LISD recognized for financial transparency

LIVINGSTON -- The Livingston Independent School District held its December meeting Monday to present an award for financial transparency, approve curriculum and receive an update for on the construction at Cedar Grove Elementary.

Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson was presented with an award for leading the financial department in achieving platinum status with the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle program. Davidson said everything the office does is searchable online and all the checks that go out from the district are on the website.

The award is given to entities for opening their books to the public; providing clear, consistent pictures of spending; sharing information in a user-friendly format that lets taxpayers easily drill down for more detail.
"The district has a lot of great things happening," Superintendant Dr. Brent Hawkins said. "This one I am really proud of. Our business office has attained the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle as a platinum member. I believe we're the only school district in the county and definitely in a very elite group across the state of Texas that has gotten this distinction. I appreciate Ben and all his folks on the other end of the building that make this happen. Our financial rating system received a superior rating, but this goes a step further into transparency and if the taxpayer wants to know what's going on in our district, the things that they have done have led to a greater connectivity with our community."

Construction at Cedar Grove Elementary in the past 30 days had site paving work, siding, roofing (except trim work) masonry, caulking, metal frames, and doors are completed. The HVAC has been mobilized to the site, and block filler and fire alarm installation has begun.

In the next 30 days, trim work, HVAC ductwork, block filler, stud framing, overhead utilities, grading and seeding will be finished. The installation of a mechanical mezzanine, hand railing, fencing and painting will also begin.

The softball planned overnight visit to Camp Cho-Yeh for a team-building activity was not approved. The program is something Camp Cho-Yeh offers that the softball program wished to take part in.

"I know it is probably in their budget, but I don't think it is money well spent from the standpoint that it is the coach's job to teach that on the field," board member Henry Ager said. "I think if we start doing this, every other program is going to want to do it. I think $1,800 can be spent more appropriately — like if they need more equipment. Sometimes I'm not sure if they make good decisions on spending the money and as a taxpayer, I question that. Just because you have the money budgeted doesn't mean you have to use it for something that may not benefit you."

"I see lots of concerns about it," Hawkins added. "If somebody comes and ask for some balls or batting helmets or other things and you spend this money here — this is nice, but not necessary. I just know that money is short, times are hard, and softballs are expensive. I think we have to look and say, 'what kind of program do we have?' Are we teaching the young ladies character, integrity, skill, how to compete, how to be young ladies and at some point winning? It may not be today, but at some point, there's got to be winning. As long as you know as a coach that those things are the expectations, if this is what you are telling me is an expectation of excellence, I'll generally do it. But, if you don't fulfill that, then I have to come back and hold you accountable at some point."

Board President Bea Ellis suggested a compromise of the team attending Camp Cho-Yeh for the activities on Saturday without spending the night. The issue did not receive a motion from the board for vote.

The board also approved the ESTEEM curriculum, which was brought to the administration by the School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). It was placed on the board agenda as an informational item last spring and a public hearing was held prior to consideration of the item. The board followed a SHAC recommendation to adopt the health curriculum to be taught in high school health classes.

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