HUNTSVILLE ITEM: TDCJ’s Windham School District: Safe, successful stories being told here now

By Winston Spencer Jr.

Posted: 08/02/2014 9:44 PM



Time heals all wounds, or so it’s been said. Some say time covers wounds with scar tissue. The pain lessens, but it’s never truly gone.

Forty years have passed since the world shared the city of Huntsville’s wounds caused by the senseless losses of Julia “Judy” Standley and Elizabeth “Von” Beseda, employees at the Texas Department of Corrections.

What have we learned as a result of those tragic events? What’s it like to teach inside prison walls in Texas today?

“Today we provide security training to all Texas Department of Criminal Justice new hires,” said Veronica Casanova, director of instruction for the Windham School District, TDCJ’s school system for its offender population.

“We get a minimum 12 hours per year of security training. Most of our staff gets far more than that, but everyone gets at a minimum those 12 hours. The training we receive as part of the Windham staff is tailored to  fit our specific needs.”

Those particular training needs are designed to help teachers maintain a high level of awareness of the culture of their surroundings, so they can identify levels of threats and most of all, remember where they work.

During the 11-day siege that began on July 24, 1974, inmates seized the education and library areas inside the Huntsville “Walls” Unit. Three armed convicts captured 11 employees along with five inmates. The convicts then negotiated their own release while threatening to execute the hostages.

When the inmates planned to use the hostages as human shields, Standley and Beseda volunteered to take the most dangerous positions — in front. They died when they were shot by their captors.

On Aug. 26, 1999, 25 years after the violent ending of the siege, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice formally named the Standley-Beseda Education Facility after the fallen educators.

Today, Windham officials say Standley and Beseda live on in every educator who endeavors to make the effort to change the lives of offenders. The facility in the “Walls” serves as a constant reminder of their legacy and sacrifice.

Casanova, who spent 20 years teaching in the public school system, feels “more secure” within the correctional classroom than she did in the public sector.

“I think I can speak for many of our instructors when I say we feel more secure in our setting than we did in our former classrooms,” Casanova said last week. “Part of it I know is because of the training we receive. (However) we are taught to engage the inmate with instruction and that keeps everyone focused on the goal.

“From the time our teachers come here they learn about the history here, and other teachers and staff lend a hand with their experience to give better perspective.”

Before coming to Windham District, Casanova had her concerns.

“I asked questions, I sat in on a correctional class and talked with teachers, all to make sure this was the right place for me,” she said. “I was transitioning from elementary school to men. What I found was that here, we have to be a team. We have a very positive team; it’s a great team effort here.”

Casanova says Windham teachers enjoy being a part of the many successful stories inside the district that was knocked to its knees on this date 40 years ago.

“We are able to see success much more than many of us did in the public sector,” Casanova said. “Many of these inmates are experiencing academic success for the first time ever in their lives,. Dreams are established.”

Casanova has a few suggestions for the public school system, as well.

“First, regardless of the subject or its content, we (teachers and administrators) must engage students to think — critically. Secondly, we have to develop partnerships between schools, family, students and industry.

“Huntsville is not so big that this can’t become a realistic goal.”


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Annual Performance Report SY17 (2016-2017)

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about educational programming provided by Windham School District (WSD) within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

WSD aligns job opportunities and learning with instruction and class offerings for offenders. The result: a productive, positive journey for offenders seeking workforce reentry. WSD accomplishes this through enhanced program offerings and classes requiring significantly elevated skill levels. We have improved programs by adding new components to existing courses, and we have worked with experts to bring the best possible educational opportunities to our students. In addition, WSD has expanded partnerships with industry and community workforce boards. These alliances support the alignment of courses with employer demands throughout the various regions of Texas.

Windham recently revised its life skills offerings. Experts in cognitive and criminogenic change processes worked with Windham staff and community stakeholders to improve two essential life skills classes: the Cognitive Intervention Program (CIP) and Changing Habits and Achieving New Goals to Empower Success (CHANGES). With these advances, Windham uses assessments to better measure outcomes for students while identifying areas students and instructors can work to improve.

Academic gains for students in the literacy classes at Windham are among the highest in the nation. Students can expect academic advances of between two to three years for every year of instruction within Windham classes. Furthermore, the classes are aligned with job skills needed in vocational occupations to better prepare students for work; classes bring real-world relevancy to daily lessons. In addition, Windham has redesigned services for special needs students to better serve those with learning disabilities and other barriers to effective learning. They, too, are making the journey to find employment and successfully reenter society.

