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Friday, March 23, 2018

High School Administrator Proves It’s Never Too Late to Start a Career

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At an age when some people have graduated college and started their first “real world” job, Melanie Lewis was still searching for her purpose.

The Lake Ridge High School associate principal spent most of her 20s in Germany as a military wife. She then began working as an elementary school custodian, which sparked her passion for kids.

“Getting to know them—I was like, ‘Well, I really like this,” she said with a smile.

Lewis returned to the United States and enrolled into The University of South Alabama at the age of 28. However, she still did not know exactly what career path to choose.

She started volunteering as a Sunday school teacher, and an impromptu conversation with one of the children became her epiphany.

“He said, ‘I wish I had a teacher like you,’” Lewis recalled. “And I said, ‘Why? You like the way I teach?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s that you just care about us.’”

Lewis graduated college with a double major in Spanish and English and earned a master’s degree in secondary Spanish. She became a teacher and thought she had reached her goal.

Lewis has always taught at the high school level.
Since she always volunteered to head committees and be a club sponsor, her principal at the time saw leadership skills within her and asked whether she would consider being an administrator.

“I was like, ‘No! I love my kids.’ And he said, ‘Right now, you’re only affecting 170 children who are assigned to your class. Imagine having 800 kids,’ which were how many kids we had in the school,” Lewis explained.

Lewis agreed with the idea of making a larger impact. She went back to school to earn a master’s in educational leadership and an education specialist degree (Ed.S).

She has held positions as a Title I facilitator, athletic coordinator, freshman academy dean, night school principal and assistant principal.

The educator moved to Texas in 2015 and is in her first year as a Mansfield ISD employee. She hopes that her story will give students and parents the courage to keep chasing their dreams when life gets tough.

“It doesn’t matter how late that you catch on. It took me a while. I mean I was a college student, and I was a mom,” she said. “Everything has just worked out. And I’m still as passionate now about education, about what I do, as the first day when I got here.”

Friday, March 2, 2018

Inaugural Texas/Oklahoma Border Brawl Creates New Competition

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There will be a battle over state lines in the upcoming track and football seasons. Five high schools from Texas and five high schools from Oklahoma will be competing with each other to see which teams are the best.

It was an idea that formed after a brainstorming session between Athletics Director Philip O’Neal and Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas.

“I wanted to find a new way to bring attention to our student-athletes,” O’Neal said. “After tossing some concepts around, Dr. V said that we should try to contact schools in Oklahoma to play against.”

The athletics director put in a few calls and knew he had made the right connection when the voice on the other line was just as excited as he was.

Steve Dunlap, assistant athletics director for Union Public Schools, accepted the challenge for the Sooner state. He is enthusiastic about this new relationship and friendly rivalry.

The competitors met each other for the first time on Feb. 27.
“I have no doubt it’s going to be a great event,” said Dunlap. “We start March 10 with the track meet, so I’m excited about that.”

The Border Brawl track meet will feature athletes from all of the Mansfield ISD high schools, along with Oklahoma high school athletes from Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow, Bixby and Sand Springs. It will take place at MISD’s Legacy High School.

The same schools will then compete throughout the 2018-19 school year in football and track.

Each region has a tradition of excellence; and although O’Neal said he looks forward to the intense competition, his favorite part of the Border Brawl is the experiences it will give students.

“I think it’s important for us to create experiences for them,” he continued. “The connections and lessons they learn from going beyond their region will help them in college and in life.”

The announcement of the inaugural Border Brawl was officially made Feb. 27 in Tulsa. Coaches and student-athletes from all participating schools attended the press conference.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Walk-On NFL Player Returns to Give Message of Resiliency

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In his senior year at Mansfield High School, Lenzy Pipkins decided to quit basketball and start playing football—a move that would help define the rest of his life.

The football coach laughed at him, but allowed the 12th-grader to prove himself.

“I was like, ‘I can ball. Just trust me. Give me a chance. Give me a chance,” Pipkins recalled.

