WSD - Windham School District

Briscoe and Cotulla’s graduation: A step in the right direction

Windham School District (WSD) strives to provide appropriate educational programming and services to meet the needs of the inmate population and reduce recidivism by assisting offenders in becoming responsible members of their communities.

WSD, in partnership with Southwest Texas Junior College (SWTJC), is helping reduce recidivism through education. The fruits of this labor were seen at the Briscoe and Cotulla units’ GED/vocational and college graduation ceremony recently held at the Briscoe Unit.

The program began when the graduates entered in procession to the harmonies of the Briscoe Unit choir and band. As they marched toward their seats, visitors could see pride and honor on the faces of the graduates and hear excitement from family members and friends.

"I know that pursuing your education in this environment was tough and took a lot of commitment," said M. Daughtry, WSD principal at the Briscoe Unit. The same sentiment was echoed by other staff in attendance including teachers, counselors, correctional officers and wardens.

The ceremony acknowledged accomplishments of graduates from various educational programs offered in TDCJ/ WSD. Vocational certificates were awarded for trades in construction carpentry, landscape design, and electrical work, along with GED certificates. SWTJC, in partnership with WSD, awarded graduates certificates in college level construction carpentry, as well as associate degrees. In addition to awarding the graduates certifi cates and degrees for successfully completing their respective programs, the youngest graduate, the oldest graduate, the salutatorian and valedictorian were also acknowledged for their accomplishments.

Porter-img"I’m sure that there are some of my peers who didn’t plan on graduating this way and may think of this graduation as being less than the real thing. But the same amount of hard work that you put into these classes is no different than what they are doing in schools outside of these gates," said E. Porter, the college graduate who gave the commencement address.

"You should be proud of your accomplishments and understand that this was not given to you by chance. You all took the necessary steps required to go to the next level of your lives. You stayed focused in the midst of what can sometimes be a hectic and confusing environment and did what needed to be done," he said.

The college presentations then highlighted the accomplishments of vocational students who strengthened construction carpentry skills by building a double-wide sized model home on the grounds of the unit. The house will be relocated upon completion.

"The structure had to be built small enough to fit through the gates upon completion, but large enough for practical use because it will be converted into a church. We once offered a one-year certificate but now we offer a two-year associate degree that covers more aspects of the trade," said J. Lopez, who teaches the college carpentry program.

Final remarks reiterated the impact of the partnership between WSD and SWTJC.

"This is a great partnership . It’s a golden opportunity for the guys here to pursue their educations and prepare to return to society with something that can help themselves and their families," Daughtry said.

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Career and Technical Education teachers help build future

Career and Technical Education

Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers in the Windham School District (WSD) align job opportunities and learning with innovative instruction. The end result is a productive, positive journey for offenders seeking workforce reentry. Windham CTE teachers across Texas bring their own professional experiences to work to elevate their students’ skill levels.

More than 42 trades are offered by WSD throughout TDCJ, and these offerings have been recently expanded to include skills needed in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) middle-level jobs. WSDS vocational training programs include computer numeric control machining, fiber and copper cabling, computer controls programming and telecommunications.

Career and Technical Education

Windham also partners with TDCJ to provide training and U. S. Dept. of Labor-approved apprenticeship programs for workers in various jobs within TDCJ facilities. Other CTE partnerships with industry and workforce development boards are also helping improve WSD vocational training while creating additional hiring opportunities for trained offenders after release.

At the foundation of these changes and improvements are Windham’s vocational instructors. They work each day in challenging environments to bring authentic, real-world training experiences to incarcerated men and women. They teach their students the technical and soft skills needed to rejoin the workforce, and they mentor their students to become the trained workers sought by employers. Last school year WSD’s CTE instructors provided opportunities for more than 19,000 students to earn valuable industry-recognized certifications, increasing their chances for viable careers after release.

Career and Technical Education

During February, we proudly salute our CTE instructors during National Vocational Educator’s Week, and we thank them for their dedicated service as correctional educators.

For a look at a WSD Career and Technical Education WORKDAY, see our CTE Youtube video: https://youtu.be/Tq3HHTFKjcA

Pablo Gonzales: Thanks to job-focused training, project manager enjoys work,  family, life - "When I got out of prison with a felony, nobody wanted to hire me," says former offender Pablo Gonzales, who overcame the difficulties of building a career after release from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Thanks to educational opportunities, vocational training and strong faith, Gonzales is now a project manager near San Antonio for American Directional Boring Companies Inc. (ADB). He helps install aerial and underground utility jobs and handles OSP/ISP fiber optics cable work for communication clients in South Austin, such as Google, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

Teachers: WSD WANTS YOU To join its new Summer School program! - Windham School District is expanding educational opportunities for TDCJ offenders during Summer Break 2016, and teaching positions are currently available. New summer school classes will focus on additional certifications, jobs, parenting, and life skills -- all designed to assist WSD students in obtaining and maintaining employment.