By Alton Porter
A member of the Latexo Independent School District's Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) made a passionate plea to the Board of Trustees during a meeting Monday, July 18, asking that an afterschool program be established by district officials for students.
Parent Jennie Eberts made her request to the board during the public comments/audience participation period shortly after the opening of the meeting. She was the only person to address the board during that part of the meeting.
Eberts noted that Latexo ISD had received funds from Texas ACE (Afterschool Centers on Education) to fund a program during the last five years. However, the district was not approved for program funds for the upcoming school year. So, she asked the board to take on the responsibility of providing an afterschool program.
Texas ACE is a grant program administered by the Texas Education Agency and funded by the U.S. Department of Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. Its mission is to help foster students' academic success by improving attendance, behavior and academics. Eberts said Texas ACE made it possible for Latexo to have a four-member staff that provided a plethora of fun and meaningful programs and activities that the district's children could participate in after school hours in the past.
In addressing the board, Eberts said, "I'm here to ask about an afterschool program. I was hoping more parents would be here. I've heard a lot of concerns about what's going to happen to the kids after school. Some parents are talking about having to quit jobs. Some parents are talking about having to change their hours, where some go in earlier so the other ones can pick up. I've heard some parents aren't going to be able to continue their college educations.
"I was on the task force with the ACE program. We did come up with a sustainable plan that we were hoping would be presented to you guys before the program ended. But, I hear it wasn't, so I would like for you to at least look at it and see if we can figure out a way to help these kids because I'd certainly hate to see them get bused home with nobody there and be alone until their parents can get there."
Eberts continued, "As part of the PTO, I know many of the members would absolutely help raise money. We'll do anything we can to partner up. Hopefully, we'll get parent involvement. I would just like to ask the board to please consider something that we can do with these kids after school since we no longer have the ACE program."
After Ebert's address, the board went into a closed, executive session to discuss personnel and other matters.
Immediately after the executive session – which lasted over an hour – the board reconvened the open, public meeting and held its first budget workshop on next school year's budget. It gave Dr. Stacy Easterly, who was later elevated from Interim Superintendent of Schools to Superintendent of Schools, the opportunity to give a basic outline of the budget.
Easterly noted that the budget is based on a projected enrollment – considering average daily attendance – of 472 students in the district at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
She said the district's projected tax rate – set by the board – has been $1.22 for several years and it is projected to be that amount next school year.
Easterly said $1,860,292 was in the Fund Balance set aside in the 2015-2016 budget, as of Aug. 31, 2015, to be used during the current school year to meet the district's ongoing obligations. As of Monday, July 18, the board had approved spending of $717,582 of that amount, she said, adding, "whatever we save out of the 2015-2016 budget will go to offset expenditures" in 2016-2017.
In wrapping up her PowerPoint presentation on the budget, Easterly noted that district staff members will receive a 2.5 percent salary increase next school year and all other district employees will receive a 3 percent increase in pay.
At the close of the workshop, the trustees voted unanimously to hold a second one Monday, Aug. 15, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
In other action, the trustees voted unanimously to approve amendments to the current year's budget that relate to the district's electricity co-op arrangement and professional services at the science laboratory. Payment for the science lab services will be taken out of the Fund Balance and the electricity expense will come from maintenance and operations. In addition, expenses for a desk, filing cabinets and other equipment for the Administration Building were covered by funds left over from the purchase of a bus.
When it came to the payment of bills, the trustees voted unanimously to pay Berry & Clay, Inc., a commercial construction company, $166,260 for work done for the district and Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong, a design firm, $1,091 for services and related expenses billed to the district as a result of a high school science lab addition project.
The trustees voted unanimous approval of several continuing contracts the district is engaged in with the Region VI Education Service Center, which provides professional development and related services and resources.
A new Region VI contract for the district is one Easterly referred to as Texas 21. It involves a career exploration curriculum that will be used as part of the material for a new junior high school class to be taught by Barbara Simpson. The class enables the district to meet a new state requirement mandating that school districts provide career education for students, starting at the junior high level.
In other action, the board voted unanimously to continue the disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP) contract Latexo ISD has with Crockett Independent School District (CISD) for the 2016-2017 school year. Easterly said, "CISD will set aside two slots in (its) DAEP for the use by (Latexo ISD) during the school year for students who are enrolled in (Latexo ISD) and have been removed by written order, in accordance with Texas Education Code, Section 37.009.
She said it costs $4,000 to fill each slot. And "we did place someone last year. If we don't place anyone (this coming year), we can rent it out so they (CISD) won't go without some kind of revenue coming back in on them. But, we do need at least two slots."
In other business, Easterly recommended that the trustees purchase the district's student accident insurance coverage from the Texas Kids First program for $4,720, and the board voted unanimously to go with that carrier. Texas Kids First – administered by Universal Fidelity Life Insurance Company – boasts that it insures 350 school districts in Texas.
In addition, the board members voted unanimously to amend board policy to change their regular meeting time to the second Monday of each month, beginning at 6 p.m., effective with the upcoming September meeting.
Several consent agenda items – June's monthly expenditures; June 13, 20 and 27 meeting minutes; July 8 meeting minutes; transfers; the Elementary School Handbook; the High School Handbook; and the Student Code of Conduct – were all approved unanimously on a single vote by the trustees.
The trustees also voted unanimously to accept the lone bid submitted by Crockett Farm & Fuel Center to be the district's fuel supplier in the upcoming school year.