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Board Members Reconsider Pay Raises for Non-Campus Based Personnel

Board Members Reconsider Pay Raises for Non-Campus Based Personnel

Also, Katherine McGregor presents facility options for board’s consideration


Katherine McGregor

In a special session August 13, 2019, WFISD board member Katherine McGregor presents facility options for the board's consideration that feature one new large high school and one small-sized high school.


In a special session Tuesday, WFISD board members took another look at the budgeted 10 percent raises for administrators included in the District’s newly approved 2019-2020 balanced budget.

The budget -- with 13 percent to 17 percent raises for teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians and 10 percent raises for all other full-time employees -- was approved in a special session August 8 with the caveat that the board would reconsider administrative raises in light of fresh research on pay scales in similarly sized districts around the state.

Raises for teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians were mandated by House Bill 3. But WFISD’s administrative team sought to give meaningful raises (10 percent off the pay grade midpoint) to all other employees to set WFISD apart as the go-to District in North Texas – a way to attract and keep its talent at all levels of its education mission.

Research presented to board members Tuesday showed that out of 81 salaries for administrative positions, only 9 WFISD salaries were at or above the median in the District’s market group, according to research from the Texas Association of School Boards.

Superintendent Mike Kuhrt reminded board members that the District paid the state organization in 2015 to study and refine its pay scales, pay grades, and job descriptions. Since each new-hire position is attached to a pay scale and a job description, it would be reckless to give selected people from a certain pay grade pay raises and ignore others. “We set ourselves up for grievances and lawsuits,” he said.

TASB approved the structure of pay currently used by WFISD, he said.

“I want emphasis on schools,” said board member Mark Lukert.

“I think we’ve done that,” said Mr. Kuhrt, noting that the significantly higher pay raises (13 percent to 17 percent) were given to teachers, counselors, librarians and nurses.

“We are well below the market median,” said Board President Elizabeth Yeager, who said she favors raises for all. “This will help us attract and keep talent here. Whatever position, we will be the employer of choice. It’s a plan we can afford,” she said.

Mr. Lukert flagged needs of paraprofessionals for greater pay and wondered aloud how the district will maintain such high pay for all employees in years to come.

To address Mr. Lukert’s concern, Mr. Kuhrt noted that WFISD conducted a salary study in 2015 that pinpointed paraprofessionals and gave them significant pay increases. It may need further adjustment, “but that’s outside (the scope of) a pay increase,” said Mr. Kuhrt.

Board member Katherine McGregor said she regretted the way the pay increase had been handled and that she would prefer that all raises were merit-based.

Board member Bob Payton inquired about pay for substitute teachers.

They are not salaried employees, so they would not share in the 2019 raises, but their pay was adjusted in a special study two years ago, said Mr. Kuhrt.

WFISD received a significant revenue boost from the state, plus the added revenue to offset the cost of full-day pre-K, which WFISD has paid for years because of board members’ passion for early learning.

Board member Mike Rucker said he favored raises for all – in-classroom and administrative employees. He cited a conversation with Truancy Clerk Verna Honeycutt, technically an administrator but who visits students’ homes to pull them out of bed to come to school to keep WFISD’s drop-out numbers low. He mentioned talking to Technology Director Shad McGaha, who manages thousands of students’ Chromebooks, and is often at the campus helping them. He pointed to Communications Officer Ashley Thomas’ job planning events like graduation that affect students’ lives. “Where do you draw the line?” he asked.

The issue will be considered again at the board meeting on August 19.


Financial Services Resale Bid

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved a resolution to accept a sealed bid as presented for one parcel at 1307 Buchanan Street. The property was acquired from a delinquent tax suit and struck off to the City as Trustee for the taxing entities, which includes WFISD. Its struck-off value is $12,099; its tax appraisal is $16,348.


Budget Amendments

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved July 2019 budget amendments that were submitted by Chief Financial Officer Tim Sherrod.

The five revisions included McNiel Middle School staff development travel ($8,000), Fain Elementary office chairs ($500), Camera licenses ($427,314), Social and Emotional Learning Budget ($8,000), and CTE Director Teacher Training books ($660).

General Operating revenues and expenditures reflected no change, said Mr. Sherrod. There were no proposed amendments to the Food Service or Debt Service budgets.


Athletic Supplies Purchase

Mr. Sherrod asked board members to award RFP #20-03 Percentage Off Catalog: Athletic Supplies & Equipment to the District’s list of vendors for one year beginning Sept. 1. Bids pertaining to the catalog were provided to 42 vendors with 25 submitting responses.

Discounts submitted by vendors enable the Athletic Department to competitively compare prices in the catalogs and purchase items based on the best value to the District.

The matter was put on the Consent Agenda and will be voted on Monday.


Armored Car Services

WFISD notified seven vendors about its proposal for armored car services. Two vendors – Trinity Armored Security of Haltom City and Ray Cannedy Security & Investigations of Houston, responded. The Ray Cannedy firm was the low-bidder, but WFISD recommended using the Trinity firm, which priced its services at $39,029 compared to the Cannedy firm at $33,839.

WFISD has used Trinity Armored Security for the last five years, said Purchasing Director Alicia Woodard.

The matter will go to the Consent Agenda and be voted on Monday.


Student Code of Conduct

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the 2019-2020 Student Code of Conduct.

This year’s Code took on a new format, which was read and approved by a large number of district action committee members, said Debby Patterson, executive director of school administration.


Instructional Services Report on WFISD’s Social/Emotional Services

In a special report to board members, Director of Social and Emotional Services Shonna Norton reported on the progress of this relatively new mission in WFISD that focuses on physical, emotional and social needs of children.

