Second Reading of Policy with Discussion and Action
Trustees heard on second reading a brief report from Board Member Karen Peck on legal and local updates from the Texas Association of School Boards related to Policy Update 113. After discussion, Trustees voted unanimously (7-0) in two separate motions and two votes to reject deletion of TASB recommendations involving liability insurance (CRB, Insurance and Annuities Management), and on organization of instruction (ED). The Board’s votes retain both items as local policies.
Second Reading of Policy, (Legal and Local) TASB Policy Update 113
Discussion/Possible Action on TASB Policy Update 113 suggested deletions:
Trustees voted unanimously (7-0) to approve the nominations of Trustee Chris Vierra and Trustee Karen Peck, as alternate, for attendance at 2020 National School Boards Association Advocacy Institute.
Reports and Discussions
Trustees heard three separate discussions and update reports. These included a discussion on the replacement of Landrum Middle School, discussion about the proposed 2019 tax rate, and annual Strategic Plan update.
Landrum Middle School Replacement Project
SBISD’s Associate Superintendent for Operations Travis Stanford introduced Stantec Architects’ Jennifer Henrikson, a firm principal, and project manager Gary Dunn. Together, Henrikson and Dunn presented an update to Trustees on the upcoming Landrum Middle School replacement project, which represents the first rebuilding in SBISD of a middle school.
The middle school replacement is part of the local voter approved, $898.4 million 2017 Bond program. Landrum Middle School opened in 1956 and was named for Dr. H.M. Landrum, the founding superintendent in SBISD. The current mid-century building, known for its trees and courtyards, will be replaced by a modern, three-story school with soaring student space and clear outdoor views. An initial design/development briefing with Trustees was held in May.
The 1950s-era building currently serves 1,100 traditional Landrum plus KIPP Courage students in grades 5-8. All students will remain on campus during construction, beginning in December. Completion is planned for September 2021. The new, 234,000-square foot building, will be built north of the existing campus. Landrum Middle is located on a land between Schwartz Park and Lion Lane PreK campus in the Ridgecrest neighborhood. The new middle school is now slated for move-in during June 2021.When the new school opens, work will begin on demolishing the current building and completing other site work, including new parking and playing fields.
Architects have found an innovative building design, which won general praise at the workshop. Design highlights include a single front entrance with separate Landrum and KIPP administrative offices; a community entry for a new, 600-seat auditorium and public meetings; soaring library and cafeteria areas with features like the “Learning Stairs” near the library, offering social and small-group learning options.
The new Landrum campus will include two gymnasiums on the second floor with separate boys and girls dressing areas located below. Science, Career and Technical Education (CTE), Life Skills and other instructional area needs have designated classrooms or labs. Open “flex” spaces are located on upper floor classroom wings. Sky bridge-style hallways link classrooms. Key features of the older campus are preserved as well – inside and out. Landrum’s oak trees and its historic portrait of Dr. H.M. Landrum are key parts of the new design. The Landrum Lion school mascot appears on campus walls and in a digital format.
The workshop presentation and 3-D animation “fly over” of the new Landrum Middle School won broad praise. Trustee Josef Klam said he was “really excited” about the project and was inspired by the wide-step Learning Stairs and the overall design use of open space and light.
Trustee Chris Gonzalez said that several Landrum students who had reviewed the design “are jazzed and a little disappointed – a few of them are older – that they won’t actually get to live in [the new school].” Board President Pam Goodson asked for details about the two gyms function and design, while praising the overall campus plan. “I’m excited about it. This is really going to be a treasure for the Landrum Middle community,” she said.
Five of six campus Project Advisory Team (PAT) meetings have been held, and one more PAT session is planned soon. Durotech is the project’s Construction Manager at Risk.
Proposed 2019 Tax Rate
Associate Superintendent for Finance Karen Wilson presented Trustees with an overview of how SBISD’s new tax rates were calculated after the Texas Legislature approved House Bill 3, which includes significant statewide school funding changes. The state’s new school funding plan includes as much as $5 billion in statewide property tax relief.
In brief, SBISD has proposed setting a total tax rate of $1.32098, or about 7 cents less than the prior year tax rate, which was $1.3945. A public hearing and proposed tax rate adoption have been scheduled for Sept. 23 during the Board’s regular monthly meeting.
