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Chartwells Transition Underway; Accountability Ratings and Final Budget Presented

Chartwells Transition Underway; Accountability Ratings and Final Budget Presented

Board members see plan for project-based learning at Fain Elementary


Chartwells, the company that will transform WFISD’s food service this year to provide better nutrition for students and more training for staff members, has cooked up a solid plan for the 2017-2018 school year to make the District’s food service better than ever.


Chartwells Regional Director Michael Leonard presented his detailed plan to board members in a noon work session Tuesday, August 15, 2017. The plan charts the company’s course from July 1 to now as it transitions into the WFISD schools and prepares a well-trained staff.


Of the 125 Food Service staff that WFISD had when Chartwells stepped into District kitchens, 62 stayed with WFISD and 49 hired on with Chartwells. Fourteen decided not to return, with most retiring, said Mr. Leonard.


The company is still recruiting for 22 positions and is over-hiring eight full-time subs who will float to any position needed on a daily basis.


The company has also retained a local temp staff firm to help staff its kitchens if needed, he said.


The company will offer a reduced menu for this week’s first two days of school – Thursday and Friday – to simplify the process for students. “Our main goal is to get every student fed a wholesome meal,” said Mr. Leonard.


The company is adding feeding sites at the high schools and at the Career Education Center for students’ convenience. In 10 days, it will also bring in a food truck to give students yet another option for eating lunch. It is also preparing kiosks to add more serving sites.


An app called Nutrislice will complement Chartwells’ services. It provides menus along with calorie counts and allergy details. “School nurses can pull a card count and see all the allergy info. They can click allergens, and it puts a red line through any food with that allergen,” said Mr. Leonard.


“The app is really cool,” agreed Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.


The local Chartwells manager has met with about half of the WFISD principals to find out their expectations and visions. The company will closely track its performance with last year’s statistics and provide monthly data to board members.


Accountability Ratings Released Today, Aug.  15

The best piece of news in the Aug. 15 release of 2017 accountability ratings centered on Burgess Elementary. It was the one WFISD school that emerged completely from the lowest state rating called Improvement Required. In fact, the school tested so well in its 2017 STAAR tests that the school even earned two distinctions – or accolades – for special achievements.


Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths briefed board members on the ratings that were released that day.


In all, 23 WFISD campuses achieved the top “Met Standard” ranking. A campus can also earn a “Met Alternative Standard” or “Improvement Required.”


Two campuses – Booker T. Washington and Kirby Middle School -- remain in the “Improvement Required” category after two or more years. Two new campuses – Franklin Elementary and Hirschi High School – were added to the “Improvement Required” group.


However, Mr. Kuhrt reminded board members that the 2017 data cannot be compared to last year’s data or to next year, since the state will be changing its accountability system yet again. “It’s one shot based on today’s standards that have already been changed,” he said.


Across the state, 89 percent of campuses achieved the “Met Standard” or “Met Alternative Standard” ratings. Another 4.2 percent of campuses statewide were rated “Improvement Required;” the rest were not rated.


Ratings assess a school in four areas: student achievement, student progress, closing performance gaps and postsecondary readiness. To meet standard, a school must meet the state’s target for either student achievement or student progress, plus meet targets in the “gaps” and “readiness” categories.


Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths laid out the action plan for moving forward this year. After helping her school emerge from the IR status, former Burgess Principal Ann Pettit will take on a new position as School Improvement Coordinator to work closely with Booker T., Kirby Middle School and Franklin to help them do the same. Her experience of pulling Burgess out of “Improvement Required” status will give them the “how-you-do-it” help that the other four campuses need.


The District has put successful Fowler Elementary Principal Jeff Hill at Burgess Elementary to help sustain its academic achievements.


Mr. Griffiths said that he will take on the principal evaluations for Hirschi, Kirby, Franklin, Booker T., Lamar, Haynes and Burgess to bring consistency to all evaluations.


Funding has been set aside for additional training at the campuses. Training will include the Marzano High Reliability Schools program, Capturing Kids Hearts program, Seidlitz on Steroids, Scientific Learning reading program, and Balanced Literacy.


Kirby, Booker T. and Burgess will continue to have smaller classrooms, which research shows helps learners get the individual attention they need.


Project-based learning at Fain Elementary

Administrators at Fain Elementary received a $20,000 grant from the Priddy Foundation to take a new direction this year by pursuing project-based learning.


As Fain Principal Clarisa Richie explained to board members, the school’s journey to project-based learning originated when Ms. Richie’s inkling that her teachers were ready for a new challenge dovetailed with a request from Margie Reese with the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture for an opportunity to collaborate with a local school.


The journey continued with three days of implementation training, provided by The Buck Institute for Education, before school began. Teachers learned how to take their priority standards and design projects that will help learning jump off the paper and into children’s lives.


Project-based learning naturally integrates the arts into schools, which is another plus, she said.


The program will include everyone on the Fain campus. Each grade level will choose a project; the school will also pursue a school-wide project.


