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Three WFISD Schools Emerge from Improvement Required Status

Three WFISD Schools Emerge from Improvement Required Status

Texas Education Agency grades former IR campuses Booker T. Washington Elementary, Franklin Elementary, and Hirschi High School as “Met Standard”

 

It may have been a formal school board meeting, but the triumphant news that Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths presented on Tuesday merited -- and received -- a round of applause.

Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths stood in the Education Center board room August 14, 2018, to give the 2018 Preliminary Accountability Scores for WFISD, which he obtained a mere two hours before the noon special session.

He announced the District’s long-awaited scores, which showed that 22 WFISD campuses – all of them except Kirby Middle School -- achieved the state’s coveted “Met Standard” ranking. In an especially exciting disclosure, three of the four schools that had been labeled “Improvement Required” for the past one to three years were now out of the corrective ranking.

In fact, for the first time in eight years, all WFISD elementary schools successfully ditched the remedial moniker of “Improvement Required”.

That meant that Booker T. Washington Elementary, which has spent three years absorbed in a plethora of remedial programs because of its “Improvement Required” status, is now free of the IR label. In fact, the school performed so well that it is one of the highest ranked campuses in the district, leapfrogging from the lowest IR campus rating to a “B” ranking.

“They worked the system. That’s how they got it,” said Mr. Griffiths. “They got the highest score on the Growth Indicator.”

“Growth” is one of three metrics measured in the state’s current accountability system.

In fact, all WFISD schools that achieved “Met Standard” did it by excelling in the “Growth” metric, said Mr. Griffiths.

Franklin Elementary Principal Angie Betts, clobbered last year by what she viewed as the “IR” smirch on her campus, promised a “one and done” attack – and delivered escape-worthy scores in just one year.

Hirschi High School, which also fell to “IR” status at this time last year, climbed out in one year.

“It wasn’t luck,” said Mr. Griffiths. “It was consistency and a system that paid off.”

Superintendent Mike Kuhrt clarified the District’s strategy.

“It was teachers,” he said. “Teachers who worked with individual kids. They focused on growth. They met standard because of growth.” Teachers loved the kids and worked with each one individually to make sure they improved academically, he said.

Kirby Middle School is the only WFISD school remaining in IR for, now, its third year.

“Kirby had a bad year,” said Mr. Kuhrt. “Internal data showed it.”

The entire report pleased Mr. Griffiths.

“This is the first time in more than eight years no elementary school is in IR,” he said.

That drew a round of applause. Mr. Griffiths even danced a little jig, as he promised he would do when the good news came.

The achievement came despite the state changing its accountability rules and expectations multiple times throughout the year, said Mr. Griffiths. On one index called a Hard/Fail, the state even collected all school achievement data from the 2018 STAAR tests around the state under one formula, then reconfigured the data through a different formula to use it.

Districtwide, 96 percent of WFISD schools earned the label “Met Standard.”

Twelve campuses received “Distinctions,” which reflected special state-approved academic achievements.

Moving forward, Mr. Griffiths outlined a strategy that includes continuation of mentoring efforts at campuses through Digital Data Walls and principal meetings. He will also continue popular programs like Seidlitz, Capturing Kids’ Hearts, and  the Marzano High Reliability Schools. The Plan: celebrate success but continue to grow.

 

2018-2019 Pay Raises in New Fiscal Year Budget

The new fiscal year budget that Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod presented to board members Tuesday included a step increase for teachers, nurses and librarians, and a 1 percent pay raise for all other WFISD staff. The increases are aimed at offsetting hikes in insurance premiums, he said. For some, the raises will cover the cost of insurance hikes; for others, it won’t.

“It won’t fully offset the amount of the increase (for some), but it will go a long way,” said Mr. Kuhrt.

The District has 1,126 employees covered by its insurance and all those, except individual employees in the high deductible plan, will face an increase this year. Monthly increases will range from 0 to $216, depending upon the plan.

In last fiscal year’s 2017-2018 budget, teachers received a step increase plus $200; all other employees received a 1 percent raise. The hikes cost the District $208,000.

