Friday, March 24, 2017

Elementary Schools Unite to Create Jr. Hoops Basketball Club

Sports fans around the country have been filling out brackets and following along with the NCAA basketball tournament, but a group of Mansfield ISD elementary schools are taking part in their own version of March Madness.

Early in the school year, Janet Brockett Elementary School principal, Tamara Liddell, was introduced to the district’s guiding statements for the newly introduced strategic plan Vision 2020. One of the guiding statements states that all students will be involved in at least one extra or co-curricular activity, Liddell immediately had an idea.

"My colleagues and I began talking about how we could support Vision 2020, I threw out starting a basketball league,” Liddell said about the creation of the league. "We started and he had six schools that wanted to be involved. Our children were ecstatic to now have, what they have asked for quite often, basketball."

The team from Imogene Gideon receives the trophy
after winning the championship game of the playoffs
For the first year of the MISD Elementary Basketball League, teams from Janet Brockett, Imogene Gideon, Louise Cabaniss, Thelma Jones, Erma Nash and Glenn Harmon elementary schools played weekly games against each other and concluded their season with a playoff tournament.

In order to give these elementary students the feel of the 'big leagues,' the games are played at James Coble Middle School. Coaches from within the school community volunteer their time to help these young hoop hopefuls hone their skills and prepare for each game.

These games are more than just basketball competition for the students on the team; many of the schools have started a cheerleading club to support the students on game nights, as well on campus. The cheer clubs are responsible for organizing pep rallies for the teams on game day, providing signs and spirit sticks to fans, but most importantly they are there to cheer their team on at the game.

By having so many students involved in various ways, this event is truly bringing the MISD community together. During these games, the stands in the middle school gyms are packed with parents, grandparents, and other students from their campuses.

The students are not only getting to play a sport they love, but also getting to learn teamwork, sportsmanship and also having the opportunity to make new friends. Juelz Harris, an Imogene Gideon fourth grader, is really enjoying this experience.

"We have built a lot of friendships and it has been very fun working with our coaches. It’s my favorite sport, I am glad we get to play now."

For the principals of these campuses, the league isn’t about a trophy or wins and loses. Shanee Charles, Principal at Imogene Gideon Elementary, appreciates what this league is teaching, not only her students, but the school community as a whole.

"I feel like this basketball league has not only given us a stronger sense of community, but also, a stronger sense of school pride. The other students that are not on the team come to school asking who we play this week and if we’ve won the game. Next year we would like to see this program grow to more campuses."

Friday, March 10, 2017

MISD Elementary School Trains Leaders of the Future

An eye-opening trip to the Ron Clark Academy inspired MISD principal Tameka Patton to bring a very special program back to Nancy Neal Elementary School.

"At the Ron Clark Academy, we were greeted by students who asked us questions and asked what was our mission there,” Patton said. “I’ve got students at Nancy Neal that can do this."

Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas spent time with the Neal
Ambassadors earlier in the year teaching them the importance
of being a life-long learner.
The Nancy Neal Ambassadors are the student body representatives that assist in campus community outreach efforts and serve as hosts for special guests to the campus.

They are a key component of telling the “Neal story” to guests who visit the campus.

"Students had to complete an application and meet an application deadline,” ambassador co-sponsor Erica Carswell stated about the selection process of the students who would become ambassadors. “They were then brought in for face to face interviews. We selected the top ten students and they became Neal Ambassadors."

For Turner Hawkins, applying to be an ambassador was an obvious choice.

"I chose to join because I thought I would do a great job because I love helping people. This has taught me that if you work together, you can get more done." Hawkins said.

Through the direction of their sponsors, school leadership and the many special guests they have welcomed into their meetings, the Neal Ambassadors are learning character, responsibility and the value of a heart for service.

The students have had the privilege of learning leadership traits from a number of guest speakers. Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas spent time with students early in the year talking about what it means to have a heart for service and the importance of being a life long learner. Recently, the ambassadors welcomed Leigh Collins, district director for Senator Konni Burton, who talked about the importance of goal setting. The students listened to her speak and ask questions about her educational path and her career.

Ultimately, the Neal Ambassador Program is about building leaders of the future in areas such as public speaking, responsibility or introductions; the possibilities are endless.

