YORKTOWN – Growing up, Katherine Kuenstler could be found playing in the Linden school district’s bus barn or playing teacher with her sister.
As the daughter of a math teacher and a school operations manager, Kuenstler was almost destined to have a career in education as well.
“It’s in my blood,” Kuenstler, 45, said.
The northeast Texas native made her way to the Crossroads as the new Yorktown school district superintendent. This is Kuenstler’s first superintendent position.
Kuenstler officially started at the school district in mid-March. The spring went by quickly, she said, and she looks forward to her first full year as superintendent this fall.
“It’s been great getting to know the people here in Yorktown,” she said. “The community is everything I hoped it would be.”
Kuenstler has a degree in mathematics from the University of Texas at Tyler, a master’s degree in counseling from Texas A&M University-Texarkana and a master’s degree in educational administration from Texas Tech University. Kuenstler is also working on a doctorate in educational administration from Texas A&M University- Commerce.
Before accepting the position in Yorktown, Kuenstler served as the assistant superintendent for instruction at Comfort Independent School District in Comfort, which is northeast of San Antonio. She was with the school district for 15 years, where she also served as the high school principal and as a counselor.
In addition to serving as an administrator, Kuenstler was a math teacher for the Linden- Kildare school district for eight years.
“I’m fortunate to have a wide range of aspects of the school system,” she said.
The transition to Yorktown was a smooth one, she said, thanks to the administrators.
John David Caffey, the athletic director, looks forward to seeing what Kuenstler will help accomplish.
“She’s got a good vision, and we’re excited about it,” Caffey said.
Kuenstler wants to dedicate the 2019-2020 school year to observing and getting to know the educators, students and stakeholders. She will also monitor whether the needs of students are being met and find out what changes, if any, the curriculum needs. The district has about 550 students.
The district also will look to the state accountability ratings, which will be released in August, for any changes. Last year, the Yorktown school district received an overall C grade from the Texas Education Agency’s accountability rating system. It is also analyzing new legislation the state has passed, including new school safety bills and House Bill 3, which provides more funding to schools but also changes how state aid is calculated.
The district is revisiting its school safety plan to see what needs to be added to fit the requirements of the new bill. Teachers and staff have already received extensive emergency training through the DeWitt County Sheriff’s Office, and all teachers have emergency kits in classrooms.
Teachers and high school students also took a “Stop the Bleed” course as well as CPR training, said secondary principal Ashley Chandler. Teachers and staff will have in-service training with Gulf Bend Center before the school year begins to be able to help with mental health first aid.
Some of the new security requirements will also be implemented through the renovation of the Yorktown schools. The Yorktown school board in April approved expanding and renovating the junior high and high school campuses.
Middle school students will be moved to the same campus as the high school. The junior high campus will then become the elementary school, and the current elementary school will be demolished in order to make room for parking. Construction is estimated to cost about $10.9 million and will be paid for through the district fund balance, Kuenstler said.
The renovation will include security measures such as access control, including an electronic system to enter the building, cameras and new fencing.
Construction began in the summer and is expected to be completed before the start of the 2020 school year.
Kuenstler has much to learn in her first year and looks forward to the school year.
“We are going to focus on good teaching and making Yorktown the best little school district around,” she said.