Literacy Highland Lakes Receives Criminal Justice Volunteer Award
Literacy Highland Lakes received an award for volunteering its literacy services
to female inmates at the Ellen Halbert Unit in Burnet during the Governor’s 2014
Criminal Justice Volunteer ceremony in Austin on April 17. In attendance were
Literacy Highland Lakes Executive Director Sally May (front, left), board
members Sue Wieland and JoAnn Donnelly and volunteer Genie Boyd; and
Texas Board of Criminal Justice chairman Oliver Bell (back, left), keynote
speaker Judge Cathy Cochran and Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Executive Director Brad Livingston. Courtesy photo
Posted on 04 June 2014
BURNET — "I got a 510 on the essay!" beamed the woman standing in the single-file line, the required formation for movement within the Ellen Halbert Unit.
Genie Boyd of Horseshoe Bay, a Literacy Highland Lakes volunteer, turned and spotted the inmate she had tutored for the writing section of the GED test and smiled back. The 510 score on the essay is tantamount to passing with flying colors.
"I told you that you could do it," Boyd replied.
In April, the Windham School District, which oversees the inmate educational program, recognized Literacy Highland Lakes efforts during the Governor 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer ceremony in Austin.
For many of the female inmates in the Ellen Halbert Unit, earning a GED is the first academic success in their lives. According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the average inmate in Texas has a fifth-grade education, and giving inmates the ability to learn is one of the best ways to reduce their chances of re-offending and maintain public safety for all citizens. So two years ago, when the inmates in Burnet could no longer take classes, their opportunity to re-enter society with a high-school equivalency credential was essentially handcuffed.
In 2011, the Windham School District, the educational program within the Texas prison system, experienced a 27 percent funding cut from the legislature. Hundreds of employee positions were eliminated system-wide, forcing the closure of educational programs at six substance abuse treatment facilities, including the Ellen Halbert Unit.
Trudy Stucky of Sunrise Beach has taught Bible studies at the prison since 1996 and remembered the aftermath of the district’s departure.
"Even the classroom furniture was moved out," she said. "There was such a cloud of disappointment over the whole facility. I heard it compared to mourning a death."
Stucky knew her friend, Genie Boyd, tutored adults in GED preparation as a volunteer for Literacy Highland Lakes. As they were talking one day in the summer of 2012, she asked Boyd if the literacy organization might consider teaching the incarcerated women at the Burnet facility. When Boyd presented the idea to Executive Director Sally May, the answer was a resounding "yes."
Beginning in March 2013, volunteers from Literacy Highland Lakes have helped the Windham School District stretch its budget for literacy classes at the Ellen Halbert Unit. A certified teacher from the district, experienced in working in a prison environment, coordinates with the volunteers. The volunteers come to the Halbert Unit twice a week over 10 weeks to help offenders prepare for the GED test. Windham educators then follow up by administering the GED test to the inmates. Last year, 41 inmates received their GEDs.
In recognition of their dedication, the volunteers of Literacy Highland Lakes received the Windham School District’s Judy Burd Award during the Governor’s 2014 Criminal Justice Volunteer ceremony in Austin on April 17. May accepted the award, which was presented by Oliver Bell, chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston.
"These men and women give their time not for monetary reward," Livingston said. "They volunteer because they have a personal passion in seeing others succeed. We are grateful for their selfless dedication."
According to May, part of their role is to be cheerleaders for the women to reach their goals. In turn, the literacy volunteers are impressed by the responsiveness and dedication of the women at the Ellen Halbert Unit.
"The women talk about using the GED to better their lives, a springboard into a vocational or trade school," May said. "That’s what keeps us really fired up."
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Annual Performance Report SY15 (014-2015)
This is an exciting time to be part of Windham School District (WSD)!
We invite you to be a part of what is happening to change lives for those wanting a second chance after a past of criminal activity. Every day, more people join our efforts to change the lives of those incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. “New teachers apply for jobs, volunteers sign up to devote time and some offer free short courses, businesses inquire about hiring students on release, and many charitable service and faith-based organizations ask to partner with WSD.” Many Texans are now interested in how they can become a part of our collective effort, making Windham’s goals part of their personal mission. We are hearing these people proudly state, “We are Windham,” expressing solidarity with our common mission to facilitate positive change.
Windham’s past performance is ranked as one of the highest in the nation among correctional educational programs, but we know we must continue to improve and challenge ourselves to deliver the best opportunities for offenders to be successful upon release back into Texas communities. Windham takes pride in past performance, but I hope you can also see our efforts to be responsive to needed changes. Our staff of highly qualified and dedicated people is rising to the challenges of educating the offender population in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. By improving educational content delivery, expanding vocational training opportunity for offenders, improving behavior and choice training for offenders, connecting with businesses who employ released offenders and continually working to improve efficiencies, Windham is providing a cost-effective intervention that helps protect all fellow Texans and lowers the cost of criminal activity to the State.
