Public School Week was approved for March 17-21 by the Colmesneil ISD Board on Tuesday, February 25. Each year the superintendent recommends a date, an ongoing tradition in Texas, that allows for an open house. Colmesneil will hold theirs on March 17 from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., and parents are invited to come and visit the school and ask question about their children's education.
The board approved the minutes from the previous meetings and from several specially called board meetings that interviewed prospective superintendents. The also approved the campus and district improvement plans that direct the overall efficiency of the academic program, a plan that is a living document that is adjusted throughout the school year., and approved a local policy that allowed vendors to submit bids electronically.
The board also approved some equipment bids to replace some cafeteria equipment, some over 20 years old. The new combi-oven has a duel function of being able to steam or cook food, and they ordered two convection ovens, both to be installed by the April break. The rest of the upgrades should be completed in the summer.
The board approved budget Amendment #1, which allowed them to move some money into the cafeteria budget to cover the unforeseen cost of the upgrades, and a few other things like insurance.
Board members considered rental of football field to a semi-pro football team. Lufkin had rented theirs briefly and no longer rents them. The tabled this rental prospect for the time being, which allowed them to reconsider it later or next year.
Superintendent Elton Hightower reported on the school's ability to get some Existing Debt Allotment money from the state because of their bonded debt. However, because the school was already receiving Instructional Facilities Allotment money for the gymnasium built in 2001, a kind of "lease-purchase" where the state and school pay separate portions. Essentially, the IFA money negated the receipt of EDA money. Once the IFA was paid off, Colmesneil will qualify for the EDA money, which their financial advisor said should be as much as $20,000.
Hightower also reported that they finished upgrades for their AG shop, installing the planned rolling door and covering the area where the metal is kept for student welding.
In its February 13 meeting, the Woodville ISD Board of Trustees honored Woodville's STAR (Superintendent's Team for Academic Recognition) campus and district Teachers of the Year. These outstanding educators were nominated and selected by their peers. Board President Trey Allison and Superintendent Glen Conner presented plaques for the designation to Kristy Miller of Wheat Elementary; Angela Brown of Woodville Intermediate; Laren Allen of Woodville Middle School; and Srinivas Gambhirrao, known by students, peers, staff and administrators as "Mr. Rao," of Woodville High School.
Laren Allen also represented the district as its Teacher of the Year. Board members voiced their thanks, from their perspectives both as parents and as Board members, for the teachers' hard work, effort and dedication. President Trey Allison expressed his appreciation in a statement to those receiving the honors, saying "It takes a special person to be a teacher. Teaching is not just a job, but requires commitment. Thanks for your commitment to our kids and our community." He also underscored the commendable effort that these teachers "pour into our kids."
Cody Jarrott presented the January financial and investment reports, which the Board voted to approve. Jarrott also updated the Board on collected tax revenues, which fund the District, in his January Tax Report.
Additionally, Jarrott commented on the necessary expense in leasing, maintaining and using the administration's and campuses' 24 copiers. In response, Superintendent Conner noted textbook publishers are trending toward combined workbook-texts, foreseeing the next move being toward e-books. Moving to the blended workbook-text appears to be a cost-effective solution, as it will offset much of the expense of copying homework, papers, handouts and tests for classroom use, while the cost is comparable to that of traditional textbooks.
Superintendent Conner submitted a draft of the 2014-2015 school calendar for the Board's review. Last minute TEA testing date changes require coordination with other area districts before the calendar is finalized for Board approval.
Mr. Conner also presented the 2012-2013 School Report Card for the Board's information. The TEA produces the report for the purpose of each school district's accountability to the public. The report is sent home with each student's progress report for parental review and is available to the public.
The Board considered and adopted a resolution to phase out the use of dual assignment form contracts within the Woodville ISD. Dual contracts, for example 'teacher-coach' or 'teacher-band director', have existed in the district since the early 1990s, and the coming school year will begin their phasing out and replacement in favor of straight teacher contracts. Superintendent Conner assured the Board, "This will have no impact on the contracts themselves or their content, or on the teachers; it is only an administrative change." The measure, approved by the Board, will entail modification of about 20 currently existent contracts district-wide. President Allison stated that the reasons for the needed change to straight teacher contracts are spelled out in the resolution itself, as follows:
"... due to legislative budget cuts, the tightening of school district budgets, and the increased emphasis of the State of Texas on accountability by school districts; and in an effort to increase the flexibility of the administration in handling personnel matters."
