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District's Targeted Improvement Plans Laid Out for Board Members

District’s Targeted Improvement Plans Laid Out for Board Members

WFISD launches achievement strategy to meet federal and state accountability regulations

 

Associate Superintendent Peter Griffiths explained to WFISD board members Tuesday how the District will meet federal and state regulations with its Targeted Improvement Plans.

The presentation came during the Sept. 11, 2018 noon Special Session in the Education Center board room.

The District has created the 2018-2019 Targeted Improvement Plans for the District itself and for one campus -- Cunningham Special Education Center – that will appeal its rating of Improvement Required.

Kirby Middle School Principal Shannon Cunningham also reported to board members about achievement strategies at Kirby, the one WFISD campus that remains in the state’s Improvement Required rating category.

The focus of improvement, according to Mr. Griffiths, is centered on Domain 2 in the state’s three-domain accountability system. Domain 2 registers a school’s growth. When a campus can help each student make significant achievement gains, it allows the school to post good marks not only in Domain 2 but also in Domain 1 and in Domain 3. “The focus is here,” said Mr. Griffiths.

WFISD is using programs like Seidlitz, High Reliability Schools and the TEKS Resources to engage students in their lessons.

Early childhood research shows that if a student starts behind, they stay behind, said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.

“We are trying to get them ready to go by their first (grade) year,” he said.  “Our schools are showing progress.”

Recently, the District’s lowest socio-economic schools showed the most growth – a phenomenon that resulted from targeted instruction.

“But scores can only go so high,” he said. It is harder for the District’s wealthier campuses who are already making good strides to show the same amount of growth as their lower socio-economic counterparts.

It is also difficult for campuses to make progress when the state constantly revamps its measuring rod, said Mr. Kuhrt. For example, the state did not determine its goals for campuses for the 2017-2018 school year until August 2018 – after the year was over!

In the past 10 years since the introduction of the STAAR test, the state has revamped its accountability program every two to three years. “We have had four or five different programs since 2007 trying to measure the same thing,” said Mr. Kuhrt.

In addition to being confusing, the frequent change-ups prevent coordination between state goals and district materials, like textbooks. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills are written specifically to address the state’s standards, then school districts purchase textbooks and curriculum materials to match the TEKS goals. When the state changes its approach, it leaves districts with outdated materials and strategies that don’t coordinate well with new goals.

The current accountability system is built to boost students’ academic growth, which is good for districts and helpful to children, said Mr. Griffiths.

Due to outcries from around the state, the Commissioner of Education is promising that the current system should stay in place for at least five years, said Mr. Kuhrt.

 

Dissolving Cunningham Special Education Center

Cunningham Elementary Principal Ashley Davis updated board members on the District’s current plan to dissolve a portion of her campus, Cunningham Special Education Center, which exists primarily on paper.

 

Even teachers on her campus may be unaware, she said, that the campus officially operates two entities: Cunningham Elementary and the Cunningham Special Education Center.

Cunningham Elementary is the host school for the Cunningham Special Education Center, which serves a handful of severely disabled students. Because of low pass rates by its children on the STAAR test, the school earned an Improvement Required rating, but the IR rating doesn’t accurately reflect the challenges of this particular group of children, said Mrs. Davis.

The Cunningham Special Education Center opened in 1987 as the campus for the entire District’s severely disabled students, serving students up to age 21. “At the time it was needed,” said Mrs. Davis.

But in the early 2000s, the state’s push to include disabled students in the regular classrooms caused secondary-aged children to be placed in regular classrooms in the junior highs and high schools, and programs for them were started on the secondary campuses.

Today there are only four classes in the Special Education Center with two teachers. Children take the STAAR test in only one of the classes. Low scores among the non-verbal children -- who are all in wheelchairs and many have feeding tubes, and others who communicate with their eyes or by pushing a button -- earned the school an overall Domain ranking of 33 percent – a figure that is classified as Improvement Required, or IR. However, such a rating doesn’t accurately assess the mission for children at the Special Education Center, said Mrs. Davis.

Since the Special Education Center exists primarily on paper, Mrs. Davis recommended to board members that the Center be dissolved so there’s no more worry about such accountability ratings. “All services will continue,” said Mr. Griffiths. “In reality, it’s all one campus. We just need to fix it on paper.”

It is one more way WFISD is trying to navigate “a convoluted system,” said Mr. Griffiths. Ideally, the Special Education Center would be listed as a “Not Rated” campus.

 

Credit by Examination Resolution

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the revision of rules for the credit-by-examination procedures, which allow students to take tests to accelerate through grade levels or courses or to gain credit for courses they’ve failed.

