Fredericksburg Independent School District Board members had several concerns about the problems campuses are facing ahead of approving the 2019-20 Campus Improvement Plans.
These plans were prepared to address specific problems at each campus, identify the root and cause of the problem, and address the needs of each campus so that the board knows what should be improved for the campuses to progress.
During their regular 5:30 p.m. meeting Monday, board members addressed common issues, including the number of students “Approaching Grade Level” on the STAAR test and attendance issues at several of the schools.
Discussion began with board member Mark Cornett addressing the nearly 50% of fifth grade students only “Approaching Grade Level” on the STAAR tests, instead of “Meeting Grade Level.”
He said not improving this could be why the middle school students’s test scores are also low.
“We’ve got to do something different,” Cornett said.
Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Brasher responded to Cornett’s concerns, saying the district is “always taking benchmarks and analyzing to try to close gaps.”
The next question focused on enforcing consequences on absent students.
Audience members in attendance, including Fredericksburg Middle School assistant principal Jeff Wanek, brought up the issue that since excessive absence is no longer a criminal offense (changed in 2015 with House Bill 2398), campuses often struggle with keeping students in the classroom because nothing is getting the parents’ attention to keep them in class.
This bill states that districts are the ones who should address student truancy problems.
He said that as a last resort, a school could take a parent to court if his or her child has three absences in a four-week period or 10 absences in a six-month period, but beyond that, there isn’t much else they can do. It also puts a burden on assistant principals if that action is always taken, as it would take up most of their job duties.
After the meeting, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Dr. Delesa Styles said with this law, “the state has become less punitive, making it harder for districts to enforce consequences.”
Wanek also said that schools usually see the same families in trouble with students being absent, and there’s no real theme as to why the children are absent.
Board president Brian Lehne asked if the board could help with anything, and Wanek responded by saying the consequences aren’t great enough to get parents’ attention.
Another concern was the lack of bilingual instructional coaches and teachers, and Spanish teaching resources.
The FPS Campus Improvement Plan shows the need for additional bilingual support staff. This includes bilingual instructional coaches, bilingual reading specialists and bilingual dyslexia teachers.
“Learning to read in Spanish is unique from learning to read in English,” said Patricia Rivera, director of Special Programs and Grants Administration. “The support of bilingual instructional coaches in the classrooms and during Professional Learning Community time will ensure teachers are supported and guided with effective teaching strategies.”
FISD’s Board of Trustees also heard an update from assistant superintendent of business and finance Deborah Ottmers about the statement of revenues, expenditures and statement of fund balance.
Ottmers said the district had a lot of unanticipated revenues, which helps add to the fund balance.
“It’s good to have that added to the fund balance because this year is very uncertain,” Ottmers said, alluding to the unknown amount of revenue, due to the amount money the district will have to send back to the state in Robin Hood taxes.
Even with those revenues, Ottmers said the district is now only expected to see $800,000 in revenues, rather than the originally anticipated $1.2 million. Therefore, the district likely will not be able to give a cost of living adjustment to staff members this year.
“I don’t think it would be wise to add a cost of living adjustment,” Ottmers said. “We did that in the event that our revenue gain would be more than we thought it might be, but it might be less.”
She also said the district doesn’t have a lot of the numbers. The Texas Education Agency will not provide all of the dollar amounts until after data is remitted in December and January.
Because of TEA’s new way of calculating numbers like the amount of economically disadvantaged students in a district, Ottmers said the district is still unsure what everything is going to look like when dollar amounts are finalized.
In other business, the board also approved the textbook committee. Committee members are Kristy Danz, FHS ELAR Department Chair; Gail Savage, FHS teacher; Lori Maxcey, FHS Dean of Instruction; Patricia Rivera, Director of Special Programs; Dr. Delesa Styles, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction; Gilbert Renaud, FHS teacher; Vicki Guthrie, FHS teacher; Joe Gonzalez, FHS principal, and Dr. Michelle Williams, director of technology.
• Approved the Tax Collection Agreement.
• Approved to elect members to the Appraisal District Board of Directors.
• Approved the FMS Targeted Improvement Plan.
• Approved the Annual Financial Report for the year ended June 30.