He was a natural at football. He got noticed for his talents and received an invitation to the Nike Combine. There, he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.

Arizona State University offered the athlete a football scholarship. After his first season at the school, his scholarship was taken away.

Pipkins said he hopes his story can inspire anyone who wants to quit.
“The current staff got fired, so the new staff ended up taking my scholarship away,” he said. “They didn’t think I was ready.”

Pipkins later went to the University of Louisiana Monroe to continue playing football. He graduated and played another year at Oklahoma State University.

He was set on becoming a professional football player and declared for the NFL draft. The cornerback didn’t get drafted, but 10 teams invited him afterward to come to try outs. He signed with the Green Bay Packers.

The 24-year-old told his story of resiliency to the students at The Phoenix Academy on Friday. He advised the high schoolers to follow their passion no matter what naysayers may think.

Principal Regenia Crane said Pipkin’s message fell in line with the district’s Vision 2020 strategic plan.

“Resiliency is one of our values, and he is a great example of what happens when you don’t give up,” said Crane. “That’s something our students always need to hear.”

It is reported that less than 2 percent of college athletes reach the NFL, making Pipkins story even more remarkable as a walk-on. He starts his second year in the professional league in September.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Schools Introduce Competitive Play for Younger Students

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For younger students who want to play an organized sport, an outside league used to be their only option.

Now, more Mansfield ISD elementary and intermediate schools are starting their own competitive leagues to increase student involvement.

“The district guiding statement is every student will participate in an extracurricular or co-curricular activity,” said Tamara Liddell, principal of Janet Brockett Elementary School. “We, along with several other Mansfield ISD schools, wanted to take that vision to another level.”

Brockett Elementary teamed up with seven MISD elementary schools to create a basketball league for third- and fourth-grade boys. Games are played in front of a packed house on Monday nights, and practices are held throughout the week.

Cheerleading clubs have also been created at schools to
cheer the boys on.
Coach Ron Middleton said it teaches the kids to be successful student-athletes. He said the kids learn discipline and character. In addition, every one of his students gives a grade report to their other teachers to make sure academics remains the focus.

“These kids are students first and athletes second,” explained the Brockett Elementary P.E. teacher. “You have to make sure you’re on top of your game—not only on the court but in the classroom as well.”

The idea is catching on at the intermediate level as well. Although Donna Shepard Intermediate School does not play against other schools, the intramural program introduced this year still receives large participation.

“They get to stay here after school and be with their friends in a safe environment and still be active,” said P.E. teacher Lesley Burke. “It just enhances those competitive skills and helps them to be a good winner and a good sport.”

Shepard Intermediate’s intramural program offers dodgeball, basketball, volleyball and soccer. The fifth- and sixth-graders will also have a chance to compete in video gaming later this school year.

Friday, February 9, 2018

MISD’s Youngest District Spelling Bee Champ Reclaims Title

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It was a familiar feeling for 13-year-old Kailey Choi to be on stage holding the district spelling bee plaque.

The eighth-grader from T.A. Howard Middle School made her debut at the Mansfield ISD District Spelling Bee when she was in third grade and became MISD’s youngest champion.

In the following years, Choi qualified for the competition but fell short of the first place title. That is, until this year’s contest, which is the last year she will be able to participate in the event.

“It’s like a legacy,” she said. “I won first, and I won last.”

Choi competed with campus winners from MISD’s elementary, intermediate and middle schools to earn the district title. She won in the ninth round with the word “infrastructure.”

Choi's father and principal came to support her.
“When I heard the word, I freaked out; but then I calmed myself down and said it letter by letter,” Choi explained.

Organizers of the Feb. 9 event, sponsored by the Mansfield Sunshine Rotary Club, said they have been preparing for it since September. It takes work to coordinate each campus bee and the district competition, but they said the end result is satisfying.

“My favorite part of the spelling bee is seeing those kids on stage with their eager faces and all of their study skills and habits coming into fruition,” said Kristi Gonzales, MISD coordinator of elementary language arts.