During its first year, Ms. Norton said she has made adjustments to make better use of Skyward, the district’s software program, to track students. She is planning more districtwide parent events – rather than letting each school team set up its own – and is turning to area partners to get needed resources.

Efforts at the secondary campuses will be streamlined this year by the addition of much-needed counselors, she said.

She will also be refining a special curriculum that includes career information that was once used at the elementary level but will now be expanded for K-12.

“We want to educate them from the beginning so they are not so overwhelmed at the end (of their school career) with their choices,” she said.

Until now, counselors’ jobs have focused on identifying problems and referring students for help. Teachers need additional training to identify problems, also, she said.

New features of the program this year include presentations on suicide awareness by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to seventh graders. A similar presentation will target ninth graders, she said.

WFISD will reinstate Health as a required class in 7th grade, which is effective in touching on a variety of risky behaviors.

She will also direct counselors to provide timely follow-ups so that children tagged with chronic absenteeism or discipline issues can be counseled before disciplinary action takes place.

Board member Bob Payton asked Ms. Norton, “What does success look like?”

The District will be achieving success when it is focusing more on prevention and dealing with fewer crises, she said. Preventative services are far more preferable than the bulk of crises services currently underway, she said.

“If we don’t get this part right, math doesn’t matter,” said Superintendent Mike Kuhrt.


Facility Planning

Board member Katherine McGregor, who said she has always liked the idea of having one high school in Wichita Falls, said she is changing her mind on that – and wanted to present a special plan for WFISD board members’ consideration that would feature the building of one large high school and one smaller high school.

She said she is aiming for a plan that meets two goals: It provides equitable education for students and do-able, affordable bond financing.

Her thoughts are a blend of comments told to her by community committee members who, in the past year, have combed District research and presented facility options to board members for the current Plans A and B, and her own ideas.

She proposed having two high schools. One would be a new, 6A high school of about 400,000 square feet costing about $115 million. It would serve 2,000-2,500 students, with the remaining thousand students attending a 9th grade center. She would locate it at Legacy Park, which is at the intersection of US 287 at Windthorst Road.

“It meets the three rules of real estate: Location, location, location,” she said. It has great visibility, sits high on a hill, is close to the Career Education Center, has much acreage, and room to build a 9th grade center, she said.

It also has the room to add a natatorium or visual arts center at a later date if the community wants that. The location would also eliminate travel time for students who take classes at both the large high school and the CEC.

She would also like there to be a second, smaller high school, located at Hirschi. This building would be renovated to feel new and be a “school by choice.”

In her plan, the current Rider High School, Wichita Falls High School and Kirby Middle School would be used as middle schools.

“By having a 9th grade center, it reduces what we build in the beginning,” she said.

The small school would be a valuable addition because some parents believe their children will thrive in a small environment, she said. School districts like San Angelo and Beaumont offer such a school, she said.

“I looked at 30 to 35 districts. WFISD is the only one that had three high schools,” she said.

She recommended building a 9th grade center at Barwise, Wichita Falls High School or build it on the south side of Legacy Park. An existing building could be used initially to save money, then a new building built in a Phase 3 bond plan.

By phasing in her ideas, the District would be able to offer the community smaller, less expensive bond packages, she said.


Ninth grade centers have been applauded by other districts, she said. Research shows that 9th graders’ achievement often lags when they make the move to high school. Their grades typically slip and often new behavior problems develop. They have new social concerns. A Boston College study of 9th grade centers say these special 9th grade centers ease the transition to high school and that students benefit from building relationships with students in their own grade.

By retaining Kirby, Rider and WFHS as middle schools for the short-term future, the District retains the Rider Raider and WFHS Coyote identities.

“We would create two learning environments that are more affordable and equitable,” she said.

The staggered plans would also give the community and future school boards flexibility to change or adjust the plans as the community grows or other needs arise, she said.

She suggested that a Phase 3 might include building a new 9th grade center by the 6A school or build two new middle schools.

“Between the second and third bond, we would decide the highest and best use for the buildings to prepare for the transition,” she said.

A Phase 4 might include enlarging the 6A high school or building another middle school. “It gives flexibility,” she said. “It’s affordable, layered-on funding as the community grows.”

Mrs. McGregor said she believes her plan provides flexibility, affordability, and a way to stimulate the economic growth of the city and increase its tax base, which is the “secret to help WFISD,” she said.

Listening to a new plan gives board members “a jump start toward planning,” said Mr. Payton, for a project “a lot of which seems very expensive. We have to figure out how to eat the elephant one bite at a time.”

Mrs. Yeager reminded the board that they had spent the better part of a year discussing options. They paid for a study from local architects Bundy, Young Sims & Potter, Inc. to assess the district’s $171 million in needs. They culled the thinking and research of two community working groups that studied secondary and elementary needs. The board now has a stack of data and details for Plans A and B, and now these new thoughts.

“We can’t go forward with three options,” she said. “We will need to make some difficult decisions.”


T-TESS Approvals

WFISD administration presented board members with a list of T-TESS appraisers for the 2019-2020 school year. Each one will be T-TESS certified for the coming school year.

The Commissioner’s Rules concerning the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) allow an appraiser other than the teacher’s supervisor, provided the District’s board members approve the appraiser. This “other appraiser” must hold a valid teaching certificate and be T-TESS qualified also.

This matter was put on the Consent Agenda.


Personnel Report

The monthly Personnel Report showed five professional resignations.

WFISD currently has fewer than 20 positions to fill in the days before school starting on August 15, despite a severe teacher shortage throughout the state.

Assistant HR Director Dana Hardaway reported that hiring certified teachers has been a challenge all over the state of Texas. For example, Midland ISD has 300 positions that need to be filled.

“This is not just a WFISD problem,” said Ms. Hardaway.

In a 6-0 vote, board members approved the applicant pool of three teachers.