LISD gears up for Back-to-School
By LPR Staff
In preparation for the new school year, the LISD board of trustees considered several issues on Monday evening, including a cost of living raise for district employees and the student handbooks and student code of conduct for all grade levels.
Each year, district officials consider the rules and regulations the students ar
e expected to follow during the educational year. This year, the principals of each school met ia workshops to determine appropriate rules for each grade level.
Few changes, mostly in handbook wording, were made at the elementary levels. At the secondary levels, changes to the rulebooks were made with regard to dress code, attendance requirements and student credits.
This year”s dress code will include regulations against body piercings and exposed tattoos at every level. It also includes a stipulation that all boys at secondary levels must wear their shirts tucked in, with waistbands visible. Further, belts must be worn with all pants that have beltloops. All students must wear their student identification, above the waist, at all school and extracurricular activities, including those off campus grounds.
“We”re going to give them two days to acclimate,” said LHS principal Larry Ramirez. “We”re not going to start enforcement right away; we”re going to give them some time to learn. But we will see the same enforcement at the end of the school year as we do at the beginning.”
In the past, the main complaint about school dress codes has been a lack of uniform enforcement for all students.
Ramirez also requested that “perfect attendance” requirements be changed to recognize only those students who are present for every class, every day. He also added a provision for “exemplary attendance,” which recognizes the students who are present for 90 percent of their classes throughout the year.
Perhaps the most significant change comes in the requirements for grade classification, and issue which has caused some headaches for the district in the past.
Last year, at least one student was ineligible for graduation because she was never classified as a “junior,” and therefore not given equal opportunity to pass the exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test. In an effort to avoid the problem in the future, the board determined that changes should be made to the way credits are applied.
A requirement was added that students must spend at least one full year at the Freshman Campus, even though they can earn credits toward graduation at the junior high level. Then, six credits will be required to be classified as a sophomore, 12 to be a junior and 18 to be a senior.
The board also considered a cost-of-living increase for district employees.
Finance Director Tina Knudsen approached the board, suggesting that they determine the total pay increase now so her department can move forward in finalizing the next budget.
This year, with the addition of the Bluebonnet Elementary staff, cost of living increases will raise the budget to a deficit level. That level depends largely upon the rate of the raise and the tax rate the board determines.
“Our fund balance can handle this kind of budget once,” Knudsen said. “If we increase the rollback rate as well. I don”t think that we can go through this again next year without making some significant changes or seeing an increase in student enrollment to help fund the budget.”
The discussion opened up several questions for the board, including the scale at which employees are granted raises. In the past, non-teacher employees have been granted salary increases on a “midpoint” scale, meaning that some employees receive a smaller raise percentage than others.
“This is the pay system that we have in place now,” said human resources director Theresa Ramirez. “It doesn”t have to be this way. We can change it if the board requests that we do so.”
The board did request that the policy be changed, and they agreed to grant a 2 percent “across-the-board” increase.
Depending upon the tax rate the district determines during budget negotiations, this increase will create a deficit budget between $1.9 and $2.8 million.
The resignation of trustee Charles Kelly last week leaves an open seat on the board. The remaining six trustees held a special meeting to determine a course of action for Kelly”s replacement.
The board had three options: to leave the seat vacant until it comes up for reelection next May, to hold a special election to determine a new trustee, or to make an appointment.
After much discussion, the board will accept applications and nominations from the community before determining a new trustee.
Applications are available at the LISD district offices and will be accepted until August 14, 2005.
In other board business:
Assistant Superintendent of Education James Rabe presented cumulative results from the last several years of TAKS tests. The tests are state mandated to determine the level of education our children are receiving.
“Our scores are coming up,” he said. “Although maybe not as fast as we”d like them to. These are the very basic levels that children have to reach to be functionally literate in subjects like math, reading and social studies.”
Rabe is working with the board, administrators and teachers to bring the scores up.
Representatives from the administration and the district”s architectural firm, Pfluger and Associates, approached the board requesting that they schedule a workshop to discuss the “master plan” for the Lockhart High School Campus. Among the questions the board will be posed are what the district”s intentions for the campus are, how many students are expected to populate the campus in the future and whether renovations or reconstruction of the high school are viable options.
“I, for one, am ready to start doing this as soon as we can,” said trustee Dennis Placke. However, Hall suggested that they hold off until after the budget and tax rates have been completed.
Hall presented a report on the progress of the 2005 summer school session.
Almost 375 students from kindergarten through 11th grade attended summer school sessions this year. Of those students, 190 were at the elementary levels. Fewer than 30 of those 190 were retained, while the rest made the strides they needed to pass to the next grade level.
At the junior high level, 71 students attended summer school to help improve either Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test scores or class scores. At the high school, 62 students attended summer classes and recovered no less than 70 whole credits toward graduation. Finally, four of the Pride High School”s 52 summer students were able to complete the requirements for high school gradation.
The district is facing a shortage of bilingual teachers. According to Superintendent of Human Resources Theresa Ramirez, several elementary students had to be relocated to other campuses because fell three teachers short when assigning the children this year. To help ease that shortage, administrators asked the board to offer an additional stipend to bilingual teachers.
“It is apparent that bilingual teachers are at a premium,” Hall said. “In a nutshell, we are asking the board that the bilingual stipend be raised from $1,500 per year to $3,500 per year.”
According to Ramirez, most of the districts in the area also plan to increase their bilingual stipends this year. Some of Lockhart”s bilingual teachers have relocated, for reasons of both pay and position.
Although Placke said that he would like to give all of the teachers a stipend, he recommended that the board wait on the increase until they are able to create a more balanced budget. In an effort to compromise, the board voted to split the difference, and raise the stipend from $1,500 to $2,500 per year.
In brief board news:
Almost 93 percent of the 2004 tax levy has been collected as of June 30, 2005. The original tax levy for 2004 was just over $10.5 million.
In the past year, the last CD they got was as low as 1.2%, that CD is now at 4%.
Tanya Homann, the new purchasing agent and a 1989 graduate of Lockhart High, made a presentation regarding a one-year contract for uniform services. The board chose to award the contract to G&K Services at the approximate rate of $304 per week.
The board considered a memorandum of understanding with the City of Lockhart to contract for two School Resource Officers (police), one to be located at the Freshman Campus and the other at LHS. They decided to table the idea until district lawyers have the opportunity to review the document.
The board approved the addition of a fourth Spanish teacher at Lockhart High School. They also approved the hiring of several new employees.