CHANGES program focuses on life skills for successful re-entry.

CHANGES program focuses on life skills for successful re-entry. Reporter Jon Schroeder of the Killeen Daily Herald recently visited the Hughes Unit to report on Windham School District's CHANGES pre-release program. His article was published Sept.23, 2007, and it describes WSD's efforts to help prepare offenders for a successful life after release from prison. For the full story click link below.

 

KDH News

 

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The Huntsville Item

By Tom Waddill, Feb 25, 2018 

Photo courtesy of Andrew Stewart for The Huntsville ITEM.

Students stay alert in Terry Murray's classroom. They have to, otherwise they might get hit on the head by a flying football.

A literacy teacher in the Windham School District, Murray uses a football — her squishy Sam Houston State Bearkat model — to call on her students. She asks a question, then tosses the ball to a student.

"When they catch the ball, it's their turn to shine," Murray said with a smile. 

And shine they do. 

Students never get bored in Terry Murray's literacy classroom. For 3 1/2 hours each day, they work on assignments and learn things they didn't learn in school the first time they were there. Murray prepares her students to take the test for a GED degree. 

"When I tell them they passed (the GED test), it's amazing. It's just amazing," Murray says. "Some of the guys literally kiss the ground. Some of them cry. It's very rewarding." 

Offenders young and old — inmates who read and write on a wide range of levels — enjoy the educational experience in Murray's classroom inside the Estelle Unit, which is located about 20 miles north of Huntsville. 

 Photo courtesy of Andrew Stewart for The Huntsville ITEM.  Photo courtesy of Andrew Stewart for The Huntsville ITEM.

Most of the students in Murray's class accomplish their No. 1 goal. They earn their General Education Development, or GED, degree.

"The guys realize then that they're going to leave here with something they didn't have before. Some of them have never felt success before, and after they pass that test, they feel like they've accomplished something. And they have."

Proudly, Terry Murray says, "I love working for Windham. This is probably the most challenging and rewarding job I've ever had. Every day is a different day. I tell my students, 'Don't give up.' My motto is, I'm fair, I'm firm and I'm strict. I don't take no for an answer. Some of the students who are reluctant to learn, I tell them to give me three weeks. If they give me three weeks, their attitudes will change."

Murray has been teaching in the Windham School District since 1991. She started her career in Madisonville, then jumped to Willis where she taught reading and math to special education students. 

After seven years in Willis, Murray started looking for a job closer to her Huntsville home. In the Windham District, which are the schools inside Texas prisons, she found what she was looking for and more.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Stewart for The Huntsville ITEM."I love working for Windham," Murray said proudly. "This is probably the most challenging and rewarding job I've ever had. Every day is a different day. I tell my students, 'Don't give up.' My motto is, I'm fair, I'm firm and I'm strict. I don't take no for an answer.

"Some of the students who are reluctant to learn, I tell them to give me three weeks. If they give me three weeks, their attitudes will change," she added. "Just give me a chance. That's all I ask." 

Murray's boss says it's amazing to watch this teacher work her magic. 

More than 25 years into her career with the Windham School District, Terry Murray says she's still enthused and energized by her job teaching offenders in the Texas prison system. Many of Murray's students come to her class unfamiliar with success. Most leave her class with a General Education Development, or GED, degree and a newfound confidence they can take with them when they get out of prison.

"I send all of my newly hired teachers to observe in Ms. Murray's class because of her exceptional classroom management skills and because of how she masterfully guides her students to achieve excellence in education," said Frieda Hamer Spiller, a principal in the Windham School District who works in the Ferguson, Goree, Holliday, Huntsville and Wynne units.

"Teaching at the Estelle Unit for the past 20 years or so, Terry has impacted the lives of multitudes of offender students in her literacy class," Spiller added. "She has guided well over 400 of these students who have achieved their GEDs. Not only is Ms. Murray dedicated to teaching the offender population and helping her students achieve society's minimal educational standard, but she also sets high academic standards that her students strive to attain."

Using some of the same tools she employed as a youthful teacher in Willis, Murray makes her students at Estelle feel special. Some of them don't stop with their GEDs; many of Murray's students keep pushing and start pursuing a college education.

TerryMurray-0

TDCJ Warden Wayne Brewer (right) and Major Kevin Smith congratulate
WSD teacher Terry Murray on being named an outstanding educator for Walker County.

"First, you've got to make the students feel worthy," Murray explained. "They've got to feel like, 'I can do this,' then you can begin a lot of cooperative learning. In my classroom, they learn to work together. When they get out in the real world, they've got to be able to do that.

"They come into class timid and withdrawn and leave out with knowledge and power that cannot be taken away."

 

 

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: 

 

 

Career driven: Truck Driving Program Steering offenders to self-improvement - Amid the roar of engines and the smell of diesel fuel, 30 students assemble on the asphalt preparing for a morning of road training in South Texas. A student climbs into the cab of a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) 18-wheeler, reaches for a clipboard and begins his routine safety inspection. With thorough efficiency, the student driver embraces his responsibilities; this program could change his life.

Historias de Éxito

Modelo a seguir - Historia de éxito - "Les hablo sobre lo importante que es la educación y estoy tratando de demostrárselos arduamente".

Ícono de historia exitosa Historia de Éxito de la Clase de Intervención Cognitiva - "Me gradué de Intervención Cognitiva y el curso ha tenido un gran impacto en mí y en mi comportamiento".

Icono de historia de éxito NUEVO - Herramientas para cambiar mi propia vida   - "¿Qué puedo decir sobre frenos automotrices? ¡Creo que debo comenzar diciendo que es una de las mejores clases que he tomado!"

GED ® Historia de éxito   - "Mi hijo recibió su GED ® a través del Distrito Escolar de Windham. Solo quería 'Gracias' por este programa."

NUEVO - Después de más de 16 años   - "Me gradué del programa eléctrico en 1998. Descubrí que mis profesores de Windham eran personas reales, y ellos ..."