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Community Facility Working Groups Add a Fourth, Final Meeting

Community Facility Working Groups Add a Fourth, Final Meeting

Consultant reports ‘Good group of dedicated citizens’


Community members who volunteered to serve on a special facility team to give input on the future of WFISD facilities have nearly completed their mission.

The community group, divided into one team studying elementary needs and a second team studying secondary school needs, has studied district demographics, detailed facility assessments and the District’s finances.

They have also filled out templates listing various options, complete with action steps and the positives and negatives of each.

Consultant Dr. Lizzy Asbury of Transcend Education gave her progress report to board members in the April 9, 2019 Special Session after attending and moderating all three scheduled sessions. She logged 25 years in public education before starting her consulting business, which partners with school districts to give “design and implementation support” as communities make changes to their schools.

Her company facilitated more than $1 billion in bonds in 2018 alone, she said.

She moderated the three planned meetings set up for the community group and told board members in Tuesday’s report that “a fourth meeting is needed.”

“It’s very personal when you start talking about people’s schools,” she said. The group has not taken its task lightly, bringing “lots of emotion” but respect to the process.

She reported that WFISD could be proud of its “good group of dedicated citizens,” who involved themselves in this effort. She said she has urged group members to “tell the story” of what they’ve learned in the meetings and pass it on to friends and coworkers.

Community members studying the elementary needs focused on consolidating schools, adding, renovating and building new, she said.

Group members assigned to study secondary school needs were charged with laying out a one high school model (and to explain what to do with remaining secondary facilities) and a two high school model, complete with locations of each one and the feeder schools to fill it.

Many ideas were suggested, then consolidated to “a few options on the table” that the teams now have as they move into their fourth and final meeting, said Dr. Asbury.

Superintendent Mike Kuhrt clarified that committee members are not crafting a proposal for new schools; they are submitting options for the board to consider, and then board members will craft a bond proposal.  “They will submit multiple options,” he said.

Board President Elizabeth Yeager asked if board members will receive the committees’ “pros and cons” along with each option.

“Yes,” said Dr. Asbury.

The final report from both groups will be formally presented to the school board in the May school board meeting on May 20. Then board trustees will schedule several planning sessions of their own in June and July to craft a plan and solidify a bond proposal by the second week in August, said Mr. Kuhrt. The timetable reflects legal requirements to put a bond on the November ballot.


Brazos River Charter School

The opening of an adolescent treatment center in Denton called the Brazos River Charter School is not expected to create a noteworthy impact on the Wichita Falls ISD, according to Debby Patterson, executive director of school administration.

Generally, the opening of a charter school near WFISD is considered to have a negative impact, she said. But this one, which serves patients, will have a different focus than the educational mission of WFISD, she said.

WFISD was informed about the opening of the facility and will not contest it, she said.


Instructional Materials Allotment and TEKS Certification

With Proclamation 2019, WFISD is moving into the biggest instructional materials allotment in the past five years, said Peter Griffiths, associate superintendent.

This is the time of year when the District receives Instructional Materials Allotment funds to buy supplies for English Language Arts in eighth grade and below.

The district receives one funding that must last two years, said Mr. Griffiths.

Curriculum specialists chose to buy reading and writing resources and create their own spelling and handwriting materials, said Mae Walker, who oversees ELAR grades 3-5.

This adoption includes not only English Language Arts and reading for grades K-8 but also Spanish Language Arts and Reading, grades K-6; Spelling (English and Spanish), grades 1-6; Handwriting (English and Spanish), grades K-5; and English Learners Language Arts, grades 7-8.

This particular proclamation to fund ELAR needs has been postponed in recent years while awaiting a revised set of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The delay caused some teachers to run out of supplies, some publishers to extend their digital offerings and others to suspend internet access to their materials.

One board member inquired if cursive writing is still taught in WFISD schools. Yes, it is, said Mrs. Walker. Currently, it is taught in third grade. Going forward with the new TEKS, it will be introduced to children in second grade, said Mr. Griffiths.


Financial Reports as of Feb. 28, 2019

Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod reported on the financial status of the District after six months of operations into the current fiscal year. As of February of last year, the District had collected 70. 14 percent of projected revenues, as compared to 68.01 percent for 2018-2019. Expenditures for 2018-2019 were 52.49 percent of budget, as compared to 53.72 percent for 2017-2018.

