NAVASOTA, Texas - Facing another year of poor state education ratings, Navasota ISD officials are hoping their new intermediate school principal will be the hero the school needs to help turn things around.
Navasota Intermediate failed to meet the Texas Education Agency's 2014 standards for closing the performance gap, and scored a "needs improvement" in the accountability rating. This is the third year the school has failed to meet state standards.
Todd Nesloney isn't what you might expect in a school principal. And his office, with giant M&M figures and a large watch hanging from the wall, doesn't exactly seem intimidating for any students sent his way.
"No, I would definitely not describe myself as traditional," said Nesloney.
But his lack of tradition hasn't stopped him from an award-winning career as an educator. The former Waller ISD teacher has racked up several awards since he gradated Texas A&M University in 2007, including the White House Champion of Change Award. He was also named one of the 20 educators to watch by the National School Board.
Nesloney said it doesn't matter where the school has been, it's time for a fresh start. And the biggest part will be the students.
"I am very big on treating the kids with the amount of respect that they deserve," said Nesloney.
And it's the kids, Nesloney said, who are all too familiar with the school's poor history.
"All they hear is, we're not performing the way we're supposed to be performing," said Nesloney. "And that begins to beat you down after a while."
Nesloney wants to bring in more project-based learning to the school.
"Every single teacher at this school is going to be using that project-based learning model," said Nesloney. "Where the kids aren't just being fed facts, and fed the information. Where they have to go investigate and dive deep, and also collaborate."
Nesloney said he wants to move away from placing a big emphasis on test-taking skills.
"Kids, when they go out to look for a job, they aren't being looked at by how well they can take an exam," said Nesloney. "Yes, the exam is there, it's important and we're not disregarding it. But what's also important is those collaboration skills, those communication skills and those technology skills."
Nesloney has big plans for the campus, including giving the library a more coffee-shop feel.
"We've brought a couch and a table in, and as the year progresses, we're going to be transforming more of this space to a Starbucks feel," said Nesloney.
When it comes to the next TEA ratings, Nesloney said his school will be ready.
"We will get where we need to be, and we'll do whatever is necessary to get there," said Nesloney.
Navasota ISD officials said they plan to appeal the latest TEA ratings. If improvements aren't made, the school could face more state monitoring and sanctions. Eventually, the state could decide to shut down the school.