Co-sponsor Monique McGrew says it’s all about their character.

"The one thing we have really honed in this year, and tried to instill on each student is character, who are you when no one’s looking."

Friday, March 3, 2017

Teen Leadership Students Help Girls Battling Cancer

For the past two years, Mansfield ISD has been encouraging the community to take part in Colors for Caring. The initiative, started by Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas, is celebrated on the first Monday of every month in honor of those who have been affected or have had loved ones affected by cancer.

Summit High School seniors Elliot Adway, Lauren Blue, Dacion Tatum and Cierra Lockhart have taken part in many of the Colors for Caring days, but knew they could do more when they were given a special project for their Teen Leadership II class.

The students were asked to find a passion and come together to help a cause. The only stipulation on the project was it could not be a traditional money fundraiser. Senior Lauren Blue knew she wanted to do something to help children.

"In Teen Leadership II, Mrs. Cullen asked all of us to research non-profit organizations and see how we could meet their need. I was researching and I found Bow Dazzling," she said about how the group project started. "I thought it was the neatest one so I asked the members in my group if they wanted to do that one also they said yes."

Lauren and her group have reached out to each middle and high school campus' cheer sponsor in hopes of getting their programs involved in this project.

Their plan is for each middle and high school to have posters about the bow and ribbon drive displayed throughout the various campuses with information about how to get involved. Each campus will have a basket in their cheerleading room for students to drop off donated bows and ribbons.

Lauren understands the potential impact this project could have for the young girls involved.

"Helping little girls with cancer makes me feel amazing! Knowing that I can help someone going through something ten times harder than my life means the world to me."

Bows for Beauties is districtwide service project that is accepting new/unused bows that will be going to young girls of all ages. For more information on how you can contribute to this project, contact Cierra Lockhart ( or Lauren Blue (

For information and a photo gallery of MISD’s Colors for Caring Days, visit the district’s website.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mansfield Day at the Capitol

Representatives from Mansfield ISD, the City of Mansfield and the Mansfield Chamber of Commerce loaded up on buses and took a trip down Highway 35 to let their voices be heard.

Feb. 15 was Mansfield Day at the Capitol; and MISD had its students, staff and board trustees take part in the day of advocacy.

“I wanted our kids to interact with [state legislators] so they can continue to see what great kids we have in our district,” said MISD Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas. “I also wanted for the kids to meet our legislators who represent us in Austin and hear them speak.”

The group took a full tour of the State Capitol in Austin.
Students were grateful to be in attendance because it gave them the opportunity to take what they learn in their textbooks and bring it to life.

“It’s a blessing to be here because a lot of people don’t get to see what it’s like to really be in a position where you get to see how your say gets put in the Capitol. It’s a good experience to see for yourself,” said Cierra Lockhart, senior at Summit High School.

The trip to Austin also gave the MISD school board a chance to share all the great things happening within the district.

“We’re really a voice for our kids,” MISD Board President Raul Gonzalez explained. “We’re making sure state legislators put the political agendas aside and make public education a priority.”

The day at the Capitol was hosted by the Mansfield Chamber of Commerce. The organization holds advocacy days every two years, but 2017 marks the first year the three entities have gone together to show strength in numbers.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Two-Time Runner-Up Wins 2017 MISD District Spelling Bee

And then there were two.

Out of the original batch of 35 spelling bee contestants who made it to the district competition by being the winners at their campus bee, only two girls were left in round 10.

Ruth Oyerokun from Linda Jobe Middle School and Tojumi Olayiwole from Mary Orr Intermediate School battled it out for almost an hour on Feb. 10 to see who would be named the Mansfield ISD spelling champion.

Androcentric. Lithe. Folksiness. Polymer. Each word was spelled effortlessly—until the word to spell was hogan.

Olayiwole misspelled it, which gave Oyerokun the opportunity to correctly spell the next two words. T-r-a-w-l became her trophy-winning letters.

“I’m very happy,” said the seventh-grader. “This is my fourth spelling bee. I was runner-up in fourth and fifth grade.”

Olayiwole (left) and Oyerokun (right) were competitors and friends.
Winning was a little bitter-sweet for Oyerokun because the runner-up is her friend, but she said it felt satisfying to win after years of qualifying and preparing for the district bee.