Already, pre-k classes are planning a café, 1st graders are planning a fantasy of lights display, 2nd graders are focusing on “Our Fain Neighborhood,” studying Fain’s descendants, and 3rd graders will create an angel tree. The school-wide project will be to create a maker space for the school, then team up with the Wichita  Falls Public Library or Junior League to create a maker space for the community.


The best projects help the community, said Mrs. Richie.


Because Fain students have scored well on state STAAR tests, this new effort is a needed challenge for the school, she said. “We are trying something different and taking a risk,” she said. “I am more excited to come to work than ever before.”


Cleaning up transfer policy wording

Board members considered a new policy, CQA(LOCAL), that school districts across the state are adopting to make their school district web sites compliant with new state regulations.


Another policy, FDB(LOCAL), will remove the opt-out process wording from its transfer policy. Board members discussed the details of the current transfer policy, which was changing to remove the sibling priority for a family who had received a transfer for one child and was seeking a transfer for another.


“That’s the only part I have a problem with,” said Mr. Payton. “We try to do things to make things easier. If you have multi-siblings within three years, you need all the help you can get. I’d like to see a sibling priority.”


Retaining the sibling priority could be helpful in breaking ties when several families are vying for few spots, said Debby Patterson, executive director of school administration.


Board members suggested that a sibling priority be respected for current students opting out with siblings in the pipeline no more than three years behind them. If there is, say, a gap of six years between siblings, “the chain breaks,” said Mr. Payton. “Now you’re a transfer student.”


“This is not a legacy program,” added board member Elizabeth Yeager. “It’s a hardship transportation program.”


Waiver to use Eduphoria

Board members are expected to approve an expedited waiver to refrain from using a teacher portal of the Texas Assessment Management System. This will be the third waiver the District has requested from TEA. It will last for the next three years, through the 2019-2020 school year.


The TEA portal exists, but it was originally created for the Pearson company and has not been functional since TEA replaced Pearson with ETS. “We must follow the law even though they haven’t kept their end up,” said Shannon Kuhrt, assessment director. “We’re waiting for a portal that doesn’t exist.”


For the past two years, WFISD has used a robust management system called Eduphoria, she said.


“It’s for so much more than local data,” added Superintendent Mike Kuhrt of Eduphoria.  TEA requires that school districts keep close track of students coming in and leaving the District, which, for WFISD, requires promptly recording the details of the comings and goings of up to 40 students per day. “It must always be current,” he said.


Eduphoria makes easy work of that. Teachers also can build assessments, create data banks that follow students throughout their K-12 education career, and much more, said Mrs. Kuhrt.


Extracurricular status of 4-H organizations

Board members are expected to approve a resolution that sanctions the Wichita County Texas 4-H organization as an extracurricular activity. It will also approve the Adjunct Faculty Agreement submitted by Peter Griffiths, associate superintendent.


Wichita County requests the agents listed on the Adjunct Faculty Agreement be given adjunct staff member status for the period of time indicated in the agreement so that students will be considered “in attendance” when participating in off-campus activities with an adjunct staff.


Resale property bids

Board members were asked to accept bids totaling $115,491.21 to put designated properties back on the tax rolls and remove them from the list of properties that need upkeep.


The Commissioners Court of Wichita County agreed to authorize the City of Wichita Falls to accept the bids; the City of Wichita Falls City Council also authorized the sealed bids as presented by staff.


The properties are sold “buyer beware” in a quick claim deed, according to Pat Hoffman.  Of the 100 parcels offered for sale, 63 received bids for the total of $115,491.21. Though many bids are considerably less than the tax-appraised value, Ms. Hoffman said it is often advantageous for taxing entities to return the properties to the tax roll and remove them from the City’s mowing responsibilities rather than wait for a higher bid.


Ten of the sold properties had houses or structures on them, with new owners interested in rehabbing some of them – a positive outcome.


Bids were as low as $50 and $100 for some properties and as high as $21,000 and $35,000 for others. The item was put on the Consent Agenda for a vote at Monday’s school board meeting.


Financial reports

Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod presented financial reports showing the District’s revenue and expenditure position through June 30, 2017.


The financial update represented 10 months of operations, 83.3 percent of the fiscal year.


The District has collected slightly more -- 85.22 percent -- of projected revenues this year, compared to 83.75 percent last year. Expenditures are less this year at 64.63 percent, compared to 75.63 percent last year.


For the General Fund: Revenues are 84.47 percent this year compared to slightly more, 86.91 percent, last year.


For the Food Service Fund: Revenues are down slightly this year at 84.47 percent compared to 86.91 percent last year. Expenditures are 76.97 percent this year, slightly more than last year’s 75.67 percent.


For the Debt Service Fund: Revenues are 101.56 percent this year, compared to 95.43 percent last year. Expenditures are 78.39 percent this year, slightly higher than last year’s 77.11 percent.


July 2017 budget amendments

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved budget amendments to the 2016-2017 budget. General Operating expenditures reflect an increase of $1,003,165 and a total budgeted deficiency of expenditures over revenues of $6,301,748.50.


There are no proposed amendments to the Food Service or Debt Service budgets.