In his monthly Superintendent's Report, Conner discussed the following updates: Upgrades on campus and district facilities are nearing the finish line. Integral's work is in its final stages, although it was delayed by recent inclement weather. The remaining portion of their work involves access control programming issues and finalizing controls at the Summit and other school gyms. The District received rebates from Entergy for the air conditioning upgrades, and is applying for a rebate for the lighting upgrades.
The third six-week period Attendance and Enrollment Report revealed decreased attendance of 1.5 percent in contrast to this school year's first six weeks, probably due to the January flu season. Student attendance is a major factor in determing the amount of funding the District receives from TEA. Current enrollment stood at 1,329 as of January 17.
Recent snow days will be made up on Monday, February 24 (from Winter Break) and on Friday, April 18 (Good Friday) to keep from extending the school year.
The much-anticipated Lamar partnership for workforce preparation is facing delays, due to Lamar's funding changes, and will start at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Conner presented a new opportunity for the District related to drivers' training. Talks are in progress about partnership with a contractor, which presently conducts the classroom portion of drivers' education for various area districts, and which is qualified and equipped to facilitate a driving school. The contractor only needs a room to conduct after-school classes, and will employ local teachers who have the Drivers' Education certification to teach, prepare and train students. The contractor will assume all liability pertaining to the program. The State of Texas written driving exam will be administered, the contractor will conduct driving practice in a company vehicle customized for drivers' education, and will arrange for students to take the DPS driving test at the end of the course. A contract has not been agreed upon, but Conner is hopeful that in May or June of this year the first group of students may begin the training. Conner emphasized that the District will only provide classroom space for the course and that there will be no liability on the District's part. The contractor will charge students for the program – possibly, but not firm – in the neighborhood of $150 or less. In contrast to the $80 to $100 cost for parent-directed driver's training, this program will simplify the process for parents and students; save families the time and effort of completing confusing and detailed paperwork; and prevent the frustration of keeping logs of driving time. Beyond Woodville ISD students or Tyler County residents, the program will be open anyone in the public who meets DPS' eligibility standards. The program launch date is dependent upon the availability of instructors. Conner continues to work out details with the contractor.
The Texas Department of Agriculture approved Woodville ISD for their Child Nutrition Program, in which the agency will administer and fund breakfast for all elementary students starting with the 2014-2015 school year. TDA requires districts to document that more than 80 percent of students within the district meet the TDA definition of disadvantaged. Implementing the program will affect Woodville ISD transportation and student morning drop-off, for example, and numerous schedules must be adjusted before the program may be implemented.
House Bill 5: According to Conner, we requested a new requirement, which will provide a strong selling point for the quality of education the District offers, documenting the areas in which we excel. Committees of community members and students who are engaged in the education process will evaluate the campuses, and the District administration will calculate and submit the cumulative scores, which are due in August. Additional programs to be assessed include fine arts, wellness and physical education, community and parental involvement (which provides an opportunity for parents to assist students with tutoring and for student community service projects), 21st century workforce development, second language acquisition, digital learning environment, drop-out prevention strategies, education programs for gifted and talented students, English as a second language. Overall, evaluating and reporting on these programs will provide a good public relations tool for the District while helping us to see, from a community and parental perspective, what we do well and what we can do better.
A significant number of students are participating in this semester's IUL contests. Competitions include math, science, speaking, one-act play, tennis, golf, track, baseball, softball, building trades and family and consumer education. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is scheduled for March 4-23, when Woodville students will compete with students across the state showing their livestock.
Chester City Council considered expanding the City Hall building at its regular meeting Monday night, Feb. 3.
After convening and approval of the financial statements for the City and Chester Gas System, they proceeded to consider the addition of another full-time staff person to work with City Supervisor Dale Clamon. The particular concern was to get another trained, like Clamon, to become certified in the operation of the gas system. Currently, Clamon can hardly take a day off, and, God forbid, they would be in a fix if something happened to Clamon.
