Hillcrest Elementary earns Title I recognitions
NEDERLAND — Kevin Morrison, Hillcrest Elementary School principal, said the school has a legacy of excellence.
Plaques and achievements line the walls in the administration office prove a 20-plus year record of academic achievement and the highest standards for student success. But that doesn’t mean the school doesn’t celebrate when a new recognition rolls in, Morrison said Thursday.
The Nederland Independent School District is admiring Hillcrest Elementary for its two latest accomplishments — federal recognition, through the Texas Education Agency, as a Title I High-Performing School and a Title I High-Progress School in 2014-15.
Stuart Kieschnick, NISD assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said schools can be marked for Title I funding based on the number of economically disadvantaged students on campus — a number that is a direct product of how many children on campus are eligible to receive free or reduced meals.
“A Title school is actually a federal program — with federal dollars coming through the TEA — which makes Hillcrest’s distinctions federal recognitions. That’s a high honor,” Kieschnick said Thursday.
Morrison said Hillcrest, a Title I school for about 20 years, was the first Title school in the district.
“Being a Title I school means at least 40 percent of your student population is economically disadvantaged,” he said. “Hillcrest is about 65 percent economically disadvantaged. The two new Title I awards are based on comparisons between other Title I schools in the state of Texas. We were the only school in all of Region V to receive both distinctions.”
Morrison said the High-Performing School award looks at the school’s achievements in overall math and reading performance on the third and fourth grade STAAR tests. The High-Progress School award, he said, looks at how well the school bridges the gap between its Title I students and its non-Title I students.
“Hillcrest has gotten the High-Performing School before, the but High-Progress School recognition is a new indicator,” Kieschnick said. “This is the first year they’ve gotten that.”
Kieschnick and Morrison said Hillcrest — now joined in Title I status by Langham Elementary, Highland Park Elementary and Central Middle schools — has a strong legacy of high performance and student success.
“Every year, they meet their goals they’ve set for themselves,” Kieschnick said. “That’s a testament to the continuous hard work coming in not only from the campus administrators, but the faculty and teachers at that school, every single day.”
Morrison said he’s only been principal at Hillcrest for two years, so he’s been building on the foundation set before him by previous school principals and other campus administrators.
“I try to build an environment where it’s safe,” he said. “My wife teaches at Central Middle School, where I was the assistant principal for several years. I know what the expectations are over there, and I try to prepare our students for that.
“But I also want them to know we’re here not just for their test scores, but for their lifelong interest in education. We want to build that environment where all of our students know they can come to us for anything — not just while they’re with us, but through high school and after graduation. One of the benefits of living in a 16,000 population is everyone knows everyone else. We look out for each other, and we do get involved.
“I think that’s a large reason why we have such a great team here. We work as a family, because we all know it takes every one of us to make sure all of our students are successful, from the janitors to the cafeteria staff to those kindergarten teachers going to our fourth grade classrooms to check on their former students. Everyone is working toward our students’ success.”
Morrison said he’s not sure if the school’s students — pre-kindergarten through fourth grade — fully understand what Title I recognitions mean, but he knows they understand the commitment expected of them.
“Our students know we have a standard of excellence, just like our teachers, because 20 years is a long record of success. It makes you proud to know you’re doing something right, so that’s a foundation you continue to build on for the future.”