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Barwise Weight Room Funded; Teacher Hiring Schedule Approved

Barwise Weight Room Funded; Teacher Hiring Schedule Approved

Healthcare contribution finalized; Scientific Learning program adopted; 2017-2018 school calendar changed…and more




Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod explains a preliminary budget for the new fiscal year to board members.

Wichita Falls ISD board members kept a promise to Barwise Middle School parents and students Monday by funding a weight room for the school at a cost of $169,750.


The move was just one of many back-to-school preparations taken at the July 17 board meeting to position the District for the 2017-2018 school year.


Board members also adopted a new hiring schedule for teachers, nurses and librarians; finalized the District’s contribution to employees’ health care plans; adjusted the school calendar to accommodate a last-minute testing date change made by the state; moved ahead with plans to bring a new early-childhood program, called Scientific Learning, into the District’s tool chest of reading strategies, and more.


Barwise Weight Room

In a 6-0 vote, board members awarded a bid to Wichita Falls-based Gary Baker Construction for $169,750 to build a promised weight room on the Barwise Middle School campus.


Several years ago, a project estimate for the weight room came to $130,000. But when the project was bid out earlier this year, bids were twice as high, causing board members to reject all bids in June.


The project was modified in its scope to an estimated $175,000 project and rebid. It drew three proposals from Wendeborn Construction ($199,100), Santa Rosa Construction ($178,257), and Gary Baker Construction ($169,750).


The project was revised by moving the proposed facility 20 feet to the east of the original location. The new location, closer to Maplewood, put it outside the curve of the 100-year flood plain, requiring less fill dirt. The move also changed the scope of the foundation.


Architects also selected two sets of different doors for the facility, saving $6,000. The proposed facility remains a metal building with no restrooms.


“This is something we promised people we would do,” said board member Bill Franklin as he made a motion to accept the bid recommendation. “It still costs way more than I think it should cost.”


The new weight room will be paid for from the District’s fund balance.


The project will begin as soon as contracts are signed, said Mr. Baker. He estimated 150 calendar days to build the facility.


Employer Health Care Contribution

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved continuing WFISD’s employer healthcare contribution up to $393 for the 2017-2018 school year.


For the employee only who chooses the Individual ActiveCare 1-HD Plan, the school district pays 100 percent of the cost, a total of $351 monthly. However, two other plans are offered, and if an employee selects one of the higher-cost plans, the District will pay up to $393 monthly to help defray their expenses.


WFISD costs for health care rose by $10 per month per employee. “Our cost went up, but the employee cost also went up,” said Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod. Health care costs for family coverage rose by as much as 18 percent, he said.


For the next two years, the state will continue to pay the Employee Only cost of $351, a perk that District leaders feared losing this year but that remains for the next biennium.


Board members Dale Harvey and Bill Franklin urged District leaders to shop health care providers every year, regardless of what the state does or doesn’t do, in fairness to employees, who are shouldering higher and higher premiums.


2017-2018 Hiring Schedule for Teachers, Librarians and Nurses Adopted

In a 6-0 vote, board members adopted a hiring schedule that gives first-year teachers $43,200 (an increase of $200 over last year) and reflects a hiring schedule with a step increase of $200 per step for each year worked up to 20 years.


Teachers, librarians and nurses will also get an extra $200 for the year.


Although the District’s internal teacher pay scale begins at zero years of experience and ascends to reward teachers for up to 43 years of service, the hiring schedule is different. It fulfills the state’s requirement by offering 20 pay-scale steps. Any new employee hired with more than 20 years of teaching experience will be paid at the top, 20-year rung of the hiring pay ladder.


The District has benefitted from raising teacher pay substantially during the past two years by acquiring high quality teachers to fill its positions, said Mr. Kuhrt. In 2015-2016, starting teacher pay rose from $39,000 to $41,500, and in 2016-2017, starting teacher pay rose from $41,500 to $43,000. The District has also benefitted, he said, from a relatively new policy that provided incentives to resigning and retiring teachers to register their plans early with the Human Resources department so that the hiring process could begin early.