Board members voiced concern that they could not give teachers a more hefty pay increase. Mr. Kuhrt reminded them that big annual pay raises will be impossible as long as the District spends so much on small, inefficient campuses, its many programs and as long as it is not growing enough to bring in more state funds. “We would have to get a lot more efficient,” he said.

An anticipated reduction in teaching staff at the high schools because of the popularity of the Career Education Center programs hasn’t materialized yet, said Mr. Kuhrt. There is one last group of seniors moving through their high school career who aren’t required to fully invest themselves in CEC courses and are still needing the traditional high school coursework and its teachers, he said.

Although board members expressed concern that the number of administrators seemed to be rising, in actuality the number of administrators has dropped from 121 to 120, he said.

 

Tax rate decrease

The new budget also includes a decrease in the proposed tax rate.

Mr. Sherrod announced the District’s recommendation for a one-cent decrease in the Interest and Sinking Debt Service Fund portion of a taxpayer’s two-pronged property tax. That rate is currently $1.23; with a one-cent decrease, it will drop to $1.22 per $100 valuation on a taxpayer’s home.

The decrease comes as property tax revenue for the District rose and debt service payments decreased after the District paid off and repackaged some of its debt. The new calculation made WFISD’s effective tax rate -- $1.22 -- lower than the current rate of $1.23, which triggered the necessity of a roll-back election (taking the situation to voters) unless the District lowered the tax rate on its own. “By reducing it from $1.23 to $1.22, now the tax is below the roll-back rate, and we can pass the budget as is,” said Mr. Kuhrt.

 

The 2018-2019 budget’s primary funding sources continue to be from state aid and property tax collections. Funding is expected to remain steady compared to last year. Mr. Sherrod based the budget on the assumption that the District’s Average Daily Attendance will remain constant at 13,013 students.

The District’s fund balance going into the new fiscal year is $19,608,794, down from last year’s $26,545,563. Total revenue in the new 2018-2019 General Operating budget is $111,666,994. Total expenditures are projected at $113,058,066. The fund balance is expected to drop to $18,505,721 by the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The budget absorbed a $200,000 cost increase to Durham Transportation, WFISD’s busing provider, and a doubling of liability insurance costs for WFISD buildings (driven by wind/hail damage throughout the Dallas area). It also covered increased UIL transportation costs incurred because of WFISD’s realignment.

The budget will be presented to the public Monday, August 20, in a public hearing in the Education Center board room at 5:30 p.m.

 

July 2018 Budget Revisions

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to approve several inter-function budget transfers in the General Operating Fund: three miscellaneous campus expenses, all under $5,000.

He also asked for approval of budget revisions to pay for NaviGate Prepared for $95,000 and the board-approved BYSP/Huckabee Facility Study costing $239,800. He also requested that revenue collected from students for using their technology devices would be transferred back to the technology department. That total is $10,063.57.

 

Financial Reports

Mr. Sherrod presented WFISD’s revenue and expenditure position through June 30, 2018, for all funds. It covered 10 months of operations, or 83.3 percent of the fiscal year. As of June 2017, the District collected 83.75 percent of projected revenues, compared to 88.43 percent for 2017-2018. Expenditures for 2016-2017 were 78.63 percent of budget, compared to 82.53 percent for 2017-2018.

For the General Fund, revenues were 84.54 percent last year compared to 100.29 percent this year. Expenditures were 97.06 percent last year compared to 83.34 percent this year.

For the Food Service Fund, revenues were 84.47 percent last year, compared to 69.78 percent this year. Expenditures were 76.97 percent last year, compared to 77.60 percent this year.

For the Debt Service Fund, revenues were 101.56 percent last year compared to 100.48 percent this year. Expenditures were 78.39 percent last year compared to 79.02 percent this year.

The District’s Investment Report, dated June 30, 2018, shows a total of nearly $35 million in its investments, $1.7 million in its checking account, and $36 million of cash.

 

Auto Insurance

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to accept the recommendation to renew the General/Professional/Crime Liability Insurance with TASB Risk Management Fund for $33,305. There will be no coverage changes. The premium price reflects a 1 percent increase, up from $32,975.