“This doesn’t affect a lot of kids, but it’s important to those who go through that process,” said Ward Roberts, director of innovation and advanced academics.

This affected eight students last year, said Mr. Roberts. During the 2017-2018 school year, WFISD used CBE tests for three elementary students who wanted to skip grades, three middle school students who wanted to advance in math, and two high school students who sought advanced credit for English IV.

Because the Texas State Board of Education recently revised its rules for CBE, it has required districts like WFISD to audit their procedures and document the audit through a resolution like this one.

 

Class-Size Exception Waiver

Mr. Griffiths asked board members to approve waivers for four WFISD schools that have a total of nine classes that exceed the state-required one-teacher-for-every-22-students ratio. However, he said that he expects by Monday, Sept. 17, three of the classes will have fallen under the required ratio, and only one waiver will be used.

The four schools that need waivers are Jefferson Elementary, West Foundation Elementary, Scotland Park Elementary and Zundy Elementary. As of Sept. 11, 2018, the District had four classes with 24 students (three first grades; one kindergarten) and five classes with 23 students (one third-grade, two first-grades, and two kindergartens).

The District routinely seeks a waiver at the beginning of the school year to address sometimes temporarily large classrooms that eventually adjust to the state-required size within a few weeks. This year’s request for four waivers is small compared to past years, said Mr. Griffiths.

 

Financial Services Report

Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod asked board members to approve the District’s revenue and expenditure position through July 31, 2018 for all funds. This report covers 11 months of operations, or 91.7 percent of the fiscal year.

For the General Fund, revenues were 91.63 percent last year compared to 94.72 percent this year. Expenditures were 88.27 percent last year compared to 90.72 percent this year.

For the Food Service Fund, revenues were 84.82 percent last year as compared to 70.59 percent this year. Expenditures were 77.39 percent last year, compared to 80.15 percent this year.

For the Debt Service Fund revenues were 102.14 percent last year, compared to 101.25 percent this year. Expenditures were 91.01 percent last year, compared to 99.98 percent this year.

 

Resale Bid

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to approve the Resale Bid of the property located at 1407 N. Rosewood Rear. The property is excess real property acquired through delinquent tax suits. Its struck-off value in 2011 was set at $309; an interested party offered $150 to purchase it for the purpose of developing it. This would be advantageous to the city because it would put the property back on the tax roll and remove it from the City’s mowing and maintenance responsibilities.

 

2018 Certified Tax Roll

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to accept the 2018 Certified Tax Roll, as certified by the Wichita County Appraisal District, and the estimated collection rate for the current year.

The estimated collection rate for the 2018 tax year is 98 percent.

 

Medicaid Collection Services

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to accept the District’s recommendation to select MSB Consulting Group LLC for its RFP# 18-39 for Medicaid Collection Services.

The Austin-based company, with its 6 percent cost percentage fee, is the most expensive of the three options considered by WFISD but it is well worth the expense, said Mr. Sherrod. This year, the company offered a best-price final offer of 6 percent, which is 1 percent less than the 7 percent fee WFISD currently pays. WFISD has used MSB since the 2006-2007 school year and is comfortable with its system.

The burden of tracking children who are Medicaid-eligible through their treatments and their medications can be an enormous, complicated task, said Mr. Kuhrt. “It’s a paper trail nightmare,” he said. However, this company’s approach is simple, user-friendly, and has upped WFISD’s collection rate from $1.9 million to $3.5 million.

However, it is more expensive than Houston-based Houston ISD Medicaid Finance and Consulting Services (which charges 4 percent) and Kyle, Texas-based Texas State Billing Services, Inc, which charges 5 percent.

“To me, it’s a no brainer. We could save money and switch to a new system,” said Mr. Sherrod. It would require extensive re-training, he said. “I think this (MSB Consulting Group) is our best value.”

Board members will vote on the recommendation in Monday’s regularly scheduled board meeting.

 

Supplemental Trades Bid

To be more efficient, WFISD pre-selects various vendors that it would like to do business with when minor projects come up. Mr. Sherrod explained that WFISD sent proposals to 16 vendors and eight submitted responses, listing pricing for various jobs.

This proposal supplanted RFP #18-27, which received no responses in the categories featured here. This proactive approach readies the District to use these services for minor projects in a more responsive time frame.

 

Human Resources Applicant Pool

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the applicant pool proposed by Human Resources Director Cyndy Kohl. This approved the hiring of three teachers and one certified occupational therapist assistant. The four hires have a combined 12 years of experience. The three teachers will be assigned to Sheppard Elementary, Milam Elementary, and Wichita Falls High School.