Kilgore ISD superintendent Dr. Andy Baker started the job just over a year ago in January 2019. The start of classes this week on Wednesday marked his one-year anniversary with the district and he reflected on a year of hard work and achievement.
“I believe my first year here in Kilgore has been very positive,” Baker said by email.
“My understanding of Kilgore ISD prior to my arrival was one of tradition and pride and my time here thus far has proven this to be true.”
Baker was the unanimous choice by the KISD board of trustees to take over as superintendent after former superintendent Cara Cooke tendered her resignation last summer. The search for candidates was assisted by a specialist from Region 7 Education Service Center.
Baker was appointed the lone finalist at a special board meeting Nov. 30, 2019 on a unanimous school board vote. Trustees reached their decision after a weeks-long process narrowing an original list of over 70 applicants.
Following the vote, KISD board president Reggie Henson said the board felt Baker was the right choice for the job.
“We felt like he was the best fit for our district. We had some great candidates but we felt like he was the best fit,” Henson said.
This week, Baker said his first year with KISD left him impressed by the commitment of faculty, staff and students and he is looking forward to building upon achievements met over the past 12 months.
“Over this past year, as the Superintendent of Schools for Kilgore, I’ve visited our schools, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with our faculty and staff, I’ve had the chance to talk to many of our students, and I’ve been able to work in conjunction with our KISD School Board. My observations throughout this first year show that we do many things well, but my interactions thus far with our faculty and staff and our School Board of Trustees also show that there is a deep, foundational commitment in this school system to improve every day and every year. This commitment to cultivating a positive learning environment in KISD was here prior to my arrival, and together we are going to build upon it to ensure a continued culture of high expectations, responsible citizenship, tradition, and pride.”
Over the past year, Baker has worked with board trustees, teachers and faculty members to identify areas within the district which need improvement and focus. Part of this process included careful study of district and campus accountability reports released by Texas Education Agency.
Baker’s tenure with the district has already shown district-wide improvements on these ratings. KISD earned a “B” overall grade from TEA for the 2018-19 school year by earning 80 out of 100 possible points for its rating.
It was a whole letter-grade improvement over their “C” rating for 2017-18. However, Baker has stressed in the past the importance of working on a district’s “climate and culture”, not just on standardized test scores and state ratings.
He said his goal now is to continue identifying areas for improvement and working with staff to implement changes.
“In working with our department and campus leaders this past year we have examined our school system’s organizational structure and culture, the alignment of our curriculum, the application of our classroom instructional strategies, student achievement in Reading/Language Arts and Mathematics, and our District’s relationship with the City of Kilgore and our community. As a District, these conversations have helped us identify areas that we believe we do well in, and areas we now know we must improve in. These have become areas of attention for this school year and we will look to continue them into our second semester. For example, our campuses will look to continue our student targeted intervention strategies in the core subjects areas of Reading/Language Arts and Math and our classroom teachers and campus teaching teams will continue to identify instructional areas of concern and will work together to implement strategies to address these deficiencies.”
The superintendent reports feeling a sense of optimism moving into the new semester.
“Overall, I’m very pleased with our school system’s progress thus far this year and I’m optimistic about what we’ll be able to accomplish by the time May rolls around,” he said.
“I truly believe that every employee of KISD is a teacher...from our bus drivers to our classroom teachers, from our receptionists to our administrators...we all have the responsibility to educate our students through both action and example. My first year here has shown me that we have many, many great teachers in KISD and together with the support of our Kilgore community, our students will continue to make us proud.”
Before coming to Kilgore, Baker was superintendent of Edgewood ISD in Van Zandt County, a position he held since 2011. Before Edgewood, Baker was superintendent of Tioga ISD in Tioga, about an hour north of Dallas, from 2009 to 2011.
Prior to that, Baker held several positions at Prosper ISD in Prosper, including campus principal, high school and middle school assistant principal, government and economics teacher and boys basketball coach from 2001 to 2009. He also taught history and coached basketball at Valley View ISD, Collinsville ISD and Kemp ISD between 1994 and 2001.