The pay increase for teachers, librarians and nurses “doesn’t affect the budget that much,” said Mr. Sherrod, since higher paying teachers that retired were replaced with (less expensive) teachers averaging 10 years’ experience.


Scientific Learning Program Purchased

Board members voted 6-0 to purchase Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant Program costing $656,800.


The program will be paid for initially by WFISD but reimbursed over the next three years by three grant payments of $220,000 from The McCoy Foundation. Misti Spear, director of elementary curriculum, wrote the grant for $660,000.


The District has already received the first payment of $220,000.


“This is a big deal,” interjected Mr. Kuhrt as CFO Tim Sherrod shared the financial details with board members, and laid out the case for the purchase.


“We know early literacy is a big deal for us. A student who is prepared to read faces so many less obstacles,” Mr. Kuhrt said.


Through research, WFISD educators have recognized the importance of early learning to the brain, which is malleable and will respond to repetition and training. Scientific Learning is a computer-based program that capitalizes on brain chemistry and plasticity as it relates to reading and language skills and cognitive skills like memory, attention, processing and sequencing.


“It improves both reading and mathematical reasoning skills. It also delivers diagnostic reports with scaffolding system for teacher utilization,” according to board documents.


The Fast ForWord is a 12-week program implemented 30 to 60 minutes per day, 5 days a week, in grades K-5.


The McCoy Foundation offered to help by funding the program. It wants the District to closely track results. “They’re expecting results. We will show as we go,” said Mr. Kuhrt.  “We’re excited. Thrilled. We’ve thanked them repeatedly.”


The purchase will require the District to use its fund balance to front $436,800 to pay local licensing fees at each site.


Band Instrument Purchase

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the purchase of nearly $400,000 in Conn-Selmer and Yamaha instruments from Sam Gibbs Music.


The purchase from Conn-Selmer included several perks, including a one-time grant to WFISD staff of $3,750 for professional development, an educational clinician grant annually of $2,000 for staff, and three annual Conn-Selmer Institute scholarships to staff, a $2,000 value.


Yamaha also offered incentives for the District’s purchase, giving back 3 percent of the WFISD purchase for clinical support or professional development, valued at $1,330.57, according to Kelly Strenski, fine arts director.


The bill for this purchase will be paid out of the District’s fund balance.


The purchase includes 216 instruments or pieces of equipment ranging in price from $37 for a bass drum cover to $4961 for a bassoon to $14,596 for a Selmer Paris Contra Alto to $25,693 for a Selmer Paris Contra Bass.


Climate-controlled storage for the instruments “is an ongoing issue,” said Mrs. Strenski.  “It requires constant effort.”


Board members urged her to hold schools, band directors and maintenance directors accountable for providing, organizing and monitoring a specific area at each school where these new band instruments will be stored.


“For us, it’s not just summer. It’s year round” that proper storage is needed, said Mrs. Strenski.


Investment Policy

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the District’s Investment Policy, its Annual Investment Report, a list of investment brokers and investment officer training providers.


The move was taken in compliance with the Public Funds Investment Act 2256.008, which requires annual review and adoption of investment policy.


This year, Mr. Sherrod said the District kept one month’s worth of expenses in Texpool and everything else in Texpool Prime to earn more interest, as detailed on the Investment Report for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.


While the District has nine investment options available, the District limited investments to primarily the two pools and to the American National Bank Money Market, according to Mr. Sherrod.


June Budget Amendments

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved budget amendments to the 2016-2017 budgets, as recommended by Mr. Sherrod.


General Operating expenditures reflect an increase of $143,000. The District’s deficit is $5,298,584. There were no amendments to the Food Service or Debt Service budgets.