 

Trades Bid

Board members will take action Monday on a trades bid, with proposals provided to 133 vendors. Seventeen submitted responses. This proposal enables the District to more quickly use services required for minor projects.  Submitted proposals are awarded low and when the No. 1-ranked vendor is unavailable or cannot meet the recommended time frame, the next vendor is used.

The trade bids cover services such as plumbing, heating and air conditioning services, locksmith jobs, asbestos abatement (flooring, surfacing and Thermal System Insulation), fire alarm repair, public address system repair, overhead door installation and repair, grease trap services, crane services and many more.

 

Percentage Off Catalog for Athletic Supplies and Equipment

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to award RFP 18-29 for Percentage Off Catalog: Athletic Supplies and Equipment to an attached list of 23 vendors for one year beginning Sept. 1, 2018.  

Bids for this RFP were sent to 49 vendors, with 23 responding. Discounts submitted by vendors enable WFISD’s Athletic Department to competitively compare prices in the catalogs and purchase items based on the best value to the District. Quotes will be requested from vendors as supplies are needed to take advantage of larger discounts and vendor specials.

 

Memorial Stadium Project

In a 6-0 vote, board members accepted the District’s recommendation to award the Memorial Stadium Structure Repair Project to Trinity Hughes of Wichita Falls for $135,000. The original estimated cost range was $50,000 to $80,000 received Nov. 6, 2017, from JQ Engineering, LLP.

The project requires structural repairs to the upper and lower connections – at four points on both sides – of the stadium seating, at all four corners where the upper deck meets the lower deck.

Once approved, the 45-day project will begin. Completion is set for mid-October. The stadium will be usable throughout the construction time.

When this project is complete, the remainder of Memorial Stadium improvement projects will be bid out.

Board member Elizabeth Yeager asked why there was a large difference between the original estimated cost and the final cost. Director of Operations Brady Woolsey attributed the cost difference to the relatively small job size for this experienced company and its mobility costs.

“There’s also a time issue,” said Mr. Kuhrt. “I think we need to do it, get it done and move on.”

The project will be funded from Maintenance Tax Note funds.

 

Student Passenger Buses and Special Needs Buses

To satisfy the District’s busing needs for the 2018-2019 school year, Mr. Sherrod asked board members to award RFP#18-38 to Thomas Bus Gulf Coast GP for three student buses costing $284,055 and two special needs buses costing $184,900. The costs will be paid through the District’s fund balance.

All buses include air conditioning and three-point seatbelts.

Because of this purchase, Mr. Sherrod said he would not make his annual contribution to the budget’s bus fund.

 

Resale Property Bids

In 5-0 votes, board members approved five resale bids for property located within the WFISD district. WFISD joined the City of Wichita Falls to approve the donation of three vacant parcels located at 816 Dallas Street, 707 Jalonick Street, and 713 Jalonick Street. The land will be used for the construction of new homes for low income housing under the CDBG Housing Initiative Program.

Board members approved another property at 1010 Talley Lane for sale for $3,000 to an interested party. Its value is set at $3,901.85.

Board members also approved the sale of the property at 2607 Inglewood Drive, which received a written offer of $17,000. Its current tax appraisal is $42,518. Its current structure does not meet minimum housing standards.

 

Region 9 Service Center Contract

WFISD receives 13 specific services from Region 9 at a cost of $266,405.11. Board members will be asked to accept the recommendation to approve the multiple contracts for Fiscal Year 2018-2019.

It includes services such as Eduphoria! Data Disaggregation Tool (Premium), Online Safe Schools and Compliance Training, Professional Development Coop, a Curriculum Coop and Distance Learning Coop, among others.

 

Capital Improvement Items

Board members reviewed and evaluated a list of needed capital improvement items. The list included improvements such as adding a five-zone air conditioning unit at McNiel Middle School, stadium improvements, a PA system for West Elementary, and exterior doors at McNiel.

 

2018-2019 Student Code of Conduct

In a 6-0 vote, board members adopted the 2018-2019 Student Code of Conduct. The document was submitted by Debby Patterson, executive director of school administration.

