By Kathi Bliss
A new question came to light during a brief meeting of the Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees on Monday evening when an oil company came forward to request a lease of mineral rights.
According to Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra and Chief Financial Officer Tina Knudsen, the issue of mineral rights has not come up for the District in the recent past, and has been brought forward because of an old property sale wherein the District sold the surface land but maintained the mineral rights.
If the District chooses to enter a lease for the mineral rights on the four-acre tract of property, it could receive mineral royalties from that lease. Those royalties, Knudsen said, are not collected tax dollars, so they would not have an impact on the district’s level of State funding.
Legally, Parra said, the District cannot enter a lease with the company that initially requested the lease, without first advertising the notion that they are willing to enter a mineral lease, and allowing other organizations the opportunity to bid for the lease. After three weeks of advertisement, the District can then enter negotiations to lease the mineral rights.
After discussion about the methods of advertising for the mineral lease, and the possibility of another property that might be available for a mineral lease, the Board authorized Parra to move forward in speaking with attorneys and other districts with similar mineral rights leases in an effort to move forward.
In other business, the Trustees discussed and once again altered the District’s hiring policy with respect to the authority given to the Superintendent to make hiring decisions.
The issue, according to Trustee Brenda Spillmann, had been discussed at the last board meeting, and Parra worked with the Board to strike a compromise which, she hoped, would be acceptable both to the Trustees and to Parra.
In the recent past, while the Superintendent had the authority to recommend personnel at all levels, final hiring authority for all positions rested with the Board.
Under the proposed change, the Board would retain final authority on decisions of hiring department heads, principals and other upper-level personnel, but would delegate the hiring of most contractual and non-contractual personnel to the Superintendent.
Trustee Juan Alvarez balked at the notion, expressing concern that, “we’ve done this before, and it cost us a lot of money.”
However, concerns were expressed in the past that the need for Board approval on all hiring slows down the process of hiring teachers, librarians and other personnel, and makes it difficult for Human Resources to make offers to viable candidates.
In addition, Spillmann suggested that she, along with some members of the community, felt that Board oversight on all hiring decisions was “micromanagement,” and said she believed the Board should look to the future, rather than dwelling on the past.
After a brief clash between members of the Board, President Susan Brooks called for a vote on the item, which passed 5-1-1. Alvarez voted against the policy change, and Trustee Tom Guyton, who was absent from the meeting for much of the discussion, chose to abstain.
The Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees routinely meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Conference Center at Lockhart High School. The meetings are open to the public and are broadcast via the District’s website, www.lockhartisd.org. They are also available for viewing on Time Warner Digital Cable Channel 10 on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.