Gonzales added that spelling bees help students with communication skills and self-confidence.

Choi will be going off to high school next year and will not be eligible to compete, but she gave her advice for those wanting to earn the next district title.

“What you have to do is strive for it, study and be calm.”

The spelling bee champ will now prepare for the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee on March 1 at Texas Christian University. When she appeared at the event five years ago, she lasted 14 rounds.

MISD Spelling Bee Campus Winners
Alice Ponder Elementary
Dinh Luong
Anna May Daulton Elementary
Prince Olowookere
Annette Perry Elementary
Riley Myrow
Asa Low Intermediate
Samantha Malone
Brooks Wester Middle School
Emmanuel Allison
Carol Holt Elementary
Emily Trinh
Charlotte Anderson Elementary
Daniel Ogiozee
Cora Spencer Elementary
Kaleb Giggins
Cross Timbers Intermediate
Tiffany Lam (district runner-up)
D. P. Morris Elementary
Amina Allen
Danny Jones Middle School
Zoe Leddy
Della Icenhower Intermediate
Ayush Shah
Donna Shepard Intermediate
Jaxson Latimer
Elizabeth Smith Elementary
Caden Overby
Erma Nash Elementary
Joseph Oehlke
Glenn Harmon Elementary
Omar Akkad
Imogene Gideon Elementary
Adebola Adeshola
J. L. Boren Elementary
Mariam Dohadwala
James Coble Middle School
Yvaine Penaranda
Janet Brockett Elementary
Marli Field
Judy Miller Elementary
Zain Durrani
Kenneth Davis Elementary
Josiah Smith
Linda Jobe Middle School
Ruth Oyerokun
Louise Cabaniss Elementary
Lucy Duku
Martha Reid Elementary
Angel Brefro
Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary
Marcus Jones
Mary Lillard Intermediate
Collin Overby
Mary Orr Intermediate
Noah Gakuba
Nancy Neal Elementary
Kamryn Ross
Roberta Tipps Elementary
Ryu Cheng
Rogene Worley Middle School
Tojumi Olayiwole
T. A. Howard Middle School
Kailey Choi  (district winner)
Tarver-Rendon Elementary
Joshua Oyerokun
Thelma Jones Elementary
Hailey Alajandre
Willie Brown Elementary
Tej Marimuthu

Friday, February 2, 2018

New Club Instills Discipline and Leadership in Middle Schoolers

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When a Mansfield ISD counselor noticed that some students at her campus were not getting involved in the available extra-curricular activities, she decided to create one that helped build structure and self-confidence into children’s lives.

Catherine Wimbrey recalled how Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) programs helped teenagers when she was growing up in California.

So, she picked up the phone and called the JROTC instructor at Mansfield High School to see if he could help bring a similar program to Rogene Worley Middle School.

“I was excited that she contacted us,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Kinnel. “I was willing and able to help young students because if you reach the youth, you reach the world.”

Groups are divided into males and females for detailed instruction.
The award-winning high school cadets go to the middle school every Tuesday after school to lead the Junior Cadet Corp club. It’s a structure Kinnel said is a mutual benefit.

“We feed the kids what they need, and then they lead it,” Kinnel continued. “Kids want you to be out their way. They want to show you what they can do.”

The middle schoolers learn different techniques in color guard, marching and armed drills. Wimbrey said she has seen a positive change in the students already.

“There’s a drop in discipline issues, and students are more organized and motivated,” she said.

Because of the club’s success, a similar club was recently started at Brooks Wester Middle School. Wimbrey said she hopes it continues to make an impact in the youth.

“I’m invested into it because I love our students. There are so many of them that I believe that if they had the leadership, if they had the discipline, if they had the family, so many of them would go further in life. Overall lives are being changed by this program.”

Approximately 20 middle school students participate in Worley Middle School’s Junior Cadet Corp. Most of the students said they will join a JROTC program when they get to high school.