Vocational trades at Windham have expanded to include skills needed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) middle-level jobs. These include computerized numerical control machining, fiber and copper cabling, computer controls programming, and telecommunications. Windham has also partnered with TDCJ to provide training and United States Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship program participation for workers in various jobs within TDCJ facilities. By aligning the educational skills with job requirement skills, offender workers are able to apply the knowledge obtained through Windham with real-world job experience at TDCJ units.

Windham has implemented many changes over the past three years. By carefully evaluating program outcomes in student gains and employment upon release, WSD helps reduce the cost of incarceration. The cost to taxpayers for crimes committed in communities is also reduced. This journey of continuous improvement, driven by data analysis, has strengthened academic growth during incarceration and lowered recidivism rates for those students who participate in Windham programming.

Windham is always looking for new ways to better serve the State of Texas, and I hope this Annual Performance Report provides you with evidence of the quality education the teachers and staff at WSD provide to thousands of men and women each year. Our students’ journey to success has begun.


Dr. Clint Carpenter,
Superintendent, Windham School District


Current APR 2016 - 2017: 


Archived Reports: 



In Dallas: Habitat for Humanity partners with WSD - Windham School District proudly partners with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, increasing career opportunities for former offenders and providing additional job training for those who return to the Dallas area. While supporting employment in areas such as warehousing and home construction, Habitat for Humanity offers individuals the chance to give back to society and also rebuild their own lives.

WSD meets families in PACT Conference Oct. 3 - The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) will be hosting a free informational conference for offenders’ families and members of the general public on Oct. 3. The Public Awareness — Corrections Today (PACT) conference will be held at the Sam Houston State University Criminal Justice Center in Huntsville and will be coordinated by the TDCJ Ombudsman Program. Windham School District will be offer a presentation from 1-3 p.m. at the conference, as well as provide one-on-one information and resource materials to participants.

Mensaje del Superintendente Dr. Clint Carpenter:

Profesores de educación vocacional y técnica ayudan a construir futuro

Educación profesional y técnica

Los maestros de Educación Profesional y Técnica (CTE) en el Distrito Escolar de Windham (WSD) alinean las oportunidades de trabajo y el aprendizaje con instrucción innovadora. El resultado final es un viaje productivo y positivo para los delincuentes que buscan la reinserción laboral. Los maestros de Windham CTE en todo Texas traen sus propias experiencias profesionales al trabajo para elevar los niveles de habilidad de sus estudiantes.

Más de 42 intercambios son ofrecidos por WSD en todo TDCJ, y estas ofertas se han ampliado recientemente para incluir las habilidades necesarias en puestos de nivel medio en ciencias, tecnología, ingeniería y matemáticas (STEM). Los programas de capacitación vocacional WSDS incluyen el mecanizado de control numérico por computadora, cableado de fibra y cobre, programación de controles de computadora y telecomunicaciones.

Educación profesional y técnica

Windham también se asocia con TDCJ para proporcionar capacitación y programas de aprendizaje aprobados por el Departamento de Trabajo de los EE. UU. Para los trabajadores en diversos trabajos dentro de las instalaciones de TDCJ. Otras asociaciones de CTE con las juntas de desarrollo de la industria y la fuerza de trabajo también están ayudando a mejorar la capacitación vocacional de WSD mientras se crean oportunidades de contratación adicionales para los delincuentes entrenados después del lanzamiento.

En la base de estos cambios y mejoras están los instructores vocacionales de Windham. Trabajan todos los días en entornos desafiantes para llevar experiencias auténticas de capacitación en el mundo real a hombres y mujeres encarcelados. Les enseñan a sus estudiantes las habilidades técnicas y sociales necesarias para reincorporarse a la fuerza de trabajo, y ellos asesoran a sus estudiantes para que se conviertan en los trabajadores capacitados que buscan los empleadores. Último año escolar Los instructores de CTE de WSD brindaron oportunidades para que más de 19,000 estudiantes obtuvieran valiosas certificaciones reconocidas por la industria, lo que aumenta sus posibilidades de tener carreras viables luego del lanzamiento.

Educación profesional y técnica

Durante febrero, saludamos con orgullo a nuestros instructores CTE durante la Semana Nacional de Educadores Vocacionales, y les agradecemos por su dedicado servicio como educadores correccionales.

Para mas información acerca de "WSD Career and Technical Education WORKDAY", visita el video en Youtube: