Freshman Campus to honor Cisneros
By LPR Staff
Amid conversations of controversy and appropriate honors, the Lockhart Independent School District Board of Trustees voted on Monday evening to name the Lockhart High School Freshman Campus as a tribute to Judge M. Louis Cisneros.
Monday’s decision brings to a close months of debate over naming of district facilities a
nd questions about the board’s adherence to their own policies.
In August, after a request from a member of the community, the trustees unanimously voted to rename Lockhart High School’s main campus the Lockhart High School – M. Louis Cisneros campus. At that time, the decision was met with resistance, due in part to a misunderstanding of the decision, which led many area residents to believe the high school had been renamed “Cisneros High.”
Public outcry over the decision led the board to rescind the decision, in an effort to give the community time to speak out, either in support or in opposition. The community responded in kind, throughout the last months, and leading up to Monday’s vote.
“Per the rules, the superintendent or his designee is responsible for bringing forward, with the support of the principal and the campus advisory committee, any proposal for naming any part of a campus,” said Dee Halliburton, a 1981 graduate of Lockhart High School and a public opponent of a renaming of the school. “I’d like to know when this meeting happened, who is on that committee… I urge you to vote against this and keep our pride intact.”
Supporters of the dedication, however, have argued that the steps being requested by some members of the community prior to the renaming were not taken when the board voted to dedicate the Lockhart High School stadium in honor of Gen. Gary Bunch, a 1972 graduate of Lockhart High.
“I come before you to express support for the naming of the facility,” said Paul Rodriguez, a 1980 graduate. “I am in total support of it, but I am also in support of the board following policy. Therefore, if you decide to rescind this decision, you should also rescind the naming of the football field, to be just and fair.”
Having heard the public commentary, both at the meeting and in the weeks leading up to it, the board attempted to strike a compromise.
Trustee John Manning suggested the board dedicate the Lockhart High School conference center and administrative offices to Cisneros. His motion, however, failed for a lack of a second.
Trustee Juan Alvarez then reminded the board that their initial decision had been unanimous, and that the board should stand by their original choice – to name Lockhart High School in Cisneros’ honor.
“Originally, we voted 7-0 on this, and the intent was to honor a man who has been in the military, has been a mayor, a board member of this school district and has a lifetime of community service,” Alvarez said. “The intent there was to recognize role models. That’s what we voted at that time, and that’s what I believe we should do now.”
Alvarez’s motion, too failed, with a vote of 4-3. He, Manning and Board President Timoteo “Tim” Juarez, Jr., voted in support of the motion. Trustees Brenda Spillmann, John Flores, Derek Benavides and Susan Brooks voted against the motion.
Brooks, who had asked the item be placed on Monday’s agenda, countered with a motion of her own.
“I would like to name the present freshman campus the Lockhart High School Freshman – M. Louis Cisneros Campus,” she said. “It is my intent that this name be displayed on the marquee outside the building.”
Brooks added the naming was all the more appropriate, as the campus on Bois D’Arc was the campus from which Cisneros graduated, and is near his home.
The motion passed unanimously and resulted in a standing ovation for the members of Cisneros’ family who were in attendance for the meeting.
The judge’s daughter, Elizabeth Cisneros, addressed the board after the decision was finalized.
“My father used to tell us that when he went to that school, he would come outside at lunch and look at that home [where he and his wife now live] and say ‘one day, I’ll own that house,’” she said. “Every dream he’s ever had has come true, and I thank you for making this decision.”
A dedication ceremony for the campus will be scheduled at a later time.
In other business:
Representatives from the district’s financial advisory firm attended the meeting to discuss new legislative rules that will affect school funding.
Two years ago, the district decreased the maintenance and operations tax rate from $1.50 per $100 of valuation to $1.04, acting under the “reformed” school finance offered under HB1. However, that bill does not allow districts to raise taxes any higher than $1.04 without risking a portion of their state funding.
New rules, however, allow school districts to hold a tax ratification election (TRE). A TRE would allow the district, with voter approval, to add as much as 13 cents to their tax rate, for maintenance and operations.
The board asked Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra to examine past reports regarding staffing levels and facility conditions to determine whether a TRE would be appropriate.
If the board chooses to call a TRE election, it must be held either on the May or November uniform election date in 2009.
The trustees entertained a request from the senior class of Lockhart High School to take an out-of-state trip.
LHS Principal Larry Ramirez and officers from the Class of 2009 informed the board that several seniors and their parents have voted to arrange this year’s Senior Trip to New York City. Ramirez said more than 40 students and 12 chaperones have already committed to the trip.
Although the district does not offer funding for the class trip, and the seniors are expected to raise the funds for their travel, board policy requires the trustees to approve any out-of-state travel. The board, most of whom are related to seniors planning to go on the trip, unanimously approved the trip, which will take place in April.
In brief news:
The board recognized the LISD Community Education Testing Center, which was recently awarded the Texas Education Agency’s 2008 TASSEL Award for excellence in contract, test submission and emergency procedures. TEA also recognized the Testing Center for maintaining a professional testing center and fully complying with the guidelines set out by the General Education Development Testing Services and TEA. The LISD Testing Center is one of five of the 166 in the state to receive this award.
Alvarez noted thanks to Johnny & Sons for having painted the district’s “gator” maroon and white.
The board considered amendments to the current fiscal year budget, some of which resulted from the expenses and revenues generated by the Lions’ appearance in the playoffs this season. While district CFO Tina Knudsen did not yet have complete figures, she had estimated an additional $6,000 in expenses, with the idea that the Lions would continue to move forward for another three playoff games.
They discussed a means of diminishing the noise levels at the Bluebonnet Elementary School gymnasium. Gardner said there is a legitimate need to move forward with a plan to alleviate or mitigate the noise problem, because the students and teachers have reported hearing ringing in their ears after using the gymnasium for a time. It may cost up to $10,000 to solve the noise problem at Bluebonnet Elementary. The board will revisit the issue during their next regular meeting, in mid-December.
An independent audit by West, Davis & Company yielded an “unqualified opinion,” which is the highest opinion that a school district can receive. Although the audit revealed no problems with the district’s financial reporting, representatives of the auditing firm made suggestions as to some improvements that can be made to streamline recordkeeping for the district.
The body approved a bid to replace and expand the public address system at Lockhart High School. The current system was rendered inoperable by a September rainstorm. The cost for the system replacement, which includes addition of the Cub House into the existing system, is expected to be approximately $74,000.
The Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees usually meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Conference Center of Lockhart High School. To accommodate the district’s holiday schedule, the next board meeting will be on Monday, Dec. 15, 2008.