In the General Operating Fund, budget revisions focused on payouts to Scientific Learning of $436,800, instrument purchases in Fine Arts totaling $396,614.59, and costs associated with the Barwise Middle School weight room for $169,750.


Budget adoption for 2017-2018 fiscal year

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to adopt the proposed General Fund budget, Food Service budget and Debt Service budget for 2017-2018.


The proposed budget can be funded with no increase to the Maintenance and Operations tax rate or the Debt Service tax rate. The M&O rate is currently $1.04; the Debt Service tax rate is 0.19; the total proposed tax rate would remain at $1.23.


The General Fund has a deficit of $1,671,146; the Food Service has a profit of $301,492; the Debt Service has a profit of $432,091. In total, the budget has a deficit of $1,214,397.


This new budget includes a step increase for teachers of $200, plus another $200; a pay increase for the rest of WFISD staff of 1 percent, and the funding of health care premiums for employees up to $393. It raises the first-year teacher pay to $43,200, an increase of $200.


A public hearing regarding this budget will be held August 21 at 5:30 p.m., just prior to the official August board meeting at 6 p.m.


Adoption of the 2017-2018 M&O tax rate and debt service tax rate

Mr. Sherrod recommended that board members set the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax rate at $1.04 per hundred dollar valuation for the coming year. He also recommended setting the Debt Service Tax Rate at $0.19 for the tax year 2017.


Based on the 2017 Certified Tax Roll from the Wichita Appraisal District, the proposed budget can be funded with no increase to either tax rate.


The proposed total tax rate is $1.23 per hundred dollar valuation.


Local policies updated

In a 6-0 vote, board members updated Policy FNCA(LOCAL) to allow male students to wear earrings.


The vote included the updates to other policies – AF(LOCAL), DBA(LOCAL), DK(LOCAL), EB(LOCAL) and FO(LOCAL) -- that incorporate revisions recommended by the Texas Association of School Boards as a result of WFISD taking on the distinction of District of Innovation.


Board member Bob Payton followed up on a question to administrators asked in a previous meeting about how one dress code statement – that women’s skirts should fall no higher than just above the knee – worked in practice.  “Did you get any feedback?” he asked.


“Yes, it has been brought up,” said Larry Menefee, coordinator of school administration. Principals would like to “keep it as is,” he said.


Trades Bid #17-37

Mr. Sherrod recommended that board members award the #17-37 Trades Bid to a specific list of vendors presented in board documents.


The bid was sent to 110 vendors. Fourteen responded. This proposal enables the District to utilize services required for minor projects in a quicker time frame. It is a one-year bid that begins Sept. 1, 2017 and continues through Aug. 31, 2018.


The bid included services such as plumbing, heating and air conditioning, locksmith, refrigeration, floor covering installations and repair, roofing, asbestos abatement, security installation, overhead door installation and repair, among other services.


Pest control RFP #17-38

Mr. Sherrod recommended awarding the RFP #17-38 Pest Control to Arts Home Pest Exterminators for $26,917.20. The bid went to 11 vendors, with one vendor requesting a walk-through and four vendors responding.


The recommendation is not to hire the lowest price bidder. That bidder, Pestmaster Services, appears to be a new company and had no good references. The second lowest bidder, Texoma Pest Management, had been previously used by the District with unsatisfactory results.


The third lowest bidder, Arts Home Pest Exterminators, is from Wichita Falls and estimated its cost at $26,917.20.  This is the District’s current pest vendor, said Brady Woolsey, executive director for operations.


Catalog Bid for Library Books and Supplies

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to award RFP #17-47 Catalog Bid for Library Books to a specific list of 32 vendors detailed in board documents. WFISD spends $50,000 to $70,000 annually to purchase library books.


The discounts submitted by vendors will enable the various departments to competitively compare prices and purchase items that are a best value for the District.


Mr. Sherrod also recommended another bid for library supplies to go to six vendors who responded to RFP #17-48. WFISD spends about $25,000 per year on library supplies.  Costs are paid from the respective campus’ library budget.


Unleaded Gasoline, Diesel Fuel purchase

The District will turn to five vendors for the purchase and delivery of unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel, which is funded through its Maintenance budget. RFP #17-49 is for three years, through August 31, 2020.


The 2017-2018 budgeted expenditure for gas and diesel is $470,000, which is the same amount allotted to unleaded gas and diesel in last year’s budget. In 2016-2017, WFISD purchased 45,000 gallons of gas at a cost of $67,419.06. WFISD also bought 133,957 gallons of diesel last year and paid $223,590.83.


Athletic Supplies and Equipment

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to award RFP #17-50 Percentage Off Catalog: Athletic Supplies and Equipment to 24 vendors who submitted a response to the District’s bid.


Vendor responses, detailed in board documents, list discounts available to the District.


TASB Delegate assembly representative

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved designating board member Elizabeth Yeager as the delegate to represent WFISD at the 2017 Texas Association of School Boards Delegate Assembly. Board member Bill Franklin was chosen as the alternate.