Mayor Elton Lawrence brought back a report for the City to consider on recycling. Of the four neighboring communities that use the Lufkin resources, only two actually fill up their recycle bins. To secure a recycle bin, the City would have to go to Lufkin and get the bin and return it each time, all at the City's own expense. Furthermore, there would be no payment for any of the material turned in, in part, Lawrence said, because even in recycle bins with separated compartments people will still dump un-separated trash. So when the bin is returned, sad to say, often the recycler has to separate the trash from the recyclable material. The Council did not see the need to act at this time.
Because of storage space running low, and to increase efficiency, the Council listened closely to City Secretary Annette Hickman who explained the need for more space, for even a storage building. Council members Vincent Incardona and Eric Holton suggested expansion to the building itself.
They adjourned in good spirits, with Incardona and Holton proceeding to look closer at how they might expand their city hall to meet the needs for the coming years.
Shown are FFA Advisor Melissa Bendy and student officers Heather Choate, Jaci Davis, Laken Read, Maddie Read, Levi Watts, Kyrstin Jobe and Timber Wright.
by Michael G. Maness
Chester ISD Board received a special presentation by FFA Officers for the School Board Appreciation Month at their meeting Thursday evening, Jan. 16.
President Ray McKnight called the meeting to order at 5:58 p.m., an invocation was given by Vernon Lewis, and everyone recited the Pledges of Allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags. The consent agenda was passed including the minutes of the previous meeting, financial statements and the tax report. The Board approved both the 2013-14 District Improvement Plan and the extension of coverage by TASB on the Liability and Property programs for 2014-15.
Preston Singleton, of Clark & Co., presented the 2012-2013 financial audit and it was unanimously approved.
Superintendent Wayne Ivey reported on enrollment, attendance, the calendar of events, transportation and facilities. He discussed the future of the district on textbooks and technology, and it looked good.
In a special session on Jan. 7, the Colmesneil ISD Board hired Elton Hightower as Interim Superintendent and accepted the resignation of Yvette Carlton. Carlton had been doing both that and the Elementary Principal jobs, and remains in the latter. Hightower had retired years ago as Colmesneil Superintendent.
The Board convened early at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21, with an invocation from Secretary Kenneth Adaway.
January was School Board Appreciation Month, and each board member had a specially tailored gift crafted from the Elementary School students. In the photo is Board President Curtis Pittman, holding up some candy creatively decorated into sticks of dynamite with the note, "A dynamite board member." Hightower noted the special "thank you" on the school's Web site (ColmesneilISD.net).
Carlton reported that staff development went well, and she was proud of the 96% attendance rate. She had challenged her staff and students to raise $10,000 for the Jump Rope for Hearts and Hoops programs. If they did so by Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, she and Coach Robin Grissom will spend 24 hours on top of the Elementary School building and welcoming all to school the following morning. She was delighted to accept Elijah's offer to reward twelve excelling second through sixth graders with A.R. parties at the restaurant.
High School Principal Walter McAlpin requested the Board's nod to proceed with plans for a student challenge in the spring to allow for the exemption from final exams. The detailed plan was supported by the teachers and carried a positive resonance with both the Board and Hightower. Among several stipulations like all fines paid and textbooks returned, the basic criteria for exemption included less than three absences for "A" students, two absences for "B" and one absence for "C" students.
Hightower gave a preliminary outline of his assessments since assuming duties, expressing gratitude for many apparent successes, including the advanced use of technology and the outstanding high school weight room. The 3-D printer supplied a part for a copier – amazing. Hightower had several conversations with Region 5 administrators that caused them rethink their charges for several services that the school is no longer using. He further challenged the Region regarding Internet services and the school's critical leadership role in the local consortium regarding sale of water. Those negotiations and challenges from Hightower to the Region could save the school several tens of thousands of dollars.
Hightower also addressed several repairs of the cafeteria stoves and steamers with a fuller renovation down the line, which could cost as much as $40,000. He also expressed appreciation for Commissioner Mike Marshal's help in addressing the drainage problems at Lake Tejas. The restrooms and piers will be repaired, too, before the camp's reopening. In light of both current and pending maintenance issues, and the prospect of the Lake Tejas resident maintenance person's relocation, Hightower expected that a new maintenance position could be forthcoming, half-time for the lake and half for the school's needs.
The Board approved the Federal Grant Management Procedures that, according to Hightower, brought the district into compliance with the TEA's guidelines and approved Goff and Harrington as the school's auditors.
Because of the school break next month, Hightower encouraged the Board to move its next regular meeting to Feb. 25, which they approved.