Craig Adams, a district resident who is president of the Spring Branch American Federation of Teachers (AFT), spoke in favor of Trustees moving toward a form of a Single-Member District system for electing Board members.
SKY Partnership Update
Three SKY Partnership leaders made special opening remarks for this general session. Speakers were SBISD Superintendent Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D., KIPP Houston Public Schools Superintendent Sehba Ali and YES Prep Public Schools CEO Mark DiBella. Dr. Blaine said that the partnership has focused on relationships while putting kids first when issues do occur. “We always, always think about kids first, and we try to come to a positive resolution thinking about kids,” Dr. Blaine said. The SKY Partnership includes two separate charter programs based at Landrum and Northbrook middle schools, and a growing YES Prep program at Northbrook High School.
KIPP’s Sehba Ali echoed Dr. Blaine’s remarks, calling the SKY Partnership an “incredibly unique” effort built on relationships and trust. She praised all board members of the three organizations, too, noting that their support of the new collaborative model was a “trend setter across Texas.” YES Prep CEO DiBella said that tensions between public and charter schools were higher years ago, and a remark from that time stayed with him: “We have more common ground than battle ground.” YES Prep opened here with 150 middle-schoolers. Today, it boasts 1,500 middle and high school students. Northbrook High’s increased student enrollment also shows the power of collaboration and partnership.
Dr. Blaine then described the partnership’s core objectives, including expansion of student and family choice. “We believe in choice. We believe our families should have choice,” she said. The partnership’s timeline, from steering committee formation in May 2011 to graduation of a first senior class at YES Prep Northbrook in 2019, was outlined.
Keith Haffey, SBISD executive director for assessment and compliance, provided a data review of enrollment and student achievement. Some highlights: The three SKY Partnership programs over the past decade here have doubled student choice options. SBISD began this partnership after opening two district charter schools, Westchester Academy for International Studies and Cornerstone Academy, which together had enrolled 1,400 students. At SKY Partnership campuses, Haffey said, overall student achievement at the crucial college-ready level on state STAAR tests has improved since the programs opened.
SBISD Associate Superintendent for Operations Travis Stanford talked to the group about bond work authorized in 2017 that will totally rebuild Landrum Middle School, and also add 18 new classrooms and renovate the interior at Northbrook High. Partnership programs are included in planning and design work in both projects.
Campus leaders then shared out the key impacts derived from the SKY Partnership and future hopes. Speakers included Eric Schmidt and Steven Speyrer from KIPP Courage/Landrum Middle School; Eric Newcomer and Sarah Guerrero from YES Prep/Northbrook Middle School; and Gregory Little and Antonio Avalos from YES Prep/Northbrook High School. Some impacts shared by leaders included collaboration, student outcomes and experiences, shared professional development, social-emotional support, and extracurricular student options and access.
SBISD Student Support Services Executive Director Lance Stallworth, Ed.D., and Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships and Volunteer Programs Abby Walker updated work on a new contract for the SKY Partnership. “I’m real excited about a reinvestment in the partnership. Our Board has made it very clear that the SKY Partnership is a non-negotiable as far as a commitment,” Board President Pam Goodson said.
A brief break was then held for a reception with gathered SKY Partnership members.
SKY Partnership Presentation
Stratford High School Additions and Renovations Project
An update was held related to the Stratford High School renovations and additions followed by a brief general discussion. SBISD Associate Superintendent for Operations Travis Stanford gave a high-level update. Joining him was PBK’s project team including Brandon Ross, principal; Jorge Tiscareno, lead senior project designer; and Philip Stewart, senior project manager. PBK’s team presented a detailed update on the design development and the construction document phase work related to the high school. The Stratford High project is part of the voter approved, $898.4 million 2017 Bond program.
The project’s scope of work includes construction of a new, 1,000-seat auditorium; replacement of the roof; upgrade to the campus mechanical/heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system for better comfort control; and exterior and interior improvements to meet specifications on an array of topics, including general education, safety and security. Stanford said that discussion is under way across a range of topics, from new roof installation to the auditorium’s replacement. “Stratford High School as a result of the 2017 Bond is going to see a tremendous amount of work this year, and next year,” he said.
After a general project review, PBK team Jorge Tiscareno spoke about key project areas. These include redesign and renovation of the school’s main entry, which will be brought up to district security standards with a double-entry, locked entry vestibule. Both administration offices and nurses clinic will be renovated, and direct interior access provided to the lobby-area stairway. Flow to the dining commons and cafeteria will be improved from the main entry with added steps and stairs, and the cafeteria itself will be opened up through interior renovations.
Rebuilding of the Stratford Playhouse auditorium is a “big ticket” item. The auditorium’s first floor will seat 750, with seating for 250 more in a second-floor balcony. The lobby front facing Fern and also visible from Dairy Ashford will have a two-story glass façade as well as a ticketing booth area with exterior public access. Design plans call for terrazzo lobby floors.
In other areas, the PBK team discussed interior work resulting in the addition of four classroom spaces, and creation of several collaborative learning areas on the upper floor with technology device and cell phone recharging outlets. Exterior upgrades, including new security fences, will be made in the athletics building and field areas.
Satterfield & Pontikes, the project’s Construction Manager at Risk, will develop a new estimate for total cost. With approval, project construction will begin in June with completion slated for December 2021. Project work like roof replacement will be scheduled around school calendars when the building is largely unoccupied. Stratford’s theater department will work with district high schools and community venues to schedule future performances.
Stratford High School Addition and Renovation Project Presentation
Legal Requirements for Various Electoral Systems
Lisa McBride with the local legal firm of Thompson and Horton LLP presented an informational session on the types of electoral systems for public school systems recognized under state law. Spring Branch ISD operates under the widely used At-Large by Position system with a plurality system for counting votes. Ms. McBride described the various types of electoral systems: Pure At-Large; At-Large by Position; Combination Single-Member District (SMD) and Pure SMD. She noted in her presentation that the Pure At-Large and At-Large by Position election systems are used by 848 Texas school districts; Single-Member District elections are used by 147 systems in Texas, based on a Thompson and Horton review. Methods for tallying election votes in Texas include several options: Plurality voting, based on the simple majority of votes; Majority voting, which requires 50 percent plus 1 vote to win; and two options available only in Pure At-Large election systems, known as Block Voting and Cumulative Voting.
The attorney also spoke to Trustees about the value and practical need for updated U.S. Census data, especially for creation of Single-Member District elections. Local Census data is required by law to be publicly available by April 2021. Based on the available-data schedule, Ms. McBride said that a move to SMD elections here would likely not occur until May 2022, or later, as public hearings and community input are expected before any election system change occurs. Single-Member District elections require creation of neighborhood districts that are contiguous and nearly equal in population. Ms. McBride said added informational sessions are desirable. She listed several topics for deeper discussion, including the pros and cons of alternative election systems.
Electoral Systems in Texas Presentation
The Board adjourned into executive session to discuss routine and related matters as allowed under Texas law. Board President Pam Goodson later said that no action was taken during this session.
Adoption of a New Voting System for Elections
Trustees voted unanimously (7-0) to authorize the adoption of a new voting system for Board elections. This action doesn’t change the current At-Large, by Position electoral voting system in SBISD, rather it allows for the acquisition of a new system of voting equipment.
The Board recessed into executive session to discuss routine and other matters allowed under Texas law, including consideration of the superintendent’s evaluation. No public action was taken by the Board.