 

Intradistrict Transfers and Classroom Assignments

Ms. Patterson reported to board members on the District’s current enrollment distribution at secondary campuses. She summarized enrollment cap history, noting that from 2008 through 2014, enrollment caps remained the same at the secondary campuses.

In 2014-2015, board members were asked to increase enrollment caps at the middle schools because of the merger of Zundy and Barwise. In 2015-2016, board members moved away from the longtime Choice Program and moved toward an Opt-out strategy for students who wanted to choose a different campus than the one assigned to them by their home address.

In 2016-2017, enrollment caps were raised at the middle schools because sixth graders were now enrolled at the middle schools.

In 2017-2018, more adjustments were made as the District adopted attendance zones.

“This year it’s the transfer,” said Ms. Patterson, referring to problems in the current 2018-2019 enrollment period. Some parents have objected that the District is granting transfers too freely for some – a perception that the numbers do not bear out, said Ms. Patterson.

The District’s current trend is to decrease its number of transfers, though it may not be happening as quickly as some would like, she said.

Board member Bill Franklin said in his four years serving on the school board, he has never seen the administration act inappropriately in any specific case.

Board policy is to approve all transfer requests, considering first any unusual circumstances that create a substantial hardship on a family. To eliminate complaints, this “any unusual circumstances” specification could be struck, but life does present a wide variety of “unusual” needs and circumstances, said Ms. Patterson.

Enrollment totals at the campuses are:

  • Barwise Middle School: Operating 1,200; current enrollment is 1194
  • Kirby Middle School: Operating 745; current enrollment is 628
  • McNiel Middle School: 1,275; current enrollment is 1,283
  • Hirschi High School is currently at 913 students
  • Rider High School is currently at 1,540 students
  • Wichita Falls High School is currently at 1,249.

 

Policy Update 111

Ms. Patterson asked board members to approve Policy Update 111, which encompasses changes in law from the 85th Legislative Session. These changes have already gone into effect on the governance and management of the District. It includes details regarding insurance and annuities management for health and life insurance.

 

Policy DEAB (LOCAL)

Ms. Patterson asked that Policy DEAB be revised to change its language that defines the start and stop days and times of the work week for District employees. The change allows the District to comply with FLSA.

With the change, the work week for District employees will officially begin at 12 a.m. Monday (not Saturday) and end at 11:59 p.m. Sunday (not Friday).

 

Order of Election

Board members will take action at Monday’s board meeting to approve an Order of Election to be held November 6, 2018. The election will help fill five open positions for school trustees to District 1, District 3, District 5, At-Large (2 year term) and At-Large (4-year term).

The District is also expected to enter into a Joint Election Contract and Election Services Contract with Wichita County.  The Wichita County Clerk agrees to coordinate, supervise and handle all aspects of administering the Joint Election according to the Texas Election Code and as outlined in their mutual contract.

By Texas Education Code section 11.0581, elections for school board trustees must be held in joint elections.

 

T-Tess Appraisers for 2018-2019

Human Resources Director Cyndy Kohl asked board members to approve a list of 77 T-TESS appraisers for the 2018-2019 school year who will help evaluate teachers. The T-TESS system (the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System) allows an appraiser to be used other than the teacher’s supervisor, provided he or she is approved by local board members.  T-TESS appraisers must take and pass a certification exam annually for three years.



Personnel Report

Ms. Kohl reported one professional retirement, nine professional resignations, and 13 clerical resignations.

School districts across the state, like WFISD, are facing large numbers of unfilled positions, even mid-summer. Ms. Kohl said the District still has 22 vacant positions that it is trying to fill. The large number is actually smaller than what many districts across the state are facing, she said. Midland ISD, for example, has 100 unfilled teaching spots.

Mr. Kuhrt said the state is moving into a period where more teachers are retiring than are being turned out by universities.

Ms. Kohl asked for approval of 33 new teachers who have already started working with the understanding that school board approval was still required for their hiring. Had they started any later, they would have missed New Teacher Orientation and the Back-to-School Assembly and other back-to-school training sessions.