During an overview discussion, Wilson described how the new “Voter Approved Tax Rate” was determined. Beginning with SBISD’s 2018-2019 General Fund tax rate of $1.11, less a one-time special 2 cent reduction allowed after Hurricane Harvey, the district’s base rate was $1.09. The state has set $1.00 as the base rate for a tax calculation called compression. For Texas districts, the compression rate is 93 percent, or 93 cents based on the $1.00 base rate.
SBISD’s remaining 9 cents not covered by the $1.00 base rate for compression are covered by new law and calculation under special categories, known as Golden and Copper Pennies. First, all school districts receive a guaranteed and unreduced yield from Golden Pennies. SBISD now gets Golden Pennies valued at 8 cents without reduction or requirement to call local elections. The remaining cent, known as a Copper Penny, is compressed to 64.834 percent, or is reduced by law.
After these calculations, SBISD’s total General Fund tax rate for 2019-2020 is $1.01648. Based on new law, this rate must be referred to as the Voter Approved Tax Rate. SBISD taxpayers, in past election history, actually voted decades ago for a $2.00 combined tax rate, Wilson notes. Compression rates may change in future years based on property wealth, she also noted.
District budget assumptions were made in June, then adjusted slightly. Under new law, SBISD has proposed at total tax rate of $1.32098, which includes the General Fund rate of $1.01648 and Debt Service, or bond related, rate of $0.3045. The prior year’s total tax rate, at $1.3945, was about 7 cents higher. Taxpayers in general should see a tax rate reduction of 5 percent, although individual property value increases may vary, based on workshop discussion.
Strategic Plan Update
Associate Superintendent for Academics Kristin Craft and Superintendent Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D., updated Trustees on the district’s Strategic Plan. SBISD’s overarching T-2-4 goal calls for increasing the number of graduates who complete a technical certificate, military training, or a two-year or four-year degree from 44 percent to 72 percent of students by 2022.
The update began with Associate Superintendent Craft reviewing primary Measures of Success across key reporting areas, ranging from post-secondary completion rates for higher education within six years (relatively unchanged between 2005-2013) to student “school connectedness” views based on survey data (more positive from 2018-2019), to name a few choice measures.
Review and discussion then focused on results derived through MAP (Measure of Academic Progress), which is used to gauge student growth year over year in both reading and math in grades K-8. MAP allows student growth to be examined two ways: by CGI, or the Conditional Growth Index, and by a measure called Observed Growth.
CGI shows positive overall growth between 2018 and 2019 in reading (5 percent) and math (2 percent), with more positive grade-level results than declines. The percent of overall students with Observed Growth in reading was positive (4 percent) and remained level in math in 2018 and 2019.
However, Superintendent Blaine noted that 53 percent of all students meeting the CGI target in reading, for example, might be viewed several ways – as “above average” or as “work needed.” Said Dr. Blaine, “We have a ton of work to do with our kids around literacy and math.”
SBISD also tracks measures of achievement in post-secondary readiness. These measures include the SAT and ACT in high school; PSAT, MAP and STAAR in middle school: MAP and STAAR in elementary school; and a Circle assessment for PreK students.
In the past three years, overall achievement in post-secondary readiness has improved from 37 percent in 2017 to 47 percent this year, a notable 10 percent increase. “This gain represents the hard work of our students, teachers and leaders and directors,” Associate Superintendent Craft told Trustees.
Results, however, on closing achievement gaps were not so bright. Achievement gaps between various student groups increased in three categories, decreased in one category, and remained the same in another area. “We have work to do,” Craft said, echoing one previous remark. “Our schools are digging into their data, and our schools are looking at gaps that have not moved as much as we want them to move.”
A separate discussion focused on the Strategic Plan 2018-2019 Year in Review document, which was updated from a “road map” style presentation with specialized titles to easy-to-understand topic areas: Academics; Talent Strategy; Student, School and Family Supports. Work across each area was described in summary style, focused on highlights.
Superintendent Blaine presented focus and priority areas for 2019-2020. Elementary-level focus areas and priorities are literacy and numeracy, English learners and social-emotional support of students. At the secondary level, priority areas include digital expansions and itsLearning digital platform use and implementation, Career & Technical Education (CTE) programming, as well as continued student literacy and social-emotional support.
The district will “sacrifice for focus” as needed to support identified key areas. “We will focus really, really intently on these priorities,” Dr. Blaine said. In response, several Trustees voiced that SBISD had work to do, and one called it a matter of urgency. Also complimented was the presentation’s focus on simplified language and data transparency.
No executive session was held.