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Life re-wired: Houston electrical superintendent credits WSD vocational training for career - "The vocational training I received through Windham School District (WSD) created an opportunity to get a job after release," says former offender Charlie Morris, who transformed prison time into an electrical industry career following his experience in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).
Annual Performance Report SY16 (2015-2016)
Thank you for taking the time to review Windham School District (WSD) programs and learn more about great things happening in correctional education in Texas.
Windham has undergone tremendous change in the past two years. The challenges of teaching in the correctional setting have required our school district to be continually improving course delivery and course offerings to keep students at the top of the achievement curve. Read through WSD’s Annual Performance Report for School Year 2015-2016 (SY16) and you will see a significant range of improvements resulting in greater success for students.
Two years ago Windham developed a plan to dramatically increase the number and type of vocational offerings in our schools while also advancing instructor training. Windham utilized the latest advances in predictive statistical analysis to guide these changes in coursework and to decide which new courses to add.
These new courses have been designed, developed, and implemented to reach even more students while elevating the skill level of the overall training program. This has been accomplished by first offering basic or core courses to students for mastery of basic skills. These basic skills are then applied to a variety of “next step” training within more specialized areas, guiding students to reach for higher achievement and better opportunities for employment. “Next step” training is high level and in high demand. Employers are seeking skilled tradesmen, so Windham is offering many Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math courses to meet the need. For example, Windham is offering courses in copper and fiber optic cabling, Computer Numerically Controlled machinery operations, Electronic Service Technician work, and other areas of employment.
Windham has also increased its success in awarding industry-recognized vocational certifications by more than three times the number accomplished three years ago: Windham delivered training leading to more than 18,000 industry certifications in SY16. Widespread vocational teacher training was also conducted this school year to further strengthen the vocational program while increasing student achievement. By changing the delivery of vocational instruction and improving teacher skill levels, students are receiving more advanced instruction and are better able to build a skill set within their areas of interest.
Life skills courses taught by Windham show a significant reduction in recidivism, particularly within the Cognitive Intervention Program (CIP) classes. The effectiveness of this program, along with that of the pre-release CHANGES program, has also been heightened through changes in content and delivery. With the support of expert researchers in the field of criminal thinking processes, Windham has completely rewritten CIP and CHANGES curriculum. Enhancements and measurable outcome assessments have also been added to these valuable programs. In addition, WSD has trained all teachers of life skills classes using the newest teaching techniques, and we are confident this training will further improve student performance.
Academic programs have also continued to improve through additional teacher training and expansion of services, including improvements for younger students and those with special needs. Through a large investment in technology, Windham has been able to provide computer-assisted learning components to improve student performance through blended approaches to instruction. The performance of students on assessments such as the Test of Adult Basic Education and the High School Equivalency Certificate (HSEC) test has shown improvement in course delivery, translating into student success in many areas. Windham also expanded offerings to reach more students by offering specialized teaching curriculum during WSD summer break. These Elective Personal Enrichment Classes are relevant and of high interest to students, with student response being overwhelmingly positive.
Windham continues to cultivate a higher quality of teaching, improved course offerings, and relevant training opportunities for our student population. As a result, we look forward to continued growth and achievement. It is also our
privilege to partner with other public and private agencies, entities, and individuals who are dedicated to helping incarcerated men and women change their lives and find careers. Great challenges require great cooperation, so we welcome these connections.
WSD is honored by the accomplishments of students who learn skills or obtain training from our classes, using it to reenter society, become contributing citizens, and rebuild families. Your interest and support are critical to meeting these challenges. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Together we’ll strengthen roadways leading to changed lives, a stronger workforce, and a better tomorrow. The possibilities for success are limitless.
Dr. Clint Carpenter,
Superintendent, Windham School District
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WSD donates more than $20,000 statewide in 2015 State Employee Charitable Campaign - Windham School District employees opened their hearts and checkbooks in September and October of 2015, donating $20,000.82 to the State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC). Using payroll deduction, cash or check donations and profits from a statewide sale of "We Are Windham" polo and t-shirts, WSD employees generously made gifts to local, state and national charities of their choice.
Message from Board Chairman Dale Wainwright - Under the capable leadership of Windham Superintendent Dr. Clint Carpenter, WSD employees have made ambitious and successful efforts to improve operations and student performance.