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Homeschoolers hoping to join Lockhart ISD squads

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By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

Working late into the night, the Lockhart ISD Board of Directors listened to the prospects of allowing Homeschooled students to participate in its activities, annual report numbers, and the possibility of bringing a teachers subdivision to town.

Lockhart ISD also announced Monday that it had selected James Acuna as the district’s new executive director of operations.

Monday’s board meeting lasted from 6:30-11:08 p.m.

Brad Shuelke addressed the board regarding Homeschool students being allowed to participate in public school extra-curricular activities. His son plays baseball with a travel team in Georgetown and said the amount of time driving back and forth to practice would be greatly reduced if he could play at Lockhart High.

“Being a Homeschooler is not a rejection of the school district,” Shuelke said. “I would encourage you to put that out of your mindset. I would also encourage you to think about the kids. I urge you to give that opportunity to as many kids as you can.”

Last year, the UIL amended its rules to allow homeschooled students to participate in their district’s public-school activities.

“We educate all kids,” Lockhart ISD Superintendent Mark Estrada said. “I don’t see many things that could negatively impact us by having (homeschooled kids).”

Estrada said he expected no more than two dozen homeschooled kids to try and participate with Lockhart ISD.

The TASB Pay Study Process found that 39 percent of Lockhart ISD teachers had between 1 and 5 years of experience. Recommendations from the study resulted in several models, the favorite among Estrada and some board members being Model 3, which allowed the starting salary for a teacher be $51,500, a $1,150 increase from current figures. Also, Model 3 would allow a $550 increase for years four and five and a $3,000 increase for years six through 31.

A representative of Brown & Brown provided some possible savings plans for Lockhart ISD employees on their insurance.

At the February meeting, Estrada touched on the possibility of bringing affordable housing to better retain and bring in teachers for Lockhart ISD.

On Monday, Estrada had someone present possibilities for Live Love Lockhart Housing Industry.

“We’ve been discussing the crisis, and it is a crisis, of the explosion of housing costs,” Estrada said. “So many of our teachers don’t live in Lockhart, or even Caldwell County, but they commute.”

A recent report noted there were 24,541 housing starts in the Austin metro area and only 4.4 percent of those were priced at $250,000 or less.

Estrada recently visited a similar project in Bryan. The idea is to begin with 10 to 12 cottage-style homes. The rent/mortgage would come out of the paycheck from the school.

“Right now, there are 78 telling us they want to move here,” Estrada said. “We would have to have a lottery or something to figure out who would fill them first.”

Acuna will bring 20 years of leadership experience for the transportation department, maintenance department, food and nutrition services, and custodial services. He will also serve on the superintendent’s cabinet.

During his earlier time in Lockhart ISD, Acuna increased student participation in breakfast and lunch programs, leading the district through the Community Eligibility Program process for students in PreK-8th grade. When the pandemic began, Acuna partnered with district leaders and led an initiative to provide community access to food in new ways, providing children more than 10,000 meals daily. 

Acuna joined Killeen ISD in 2020 as operations coordinator.

“I am honored and excited to be selected in my new leadership role here in Lockhart,” Acuna said. “I look forward to once again working with our wonderful staff and leadership team in serving our students and community. As I shared with Superintendent Estrada, it feels like I’m coming back home.”

Estrada added, “Lockhart ISD is so proud for Mr. Acuna to rejoin the Lion family. His leadership skills have been tested and proven and will serve the students and staff well in his new role.”

Acuna earned a Bachelor of Science in Business from the University of Phoenix.

As executive director of operations, Acuna assumes the responsibilities previously held by Adam Galvan. Galvan was promoted to a new position at Aldine ISD earlier this month. Acuna will officially start in Lockhart ISD on April 11.

Estrada was also unanimously nominated for the second consecutive year by the board as the Texas Superintendent of the Year.

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