By Miranda Rogers
The voices of the students and parents involved with the LHS tennis program have finally been heard; in a 5-1 vote, the LISD Board of Trustees approved funding for new tennis courts during the Board’s regular meeting on Monday.
During the open forum, Heather Williams, a student, came before the board to read a letter she had written in a plea for the new courts. During her moving speech, she said that as an athlete and a student she felt cheated out being the best she can be at the sport that she loves and that she and the other tennis players felt overlooked. Williams pointed out that the softball fields are always in great condition, as opposed to the dilapidated and almost ignored tennis courts that Lockhart has had for more than 30 years.
After showing the board the 197 signatures of support that she had collected, Williams and her mother stayed to hear the final verdict from the board.
Robin Melton, a tennis court and track contractor, also came before the board to speak to them about his proposal for the courts. He gave them some information about the issues that he had seen and dealt with in the past, such as lighting and drainage issues.
Melton’s company, Courts ‘n’ Stuff, had been “dismissed out of hand, he said in recent correspondence, by the District’s architects, but he has continued contact with District officials since the decision last month not to fund the tennis courts.
Ultimately, D. Wilson Construction was chosen as having the best proposal for $1.325 million.
Trustees Brenda Spillman, Susan Brooks and Juan Alvarez defended their previous decisions based on the size of the cost, saying that the difference between the projected $800,000 and $1.5 million was astonishing, and they were always thinking of the best interest of the students.
Trustee Tom Guyton, stating that he had been on board [with the project] since “day one,” was glad that the other members “finally saw the light,” and reminded his colleagues that he “doesn’t want any student feeling like a second-class citizen.”
Trustee Alfredo Munoz stood alone against the decision.
As the Board begins working on the budget for the next fiscal year, a pay increase might be in order.
Due to a more competitive market and district needs, the board has approved a general pay increase to all employees, and an adjustment to current pay structures by 1.5 percent for maintenance.
Under Superintendent Jose Parra’s suggestion, the board looked at what other districts were doing, and examined compensation models and cost estimates.
In other news, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has made a requirement for schools to increase lunch prices by a five cent minimum.
The “Equity in School Lunch Pricing” Provision requires schools to charge students for paid meals at a price that is on average equal to the difference between free meal reimbursement and paid meal reimbursement. LISD can increase the price by 10 cents if they choose to do so, but the board has agreed 5-1 to only increase the prices by the minimum 5 cents.
Alvarez was against the motion; he had asked Parra why the District could not keep the prices the same, and Parra explained that LISD would face a penalty if they do not meet the Federal requirement.
During the open forum, Lockhart citizen John Manning spoke to the board about a rather strange problem.
For reasons that were not clear to the public or board members, Manning had received a letter of evaluation from the School Board Attorney. He stated that, after he had received what he called an “interesting evaluation,” the district employee who had inadvertently passed it on called him, “begging him” not to use or reveal the information in the letter. Manning said he then received a letter from the Henslee Schwartz Attorneys at Law that he felt was threatening, warning him that he could be subjected to civil and criminal penalties, and to destroy the email that was not intended for him.
Manning excused himself from the meeting before this reporter could question him at greater length about the situation.
In brief news:
In January 2012, the board approved the purchase of replacement computers in the amount of $203,631. M&A Technology will be supplying 300 computers/ monitors to the school for $194,700 as the best-value proposal.
A list of capital improvement projects has been made according to highest priority, after the project were deferred due to funding constraints. Starting from the top, the list of projects includes replacement HVAC in the LHS Competition Gym, replacement of the Navarro Elementary south driveway, repairing the freshman campus bus walkway, patching the Adams Gym parking lot and replacing or upgrading the fire alarm system in LHS. Administration will proceed with requests for qualifications and budget amendments.
The board has approved capital outlay purchases from various projects in the amount of $34,100. A bid from Riata Financial has been approved for Cancer/Heart and Stroke, Vision, Dental, Disability and Group Life insurance for Lockhart ISD Employee benefits. After polling employees who did not have health insurance, the administration recommended an increase in district contribution of $26 per month, or $312 annually, per employee. The projected annual increase to the LISD budget is an estimated $165,360.
The communication item concerning policies and code of ethics among board members was pulled as requested by Alvarez.
A report for budget projections showed an estimated ending fund balance in June of $14,414,574, with “healthy” district finances. However, too many uncertainties exist to project for the 2013-15 budget. Budget adoption will be held June 25.
Vision for Advanced Academic Performance showed LISD to be at the recognized level since 2009 and HEB Excellence in Education for large schools state semi-finalist.
The Trustees also recognized the Clear Fork and Navarro Elementary volunteers and mentors, as well as the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches All State Academic Team, and the Powerlifting State Qualifiers.
The Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees routinely meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the LHS Conference Center (old library). The meetings are open to the public and parents, students and interested stakeholders are encouraged to attend.