Officials from tornado-ravaged Missouri ISD tour Grand Prairie schools



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Posted on November 4, 2011 at 9:00 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 4 at 9:05 PM

GRAND PRAIRIE - It's a tour with note-taking. Even iPads to really put educational ideas on record.

Dr. Angie Besendorfer, is the assistant superintendent of Joplin schools. Her team is here to learn from the Grand Prairie ISD, in hopes to rebuild two elementary schools, one middle school and the vocational high school in Joplin, Missouri.

The town and school system was ravaged by a tornado in May of this year.

"Their high school blew away in a tornado, so we want to build something that will build great opportunities," Besendorfer said.

At the John A. Dubiski career high school in Grand Prairie, there are 11 pathways for students to choose from, ranging from engineering to health sciences. The program draws many visitors from in and out of state.

And the Joplin educators came prepared with questions, like, "What would you do better next time?"

"We get to dream about the future of education," Besendorfer said. "So we're here to gather ideas of best practices, so we can continue to build on that and create the next best."

They also learned from students.

"They spent a great deal of time with the student panel," said Vicki Villarreall of Grand Prairie ISD. "We had 11 students come talk to them [one from] each pathway, and they seemed to glean a lot from our kids."

Already this group has toured schools in Austin, Houston, Nebraska and Kansas City, looking for the best.

"It is something that has been an incredible journey," Besendorfer said. "We lost kids, we lost staff members, we lost community members and friends. That is a horrific thing. We're now to the point to where we're re-building, and our community is committing re-building better. There can be opportunity in a funnel cloud."