LISD eyes Lytton land for elementary
By LPR Staff
Talks during Monday evening’s Lockhart Independent School District work session may have been a harbinger of the growing rift between LISD Superintendent Rolando “Rudy” Trevino and some members of the Board.
The line of questioning presented by some Trustees during the discussion of the purchase of a
tract of land near Lytton Springs for the construction of a new elementary school appeared to demonstrate the tensions.
“I don’t want this to turn into a fabricated crisis,” Trustee Jessica Neyman said. She continued to suggest that, given the timeline of the construction project, the Board should have more details about the potential property acquisition and the status of the project.
“What I’m hearing is that we have a 19-month time-frame, and we now have 16 months before we said the school would be open,” she said.
According to the marketing for the $63.9 million bond project last year, the new elementary school was proposed to be open in August 2016. However, the property Trevino and Assistant Superintendent Larry Ramirez have targeted for the construction remains a cause of concern to Trustees.
Trustee Steve Johnson questioned the security of the site, located near the intersection of FM 1185 and FM 1854 in the Lytton Springs area (general area illustrated in the attached image). Additionally, he posed questions about a traffic study and the infrastructure available in the area. Trustee Tom Guyton echoed those concerns.
“There have been instances where land has been purchased, and then turns out it’s not appropriate for a school, “ Guyton said.
The 20-acre parcel, being offered to the District for a sale price of $7,200 per acre, is in an arguably remote location. As of Monday’s meeting, traffic studies had not been completed in connection with the Texas Department of Transportation, and the Trustees were unclear about response times for emergency situations, such as medical and security emergencies.
Ramirez suggested that a School Resource Officer might be considered to ensure student safety on campus, a notion that drew fire from Trustees who expressed concern about additional operating expenses that had not been considered before the Board asked the voters to pass the bond proposal. Ramirez and Trevino also took heat because of the process by which the property has been negotiated.
“We hired a [project management] firm to do a certain job, because administration didn’t have the expertise to do that, and we knew that,” Guyton said. “We also talked about using a Realtor. It was a Board governance issue that we took on here, and I’m displeased because that’s not been happening.”
While not blaming the project managers at Owners’ Business Resource (OBR) for the breakdown in communication, several Trustees stressed they felt out of the loop in the process of property acquisition.
“Mr. Trevino and Mr. Ramirez have other things they need to be spending their time on,” Johnson said.
In an effort to move the timeline for construction forward, the Trustees are expected to vote on the possible purchase of the property on Monday, Feb. 23, during their regular business meeting.
Another hot topic for the Trustees was a series of budget amendments proposed by Trevino to fund a new position, the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, a position awarded to Monica Parks last month after the sudden ouster of HR Director Dan Vera.
Again, Guyton led the charge in opposition to the budget amendments.
“I’m struggling with the fact that the Athletic Department is generating revenues, and I object to allocating those monies to another administrative position, rather than funneling it back into the department,” he said.
An avid supporter of extracurricular activities, and himself a band director, Guyton reminded his colleagues that extracurriculars are “the reason kids come to school,” and stressed the importance of funding those activities. The question arose because Chief Financial Office Tina Knudsen offered a series of amendments that shifted funds in excess of budgeted revenues from several departments to fund the administrative position.
Neyman chimed in with her displeasure at the prospect.
“We’re chip, chip chipping to find money for a position that this Board never created,” she said. “And I think we’re annoyed by that chipping. I think that we need to honor the intent of the original budget.”
Johnson agreed, saying his constituents – and he, as a parent – believed that the District was already top-heavy in administrative positions. He said if the District could scrape together pennies for administrative salaries, they should be equally able to put together pennies for teacher salaries or other educational needs.
Trevino balked at the criticism, questioning the Board’s intent as to when it would be appropriate to move budgeted funds within certain departments. Board President Carl Cisneros responded the Board had not yet been convinced that a third Assistant Superintendent was necessary, and offered Trevino the opportunity to convince them, opening the door for the Board to consider the budget amendments at another time.
Knudsen reminded the Board that an agenda item, presumably the creation of the Assistant Superintendent position, was slated for discussion on the regular meeting’s agenda on Monday, and suggested the Board consider waiting on the amendments until that time.
As is becoming a routine, the Board convened in Executive Session for nearly two hours to discuss issues relating to the evaluation and contract of the Superintendent, but did not make any announcements when they returned to open session, just before midnight.
The Lockhart ISD Board of Trustees routinely meets on the fourth Monday of each month, with a work session slated on the third Monday. The meetings, which begin at 6:30 p.m., are held in the Conference Center at Lockhart High School. They are open to the public and are webcast at www.lockhartisd.org.