“It feels good to finally not be behind someone,” she said. “I’ve been studying for the past two months for 30 minutes a day. My family has been very supportive and told me to learn from my past mistakes.”

The annual MISD Spelling Bee fosters public speaking skills, enhances vocabulary skills and builds self-confidence through friendly competition. It is just one of the ways the district and community come together to support literacy.

“One of the tenants of Rotary International is literacy,” said Randall Canedy from the Mansfield Sunrise Rotary Club, which sponsors the event. “[The spelling bee] isn’t the only thing we do, but it’s something we really enjoy and one of our favorite events of the year.”

Oyerokun already has her eyes set on her next prize. She’ll go on to compete at the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee on March 2 at Texas Christian University.

List of Contestants/Campus Winners

Alice Ponder Elementary
William Curlin
Anna May Daulton Elementary
Morgan Taggart
Annette Perry Elementary
Emma Shatto
Asa Low Intermediate
Dante Perales
Brooks Wester Middle School
Cris Vint
Carol Holt Elementary
Jayden Maple
Charlotte Anderson Elementary
Drew Dazey
Cora Spencer Elementary
Jaden Marshall
Cross Timbers Intermediate
Tiffany Lam
D. P. Morris Elementary
Emma Griffith
Danny Jones Middle School
Elizabeth Mingle
Della Icenhower Intermediate
Mariam Dohadwala
Donna Shepard Intermediate
James Edwardsen
Elizabeth Smith Elementary
Kemi Morohunfola
Erma Nash Elementary
Joseph Oehlke
Glenn Harmon Elementary
Shayla Simms
Imogene Gideon Elementary
Trevin Lawson
J. L. Boren Elementary
Julia Rio
James Coble Middle School
Himadri Nath
Janet Brockett Elementary
Aaron Pradith
Judy Miller Elementary
Kojo Boadu
Kenneth Davis Elementary
Luke Dickey
Linda Jobe Middle School
Ruth Oyerokun (winner)
Louise Cabaniss Elementary
Ayush Shah
Martha Reid Elementary
Angel Brefo
Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary
Marcus Jones
Mary Lillard Intermediate
Nicolas Shea
Mary Orr Intermediate
Tojumi Olayiwole (runner-up)
Nancy Neal Elementary
Cadence Webb
Roberta Tipps Elementary
Ayaan Monga
Rogene Worley Middle School
Kennedy Johnson
T. A. Howard Middle School
Kashif Ghani
Tarver-Rendon Elementary
Joshua Oyerokun
Thelma Jones Elementary
Caitlyn Nguyen
Willie Brown Elementary
Cristian Rodriguez

Friday, February 3, 2017

Retired NBA Superstar Teaches Students the Journey to Success

Moncrief, nicknamed Super Sid, told the students about his NBA days.
He went from playing professional basketball to coaching it. Now, he uses his passion to coach people and inspire them to achieve greatness.

Five-time NBA All-Star Sidney Moncrief made a stop at Mansfield ISD’s Phoenix Academy and Behavior Intervention Center (BIC) to teach students about the road to his success despite his childhood difficulties.

“I used to get into trouble when I was younger,” the Milwaukee Bucks legend explained. “But once I got to high school, I found my calling, which was basketball.”

The 6-4 guard said he was very skilled in basketball, but his grades didn’t always make the score. Once he made the decision to apply himself, his grade point average (GPA) went from a 1.85 entering high school to a 3.85 by the time he graduated.

“I didn’t get smarter; I decided to put in more hard work and effort,” Moncrief said. “Here’s a guy that had everything going against him, and he was still able to do something very good. You have the same potential to be great. You just have to find a way to tap into that.”

The father of four detailed the habits needed to become a successful adult whom people can trust. Topics ranged from preparation and smart choices to kindness and respect.
Students were excited to welcome the Defensive Player of the Year.

Students like Ryan Redd said they connected to his message.

“I think it was the best presentation,” said the 11th-grader. “I relate to his situation more because I play basketball. I learned how key responsibility is.”

Moncrief is now a speaker, consultant and author. He said he wants to make sure everyone learns the real definition of success.

“Success isn’t only about who wins. Success is who gave all there was to give.”