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Board Votes to Launch Pre-Reading Program

WFISD Becomes First Texas School District to Launch ‘Upstart’ Pre-Reading Program

WFISD also joins TASB Energy Cooperative


The Wichita Falls ISD will be the first school district in Texas to launch a new pre-reading program with 4-year-olds called Upstart. WFISD board members locked in the new direction in a special work session Dec. 5, 2017 with a unanimous vote.


Upstart is a home-based pre-reading program designed to give 4-year-olds the necessary skills to begin reading during kindergarten. WFISD is opening it up to 100 families of any income level who have 4-year-olds who are not currently enrolled in a day care, Head Start or pre-K program.


Participating families will receive a Chromebook and WIFI adapters if they do not have their own internet service. They will commit to working 15 minutes per day with their child to build pre-reading skills using the respected, well-established Waterford Early Reading Program. Each family will also have an assigned phone contact to provide support and to monitor usage.


Other states who have schools using the program – with excellent results – are Utah, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The state of Utah funded the program for all its students.


For WFISD, the program will be fully funded through the West Foundation during Year 1 (2017-2018) for $125,000 along with a matching grant from Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit. For the 2018-2019 school year, West Foundation will fund it again for $94,000 and the remaining balance of $31,000 will be paid by WFISD’s General Operating Fund, along with a matching grant from Mr. Cook.


Waiting to teach children pre-reading skills when they enter kindergarten is too late, studies show. The program also promotes parents as a child’s first important teacher.


“This is an exciting opportunity for us,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt to board members.


“I am very excited about it,” said board member Bill Franklin. “Not everybody could do this.”


“Thanks for your focus on early education this year,” said board member Elizabeth Yeager. “This is where it needs to be.”


“It’s on the front end of education,” said Board President Dale Harvey. “I like being the first in the state. The West name – can you say enough good things about the West Foundation? There’s a family that gives and gives and gives.”


“We continue to push on early education. If it doesn’t start right, it doesn’t end right. Let’s give it a try,” said board member Bob Payton.


Just like building a house with a poor foundation, educating a child fails if foundational reading skills are not built early, said Mr. Kuhrt.


TASB Energy Cooperative

WFISD put itself in a position Tuesday to harness the power of co-op for its next energy purchase.


In a 6-0 vote, board members adopted a resolution to join the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Energy Cooperative. This will give WFISD additional options to gain control of its energy costs by procuring electricity service and obtaining fuel at reduced costs.


The co-op exclusively promotes the use of Direct Energy. WFISD currently is in its third year with TXU as its energy provider.


WFISD will not be locked into buying electricity from the co-op but will add it as another option when shopping for its electricity needs.


Board members heard a presentation from TASB’s Rob Sidebotten and Direct Energy’s Paige Mayer.


The co-op grew out of a similar need for expertise by other school districts to shop the thousands of energy providers since the launch of deregulation in the energy world.


Direct Energy serves every deregulated state and Canada and currently serves more than 200 school districts in Texas. They have a dedicated TASB line to serve its needs and provide, what Mr. Sidebotten called “amazing” customer service.


The electricity market is attractive right now, said Mr. Sidebotten.


He explained the PowerBuy option that works like an online auction, allowing WFISD to set a strike price that TASB’s cooperative can negotiate for a low rate.


“There is no risk,” he said. “If you don’t hit (the strike price), you don’t have to commit. You can still go out and RFP.”


However, the two-minute event could produce the sharpest price possible from an energy wholesaler, he said. A district can run as many PowerBuys as it wants to but most are successful, which means there is rarely a need to run several, said Ms. Mayer.


“This gives us a lot of leverage in the market,” said Board President Dale Harvey. “We don’t need to be worrying about electricity.”


Resale bids of property located in WFISD

In other business, board members accepted the bids of 42 pieces of property located within WFISD to sell them and get them back on the tax rolls. The properties are valued at a total of $13,377. The Commissioners Court of Wichita Falls also approved the sale, as recommended by the City of Wichita Falls Property Management Division.


Originally, 100 properties were put out for bid, with 52 receiving bids and 42 recommended for actual sale, according to Pat Hoffman.


Board members also approved a move to donate two properties, one located at 810 Dallas and another at 812 Dallas, to Habitat for Humanity. Both properties were struck off to the school district, the county and the city for back taxes in 2011. Habitat has refurbished more than 100 homes in the Wichita Falls community in the past and plans to continue doing so for the benefit of qualified low-to-moderate income families.


November 2017 Budget Amendments

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved November 2017 budget amendments. All changes were cross-function changes and did not affect the bottom line, said Tim Sherrod, WFISD chief financial officer.


The seven inter-functional budget transfers ranged from $90 for West Foundation Elementary staff development subs to $800 to Wichita Falls High School for band staff travel.


Electrical Supplies vendors

Board members are expected to award RFP #18-07 to a list of vendors for maintenance and warehouse supplies. The awarded vendors located in Wichita Falls are Fastenal, CED, Grainger Industrial Supply, Home Depot, Kriz-Davis Electric Supply, Lowe’s Nunn Electric, and Reynolds Company. Other approved vendors are Anixter, out of Lewisville, Texas, and Elliott Electric Supply out of Nacogdoches.


Plumbing Supplies vendors

Board members are expected to award RFP #18-08 Plumbing Supplies vendors for maintenance and warehouse. The awarded vendors located in Wichita Falls are Fastenal, Grainger Industrial Supply, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Morrison Supply Company. Two other approved vendors are Mark’s Plumbing Parts, from Fort Worth, and Total Maintenance Solutions, from Taylors, South Carolina.


Mobile Device Carts

Technology Director Shad McGaha said he expects to spend more than $100,000 buying carts for technology and would like to purchase the mobile device carts from Delcom Group, from Lewisville, Texas, for $146,641.


“We want Chromebooks in a cart, secure and locked,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.


Based on a prior year purchase, the estimated cost had been $218,925. The actual cost was $146,641.


National IPA Cooperative

Board members are expected to approve the Master Intergovernmental Cooperative Purchasing Agreement to join the National IPA Cooperative. The item went on the Consent Agenda.


WFISD joined TCPN in 2001.


The National IPA recently merged with TCPN, and as a result of the merger, a new master agreement for the cooperative is required. Under this agreement, WFISD will continue to leverage the coop buying power of TCPN and will have access to more than 48,000 entities.


Texas Academic Performance Report

Board members will hear a presentation of the Texas Academic Performance Report, or TAPR, in a Dec. 11 special session at 5:30 p.m., immediately prior to its regularly scheduled Monday board meeting.


The TAPR report will summarize the District’s accreditation status and last year’s performance objectives. It will also include information on violent and criminal incidents and information on the performance of the previous year’s graduates in their first year of college, as reported by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.


Personnel report

Cyndy Kohl, director of Human Resources, reported two professional retirements, one clerical retirement, seven professional resignations, and five clerical resignations. She requested board members to approve the hire of one new teacher for Zundy Elementary, which was approved in a 6-0 vote.