Mr. Sherrod said he would create a report giving the details of the $5.3 million deficit.


Preliminary 2017-2018 Budget Draft Introduced

Mr. Sherrod presented to board members a preliminary balanced budget draft for the 2017-2018 school year. The draft reflected a 15 percent cut to departmental budgets where possible.


Revenue for the new fiscal year from state aid and property tax collections will be “a little higher but there is no drastic new money,” said Mr. Sherrod.


Total revenue is estimated to be $125,838,459. Expenditures are calculated at $125,381,710. The projected annual fund balance for Aug. 31, 2018 is $26,764,993 compared to the beginning Fund Balance on Sept. 1, 2016, which was $29,477,757.


Mr. Sherrod recommended that the District keep the same tax rate of $1.23 per $100 property valuation.


Some highlights:

  • Health services ($1,488,716) rose by $100,000 because the District did away with a nursing float pool and hired more nurses.
  • General Administration rose by about $200,000, reflecting salary increases.
  • Extra-curricular costs were $3.2 million, with cuts made mainly to athletics, said Mr. Sherrod.
  • The Maintenance budget rose to $11,231,551, an increase reflecting increased costs for the Career Education Center’s maintenance.


2017-2018 School Calendar Revision

In a 6-0 vote, board members revised the 2017-2018 school calendar to include a last-minute scheduling change from the state.


The state posted approved testing dates to be included in the new calendars, one of which fell on one of WFISD’s Inclement Weather Days.


To comply with the new testing schedule, WFISD administration recommended moving its Inclement Weather Day from Friday, May 18, 2018, to Friday, May 25, 2018. This change creates a new Last Day of School, changing it from Friday May 25, 2018, to Thursday May 24, 2018.


The recently released assessment calendar has all make-up sessions for STAAR assessments scheduled to be given May 14 through May 17, 2018 and completed on May 18.


Now that districts track instructional minutes rather than instructional days, WFISD has five to six extra “cushion” days to use instead of using up an Inclement Weather Day in case of bad weather, said Mr. Kuhrt. “That definitely could change,” he said.


Security Initiative

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved a Security Initiative Phase 2 to Wendeborn Construction Inc., of Wichita Falls, Texas, for $211,000. The Initiative will complete security remodeling at seven campuses: Cunningham, Crockett, Farris, Jefferson, Haynes, Booker T. Washington, and Hirschi High School.


The estimated cost for the projects was $287,930.33; board members awarded the bid to Wendeborn for $211,000.


WFISD had $500,000 available from bond funds to remodel entries at schools to increase safety. This will complete the safety project, according to Mr. Kuhrt. The project’s two phases have come in under budget.


Designating Hazardous Zones

In a 6-0 vote, board members passed a resolution identifying the hazardous zones that fall within the two-mile radius of its campuses. These zones, which typically would not qualify children for riding the bus, are hazardous and make students who live there bus- eligible.


Fundraiser, T-Shirt and Promo Items

In a 6-0 vote, board members accepted the information to award Fundraiser, T-Shirt and Promotional Items to an approved list of vendors for two years, beginning Sept. 1.


The bid was sent to 59 vendors; 26 vendors were put on the approved list.



WFISD-Initiated Localized Update

A variety of policies pertaining to WFISD need revisions now that WFISD has been designated as a District of Innovation. The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) has recommended the proper wording for changes within the appropriate policies. The changes were also approved by the District Action Committee.


Changes apply to AF (LOCAL), DBA (LOCAL), DK (LOCAL), EB (LOCAL) and FO (LOCAL), according to Debby Patterson, executive director of school administration. These policies apply to innovation districts, employment requirements and restrictions, assignment and schedules, the school year, student discipline, and admissions through intradistrict transfers and classroom assignments.


FDB (LOCAL) is also being submitted to remove WFISD’s opt-out process, leaving the current transfer process with minor changes, she said. “This gives parents a year to know what’s coming,” she said.