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New Teacher Evaluation and Support System Launches This Week

New Teacher Evaluation and Support System Launching This Week
WFISD is implementing the state recommended appraisal program lauded for its objectivity
A new, more objective teacher appraisal plan will be used this year to evaluate WFISD teachers, and administrators will be trained this week to use it most effectively.
The Texas Education Agency created the program, called the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System, or T-TESS, over the past three years to replace the previous appraisal system that had been criticized as subjective.
Evaluators were trained en masse last week; WFISD teachers will be introduced to the new program Friday at their campuses. 
Peter Griffiths, associate superintendent, presented the new appraisal perspective and calendar to WFISD board members Tuesday, August 9, in a work session as a point of information. The Texas Administrative Code did not require the presentation, Mr. Griffiths said.
The new system grades more on actual events an evaluator observes in a classroom. It ranks teacher performance on a continuum with a low end that reflects a teacher doing all the activity in the classroom to a higher, more proficient standard where students understand concepts and demonstrate their proficiency in the classroom.
However, a teacher assessment that falls in the middle of the continuum is considered proficient. "We need to teach our teachers that 'proficient' is okay," he said. Many teachers balk at a rating that isn't at the top of the scale, said Mr. Griffiths.
Sixty-one WFISD teacher appraisers attended the required three days of T-TESS training from Aug. 2-4, 2016. Now they must take and pass the T-TESS Appraiser Certification Exam.
Final 2015-2016 Budget Amendments
As the current budget year nears its end Aug. 31, Ms. Jan Arrington told board members she recommended several budget amendments to transfer money between functions. Board members passed the amendments in a 5-0 vote.
"We are syncing the budget with the actual activity," she explained. The largest items she noted were property tax collections and state aid revenue. "Some are up, some are down, but overall we have a net decrease," she said.
She noted a total budgeted deficiency of revenues over expenditures of $1.5 million. Budgeted revenues fell to reflect estimated actual tax collections and state aid through Aug. 31, 2016. Expenditure budgets rose primarily because of construction-related change orders and fees, she said.
The Food Service Local Revenues reflected a proposed increase of $1,600 because of interest earnings.
The Debt Service Local Revenues showed an overall proposed decrease of $235,681. The State Program Revenues were reduced to reflect the estimated actual state aid that the district will receive through Aug. 31, she said.
The district paid an extra $90,000 for "CTE Asbestos & Unforeseen Conditions," according to Ms. Arrington's report.
That unexpected expense came when the Career and Technical Education Center site was excavated, and workers found two buried plumbing lines and several buried debris pits that were not disclosed on property records. One line was an asbestos pipeline had had to be removed and abated; the second one was capped.
The crews used a radar scan to locate buried debris pits, most likely from the 1979 tornado, around the entire area where the CTE building will stand. Any future plans to build on the land will require a more extensive ground scan.
The district is investigating the process to pursue action against the prior landowners for not revealing the pipes and debris pits.
The district also allocated nearly $5,000 to the "digital lounge" at Wichita Falls High School. The money updated the student area to make it "more device friendly," according to Mr. Griffiths. Former WFHS Principal Debbie Dipprey had saved money for the project, which will allow students to charge their phones as they socialize in the student center.
Back-to-school adoptions
In 5-0 votes, board members adopted a variety of back-to-school bids and books, including:
  • The 2016-2017 Student Code of Conduct
  • A catalog bid for office supplies
  • A catalog bid for science supplies
  • A catalog bid for teaching and instructional supplies
  • A catalog bid for trophies, awards and plaques 
  • A catalog bid for physical education supplies
  • A trades bid (job order contract) for minor projects that will be done in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The district's procedure is to award the job to the lowest bid unless the No. 1 ranked vendor is unavailable or cannot meet the recommended time frame, and then the next vendor receives the bid.
  • A recommended list of fundraiser vendors
  • A catalog bid for athletic supplies and equipment
In all cases, the bids were advertised in the Times Record News and posted on the WFISD website before they were evaluated.
Auto and Crime insurance
The Auto and Crime Insurance premium submitted by Higginbotham Insurance will decrease by 3.6 percent from last year's total premium of $45,210. The new premium will be $40,655, according to a report by Ms. Arrington.
However, TASB General and Professional Liability premium will rise by 4.3 percent - the first increase for the District in four years. The new premium will be $32,854. This will be the final year in a three-year contract.
The District takes more security measures
In a 5-0 vote, board members accepted the District's recommendation to award its Security Initiative Phase 1 to Texoma Builders Supply of Wichita Falls for $108,065. Another bid, from Binswanger Glass, ran as high as $170,407.
This is the next step in what has been a long-range plan to increase security in WFISD schools. This is Phase 1 of the plan that is based on Bond 2015, according to Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.
"We want a more inviting, public-friendly look," said Mr. Kuhrt. The District is creating "storefronts" at schools that enclose the front foyer and direct the public through the schools' main offices.
Crews will remodel six school foyers, then evaluate the result before continuing on to the rest of the schools. The timeline to finish the first six schools is now Nov. 30, pushed back from Oct. 31.
The work will be done while school is in session but should take only 2-4 days at each school, said Mr. Kuhrt.
Resolution on tax trust properties
Habitat for Humanity asked board members to approve the transfer of the district's interest in two properties on Dallas Street so that the non-profit can construct a new home for low-income housing under the CDBG Housing Initiative Program.
The property located at 806 Dallas was struck off to the three taxing entities for back taxes in 2001; the property at 808 Dallas was struck off in 2010.
Wichita County and WFISD will transfer their interests to the City of Wichita Falls, which will transfer the property to Habitat for Humanity so a new home can be built.
"I think that's great," said board member Kevin Goldstein.
"It's worked very well in the past," added board member Bill Franklin.
Three more properties have three separate interested parties who have made written offers to purchase them. The three properties - 713 Marconi, 1917 Perigo, and 307 Patterson - were previously struck off to the City of Wichita Falls, which acted as trustee for the City, Wichita County and WFISD.
WFISD board members are expected to give their approval at the next school board meeting to comply with the Texas Property Tax Code so the City can sell these properties for less than the minimum bids.
On Tuesday, Aug. 16, the City will vote to accept the offers as presented.
Authorized representatives
In a 5-0 vote, board members approved adding Ms. Arrington and Mr. Kuhrt to the Designated Authorized Representatives to participate in the Texas TERM, a local government investment pool.
Financial Reports
As of June 30, 2016, the revenue and expenditures for all WFISD funds are tracking closely with those of last year at this time, according to Jan Arrington, chief financial officer.
The General fund, with revenue at 84.8 percent, is fractionally higher than last year. The Food Service Fund shows revenue that is substantially higher this year - by 10 percentage points at 87 percent. This is a result of "pulling back on the budget" by making cost savings decisions, said Ms. Arrington. 
Personnel Report
The District reported three letters of retirement among its professional staff, 13 teacher resignations, and 15 resignations from its clerical and support staff.
Board members also approved the hiring of 17 staff members and teachers with 47 years of total experience. They also approved three contract changes of classroom teachers moving to new classroom assignments.