For the General Fund, revenues were 70.42 percent last year, compared to 69.24 percent this year. Expenditures were 50.87 percent last year, compared to 49.79 percent this year.

For the Food Service Fund, revenues were 46.42 percent last year, compared to 63.01 percent this year. Expenditures were 57.72 percent last year, compared to 57.80 percent this year.

For the Debt Service Fund, revenues were 95.97 percent last year, compared to 93.57 percent this year. Expenditures were 79.01 percent last year, compared to 80.32 percent this year.


March 2019 Budget Amendments

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved Budget Amendments to the 2018-2019 budgets. General Operating budgeted revenues and expenses reflected no change.

Amendments covered band needs, staff development travel, staff meetings, instructional supplies, substitute teachers, administrative supplies, tutorials, field trips, after school club costs, T-shirts, banquets, job fair supplies and more.


Chartwells 2019-2020 Contract Renewal

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to approve the Chartwells food service contract renewal, which will be in effect for one year beginning July 1, 2019. The contract will terminate June 30, 2020.

Chartwells guarantees that the return to WFISD from the food service program for the 2019-2020 school year will be $251,492.

Chartwells showed a loss of $416,953 in its inaugural year with WFISD, the result of “a perfect storm” of unfortunate events, according to Mr. Kuhrt. The original food service director, though experienced, performed poorly by not developing relationships with campuses or ordering efficiently.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, disrupting supply lines for school districts all over the country. Supplies were rerouted to the coast. At the time, WFISD had very little inventory and “for six weeks we couldn’t order anything,” said Mr. Kuhrt.

The Chartwells director was quickly replaced with current director Farai Sithole, who “righted the ship” in about six weeks. “The first three months we lost a ton,” said Mr. Kuhrt. “We know that. It was not ideal at all.”

Chartwells has shown a profit recently but is still dragged down by its bad start.

“April will be a good month. May will be great,” said Mr. Sithole. “We will exceed our guarantee.”

WFISD leaders have been happy with Chartwells’ community involvement efforts at WFISD schools, its popular summer feeding program and the new food truck. “Since last October, it’s been very good,” said Mr. Kuhrt.

WFISD lunch program participation is also up, he said.


Property Insurance Renewal

Fully insuring the District’s many properties is becoming a challenge of nightmare proportions, according to Mr. Sherrod and Risk Manager Betsi Morton in a report to board members.

The District is facing an upcoming renewal.

Devastating weather events in Texas during the past couple years, including Hurricane Harvey, North Texas hail damage that pummeled Dallas, and claims in West Texas have sent property insurance rates skyrocketing—despite the fact that WFISD has had no claims of its own. Besides rates that have doubled, insurance companies have canceled policies before the contract was up, and insurers now refuse to cover a school district’s entire portfolio of properties, forcing school districts to layer coverage with several companies to fully cover their needs.

“We’ve got to have liability insurance,” said Mr. Kuhrt, admitting that it is not a legal requirement but is necessary nonetheless. “It will be a lot more than now.”

Risk Manager Betsi Morton said she talked to Lubbock ISD administrators, who said their insurance jumped from $420,000 last year to $920,000 this year. They now have 15 insurers covering them, with coverage layered like a pyramid to protect the entire Lubbock district.

“It’s not just us,” said Ms. Morton.

Because of its location, WFISD gets lumped in with Amarillo. “They’ve had tons of claims,” she said.

WFISD, with its deductible of $100,000, has reported no losses since 2009. In light of WFISD’s circumstances, it makes sense to cover at least a portion of the district facilities, but not all of them. It is unlikely that all facilities would be totally wiped away, said Mr. Kuhrt.

WFISD received a non-renewal letter from AFM (Affiliated), who is WFISD’s current provider. “After working with Higginbotham (our current agent), we were informed that AFM would not renew or delay the cancellation to June 30 from the original May 1 date,” said Mr. Sherrod in board notes.  

WFISD notified 31 vendors of its property insurance request for proposal. Three providers responded: Higginbotham Insurance Agency of Ft. Worth, North American Solutions of Cypress, and USI Southwest, Inc, of El Paso. Currently, WFISD’s budgeted amount for the property insurance premium is $475,600. The lowest 16-month price (from Higginbotham) was $499,000.

Other quotes were $200,000 to $400,000 higher, with various restrictions.

On Thursday, April 11, Mr. Sherrod will receive updated premium information, he said.

