Stafford Middle School on the west side of Frisco. Principal Robin Scott broke the ice with a rousing game of Stafford Bingo and many winners went off with prizes bearing the name of the Stafford Spartans.

The tour broke into teams to visit science, language arts and broadcasting classes, as well as a Skills for Living class (once called home economics) where girls and boys were in the first stages of learning to sew on a sewing machine. Scott later encouraged any experienced sewing enthusiasts to feel free to volunteer to help with the class, where most students encounter needles, bobbins and sewing a straight seam for the first time.

The tour ended with a concert by the award-winning Stafford Sound Machine that brought a standing ovation from participants.

“Where can we find out about plays and concerts,” was a constant question during the tour.

Alan Waligura, principal of Independence High School, encouraged senior citizens to check the Frisco ISD website calendars and to look at individual school websites for the campuses near their home on a regular basis for opportunities. The community is welcome at all FISD performances and a calendar of events is posted on the Fine Arts Department website.

Tour guests were also offered the Senior Citizen Gold Card that Frisco ISD provides in appreciation for seniors’ support of the community. It enables senior citizens to attend most school district activities free of charge. These school activities include home athletic games or meets and most plays, musicals and concerts.

Collin County Headlines is an independent news source read by thousands in the Dallas-Fort Worth area every day. Follow on Facebook and Twitter @CollinCountyDFW

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Clark Middle School student wins Frisco ISD spelling bee

Yogita Manikandon of Clark Middle School won the Frisco ISD Spelling Bee.

Manikandon finished atop a strong field. In addition to Manikandon, top honors were achieved by:

2nd: Austin Ma, Fowler Middle School
3rd: Brydn Abraham, Wester Middle School
4th: Rishika Kanaparthy, Tadlock Elementary
5th: Aswin Nair, Pioneer Heritage Middle School
6th: Avery Canuteson, Sem Elementary
Alternates: Sujit Gurrapu, Vandeventer Middle School; Anna Huff, Griffin Middle School; Payton Barnes, Purefoy Elementary

The Frisco ISD hosted its Inaugural FISD Spelling Bee on Jan. 13 at Heritage High School. More than 30 students in Grades 4-8 went head to head in this battle of precision, memory and wit.

Each student won a spelling bee at his or her elementary or middle school to qualify for the contest – a feat in its own right.

After a brief explanation of the rules, the bee began simply enough with the first contestant and the first word, diadem. D-i-a-d-e-m.

One by one, students took their turn at the microphone, correctly spelling words like scintillation, dodecahedron and velociraptor.

Sometimes students would ask for their word to be repeated, used in a sentence or for the definition, alternate pronunciation, part of speech or language of origin.

Several words were entirely unfamiliar to the audience, or at least to this writer, who was baffled, and quite impressed, when students spelled words correctly she’d never heard of, much less knew their meaning or how to spell them.

After five rounds, the field had been narrowed to four contestants, who all spelled each word correctly through the 13th round.

Back and forth, back and forth it went until the judges decided to challenge the students with more difficult words.

By the 15th round, there were only two: Austin Ma of Fowler Middle School and Yogita Manikandon of Clark Middle School.

“It was nerve wracking and I was just scared for the next word,” Manikandon said.

Then Manikandon earned her chance after correctly spelling the word effete (soft or decadent as a result of over refinement of living conditions or laxity of mental or moral discipline). She only needed to spell one more word correctly to be named the winner.

“When he said coacervate, I knew that I knew it so I was really excited,” she said.

Manikandon successfully spelled c-o-a-c-e-r-v-a-t-e, an aggregate of colloidal droplets held together by electrostatic attractive forces, to claim the title.

Manikandon and the other top five finishers will advance to the Collin County Spelling Bee on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at Plano West Senior High School.

The winner of that bee will continue to the regional bee in March.

Collin County County Magazine is an independent news source read by thousands in the Dallas-Fort Worth area every day. Follow on Facebook and Twitter @CollinCountyMag

WHO ARE OUR READERS? – Collin County Demographics:

County Seat: McKinney

Area: 848 sq. miles of land, 38 sq. miles of water

Towns and Cities: 27

Estimated Population (2013): 854,788

New residents moving in each day (2013: 55 Paved County Roads: 726 miles

Median Household Income (2012 estimate): $82,238

Median Family Income (2011 estimate): $96,008

Average Taxable Home Value (2013): $238,030



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