By Miranda Rogers
Heated conflicts continue to dominate the scene at the dais of the Lockhart Independent School District Board of Trustees. Even routine business during Monday’s meeting became a point of contention as the Board continues to struggle to find common ground and compromise.
A portion of the disagreement centered around the minutes from a special called meeting on June 7. Due to a technical issue, no audio recording was made of the action taken by the Trustees after an executive session to discuss employee matters. Because of that failure, the question arose as to whether the action was valid.
In discussing the proposed minutes for that meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra noted that a community member had informed him the action had not been recorded, and Trustee Tom Guyton raised the question as to the validity of the action, because local policy states that the audio recordings serve as the official minutes of the Board’s meetings.
Board President Susan Brooks said she had called attorneys for direction, and prepared a written statement to be read into the minutes of Monday’s meeting, in an effort to make sure the official records were clear for all of the members and the community. That action, too, was called into question as Trustee Timoteo “Tim” Juarez, Jr., grilled Brooks about exactly what questions she had asked of legal counsel, and how those questions were worded. Her wording of the question, he said, would have an impact on the way attorneys answered. He notified the Board that he intended to consult with District attorneys himself to clarify the issue in his own mind.
Though Brooks assured the Trustees the action she was taking was legal, according to attorneys, Trustee Juan Alvarez, who had not attended the June 7 meeting, was unwilling to accept that position. He continued to bicker with Brooks and Board Vice President Rick Womble, who suggested that Alvarez should abstain voting, since he wasn’t at the meeting.
Womble also suggested that, while it was his opinion that Brooks accurately portrayed everything that happened, he felt the board policy dictating the audio recordings and minutes should be reviewed and possibly rewritten, since it was “open to interpretation.”
After much discussion, the vote to approve the minutes, essentially validating the hiring decisions made on June 7, was approved 4-2. Alvarez did not vote
In another heated item, Alvarez had asked an item be placed on the agenda to discuss Board policies and ethics. His stated concern was the fact that Trustee Alfredo Munoz, who has announced his intention to seek a position as a Caldwell County Commissioner in November, had attended at Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) training in San Antonio recently. Alvarez said he felt Munoz should not have attended the training, for which the District paid the Trustees’ hotel expenses, because he does not intend to continue serving on the board after November.
Guyton agreed with Alvarez, reminding the other Trustees that required training hours are due in December, and that because Munoz’s term expires in November, he would theoretically not be required to complete his board training this year.
Munoz argued that he is still a board member until his term expires, and said he was taking his required continuing education hours as a part of his commitment to service on the Board.
The rest of the members did not appear interested questioning Munoz’s decision to attend the training, and wondered why the issue was even on the action list.
Womble, in fact asked Alvarez if he hoped any action needed to be taken on the issue; Alvarez refused to answer that question, leading once again to a heated exchange between Alvarez and Womble.
Making the decision to move forward, Brooks ended the exchange by closing the item and convening the board in executive session to discuss personnel matters.
In other news, the Board unanimously approved the Student Insurance Carrier, which will cover students, grades 6 – 12 during all athletic and UIL events, and also cover field trips for all students.
The LISD policy is secondary for those families with primary insurance, but will become the primary insurance for families without. The policy also covers catastrophic events, up to $7,500,000 and Accidental Death and Dismemberment at $10,000 and $20,000 respectively.
The Board also approved a change in the 2012-2013 Employee Compensation plan, providing for a $500 increase in each “step” of the teacher pay scale, contingent upon future available revenues. Furthermore, any employee who is hired after the first workday of the school year will receive a pro-rated amount of the $500 increase, based upon the number of days that they will work during the 2012-2013 school year.
Although the Board held a legally-required public hearing to discuss the upcoming fiscal year’s budget and tax rate, no one came forward to discuss the issue.
A total budget of $40,176,786 for the 2012-2013 school year has been proposed for maintenance and operations, school nutrition, debt service and maintenance tax note debt service. The tax rate will be presented to the board for adoption in August or September after the Caldwell County Appraisal District submits the certified tax rolls on July 25, 2012. The tax rate is expected to be $1.1868 per $100 of valuation this year, down $.0014 than last year.
All future salaries will be based on future resources.
In brief news:
The Trustees danced around the idea of setting a team-building and goal-setting meeting, grappling over scheduling with some Trustees seeming unwilling to cooperate with one another. After lengthy discussion, they agreed to set their team-building training on July 31, 2012, and decided to forego goalsetting until after the November elections.
The trustees approved a change in weighting of Pre-AP and dual credit classes, in connection with a grant received from Advanced Placement Strategies.
Lockhart ISD received a grant from Advanced Placement Strategies (APS) on April 4, 2012.
They accepted Requests for Qualifications from TD Industries for HVAC Replacement for Plum Creek Elementary Annex, Lockhart High School Competition Gym and LHS Freshman M.L. Cisneros Campus. The construction should be finished by the first week that school starts.
Representatives of the Lockhart High School Air Force Jr. ROTC were on hand to accept recognition receiving a Distinguished Unit Award.
Although representatives from the retail powerhouse were not on hand, Lockhart High School Principal Monica Guillory announced that WalMart had donated a $3,000 to LHS in connection with the grand opening of the new WalMart store in Lockhart. The funds, she said, will go into the Student Activities Fund.
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 parents, students and taxpayers are encouraged to attend.