“No one will insure their total value,” said Mr. Sherrod. “We are not yet layering but probably we will.”


Print Management Solution

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to accept a recommendation to enter into a Print Management Solution contract with Benchmark, a company located in Lubbock and Wichita Falls. The contract will create major change in a broad swath across the district for the purpose of saving money on WFISD’s monthly  printing cost.

“The district is seeking a solution to maximize the total cost spent for our printing needs, which includes copiers, desktop printers and the large print shop copiers,” said Mr. Sherrod in board documents.

Recommendations were made to a committee of campus principals and a copier committee.

The Benchmark vendor projects a total monthly copier/printer price of $25,209.87 and a print shop price of $3,502.01. The Mesa vendor of Wichita Falls offered a monthly price of $30,427.16 and a print shop price of $3,332.84; The ImageNet vendor of Houston offered a monthly price of $40,977 and a print shop price of $3,055.31.

The District’s goals are to reduce the number of printing devices used in the District, along with printing and supply costs. Average printer usage varies widely by school, with Barwise Middle School outpacing all other campuses and even the WFISD Print Shop. In general, secondary schools print more than elementary schools.

The Education Center is the biggest user of desktop printers that are attached to the network, with Milam Elementary and Wichita Falls High School also reporting heavy use.

WFISD currently maintains 644 total devices that print out 2.8 million total prints on 499 printers.

Currently, a copy made by the Print Shop is about 7 cents; a print made on a desktop printer costs about 49 cents.

The District’s new plan, which leaders admitted will create “a lot of heartache,” is to reduce its printers throughout the District to just 71 printers.  A key printer will be strategically placed in a school, requiring employees to walk to the printer to pick up each print job. Each employee will be given a PIN to enable them to print off their job. The printer will flash a notice of how much the print job will cost, giving the employee a chance to reconsider the expense or to channel it to the Print Shop, which may be able to do it more economically.

All printing devices currently sitting on or under desks throughout the schools and Education Center will be removed and sold, then replaced with brand new centrally placed devices that will be owned and fully maintained by the Benchmark company.

Schools budget significant costs to printing copies, maintaining their copiers and buying toner, but, under the new plan, all printing expenses will be paid by the new print company and the school principal will keep all funds previously directed to printing to use for other school needs, said Shad McGaha, WFISD Chief Technology Officer.

With desktop and copier costs, the District currently pays $38,895.09 in monthly printer costs. The proposed new plan, with brand new devices, will maintain 70 copiers and 71 desktop printers throughout the District for a total monthly cost of $26,251.37.

Benchmark maintains four local technicians for all printer repair.

Two departments have already experimented with the transition to fewer copiers. Mr. Sherrod said his Finance Department downsized and found that their worries about privacy of copies has not been an issue.

“Mindy (Graham, superintendent’s administrative assistant) and I did the same thing two years ago. Now we have just one,” said Mr. Kuhrt.

Mr. Kuhrt admitted it will be a culture change, and there have “already been meltdowns” over the prospect of losing the convenience of a desktop printer. “It’s a culture change. The carrot is they get to keep their supply budget. But, we will work with staff on this process.”

The District will no longer own any of its printers, which become old at four years of use.

Special Warranty Deed for Harrell Accelerated Learning Center

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to approve a warranty deed that transfers, grants and conveys ownership of the Harrell School Addition – the Harrell campus – to the Board of Trustees of WFISD for $10.00.

The campus was originally loaned to the district by the Harrell family for use as a school. In the past year, its life as an alternative learning center ended as those catch-up education services were moved to high school campuses.

A couple months ago, WFISD leaders decided to close the Denver disciplinary campus at the end of the school year and move it to a wing of the Harrell campus, which is a better facility than the Denver building with its two portable buildings.

After a meeting with attorneys, the Harrell family said they did not want the property back, nor did they want it sold, but they would like WFISD to have it.  “We are now acting on this with the warranty deed,” said Mr. Sherrod.

The Harrell facility will hold twice as many students as the Denver building, said Mr. Kuhrt. WFISD currently rents the Denver facility from the city of Wichita Falls, he said.

The Harrell building will need some slight additions, such as cameras, said Mr. Kuhrt.

Personnel Report

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the applicant pool, hiring two new teachers recommended by Human Resources Director Cyndy Kohl. The two teachers bring a total of 22 years of experience to WFISD.